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Letters from Downunder

Only a pound of flesh?

The portrait of a blinking idiot
- Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, act 2, sc 9

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

(11/2014) ‘Demanding your pound of flesh’ has long epitomised lengths to which uncaring people will go to obtain payment for something they deem to be their due. Shylock, Shakespeare’s merchant, has a name equal to that of Pilate in opprobrium for his heartlessness, and it is sad that today’s batch of Shylocks fail to see the similarity when they look in the mirror. Well, we have a merchant of Venice here right now, and he is also a merchant of blinking idiocy. His name is Tony Abbott, he is a product of a conservative Jesuit School and heritage who got himself elected by a whisker thanks to the power and stupidity of another idiot, Rupert Murdoch.

He took great care to put such negative spin on existing things, like a mining or carbon tax, that he could axe them with impunity (which is producing outrage from the great majority here and abroad), and to not make policies that could be examined, hoping that a win could be mandated into their implementation. Which has happened, bringing Australia to a situation that has never occurred before, indeed could not have been imagined. You have tasted such things under the banner of the tea party, but they seem small beer compared to our Tony, who may become their hero.

He’s an old fashioned clever, scheming, misogynist, with just one woman in cabinet; a big business buff, a free-trader without due diligence, a super small government man who is attempting to cut welfare, family support, youth allowance, research, school funding, and so on, while assuring us, like Mac the Knife, that all is well, we just have to trust him to get the country into the black. That is sure to be bruised and livid, not solvent.

Fortunately our voting system is such that independent senators now control which legislation will be passed, making them objects of woo who want to develop their popularity with the populace. Many of Tony’s plans will bite the dust in their present form, but things of a local nature are not, nor are they going to be, the real problem, devastating as they will be. Here’s some of the bigger issues:

We, together will all western countries, have uncounted numbers of refugees trying to get in. Since our intake of legitimate refugees has been cut severely, we have many trying to come by boat after paying a lot of money to get on. Boat is a loose term in this context, many sinking on the way and being rescued by our navy. This was often a front page story while Tony was in opposition, but in power he has forbidden the reporting of any news on the issue, using the phrase ‘sovereign borders’ to turn them back, this time to their point of origin; some to Indonesia, some to Sri Lanka or India where they face certain detention at best. Included are many children, and whether you have a view on illegal migrants or not, sending children to detention camps is not part of the UN charter on refugees or human rights. He’s getting lots of criticism over that, and rightly so.

Free trade agreements with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan will allow those countries to import their own labour at that countries rates, and to have ready access to our infrastructure, finances, and housing. That’s selling the farm at knockdown prices, all for the sake of a big ego building smile from those countries.

Trade with China will continue, as our raw materials, especially gas, coal and iron ore are exported to be turned into cheap consumer goods and high tech items, although to date we are not buying Chinese made defense systems. Subsidies to heavy manufacturing have been withdrawn, meaning they are leaving us, with thousands unemployed and nothing new to take their place; that’s seen as a good thing in the long run, as they were not Australian and also paid low taxes. It seems not to bother us that the swelling ranks of the unemployed and their families must be tolerated, especially when their welfare payments will be cut to the bone.

There will be no carbon price, no greenhouse gas cuts, but rather the reverse. New coal fired plants are being licensed, brown coal exports are being ramped up (brown coal is the worst fuel for CO2 emission), global warming is a myth, rising sea levels are no competition to rising dividends, wind power is just hot air, and solar is best when you have no sun, as in Europe.

Caught the whiff of idiocy yet? WAIT! There’s more:

America has been our friendly trading partner for over 60 years. We have pitched out tent in the shade of yours, welcomed your bounty and protection, sent you our movie stars and directors, laughed at your sitcoms, kept you amused, brought your goods, traveled to your land and made friends. Our politicians have been aware of the strength of the bonds, and have shown their loyalty by buying billions of dollars worth of ‘tactical’ aircraft. The deals are tactical, at least. We hitched our wagon to your star, and it doesn't matter too much that Ford, GM, Alcoa and friends have left us, because we know you will always look out for us on the world stage.

But Tony, showing off his budgies (OK, they’re the things that show up in his swim suits), with his training in Jesuit logic, believes he can schmooze up to China while saluting the stars and stripes. Hence, during his recent visit to you, he assured the president that we had a scheme to cut greenhouse gasses, but not that it was about to get the axe. He said that the Western pacific was able to be shared, that harmony was achievable. He respected you, wanted more deployment of your troops here. But, as we all know, when you go to bed with dogs, you wake up with fleas, or at least a bad smell. He, and we, cannot juggle two masters, and the time is approaching when he will be put to the test as China’s forays into arm flexing become serious steps to expansion of not just their economy and influence, but their control over the region.

He’s welcomed Japan’s rearmament, but will soon have to state which side he’s on. It’s not Australia first, it’s Tony. It’s his pound of flesh, the price of election. I cannot imagine your tea party going down that line, as national pride is so important to them. Tony’s pride seems to be not in national sovereignty but in roiling coffers, so he is being treated with disgust, disquiet, and disdain. His friends are big money and shock-jocks, and no educator, scientist, unionist, social worker, doctor or man in the street can abide him. Well, maybe a few, but he’s a Shylock carving off our flesh, and fits the bill of a blinking idiot to a T.

OK, He’s shown some leadership over the Malaysian airlines affair in Eastern Ukraine, thanks to our straight talking Julie Bishop, but it’s peacock stuff really, a big display with a thousand eyes that cannot see, but domestically? It’s Marie Antoinette all over again – the latest is that those on the dole will have to apply for 40 jobs a month before they get it. There are no jobs, employers will have to hire staff to process those applications, a lose-lose situation.

Got any room at your place?

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker