Crony Capitalism and the Collapse of Democracy
Quiet Australians, so-called. They’ve become an article of faith for a victorious Coalition government. Against the odds, surprising pundits, pollsters and even themselves, the conservatives have just won government once again despite a history of internal division and public scandal.
After his May victory Prime Minister Scott Morrison was fulsome in his appreciation.
“They have their dreams, they have their aspirations, to get a job, to get an apprenticeship, to start a business, to meet someone amazing, to start a family, to buy a home, to work hard and provide the best you can for your kids, to save for your retirement,” Morrison told jubilant supporters at the Wentworth hotel in Sydney, the Liberal’s traditional site for their post-election parties.
“These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight. Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first.”
Morrison won with an affable daggy dad routine and through an indefatigable campaign, appearing at endless barbeques and functions, kissing babies, grinning, gripping and smiling his way to victory.
But four months later, as the nation’s working poor wake up to the fact that they were conned by a daggy dad routine they should have been able to see through, Morrison, and his Party along with him, are trending downwards in the polls.
The conservatives clearly learnt nothing from their near death experience.
Winners are grinners; no more so than in the Liberal Party; “Liberal” in Australian terms being an oxymoronic piece of nomenclature for a party closely linked to the Very Big End of Town.
Already, four months into the government’s term, those so-called “Quiet Australians” are on the drift.
For one simple reason.
Nothing has changed.
Put a smiley face atop a cesspit and you’re still sitting on a pile of crap.
Post his miraculous victory Scott Morrison no doubt felt vindicated in his internal belief that he was a master marketeer.
But he forgets that he owed his pre-politics career as an advertising executive almost entirely to political patronage; including a stint as managing director of Tourism Australia, a body formed by Liberal Party scion former Prime Minister John Howard.
Morrison may have been smart enough to win an election on the back of the so-called Quiet Australians, but not smart enough to deliver on his promises, nor to improve their quality of life.
Shortly after gaining office he warned his fellow cabinet members that journalists were not their friends and to be careful in their dealings with them; making sure that even the youngest and most naive of media personnel were offside.
And shortly after that the Australian Federal Police started raiding journalists homes and offices; thereby creating national and international indignation.
Master marketeer indeed.
Well thank God for journalists.
As one of Australia’s most accomplished Michael West wrote in his piece Election 2019: How good is plutocracy!
The votes were still being counted, the final tally of seats in Parliament was yet to be settled, when the inevitable list of demands from big business lobbed in the financial press.
For ordinary Australians, there will be no “working with the government”.
The Great Unwashed have had their say, they can have their say again on a Saturday sometime in 2022.
Between now and then, for every week in between, the business lobby will enjoy a privilege of access to those in government which is rarely available to the ordinary citizen.
As West records on his groundbreaking website , the Very Big End of Town queued up to congratulate Morrison.
“A truly outstanding result,” said Fortescue Metals chief executive Elizabeth Gaines.
“We look forward to working with the new government, declared Origin Energy chief Frank Calabria.
MYOB boss Tim Reed expressed relief at the election result “given Labor made it clear they would push for minimum wage rises”.
“Stop the regulation and stop the bullshit” came the call to arms from multi-millionaire retailer Gerry Harvey.
The problem for the government is these corporate giants might be powerful, but their votes are few. That privilege lies with the hordes, the Great Unwashed.
The only thing that is keeping the conservatives from a complete collapse in public support is the dismal state of the Opposition.
Morrison won promising to “burn for the Australian people every single day”.
Well that didn’t happen. It was straight back to business as usual. Nothing has changed.
Electricity prices remain sky high. Owning a home is out of reach for many. Standards of living are static or falling. Wages are flat. We are faced with falling educational outcomes. The government’s National Broadband Network has delivered some of the slowest and most expensive internet in the world. Small business continues to groan under excessive compliance costs. Immigration remains at near record levels despite an increasing backlash.
As the last election demonstrated, the nation’s normally politically disengaged tradies are drifting right not left, The Liberals discovered this in time to target them, manipulate preference flows and save their own bacon.
The toffs won and the tradies celebrated, that is how far Labor has drifted from its traditional working class base.
In suburbia politics take on a different hue. The preening self-aggrandisement of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was despised or dismissed by the tradies, painters, plumbers, electricians, tilers, truck drivers, builders and labourers.
“They don’t give a fuck about me so why should I give a fuck about them.”
His politically correct propagandising on the leitmotifs of the left, refugees, climate change, indigenous disadvantage, fell on barren ground.
