I agree with Tim Dunlop when he says we’re currently living through a phase of ‘the normalisation of bad politics’. There are hundreds of examples of the way in which the low expectations of the Abbott government due to their blatantly, and now universally acknowledged ineptitude is giving them a free pass to keep being inept without the usual outrage that follows. Just this week, Hunt has been on a campaign of lying, saying his Direct Action policy is stunningly successful and that it will easily meet the 2020 target of reducing emissions by 5%. But it won’t. All you need is a calculator to understand why. And he gets away with lying that the Carbon Price wasn’t working, when in fact a cursory search of Google will show factually that it was, in its short life time, working just as it was meant to thank you very much.
Another whopper of an example is when Abbott recently cancelled, after putting on hold, his paid parental leave scheme. The most the media could muster over this huge broken promise to Abbott’s ‘signature policy’, or what Howard once would have called a ‘core promise’, was a few lines in the newspaper or a mention on the nightly news. And then it was done. Nothing to see here, move along. Sure, it was a brain fart of a policy to start with, and deserved to be dumped. But I have no doubt that some voters liked the idea of being paid their salary for six months of maternity leave, and voted accordingly. Where was the outrage from these people? There was no one calling Abbott a liar. There was no on questioning his credibility as Prime Minister. There was no one turning his name into a description for someone who doesn’t tell the truth.
The worst part was that the media aren’t the only ones who have given up being surprised by Abbott and his government’s backflips and lies. The electorate, us, have come to a point where we too expect the worst from Abbott, and when, every day, the bar for the ‘worst thing Abbott did’ was raised a little higher, I worry that we’re too fatigued by the long and continuous disgrace of this first term abomination of a government, that we too can’t muster the energy to respond with the appropriate, and justified level of hot blooded rage. For some, it might not be a problem of lack of energy, but rather lack of time. We all have lives, we’re all busily trying to survive in this country which is being whacked daily by the Abbott wrecking ball and there’s just too many outrageous Abbott government disasters to mount a campaign of outrage for every single one. You would need to be ready every day with your outrage energy loaded. I’ll put my hand up as someone who just literally finds it hard to have the time to keep up with all the damage Abbott is doing, let alone respond to every single detail.
I also agree with Dunlop that the failed leadership spill which saw Abbott remain in his job as Prime Minister, was a massive hit to the outrage energy levels. Sure, the rational part of me wanted him to stay and wanted him to maintain his bad polls so that he will comprehensively lose the next election and become a one-term blip that we will eventually laugh about after brick-by-brick rebuilding our damaged communities. But the emotional part of me just wanted him gone. And when he wasn’t gone, the incompetence and embarrassment, and shame, and disappointment, and fear of the damage he’s doing that can’t be undone, and daily frustration that this man was ever elected Prime Minister in the first place, remained. It was like someone moved the horizon that we were running determinedly towards and now it feels like we’re going to be stuck with this moron forever but we don’t have the energy to run anymore. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to even walk. I’m limping!
But luckily, I’m an optimist at heart so this is not where the story ends. Because I’ve got an idea. I’ve got a plan for how we can re-boot the outrage in a productive way. What we need to do is to try to stop focussing on the trees and deal instead with the wood. Rather than trying, and failing to highlight our outrage for every single thing the Abbott government does, we need to focus on the big picture ideological problem and maintain the rage that such an ideology runs this country. We need to change the way we vent our outrage so that it becomes a blanket that covers everything and anything the Abbott government does in one all-encompassing umbrella.
For instance, it’s clear that the Abbott government lies about almost everything it does – particularly when it comes to explanations for their policy motivations. So rather than unpick every policy detail of the upcoming budget, let’s just all scream in unison ‘stop lying to us about the state of this nation to justify your ideological small government!’ Because that’s what Abbott’s been doing since he won the top job. We also know that the Abbott government will always, without fail, preference the rich and industry barons over the poor, middle class, workers and welfare recipients. So rather than look at one pension change, or one tax fiddle that hits the poor but leaves Gina Rinehart untouched, let’s unite to say ‘we’re not going to stand for this inequity! Stop protecting the rich at the expense of the poor!’ And every time Abbott and co. do these things, call them out for the big picture. Remind voters that all Abbott’s policies, and all his reactions to Labor policies, fit in these boxes. This is who the Abbott government is and we need to make sure voters don’t forget it. Make memes, tweet about it, share outrage on Facebook, tell your workmates, rant about it on the bus. But forget about trying to cover all policy bases, all the outrageous details. Focus on the beast rather than the teeth. And the beast will be slayed. We have just over a year to make this work. Fire up! Who’s with me?