Feeling some pain from the self-imposed ‘wedges’ of the religious ‘freedom’ legislation in the middle of February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison changed tack. According to Morrison, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s ALP MPs were closet communist China sympathisers.
Morrison isn’t the first to try a retro themed advertising campaign. The continual remakes of advertising containing the ‘Aeroplane Jelly’ or “Louie the Fly’ jingles prove that. Transportation companies also have used the retro theme to celebrate their history. Qantas has it’s ‘retro roos
’, a number of railways in North America have applied older liveries to current locomotives, including Canadian Pacific
and even Brisbane Transport has some ‘retro buses
’ promoting ‘over 90 years of moving Brisbane
Morrison’s ‘reds under the bed’ claim is ridiculous, just as it was when used by many conservatives including former Liberal Prime Minister Robert Menzies
in the 1950s and 60s. There is no evidence that would suggest Albanese would ‘sell out’ Australia to any of the few ‘communist’ countries left in the world. Retro advertising or retro liveries are different — the company concerned has been providing the service or goods for an extended period of time, it is proud of its legacy and is highlighting its history of service to its customers.
The ‘retro livery’ is also only a facade. If you do get one of Qantas’ ‘retro roos’ on your flight, you won’t be flying on a restored 707, you’ll be sitting on a recent generation 737. Brisbane Transport’s ‘retro buses' are just vinyl graphics glued to the exterior of a handful of the hundreds of almost identical buses transporting people around Brisbane. The point is that while companies promote their heritage, they aren’t living it as they replicate the appearance of the past on their current equipment. Morrison’s Government is not only using slogans from the 60’s, we have evidence to suggest they can’t understand, let alone manage current issues.
On 17 February, Origin Energy, announced the Eraring Power Station would close seven years ahead of schedule in 2025 due to
the rapidly changing conditions in the national electricity market, which are increasingly not well suited to traditional baseload power stations
Other operators, such as AGL and Energy Australia are making similar announcements. In fact all of Australia’s coal fired power stations will be decommissioned by 2050. We’ve all known this for a while. So what is the current Coalition Government’s process to transition the 400 people that work at Eraring (and hundreds of other people as further power stations are decommissioned) into other work? Well — there isn’t one. Perhaps tellingly, the Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, claimed he wasn’t told of Eraring’s closure until the previous night
while NSW’s Energy Minister was told months ago. Perhaps Origin learnt from what AGL went through when it announced the closure of the Liddell Power Station (also in the same region) last year.
The problem isn’t solely how the power workers survive with a lack of government support to transition them into alternate work, the local communities are supported by the power workers as well. Each of the 400 workers at the plant is a person — not a number. They have families, commitments, spend money at the shops, the pub, send their kids to school and occasionally purchase new homes, cars and appliances, No wonder the local Mayor and shopkeepers are concerned
Georgina Woods, usually known for her work with Lock the Gate, represents the Nature Conservation Council on the jobs alliance.
Woods, who lives in Newcastle, said the Origin announcement was “a travesty” that could have been avoided were it not for Australia’s toxic climate politics.
Instead, there was no architecture in place to support workers.
“We can’t afford to let long term structural and environmental issues of this kind be held to ransom by the political process and elections,” she said.
She pointed to the closure of BHP’s steelworks in Newcastle in the 90s, which took years of planning and attention to pathways for workers.
“There was money from the federal government, there was investment in building stuff in Newcastle to provide new opportunities. It was a massive undertaking,” she said.
On 19 February, NSW’s Coalition Government Energy Minister, Matt Keen, announced a package that would create 3,700 roles in clean industries
. All we heard from Morrison’s Coalition Government was a continuation of the ‘reds under the bed’ retro theme, designed apparently to win votes at the next election. The strategy does carry a risk. As discussed in The Guardian
on 19 February
, the last Prime Minister to suggest that his opponent was a communist China supporter was Billy McMahon in the early 70s, and that backfired spectacularly.
Rehashing past glories is all well and good if you have a broadly positive story to tell. Boeing 707s and 1960s commuter buses have been retired for a reason, they don’t meet current expectations and requirements. While those that operated 707s and 60s commuter buses have a right to reflect on the past, their current equipment complies with current safety standards and expectations despite the deliberately applied outside appearance.
A government reliving past scare campaigns (they would say glories) without having a regard for current expectations is deluding itself as well as those that vote for it. Where is the transition package for those workers who will be affected as coal burning power stations are decommissioned? Where is the package to ensure that all Australians have the ability to live above the poverty line with dignity and respect? Where is the funding to ensure that this country has a reputable, independent media such as ABC & SBS? Where is the path for refugees to settle in Australia, or help for all those living with a disability? We haven’t even heard rhetoric on most of these issues from Morrison’s Coalition Government.
It seems that instead of addressing current issues that affect people and communities, countless hours have been spent trying to funnel funding to favoured political mates, wedge the Opposition and re-hashing scare campaigns from 60 years ago to try and keep the keys to Kirribilli House. And that isn’t acceptable now — in fact, it never has been.
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