“My door will always be open” tweets Pauline Hanson, at the first signs of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Is it an ironic echo of her 1996 maiden speech? “Of course I will be called racist but if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country.”
In 2001, desperate for a boost in the polls, fellow US sycophant, John Winston Howard, stole Hanson’s line: “But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Howard went on to praise Philip Ruddock, who lied that babies were thrown overboard, helping his and subsequent governments demonise asylum-seekers, refugees, people-smugglers and ultimately the UNHCR.
Fifteen years later, immigration still dominates the week’s politics. “We, the United States, have agreed to consider referrals from UNHCR on refugees now residing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea,” declares US Secretary of State John Kerry, Sunday, upstaging the Coalition’s own announcement and our MPs’ frenzied Trump fan clubbing.
Earlier in the week, Ms Hanson is elbowed aside by other MPs with a soft spot for a con-man. Who doesn’t love a misogynistic, sexist, racist thug? Fan boy Cory Bernardi tweets images of himself in a cap saying “make Australia great again”. George Christensen, who begged Hanson not to run a candidate against him last election, says “it shows people want a different style of politics”, while, ever sensitive to the popular will, autocratic Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz says “people do want to get back into control”; rid of the tyranny of political correctness.
Ayatollah Abetz hectors Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane. How dare he propose that “our society must have strong protections against racial abuse and vilification, while guaranteeing freedom of speech?” The Commissioner must “consider his position and … reflect on whether his elitist approach to enforcing his world view on people is in line with the expectations of the Australian people whom he should be serving.”
Trumpmania is not just for nutters. A crush of Federal MPs, former PMs and wannabes stage dive into the populist mosh pit of The Donald’s Aussie victory concert. They crowd-surf on the cross-bench molls, trolls and xenophobes partying happily in step already with the Trump trash pop groove.
A bevy of local experts on demagogues and charlatans including John Howard, John Hewson, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Georgina Downer eagerly review The Trump Show for us; peer into the Donald’s crooked looking glass.”
“It’s a huge victory for middle America, Ms Downer writes in deathless IPA prose. It is a rejection of liberal internationalism, political correctness and the progressive politics of urban elites in favour of traditional American values … Trump will lead the US in the right direction.”
“The American people have made a great and momentous choice” says Turnbull. If only someone could tell the American people.
“Fuck Trump” say the placards of demonstrators in a dozen US cities, who clearly are not feeling hugely victorious. On the streets are scenes of fear and uncertainty; an abdication of leadership. Crowds chant “Not my president!”
Australia is quite safe, we are told, now there’s a crazy, trigger-happy cowboy at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation. Don’t believe everything he says. Now that he is President-elect, his threats and promises will be revealed to be “just campaign devices”. He didn’t mean it or others will keep him in check when he is on the oval office. Relax. The politics of inertia takes care of itself.
There are grounds for scepticism. Arab diplomatic sources report that the Trump campaign contacted Middle East embassies in Washington, D.C. three months after Trump declared his ban on Muslims entering the U.S.: “ His campaign workers asked key Arab diplomats to ‘ignore Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.” Trump is also “walking back” his threat to dismantle Obamacare and his threat to put crooked Hillary in jail.
Yet there are countless other grounds for concern over Trump’s character despite the dubious defences. No matter how many women testify to being sexually assaulted by The Donald, all thirteen are lying, including first wife Ivana Trump in her sworn 1990 divorce deposition. No matter that Trump refuses to show his tax returns or anything else that gets in the way of his pathological need for approval, when’s he’s President, he’ll do better. No matter that Trump lies about opposing the Iraq war; we all make mistakes when we speak in public. No matter that the only thing that the only consistency in his incoherent, rambling, ranting campaign hate speeches is his insatiable appetite for applause. It’s his traditional vibe that matters. No matter he’s only in it for the rallies and the rabble-rousing self-gratification.
In a post-truth, post modern world, the naturally repulsive Mr Trump is an anti-hero for his times, a grotesque travesty of a popular leader whose political skills amount to shrewdly echoing his listeners’ prejudices, anxieties and fears. Like all demagogues, he knows how to give voters what he thinks they want to hear.
Trump’s cunning enough to know that he can make big promises to little people because they are too small to make him keep them. Like Tony Abbott, or Malcolm Turnbull, The Donald’s counterfeit discourse makes authentic civic conversation impossible. One thing only is certain, no-one – least of all the impulsive Donald Trump – knows what he will do.
