Jesus said, ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in’ – Matthew 25:31-46
‘The “decision-maker” has to weigh up whether or not somebody coming to Australia is likely to make a claim for protection or stay at a cost to the taxpayer’.
Peter Dutton on whether to allow a dying man’s family to visit.
Politicians exploit our attentuated Christmas attention-spans for a variety of jolly purposes. It is that time of year when we let our guard down; pause from our annual travail in the saltmines to reflect on the finer and deeper things of life, such as eating drinking and making merry. All the while being publicly and privately serenaded at every turn by angels on high letting us know that the spirit of Christmas (Inc) is big business.
What better time for Greg Hunt to finally approve Adani’s Carmichael mine, the biggest in Australia, none of us wants, needs or can pay for? Greg hopes we’ll all be too fonged to care; too tiddly with Christmas spirit to notice the Carmichael mine’s unacceptable risks to the climate, the region’s groundwater, biodiversity and economy.
Hunt ignores the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal produced by the mine confirming his government’s preparedness to completely disengage with global climate change imperatives. Adani’s approval means no chance of even a 2 per cent growth in CO2 emissions.
What better time to threaten penalty rates? Our lowest paid workers need cuts to their wages to help with the Christmas shopping. What better time to forget that our environment policy is a fantasy, like Santa and his reindeer. Or the Christmas spirit, whatever that is when it’s at home.
What’s that? Direct Action, along with our increased pollution after repeal of the carbon tax means no show of meeting even a 2% carbon reduction target? Bring on Bing and the Mills Brothers!
Bing, the Mills Brothers, Andrews sisters – vast armies of goodwill troopers are despatched out of Hollywood HQ on their Christmas mission; to spread goodwill as thick and sickly-sweet as brandy butter while loosening our wallets and purses with sentimental Christmas classics. No-one has time to post warnings about endangered reefs or species.
Christmas causes panic attacks in supermarkets. ‘Consumers’ since that’s how we’ve all been branded, repackaged, repurposed by a post-industrial society, succumb to anxiety and guilt. Bad thoughts prey on us. Bad feelings about our own reciprocity, generosity and acceptance – even our own authenticity.
Add ersatz Christmas cheer to this toxic brew and you’ve got a lethal cocktail which can sleigh you in the aisles. Brought to you courtesy of the happiness industry (inc.) an affiliate of the international arms trade, Schmaltz takes no prisoners.
Commerce does a backflip. Any other time of the year it addicted to competition and lowering wages and conditions. Now it changes its tune. Suddenly commerce pesters everybody to show goodwill to all men and women, quite drowning out your seasonal greeting to your neighbour; your warning to your elderly mother she better not start too early on the gin or Christmas brandy.
But every year the Christmas industry starts earlier and earlier. Why? Do we look like we just can’t get given enough of this Christmas message stuff? Or is there more to it than mere supply and demand? What do our leaders have to say for themselves?
Her Majesty and the no less imperious illusionist, Malcolm Turnbull, the Jay Gatsby of Point Piper, have been hard at it, messaging unity and goodwill. Mal’s a late subsitute in the leadership stakes. He overcame his personal unpopularity with his colleagues to win a leadership spill – but it takes more than that to become an effective PM.
Libs hate Turnbull for his arrogance and his fat head but most don’t want any more shenanigans from Abbott. Nobody loves even a Noel know all but Abbott just had to go. But not far enough, it seems.
Isn’t Plan T working well, for them now? Mal can’t even duck out of the office without mad dog Abbott getting on his case. As a PM he is a well-spoken lame duck. Or stuffed turkey.
Beholden to the Nationals for their support in landing him Abbott’s scalp and with Abbott himself out-bidding Donald for hawkish foreign policy and ‘anti-terror’ bullshit, Turnbull is Sisyphus in a gilded cage.
