How Murdoch and the Miners screwed us yet again
Let’s get a few numbers straight first: this was not a landslide or a blowout and the people of Australia did not fall in line behind the grinning salesman Scott Morrison. The Labor Party got more primary votes than any other party, followed by the Liberals, the Greens, the Liberal Nationals (Queensland), and the Nationals. Labor’s vote was down by 1 percent, Libs down by .6 and the only significant gains were for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (up 1.7%) and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (3.3%) — and if you add Hanson’s and Palmer’s votes together they’re still half a million votes short of what the Greens got.
So the shift was slight but just enough to block the Labor-Greens combo from taking back the government. A few percentage points worth of disaffected and/or easily conned voters were drawn to two blow-hard and vacuous parties — which took the pollsters, the media, and the bookies by surprise, which, in these days of unlisted phones and people who take no robocalls, is not surprising. Polling needs to get much more elaborate or it will keep failing, and not believing polls might be good practice anyway.
Labor lost it in Queensland and Tasmania, the Greens didn’t lose it anywhere much, and Morrison’s mob won by getting the second preferences of those Palmer and Hanson voters. OK also by keeping their campaign in lock-step with Murdoch’s media focused on selling Shorten as “shifty”, as if they weren’t.
The evolving consensus among Labor/Greens partisans is that the Queenslanders are to blame, but are they really hillbillies or deplorables like some of Trump’s hard core? If so, how come they elected state Labor governments for 25 of the past 30 years including two female Labor premiers?
Consider the plight of Queensland, a state which produces more than a quarter of Australia’s annual earnings. For 180 years Queensland’s economic role has been to grow crops, raise cattle and sheep, dig up valuable dirt, and deliver all of them to ports for export, with most of the profits going to a few megarich Australians and to global corporations. The state’s inland and coastal towns reflect that history, but nowadays, new production technology offers few jobs on the land so a high percentage of Queenslanders are doing poorly and see no much hope on the horizon outside of Brisbane.
The Coalition promises them more of that low-security low-income economy, pretending that fossil fuels have a promising future and that China needs our ores when, really, we more desperately need the $125 billion they pay us each year. That’s more than what Australia earns from sales to Japan, South Korea, the United States, the UK, and India, combined.
Meanwhile, Labor promised to help the bottom 80% of Queenslanders with more spending on education and health, to support mining up to a point, and to stop global meltdown by supporting less CO2 somehow somewhere sometime.
So both Labor and the Coalition failed to present a plan for Queensland’s future, but Clive Palmer had one — himself. He promised to single-handedly save our country from the politics-as-usual big parties. In fact, he made a deal to give one of those parties, Morrison’s mob, his second preferences, which he absurdly over-predicted.
Simultaneously Rupert Murdoch went apeshit in all his media (80% of newspapers sold in Australia) because the Labor leader refused to listen to him, and because Labor would be bad for his businesses.
In the end, Palmer's United Australia Party (UAP) got 3.4 per cent of the nationwide vote, but failed to win a seat in Parliament even though Palmer spent more than $60 million on advertising during the campaign. The half a million votes he got cost him $114 each.
Why did he do that? What did he buy for $60 million? He has now explained that it was all about stopping Labor leader Bill Shorten from becoming prime minister.
"We thought that would be a disaster for Australia," Mr Palmer told ABC radio Brisbane, using the royal “we”. In the last two weeks "we decided to polarise the electorate …[by] explaining to Australian people what Shorten's economic plans were." Palmer’s ads did not explain that or anything else, but they were ubiquitous.
He says he’s not concerned that he won not a single seat in Parliament. “I'm very, very elated that we've saved the country from shifty [Shorten]."
He reckons that Australians should thank him for his charitable act which was “more effective than giving some money to Meals on Wheels.”
His charitable act was to inspire disgruntled and/or foolish voters, many of whom would not have gone to the trouble of voting LNP, to cast a protest vote for the Palmerites – thus adding half a million to the gross total of Morrison’s mob.
