It's no great secret that every political party has its 'talking points' for the week. They're easy to spot, because every time a member of that party is interviewed they'll use the same language and make the same points as each other.
One of the enduring talking points for Australia's Liberal and National Party coalition government is to accuse the Labor Party and the Greens of being Marxists, Leftists, socialists, communists ... and ... shock horror ... politically correct ...
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, when someone is being 'politically correct', run ... run like the wind ...
Political correctness is a savage beast that has come to slap a gag across our mouths, make boys dress as girls and have us all apologise to chickens for the hormones we inject in them. Scary.
Now, sadly there are some people who have accused the L/NP of living in the 1950s. What sort of rabid political correctness is this? Just because they believe that coal is the way of the future, and that copper wire is a good substitute for the more expensive fibre-optic cable, is no excuse to accuse of them of being 60 years behind the times.
So to prove that they aren't living in some pollution-riddled paradise with naught but rotary phones to communicate, they resurrect one of the greatest strategies of the mid-twentieth century: Reds Under the Bed.
Just when one thinks the L/NP couldn't get any more 50s, they completely knock it out of the park.
In almost every single interview, L/NP politicians are accusing the Labor Party, the Greens, and other dissenters, of being part of some great left-wing conspiracy. Not content to attack Unions, they have now turned their beady little bigotry on GetUp!, a politically independent activist organisation that dares to campaign for human rights, workers rights, marriage equality, and to challenge racism, bigotry and xenophobia at its roots. Apparently sticking up for the rights of people is part of a neo-Marxist agenda and political correctness gone mad. The government's attack on GetUp! is to claim it is a political 'associated entity', similar to the Unions, and therefore costing its political independence(1).
As an aside, if you wish to contribute to a legal expenses fund for GetUp! to defend itself against this unwarranted attack on its independence, please do so here: https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/democracy/greatest-threat-to-getup/we-re-under-attack
This followed the biggest attack on the Union movement in 30 years(2), which was aimed at weakening workers' rights and destroying any form of collective power that could represent workers against unscrupulous employers. Instead, the government painted the Unions as being lawless, when employers have been abusing worker rights for years.
The Reds Under the Bed campaign of the 1950s, successfully demonised communism and convinced the gullible that communism was going to take over the world if mighty capitalism didn't conquer it.
The L/NP has resurrected the Reds Under the Bed scare-mongering, with illustrious MPs such as the Finance Minister, Mathias Corman, supported by a number of his colleagues, claiming that Labor leader Bill Shorten's economic agenda would lead Australia down the same path as East Germany and Cuba(3).
The government doesn't let up in its hyperbole, accusing Labor of the 'politics of envy'. Obviously singing from the same song-sheet, this was repeated by Corman(4), Treasurer Scott Morrison(5) and Prime Minister Turnbull, who ramped up the Reds Under the Bed campaign by maximising his bang for buck by accusing Shorten of being the 'most dangerous left-wing leader in generations' AND that 'he is a wholly-owned subsidiary of militant, left-wing unions who have no regard for the rights of others ...' (6). Apparently, wanting to share the wealth is envy, but wanting individuals to accumulate wealth by exploiting workers is not. Unions have no regard for the rights of others? Perhaps these conservative politicians could take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror ... or look at the innumerable businesses who are under-paying staff or denying employee entitlements, when they don't have Unions protecting workers.
Turnbull twisted the idea of equality by claiming that 'Labor's war on inequality is nothing more than a war on aspiration'. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party continues its war on wages. The coalition is using this Reds Under the Bed fear-mongering to dog-whistle the electorate into fearing unions, fearing Labor and worshiping the wealthy as their only means of attaining employment or economic security. Meanwhile, workers' rights continue to erode and wages stagnate(7).
In 2015, then Prime Minister Tony Abbott banned his front-benchers from appearing on Q&A because the show had allowed Zaky Mallah, to appear in the audience and ask a question. Mallah had been acquitted of terrorism charges in 2005, but had pleaded guilty to threatening to kidnap and kill Commonwealth officers. Mallah asked a question in relation to what would have happened had the Minister been deciding his case, rather than the courts. This was at a time when there was debate about having the Minister make the final call, rather than the courts. Abbott then described Q&A as a 'leftie lynch mob'(8). Regardless of the rights or wrongs of Mallah appearing, Abbott yet again had to dog-whistle the gullible with a derogatory comment about the left-wing.
