Common Sense Dies Here #48

Welcome to Common Sense Dies Here #48, tiptoeing around.

The government announced their intention to criminalise dodgy payments from employers to unions. Though workers have had their conditions surreptitiously traded away as a result of such inducements, the Coalition’s only real aim is to make Short William squirm. Considering his past involvement in the practice, he definitely deserves to. As does any union official that behaves similarly. But the moral high ground Mal Trumble and co are trying to claim here is a complete sham. They have no concern about workers’ rights. They applauded the recent decision to cut penalty rates. And it’s not just corrupt unionists they harbour animosity towards, they hate organised labour in general.

Speaking of those penalty rate cuts, two separate pieces of analysis from the Australia Institute highlight just how damaging they’ll probably be. A report by Jim Stanford, director of the institute’s Centre for Future Work, suggests none of the methods proposed to mitigate their impact are “capable of truly avoiding the resulting hardship”. Based on present wage growth, it’ll take 17 years for workers to make up the lost money. And by that point, it’ll be worth less due to inflation. Modelling by the institute’s chief economist, Richard Denniss, shows the changes may cost the budget $650 million in lost tax revenue over the next 4 years. And could lead to an increase in welfare spending of up to $126 million a year. So, the government’s support for the penalty rate cuts not only illustrates that, no matter how many high vis vests they wrap them in, their claims they stand for working people are utterly dishonest. It also strongly contradicts their supposed zeal for budget repair, and getting people off welfare.

Sticking with members of the government pretending to be things they’re not, Pete Dutton continued his pathetic attempts at appearing like a leader. Obviously keen to seize the initiative back from the dastardly CEOs and “normal people” blackmailing each other into supporting same-sex marriage, he said “Lots of us are working together to find a sensible approach through this Parliament”. The “sensible approach” Pete has in mind is a postal plebiscite.

Here I was thinking the sensible approach would be just having a free vote at last. But apparently it’s actually a plebiscite even less binding, and even more open to abuse, than the previously proposed one. “The plebiscite was a very clear and deliberate proposal within our election promise and we shouldn’t break that promise” he explained. If it was a clear and deliberate promise then surely suggesting an entirely different kind of plebiscite, and a non compulsory one at that, is breaking it. On the other hand, the main aim of the policy was to confuse and delay things. So, in that regard, I guess Pete is staying true. But still, I doubt he’d be all that worried about breaking election promises if he thought his side could win a free vote.

It’s an impression only strengthened by Pete’s lack of distress over the government’s change of heart on 18C. Mal Trumble used Harmony Day to announce their intention to replace “offend, insult, humiliate” with “harass”. And a “reasonable member of the relevant group” with “reasonable member of the Australian community”. The suggestion is that, if successful, 18C will be refocused towards dealing with people being threatened, rather than those with hurt feelings. But really it’s further proof that reactionaries either don’t understand how the legislation works. Or are perfectly happy to lie in order to make it easier for Andrew Bolt to be shit at his job.

Legal precedent says that a breach of 18C must “have profound and serious effects, not to be likened to mere slights”. And even that aside, the idea that someone needs to be threatened misses the point. There are other laws that make that kind of thing illegal. 18C is meant to provide ethnic minorities a legal response to language that reinforces the societal discrimination they face. Assuming, of course, that it doesn’t fall under the many exemptions designed to protect free speech in 18D. Also, the suggestion that the wider Australian community can be trusted to understand what does and doesn’t have damaging effects on ethnic minorities has been disproved by the whole of country’s history. So, Mal claimed he’s “strengthening the race hate laws”, but that’s blatantly untrue. And for all the talk about reinforcing free speech, he can’t actually pinpoint what it is that people will be able to say that they can’t now. The only examples he can provide are 2 cases where people weren’t in breach of 18C. His own position is all that he’s really strengthening. But, as it’s another appeal to reactionaries that will alienate a large section of the electorate, he’s not even doing a good job of that.

Despite his own attempts to appeal to xenophobes and racists, Mal excoriated Pauline Hanson for using the terrorist attack in London to call for a Muslim ban. She’s lost her way a bit recently. And earlier in the week, desperate to differentiate herself from the government, she was forced to stick up for the welfare recipients she generally characterises as devious sociopaths throwing babies into each other for extra meth money. So she must have been relieved by the opportunity to return to her greatest hits. “I have my own hashtag … it’s #Pray4MuslimBan. That is how you solve the problem. Put a ban on it and then let’s deal with the issues here” she said. In response, Mal pointed out, rather forcefully, that she was playing right into IS’ hands.

He’s right, of course. But, even if we ignore the move to change 18C, Mal and co haven’t exactly had the best week when it comes to promoting an inclusive society. While couched in the language of the multiculturalism, Mal’s suggestion that “Citizenship offers rights but it also confers the responsibility to integrate and contribute”. And that “Practices and behaviours that undermine our values have no place in Australia”, in my mind, subtly reinforced the practice of holding immigrants to standards not met by plenty of MPs and “normal people”. Julie Bishop’s call for “more Muslim moderate voices drowning out the extremists” was also questionable. There are plenty of moderate Muslim voices condemning extremism, of course. Others, understandably, feel that they’re unfairly expected to apologise for actions committed by those that interpret the religion in a way that feels alien to them. And I’m not really sure where Julie gets off calling for more critical Muslim voices considering her involvement in depicting Anne Aly, a moderate Muslim actively engaged in combating extremism, as a terrorist sympathiser.

Anyway, back to reactionary responses to the attack in London. Poisonous Skittle, Donald Trump Jr, was utterly outraged that the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the threat of terrorism was “part and parcel of living in a big city” last year. What kind of insensitive bastard says something like that months before a terrorist attack proves the already self evident comments correct? Sebastian Gorka, an aide to little Donny’s daddy, said “The war is real and that’s why executive orders like president Trump’s travel moratorium are so important”. Seb was backed up by Nigel Farage, who said “Surely an American audience seeing this horrendous thing happening in Westminster today should start to say to itself that when Donald Trump tries to put in place vetting measures, he’s doing it to protect your country”. Similar sentiments were also expressed by Marine Le Pen, and Polish PM, Beata Szydło.

I’m not entirely sure how immigration bans on Middle Eastern countries would have stopped an attacker that was born in the UK. But maybe I’m just too stupid to get it. The words of misunderstood British intellectual, Katie Hopkins, definitely confused me: “We’re a country that spends so much time tiptoeing around the cultures that refuse to join us and not enough time defending the culture they have chosen to join, but because I say those things I am widely hated for those views”. Right, so the cultures that refuse to join British culture have chosen to join British culture? Intriguing. And here I was thinking people hated her because she’s an odious fuckwit.

I suppose expecting any sense from these jokers is a waste of time. Their answer to terrorism is encouraging people to be terrified. Their claims to be the last bulwark against tyranny are discredited by their regular calls to take away people’s rights. And bleating on about how “WE CAN’T LET THIS BECOME THE NEW NORMAL” is particularly vacuous coming from people that repeatedly exacerbate the causative factors of terrorism. And seek to condemn others to live in far more horrific normals than ours. Just look at the more than 200 civilians killed by Western airstrikes in Iraq and Syria recently. Which I guess brings me to thing that’s most worrying about Nige and co: while they are extreme manifestations , they’re representative of sentiments that dominate discourse. Myopia. Self defeating selfishness. The illusion of state guaranteed safety. The confusion caused by intertwined distrust and deference towards authority. And widespread unearned feelings of superiority. I’ve been coughing up aggro looking phlegm all week, so that’s all for now. See you next time.