‘Fake Tradie’ Is The Most Real Thing About Turnbull’s Campaign

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The Coalition clings to a fake climate policy, a phoney economic plan, and a commitment to education that would politely be described as flapdoodle, writes Liam McLoughlin.

During the Second World War, the British pulled off one of the greatest hoaxes in history. In April 1943, they dressed the corpse of a Welsh man named Glyndwr Michael in a Royal Marine uniform, handcuffed him to a briefcase stuffed with “top secret” invasion plans and left him to wash up on a beach in Spain. The fake plans convinced the Germans that the Allies would invade Greece rather than Sicily. Hitler deployed German troops to the wrong place and the hoax saved thousands of Allied lives.

Unlike the British hoax, the Liberals use fake plans for evil: but they too may have great success. With the worst record of any Australian federal government in living memory, a leader whose star is rapidly fading, and a pitch based on cutting services and subsidising big corporations, they need a few weapons of mass deception.

This week there’s been an intense focus on the so-called #faketradie, who turns out to be an actual tradie, but has nonetheless helped the Liberals prop-up the myth that their government will do the most for working people.

Yet this fakery is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is a foundation of lies in several key policy areas.

You really could choose your own adventure of fake Liberal plans, but here’s a sampler pack of porky pies on some of the biggest election issues.

Let’s start by summarising the government’s lines on refugees:

Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are unlawful arrivals. We need to defend our borders from these illiterate and innumerate illegals who will steal our jobs and occupy our welfare queues at the same time. There is a link between refugees and terrorism. The conditions on Manus and Nauru are fine and the only alternative to these camps is a booming people smuggler business and thousands of deaths at sea. We are one of the most generous nations in permanently resettling refugees and we are kindly accepting 12,000 extra refugees from Syria and Iraq.

new matilda, refugee
Asylum seekers, as captured in the documentary film ‘Chasing Asylum’

Hogwash. The government is unable to point to a single Australian law justifying the “illegals” claim. They know full well that under the UN Refugee Convention, refugees have a lawful right to enter a country to seek asylum.

Using the terms “defend our borders” and “border security” implies refugees are a threat or advancing enemy instead of innocent people fleeing persecution. As does the PM’s baseless linking of refugees with terrorism in the wake of Brussels and Orlando.

Peter Dutton’s comments about illiterate and innumerate refugees were shown to be totally bogus using the government’s own data.

Our immigration regime breaches Australia’s human rights obligations in at least six ways, including the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It also violates the Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Turnbull frames a false dilemma between concentration camps and drowning, ignoring an array of policy alternatives. We could invest the billions spent on offshore prisons in safe resettlement programs for asylum seekers languishing in Indonesia, those forced onto unseaworthy boats by the lack of alternatives. These refugees would enrich our regional communities and our nation could get its soul back.

Instead we torture men, women and children in Pacific camps and accept only .43 per cent of the world’s refugees, which leaves us ranked 46th in the world relative to national GDP. The government’s boasts about accepting 12,000 Syrian refugees also seem less than genuine – in the six months following the pledge, Australia settled 26 Syrian refugees while Canada settled 20,490.

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Ok, so that seems bad, but how do they fare on the environment?

The Turnbull government is committed to protecting Australia’s natural environment. Our work on the Reef makes us a global role model for the management of World Heritage sites. We are investing heavily in renewable energy and we are on track to meet and beat our ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Rubbish. Australia is an environmental pariah on the world stage. The government’s pressure on the UN to ignore the plight of the Great Barrier Reef makes Australia a global role model for moral bankruptcy and environmental vandalism. The Turnbull government has backed pitiful emissions targets and a fake climate plan. Their claims about meeting reduction targets are based on creative accounting. In fact thanks to the tireless efforts of the coal lobby/government, our emissions are projected to keep rising and will not peak before 2030.

Turnbull leads a team which has gutted the renewable energy sector, supplies billions to the fossil fuel industry and took $1 billion from foreign aid to create a climate fund to help clean up the damage caused by the industry they support at every turn. They’ve approved Australia’s largest ever coal port, located near the Great Barrier Reef, and continue to green light massive new coal mines.

Perhaps they are more upfront on Indigenous affairs:

We have a comprehensive plan for Australia’s future on our website covering fourteen policy areas. Indigenous policy is not one of them. Malcolm Turnbull does, however, think talking about a Treaty “adds a level of uncertainty that puts at risk the constitution recognition process”.

