We elected the Coalition into government in 2013, and twice since then in both 2016 and 2019. In NSW, the Coalition has also been voted in for three consecutive terms. My interest in politics didn’t start until 2015, and I’ve only voted in two Federal elections, but there is a very clear pattern that has emerged in that time that is incredibly worrying. The media is, as usual, one of the greatest contributors to this mess.
In 2013, Tony Abbott became our Prime Minister with a message of “stability” (as opposed to Labor’s leadership battle between Rudd and Gillard) and “good economic management” (because being one of the top economies in the world after the Global Financial Crisis wasn’t good enough, apparently). Worth mentioning that in the same time period (2007-2013), the Coalition had gone through three Opposition Leaders since Howard stepped down, and we’ve had another two since. And the debt the Labor got us in (which wasn’t the end of the world) has now been tripled.
So much for the 2013 pitch.
And yet in 2016 and 2019, Australia proceeded to go and vote them back in again. Similarly, in NSW we had Mike Baird elected twice and, after he stepped down in extremely dodgy circumstances, Gladys Berejiklian managed to hold power in this year’s State election. But why is that? We see in the news – at least, in any news somewhat worth viewing – that there are scandals and corruption plaguing the political sphere almost all the time, and yet come Election Day we commit ourselves to the same damning path.
The general public appears to follow the mainstream media, however, because it is there you can predict how the elections will span out quite easily. I predicted around this time last year that Labor would likely win the 2019 Federal election, and maintained that opinion for longer than I’d like to admit. But it very quickly became evident, with all of Labor’s legitimate flaws, all the manufactured ones being spruiked by the Coalition in their campaign, and the devastatingly trash coverage by most of the media, that the polls were wrong – the Coalition was bound to win.
Regardless of their flaws, Labor would have undoubtedly been the better option. Some have criticised me – quite defensively and aggressively – for daring to criticise Labor, but every time I have to explain that I fully support Labor against the Coalition (rather pointlessly, because they don’t seem to comprehend other views). I always preference them after any minor party or Independent I deem worthwhile (also pointlessly, as I am in a safe LNP electorate), and I’ve convinced a number of people to at least vote for Labor over the Coalition, whether it’s first or as a higher preference. I digress though.
Labor didn’t win, which was a shock to many. If you follow the media narrative, though, it makes sense. Everyone, after the third leadership change, resulting in Scott Morrison become Prime Minister – Mr Thoughts and Prayers himself – believed that it was the end of the Coalition’s reign. They were in such disarray with so little in the way of direction for the country that only the foolish or the rich would have still been on his side.
This disunity, alongside the litany of scandals and revelations, both from the politicians themselves and the industries they support or are involved in (like banking and fossil fuels), and unpopular policy choices, like their butchering of the medevac bill and the anti-encryption bill, made them appear quite detestable in the public’s view. That is, until the weeks leading up to the election itself, where undue scrutiny was thrown at Labor and Bill Shorten for a number of relatively straightforward policies, such as their commitment (as much as it was) to environmental protection and renewable energy targets.
The media on one end was drilling into Labor over every detail, including the ever-falling ABC, such as how they were going to pay for their environmental policies (no one thought to ask how the Coalition pays for their tax breaks, outdated military tech, and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry… wait, the public services we are losing!). On the other hand, when they did question the Coalition in a pillow fight, the answers almost always resulted in a deflection to attack Labor. Labor was made to look unviable, and the Coalition just needed to look better at face value, which they could do by running a negative campaign.
That is how, despite the months of turmoil that rocked the Coalition about at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, they were able to win in May. The media, as much as people like to believe they have a “free choice”, is incredibly powerful. We may have “free choice”, but the choices we have available are within an extremely narrow spectrum of debate (shout out to Chomsky), so narrow as to essentially be negligible. The news we consume frames the debate in a way that will shape our opinions, and when most of the media is working directly or indirectly as a campaign mouthpiece for the Coalition, that is where we end up.
The same thing happened in the NSW State election. Daley, like Shorten, didn’t seem like the best of choices for leader, but they were decent and immeasurably better, as leaders of the Labor Party, than the alternatives. Mike Baird resigned amid a slew of corruption accusations and scandals, for which he has never been held accountable for, and proceeded to pick up a luxurious role at NAB, which subsequently got slammed in the Royal Commission into the financial sector. Gladys Berejiklian continued this farcical nonsense, including the outrage over the money that would be spent on sport stadiums that would probably be better spent on public services, like schools and hospitals.
Even in the lead up to the election, her party was being hounded, and it looked as though, almost by default, that Labor would win. Just like the Federal election a couple of months later, however, that was very quickly undermined by a vicious campaign against Labor, especially after a harmless video of Daley went viral. Voting Labor was now racist, because screw the truth and rationality, right?
The media crashed down on Daley and Labor, and the chaos of Berejiklian’s time as Premier was forgotten. The Murdoch press backed her, obviously. The ABC just sat there staring at polls, and the commercial news stations didn’t do much either. Fairfax ran advertising for the LNP, and their Sydney Morning Herald Editorial supported a third term because… well, no reason was given, other than that they may as well because they’ve been in for two terms. What a lazy way to approve of dictatorships.
But in both cases, especially now during the bushfires, the nation – or at least the part that isn’t mentally degenerate and thinks that the Greens are to blame whilst denying climate change – is reeling in the aftermath, and the media is just so shocked at how naughty the Coalition has been. As if they didn’t know, and as if they think they can pretend to be innocent while being complicit. The outrage is back! About 6 and 8 months too fucking late, and we are literally going down in flames as a result.
Our governments may be the ones who have screwed us all over with their life-threatening agenda of not giving a shit, but the media is responsible for paving the way, and us, the Australian public, are responsible for voting them in. Not me, personally – I would never willingly do something so egregious and self-harming. But as a nation, a people, we have brought this on ourselves, and blood has been shed in our name on our own soil.
It’s the same cycle, over and over. We are outraged when it is acceptable to be outraged, when we the people have no “legitimate” way to prevent it, and become numb when elections come through. That is not good enough – it never has been, and it is only getting worse. The outrage needs to be maintained, it needs to be felt, and it needs to force change.
Anything less is suicide with the climate.
Read my pieces on the media, specifically the Sydney Morning Herald, before and after the NSW election here:
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