Trapped between the National’s conservatism and their baffled by anything post 1950 world outlook, Turnbull must daily, fruitlessly roll the immense boulder of his massive ambition. Only to have the Nationals roll it downhill every night. Abbott meanwhile pecks daily at his liver and his lights and snipes at him from the Daily Telegraph for being such a wuss.
Mal’s mythic predicament and patent, epic absurdity upstages any mealy-mouthed message of goodwill he may come contrive with his media unit, his stable of failed journos and former advertising copywriters. Mal says it’s a special time.
‘This is a very special time as the year comes to an end and we draw closer to family and dear friends – fond reminiscence of a year gone by and looking forward to a new year with anticipation and excitement,’
Turnbull begins safely with tepid banality before a plunge into controversy and confected social conscience.
‘But for many of us it is not so happy. Poverty, loneliness, illness, the loss of loved ones – these shadows hang heavier at Christmas.’
True words, Mr Turnbull. What are you going to do about this You are PM. Aren’t you? No sign of anything like a call to action. Turnbull’s last line on his Christmas card plunges into bathos and wilful blindness. For Mal and the rest of his party, it is never about addressing our rush into inequality. Or protecting workers’ wages and entitlements. It’s not about anything that will cost him anything. Words are cheap.
‘We can lift some of those shadows by sharing our love with others – beyond our family and close friends.’ True words, Mr Turnbull, true words. Trust you to put your mouth where your money is.
What is it with the message thing? Turnbull is just going through the motions. Why bother? Do our leaders believe we are somehow lost or morally and metaphysically bewildered children all year? Great comfort and joy awaits us at last being set straight by the rich and powerful. Won’t see it as a prelude to being done over once again?
The Christmas message is a bit like a rescue on the high seas of our impudent self-determination. A kindly government figure or ancient, flatulent, atavistic royal, commandeers our unseaworthy craft, stepping into our lives and on our toes yet utterly unabashed. They have that right. Just as they have a right to completely ignore our plight all the rest of the year. After all what have we done to merit their attention?
Lilibet, as Queen Elizabeth II is known to her intimate family, has sensibly augmented her hereditary power by continuing her family’s practice of putting their royal hands in commoners’ pockets over the ages. She is worth 44 billion pounds, according to Forbes, and the richest woman in the world, we never tire of telling one another, as if obscene wealth is unarguably licence to do anything. It could, however, pay for a few schools and hospitals.
Wealth helps give Lilibet the right to know what’s best for us while supercharging and fine-tuning her common touch. You see it when she meets her cringing and curtseying people, too.
But we commoners give Her Maj a bit of hand, too. We all love a bit of dominance with our submission and mindless subservience and economic servitude. Nothing like being taken for granted or emotionally punished around Christmas time as mothers, especially, can attest. So, bring on the Christmas Mess. Send us back to our tormentors and detractors, Lizzie. Turn us back, Mr Turnbull. We know it’s what we all so richly deserve. It’s a necessary ritual, clearly, a self-abasement with someone powerful standing over us to do the bits we can’t reach.
Seen in this light, you can’t beat a top Christmas ‘mess’. It’s a quality conversation, delivered by a professional ear-basher. So easy, too. All you have to do is be told. Like the conversation Turnbull plans for us about taxation. Or penalty rates. Nothing like having your bearings forcibly reset for you by a stranger with delusions of eternal superiority and the means to achieve it. Nothing like some authority figure’s flogging to empower each of us to sally forth once again gaily to stuff up another New Year. But you can’t complain. Nobody listens. They are all too busy Christmas messaging.
Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to the Christmas ‘mess’. We can alight eagerly upon each of her Majesty’s quivery patrician vowels as she quavers, hem-haw, hem haw, hem-haw through her nose bag of Latinate verbiage and abstractions with the steady cadence of a seaside donkey plodding the sands at Blackpool. Donkey-like, we are worn down from centuries of abuse. And every step takes us all closer to the knackers.