Bunkum. The PM’s statements on a Treaty directly contradict the government-funded Recognise campaign, which states “Calls for a treaty or treaties and constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are separate aspirations and they can co-exist. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support both.”

Well, at least they’ll take care of you when you’re sick:

The government is committed to providing Australians with world class health care. We are increasing funding for hospitals and strengthening Medicare.

Twaddle. In 2014, Malcolm Turnbull supported Tony Abbott’s $7 co-payment. In the same year, the Liberals cut $57 billion in long-term hospital funding. In December 2015, the PM announced $650 million in cuts to Medicare over four years. There is every reason to think that health will move in an increasingly privatised direction if the government is re-elected.

Get ready for some straight-talking on education:

We are committed to investing in our schools and universities.

Flapdoodle. The Turnbull government pulled out of the last two years of Gonski funding and their privatisation plans threaten further harm to the TAFE sector. They are committed to cutting university funding by 20 per cent and plan to push ahead with university deregulation.

new matilda, university of sydney
The University of Sydney’s Quadrangle (IMAGE: Andrea Schaffer, flickr)

If all else fails, at least you can trust the Liberals with the economy:

We are by far the best managers of the economy. Labor is conducting a war on business and a war on growth. We have an economic plan for jobs and growth. We have a comprehensive innovation and science programme and we are creating new business opportunities with our trade deals. We are growing faster than any G7 economy and we are seeing strong growth in employment.

Balderdash. False notions of strong liberal economic management could fill an entire season of Mythbusters. The economic plan of the conservatives is the same voodoo economics which has failed to deliver anything but gross inequality and injustice for three decades. The Liberals are running desperate scare campaigns which Guardian Australia’s political editor Lenore Taylor has described as at “the brink of parody”. In the case of #faketradie, the Liberals leapt beyond the brink into full self-parody.

The government’s innovation agenda is a joke and cutting 350 CSIRO climate scientists is the disturbing punch line. The much glorified trade deals radically increase the power of foreign corporations over our government. The Coalition pledged “a million good jobs in five years” but the numbers don’t look good. 50,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing alone.

Since Abbott’s election in 2013, Australia’s deficit has doubled and investment has fallen 23 per cent. By comparison, investment increased 67 per cent under Labor between 2007 and 2013. Even if Australians vote purely on “jobs and growth”, they better avoid the Coalition. Stephen Koukoulas’ comparison of government terms in the Guardian clearly shows Labor to be the superior economic managers, recording better GDP growth and jobs figures.

fake tradie, new matilda

Maybe, but look at the Liberals’ smooth talking leader:

Malcolm Turnbull has been consistent in his positions.

Poppycock. Much like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the PM puts on a good show but we all know he’s faking it.

Over the last ten months he’s shown himself to be a shell Prime Minister, an empty vessel serving as nothing more than a vehicle for business transactions.

On climate change, refugees, gay marriage and the republic, he’s strayed far from his so-called convictions. Aside from his hardcore neoliberalism, he’s been willing to throw his beliefs to the dogs.

Ok forget the leader, just take a look at what they’ve done:

Trust us, we’re the Liberals! We’ve done loads of great stuff!

Piffle. May I suggest trusting vultures to protect rotting animal flesh before believing this government?

On one count they broke 85 promises in their first 88 weeks of government. Thankfully Malcolm saved the day in September, performing only 17 backflips within his first seven months as PM.

We should never forget the 478 ways Tony Abbott harmed this country (that’s not even hyperbole), documented in Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage. At least re-electing the government would give incontrovertible evidence that even Liberal ideas about meritocracy are counterfeit.

Despite their violations of international law, their repeated environmental vandalism, their slash and burn approach to health, education, Indigenous services and welfare, their woeful economic management and their husk of a leader, many commentators predict a Coalition victory based on polling in the marginals.

This means three more years of listening to the Fizza fake an interest in the welfare of the many while doggedly pursuing the enrichment of the few; three more years of Cory Bernadi, Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, George Christensen, Peter Dutton and Greg Hunt fumbling around with the levers of power; three more years of scapegoating disempowered minorities; three more years of climate crimes and Reef destruction; three more years of attacks on workers’ rights, Medicare, schools and universities; three more years of lies and propaganda corroding our national identity.

Let’s hope the marginal seat polling is about as credible as the Turnbull government.

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Liam McLoughlin

Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.

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