Common Sense Dies Here #25

Welcome to Common Sense Dies Here #25, sneering from the unreasonable left of centre at this week’s serving of shit sandwiches. You may not find it endearing, I understand facts and nuance are particularly unpopular in today’s rapidly warming political climate. At least we know where we stand though, right? On stolen land which, in some cases, will soon be consumed by sea. Alright, I take it back, not all of us know where we stand.

Mal Turnbull showed that he’s one of those people, as he urged the Opposition and crossbench to meet him in “the sensible middle”. The “sensible middle” is a place many would say Mal has occupied in the past. But its inhabitants certainly haven’t seen him around recently. In fact, some have been so worried that they’ve been asking where he’s gone, and if he’ll ever be coming back. Unfortunately for them, he seems perpetually disorientated by the bullying he suffers in the party room. I doubt he’d be able to find the way, even if he wanted to. In another illustration of that disorientation, Mal signaled an emphasis on “bread and butter issues”. That’s not butter mate, I can smell it from here.

Mal and co illustrated their new commitment to compromise by rejecting Labor’s offer of a deal on superannuation reform. Labor proposed dropping backdating of the $500,000 lifetime cap on non concessional contributions. And lowering the concessional contributions 30% tax threshold from earnings of $250,000 a year, to $200,000. Non concessional contributions are made up of after tax income, so aren’t taxed when put into super. This means they essentially amount to tax free personal wealth creation. Personally I have little sympathy for those that, 10 years ago, had already made $500,000+ of non concessional contributions. But those in the “sensible middle” might consider the retroactive nature of the cap unfair, and think Labor’s offer is a reasonable attempt at compromise.

Scotty Morrison wasn’t having any of that though. Instead he’s focused on placating the Coalition backbench by probably raising the lifetime cap to $750,000. And defending those impoverished battlers earning between $200,000 and $250,000 a year. Labor’s proposed changes are “more suited to the economy of the 1970s than a 21st century economy where people have flexible work patterns, shared responsibilities in their families and different sources of income over the course of their life” he claimed. As a former tourism executive, and human rights abuser, that has bumbled his way into a high powered position he’s unqualified for, Scotty knows all about the flexibility of the modern economy. Though he doesn’t seem to know much else.

Scotty has also been busy attacking those that don’t earn enough to pay income tax, or “taxed nots” as he calls them. If we’re using “taxed not” to describe the poor, what do we call the big businesses and wealthy individuals that use creative accounting to pay little or no tax? Anyway, Scotty asserted that the poor…Sorry, I mean the “taxed nots”…are adding to the government’s “earnings problem”. This, in his opinion, justifies “sustainable measures” like cuts to health, education, and welfare. Right, so the most “sustainable” way to deal with “taxed nots” and the “earnings problem” is to institute measures which will likely worsen levels of poverty, and therefore cost society more in the long run. Fucking genius, right?

For all Scotty and Mal’s talk of jobs and growth, in recent times even the IMF, a church of neoliberalism, has suggested that austerity and the accompanying increases in inequality actually damage economic growth. And that’s all completely ignoring the moral arguments against such policies. The government’s proposal to cut the clean energy supplement for new welfare recipients has been attacked on both fronts by welfare advocates and a number of prominent Australians. Though $4 a week may seem a paltry amount, as critics point out, dole recipients are already far below the poverty line. Labor, who supported the cut in an attempt to appeal to the “sensible middle”, have been placed in an awkward position by the backlash. But the government seems unmoved.

Tony Abbott has advised his colleagues to continue ignoring the “grievance-mongers”, and keep pursuing “Budget reform”. He also warned them “not to move closer to Labor in the hope of being a smaller target”. Rhetoric aside, of course, Coalition conservatives have sabotaged any attempt Mal has made to do so. As for budget reform, reform implies improvement. I’m not sure that doubling down on discredited ideology counts. But Tone still seems to think his idiotic ramblings are welcome, despite being an abject failure as PM, so what can we expect? In further proof of T’s strong connection with reality, and acceptance that his time as leader is over, he invited Pauline Hanson for a coffee. Pauline agreed and, speaking about T’s past attempts to ruin her, said “you can’t live on hate” The sizeable salary and entitlements she’ll be receiving as a senator show that you can actually live quite comfortably on hate.