Many of us enjoy HM’s speech-writing wallahs’ platitudes. Some savour her outrageous pretence at domestic normality and connubial bliss, ‘meh husband and eh …’ Why … the Queen’s just one of us really, instead of some shrewd, billionaire blueblood, a ruthless businesswomen in a tiara who also enjoys the best PR money can’t buy. Cringing obsequiousness is engendered through centuries of repression and shameless propaganda. And her divine right to the throne.
This ‘yer’, in her 63rd Christmas message Her Maj touches upon disasters. There’s been a few this year. But she’s upbeat. Her take is that light beats darkness. It’s a reprise of the stuff her forbears gave the crusaders before they set off to rape, pillage and destroy Islam. But as always the Queen is on to a good thing. Top marks for topicality.
The Crusades are held by many scholars to be the epitome of self-righteous intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general.
There are verbal and non-verbal messages, of course, but actions always speak loudest. And what could be more eloquent than the ‘robust’ local versions currently being meted out by our tireless actors in the public interest, our federal and state politicians. Here the dominant notes are pay up and ‘bugger off.’
Bugger off back to where you come from has a long, rich tradition. Jesus, himself, was born into an asylum seeker family. Like the 199 refugees and Kiwis we lock up on Christmas Island, preparatory to deportation or in indefinite detention without charge,’ bugger off back to where you came from’, is our political Christmas greeting du jour.
Bugger off goes back awhile. The (Roman) government needed to do some onshore processing. ‘Registration’, it was called. All part of a rich conversation with the people about tax reform. Ensuring poor people paid their dues. Aliens were told to bugger off back home to be counted and assessed for tax.
Much later, in another hot, dry, continent obsessed with aliens and inland revenue, the Australian Liberal Party took the same tack, dedicating itself at inception to serve privilege and wealth and extort the poor. The Party was born to serve the interests of the rich, while taking the most ironic and laughably incongruous name possible.
Liberal? Liberals took liberties with a word which means free. They quickly became known for their intolerance of the ideas and behaviour of others, their implacable hostility and suspicion of strangers. But they remain shrewd: a liberal dose of xenophobia helps them stay in power.
The unity of mutual enmity glues the party together, just as it did for the Romans in 4AD who, sixty years later, crucified Christians in full-scale state-sponsored persecution of what they saw as a dangerous and craven death-cult.
Historians dispute the Bible census story. Luke may have added the tax collection detail. One thing is certain, however, the four day trek to Bethlehem would have been hard going for any expectant mother. Her young husband may not have even had a donkey to offer her to ride on as in the popular illustrated Bible stories. 100 km of bad weather and bandits on the road, were, however the least of the worries of Joseph and Mary.
Things got a lot worse, post-partum. After the child’s birth, Jesus was hunted down for execution. The paranoiac Herod, the Great of Judaea, a Roman puppet, forerunner of all subsequent western stooges and humanitarian invasions visited upon the region ever since was out to destroy all first-born males. It proved a curtain-raiser for a type of war peoples of the Middle East have suffered to this day. Some call their war a Jihadist war; for others it is a humanitarian intervention. The results are remarkably similar.
War and occupation, all by the US and its allies, in the name of humanitarian intervention, liberation and democratisation directly and indirectly claimed the lives of about a half-million Iraqis from 2003 to 2011, according to a pioneering 2013 survey of 1,960 Iraqi households and public health experts. Those left alive were visited by ISIS and other groups borne of the desolation and dislocation of war.
Luckily, for baby Jesus and his unmarried teenage mother, Mary, and Father Joe the jobbing carpenter made it safely to Bethlehem, roughly 10 km south of Jerusalem. A couple of thousand years ago, Bethlehem was a rough place. But it could have been a lot worse. Imagine if Joseph and Mary had fetched up in Australia.
Peter Dutton would have had a field day. Witness his recent lofty and principled defence of our economic security when the family of a young Pakistani man, suffering the final stages of terminal cancer, found it nigh impossible to be allowed to be with their son on his deathbed. The Duttonator exploded any sort of Christmas humbug involving charity or compassion. His gift to the family was Nope on a rope.