To real-estate clients Trump offers three types of luxury, luxury, super luxury and super, super luxury. After interviewing him to discover what makes The Donald tick, the New Yorker’s Mark Singer concluded, Trump has achieved the ultimate luxury, “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul”. The Donald will say or do anything if it gets a cheer.
Trump may promise to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and steal their oil or build a Mexican wall or round up and deport twelve million “illegal” aliens. He may claim climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal US jobs.
But there’s more to the Trump vibe than the thrill of ignorance and bigotry unleashed. It’s a field day for Tony Abbott and all other self-respecting narcissists who rush the airwaves to admire their own features in the vanity mirror of their gloss on Trump’s upset victory. Turn his win to their advantage. In a barb aimed at his PM which wilfully misrepresents Trump’s radicalism, Abbott says “politicians should not ignore the conservative vote” .
The failed former prime minister is quickly slapped down by the current incompetent. Turnbull tells 3AW that Abbott’s policies: his budget and copayment played a huge part in voter disillusionment. Trumping Abbott’s bid for attention, he is telephoned by the US President-elect – the fifth world leader on the list. Trump, he reports “was warm”. He is a businessman, a deal-maker. The US President-elect and the Australian leader have a great deal in common. What can possibly go wrong?
“I suppose as both being businessmen who found our way into politics, somewhat later in life, we come to the problems of our own nations and indeed world problems with a pragmatic approach,” lies Turnbull, who has been in politics all his life, adding for good measure that the US has principles which both parties must follow.
The sacred Australia-US Alliance will be preserved, Mr Turnbull vows. Amen. No-one really believes that Donald Trump has even heard of it, let alone understands it. No matter. Australian politicians love to get it wrong. The alliance is only “an agreement to consult” . The ANZUS Treaty is similarly ambiguous. It calls on signatories to “consult” and “act” if another party is attacked, but does not specify what that action should be. But we can’t let that worry us with Trump magic in the air.
A presidential campaign which has defied rational analysis for eighteen months suddenly makes sense to everybody. Miraculously it gives heart to both our Prime Ministers, the deposed but yet undead former Prime Minister and his replacement with the same policies, Malcolm Turnbull, yet neither is quite as Trump-struck as Pauline. Could it be love?
Ms Hanson blushes later, laughing off Karl Stefanovic on Nine and his suggestion that she has the hots for the delectable Donald. A model of accommodation for this rich white male member of a power elite, the One Nation leader and former celebrity dancer cum political commentator, poses with champagne in parliament grounds to offer her probing assessment of Trump’s victory over Clinton. The success of the billionaire reality TV host, property speculator and tax evader who inherited his father’s real-estate business and between $40 and $200 million and who forced small contractors out of business by not paying his bills, represents a win for little people everywhere.
Hanson, who has represented her little people by voting with the government on all but two occasions so far, dismisses Stefanovic’s call for Trump’s isolationist rhetoric to be taken seriously. In vain, the Nine host instances The Donald’s ranting against NAFTA and all other Free Trade Agreements including our Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a very big deal whose benefits to Australia this government has yet to spell out to anyone. He could just as easily instance Trump’s role as an apologist for Russia.
“I believe what Donald Trump says, look after your own country first. Karl, they’re not going to be isolationists. People put this fear factor out,” she says, blithely unaware that Trump’s “America First” is the slogan of 1930s US isolationists, confusing it, perhaps, with a religion. Anything you don’t understand can be explained away as the work of a conspiracy.
Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Malcolm Roberts follow Hanson; publicly clutching at the coat-tails of The Donald’s sudden elevation from racist hate-speaker, paranoid fear-monger and pathological liar to popular hero. For Mr. Bernardi, not only is Trump’s win a win for all billionaire narcissists oppressed by political correctness everywhere, it is all about Cory and “a validation of all I have been warning about for many years.”
Mr. Bernardi, an inveterate attention-seeker who insists that his own ultra-conservative agenda and his homophobia somehow represent a persecuted silent majority, warns of “major political parties wilfully ignoring voters in favour of their own power and self-interest.”
