Because it suits Coalition members to do so. Why do so many of those in the MSM choose to crawl into that imaginary world with the Coalition? Because it suits them too.
The refuge the Coalition and its supporters have taken in their make-believe world has reached pathological proportions. They give the impression they believe the fantasies and myths they have themselves woven, that they have become addicted to them. It goes back a long way, and they show no sign of recovery. Addictive personalities know that while recognition of their condition is challenging, cure depends on it.
There are so many examples of the mythical world of Tony Abbott and his colleagues that we don’t have to go back all that far to see the telltale signs.
Remember the global financial crisis? What crisis, Coalition members recited in unison? What crisis, echoed News Limited? Joe Hockey talked about ‘the recession we never had’ as if it was a figment of economists’ imagination. ‘What recession’ he asked. For those with failing memory, or those who simply cannot accommodate uncomfortable facts, in 2008 the world suffered the largest financial downturn since the Great Depression of the thirties. The Rudd Government acted swiftly, following the Ken Henry dictum, ‘go early, go hard, go households’. A stimulus package was devised and implemented swiftly: a rapid injection of cash payments, followed by programs such as the Home Insulation Program and the Building the Education Revolution program, designed to stimulate the construction industry and support local businesses, while replacing aging school infrastructure or adding to it, followed by a more unhurried roll out of bigger infrastructure projects. It had the desired effect of avoiding recession here, keeping workers in employment and stimulating retail trade.
But in its make-believe bubble, the Coalition scarcely recognized the peril we faced, the potential it presented for massive unemployment, and the danger it posed to business. It criticized the Government’s actions. Malcolm Turnbull, in his Woodford Festival address last month, flagellated the Government for saying that the Coalition had voted against the stimulus package, insisting it had voted for it. In an address on truth in politics
, it was curious that Turnbull chose to tell only half the truth. The Coalition had voted for the smaller first tranche but against the larger second. In the bubble that Turnbull lives with his Coalition colleagues, he apparently believes what he says. That is the problem.
Australia not only survived the global downturn, but also prospered, standing head and shoulders among comparable nations. It evoked words of high praise for its management of our economy during the GFC from the IMF, the World Bank and economists worldwide; our Treasurer Wayne Swan received the Euromoney
Magazine’s award of the ‘world’s finance minister of the year’. Yet Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott were out there denying that Swan had done anything out of the ordinary. Why, because the GFC hardly existed here! Whenever they emerged from their bubble to travel overseas, they thumped their chests with pride at the state of our economy, but back home they tell anyone who will listen how poor it is, how mismanaged it is by an incompetent Government that has no idea how to manage money, which is heavily into reckless spending, debt and deficit. They are still at it. Although completely contrary to the facts of the economy, they drew many in the MSM into their fantasy world to sing in unison from their song-sheet, and in the process convinced many in the public likewise, a public that still ranks the Coalition above Labor in the management of the economy, and trusts it more to manage any future GFC
. It is one thing to live in an imaginary world oneself, but to suck others in is reprehensible.
The fantasy continues to this day. Even now Joe Hockey hammers the Government because it borrowed money to stimulate the economy, although it is now in the process of repaying it and steadily reducing the deficit. He talks as if there was no need for the borrowing; there was no crisis to be averted, no economic disaster to be avoided. He is still on the ‘reckless spending’, ‘debt and deficit’, ‘Swan will never bring in a surplus budget’ bandwagon, as if none of what the Government did was necessary at all. It was all a bad dream that really needed no action, but in the throes of a nightmare the Government ‘panicked’ and recklessly reacted leaving us bereft and in monumental debt, spending a million dollars a day in interest. Joe Hockey would have us believe the myth that the economy and our finances are in a desperate state, when every rational economist, here and overseas, tells us the opposite.
Recently, the fund manager of BlackRock, an investment company that holds $US3.7 trillion worldwide in government bonds, in his latest update of sovereign risk, ranked Australian government bonds as the world's seventh least risky
, up from 10th least risky three months ago, adding that no other nation has managed to jump three places in the latest survey. Although the finding is at odds with a claim made by Joe Hockey last August that Labor was "adversely impacting Australia's sovereign risk profile", Hockey still disagrees. BlackRock's Australian head of fixed income, Steve Miller, insisted that Australia's position was "exceedingly strong" and strengthening, but Hockey still differs. Facts are irrelevant to him in his fantasyland.
Joe lives happily in his mythical world of make believe, talking down the economy because it suits him, because it suits his narrative. He surely can’t believe his fantasies. Only the delusional could. So he simply tells lies to suit his and his colleagues’ political purposes.
Lying has been par for the course for a long while for the Coalition. It created a make-believe world around the HIP, where it declared Minister Garratt was guilty of ‘industrial manslaughter’ when four workers died installing ceiling insulation, all of which were subsequently found to have succumbed because of poor industrial safety practices. But in the Coalition's imaginary world Garratt might as well have killed them by his own neglect. News Limited screamed in harmony.
The BER was over 97% successful according to three official reports by Brad Orgill, but in the Coalition’s fantasy world, in its imaginary bubble, it was a monumental disaster, a shocking example of Labor’s profligate waste and mismanagement, with schools and parents united in opposition to this intrusion into their hallowed precincts. Julia Gillard Memorial Halls were the subject of ridicule, yet Coalition members turned up at the openings to catch a little of the reflected admiration and praise that flowed on those occasions. They emerged from their fantasy world long enough to enjoy real world recognition for a good job well done, even although they had opposed the BER all the way. The Australian
newspaper, Australia’s preeminent mythmaker, eagerly followed the Coalition into its make-believe world, publishing column after column, month after month, purportedly exposing the ‘waste and mismanagement’. We hear little from that paper of the BER now because its anti-BER campaign has served its purpose – it has drawn many voters onto the BER fantasy island to sing the ‘waste and mismanagement’ song reflexly on cue. Don’t be surprised though by the reprise that will come election time.
Perhaps the most grotesque world of make believe was the one constructed by Tony Abbott with the sycophantic Greg Hunt bringing up the rear, who insisted that the evil carbon tax, ‘a tax built on a lie’, would force prices up and up and up, costing the housewife a fortune every time she opened her fridge or turned to her traditional task of ironing. Barnaby Joyce told us all that lamb roasts would cost $100. Whole industries and towns would be wiped out, and countless workers thrown on the dole queue.
The Coalition had plenty of support from News Limited, which painted sad pictures of struggling families on $150,000 a year facing untold financial stress under the carbon tax. How many voters were sucked into that bubble of make believe we shall never know, but the unpopularity of the carbon tax showed up time and again in opinion polls.
Now of course, over seven months after a price on carbon began, more and more realize they were conned. They now know that Abbott, Hunt, Joyce, Hockey and Co. sucked them into an imaginary mythical world replete with demons and dragons breathing fire. The carbon tax, like the Medusa, had a hideous face disfigured by all manner of venomous snakes to strike down our citizens. Now that they have awoken, the people realize it was just a bad dream, for some even a nightmare, that vanished with the dawn. Many now realize that this dream world, this bizarre fantasy, was a deliberately constructed product of strategic planners in the Coalition and at News Limited, for which they will pay the price for their deception, for their deliberate ‘calling wolf’. You can fool people only some of the time. While Michelle Grattan struggled to give Abbott even the tiniest slap on the wrist for ‘over-egging’ the effects of the carbon tax; many voters will not struggle planting their boot where it hurts most.
Another fantasy that Abbott and Hunt created is the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan to combat climate change. Although it will cost each household $1,300 a year, a fact almost buried by our MSM, they expect the people to crawl into the imaginary world they have constructed where 20 million trees will be planted, on semi-arid land (because farmers need all the arable land to grow food and fibre), where by definition water is scarce, by Abbott’s 15,000 strong Green Army, which will need to be recruited, deployed, housed in semi-arid environments, and of course paid. No mention is ever made of the logistics of such an exercise in a nation where labour is in short supply. It is pure fantasy. No respectable economist endorses the scheme, and environmentalists assert that it will take at least five years before growing trees could become effective carbon sinks. Yet, the MSM scarcely utters a word of condemnation for this make believe scheme, not even a word of caution. The public is allowed, even encouraged to walk into the Abbott/Hunt fantasyland of a Direct Action Plan as if it is real, as if it can work. It is a myth. They are relying on its name, and the feeling of plausibility that it evokes, to convince the people it is real. But it is fiction, deliberately planned fiction. Hunt has recently added to the fantasy by saying it is ‘inconceivable’ that Labor would not support the Coalition in abolishing the carbon tax, should Labor lose in 2013.
