Issue 53: Big Queensland Cop Energy
"He killed my ma, he killed my pa, he gets my vote" - 1997 campaign slogan of Charles Taylor, Liberian warlord and president.
Dutton this, Dutton that.
If you had no idea about Australian politics, the media focus on Peter Dutton’s rebrand as the Good Bad Girl over the last fortnight would have left you with the impression the most significant event was the change of guard in the federal Coalition. Even among the left, the intractable focus on Peter Dutton’s ascendency to the Liberal Party leadership has been exhausting, though it’s a little hard to blame people for lingering. If politics is the catharsis of overcoming the other, who can blame the left for spending a solid week dragging senior Coalition figures following a decade of Tory rule — especially as the party eats itself alive?
Now the numbers are counted in the election, it has been interesting to watch the Australian polity go through various processes of narrative-construction to make sense of what occurred. On the right, the focus is entirely on tensions within the party, meanwhile on the left the story is of a Labor government that inflicted such a burn the Coalition is out of power for the next two terms.
What is interesting to me is an expectation developing on the left, particularly those who were (rightly) worried about a repeat of the 2019 federal election, that with Dutton at the helm the Coalition are destined for political irrelevancy and will be inevitably consigned to a marginal role in Australian politics for a generation.
I suspect those floating this idea are getting a little ahead of themselves on all fronts. There are few rules of Australian politics but two biggies are that you can never underestimate the average politician’s basic drive for survival, nor the capacity of a sitting government to destroy itself through hubris — especially an incumbent Third Way Labor government. If Labor are not careful, their actions over the next few years may pave the way for a Dutton Prime Ministership, and rule by a Liberal Party that operates like the US Republicans.
That said, the idea of a permanently marginalised Coalition is interesting because it also makes for a provocative “what if”. Taking the Coalition’s slide into irrelevancy as a given for a moment — and I by no means think that’s true — the implication of this would mean Labor effectively takes a new position as the defacto conservative party in the Australian political landscape.
This is already more or less the situation already in states like Western Australia but if we assume it becomes the status quo at a federal level, it sets up a fun hypothetical if we run this out over the next decade. Should Labor successfully convince Australia’s business interests they can get everything they want with Labor, without the bad-for-PR culture war bullshit peddled by the Coalition, the tensions within the party will only grow. Blue Labor will effectively get everything it wants, while the social democratic wing of the part will chafe under the soft-austerity that put more ambitious social reforms permanently on the backburner. In a fractured parliament where nearly every shade of right-wing politics is represented, this makes the temptation to defect the Greens stronger, especially if the party is able to organise well and keeps talking about the kind of big, ambitious social programs that were the bread and butter of Whitlam-era Labor.
What happens then would be something to be seen — but then we are talking in hypotheticals and counterfactuals. If watching the last decade of Australian politics should have taught us anything, it’s that great defeats are sewn at the moment of the greatest triumphs. As the stories we will ourselves to explain these events emphasise certain facts over others, our greatest vulnerability lies in the blindspots they generate. And with Dutton now in the hot-seat, here’s hoping those in charge dreaming of a better future see the world clearly.
For the Fortnight: May 25 to June 7
Where I recap what I’ve been doing this last fortnight so you know I’m not just using your money to stimulate the local economy …
“AMA urges federal government to fix ‘broken’ health system as NSW paramedics protest shortages” (The Guardian Australia, 28 May 2022).
‘‘South Australia turns to diesel generators as gas shortage and price spike hits” (The Guardian Australia, 2 June 2022).
“Tower of power: new office building to be fully clad in solar panels in Australian first” (The Guardian Australia, 5 June 2022).
‘Homeless services scrambling to help rough sleepers as winter weather bites (The Guardian Australia, 6 June 2022).
Cracking COVIDSafe - An examination of the machine that made the COVIDSafe app, a piece of software made by people who wanted to hack the pandemic (complete).
Laramba’s Water - Laramba is a remote Indigenous Community in the Northern Territory which has been drinking uranium-contaminated water since 2008. We tried to find out what why (on-going).
‘High levels of uranium in drinking water of NT community’ (NITV, 31 July 2020).
‘Company remains shtum on plans to filter Laramba's contaminated water supply’ (NITV, 21 October 2020).
‘‘It makes us sick’: remote NT community wants answers about uranium in its water supply’ (The Guardian, 18 October 2021).
You Hate To See It
A dyspeptic, snark-ridden and highly ironic round-up of the news from our shared hellscape…
Like A Leaf On The Wind
Having begun a quest to pacify a group of hamsters at the genetic level, a group of scientists in the UK are sweating bullets after having accidentally hyper-aggressive “rage monsters. Using CRISPR gene editing technology the scientists attempted to tweak the genetic code of the Syrian hamster and ended up cute little fluffballs that would indiscriminately “chase, bite and pin other individuals of the same sex” — effectively recreating the plot of the Firefly movie in Hamster form.
