Liberal (and Nationals) voters, we need to talk.
This morning I awoke to social media posts celebrating the Liberal/National win. Look, fair enough, I’m sure if the party I had voted for had won, I’d post something celebratory. Perhaps I’d gloat just a little. Or maybe a lot. As it is, I’m quite sad this morning. This does not feel like a great day for Australia.
Scott Morrison is claiming that this win is a ‘miracle’. If you voted for them, I’m guessing you may be celebrating as well (although not if you happened to be one of the folks who voted for Tony ‘the onion’ Abbott). I guess we must have very different priorities, because it certainly doesn’t seem like a win for justice, or compassion, or a better Australia. But now that we are facing a future with Scott Morrison at the helm of our nation, here are a few moral issues that I think we need to consider:
We are currently holding around 900 asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. These people are being held in conditions that have been described as ‘tantamount to torture’ by Amnesty International, and by the former President of Nauru, Sprent Dabwido. They are unable to rebuild their lives, get work, or even get appropriate mental health or medical treatment. Australians who believe in justice and compassion should be holding the Government to account on behalf of these people. If we truly believe that the only way we can ‘secure our borders’ is by treating a group of people so inhumanely that international organisation Doctors Without Borders has described them as equivalent to victims of torture, then we are without creativity, intelligence, or humanity. Alternative, humane options have been proposed by greater minds than mine.
Scott Morrison has been very proud of his hard line stance on this issue. This makes me suspect that for someone who calls himself a Christian, he doesn’t understand the second greatest commandment that Jesus talked about in the Bible. We need to be calling on our Government to immediately act to solve this issue. I believe we can maintain secure borders AND treat people with humanity. Australia, surely we are better than this.
Labor’s policies were no better, I hear you say. Not true. Labor supported the Medical Transfers bill to ensure sick asylum seekers are able to access much needed medical care in Australia. (When this came through, Morrison put on a great song and dance about ‘weakened borders’, which included the entirely wasteful reopening of the Christmas Island detention center at the cost of $185 million.) Labor also promised to negotiate third party countries for the asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, and called on the government to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 of the asylum seekers. These are at least some steps in the right direction.
Even if you don’t care about the welfare of asylum seekers, then the Government’s policies in this area don’t make sense from a financial point of view. It costs an estimated $570,000 to keep ONE asylum seeker in offshore detention every year. That adds up to a lot of money. Just one more reason that we must be calling on the Government to take immediate action on this issue.
I can’t believe I even have to write anything about this. Children are striking, protesting, and calling for action. What more do we need? Worldwide, scientists are in agreement – we must act quickly on climate change (need more convincing? See here and here and the evidence is mounting. The only people who are doubting climate change are probably loose a few screws… *Cough* Malcolm Roberts *Cough*). During this election, Morrison repeatedly mocked Labor’s plans to address climate change, while offering very little in the way of alternative policies. Instead, Morrison claimed that he had ‘saved the Great Barrier Reef’ (with a straight face, no less!). Less talk and more action, please. The Great Barrier Reef is in crisis. While our nation might worship at the altar of economic prosperity, we have a responsibility to protect our environment for future generations. This means taking decisive action, and making serious, thoughtful decisions, and doing it fast.
The Coalition has been involved in a number of corruption scandals. Leaving aside things that individuals have done (such as seemingly endless travel rorts and spending more time in the Philippines than in their own electorate, not to mention the numerous indiscretions of Barnaby Joyce), the Government has been involved in some pretty shady dealings too. There has been the Murray Darling water buybacks scandal, involving Liberal Minister Angus Taylor, $200 million, and a questionable company based in the Cayman Islands. There’s the $423 million awarded to security contractors Paladin through a shady tender process, and the $444 million given to an unknown, untested Great Barrier Reef foundation. Where is the accountability around these decisions? But wait, there’s more. What about the scandal involving travel company Hello World – Liberal Andrew Burnes has a large financial stake in the company which was awarded a huge contract by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and in return, Cormann received some free flights for a family holiday. If the government has nothing to hide, then Morrison should be introducing an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) . Anyone who cares about the integrity of our Government should be demanding this immediately.
Protecting the vulnerable
Ok, let’s talk about this. Morrison made much of his weird phrase ‘keeping the Promise of Australia to all Australians’. Who knows what that really means? We are a wealthy, lucky country. We pride ourselves on being a country where everyone gets a fair go. But some people are starting WAY behind the starting blocks. Call me crazy, but I think we need to have a system that strongly protects and advocates for the vulnerable. Where are the Coalition’s policies on affordable housing? On reducing homelessness? On providing support services for women who facing domestic violence? On improving our foster care system? On providing services for Indigenous people (particularly in remote areas) to Close the Gap? On youth mental health? I’m sure they’re there somewhere, but they are hidden under a whole bunch of empty rhetoric about having a ‘strong economy’. Spoiler alert: the economy isn’t that strong anymore. The rich will be fine when the downturn comes. It’s the vulnerable that we need to protect.
Also – the Coalition has been steadily and ruthlessly cutting our Foreign Aid budget, meaning that we are now, as a nation, the least generous that we have EVER been. Australia’s foreign aid goes towards things like training midwives in Fiji, providing access to safe water in Sri Lanka, and improving education for children in a number of impoverished areas. Does your compassion and sense of justice only apply to people born in Australia? Or do you care about children living in poverty overseas as well? If so, as a nation we need to put our money where our mouths are, and increase our foreign aid.
Deals with the devil
The Morrison government’s preference deal with the Palmer United Party undoubtedly helped them to achieve this election win. There have been reports that Palmer has paid for some LNP advertising, and that his paid workers have handed out advertising material and how-to-vote cards for both parties. What does he want in return for helping to deliver Morrison an election victory? What has Morrison promised him? His soul? (That was the black thing he was showing off in parliament some time ago, wasn’t it? Haha-jokes, we all know that was coal….) Surely we as a nation deserve to know what Clive has been promised. I think we can hazard a guess though, and it concerns a certain coal mine in Queensland.
If you voted for a Morrison government because you believe that he would make this nation a better place, now is your turn to stand up. Celebrate, sure. But then, will you demand action on these issues? On the other issues where the government is not taking action (such as allowing rampant racism to flourish, or providing generous tax breaks for the nation’s super wealthy?) The Coalition needs to let go of the cheap and easy politics of fear, division, and deceit, and do the hard work that is required to make this country a better place.
If you, like me, did not vote for this government, and are feeling a little bit of despair at the path that our nation is on, then let’s use that despair to propel us into action. Let’s contact our elected representatives and demand change. Let’s join a political party or an activist group, or stand up for what we believe in our own way. Let’s not loose hope. As Arundhati Roy said, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way. On a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.”