When I bought the Australian Financial Review on the Monday morning following the May 18 Federal election, there was something strange about it.  It felt like a small brick.  Excited by the prospect of this bumper edition, I sped to my local café for a great morning’s reading.  By the time I’d reached page 3, it was clear what had happened.  Each sentence was lined with smug.  Some particularly heavy pages at the back were recorded in schadenfreude font.

Every article began with an “I told you so”, middled with ejaculations about “Quiet Australians” and ended with a message for Labor: “Never do it again”.  Seems Labor was impolite.

It must have been a jolly time putting this edition together. Fears of future sackings by Costello and his mates set aside, contributors competed in their panegyric reflections on Scomo’s  inate genius and then turned to face slap Shorto, Albo and Sally.

The Party Starts

Next time you see Jennifer Hewitt on an ABC program such as The Drum representing the “Quiet Australians”, be aware she has more than a couple of big Australians on speed dial.  Her incisive page 2 column told us that Scomo had a very simple message: “Don’t vote Labor”.  She also told us that too many ordinary voters identified with another ordinary bloke, Scott Morrison.  Marketing triumph seems far too meagre a description of this achievement. Who the bloody hell is he?  We know Scomo but do we know Scott Morrison?

Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman, one of our great patriarchs, exhaled for the first time in months to deliver: “The economy works best when all the little ants are left to get on and do great things.” He failed to mention – for him.

The Chairman of Wesfarmers was relieved that an increase in penalty rates (which would really have been a replacement) would have led to unemployment. I am sure he lies awake at night when unemployment goes up from 5.0 to 5.1 percent praying don’t let it be true.

The head of MYOB reflected potential wage rises under a Labor Government would have increased costs for the people he flogs his accounting software to. 

Full of Joy

The most vituperative in a class field was Christopher Joye of Coolabah Capital Investments.  This is a man with enough insularity to think it appropriate to display his 8 year old daughter’s conditioning in order to sell his argument.  For some strange reason the poor kid was writing an article the day before the election stating: “…[Labor] was proposing to take away wealth from vast swathes of middle Australia”.  The use of “swathes” suggests public money is going to good use at whatever private school  “little” Joye attends. 

Big Joye then cheers the strangling of public spending and public ignorance of what surpluses are; boat stopping and the ridiculous notion of Morrison saving us from debt default by appeasing the notorious ratings agency Standard and Poors.  Bill Mitchell places these protection racketeers in perspective. Morrison saved us from nothing. That is just more scaremongering to convince us of the frailty of government and how we need a strong man as cox.

We soon approached those moments of future regret and current abandon.  You know when the  party gets out of hand and the underpants are on your head.  This is the also the time when all sorts of things are shared that wouldn’t or shouldn’t normally be.  Our hero joyfully tells us about the $2 billion Morrison found in the top drawer which allowed non-big bank lenders to assist small business by lowering their borrowing costs. It’s nice to have friends. This article explains just how easy it is for the government to find money when it wants to.   

Joye’s summary finished with words from the great unifier John Howard: “Labor’s class warfare rhetoric sought to pit Australians against Australians whereas Morrison sought to foster inclusion and collective success through individual exertion”. Together, Australians all let us rejoice. 

Meet Aaron Patrick

When Aaron is not writing inspiring articles for The Fin he is equally persuasive at Gerard and Anne Henderson’s secretive Sydney Institute. In this article we’re told that “[Australians] do not fear healthcare underpinned by the private sector”.  A healthy Australian is a privately insured one. He continues: “[We]  believe in climate change” but are happy with more coal and gas projects until the government works out an energy policy. “[We] do not believe there is a childcare crisis, although they would like more sexual equality”. That one escapes me.  I think we better move on.

The Editor Addresses the Class

As you might expect, the editorial contribution was a model of balance and discretion:

“This should be a lesson for Labor never again to take a big government, big spending, union boss empowering dirigiste policy framework to an election.”

The editor hoisted the lie that the Liberal Government’s 5% unemployment is a great success and then keelhauled Sally McManus for wanting to “change the rules”.

And the dictum was pronounced that workplaces need to be freed from the industrial relations club and union thugs.  This had to be done so we could “liberate businesses and employees by giving them the freedom to compete in the global marketplace”. 

Alex on Energy

Our penultimate contribution is from the sharp mind of Alexander Downer who dissected Labor‘s climate change folly. 

“So let’s look from the point of view of the average voter.  Climate change costs in terms of GDP and jobs. If it didn’t then governments wouldn’t have to pursue climate change policies; they’d happen automatically”. 

What is the great man saying?  That if it didn’t cost anything eg if there was no extra work or money involved, business would simply do whatever was required. So if nothing had to be done and it cost nothing then business would be our front line troops on climate change. Problem solved.  In truth, even then we might have to offer a tax offset or some other advantage. Sadly, fixing climate change does have a cost.  I’d love to discuss it with Alexander. Understandably, this might have escaped someone who has worked for Woodside petroleum where power solutions come easy and often with financial advantage.

Hands off the Lever and No-one Gets Hurt

Chanticleer on the back page rounded things off by telling us that government better behave itself if it doesn’t want a good thrashing:

“One way of reading the ballot box’s rejection of Shorten is that Australians realise the economy is too small and too open to international forces for the country to afford transformative distribution of wealth”. 

Wow, that is a big one. Please read that again.  In other words, Australians, behave yourselves. Don’t play with the levers and no-one gets hurt.  Do you really think your friends and family were thinking about our smallness and openness?  Maybe Australians would have a different understanding if they took the time to read Bill Mitchell and Thomas Fazi’s “Reclaiming the State”.  Maybe our media could even tell them about it.  They might find we are not as small and open as we thought we were. In that fine book, the authors make a very clear case for protecting the country from this sort of vigilante anti-democratic abuse.  Such abuse that this writer and international finance promises to inflict can be avoided through the use of capital controls. The problem is that you must have a government or at least an opposition that wants to enact such controls.  We don’t.

We Have Been Financialised

 In closing, a thread has run through commentary since the election depicting Scott Morrison triumphantly overcoming enormous odds.  If only he had been at Gallipoli.  How enormous were these challenges?  Our commercial media almost uniformly supported him. The economic prism through which all discussion is now forced supported the notion of the Liberal Party as “the best economic managers”.  The same prism makes the artificially engineered shortage of money a reason why nothing can change.  Meanwhile, the ABC was remarkably ineffective in interpreting economic policy.  For all the talk of Aunty being left, the economics it presents is pure neoliberal. 

Sadly, the views of many Australians now match the concerns and interests expressed in the Financial Review. These views might vary in their sophistication but increasingly they have a financial taint.  That is the great achievement of former Prime Minister Howard and Labor of the 80s under Hawke and Keating. We have been financialised. 

Warren Ross

One thought on “Keep Your Hands Off the Levers and No-one Gets Hurt

  1. Smug indeed and for no good reason. I guess we got the government we deserve. I would have hoped we deserved better but Labor didn’t deserve to win either

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