Cormann the comedian

By August 24, 2017Australian Politics

Sometimes Mathias Cormann, in his unmistakeable drone can seem like the cartoon villain, but in a speech to the business-funded Sydney Institute1, he seems to have gone from cartoon villain to comedian. In this speech, he reiterated Turnbull’s ‘warning’ that Shorten is the “most dangerous left-wing leader” in a generation. The only way that Shorten is dangerous, as far as Turnbull is concerned, is that he may be the next Prime Minister, thereby depriving Turnbull of that pleasure (unless Turnbull’s party take it from him beforehand). Cormann, on the other hand, went to such lengths to excoriate Shorten that he imply sounded ridiculous. He attempted to insinuate that Shorten is a socialist rather than a social democrat, and then conflated communism with socialism3 making the huge, if ludicrous, leap that Shorten was a communist. This is the sort of reds-under-the-bed idiocy one would hear from McCarthyist nutters in the 1950s. Such conflation and confusion is still common among the gullible in the United States, particularly among those trumpettes with whom I have corresponded4. However, I expected to hear better from a modern Finance Minister. To attempt to conflate communism5, in which everything of consequence is owned by the state, with social democracy6, in which the capitalist system operates to promote social justice, either betrays Cormann’s inadequate understanding of the difference, or his ability to lie.

Cormann even used the hackneyed ‘politics of envy’3 epithet used by Morrison and Howard7 to justify bashing unions and anyone else with whom they disagreed. This is an inaccurate description of the situation. It should be directed back at Cormann, Morrison and Howard for it is they who are indulging their donors in big business with the ‘politics of greed’.

I suspect that the reason Cormann is particularly upset, is because he realises that the neoliberal trickle-down economics to which he has nailed his colours, has failed8, and people all around the world are realising this, except perhaps those in the Liberal party. Indeed, ‘trickle-down’ is a misnomer, because the wealth doesn’t trickle down at all, it mostly gushes upwards and the system should perhaps been more accurately termed ‘vacuum-up economics’. This is because it has led to a huge increase in inequality of income. In Australia in the interval from the late 1970s to 2010, the share of total income going to the top 1% has gone from about 4.5% to 9.0%. In the USA, from 8% to 17.5%. In the UK, from 6% to 14%9. These are rates of income inequality not seen in Australia since the 1940s, the US and UK since the middle 1930s. The growth in income inequality in recent decades has been much more pronounced in the English-speaking nations than in other, non-English-speaking nations9.

Cormann stated that Shorten has misread “not only what is in the best interest of Australians today and into the future, but also the great aspirational spirit of the Australian people”. This is simply a bit of waffle and (speaking from personal experience), in this decade, it is impossible for a young couple to get ahead unless they are assisted financially by their parents, despite them having relatively well paying jobs, as Shorten has indicated10. The only Australians about which Cormann is concerned are those who donate funds to the Liberal and National Coalition. All the other Australians might aspire to get ahead, but if they live in the larger of the capital cities, aspiration will be all they have.





  • Arthur Baker says:

    Cormann is a complete clown. Except that, unlike most real clowns, who are aware of their clownhood, Cormann is, I imagine, actually trying to be serious. That in itself is comical, for a while, at least. Well, I say a while, but I can’t listen to the man for more than about 30 seconds.

    Although, as a linguist, I’m supposed to be non-judgmental about people’s accents, and my native English dialect is one which was, and still is, widely derided, so I know what it is to be ridiculed linguistically for no fault of my own, I have to say I enjoy Shaun Micallef’s long-running “Mad as Hell” skit, featuring the catchphrase “Down’t be econamic girly-man!”. Perhaps this exaggerated buffoonery is the best way to deal with a buffoon such as Cormann, in that it necessarily exposes him as an irredeemable boofhead.

    Unfortunately, as some puffed-up ideological stooge of the IPA told us on ABC News Breakfast this morning (I suppose the ABC is forced to invite these RWNJs in the interests of so-called “balance”), we now know the line Cormann and his mates will run from now onwards, with increasing frequency and volume, up to the next election. And some dimwits will believe it, although I find it difficult to imagine he will convince many of the still-unconvinced.

    Just another reason to always have the “Mute” button within easy reach, as if we needed any more reasons.

    • admin says:

      My remote’s mute button has been hammered over the last couple of years, such that I am afraid it will wear out. I used to watch QandA regularly, but as Australian federal politics became more ludicrous and sickening, I can now only watch it when there are no politicians on.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        “I can now only watch it when there are no politicians on.”

        That would be a pretty rare occurrence. A while back, the Liberals chucked a wobbly and announced they were boycotting Q&A. I had a letter published the next day in the Sydney Morning Herald rejoicing in that fact, and opining that all we needed now was Bill Shorten to announce a similar ban on behalf of Labor, and Q&A might just conceivably become watchable television.

        Sadly, it didn’t take long for the Liberals to abandon their boycott (hah, they realised they were cutting off their nose to spite their face, and that Q&A gave them a perfect platform to send a stooge to recite this week’s ideological mantra). And the ALP never implemented the boycott I’d hoped for.

        These days, I catch up with what happened on Monday’s Q&A by reading an article in Tuesday morning’s SMH, which takes me a maximum of 10 minutes. This saves 50 minutes of my precious time, and if there’s something I feel I need to record and keep, there’s a repeat on ABC a day or two later.

