JOHN MENADUE. Conservatives like Scott Morrison set the gold standard in scare campaigns.

Feb 5, 2019

With the Coalition policy cupboard  bare and broken we should not be surprised about the attacks on Bill Shorten and a scare campaign in the electorate. Last week Scott Morrison told us that he is ‘cashed up and ready to go negative’. We are  being warned about the coming disaster if many well off people are denied the benefits of negative gearing,capital gains concessions or denial of tax credits even for people who don’t pay any tax at all. But that was just the beginning. Rhodes scholar winner and Minister for Energy threatened that  ‘Labor’s energy policies would shut down Gladstone and Mackay’. At least that other Rhodes Scholar, Tony Abbott warned that only one town, Whyalla, would be shut down as a result of Labor’s energy policies.

Lacking much of a policy programme of their own, conservatives often have three political objectives. The first is to persuade us that selfishness is really a virtue. The second is to benefit their political cronies like in the Great Barrier Reef Foundation or in private hospitals..  The third is to frighten us as much as possible so that we will always opt to stick with the status quo, the people with money and power.

Promoting fear and scare campaigns has been the stock in trade of conservatives in Australia for decades. They have developed it as an art form. The most memorable scare campaign I can remember was in the late 1950s with conservatives promoting fear of China. Advertising drew pictures of large arrows depicting the downward thrust of Communism towards Australia. This campaign depicted hundreds of Chinese rolling across Sydney Harbour Bridge in their rickshaws with guns and communist flags. In a repeat,  News Corp, Channel 9  and the Australian Srategic Policy Institute are pulling out all the stop to frighten us again about China.

The fear of Communism was promoted for decades. The Labor party and the trade unions were the focus on this anti-communist scare campaign.

Conservatives now focus that external threat on refugees and Muslims. Scott Morrison encouraged the Parliamentary Liberal party to be more aggressive in promoting a scare campaign against Muslims.

He told us that boat people were another threat because they were bringing  gold bars and diseases to Australia. That fear of refugees and boat people was exploited first by John Howard and Philip Ruddock who told us that refugees were so inhuman and that they would even throw their children overboard. Fear of asylum seekers coming by boat was continually  promoted. In that politicking they forgot to keep an eye on asylum seekers coming by air. They are now coming in record numbers.

The Howard government, along with the US and the UK, joined in the illegal invasion of Iraq which made us more vulnerable to domestic terrorism. As always, never admit the horrific consequences and responsibilities for the  Iraq invasion by the Coalition but seize on the terrorism consequences to run a new scare campaign about terrorists and of course Muslims.

John Howard and Tim Fisher together with leading mining executives warned us for years that Native Title threatened not only mining but even our backyards.

Conservatives can’t restrain themselves if there is a chance to frighten us about terrorists. And the media invariably oblige him. Yet in the last decade in Australia, only 3 people have been killed in terrorist attacks. But every year over 50 women are killed in domestic violence and 1000, mainly young people die from drug overdoses.  Scott Morrison  can’t see an opportunity to scare us in these fields so he remains largely mute about domestic violence and the scourge of drugs. But he is into overdrive at any mention of terrorists.

We recall the scare campaign conducted by Tony Abbott on the carbon tax, which would wreck the Australian economy. Whyalla was to be wiped off the map and a leg of lamb  according to  Barnaby Joyce would cost $150.

We had a scare campaign about budget deficits and government debt, but in government, Tony Abbott and  Scott Morrison forgot all about it.

Liberal backbenchers created a scare campaign about ‘safe schools’.

Recently  Peter Dutton the man who almost became Prime Minister  promoted fear of Africans by dog whistling about African gangs in Melbourne.

We should now get ready for the upcoming scare campaign on that a Labor government will result in higher electricity prices and blackouts across the country. We have already witnessed a repeat of the Whyalla wipe out  story. It is all in the playbook.

The Liberals have run one scare campaign after another, but now they are hoist with their own petard over Medicare.

It was quite delicious to see the Coalition complaining about a Mediscare  campaign at the last election. But it is not clear how effective it was in shifting votes in the election. The opinion polls showed very little movement throughout the eight-week campaign. The opinion polls also accurately reflected the final vote. It might be argued that Mediscare slowed a movement back to the government in the last couple of weeks, but the opinion polls don’t show it. The coalition’s problems were elsewhere-failed leadership and a vacuous ‘plan for jobs and growth’.

The Liberal party has been hostile to Medicare since its introduction by the Whitlam government in 1974. The Fraser government tried to cripple it. It was restored by the Hawke government. Since then, the Liberals have known there was popular support for Medicare but have done their best to undermine it from within.  There is ‘back door’ privatisation.They are doing this with a $12 billion p.a. subsidy to private health insurance. Warren Buffet in the US called PHI the tape-worm in the US health system. The same is true in Australia with government-supported subsidies to PHI. Tony Abbott told us repeatedly that PHI was in the Coalition’s DNA

The Medicare shell may remain but the Coalition is supporting the eating out from within. And that is what  Scott Morrison’s crony mates in private health insurance and private hospitals want. The are steadily undermining  Medicare.The ‘mediscare’ campaign was well and truly justified.  Medicare is under threat from the Coalition

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