New PM Scott Morrison's first lie: 'We're on your side'
Shortly after #libspill, United States president Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations to Scott Morrison, who replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Australian prime minister on August 24. The two have a lot in common.
While we may be feeling relieved the former Queensland cop and hard right MP Peter Dutton lost the Liberal leadership ballot by three votes to Morrison, the policy differences are at the margins.
The unfortunate reality is that Morrison will be better able to deliver pretty much the same hard-right agenda. Morrison has form and, unlike his rival for the top job, he does it with a smile.
Morrison was a senior minister in the Tony Abbott and Turnbull administrations, driving major cuts to welfare, stopping asylum seekers from reaching Australia's shores — including by taking the extreme step of excising territory — and driving a Trumpian economic plan.
Morrison, who once worked in tourism, is credited with giving Abbott some of his more ugly, but famous, marketing slogans. He even boasts of being the architect behind Operation Sovereign Borders that “stopped the boats”.
He also takes credit for driving the Coalition government’s Orwellian-named “welfare reform strategy”, which has aimed at further punishing those already living below the poverty line.
His Trump-style message from the May budget, which was estimated to cut up to $140 billion from public revenues, was that working people will “keep more of what they earn”, rather than “giving it to the government”.
Morrison's income tax policy is to make those on a minimum wage (earning around $41,000) pay the same rate as those on five times as much.
Then there's the company tax cuts, which failed to get through the Senate due to #libspill chaos, but which have not been dumped.
Morrison's mantra that company tax cuts would result in a jobs bonanza and higher economic growth means he is likely to continue to look for opportunities to get this last part of the Turnbull government's tax package through.
Morrison's deep social conservatism is another concern, and is more in line with Dutton than Turnbull.
He is an evangelical, a member of the Horizon Church in the predominately white, middle class southern Sydney suburb of Sutherland.
His views on climate change, equal marriage and abortion are reactionary and out of touch with those of the rest of society — he voted against equal marriage in the postal survey, and does not agree with abortion.
Against advice of his own staff, he voiced his opposition to a late-term abortion an asylum seeker was considering undergoing in 2014. He gave extraordinary new powers to the secretary of the immigration department to permit or refuse medical treatment, including abortion procedures, and ended the practice of refugee mothers giving birth in Australian hospitals
He has displayed a remarkably un-Christian attitude toward people fleeing wars and occupations, including those in which Australian troops have played a significantly destructive role.
In what seems to have become a precondition for aspiring leadership aspirants — of either major party — Morrison proved he was tough on “border protection” during his stint as immigration minister.
In his maiden speech in 2008, Morrison paid homage to John Howard, “the greatest Prime Minister since Sir Robert Menzies”.
He has also talked up making “laws that encourage businesses” by preserving “the right of the individual to negotiate their own conditions directly with their employer” — that is, without unions.
But unlike Trump, Dutton is no protectionist. At the G20 summit in Argentina in July he was extolling the virtues of “keeping the doors to global trade open and for economic common sense to prevail”.
“We live in a highly competitive global economy”, Morrison extolled in his maiden speech. We should “not deceive our constituents that we can tame these forces”, he said, arguing, we need to “protect our way of life by ensuring our economy is strong, equipped and positioned to perform”.
His boast about a growth in jobs, and particularly for young people, does not take into account the rise in precarious work, the flat lining of wages and the cuts to penalties — all of which are neoliberal policies.
Statistics from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey show that while the rate of precarious employment has risen more sharply for men over the last nine years, it still remains higher for women.
This “new generation of Liberal leadership” is no different to the old one.
“There's been a lot of talk about who's on whose side, this week”, Morrison said on August 24, repeating this least three times, “I'm here to tell you the Liberal Party and the National Party is on your side”.
There was not even a hint of irony.
[Originally published in Green Left Weekly. Pip Hinman is a member of Socialist Alliance.]