Michael West: Michael West Media.
It’s a dang good thing we’re winning the cricket because the government has collapsed. Scott Morrison’s Team Australia has left the health system to fail; the virus is out of control, tracking and testing has crashed, and Liberal Party corporate mates Harvey Norman and Chemist Warehouse are profiteering. Michael West looks at the price of Scomo’s “personal responsibility”.
They let it rip. And it ripped. Three Covid infections in Bali yesterday, 35,000 in NSW. Nursing homes are locking down so Australia’s elderly can once again die in peace, untroubled by the distraction of having their loved ones around them. Restaurants, a slew of businesses going belly up. Hospitals in such crisis that Covid-positive nurses are being called back to work.
It’s ripped alright. Australia. Government, broken. It’s a good thing there are things the government doesn’t control because they are going well. The Ashes, the share market, iron ore prices. The stuff they do control however, but for which they are apparently not responsible, things like the health system, defence spending, nursing homes, quarantine; falling apart.
The single most important duty of government is to keep the people safe. They’ve failed.
They do control the media though, or most of it at least, and that’s still going well for them. Somebody from the ABC was complaining that Scott Morrison, Greg Hunt, Dom Perrottet and a few of the “personal responsibility” crew knocked back an offer from 7.30 Report to go on tele to explain themselves. Naturally they refused.
Why would Scomo front Laura Tingle anyway when he can hop on the JobKeeper subsidised Seven Sunrise at do some public relations and marketing?
Day-in-day-out, he can rely on the corporate media at the government subsidised News Corporation, Sky News, Seven and Nine Entertainment to create the illusion everything is somebody else’s fault.
It was only yesterday that Rupert Murdoch’s courtiers at The Australian were claiming free Covid tests are wrong. Nine media timidly accepted too that its big advertiser Harvey Norman, yet to pay back its JobKeeper despite record profits, was entitled to make a profit from selling Covid tests.
Then Morrison’s black arts department in PMO chucked a 180 and suddenly it was “PM to the rescue” a bold red non-exclusive “Exclusive” about our ScoMo, genuflecting about the white knight riding to the rescue.
“Chronic rapid test shortage to continue for days as PM offers states more free kits,” splashed The Age and SMH about the PM’s new “plan”.
Good thing they did not elect to do journalism and tell the truth; that the government is out of its depth, sinking the tumultuous seas of its own incompetence and crony capitalism, and the real plan is just to “do a Donald Trump” and keep the PR coming via its subsidised and compromised corporate media outlets.
Doing a Trump
Checking in on what our white knights up to, we strayed unwittingly this morning onto the website of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).
“The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) website and social media channels are now live,” it declared. Alas, no they weren’t. “Page not Found,” was the search result. Quite symbolic really because what we are dealing with here is “Government not Found.
Like most Coalition plans, the NCCC was secretive and didn’t work out. Despite the grand ambitions and the curtseying media which accompanied its inception, the commission was quietly disbanded a few months later and after some lavish fees for the assorted fossil fuel directors and Liberal Party acolytes.
Thank heavens for independent media and independent politicians. This from Crikey: “Last July the commission was granted a new mandate that allowed much of its work to be deemed “cabinet in confidence meaning it could operate largely behind closed doors. This was challenged by independent Senator Rex Patrick.
“The commission spent more than $1 million on market research, none of which has been released publicly. About $541,000 of that went to former Liberal Party pollster Jim Reed … another $500,000 went to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for “management advisory services”. BCG was also hired by the government to advise it on gas modelling. PricewaterhouseCoopers was also given $79,200 for management advisory services.“
Plus ça change
Plus c’est la même chose, as they say in France, where incidentally a new mutant strain of the virus has just bobbed up, reportedly originating in Cameroon. We don’t know what this “Ihu” variant will bring but it’s a fair bet the government here will ignore the scientific and medical advice and the empirical evidence of how best to handle it.
It is also a fair bet that the looming election campaign will be more ludicrous than any before. There are countless examples but this week’s Murdoch oped claiming rapid test *should* be free, then the “exclusive” the very next day saying how great it was that the PM was providing free kits is a classic of the captured media genre.
This is not journalism, it is not media in any traditional sense, it is a foreign media company given to warmongering and running daily propaganda for the Coalition.
What the Coalition really needs is a good enemy. It is shaping as a Covid election otherwise, and even with the support of its media allies and a $16bn war-chest of publicly funded bribes to fork out to marginal seats, this will be a challenge because everybody now has a personal Covid experience and only the most strident of Tories will contend with any conviction that the government is competent.
It is fair to say that governing in this pandemic is no cakewalk. Mistakes will inevitably be made, and both public health and economic measures change according to changing circumstances. The problem for Australia is more systemic. This is a government which ignores sound, scientific advice on everything from climate and energy to health.
It is a government of business lobby marionettes, a government which listens to those who give the Coalition money. How else could it ignore medical advice on the Pandemic, or allow 50 new fossil fuel projects to be on the boil? How else could it blow up $40bn in JobKeeper hand-outs to Italian fashion houses and other foreign multinationals as well as large local corporations and other entities with record incomes.
The “China threat”
So to the inevitable distractions. The China rhetoric will intensify. Comically, The Australian ran this during the week: Nuclear submarine pact ‘has Beijing rattled‘. The governments outhouse PR operatives in the Murdoch media love a war and the China-threat stories are daily fodder. So much so that surveys find millions of Australians actually fear a Chinese invasion.
To address the actual facts though, there is no submarines “deal”. There is some sort of secret agreement with the US and Britain to buy submarine technology under the AUKUS treaty.
The claim that China is shaking in its boots thanks to “Australia’s deal” to get some subs sometime in the next 20 years will be a bit late for the Election in May but that won’t stop the propagandists concocting an immediate threat and decisive action by the Morrison government.
If there was a deal we would probably know what sort of subs there were by now, US or UK technology, old or new. There would be a cost, which at this point is only an estimate of $90bn.
For its part, China has 60 or 70 submarines itself. It exports the things to at least four other nations. The very notion that Australia ought to go to war with China over Taiwan, or for that matter any other reason than an invasion of Australia – which is a bizarre notion in itself – is simply ridiculous. We would be shellacked in quick order, despatched like the English batting line-up, even with our entire GDP spent on weaponry.
If it were not so tragic it would be funny. Here is a media machine, arrant apologists for Donald Trump, which brought us the Wuhan lab theory, a Chinese conspiracy to spread the pandemic, then the Chinese military threat daily.
It can only be a matter of time before they join the dots between the shortage of RAT tests and Chinese profiteering. Meanwhile, there would be no profiteering if there was a competent government which reacted to independent, rational advice rather than whispers from the business lobby.
There is no public appetite for more lockdowns and the latest variant of the virus is less dangerous. Yet people will die as a result of the collapse of government and the failure of our elected leaders to take proper advice. It’s not hard, just a matter of listening to people who know what they are talking about, seeing how other countries are managing public health, acting decisively and ignoring the siren calls of business lobbyists.
Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.
Cover image by Alex Anstey.