Scott Morrison is rummaging around in his near-empty presents sack looking for some spare socks and mouldy chocolates, the sleigh is off at the panel beaters in need of drastic repairs, and the reindeer continue to shit on us from a great height. Merry Christmas from ScoMo and his orcish elves.
Not even our hyperbolically Panglossian treasurer, the hapless Josh Frydenberg, could really spin last week’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook as good news, although of course the spruikers and boosters in the Murdoch media were determined to do so.
The government was acting with caution, persistence and stability, they insisted – which is in a sense correct, in that the government continues to do absolutely nothing useful. In fact our hard working leader has gone on holiday to a supposedly secret destination to recharge his marketeering batteries.
But in fact the figures are almost entirely negative and the ones that aren’t require heavy qualification. Frydenberg’s line is, as always, that any minor setbacks were result of economic headwinds for which he is entirely irresponsible, like drought and international trade worries.
Leaving aside the dubious claim that there was nothing much his government could do about the drought, the fact is that on balance the Australian economy has benefitted far more from factors beyond Canberra’s control than it has suffered: rather than being buffeted by headwinds, it has been sailing along on a strong tail wind.
The most obvious assistance came from the windfall gain in iron ore prices, which is unlikely to persist, and the other helpers were booming population growth and increased government spending from both the commonwealth and the states. But to the extent that Morrison and Frydenberg can claim an credit for the latter, they are, as so often in denial; they don’t want to talk about population and they continue to maintain the fiction that they are holding spending down as a matter of deliberate policy – they certainly do not want to admit that it has in fact increased over their years in office.
And they certainly will not mention the inconvenient truth that private spending, like private investment and private consumption, has gone nowhere – to keep the risk of recession at bay they have had to hand out taxpayers’ loot, relying on bracket creep to hold up the rapidly crumbling walls.
This has allowed them to claim positive growth – downgraded and derisory, but at least a little better than the worst of the worst – and to boast about the extraordinary resilience of the Australian economic miracle which they now, absurdly, celebrate as their own fiscal expertise.
The harsh reality, which is becoming dismally apparent even to their most fervent supporters, is that on a per capita basis, living standards are actually declining, and according to all the serious predictions, there is no real prospect of better times for at least a few years to come. Not a lot of tidings of comfort and joy for this festive season.
It might not matter so much that the stockings were empty if the decorations were a bit more cheerful; but not even the tinsel and the goblin balls provided much relief.
Morrison likes to tell his silenccd Australians that it is all about the economy, stupid, everything flows from that. But this neo-Marxist view is belied by the other problems he is being forced to deal with – or perhaps not, as the last days of 2019 close in on him.
The reactionary theocrats of his parliamentary rump continue to demand more discrimination to stoke their religious dominance and our Pentecostalist Prime Minister is happy to oblige – if he could only work out a way of doing so without tearing the country apart to promote a lawyer’s bonanza in toxic division.
This will be not only a major distraction in the months ahead, but another indication that the leader’s knee jerk style of decision making is, as Anthony Albanese and his colleagues are increasingly keen to point out, both ineffectual and reckless.
The ongoing argument over what, if anything, needs to be done about the long-going promise to implement some form of constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians in the current term will have to be resolved. And of course the culture wars, particularly those over gender issues, will continue unabated.
But the big one remains climate change. and on this burning (literally) ScoMo, or SmoKo, as he is now better known, seems to have completely given up. As the records tumble across the continent and the fires become ever more threatening, as the drought gets to the stage where towns are running out of drinking water and the agricultural sector is driven to the wall, as the Great Barrier Reef and the coastlines face imminent destruction, Morrison remains unmoved.
And his dwindling rearguard of denialists seems not only completely out of touch, but manifestly absurd. They are now resorting to lines about how they once heard a story that it was very hot in Walgett one day n 1937, which clearly proves that climate change is a vicious conspiratorial fiction aimed at establishing a one world socialist dictatorship.
And Morrison’s response? Don’t you worry about that. The climate may have changed, but the government is standing firm. We will meet our obligations in a canter, our emissions are going down. Well actually they’re not, even with all the spin Morrison’s whirling dervishes can muster.
The year’s most embarrassing politician, Angus Taylor has just returned from Madrid to work his accounting trickery, but even that will not save his already inadequate predictions, let alone the grim reality. Which is to be placed on hold, certainly for the holiday season and preferably a long way beyond that.
It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, and especially not our prime minister. So a crappy Hissmas to all.