The Road To Utopia
But hey, technology will cure what ails us eventually, amiright? Guys with assault rifles may be able to gun down school children willy-nilly in the heart of Australia’s biggest ally, but at least one start-up, backed by Bill Gates and Jeb Bush has raised $30m to privatise the security state in order to stop school shootings. Meanwhile, you can look forward to the latest innovations in food technology, like the flavourless edible tape that keeps your burrito together invented by four bright young engineers from John Hopkins University. Or, if you’re feeling under the weather, Australians can now turn to the fine product line of DoTERRA, an ingestible essential oils multi-level marketing scheme. This is elegant beauty of the market to solve real-world problems in action, not like those failing developing world, post-Soviet economies like Cuba which are fucking with boring things like a vaccine for lung cancer.
With no one to fight for the better part of the last thirty years, nothing that’s followed the Soviet Union has been quite as satisfying. It should come as no surprise then that Pete Shmigel, the former political staffer and “Director, Communities” at CrosbyTextor, has turned up in Ukraine. The former apparatchik with the preferred consultancy of the Liberal Party that gave the world Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson, is a regular commentator for The Spectator Australia, a magazine for the thinking men of the right wing. Shmigel recently appeared in an interview with the KyivPost where he was introduced as a “journalist” and wasted no time in framing the conflict in the grandest moral terms. “When the rest is buying Russian gas, it is allowing Vladimir Putin to kill Ukrainians,” Shmigel said. Which is true, but it is also true that Australia happens to be the world’s largest exporter of gas. Make of that what you will.
Always Be GrindHustling
To Australia’s Florida now, where Journalists First, a fake union founded by a group of Queensland Tories and anti-organised labour weirdos still humping the dream of Workchoices, has been dropped as a partner by the Kennedy Awards. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance — a real union — intervened after the a sponsorship arrangement with a journalists union not run by journalists was announced. If it weren’t so idiotic, you’d have to respect the chutzpah.
Money Is Time
Good news everyone! Labor’s new federal resources minister Madeleine King has gone all in on the Scarborough gas project being developed by Woodside. The project has been described as a “carbon bomb” and a “bet against” action in climate change which is expected to generate 1.37bn tonnes of CO2 and a shit load of money for its parent company. In unrelated news, the Insurance Council of Australia says the cost of floods in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland alone stands at a cool $4.3b.
Finally, An Honest Politician
Australians can now enjoy a moment of respite with news Scott Morrison has finally, actually been evicted from Kirribilli House like he was a tenant three months behind on his rent. And with a federal ICAC looking like it may actually happen, the nation’s political elite may actually take some inspiration from the Balkans. When one Bosnian political candidate was confronted about his past as a drug dealer during a recent election, his response was one for the ages: “With me a gram was always a gram. Honour above everything else.”
Where we recognise and celebrate the true stupidity of the rich, powerful and influential…
You might think that now the Morrison government is gone and its cartoonish attempts to delay, deny and dissemble reality are no longer a daily occurrence that it will become more difficult to continue Raising Hell’s coveted Failing Upward award. Not so. For instance, Pete Dutton — man who during his 2018 tilt at the Liberal Party leadership had to tell the Australian public he was actually capable of smiling — is now actually the leader of the Coalition. His rise has been welcomed by Sydney Morning Herald columnist Jacqueline Maley, who has been holding water for Dutton for some time, and who seems to loves her some Big Queensland Cop Energy. The rest of the Australian public, meanwhile, is uneasy — and for good reason!
It might be hard to like Dutton owing to episodes like a recent stint on Sky News where he insisted teachers are teaching kids — shock! — about climate change and telling them it’s okay to be gay (or something?). It also turns out he’s a property speculator. The new opposition leader was 19 when he bought his first property for $93,000 in 1990 far below market rate which he then flipped for $116,5000 two years later. The latest in a string of property deals involved selling a family home in Camp Mountain on the outskirts of Brisbane for $1.8m in 2020, and selling a beach-front property in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast for $6m. How the man expects to reach both the battlers in the suburbs and the refined minds in formerly blue ribbon with antics like these seats remains to be seen, especially when even computer models capable of automatically generating scripts seem to know what’s up:
Good Reads, Good Times
To share the love, here are some of the best or more interesting reads from the last fortnight…
Barnaby Joyce really wants you to know he’s not sad. No, seriously. Not sad. At all.
Before You Go (Go)…
Are you a public sector bureaucrat whose tyrannical boss is behaving badly? Have you recently come into possession of documents showing some rich guy is trying to move their ill-gotten-gains to Curacao? Did you take a low-paying job with an evil corporation registered in Delaware that is burying toxic waste under playgrounds? If your conscience is keeping you up at night, or you’d just plain like to see some wrong-doers cast into the sea, we here at Raising Hell can suggest a course of action: leak! You can securely make contact through Signal or through encrypted message Wickr Me on my account: rorok1990. Alternatively you can send us your hard copies to: PO Box 134, Welland SA 5007
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