Just for some perspective, here’s what the real political parties spent on advertising since September on this election: Labor $14,450,000, LNP $13,300,000, and the Greens $320,000 — in other words Palmer’s fake Party spent more than twice the total spent by all the major parties combined.
Mind you, don’t be sorry for the LNP that they lost access to Malcolm Turnbull’s personal millions — Morrison & Co. spent an extra $200m of our tax money in the election build-up on government advertising to hype their own policies.
Like Labor’s Penny Wong said on election night: “Australians will need to think about what that means for our country if there are substantial numbers of seats which end up going to a particular party because there’s a deal with a man like Mr Palmer or Pauline Hanson.”
In fact, Palmer’s real goal was to re-elect a government that would allow him to keep control of the many thousands of square kilometres of Australian soil he controls, some of which he rents to Chinese government corporations for huge profits. Just one of his properties in Western Australia gives him $100million every 12 weeks from the Chinese iron ore extractor Citic Ltd, and he expects that will soon rise to $100 million every fortnight.
He also has the rights to a piece of the Galilee Basin in Queensland, next to the one Adani is attempting to mine. A third coal field next to Palmer and Adani was about to begin operation by another branch of China Inc. called MacMine (couldn’t make that up) but this week that venture quietly abandoned that huge venture because the Chinese increasingly see coal as no longer viable in the business environment, since it’s no longer viable in the planetary environment.
Palmer doesn’t see things that way; he is already pressing the Morrison government to approve extraction of more coal on “his” portion of Galilee land than Adani plans to extract. He expects to be rewarded handsomely for his $60 million boost to the LNP, including by pocketing an $18 million tax break from Morrison/Frydenberg’s company tax cuts — and by continuing to benefit from a government that either doesn’t believe the planet is in a rapidly escalating environmental crisis, or doesn’t care if it is. In his typically snarly concession speech after losing his blue-ribbon seat to someone who understands the enviro-crisis, Tony Abbott explained how his party, Scott Morrison’s party, relates to it: “Where climate change is a moral issue, we Liberals do it tough,” Abbott said, which I took to mean that they don’t give a damn if they destroy our ecosystem, “but where climate change is an economic issue … we do very, very well,” which I take to mean they think investing in fossil fuels and red-meat based agriculture will yield swell dividends as the greenhouse gasses gather above us.
The Abbotts, Morrisons, Palmers and Murdochs don’t just believe this shit, they think those of us who don’t believe it are very bad people. On Q&A right after the election, The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan who’s a fellow fossil fool, insisted that “there is absolutely no moral difference between preferencing Clive Palmer or Pauline Hanson or the Greens.”
“The Greens party,” he said, “is a party of hatred of Western civilisation and of our economy, which wants to deindustrialise Australia and destroy every tradition we’ve been built on. They are absolutely as extreme and much more dangerous, because they’re much more competent than either Clive Palmer or Pauline Hanson.”
One more question about Clive Palmer — how did this overfed and inarticulate real estate agent put together enough money to be a player in the game of multi-billion mining?
Warwick Smith of Per Capita, a pro-social policy think tank, put it this way in The Conversation last week: “Australian governments gave him most of it by letting him dig up and sell natural resources that, by rights, belong to us not him… Palmer is small fry compared to Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest or the corporate power of BHP, Rio Tinto and others.”
Palmer may be a smaller fry than those other leeches on our common wealth, but he hates being challenged on matters of size. “My wealth is $4000 million,” he yelled at Today host Deborah Knight last week when she questioned his integrity. “Do you think I give a stuff about you, what you personally think or anyone else?”
The lesson of this election is not that we-the-voters are fools — we’re disillusioned, bombarded with disinformation, over-powered and under-represented — but we must demand (1) public funding of elections and (2) public ownership of our natural resources like minerals and fuels, sunshine and airwaves.
But those are the two things that the Murdoch family, Clive Palmer, and their compradores in Canberra, will fight to the death to prevent us, or parties with a social conscience, from getting our grubby little public mitts on.