Just over a year ago, I wrote a piece about the slow slide to fascism in Australia, which mentioned some legislative ‘innovations’ by the current Coalition government. These included legislation to lower the threshold at which the federal government is allowed call out the Australian Defence Force domestically. Under this legislation, it used to be that states or territories could ask the federal government to send in the troops if all other options were exhausted. Now the federal government can call in the troops unilaterally, despite the fact that this goes against section 119 of the Constitution1.
That article harked back to a previous piece in which I listed sundry other pieces of legislation in which: whistle-blower protections were more limited than they could have been; the NSW government would shut down protests; the NSW government was contemplating allowing companies to sue for defamation; making a show of not taking foreign donations (but taking them through local subsidiaries/intermediaries anyway); trying to stop the activities of community organisations and charities. The question I asked in this piece was, how long would it be before journalists and bloggers would come to be regarded as a danger to national security2.
We now seem to be another step or two along the road to fascism with the speech Scott Morrison delivered to the Queensland Resources Council. As Katharine Murphy said in the Guardian, this speech ‘was a doozy’3. Morrison stated that a new breed of radical activism was on the march and was #apocalyptic in tone, brooks no compromise, all or nothing, alternative views not permitted – a dogma that pits cities against regional Australia, one that cannot resist sneering at wealth creating and job creating industries, and the livelihoods particularly of regional Australians including here is Queensland”. He was of course referring to climate activists (of which I am one) whose protests have become a source of inconvenience for the coal and petroleum industries
What Morrison really meant here is that the protesters are: warning of impending climate apocalypse (which he does not believe), alternative views such as those of climate change deniers are not treated with respect he thinks they deserve – he believes climate change is a dogma (which is strange as it comes from hundreds of scientists who are anything but dogmatic), and he is trying to make it a regions versus city battle, when it is the regions who will likely suffer the most from climate change. He maintains that these radical activists sneer at wealth-creating and job-creating industries. What he really means is that these activists have worked out that the Coalition support for jobs and wealth is not about jobs at all, as renewables create more jobs than coal mining because the latter is largely automated. And the wealth Morrison is about creating is only wealth for his donors in the coal and petroleum industries, in the hope that their largesse will continue to flow into the Liberal Party coffers. That is the only wealth that is important to Morrison.
Morrison also zeroed in on “indulgent and selfish” environmental groups who target companies involved in, or servicing the coal industry, and has vowed to outlaw such practices. How he will do this, short of monitoring all text messages, Twitter accounts or Facebook posts is unclear. However, one thing which was clear is the silliness of Morrison’s speech. As Katharine Murphy stated, it was ‘high velocity bollocks’3. He asserted that these activists were being undemocratic, whereas he, Morrison, was going to curtail their democratic right to protest. No doubt he was unaware of the irony.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have also raided the Canberra home of NewsCorp journalist (that is almost an oxymoron) Annika Smethurst and the Sydney offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation because of a couple of stories which the government would have preferred not to have seen in print. Now it has gotten worse. Some may remember the Helloworld scandal, where Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, who had a financial interest in Helloworld, organised meetings between the company and the Australian federal government. Helloworld, whose CEO is the treasurer for the Liberal Party, was given a government contract with Mathias Cormann’s Department of Finance worth $1 billion, and its shares shot up 170% after this contract was signed4. Not only that, but Helloworld gave Cormann and his family free overseas flights. Cormann only paid for the flights when the freebie became public knowledge. One would think that the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad would be investigating this rancid deal, which reeks of a severe conflict of interest at best, at worst, of corruption. In fact, the Victoria Police are investigating the whistle-blowers. Given that the Helloworld information was provided to a Senate estimates hearing5, in the interests of getting the truth into the record, it clearly shows that the government is simply trying to intimidate whistle-blowers because the truth inconveniences the government, especially when it relates to their dubious behaviour.
These just provide another couple more milestones along the road to the dismantling of democracy by the Morrison Government. US author David Frum has predicted this sort of behaviour when he said: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”6 That is what we are now seeing with the Morrison government.