“We see this as a wonderful opportunity to restore freedom” says Malcolm Roberts who, not to be outdone, defies all forms of correctness when he appears Thursday unfurling an infantile US revolutionary flag beloved of Tea Party nutters and troublemakers everywhere. It bears an image of a serpent and the legend “don’t tread on me”.
It’s been a huge week for Mr Roberts whose press conference Monday saw him release a 42-page document claiming the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology corrupted climate data and that global warming is an international Jewish banking conspiracy to gain global control through environmentalism.
PHON Freedom, of course, has its limits. When journalists ask about Rod Culleton, party hack James Ashby shouts: “We’re not talking about that now.” The media conference is closed.
Later, claiming to have been invited to “connect” with the Trump presidency, the irrepressible Roberts hisses that Trump is ” … dismantling the establishment … what we have is only One Nation, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, capable of dealing with Donald Trump’s presidency.” Roberts’ monopoly on The Donald is a big call even in a week when the PM rises to nail Tony Abbott’s colours to his mast over same sex marriage.
“I’m not interested in gesture politics,” gestures Malcolm Bligh Turnbull Tuesday in the House, earning howls of derision from Opposition MPs who know a token politician when they see through one. Despite its duplicity and heroic denial, his government has been ambushed by reality. After the defeat of its bill in the senate Monday, marriage equality will no longer be tried by divisive plebiscite and alarmist, sensational government-funded homophobic propaganda.
It’s a crisis, firstly because the PM has no plan B; it’s his signature. Turnbull’s singular capacity to tie himself up in knots devising a single, workable plan A was painfully evident in his everything on the table taxation reform debacle. Despite George Brandis and other bullies urging that it was now or never, the movement for equality will not die down. It is likely now to proceed via a bill to the senate where it will be passed and then referred to a lower house where Turnbull’s leadership will be severely tested by a vociferous minority of hard right opponents of gay marriage such as Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz who have never really accepted his authority or legitimacy.
As one plank of a thin campaign platform collapses and with the prospect of an ABCC defeat in the senate imminent, the government’s thin agenda is even more exposed. The diversions of racial vilification and his popular war on asylum-seekers and showing humanity to refugees appear to be little more than wedge politics. His 18C show is currently getting up a head of steam with the announcement of an inquiry into the Human Rights Commission. Luckily, his Turnbullishly clever double dissolution, as Annabel Crabb would have it, has wrought some colourful distractions of its own.
A merciful diversion is provided by One Nation as Pauline Hanson throws her own Rod Culleton under a bus after it becomes clear that the sand-groper, a natural amateur standup comedian, owes around $5 million at least to a big bank and to Wesfarmers. When he declared his eligibility, moreover, his pending sentence for felony slipped his mind as did any inkling that he might, to all intents and purposes, be insolvent.
Reversing over his body to see if he’s dead, Hanson waves Culleton’s One Nation Party application before tabling the document in the Senate – just in case it might appear One Nation itself was in any way at fault.
Culleton, clearly a threat to Malcolm Roberts’ place as best standup routine in the One Nation team entry, touchingly promised reporters in July that even should his candidacy be annulled, his key-nicking, debt-defaulting days were over: “I’m going to pursue a life of common sense and real down-to-earth politics.” Neither of which, clearly, are achievable should he remain in either the One Nation party or in the senate.
All is not lost, however, on big Bob Katter who takes a shine to young Rod. He calls forlornly upon Pauline to stand by her man. Could it be, he ponders aloud, in the House of Representatives Monday, that Culleton’s support of a Royal Commission into banking, his opposition to foreign ownership of farms or his stance against the ABCC have put the skids under his otherwise promising career path? Perish the thought.
Back in his office, Malcolm Turnbull takes solace in his red tea pot. Things can only get better next week. He’s made a fool of himself in airing his misunderstanding of the role of the HRC. His big refugee announcement sounds like a con and he has been gazumped by John Kerry. Obama’s got to be allowed one parting shot.
Bungling George Brandis has backed down disgracefully after trying to take over the solicitor general’s authority. His mission critical ABCC bill, so urgently required to free our great nation of workplace thuggery has been put on hold while One Nation gets its act together; at least until its senators’ bona fides are sorted out by the High Court.
Bob Day just won’t go away but at least the Coalition has not revealed what it knew about him so far. At least the backpacker tax debate has been put off until Barnaby or the monkey pod boys tell him what to do about it.