One good thing recent protests have done is to draw out the government. After the protests last week Morrison made a speech condemning their actions and questioning the rights of the protestors, further suggesting that legislation may be required to limit the damage of boycott action by basically making it illegal.
It’s laughable in a way. How do you police that? If I choose not to buy one brand of beer or jeans or choose not to shop at a particular shopping chain, then what’s the difference between freedom of choice and a political boycott? How does the Gestapo make that distinction – or is guilt simply assumed and applied en masse?
Of course, it’s ridiculous but much more than that it goes against our democratic principles. I’m putting a lot of faith in that statement – our democratic principles – for while I believe they remain true to the people, and intrinsic to our democratic history, there’s real doubt that the government of the day cares for it at all.
This is not news, though perhaps it’s only now that people are waking up to it. The statements by Morrison have been condemned and rightly seen as an attack on our right to free expression. This attack has been building for years, and the truth of it is that today we lack many of the rights that we had a decade ago. Government policy has become much more intrusive and repressive, all of it justified by contrived threats on our national security. Today the government can read our emails and track our movements. I was reading yesterday about facial recognition technology being used in some schools. There’s a push to have a national database of identity drawing on all states data and, most importantly, the photos taken for various licence categories. We’re but a hop, skip and a jump from being a surveillance state.
Add to that a generally inept media which is, nonetheless, constrained from reporting so much in the national interest because of government restrictions – witness the recent raids on journalists by Federal police. Then there is the absence of laws to protect whistleblowers, who are more likely to be prosecuted by exposing corruption and fraud than be rewarded for it.
Much of this has happened by stealth – an opposition too afraid to oppose, and generally a media either compliant (News Corp) or inneffectual, means that the interrogation of these policies hardly occurred. There was little of it made in the press, and even less that disturbed the general torpor of the Australian electorate. And that’s how it happens. Little by little, you lose your liberties until one day you wake up and find you have precious little left.
It suits the government because they control the narrative then. These are politically motivated. If you can shut down the avenues for free expression and identify the dissidents then who is left to oppose you? With a feeble media and an enfeebled middle class, where does the resistance come from?
I remember I was embarrassed when Tony Abbott became prime minister. He was everything I didn’t believe in, but I recognise now that at least he believed in something. Then Turnbull came along, a great hope for those of us passionate about society. Here was an intelligent, decent man, who also turned out to have no idea what was happening behind his back. What a disappointment he turned out to be. Now we have Scott Morrison, and I’m not sure, but it’s possible that I hate him most of all.
I don’t know that Morrison believes in anything but his own personal god. He is pure politics. A cynical Trumpian. He governs only for advantage and isn’t a leaders arsehole. There’s something particularly soul-numbing about people like him. He likes to get around and to be seen as a man of the people, but the reality is that his sole ambition is for power. He leads a do-nothing government more intent on wedging the opposition Labor than developing policy, more intent on serving his industry donors than the Australian people. (As I’ve been arguing a long time, we as a people lack true representation. It’s the opportunity that Labor are too timid to grasp – break the nexus and do what is right rather than what is merely politic.)
Then there’s Peter Dutton in the background pulling all these strings. I reckon the average man in the street has a better idea of Dutton than his party colleagues do. This is a man fundamentally lacking in moral decency. He’s a despot in waiting. I have no doubt that he has his eyes on the top job still, and if ever he achieves it, then Australia will become a tyranny.
People are objects in his world-view. They are tools to be exploited. He has the rigid perspective of a dictator – anyone who isn’t for him must be against him. It’s an attitude that informs recent calls by him that the unemployed found protesting should have benefits stripped from them. Here combined is the vision of a society where surveillance is so pervasive that one can’t protest without being identified, and so punitive that to do so is to have your rights denied. That’s effectively a police state, and a senior minister is saying it. How does this opinion go unchallenged? And yet, more or less, it’s gone unreported.
The scary thing is that this is the man who runs Homeland Security! A man like this shouldn’t be in parliament, and he should certainly be nowhere near running our security agencies. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.
We’re the frogs in the pot of water. For years now the water has been getting warmer, but we’ve become acclimatised to it. What would have been shocking before is but the temperature of the times now. I wonder now if finally, we’re starting to feel the heat? I hope so. As a humane, open society, we can’t survive much more of these oppressive policies. Time to make a noise.