MUNGO MACCALLUM.-And so, gritting our teeth and holding our noses, we prepare to face 2020.

And once the new year’s eve fireworks have been cleaned up, it does not look promising.

Scott Morrison has made it clear that he is not about to embark on some Damascene road in which serious and sensible policy issues will be addressed – he told us what he was going to do in the last election manifesto, and that’s that.

And how good is it. Australia is the best country in the world and don’t you forget it – this has just been confirmed by the latest cringe-worthy tourist promotion aimed at America, and you can’t argue with the marketing.

And moreover you don’t have to, because the latest lot of statistics show that Australians, collectively, now have more wealth than they have ever amassed. Well;, some of them do; the ones who own a lot of investments and own one or more overpriced houses are doing very nicely, thank you.

Australia’s rich list is burgeoning – the fear and greed index to which conservative economists cling is a picture of rude health – the dreaded politics of envy are vanquished, the class war is clearly in excellent shape. Pity about the rest of us.

The media, who are obviously not like the rest of us, remain determinedly optimistic. Editorials around the nation adjure us to be optimistic – technological change is forging ahead, improving life expectancy, health outcomes and education standards across the globe. And this is true – it has always been true.

But even those wearing the most rosy coloured glasses have to admit that there are what Morrison and his troops delicately describe as headwinds. Internationally, liberal democratic values are in trouble, especially over much of Asia and the Middle East. And the malaise is spreading to those we have always regarded as invulnerable — countries like the USA and yes, Australia, have had their human rights drastically curtailed, and the trend seems to be accelerating rather than diminishing.

And beyond that, the overwhelming threat of climate change has not substantially abated and is unlikely to in the new year. As a result we can confidently predict more disasters to come, both natural and man-made – although nowadays climate change is making that distinction increasingly blurred.

In Australia, of course, this is irrelevant – the irrational Barnaby Joyce is not the only reactionary determined to prevent reform, or even debate. Much if not most of the coalition is still stuck in denial, persisting on what it calls a stable policy of masterful inaction – the parodic term for negligence and impotence.

And this pervades ScoMo’s administration, which makes even a hint of a better future unlikely. History is now against us: for years now we have been going backwards on the economy, on social policy (particularly education) and perhaps most damagingly on national prestige. From being seen as a trailblazer, Australia is now considered a laggard; if not an actual pariah, a voice which no longer demands any respect in the world’s councils.

And Morrison is not worried – in fact he rather glories in it. He appears to have adopted Barry Humphries definition of xenophobia: love of Australia. New year, schmoo year. How good was the old one?

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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