Ludicrously Turnbull, or “Turdball” as he was frequently referred to, if anybody thought about him at all, would from his exalted heights lecture the nation’s men on misogyny, as if women were a fragile sub-species in need of protection.
Regurgitating the platitudes of the Canberra femocacy’s war on the patriarchy was entirely lost on the so-called Quiet Australians.
Here is a conversation overheard by the author at a local watering hole in the Illawarra, an exemplar of the demographic which put Morrison into the top job:
“I got home from work yesterday and Cheryl was banging on at me about not doing the housework; and I said, ‘Listen here love, I’ve been at work all fucking day. I don’t need this crap. She starts jawing on so I told her, ‘Shut your fucking cake hole love. All you got to do is cook dinner and shag me once a day. How fucking difficult is it? I don’t care whether the house is clean or not.’
“So she starts up again and I just said, ‘fuck this’ and went to the pub. Get home today and she’s still not talking to me. So I thought right, I’m going back to the pub. Women, who can understand them?”
“Can’t live with them, can’t live without them,” a friend chimed in sympathetically.
As much as the armies of middle class bureaucrats would like the great unwashed to behave in a more politically correct manner, it’s not going to happen.
This total disconnect between the ruling castes and the people they are meant to serve is transfiguring the nation’s politics.
The Quiet Australians being so ardently embraced by the nation’s conservatives, not in substance but in rhetoric, are in reality a rather rowdy lot.
They drink, smoke, argue, swear constantly, swap politically incorrect jokes and bizarre porn clips; and they party at the weekends like there was no tomorrow, making a mockery of the nation’s drug laws.
They also get up and go to work, take good care of their children, are loyal to their friends and want nothing more than to get ahead in life.
They are only regarded as Quiet by the hoi polloi because they are entirely invisible in the public debate, even more unknown to the nation’s academics than a remote Amazon tribe; not to mention invisible to the nation’s bureaucrats and social engineers.
There have been plenty of warnings from within the Liberal Party itself that they need to stay in touch with their base; one mistake US President Donald Trump has not made.
The very thing this demographic hates about Labor, the endless obsession with identity politics, refugees and climate change, the fact that their real-life concerns are totally ignored, are the same things they hated about the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull. Which is why their votes, if they weren’t voting for Captain America or drawing genitalia on their ballot papers, drifted to Clive Palmer and One Nation; and therefore back to the Coalition.
With Labor still looking completely unelectable, and his polling taking an inevitable dive, Morrison might as well hand over to his principal rival for the leadership, the formidable Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. And he might as well do it now; thereby saving the country years of tedious headlines as the internal divisions of the Party play out in public view.
Dutton’s looming Darth Vader presence in the national parliament means he is not just a stalking horse; he is a force of nature.
And unlike Morrison, who has spent his entire life amongst Australia’s highest income earners, Dutton is centred in his classically Middle Australia seat of Dickson on the outskirts of Brisbane.
He has the base.
It is a quirk of contemporary politics that the country’s raffish working class are supporting a died in the wool conservative former policeman; but they don’t want a grinning cartoon for a Prime Minister who tricked them into thinking he was one of them.
Australia is riddled by over-sized bureaucracies, excessive regulation, insane levels of taxation and absurd costs of living.
Everyone is running to stand still.
As studies have shown, faith in democracy has hit catastrophic lows.
The working poor want someone who will stand up to the multiple insanities they rightly perceive are destroying their country.
If, as happened to his predecessor and mentor Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison loses poll after poll month after month, then yet again the leadership is in play.
Dutton has endured ceaseless demonisation at the hands of Australia’s left leaning media for his hard line approach to border control; including from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Guardian Australia and the Fairfax press.
If he ultimately achieves the mantle of Liberal leader, they will all be frothing at the mouth. Yet for every negative headline generated, Dutton’s ratings will go up.
Morrison, never known as an ideas man, has increasingly presented as a fat self-satisfied seal frolicking in shallow seas. Meanwhile almost every single economic indicator is trending down and many of his so-called Quiet Australians fear a coming Depression.
What will pour kerosine onto this situation in the coming years is if the predictions, based on government data, of five million more unemployed as a result of technological change actually come true.
Then the Quiet Australians will no longer be invisible in the public debate. They’ll be rioting in the streets. And Morrison will be history.
This piece has been adapted for A Sense of Place Magazine from the upcoming book Dark Dark Policing, the third and final book in the series which began in 2015 with Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost.