On Saturday 6 June 2020, over 30,000 people marched in Melbourne in solidarity with people all around the world calling for an end to racialised policing and the murder of people of colour in police custody.
The catalyst for the protests was the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Floyd was strangled when an officer kept a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The murder, and many more like it over many years, sparked the biggest civil disobedience in America in nearly 50 years. The response from Trump was to doubledown on the violence.
Australia is not immune. Our own record of Black deaths in custody is appalling. More than 430 deaths since a Royal Commission into the issue was initiated in 1991.
The turnout in Melbourne was really inspring and the government did everything in its power to stop people from attending, warning (for example) that it gathering was a breach of the #COVID-19 regulations on crowd numbers.
As you will see in the photogallery, most people were wearing masks.
There is a pandemic of racist police violence and the march in Melbourne was one small part of a global rebellion against it.
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This is an edited version of the original posted on Independent Australia on 13 November 2019
Has lying become the new normal for our elected officials? Dr Martin Hirst argues that events of this week prove it has.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
There’s an old joke about politicians and porkies and it goes like this:
Q: How can you tell if a politician is lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
Once upon a time, we could laugh at a corny joke like that because it was implicitly understood that most politicians were sometimes a little loose with the truth. We knew that they tended to exaggerate their good points and over-egg their opponents’ alleged defects, but we could live with it.
Lying on this level was tolerable because we trusted most politicians to be honest when it came to the big stuff, like budgets and defence spending and taking us into a war halfway around the world.
There was a general acceptance that politicians were genuine, capable and straightforward. We might have voted for the other team, but the consensus was that whoever was in government would generally do a good job and look after the country. We believed in the quaint notion of national stewardship.
But that’s all changed
Lying is the new default position for many politicians. So much so that Scott Morrison has earned the nickname “Liar from the Shire”, at least on social media. Nobody in the MSM has yet had the courage to put this to his face or commit it to the page. We can no longer have an innocent laugh about the truth-defying qualities of our pollies.
In my view, Barnaby Joyce has this week hit the bottom of the lying barrel with a widely quoted statement, made initially on Sky News (of course), claiming that two victims of the fires on the NSW north coast were probably Greens voters:
“I acknowledge that the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party so I am not going to start attacking them, that’s the last thing I want to do.”
See what happened here? Joyce has learned the not-so-subtle art of indirect inference in order to cover his tracks. There is no way he would actually know how the fire victims – Vivian Chaplain and George Nole – actually voted but by couching his statement in terms of probability, he can essentially get away with it.
But, more importantly, there was a bigger, more sinister lie embedded in Joyce’s interview with Sky (which of course became a lead story in the rest of the MSM). He basically blamed the Greens for the lack of hazard reduction backburning over winter.
This alarming claim was, of course, quickly picked up by the Murdoch media and noted intellectual and New York-based columnist Miranda Devine was among the first (but not the last) to repeat this lie as fact and use it as the basis for an anti-Greens opinion piece.
Of course they are. The Greens are not in a position nationally or at a State level to impose any anti backburn policy. Nor do they actually have an anti-hazard reduction policy in any council area where there is an overlap between them holding any power on council and where the fires occurred.
Barnaby’s goal was not to stick to the facts but to make an outrageous and half-credible claim and then let the sympathetic Greek chorus in the Murdoch media amplify and solidify the lie into something that susceptible voters are more likely to accept.
Some images manipulated in photoshop from photographs shot earlier this year.
Dr Martin Hirst has lost his sense of humour when it comes to the Morrison Government. Instead, he argues, we need to be angry, not silently sniggering up our sleeves.
THE JOKES come thick and fast from ScoMo. This week, we’ve had the undignified crack that he’s going to name the taxpayer-funded RAAF jet that flies him around “Shark One” at great expense.
That’s our plane, not Morrison’s, but his complete lack of shame and his forced cornpoke humour are two of his better qualities.
Thankfully, Twitter chastised him over this idiocy.
Despite the PM’s attempt at portraying the blokey-jokey good guy, it’s getting harder to see the funny side of Australian politics. I’m not cracking a smile, I’m seething with rage.
The stark reality of a new Morrison government is about to hit Australia between the eyes and it will change Australia for ever from what was once a caring nation to one that only a few will enjoy the fruits of the country. 1984 will seem like heaven compared to what is to come.
— 💧Dead Parrot Society (@MyFirstCousin) September 10, 2019
I have come to the terrible but sober conclusion that we can no longer laugh off the Morrison horror show. The clowns are actually ideological axe murderers in pancake makeup and funny shoes.
Are you asleep, or are you Chris Uhlmann?
Seriously, if you’re not disturbed and angry by the direction the Morrison Government is taking Australia today, you are either asleep or you’re Chris Uhlmann writing in the Nine stable “news” rags.
Uhlmann applauds ‘the sound of silence out of Canberra’ and claims that the ‘silent majority’ of Morrison’s so-called “quiet Australians” would also be quietly getting on with their quiet, boring lives.
‘Normal people would rather get on with the task of, hopefully, making an uneventful path from sunrise to sunset. For many that isn’t easy and their simple wish of the Government is it not make the task any harder.’
The whole idea of a “silent majority” is a discredited Nixonian talking point from the late 1960s and has no basis in sociology, political science or people’s lived experience. For Uhlmann, it is a convenient meme on which to hang his barely-literate gaslighting of the electorate. For Trump and Morrison – and enablers like Uhlmann – the idea of a silent majority supporting their populist rhetoric is a convenient political myth.
Personally, I’d rather engage with outrage on Twitter than spend any money, time or effort arguing with Chris Uhlmann and, it seems, so would plenty of others.
Why I’m not laughing anymore
I have had several swings of mood since the May Election. You may recall that in early July I wrote about the deep grief I was feeling at the time and how I was almost immobilised with depression.
Since then, I’ve cheered up and been amused by the stuff-ups, the malapropisms and goofy, daggy dad schtick that we’ve been enduring from Morrison. The Government’s lack of policies and ham-fisted management of just about everything actually gave me a false sense of hope that things really wouldn’t get any worse.
Two weeks ago, as we approached Morrison’s first full year in the PM’s office, the scales fell from my eyes and it became apparent that these jokers were deadly serious. The lack of clear policy and the absence of a mandate following the close Election result are not an obstacle to achieving the Government’s ideological mission.
It is the mission itself that motivates Morrison, his cabinet colleagues and his power-hungry backbenchers like “Freedom Boy” Tim Wilson. The mission is to remake Australia as a nation without compassion, empathy and opposition to Morrison and Dutton’s authoritarian instincts. It’s a change that started under Abbott, was briefly disrupted by Turnbull’s obsequious vacuity, but is now back in full battle dress.
The mission goal is an impoverished, embittered, divided Australia; a country where “having a go to get a go” means wealthy Liberal and National Party donors standing by the back door waiting for handouts, kickbacks and sinecures paid for by the reduction of everyone else to the status of serfs. It’s as if Morrison and company (that’s how they view the Government) are wanting to return Australia to the status of a penal colony.
The gulags on Manus and Nauru and the locking up of refugees in a PNG gaol are one obvious symbol of this. Sending the Tamil family from Biloela, Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan and their two Australian-born children to exile on Christmas Island under heavy, expensive and ridiculous armed guard is another potent sign of where we are headed.
Dutton has all but confirmed this with his casual use of the awful Trumpian term “anchor babies” to describe the Murugappan children. It’s a racist lie coming out of Trump’s mouth and it’s racist when Dutton drops it into our language. Unfortunately, most of our political journalists are so shallow and compromised they started normalising it within hours.
However, it is not yet possible for Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison to send Australian citizens into exile so easily. Instead, we are facing imprisonment in our own homes — a permanent lockdown of our rights as citizens and constant surveillance of our lives, both public and private.
I don’t need to give chapter and verse on all of the outrages. If you’re reading Independent Australia, you are very much aware of them.
Let’s just summarise the issues in these headlines:
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) September 12, 2019
A fundamental break with our egalitarian history
I don’t want to sound overly melodramatic, but I think we can now see the outline of our future if Scott Morrison wins the current rounds of the culture war against the rest of us.
Our civil society is being hollowed out and replaced with a 24/7 panopticon in which our rights are gradually and forcefully taken from us.
Everyone who works for a living or who is currently on any kind of welfare payment is under threat here. The attacks on workers’ rights don’t begin and end with attempts to clamp down on union action. The Government’s refusal to lift the poverty-level rate for Newstart and other benefits and plans to drug test unemployed people are further ways that Morrison and company want to impose workhouse levels of discipline on working people.
As for action on climate change, we are facing an existential crisis; the planet is dying, the eastern coast of Australia is going up in flames and once-flowing rivers are so dry that the Government has a crazy scheme to relocate fish in the outback. At the same time, the Morrison Government is refusing to take climate change seriously.
The less said about the disgraceful performance of this Government the better. At least a handful of ministers should be resigning over this deliberate lack of action. Start with David Littleproud and Angus Taylor.
I could go on, but I’m out of time, space and words to play with.
Australia was once known for its open and egalitarian ethos — it is being stolen from us. The time for laughing is over. We can no longer “grin and bear it”, it’s time to fight back.
“Taylor has repeatedly stated he sought the briefing because of the impact of the listing on farmers in his electorate of Hume.”
The only farmer facing action was his own company!https://t.co/4vTiRQdVfq
— Brian Mitchell MP (@BrianMitchellMP) September 10, 2019
I will not succumb to Morrison’s opiate for the masses, and I won’t go back to narcotics, neither should you.July 12, 2019
This is quite a personal piece and it is a little bit dangerous for me given society’s attitudes to drug and alcohol addiction.
Just remember, if it’s not you there’s probably a junkie or an alcoholic in your family. Treat them with sympathy, not disgust.
[This piece was first published at Independent Australia on 11 July]
There’s a well-founded belief among recovering addicts and alcoholics that you have to hit rock bottom before you start to get better.
I certainly believe it to be true. I bounced along the bottom for quite a while between 2014 and 2016. I didn’t truly begin my recovery until I left behind the toxic circumstances of my employment.
I’ve been mostly clean and relatively sober for nearly three years. I’ve had a lapse here and there, but usually got myself back on track pretty quickly. I still go to meetings and I have regular sessions with a therapist, but overall, I’m definitely much happier, stronger and more stable than I was three years ago.
So, it was with some horror that I found myself picking up a narcotic a few days ago. Exactly what the substance was is irrelevant; suffice to say it exists in a grey zone of legality and is readily available in a certain kind of adult store.
I’m glad to say I had a really bad reaction to the stuff. After a few moments of delirium, I became violently ill. I hope I don’t do it again.
However, what I have learned about myself through three years of counselling and involvement in both NA and AA is that there is a cause for my lapsing and if I can get to the bottom of it, I’m less likely to do it again.
What caused me to pick up again?
So, what do I know about this week’s episode?
Well, the first thing to note is that I’ve been suffering writer’s block. This article is the first thing I’ve written since the federal election on 18 May. Outside of a handful of tweets, I’ve said nothing about the Morrison victory, or the disappointing postures adopted by the Labor opposition under the doubly-disappointing Albo. I have a book deadline looming, but I’ve been unable to write a paragraph, despite all the juicy media and journalism controversy swirling around us.
Having writer’s block is not normally associated with me having a lapse or finding an excuse to drink more than I should, but I think there’s something intrinsic to my situation that created this recent blockage and then began to spiral me down to a bust.
I’ve been consciously participating in Australian politics since I first voted in 1974 and I can’t recall any campaign period that’s been more shambolic than this one.
Already, fourteen (yes, 14) candidates have been disendorsed by their parties and one, the bankrupt former One Nation senator, Rod Culleton, has been referred to police over his ineligibility to stand.
Most have been struck down since nominations closed a week ago, so they’ll still be on the ballot paper.
What an omnishambles wrapped in a clusterf*ck and dipped in glitter-infused turds!
I don’t think even 1975 came close to being this bad and that was a bitter campaign on both sides that eventually saw Malcolm Fraser elected and Whitlam vanquished.
The Murdoch press played a role then in demonising the ALP and helping Fraser win. The Murdoch papers and Sky News are playing a similar role today – as they have in almost every election since the late 1960s – this time, though, their preferred Prime Minister is looking like a cooked goose.
As a rule, I don’t mind election campaigns but this one already feels like stale pizza sitting in the bottom of the fridge. I’m hungry, but I really don’t want to eat it.
So, we got through the first couple of the of five election campaign weeks relatively unscathed. Good Friday provided a respite day even though we still got footage of a smirking Prime Minister bothering God and small children.
Bill Shorten went to Luna Park in Melbourne, an apt metaphor for the swings and round-abouts of campaigning and the roller-coaster ride of chaos that has characterised federal politics over the last four years.
The ‘circus’ analogy gets over-used, but if it’s OK for Michelle Grattan to double-down on it, who am I to be picky.
We may have had a short break from the campaign over Easter, but are we any closer to having a clear front-runner for the only poll that counts on 18 May?
Well, I thought it was pretty clear from the last gazillion Newspoll results that the ALP was going to win the election in a canter.
However, Michelle Grattan (no, I’m not picking on her) reckons it was a “scratchy” first week for Shorten because of a small gaffe on superannuation and because he’s “vulnerable” on Labor’s ambitious carbon emission reduction policies.
Well, I’m Okay with that because at least the ALP has some policies to quibble about. The Liberals, on the other hand, are in such confusion they don’t even know what their own policies are – like on electric cars, for example.
But some scribes even reckon Morrison is somehow making a comeback.
That’s like saying a man on life-support in a palliative care ward is going to make a full recovery.
I’m really not sure how they reach such fanciful conclusions.
Ah well, I suppose anything is possible inside the Canberra “bubble”.
So how is Morrison going to stage this political miracle?
Well he is, after all, Scott the “disruptor” according the Katharine Murphy writing in The Guardian:
Scott Morrison’s strategy is to run over the top of the trench firing bullets every which way, in an effort to disrupt Shorten’s rhythm.
Well, he has to, doesn’t he?
Morrison has no choice but to act like a demented and stupid-brave World War One sapper high on the fumes of battle. There is nothing else there.
The Liberal Party has been totally devoid of ideas, imagination, initiative and innovation ever since Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott were running the country after trashing the joint in the 2013 election.
Turnbull had nothing in 2016 and only just hung on because Labor started from a long way behind after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd omnishambles and the deceitful ‘carbon tax’ campaigning masterminded by the discredited Credlin.
Three years later and Morrison has had a chance to prove to the Australian public that he’s an empty vessel. Well, not exactly empty, he’s actually full to overflowing with bombastic populism, smug ego and meaningless fury.
Let’s take the electric cars policy as an example.
The COALition began the campaign bagging Labor’s pledge to have 50 per cent of all new car sales converted to electric vehicles by 2030. That’s a whopping decade away and its only half of the average 1.1 million new cars sold each year, according to industry figures.
So that’s 500,000 electric vehicles added to the national fleet, on average from 2030 onwards.
It is an ambitious policy given that there are less than 10,000 electric vehicles currently on Australian roads, including about 4000 Tesla models. This is about 0.3 per cent of the total number of cars on the road.
So, it seems that the Liberals might have been right to poke holes in Labor’s policy. The only problem was, the COALition had an almost identical policy on the books.
Morrison and his ministerial colleagues looked stupid when they were warning Australian petrol-heads that Bill Shorten was coming for their petrol utes and big-engined cars, in a bid to wreck their enjoyment of the traditional Aussie weekend pursuits, like boat and caravan towing and driving illegally off the beaten track through national parks.
Morrison looked stupid, but then Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor stepped up and gave Scotty their beers.
Peter Dutton is on a knife-edge margin in his Queensland electorate of Dickson, so he made the excellent decision to attack his Labor opponent for not living in the electorate.
Fair enough, if you conveniently forget that Dutton owns several luxurious multi-million dollar properties outside of Dickson himself.
But the attack focused on Ali France’s disability. She has a prosthetic leg because of a horrific car accident. She lives close to Dickson in a home she spent over $100,000 on to modify in order to make it convenient for her.
So what did Dutton do? Well, he’s well-known for his sensitivity to less-fortunate people and promised us when challenging Turnbull that we would see more of his engaging human side.
Thanks Peter, you’re doing well.
He said – in an engaging and human way – that Ms France was milking her disability in order to win the sympathy vote in Dickson. His grovelling apology was equally engaging and human.
I guess we should also not be surprised that this story was first run in The Australian. The Murdoch media is going all out to help the coalition.
Senior kool-aid dispenser Piers Akerman was photographed out on a door-knocking campaign walk with Tony Abbott in Warringah. He looked really happy to be there just standing “in the background”, but the candid snap confirmed what we have been saying all along.
The Liberal Party is a subsidiary of NewsCorpse.
And what about poor old Angus Taylor. Taylor is the Energy Minister in Morrison’s government and he has previous form as a nasty, spiteful dickhead. He was famously sacked by British Tory knob, Boris Johnson, while he was mayor of London.
In that instance Taylor was accused of making insensitive racist comments. He’s right at home in the modern Liberal Party where he has languished for the last five years.
Taylor must have been thinking that the Liberal campaign could do with a boost in the past week, so he thought it the right time to grab the headlines with a poorly-timed and ill-conceived threat of legal action against two independent journalists over their retweet of a now infamous Twitter thread on the minister’s involvement in the snowballing water scandal that brewing away nicely in the background.
There is no better way to draw the spotlight onto yourself and your possibly dodgy dealings than issuing threatening legal letters to journalists who don’t have a lot to lose.
Given Mr Taylor’s propensity to launch his lawyers at anyone suggesting he acted with impropriety we are making no comment on the water sales issue, but we can’t help but think that firing off a defamation threat in the middle of an election campaign is a distraction Scott Morrison could do without.
As an aside, we can note that the other senior COALition figure allegedly in the centre of the water sales scandal is the delightful family man and member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.
It’s a short week this week with the Easter Monday and ANZAC Day holidays. Both Morrison and Shorten have said they won’t officially campaign on those two days, but we can be sure that their faces will grace the nightly news and dominate the front pages because it’s much easier for the journalists to just follow the leaders than attempt to cover actual policies.
Burn of the campaign – so far
The false war over electric cars made for some interesting door stops and prompted several car manufacturers to publicly critique the COALition’s scare-mongering.
My favourite burn moment of the campaign so far has been the start of a television advertising campaign for the global launch of the all-electric Hyundai Kona, a compact SUV that will retail for around $37,500.
This is an affordable and smart-looking option for people wanting to go into the EV market.
It may not be deliberate, but the Hyundai advert feels like a giant FU to the Liberals this week.
It’s quite funny to think that the COALition might get run down by a fleet of electric cars.
It’s fair to say I’m basking in some reflected glory this morning. The author and great mind, Neil Gaiman, has engaged me in a lengthy Twitter conversation on the vexing subject of Julian Assange.
It started with this exchange between Gaiman and an author who’s science fiction I love, Charlie Stross.
I sent a rather snarky response, but to his credit, Neil Gaiman engaged and then we had a respectful dialogue about the Assange case.
Our basic disagreement is that Neil seemed exclusively focused on the outstanding rape and sexual assault allegations against Assange, while I was trying to point out that the plan to extradite him to the US was the bigger picture issue today.
@cstross I am a huge fan Charlie, and a Yorkshire lad in exile, but you are totally on the wrong side of history on this issue.
I’m disappointed, your writing indicates your political instincts are better than this.
— The artist informally known as Doc Martin (@ethicalmartini) April 12, 2019