STEPHANIE DOWRICK. Are “moderates” failing to keep us safe?

Could it be “moderates” – through lack of vigilance, or is it apathy? – who most threaten our safety and existence? Yes, this seems a ridiculous, even immoderate assertion. But let’s think about it. The US, the UK and Australia are currently “led” – though there’s precious little leading – by men unembarrassed to flaunt their lack of coherent policy and analysis, their disdain for science and seriousness, their willingness to tell or endorse any lie at any time if it seems to advantage them. Trump, Johnson and Morrison are, to a man, dizzy with success, adoring of their own vulgar, meaningless slogans, and utterly impervious to views that don’t flatter them. But how did they get such power? How do they maintain it? And why have political and media moderates failed to sufficiently expose these sorry little Emperors’ nakedness?

Hope went long ago that anyone in their most immediate circles will do more than pander to their masters’ egos. Trump has in fact run through more courtiers than multiple predecessors in the White House. Yet gun-loving, largely white, hyper-capitalist Republicans still at least publicly support “their” President, along with his monstrous lies, cruelties, inanities – despite the real and accelerating dangers he poses to his own nation and the rest of the world.

Protecting their business interests is surely only part of the story. There’s toxic ideology here, too. After all, Republicans tend to think introducing universal health care is a greater danger than limiting gun use. They also fight loudly for the dignity of the unborn – while going strangely silent on never-ending wars, as well as State-sanctioned violence against those born poor, black, brown, or in any one of the US-damaged nations that their Trumpeter despises. And still the moderates can’t, don’t or won’t contain them.

The single hope on the bleak landscape that’s America is that last month (July 2019), as reported by the Washington Post – but barely discussed in the Australian media – the US House of Representatives voted to prevent Trump from going to war without congressional approval. (Karoun Demirjian was the reporter.) About two dozen Republicans had the wit and decency to cross the floor and support the Democrats “to include the provision in an annual defence authorisation bill”. The House is, of course, Democrat led. They also voted to suspend for one year the “sale of air-to-ground munitions” to the UAE and Saudi Arabia in a puny attempt to slow the destruction of Yemen.

Are there any similar constraints – moderate or otherwise – on Morrison? He’s the “Praise Jesus, damn the poor and refugees” man who will soon be sitting down for hamburgers and chips with “grab them by the p***y” Trump, ready to stress to him – as his ministers did to Super-Hawk Pompeo – the “specialness” of Australia’s relationship with the United States, no matter how unhinged or bellicose. And what do we hear from Australia’s “moderates” of the risks, the insanity and total amorality of this? Not enough, not enough.

Australia does have a National Security Committee. But its powers seem to be limited to “advising” and “recommending”. Also, one must ask, how many on that Committee abhor war, are desolate that Australia is not a known nation of peace or at least one where neutrality is seriously debated? How many on that Committee objected to Christopher Pyne’s vile ambition that Australia should be a top 10 “defence industries” nation? I find no evidence of that.

Here, in Morrison’s “Get a Go” idyll, “having a go” militarily remains a power exclusive to government. As reported by Brendan Nelson, a former Liberal Minister for Defence: “Since 1985 the Australian Democrats, firstly, and more recently the Australian Greens, have attempted to remove the exclusive power of the government to commit Australia to war. Attempts have been made to repeal section 50C of the Defence Act 1903, which allows the deployment of Australian troops overseas, replacing it with a requirement for both houses of parliament to approve a declaration of war and commitment of troops.” Nelson continues, “While the power to make war, deploy troops and declare peace are essential elements of the executive power of the Commonwealth, it is open to any government to put such matters to the parliament for debate.” BUT THERE IS, IT SEEMS, NO REQUIREMENT TO DO SO.

What we are left with then, along with rage, fear and sorrow, is the emerging picture of a God-ordained (in his own mind) politician for whom “history began with his election as Prime Minister”, as Mungo MacCallum put it in his war-weary article here of 13 August. And it is not as though we weren’t warned. Moderates will argue, correctly, Morrison is “not as bad as…” But what are they comparing him to? And why should “not as bad as” be the road along which Australia travels?

This is where my rage becomes outrage…because even if Morrison’s “miraculous” election campaign neither threatened nor spoke of war, what was clear was his – and his Government’s – unapologetic trashing of countless lives in full view. How? Through the increasing impoverishment of the poorest, continuing insults to First Peoples, the blaming and harassment of victims of the Government’s own policies – including Robodebt, indefensible behaviour towards those who sought asylum six years ago, plus outrageous schemes and more schemes as public funds move into private hands. And the unforgivable refusal to engage appropriately with climate science. And for what? For what?