If you think that my accusation that the Coalition and its fellow travelers live in an imaginary world is insufficiently contemporary, reflect on Joe Hockey’s recent comments about Labor’s concession that it might not be able to meet its planned budget surplus. Why might this be so? Even the disinterested must know that the prices for iron ore, coal, and gas have come off their peak, that demand from big buyers such as China has fallen, and that as a result revenue from mining has fallen far below expectations, expectations based on estimates made years previously.
Yet Joe Hockey, talking from his imaginary world where he avoids acknowledging that anything has changed, would have us believe that lower commodity prices and diminished sales are illusory and therefore ought to have no effect on revenue. At least he hopes, as does his leader, that we will believe that piece of make-believe and swallow his line that failing to reach a surplus is just another ‘broken promise’, and a ‘solemnly made one’ to boot. Hockey’s charade continued all this week in QT, where he tabled copies of hundreds of instances where a surplus had been promised, although it had been pointed out by the PM in her NPC address, and repeatedly in answers to questions, the economic facts underlying her change of tack. Wayne Swan marvelled that Hockey and the Coalition could be in such denial of these facts, could live in their ‘alternative universe’ where such facts are of no consequence, and could not understand that Labor considered it sounder economically to protect jobs and foster growth than seek a surplus at their cost.
Hockey avoids reality. Competing as he does with his leader for the title of mythmaker-in-chief, he retreats into his own fantasyland where the only facts allowed in are the ones he finds convenient; the inconvenient ones are dispersed in a puff of blue smoke at the tip of his magic inconvenient-fact wand. His intent is simply to lampoon the Government and his counterpart, to reinforce the ‘Labor can’t manage money’ myth, and to add ‘another Labor lie’ to the Coalition’s long list.
Hockey even had the temerity to insist that the recent lowering of interest rates was a sign that the economy was tanking, this from a man who has boasted endlessly that interest rates will always be lower under a Coalition government. He walks into his own fantasyland where low interest rates under Labor are bad, but under the Coalition are good. As Humpty Dumpty would have said: ‘Interest rates can mean whatever I want them to mean’.
In their fantasy worlds, Abbott and Hockey admit no bouquets for the Gillard Government’s many reforms and accomplishments, but, like squirrels hoarding for winter, are able to accommodate any number of brickbats to hurl at the Government. Anything that might be used to demean the PM or her Government is stored for future use. Even on the occasion of Julia Gillard visiting her recently widowed mother for Christmas was used by Hockey to demean her as gutless for not returning to Canberra to make the deficit announcement.
Yet, he and his Coalition colleagues seem able to airbrush away any suggestion that there has been a conspiracy to imperil the elected government in what is now termed ‘Ashbygate'. The Coalition fantasyland disallows admission to anything that is damaging to it. This piece asserts that the Coalition, its prime spokesmen on matters economic, Abbott, Hockey, Cormann, and Joyce, and its many sycophantic media journalists, live in an imaginary world that Coalition strategists construct in order to run a narrative that is consistently negative to the Gillard Government.
I hope this piece will establish a mindset among readers about what is really happening, rather than what the largely compliant media would have us believe. We need to go into 'politics 2013' aware of how the public is being conned, over and over again, with myth after myth. Realizing that most voters are disinterested in politics and many disgusted with the political play they have seen for two years now, knowing how messages need to be simple and plausible even if dishonest, Coalition strategists construct plausible, even attractive imaginary worlds, fantasylands into which they lure the incautious and the disinterested to soak up the fantasy, to convince the unthinking that at every step, with every move, the Gillard Government is a disaster, an ongoing failure from which recovery is impossible.
But these strategists, these political figures, these columnists are not stupid. They are intelligent and cunning. So the question that begs an answer is: ‘Do they really believe this crap?’ If they do, they are delusional and ought to be on medication. If they don’t, they are unmitigated liars determined to deceive the people of Australia and con them into voting Coalition. The latter alternative more aptly fits the bill.
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