To the astonishment of Abbott and Hockey, their class war budget has been shredded. Public opinion, protest and dogged rejection of their blatantly partisan budget have sent them into shock.
So they’ve come up with the inanity known as a “national conversation” as “a way forward”.
The pollies do too many courses in how to manage public opinion. They think they just have to find newfangled ways to say the same thing. The “leaners and lifters” trope didn’t work. People didn’t fall for the “blame the bludgers on welfare while we trash your future” message. But surely they’ll agree to have a conversation. After all, who doesn’t like a friendly chat?
They want us to believe that if we could just put aside our partisan views, our biases, our prejudice that favours a “fair go” for workers, we could have a calm, mature “conversation”. But about what?
What I can’t understand is this: why do journalists who must have been trained in the so-called postmodern art of “deconstruction” just parrot every stupid and/or offensive phrase that spouts from the mouths of people like Abbott and Hockey?
How hard would it be to “deconstruct” the idiotic phrase “we need to have a national conversation”? You don’t need a degree in semiotics, English literature, social theory or anything else that academia can dream up to see how dishonest this concept is.
Yet day after day, “quality” media outlets feature analysts, “experts” in one thing or another, all supposedly wise and informed, intoning “we need to have a national conversation” about the supposed problems “we” face. The Intergenerational Report has really got them going. Shock, horror, our children will live longer than our parents did.
Some even go so far as to intimate that it’s heartening to see a new face of Abbott. Gone is the bully, hail the reasonable, listening, talkative soul. Do they think we’re all dimwits?
Perhaps it’s not deconstruction skills that media and social commentators need but some elementary political insight or basic humanity and decency, along with a desire to tell the truth.
The simple fact is that there has never been “a conversation” between the rich and workers. Bosses live by exploiting us. So lower wages, no penalties, longer hours, weak unions that don’t defend our right to a safe workplace all mean higher profits. Thirty years of neoliberalism prove it.
During the 2000s, the share of national income going to workers, as opposed to the capitalist class, has declined by 5.8 percent. According to the Australia Institute, the top 20 per cent of people have 71 times more wealth than the bottom 20 per cent, and the richest seven individuals in Australia hold more wealth than the poorest 1.73 million households.
That’s the crux of the matter isn’t it? Companies determined to minimise their tax, driven by cutthroat competition, are not going to have a polite discussion with us all about what they can do to help out with welfare. What do they care if pensioners freeze to death because they can’t pay for power to warm their houses? But if their shareholders don’t get dividends from gambling on the stock market, Armageddon beckons.
We all know it. Hockey and Abbott know it. They just want to change the chatter in public forums. Then hopefully we’ll lose track of what’s really up. Unfortunately for them, their friends blather and sometimes admit the truth.
Susan Ley, the health minister, made it clear: “It [the Medicare levy] is still government policy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not keen to hear people’s views about it but broadly there actually is support for a co-payment measure.” And Christopher Pyne – still hell-bent on ramming through his US-style university system – isn’t looking for a conversation. He’s seen the anger on too many protesting students’ faces.
There is a positive side to all this. Social democratic ideals – a welfare system that at least provides some degree of support for those in need, the commitment to free health and a reasonable chance of sending your kids to university – have proven more resilient than the team captain, his cigar-smoking clown and their big business backers thought.
Now they’ve worked out they have to win an argument somehow. But their “conversation” is so phoney, it’s hard to see how it will win support for their class war policies. No new sentences, no new words or cosy chats with those on the receiving end of these attacks will disguise $100,000 degrees, six months every year with no income for the unemployed under 30 and cuts to health and pensions.
The only communication our side needs with Abbott and Co is a good round of partisan class war in the form of determined strikes and protests.