In plain sight – yet who among the many sincere moderates in politics, the media or in everyday life for heaven’s sake, took sufficient note that it’s the particular style of Morrison’s populism that endangers this nation? As do the corporate and media mega-interests that justify and bloat his Government’s power. Yes, there are others in his Government more extreme. But Morrison is the Front and Centre Man, the “pray and grow rich” man, selling the reassurance that we are “in good hands” or even “God’s hands”. Post-Christchurch, Waleed Aly on the Project may well be the sole journalist who came close to challenging Morrison’s rhetoric. Who since has adequately grilled him about his entrenched indifference to the fate of the poor – and the planet? Are the majority moderates so easily distracted? Subdued? Or persuaded? Even with open talk of support for the most war-ready nation on earth? Alas, poor Yorick, alas.

Usually rather more hopeful, Rev Dr Stephanie Dowrick is a life-long peace activist and the author of many books including Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another. Find her on Twitter – or her public Facebook page.


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7 Responses to STEPHANIE DOWRICK. Are “moderates” failing to keep us safe?

  1. Gayle Burr says:

    Thank you Stephanie, you speak for so many of us in your righteous outrage and indignation – your passion is palpable! Such an important article and so well written and researched.

  2. Charles Lowe says:

    Will the ethics implied by the term ‘moderates’ be a sufficient motivation for them to fracture Party loyalties?

  3. Wayne McMillan says:

    Stephanie the so called ‘moderates’ have bought the neo- liberal narrative hook, line and sinker. They can’t see a way out of the dilemmas we face because they are still trapped in an old eco- economo-socio political paradigm. As for the left of centre they are not much better, fighting among themselves whilst Rome burns. The time is ripe for a new narrative to replace the old one within a new paradigm . If we remain thinking, talking, planning and operating in the old paradigm we will became part of the problem and not the solution. We need to begin NOW in a serious manner to start the ball rolling to move to a steady state economy ala Herman Daly.

  4. Jim KABLE says:

    Brava, Stephanie! Brava! I like to call it straight as well – thank-you for your rage and indeed your outrage at the warmongering happy-clapper Ministry under the Head Prefect direction of on-water-matters and so on Scott Morrison. What a cropper of ugliness he has just come -in Tuvalu – though painting in the popular mind of Pacific neighbours our entire nation as uncaring of the real changes they are experiencing with climate change. As to the reason most “moderates” with names are not exactly speaking up…I think I have the answer – read Murray & Frijters 2017 The Game of Mates – How Favours Bleed the Nation – much praised by Ross GITTINS – All the usual suspects rorting all manner of public to private sell-off – the enormous rort known as Public Private Participation (infrastructure “development” – roads and rail) – the mining sector no taxes here rorts – the superannuation rorts – the bureaucrats who move over to private vested interest jobs – and then go back – ministers into post parliamentary jobs – kickbacks with subterfuge so as not to be too blatant – and overall – a media/journalism in the most recent times cowed into quietude by Dutton’s blackshirt cop mates (no, no, they bleat – all off our own bat – like b****y h**l it is. Crooks into casinos – and then the unseemly feting of Pomepeo, the US Secretary of Defense (sic) – that Bolton blight – US bases and “war games” and being pulled into the South China Seas and the Straits of Hormuz – honestly – I feel the same outrage, Stephanie.

  5. Jocelyn Pixley says:

    When Scott Morrison announced he was “accountable” to the Australian public: 1. One he doesn’t regard himself as that, as Stephanie says, he imagines pecuniary theology is his gift from heaven to dictate a ruined polity. 2. The Australian public in survey upon survey want action against climate change, not this excuse for a leader ordering Pacific Island states what to say and do. And abusing many of our names in Australia. The “new-old” Labor opposition is supine: their email addresses are on Write to them too!
    The Press! Aly works on Channel 10, an American-owned non Murdoch firm. The ABC is censored by Morrison etc. Nine Media is craven, possibly save for The Age and its letters ed. Nine cannot even get itself to dismiss the even more rancid [than Morrison] Alan Jones. Yes, Stephanie, you are correct on so many mafia-like elements of this set-up, and too many decent people remain quiet.

  6. Screaminkid says:

    This has been prettyobvious for the last six years ever since Abbott got in with Not a Policy but Stop the Boats slogan! How we bought that one I will never know but things have gone from bad to worse as we have blindly followed the Austerity programe openly visible by those who have visited USA (tent cities ouside every city /small town) or UK { homeless and rough sleepers on freezing pavements outside even small village shops?
    The insanity is that Australians have continued to view this evidence of democratic breakdown, not as warnings, but as having nothing to do with them!
    =We would be insane to follow America into yet another war to support their Fascist takeover of another country they have reduced to penury, in order to get their greedy hands on the riches that support its government. By demonising foreign governments, spying on them and covertly supporting terrorists and anti democratic oppositions, USA shows how far it has strayed from the democratic path, when it sets up as regime changes puppets , the very incompetent terrorist leaders it colluded with, leaving the people to suffer under their incompetent and cruel rule.
    We will be the losers in any war with China and our Island neighbours will be justified in leaving us to suffer our own ignorant and stupid decisions and the authoritarian government we have chosen as we are now leaving them to deal with a climate crisis Australia is guilty of willfully contributing to?

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