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The Coalition's great big election swindle



February 2 · Issue #28 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
In this issue we take a look at the sports rorts scandal and the raft of underhanded tactics the Coalition employed to cling to power. You’ll also learn about the prospects for wage growth, how the NBN is fairing and Trump’s new Middle East peace plan: (hint: it’s terrible).
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Enjoy the issue!
Guy Mosel, editor

The Coalition's great big election swindle
by Guy Mosel
If you spend much time on social media you’ll know that relitigating the 2019 federal election is a favoured pastime for many, especially those on the left.
It’s a mostly futile exercise. It’s been eight months since the Coalition was reelected; wishing it didn’t happen is a waste of energy, especially when the problems Australia faces are, to a large degree, independent of who sits on which side of the parliamentary chamber.
I also don’t really buy into the popular notion that the Coalition’s victory was somehow illegitimate. Yes, commercial media broadly backed Morrison and yes, Clive Palmer’s million-dollar campaign blitz likely poisoned the well (especially in Queensland), but Labor also failed to grasp the mantle.
Yet while the Coalition may not have necessarily “cheated” their way to an upset victory, it’s hard to ignore the mounting evidence that they had their thumb on the scales.
The sports rorts scandal, a shameless $100 million pork-barrelling program rolled out in the months leading up to last year’s election, is perhaps the most egregious – and corrupt – example of the lengths the Coalition was prepared to go to to cling to power.
That wasn’t the government’s most expensive vote-buying exercise, however. That title falls to the $1000 tax offset for low- and middle-income earners, announced in the budget just weeks out from the election.
But the skulduggery started long before then. Months before the election was called Liberal MP Tim Wilson was caught out using parliamentary processes and taxpayer funds on a blatantly partisan disinformation campaign to smear Labor’s franking credits plans.
Then came the “death tax” campaign, what a Guardian investigation referred to as “fake news, open and shut”. The investigation said the lie emerged from a Daily Telegraph article in July 2018 reporting that the ACTU backed an inheritance tax, which was followed by an “uncritical” discussion on Sunrise.
Six months later, as the election loomed, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a media release warning of Labor’s supposed plans, and by April memes about Labor’s death tax were popping up all over boomer Facebook.
Underpinning the Coalition’s scaremongering was what turned out to be a very effective social media campaign. Orchestrated by a pair of Kiwi social media wunderkinds, Sean Topham and Ben Guerin, the campaign delivered an endless stream of intentionally amateurish memes that pushed a consistent message that Labor was coming for your wallet.
Learning the wrong lessons
In the aftermath of the election the conventional wisdom on the right was that Labor was “captured by the left”, Australians actually love coal, and Scott Morrison’s daggy-dad everyman shtick was wildly popular.
On the left, the conclusions were – and remain – mixed. Depending on where you sit Labor was either too aligned with the Greens or too aligned with the government; either too radical or too conservative.
But Labor only lost the election by a handful of votes in a handful of electorates, which means all the Coalition’s disinformation and vote-buying campaign had to do was persuade a few thousand voters across the country. Did it? Maybe. Probably.
Either way it should make us rethink the lessons we think we’ve learned. Progressive parties have a hard enough time in elections: conservatives merely have to promise to protect what people already have; progressives need to paint a picture of what might be. It’s a harder sell.
For me, the lesson from all of this for socially democratic parties is that they should accept that conservatives have the upper hand in corporate and social media and get over it. Focus on the big stuff and leave the pettiness and bullshit to your enemies. Present a clear, unwavering, unambiguous vision of environmental, economic and social justice bound in class solidarity.
In other words: damn the memes and carry on. That’s how we win.
The week in review
👎🏽 Underemployed and underpaid
On the face of it 2019 was a bit of a nothing year on the unemployment front. At the start of the year the unemployment rate was 5%; by the end it was 5.1%. But, as Greg Jericho points out, the big story remains underemployment. Overall underemployment remained flat at 8.3%, but it increased for older and younger Australians. And as long as there are more people with available hours than there are work hours to fill, there’ll be no pressure on wages, which remain depressed.
👍🏽 Pricing carbon works!
SundayFocus readers will already know that pricing carbon is a wildly effective way to reduce carbon emissions, and now we have even more proof. According to research by University College London a tax on carbon dioxide emissions in Great Britain, introduced in 2013, has reduced coal-fired electricity generation by 93 per cent. Coal-fired power now accounts for only three per cent of total electricity generation.
👎🏽 Plus ça change
Trump’s Middle East “peace plan” amounts to a whole lot of nothing. If implemented it would merely reinforce the status quo and further entrench Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians. As independent journalist Antony Loewenstein writes, “Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the support of Israeli right-wing opposition leader (in name only) Benny Gantz, has unveiled the wet dream of evangelicals, the Israeli hard-right and the Israeli settler movement in one document. All Israeli settlers will almost certainly remain in their homes, whether in fully developed colonies or hastily-erected outposts across the West Bank, and Israeli annexation will begin soon. Jerusalem will remain under complete Israeli control.”
👍🏽 Commute like a Bolivian
Cities like Jakarta and Delhi are revolutionising the work commute for millions of people, while residents of Bolivia’s capital La Paz have enjoyed the world’s largest cable car network, a network of high-speed electric gondolas, since 2014 (see it in action here). Puts the patchwork of ageing, diesel-belching buses and unreliable trains in Australia’s urban centres to shame.
👎🏽 Broadbland
In news that will shock nobody, the Coalition’s watered-down NBN remains a multi-billion dollar turkey with a new report showing national broadband performance slipping even lower in international rankings. Australia’s broadband internet is now the fourth slowest in the OECD, with download speeds around a quarter of the leading country, South Korea.
Can the Bernie Sanders campaign alter the course of the Democratic Party?
Barons of crap
For your bookshelf
The Making of Murdoch, by Tom Roberts
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Anand Giridharadas
"When injustice is law resistance is duty" t-shirt
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