Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Ungraceful Brexit
The political lessons for Australia in the fiasco unfolding in the UK

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson at the G7. Source: Twitter

There were surreal scenes today in London, as opposition MPs tried to prevent the British parliament being officially prorogued, their efforts failing just after 2am local time. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried for an early election (again) and lost his sixth parliamentary vote in six days, meaning that parliament will be suspended until October 14 – some 17 days before Britain is due to exit the European Union.

As we struggle to make sense of the chaos that is tearing the United Kingdom apart, it is worth considering what it could mean for Australia.

For now it’s difficult to assess how Brexit will affect our trade with both the UK and Europe. But whether Brexit occurs on October 31 or continues to drag on, the political implications for Australia may be as important as any effects on our economy. Instead of thinking about our exports, we should think about what we might be importing from Johnson, Farage and co.

This includes the spread of right-wing populist movements, as political operatives and strategies rapidly move across the very borders that the new right is trying to fortify. Their spiritual leader, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who has ties to Johnson, has spoken of a nationalist sovereignty “supergroup” emerging across multiple countries.

Tony Abbott, who relished his time as an obstructive Opposition leader with three-word slogans, has been in the UK observing the fiasco and cheering on [$] the Brexiteers. Much of the Murdoch press has been similarly vocal [$] in its desire to see Britain leave Europe at any cost.

With the Morrison government’s seemingly relentless fixation on welfare and refugee-bashing, we could be witnessing a rollout of auditions for the nativist supergroup on our shores. Viewed from some angles, it would seem we’re already dangerously close to it, as the Coalition seems to have little to offer beyond attempts to trash climate-change science, attacks on treasured national institutions such as the ABC, Medicare and CSIRO, and ratcheting up a fear campaign on borders.

And when it comes to the environment and border control, it appears that we are beginning to see a concerted campaign to undermine the very real concerns of Pacific Islanders, who look set to become some of the world’s first climate-change refugees. After Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s comments last month that Pacific Islanders would survive climate change because they come to Australia and “pick our fruit”, over the weekend MP Craig Kelly told a monarchist dinner that the threatened nation of Tuvalu is floating, not sinking.

That the government has taken to attacking welfare recipients again this week also speaks to a key Brexit theme – albeit one that has been largely overlooked in the political drama playing out each day.

A recent study found that extensive austerity measures introduced in the 10 years leading up to Brexit contributed to the Leave vote. The report’s key finding was that “individuals who were exposed to welfare reforms increasingly shifted to UKIP once they had experienced the benefit cut”. Author Thiemo Fetzer also believes that by looking at long-term trends in social attitudes, the “close-run referendum could have resulted in a victory for Remain had it not been for austerity”.

Given that we have a government determined to continue attacking welfare measures, and an already feverish obsession with border control for political gain, it’s worth thinking about how quickly a Brexit-style nativist wave could become a mainstream force in Australia. All it needs to find is something to rally around – and something to destroy.

“This slush fund will only serve to widen the already extreme gap between public and private schools in Australia, fuelling inequities introduced by Labor and Liberal governments in one special deal after another.”

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi slams the $1.2 billion “choice and affordability” package for private and Catholic schools. Labor, which has previously labelled the fund a “slush fund”, will not support a Greens plan to shut down the fund.

“The question is, why won’t Labor support a fair dinkum trial to try to actually try and deal with one of the biggest challenges we have, which is to try and help people break addictions, and find themselves in employment and actually change their lives for the better.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to push plans to drug test welfare recipients after key crossbencher Jacqui Lambie roundly rejected the idea yesterday. Social Services Minister Anne Ruston today estimated that of the 5000 people tested under the scheme, 3 per cent would need the $65,000 rehabilitation support the government is putting forward as part of its push to have the bill passed.

Inside the Adani blockade
There is fresh momentum behind the Adani mine in central Queensland. What happens next could define Australia’s relationship to climate change both here and globally.


The proportion of Australians who blame increasing electricity prices on the excessive profit margins of electricity companies – not on renewables, as some politicians would like us to believe – according to the Australia Institute’s annual “Climate of the Nation” report.

“Nobody has actually got the money yet. What we’ve got here is a classic case of a government not doing the right thing.”

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke slams the federal government after documents released under freedom of information laws revealed that its proposed $800 payment to seniors will reach just 191 couples across the country, with the average qualifying for a payment of just $5 per week.

The list

“Steve Schultze looks exactly like the kind of cop you’d see jumping a fence with his gun drawn. A former homicide detective with Victoria Police, he is a picture of machismo ... I’m on the street when he pops his head out the front door to say hello; the place is decked out with security cameras, and he saw me approaching on the security screens before I even arrived. This security is essential: inside, Schultze and his team host women and children who are escaping domestic abuse, many of whom are being tracked by their perpetrators.”

“It is an old-growth river red gum that is up to 800 years old. It has a girth of more than 7 metres and stands more than 30 metres tall. It has been culturally modified, with fire, creating a small room in the base of the trunk. Thousands of Djab Wurrung babies have been born, over multiple generations, within it ... How do you offset that?.”

“For years the Australian government has been lying to the nation. They always say refugees receive proper medical services on these islands. This is certainly not the case. If it were true then the medevac legislation would never have passed. If Dutton were telling the truth, no refugee would have been transferred to Australia through this process.” 

Elle Hardy

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



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