        This late in my life, when I don’t know how much longer I’ve got on this earth, there’s no greater offence anyone can cause me than to waste my precious time, and Q&A would do that in trumps, if I watched it. So I don’t.

        • admin says:


          Every day above ground is a bonus, as they say, so you have to make the most of it. The last thing I want to do on my deathbed is to think: “I should have watched less television” There is some interesting stuff, but the large majority of it is just dross.

  • Jim says:

    Although I agree largely with what Admin wrote, I think we should not underestimate people such as Cormann. He strikes me as one of the few people in the government that can run a coherent argument, even if we disagree with it. One of the big mistakes the ALP made during the Howard years was to badly underestimate his political antennae–they were usually spot on. The ALP should definitely push the increasing inequality line as far as much as possible because it is so obviously true.
    Incidentally I would not be too disparaging of the “Reds under the Beds” campaign. You may not remember, but this actually worked pretty well for the Coalition government in the 1950s and they had 23 years in office. There are of course major differences today, one of which is that Menzies was competent and Turnbull isn’t. In addition in the 1950s the ALP was a mess, particularly in Victoria where they spent more time fighting each other than the government. The boot is on the other foot at present, although every so often the out-of-touch extreme left wing of the ALP in Victoria raises its head, although I suspect they have mainly moved over to the Greens.

    • admin says:


      that was in part my point, the reds-under-the-bed argument was from the middle of last century and Cormann’s tirade was redolent of the same ‘argument’. In fact, he admitted it himself when he said that a large proportion of the populace will not remember a communist eastern Europe, precisely because almost all the reds have been replaced by kleptocrats.

    • Arthur Baker says:

      Cormann was sworn in as a senator on 20 June 2007, just five months ahead of Howard’s defeat in the November election. I’m not sure how much he contributed to the Liberal/National cause during those five months. Was he really that effective?

      As regards the reds under the beds campaign, I have two comments:

      (1) We are now in 2017, not the 1950s. It’s an entirely different era and a different world, many people either lived through the 1950s and remember it, others have learned from history and will dismiss it, and many younger voters will simply switch off because they don’t understand what the Liberals are talking about.

      (2) I don’t like to say this, but Cormann’s accent is not the best vehicle to express the Liberal Party’s message. He’s a native speaker of German, and Australian people aren’t all that receptive to foreign accents in general, and in particular they’re not too keen on German accents. I don’t write this to express my own linguistic prejudices, because I don’t have any. I write this as a statement of the linguistic preferences and prejudices of most Australians.

      If the Liberal Party is serious about getting its message out and getting it accepted, they need to either send Cormann to an accent coach or get someone with a fair dinkum Aussie accent to be their spokesdickhead.

      • admin says:


        While I suppose the accent may bother many people, it is not something that I actually thought about in that way. I grew up in an area replete with different accents, and my parents’ friends comprised English, Welsh, Scottish, Yugoslavian (actually Croatian), Austrian, German, Hungarian and Dutch people, most of whom had arrived after the war, so, to me it was just natural in a country full of immigrants.

        • Arthur Baker says:

          It’s one of Australia’s most significant ironies that although we are perhaps the world’s greatest immigration nation, Australians are largely monolingual, and more to the point, often do get “bothered” by LOTEs and non-native accents. People on public transport get abused, and sometimes threatened with violence, for speaking to each other in their native language.

          People whose accent is obviously not that of a native English-speaker are frequently regarded as less credible than those whose accent is fair dinkum Aussie. A close friend of mine whose origins were in Cleveland Ohio was very badly beaten up in Sydney by some violent dickhead, for no other reason than that his accent showed he was “some kind of fucking Yank”. He was a native speaker of English, attacked and severely injured for the sin of being rhotic, which most Australians are not.

          Linguistic and accentual discrimination is alive and well in Australia today, I assure you. here’s an article from just last week about discrimination in the job market:

          And while discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation and political opinion is illegal, linguistic discrimination is out there, completely free of penalty, unlegislated, and rolling along unfettered in our wonderful multicultural country.

          Go figure.

      • Alex Leach says:

        I think he meant Howard’s political antennae, not Cormann’s.

        • Arthur Baker says:

          Yes, on re-reading, you’re right. I mistook the object of the pronoun “his”. And yep, if Cormann’s latest spray is an example of his political antennae at work, they’re not particularly impressive. And by way of contrast, Howard, as we all found out, was as cunning as a sh1thouse rat.

  • JON says:

    Girly-man Cormann, co-architect of the worst national budget in history, only has credibility among those who know sfa about economics, finance and politics in general – ie the vast majority of voters. That said, I agree with his reiteration of the “politics of envy” line because there’s a smidgen of truth in it. I’m particularly envious of the way the conservatives have given away our minerals and gas to private entities for minimal return, and would like to see the special tax deal those economic comedians Howard and Costello granted to multinational petro companies under the PRRT extended to ALL individual and company taxpayers. Let’s all fiddle while the economy burns because we won’t be around to bear the consequences. Apparently Shorten is okay with this obscene largess, not because he agrees with it, but because he has neither the guts to do something about it nor the intelligence to make the argument for a PROPER deal for the Australian people. Remember the pathetic Gillard campaign he was part of in support of the ill-fated MRRT? Fair dinkum, if Cormann, Morisson, Shorten and co (the list is far too long to name them all) were racehorses you’d be perfectly justified in having them mercifully put down.

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