Morrison’s not a miracle worker; he just got lucky with an inept Opposition Leader

Since the Coalition came to power in 2013 Australia has fallen down the Transparency International corruption index from seventh to its current 11. With endless material to attack the Coalition over corruption issues, why is the Albanese-led Opposition apparently incapable of doing so?

Anthony Albanese is seemingly so concerned about not offending any interest groups that he is pleasing no one. Running a Labor campaign in this probable election year ought to be easy: concentrate on Coalition climate change policy denial, corruption, fairness and competence.

Climate change is easy to frame as a threat to today’s and future generations; to property values; to our economic outlook; to our relationships with others who have already made far-reaching climate commitments; and as a threat to our trade relations.

We are rapidly becoming a pariah state, which Joe Biden’s new climate envoy, John Kerry, singled out when he cited our 2019-20 bushfires as an example of the threat.

It is also, as Ross Garnaut showed in his book Superpower, an opportunity for a low carbon future in which Australia can create export opportunities and jobs. Just this week, General Motors said it would cease manufacturing non-electric vehicles by 2035 – an opportunity for a new Australian government to announce it will install charging stations across the country.

On corruption, former Liberal Leader John Hewson, Michael West and Michael Pascoe have done better jobs of articulating the succession of corrupt Morrison Government actions and policies than has the Albanese Opposition.

Writing in The Saturday Paper Hewson listed a score of examples of LNP corrupt action and included some in which Labor was complicit.

Hewson also cited Morrison’s claim about Ministerial Standards that: The Australian people deserve a Government that will act with integrity and in the best interests of the people they serve.”

Hewson commented:They certainly do deserve that, but they are not getting it. These are just words, not backed by actions. Although government has set such standards, they are not what motivates our leaders, and so they simply aren’t enforced.”

As a result of Coalition Government corruption Australia has been steadily falling down the Transparency International corruption index. In 2013 we ranked seventh in the international ratings (the higher the ranking the better the performance) and by 2019 we had fallen to 12th with a score of 77 on a 100 point scale.

Just this week TIA released the 2020 ranking and we have moved up a notch – not because we have improved but because Iceland has got worse.

Competence appears a harder argument to sell because Coalition governments have managed to frame themselves as competent economic managers despite abundant evidence that they aren’t. This record also highlights the fairness issue.

As Oxfam’s Lyn Morgain said in The New Daily recently: “Australia’s 31 billionaires raked in nearly $85 billion since the global pandemic was declared in March – an almost unimaginable sum that is enough to give the 2.5 million poorest Australians a one-off payment of just over $33,300 each.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has said wages’ share of total income had fallen below 50 per cent for the first time since 1959 while profits’ share jumped to more than 30 per cent.

Real wages in Australia were lower in 2019 than in 2013 when the Liberals came to power, the third last in 35 OECD countries. Our rankings in terms of productivity, casual employment and many other social and economic indicators are also in decline.

Given that any competent political party would find plenty of material with which to attack the Morrison Government on grounds of competence, why is the Albanese Opposition apparently incapable of doing so?

It can point to hostile media but Labor and other progressive parties have overcome such obstacles before. Modern communication channels provide them with many other ways to prosecute campaigns – witness Victoria’s grassroots campaign that delivered Labor landslide wins in 2014 and 2018.

However, their argument has not been helped by some ‘progressives’ who have focused not on economic inequality and corruption but on wokeness and cancel culture.

The irony is that they share a commitment to cancel culture with the Murdoch media and the Morrison Government, which hound anyone who challenges their world views.

Morrison and the Murdoch media defend George Christensen and Craig Kelly on free speech grounds while hounding Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of the country for saying: “Lest We Forget Manus, Nauru…”.

As for wokeness, its aim of raising awareness of discrimination is admirable, but at times the rhetoric makes them into useful idiot allies of reactionaries diverting attention from deep neo-liberal structural problems.

Some 150 academics, artists and writers – including Gloria Steinem, Margaret Atwood and Noam Chomsky – signed a Letter on Justice and Open Debate published in Harper’s magazine which welcomed protests for racial and social justice and calls for greater equality across society.

However, they warned that some of the protests also intensified a “new set of moral attitudes and political commitments” that tended to weaken norms of open debate and tolerance of different views, with a “vogue for public shaming and ostracism”.

While Morrison may think his Pentecostal god is bringing him all this good fortune, sadly there is no divine intervention. Simply old-fashioned political incompetence, inconvenient zealotry and a phenomenon in the fishing industry known as shifting baseline.

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Noel Turnbull has had a 40-year-plus career in public relations, politics, journalism and academia. He blogs at http://noelturnbull.com/blog/

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