Friday, December 13, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Too far left?
Corbyn Labour gets smashed in the UK

Source: Twitter

Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s smashing victory in the UK election will be a shot in the arm for both Scott Morrison, who will feel it vindicates his own rising Trumpism, and Anthony Albanese, who will take it as confirmation of his reach for the centre. Draped in a Union Jack that is surely not long for this world, Johnson is a base charlatan who embodies the worst of English nationalism. But he now has a rolled-gold mandate to get Brexit done – whatever else that means, it will likely lead straight to Scottish independence, the abandonment of Northern Ireland and the end of the UK. The real soul-searching now must be for Labour, on track for its worst election result since 1935, and it has to be asked whether socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has flagged he will stand down following the loss, took the party too far to the left. There are similarities with – and key differences from – the ALP’s defeat in May’s federal election on a heavily redistributive platform that frightened punters. One thing is directly analogous: both centre-left parties were up against Muppet Show incumbents and, as former ALP national president Mark Butler said, “had [their] backside handed to [them] by Fozzie Bear and Kermit the Frog”.

As results roll in, at the time of writing the Conservatives are on track for a huge majority. Johnson has claimed a “powerful new mandate to get Brexit done – and not just to get Brexit done but to unite this country and to take it forward”. Labour’s “red wall” of heartland seats across the north has crumbled, and while Corbyn has pledged he will not lead the party to another election, he is refusing to immediately stand down. The pro-remain Liberal Democrats’ leader Jo Swinson has lost her seat and bemoaned the “wave of nationalism” sweeping the country. But Nigel Farage’s Brexit party has so far won no seats. The Scottish National Party has surged, and will push for a second independence referendum. Right-wing commentators crow that the “London bubble is in a state of shock” and “metropolitanland is reeling”. A Muslim writer tweets: “I’m scared. I’m scared about the racists who will feel emboldened. I’m scared about the homophobes who will feel legitimised. I’m scared about the xenophobes who will feel empowered. I’m scared for the poor who will be hurt hardest.”

The UK’s Brexit election and Australia’s climate election – compare and contrast. On a speaking tour in Australia not that long ago, Corbyn adviser and post-capitalist economist Paul Mason said the Brexit voter in the north was indistinguishable from the traditional Labour voter in the UK, hence Corbyn’s inability to take a strong pro-remain stance. This voter is analogous to the Queensland or NSW coalminer – a core constituent for Labor since the year dot – hence Labor’s inability to take a strong stand on stopping the Adani mine, for example. In both culture wars, the conviction politician beats the waverer.

Of course, Brexit is not climate change, which is physical not cultural. And Corbyn was odds-on to lose, whereas Shorten lost the unlosable election. But in both cases, Corbyn and Shorten had a lot of heavily interventionist economic–policy lead in their saddlebags. Corbyn had more – like renationalisation, or seizing 10 per cent of large firms’ equity – and lost by more. But Shorten’s redistributive platform also bombed, like the (totally commendable) franking credits policy, or direct subsidies for the wages of childcare workers. A decade after the financial crisis, it seems the backlash against neoliberalism – let alone any appetite for socialist revolution – is fading.

“It’s just desperately urgent. We have a burning platform situation. There’ve been thousands, literally thousands of journalists laid off around the country. One of the most affected areas is in regional and rural newspapers, and also in suburban newspapers. They are being extinguished almost daily.”

Former ACCC boss Allan Fels, chair of the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, criticises the federal government for failing to offer tax breaks to support philanthropic journalism as part of its response to the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry yesterday.

“Firstly, the Australian government should consider the prospect of nuclear technology as part of its future energy mix; [it should] undertake a body of work to deepen the understanding of nuclear technology in the Australian context; and thirdly, [it] should consider lifting the current moratorium on nuclear energy partially – that is, for new and emerging nuclear technologies only – and conditionally – that is, subject to the results of a technology assessment and to a commitment to community consent for approving nuclear facilities.”

LNP member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien, chair of the government-controlled standing committee on the environment and energy, hands up three recommendations from the report “Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia”.

Where there’s smoke, there’s climate change
As fires burn across the east coast and Sydney suffers catastrophic air pollution, the Coalition government is arguing to do less on climate change. Scott Morrison all but avoids mentioning it. Paul Bongiorno on the reality that’s filling people’s lungs and making their eyes sting.

The number of tonnes of CO2 estimated to have been emitted by bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland since August, according to NASA. This is the equivalent of almost half Australia’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“The modern Westminster principles of government remain essential: an apolitical, merit-based, and open public service, underpinned by integrity, serving the Government, Parliament and the people of Australia. These principles must be reinforced and supported. While the APS is not broken, it must make substantive changes to address current issues and prepare for the future opportunities and challenges that our nation will face. To become a high-performing institution, deep cultural change is required. It is now time for bolder action.”

From the foreword of the independent review of the Australian public service chaired by former Telstra chief David Thodey.

The list

“Look, I know some of you out there are busy thinking that Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2011 smash ‘Call Me Maybe’, as sugary as Coco Pops, is the song of the decade. And you can think that, but … you’d be wrong. Cardi B parlayed an early notoriety, gained through social media and reality television, into the all-conquering single ‘Bodak Yellow’ (2017), which is deserving of that accolade.”

“When Unaarrimin, AKA Johnny Mullagh, died aged about 50 on his land in 1891, the Harrow Cricket Club in Victoria’s Wimmera region paid for the Jardwadjali man’s funeral … In 1868, a group of Aboriginal men from country Victoria, among whom Mullagh was the dominant all-rounder, became the first Australian cricket team to travel to England for a playing tour. Their story is one of both triumph and exploitation.”

“Both men were socially conscious and politically radicalised by their experiences. Basquiat was black; Haring was gay. Between them, they tackled the momentous issues of the day – from capitalism and consumerism to the anti-apartheid movement, AIDS, police brutality, the rights of children and the spiralling inequality of the Reagan era. Each man individually is a moment in American art history. Together like this, they encompass the political and aesthetic preoccupations of a significant strand of it.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down

Image of Barnaby Joyce

‘It’s our fault’

Barnaby Joyce says Nats to blame for the Coalition’s Eden-Monaro defeat

Welcome flat

Australia will not take tens of thousands of Hong Kongers

From the front page

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down