‘The “decision-maker” has to weigh up whether or not somebody coming to Australia is likely to make a claim for protection or stay at a cost to the taxpayer’. In ‘the Decision-Maker’. Dutton disavows personal responsibility.
Bugger the rule of law. Power over ordinary people goes to a vast army of faceless men, Tony Abbott made it his duty to expand. Yet Abbott and Turnbull have also been up front. They brazenly toady to multinationals; inviting the best that money can buy to dictate our energy, environment and health policy. This is how they ‘deliver ‘transparency‘, Ask not what Adani can do for Australia but what Australia can do for Adani.
Abbott was not a dead loss to the nation. As Bernard Keane points out, Cap’n Onion-eater’s two year comic turn as PM did serve one useful purpose, aside from granting Peta Credlin de facto Cabinet membership and an all-expenses paid holiday with the PM and his daughter on the piste. His failures, (Keane kindly calls them flaws), help reveal who really makes the decisions around here. The Abbott/Turnbull government has more in common with an autocracy than any more consensual apparatus.
Craven sycophants rule! 2015 showed once again, that if you want to succeed in business, it pays to be a wealthy multinational, preferably in drugs or cigarettes. Or coal.
Making Greg Hunt Minister for the Environment may have been Abbott’s two fingered salute to the greenies but as a ministerial appointment, it is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. We’ve got all the coal mine approvals we could wish for. And then some. And just a few days out from the Yuletide stupor, the little poppet gives approval for the biggest coal mine in the southern hemisphere.
Not only is it coal we don’t need if we won’t to keep an atmosphere. We won’t be able to sell it. Unless we continue to subsidise Adani. But Hunt the Christmas tree angel has an extra surprise. Just when you thought you were getting one massive coal shipping port at Abbott Point, it is revealed that you are getting two. O tidings of comfort and joy!
O come all ye faithful tender-hearted, coal-adoring Liberal Party animals out there, time to channel your inner Saint Nicholas. OK, we know there are countless ways in which the Abbott/Turnbull government has already embodied the spirit of Christmas. We know.
It’s not just that it has proved to be wise, just, compassionate and kind as in Peter Dutton’s decision to delay granting a visa of a dying Pakistani student, in case as he says the family decides to stay and free-load. Like Adani making a fat profit and paying no tax. Or any one of the forty per cent of corporations earning over 200 million who manage to avoid with impunity any tax payments.
As a new year beckons, the government is on message in its commitment to its coal industry backers who are dreaming of a coal black Christmas. Adani’s massive coal mine will at best employ 1400 workers or 0.6% of the workforce and it must have our money to pay for its ports and for its rail to get coal from mine to ship, despite the falling price of coal and other economic indicators which predict the likely outcome will be an unviable, unworkable mine, a stranded economic asset.
But the spirit of goodwill to all men prevails in the Abbott/Turnbull’s pitch to apply a 15% GST to all of us so that we can offer tax breaks to corporations, 40% of whom pay no tax at all.
It’s less Joy to the World than jingle bells rock as the (coal) ition circus heads for yet another year of absurdist performance art and Dada happenings, such as Morrison’s case for fixing those who evade tax to by lowering company tax rates. Or Turnbull’s NBN, the white elephant in the room running berserk and if not exactly trampling him to political death, well hurting him a little bit, even if he is the Grand Panjandrum of innovation and positivity.
But don’t expect too much in the way of real information on how your taxes are being spent or what new ones are in store. 2016 will continue to see the hysteria of national security whipped up yet again. Expect more anti-terror, more ugly xenophobia and ersatz Ozzie nationalism.
National security helps, like Christmas messages, to unify us around false ideas, if not false idols; to divert us and dull us into buying the rhetoric that there’s never been a more exciting time to be alive. All problems, clearly, let it be understood, implies our PM lie not with the stars but with ourselves.