In continuing the Reds Under the Bed dog-whistling, James McGrath, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister appeared on the ABC's Q&A on Monday 27 November 2017, where he launched a tirade against GetUp!, The Greens and Labor, claiming that the right-wing of politics was now facing an 'Axis of Leftists'. A claim he repeated a number of times, before culminating in an 'Armageddon of Leftists'(9). Was he trying to equate the left-wing with the Axis of Evil. Queue the scary music.
Everything that the Liberal or National Parties oppose is being branded as leftist, Marxist or politically-correct. National Party MP, George Christensen was one of many to brand the anti-bullying program, Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships, as being some sort of neo-Marxist gender theory. Christensen: 'We need to look at other methods that aren't originating in an ideology of queer gender theory, and let's be honest, Marxism'(10).
Former Labor leader, turned rabid right-wing apologist, Mark Latham wrote in his Daily Telegraph column, 'The craziest trend in Australian politics is to teach neo-Marxist genderless programs in our schools through the Orwellian-named Safe Schools and Building Respectful Relationships (BRR) curriculum'(11). No, Mark, the crazy thing is labelling everything you disagree with as Marxist. Considering Marx espoused an economic theory that put the means of production in the hands of the workers, an anti-gay-bullying program does not qualify as Marxist ... neo or otherwise. There is nothing Orwellian in the naming of BRR as it was about ensuring schools would be safe from homophobic bullying ... such as we see from many of these politicians who attack it.
This is the standard that the Liberal and National Parties are bringing to the table; that the left-wing is full of evil Marxists who would turn Australia into Cuba or East Germany.
It is pure fear-mongering. It is aimed to manipulate the gullible with untruthful claims that turn workers against the very people who are fighting for their wages and rights, while driving them into the hands of those who would deny them those wages and rights.
More insidious and disturbing, is the dog-whistling of Marxism and leftist agendas to be used to justify homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, and straight out bigotry. We saw it during the Marriage Equality survey, where Yes campaigners were portrayed as neo-Marxists, we see it in the attacks on those who defend the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, the attacks on those who campaign for indigenous rights.
An article in the Cairns Post claimed that practically every element of our lives was being attacked by Marxists, including marriage, police, education, gender, religion, and crime. According to the article the only anti-Marxist crusaders in Australian parliament were Cory Bernardi, David Leyonhjelm, Pauline Hanson, the now defunct Malcolm Roberts(12). Each one of these is a disgrace to parliament and an insult to democracy as they attack many of the people who make up the Australian population. Leyonhjelm is currently attempting to have Milo Yiannopoulos address a gathering at Parliament House(13). Yiannopoulos is a well-known racist, xenophobe, misogynist and pedophile-apologist(14). Hanson is well-known for her hateful comments against indigenous people, Asians and Muslims(15). Bernardi is well-known for his hateful and false claims against Islam and Muslims, his raging against homosexuality and linking it to bestiality, and his demonising of asylum seekers(16). And Roberts? Well, he had a spectacular fall from grace after being found ineligible to sit in parliament because of being a dual citizen. This was welcomed by many, as Roberts expressed his bizarre conspiracy theories on government and climate change.
Sadly, this is where the Liberal and National Parties are taking us. All their dog-whistling and fear-mongering about Marxism is driving people into the waiting arms of extreme right-wing parties such as One Nation. The 2017 Queensland election saw a 13% swing to One Nation, 20% in some areas, and most of that was from disenfranchised Liberal National Party voters. Ironically, One Nation struggled to win a single seat, and the swing to them took the LNP down as well.
While the LNP and One Nation try to blame Labor for this, part of it has to rest with the constant fear-mongering about Marxism which is resulting in people truly believing that extremists such as Hanson and Bernardi are the only way to innoculate society against it.
Masking the attacks on Labor and the Greens as an attack on neo-Marxism is disingenuous and dangerous. The real attack is on the people; on indigenous rights, workers' rights, refugees, Muslims. The scare-mongering is dividing the people against themselves. Workers are hating Unions, non-Muslims are hating Muslims, straight people are hating LGBTIQ people, non-indigenous Australians are demonising indigenous people ... and on it goes. Meanwhile, while the electorate's energy and passion is directed at hating others, the government continues to undermine the rights of us all, including attacking our freedom of speech and expression as we see with the incessant attacks on the ABC, SBS and now GetUp!
The right-wing may be scaring itself stupid with fear of the left and launching into paroxysms of rage with every claim of Marxism (neo or otherwise), yet the biggest threat is the slide towards the ultra-right-wing, where diversity is not tolerated or celebrated.
Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel of a theocratic USA, succinctly describes the demonisation of 'others', when she said, 'Heroes need monsters to establish their credentials. You need something scary to overcome'. The L/NP has been demonising others for years. It is the only way they can portray themselves as the heroes, the saviours of modern Australia.
It is this turning of Australians against each other by attacking human rights, that will usher in an end to the freedoms that Australia enjoys, and it is this that Australians should all be standing up against - as one!
1. The Sydney Morning Herald, Adam Gartrell, GetUp! readies for court battle over bid to link it to Labor and the Greens, 23 October 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/activist-group-getup-readies-for-court-battle-against-coalition-investigation-20171021-gz5nyg.html. Accessed 28 November 2017.
2. The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Biggest crackdown on trade unions for 30 years launched by Conservatives, 15 July 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/15/trade-unions-conservative-offensive-decades-strikes-labour. Accessed 28 November 2017.
3. The Australian, Greg Brown, Bill Shorten 'will turn us into Cuba', 27 August 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/bill-shorten-will-turn-us-into-cuba/news-story/a8545f0f3045b68c6e63ab434803d0d2. Accessed 28 November 2017.
4. News.com.au, staff writer, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann slams Bill Shorten's 'communist' economic policy, 24 August 2017, http://www.news.com.au/national/politics/finance-minister-mathias-cormann-slams-bill-shortens-communist-economic-policy/news-story/d1134a0aa6f3b19ebc4f72f8cca2fcaf. Accessed 28 November 2017.
5. SBS, Source: AAP, Shorten chasing politics of envy: Treasurer, 24 July 2017, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/07/24/shorten-chasing-politics-envytreasurer. Accessed 28 November 2017.
6. The Sydney Morning Herald, Amy Remeikis, Bill Shorten the 'most dangerous left wing leader in generations', says Malcolm Turnbull, 12 August 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shorten-the-most-dangerous-left-wing-leader-in-generations-says-malcolm-turnbull-20170812-gxuug0.html. Accessed 28 November 2017.
7. The Sydney Morning Herald, Anna Patty, War on wages: Australians are working harder and going backwards, 5 August 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/war-on-wages-australians-are-working-harder-and-going-backwards-20170803-gxoh9c.html. Accessed 28 November 2017.
8. The Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Knott, Q&A fallout: Tony Abbott orders frontbench ministers to boycott ABC show, 6 July 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/qa-fallout-tony-abbott-orders-frontbench-ministers-to-boycott-abc-show-20150705-gi5olb.html. Accessed 28 November 2017.
9. ABC, Q&A, Royal Commission and Election Results, 27 November 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4752801.htm, Accessed 27 November 2017.
10. ABC, Michael Bradley, The problem with evoking Marxism in the Safe Schools debate, 24 March 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/bradley-marxism-and-safe-schools/7272764. Accessed 28 November 2017.
11. The Daily Telegraph, Mark Latham, From reason to radicalism: Gender fluidity, 31 May 2016, https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/from-reason-to-radicalism-gender-fluidity/news-story/832eb330f1e68c0af8ab37521dc402d7. Accessed 28 November 2017.
12. The Cairns Post, Julian Tomlinson, Marxism aims to destroy conventional society ... and it's happening every day, 29 June 2017, http://www.cairnspost.com.au/news/opinion/marxism-aims-to-destroy-conventional-society-and-its-happening-every-day/news-story/368944a48185fd9f208aca6cb8557a48. Accessed 28 November 2017.
13. SBS, Source AAP-SBS, Greens want to ban alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos, 28 November 2017, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/11/28/greens-want-ban-alt-right-figure-milo-yiannopoulos. Accessed 28 November 2017.
14. Anti-Defamation League, Milo Yiannopoulos: Five Things to Know, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/backgrounders/milo-yiannopoulos-five-things-to-know. Accessed 28 November 2017.
15. Huffpost, Josh Butler, Pauline Hanson Says She's Never Said Anything Racist Ever, 29 March 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/03/29/pauline-hanson-says-shes-never-said-anything-racist-ever_a_22016461/. Accessed 28 November 2017.
16. ABC, Ashlynne McGhee, Cory Bernardi: Where does the Senator stand on key issues?, 6 February 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-06/cory-bernardi-profile-who-is-he-and-where-does-he-stand/8244040. Accessed 28 November 2017.