Friday, February 10, 2017

Today by Elle Hardy

No bread, just circuses
Apportioning blame for the rise of Australia’s nationalist right

This is the time of year Australians fear most: those few weeks between the end of the cricket season and the start of the football season, when there’s nothing to watch on television and even weekends lose their splendour.

This week, Malcolm Turnbull tried to step into this vacuum of despair with his attacking parliamentary display on Wednesday, exciting a media [possible paywall] that has a taste for blood sports and pages to fill. Monopolising the attention of the press for the third day, the prime minister today continued his attack [possible paywall] on Bill Shorten’s hypocrisy, apparently blind to the events of the past year, when the politics of proving your opponent a hypocrite spectacularly failed in both the UK and the US.

As Gore Vidal once observed of the US, we are effectively living in a one-party state with two factions. The tepid, centrist, free-market-ish politics has shown both sides unwilling and unable to come up with any substantial response to stagnating wages, cost of living stress, international upheaval, and a recession that feels like it won’t be too far off. A week of theatrics, from Turnbull’s confected [possible paywall] and rehashed speech, to Shorten’s wincingly insincere reply, to Scott Morrison wandering around parliament with a lump of coal, is further proof that none of the major parties has anything to say, so they’re damn well going to sing it.

The Greens, the supposed opposition to the status quo, should be capitalising on the Centrelink debacle and the prime minister’s new-found enthusiasm for fossil fuels amid an excruciating heatwave and power shortages around the nation, but instead are polarised by infighting [possible paywall] and promoting inane policies such as denying Trump an entry visa for a visit that isn’t even on the cards.

Fear and loathing in Australia was firmly telegraphed in last year’s election with the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson, not to mention events in Europe and the US, yet the political inertia rolls on. The two most hated professions in the country, politicians and journalists, are dancing with rhetoric while resentment and alienation fester, and desperate people look for a new belief system to give them hope.

Buoyed by the rise of the nationalist-internationalist over the past year, Australia’s alt-right is energised and organising [possible paywall] in plain sight, with preference negotiations between Katter’s Australian Party and One Nation continuing in Queensland, while George Christensen has delivered an ultimatum to the Nationals: help sugar cane growers in their fight against an international agribusiness firm in North Queensland, or he will leave the Liberal National Party.

That such obvious frauds and opportunists have been able to position themselves as “the voice of the people” in this country speaks to a sickness in our politics that makes the decay of institutions and social cohesion seem inevitable.

They won’t give us any bread, and they’ve given us themselves as the circus. Politics – we – are just sport to these people.

Today’s links

  • Jacqueline Maley has written a stunning account of a fundraiser last night for an anti-Islam group, including a “rambling speech” from former Liberal Party MP Ross Cameron that was peppered with homophobic remarks.
  • Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban has lost another court case, with the POTUS reacting the only way he knows how: tweeting. The case looks set to go to the Supreme Court, which still has only eight justices, who are evenly politically split.
  • A court in Russia has found anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny guilty of fraud, barring the country’s only effective opposition leader from his plan to run against Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election.
  • Speaking of Vlad, and Russia’s role in arming and funding the Ukrainian rebels who shot down MH17, killing 38 Australians in 2014, Pauline Hanson said that “everyone has done something”.
  • Clive Palmer has taken his poetry to the people, posting an amusing series of observations and poems this week on Twitter.

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at



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