Malcolm’s Sensible Centre: Corporatisation, Concentration Camps And Climate Catastrophe


Say what you like about the Prime Minister, but at least when torturing refugees, cooking the planet, and accelerating the corporate takeover of our democracy, he’s sensible about it. Liam McLoughlin explains.

Recently, Malcolm Turnbull called on parliamentarians to “meet us in the sensible centre. To act otherwise would badly misread the mood of the vast majority of Australians who want us to work together to secure their future”.

Presumably by “Australians” he meant “Australian and international companies”.

And doesn’t the “sensible centre” sound like a fun place to be? Whether you’re struggling to get by on your meagre government allowance, going into massive debt for your education, increasingly exposed to racial vilification, locked up in a Pacific prison camp, or terrified of climate devastation, the “sensible centre” is the hotspot for you.

Much like the Red Centre, it’s a barren landscape, difficult to bear for all but those already equipped with plentiful resources.

It’s a place where dreams become reality; mostly for CEOs, but still.

The $6.1 billion ‘omnibus’ savings bill, the catalyst for the PM’s plea for a gathering in the “sensible centre”, includes all sorts of sensible attacks on disadvantaged groups. The bill makes cuts to Newstart, pensions, and children’s dental programs, and abolishes the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. It also cuts benefits for people in psychiatric confinement and increases the burden of HECS debts.

Turnbull’s “sensible centre” might be a desert for many Australians, but the important thing is it’s an oasis for capital.

Nearly 600 large public companies and multinationals paid no tax in Australia in 2013-2014, the government continues to give $8 billion in subsidies each year to the fossil fuel industry, and it’s pay day every day for corporate lobbyists in Canberra.

(IMAGE: André-Pierre du Plessis, Flickr)
(IMAGE: André-Pierre du Plessis, Flickr)

The Prime Minister has been described as the “quintessential CEO politician”, often speaking like the boss of Australia Inc. Discussing a possible Abbott return to the front bench, the PM said, “It is very important in government, as it is in business, to ensure that there is renewal.”

Academics Carl Rhodes and Peter Bloom put it succinctly in The Guardian:

“Turnbull describes politics explicitly in business terms. Growth, agility, innovation, creativity and disruptive change are the future for Australia. No talk here of equality, freedom or social justice. That would be bad for business.”

Occasionally Mr Turnbull offers a nod to morality, but even this is couched in financial terms. The “fundamental moral challenge” is not climate change, ending mandatory detention or Treaty, but budget repair. And what could be more moral than making it harder for the working poor to survive while making it easier for Rio Tinto to make a few extra million?

And anyway, it’s about time pensioners, children, and the unemployed subsidised the fossil fuel industry. As if giving corporations a free ride while riding the masses hard isn’t just good old fashioned common sense democracy.

Turnbull’s sensible morality knows no bounds. Concentration camps are widely regarded as bastions of common decency, so it’s lucky he’s responsible for a couple in the Pacific. Why grant innocent people their basic rights and freedoms under international law when you can pay $1.2 billion each year to torture them in island prisons?

In the wake of the publication of the Nauru files, special envoy for the “sensible centre”, Peter Dutton, accused the Guardian of ‘trivialising’ important issues “by trying to promote the 2100 reports as somehow all being serious when they’re not.” Try to make sense of that.

Ever the symbol of sensibility under pressure, Dutton was dismissive of the Nauru files, saying asylum seekers “self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia”.

Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton.
Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton.

Speaking of sensitive, ethical, prudent, and responsible action, the government is surely at its most sensible when campaigning to radically destabilise the earth’s climate systems.

Don’t sweat those soaring temperatures; I’m pretty sure Turnbull’s main man, climate denier Craig Kelly, has it covered in his new role as chair of the backbench environment and energy committee.

Forget those hysterical fears of scientists about the basic facts of climate change and the hyperbolic warnings from climate activists about the terrifying maths of the carbon budget. New environment minister Josh Frydenberg has the good sense to avoid reality altogether and promise no substantive changes to the Coalition’s Direct Action policy, a policy that will fail even to meet Australia’s measly emission reduction targets.

Never mind the dying Reef; government approval of Australia’s biggest ever coal mine, the Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, should kill it off entirely. If all nine proposed mega mines for the region go ahead, the Galilee Basin will become the 7th largest source of carbon on Earth. Already one of the world’s biggest coal exporters, Australia has plans to double our exports.

Who needs life on earth when you’ve got ‘dollar dollar bills y’all’?

The Prime Minister says “meet us in the sensible centre”.

It’s a reasonable request, except for that fact that the “sensible centre” is morally repugnant, thoroughly corrupt, and utterly insane.

Let’s sensibly, rationally, reasonably, prudently, soberly, and thoughtfully, tell Malcolm to get stuffed.

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”.