The next stop on Tone’s definitely-not-a-comeback tour will be a week spent in a remote Indigenous community. “I am going up to East Kimberly. The reason I am keen to go there is that’s where the Centrelink debit card is being trialled” he said. So, basically he’s checking up on a contentious policy which he supports, and that some consider paternalistic and racist. You can really feel the deep, altruistic concern that he has for Indigenous people, can’t you?

Despite the Indigenous rate of incarceration rising 52% in the last decade, a report from ANU academics, Dr Clarke Jones and Dr Jill Guthrie, suggests that authorities haven’t taken the care to craft culturally appropriate rehabilitation programs. “For some reason, very little has been done since the 1991 royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, and the number of deaths in custody and youths entering custody is still alarming” Jones said. Along with inadequate programs inside prisons, a UTS report released in July found that Indigenous people often end up there as a result of unfair sentencing by judges with racist attitudes.

Yet somehow the narrative that racism isn’t a problem anymore persists. Someone throws a banana at an Indigenous player while mouthing the word monkey, and a man claiming to be her father suggests it’s “an act of frustration” while criticising those “playing the racist card”. In another incident, a mother blacks up her son, triumphantly congratulating herself for standing up to the “politically correct extremists”. When she is understandably criticised for this, a bunch of other white people decide that she was right about the “politically correct extremists”. Their argument goes something like this: “Sure, in the past blackface may have been used to perpetuate the nasty stereotypes used to justify societal racism. But that’s all sorted now, so everyone needs to get over it. What’s that? How do you explain the systemic disadvantage suffered by many ethnic minorities? Most of them are lazy criminals too busy playing the race card to get ahead”. Definitely not racist, right?

Speaking of an utter lack of self awareness, the burkini ban farce has continued in France. Despite a court ruling that the bans were a “serious and manifestly illegal violation of fundamental freedoms”, most of the mayors responsible refused to overturn them. Proponents of the bans claim, rather ironically, that they are all about protecting freedom. This includes French PM, Manuel Valls, who said the decision “does not close the debate on the burkini”, and asserted “Denouncing the burkini is not calling into question individual freedom, it is denouncing deadly, backwards Islamism”. Sorry Manu, but banning women from wearing certain swimwear is a limit on individual freedom. I’d also like to mention a few other things: firstly, I’m pretty sure the burkini would be considered too risque for groups like IS. Secondly, the bans are exactly the kind of divisive, alienating behaviour they thrive off. And lastly, I’m all for secularism, but the phrase “deadly, backwards Islamism” is intellectually lazy. It implies that all Islamists are jihadists, which simply isn’t true.

Continuing with the intellectual laziness, many Americans reacted with anger after NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour” he said. Some of the responses to this were ridiculous, to say the least. They included racial slurs, and outrage that he would dare use the freedom so many people have apparently fought and died for.

Others were offended that a wealthy black person with adoptive white parents would dare talk about oppression. So, just ignore the release of figures that show, between 2010 and 2015, 4 out of 5 of the people shot by Chicago police were a black males. And definitely don’t worry about Maine governor, Paul LePage’s comments about drug enforcement: “When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red. You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of colour or people of Hispanic origin”. The real issue here is how much Colin Kaepernick gets paid, and what his upbringing was like.

Moving from US domestic dysfunction, to dysfunction amongst its allies in the Middle East. Turkish forces have entered Syria, and are now engaged in hostilities with US backed Kurds. This complication left the US awkwardly asserting their lack of involvement, and pleading with “all armed actors to stand down and take appropriate measures to deconflict and open channels of communication”. If previous attempts at “deconflict” measures in Syria are anything to go by, they aren’t going to be meeting in the sensible middle any time soon. I’m sure that’s a particularly terrifying prospect for civilians in the vicinity, as Turkish airstrikes have already killed 35 of them. That’s all for now, stay sensible, whatever the fuck that is. Cheerio