“The Australian corporate élite is demanding an end to ‘entitlements’ in order to force welfare recipients to take any work available, and drive down the wages and conditions of the working class as a whole” writes George Venturini in the conclusion to his outstanding exposé on Scott Morrison. And who better to implement these demands than Morrison himself?
There were some subdued, critical voices from the Labor Party, too. None from the Coalition spoke against the bill.
Perhaps one should overcome a certain discomfort in giving so much emphasis to the view of the Greens. They are what is regarded, occasionally with a touch of disdain, as a ‘small’ party. It certainly is so, if one counts heads more than ideas.
On the subject of asylum seekers the Greens are loyal to a declaration which was prepared by a famous Labor man, Dr. H. V. Evatt, amongst others illustrious contributors such as Eleanor Roosevelt. That anchoring point is very simply but finally stated, and beyond equivocation: Art. 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
“(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
It is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. The Declaration consists of thirty articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The Declaration is the starting point for The International Bill of Human Rights, and must be read together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights. In 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law. It binds all law abiding countries – even Australia. It cannot be derogated from, unilaterally amended – let alone disregarded for that would make of the actor an outlaw. It cannot be debased by self-righteousness, or twisted in the name of some kind of market-fundamentalist faith that everything and everybody is for sale. The ‘gospel of prosperity’?
Perhaps, ministers such as Scott Morrison would not mind some deviant aberration. It is not beyond the possibility that the ideal representative of a ‘judicial’ system which would suit Morrison is a High Court presided over by some Australian version of Roland Freisler, who was a prominent and notorious Nazi ‘lawyer’ and ‘judge’, State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the Volksgerichtshof, the notorious People’s Court which was set up outside humane – and never mind constitutional – authority.
‘The Greens’ have a history which makes their Party almost coterminous with the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Both were born in 1992.
The Australian Greens were brought together by a desire to respond to a question persistently posed by the philosopher Peter Singer: “How ethical is Australia?”
It is to that end that several groups and individuals, moving from different positions: war resisters, Quakers, former members of a ‘Westminster wing’ – mainly Labor, environmentalists, surviving members of the Nuclear Disarmament Party – others, too, got together in a confederation of eight state and territory parties which form ‘the Greens’. Members are linked by loyalty to four fundamental points: grassroots democracy, social justice, ecological sustainability, and peace and non-violence.
They see themselves as keepers of the country’s conscience which is rapidly disappearing.
In June 2014 a very distinguished scholar was publicly wondering: “Is the Abbott government Fascist?” He felt justified in asking the question by the observation that “Since the last Federal election, people have been shocked at where Australia seems to be heading. So where is Australia heading? Towards fascism? There are straws in the wind.”
He is in excellent and learned company. L. W. Britt’s fourteen defining characteristics of Fascism have been re-examined by A. Broinowski, G. Hassan, U. Eco, P. Cannon, and others.
They agree on identifying the basic characteristics in Australia: nationalism, disdain for human rights, scapegoating as a means of unifying, supremacy of the military, sexism, controlled mass media, obsession with national security, religion and government intertwined, protection of corporate interests, suppression of labour power, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, obsession with crime and punishment, rampant cronyism and corruption, fraudulent elections – and those categories accompanied by pathological lying. They are all there, the experience of one year of Abbott government.
Some of those characteristics are buffoonish: the re-introduction of Imperial titles of Dame and Sir. No one rejected the ‘honour’ by the way! The intention of the person responsible for such retrograde ‘reform’ must be regarded as indicative of a mentality of vassalage.
Further, there is a feeling of a predominant form of ‘exceptionalism’ – not in the American style, of course; no Australian leader would attempt to justify him/(her ?)self on the ground that Australia is exceptional, established by God. Historians such as Biggs, and Clark, and Reynolds, and Ward still have readers and students to speak of invasion, the theft of the land, the unimaginable suffering of Indigenous People, the imposition of Christian bigotry and forced conversions, along with genocide. Daily, the ordinary people are presented with, reminded of life in the greatest country of the world, and everything is the greatest, the most successful, in a grandly inebriated ‘Australian way of life’. Australians like to think of themselves as generous, fair minded to a fault and willing to help foreigners who are less fortunate. True, somewhat. They tend to ignore that every country crafts itself around a national myth which incorporates its own unique virtues, believing instead that only Godsownland is for real. Isolated and protected Australians frequently have difficulty in realising that virtues and vices are pretty much evenly distributed among most countries – including Australia. But Australians can also be ignorant, bigoted, small minded and brutal, if the foreigner who seeks help is dirty – and not by choice, without documents, a ‘queue jumper’, and arrives in a way which is not ‘fair go’. If in addition s/he is Hindu, there is a problem. And the problem becomes a pest if s/he is Muslim.
Real-Australians, those born here or those who have assimilated the rhetoric for lack of discernment or for personal convenience, may not know much about the ‘unitary executive doctrine’, whereby the authority of the government chief executive – the Prime Minister – is virtually unlimited, particularly in time of national emergency. And it is he (hardly she) who proclaims it.
Declaring a national emergency is itself conveniently the responsibility of the chief executive, meaning that s/he can de facto grant himself unrestricted authority. It is a prospective very much far away from a regime of prevailing human rights for all, particularly if the ‘popular’ view is that a Bill of Rights could be harmful if administered by ‘un-elected’ people.
The ‘unitary executive doctrine’ was developed to its extreme by ‘jurists’ in Germany in the 1930s. It was described as the Führer Prinzip – leader principle in English. It leads to the consequence that the government can do no wrong and cannot be held accountable precisely because it is the government. Against it there is a rudimentary form of revenge at elections.
As to having a real, modern, republican, secular, direct, responsible democracy ? Well, wait a minute, that is not a spectator sport! There is no such thing in the ‘Mother of Parliament’! Go back where you came from!
So, to conclude, it is not beyond the realm of probability that Abbott may wish to reward “a very tough and competent political operator [such as Morrison, who is] also an extremely decent human being.”, as he said on moving Morrison from Immigration to Social Services. Morrison’s new brief is to apply the same brazen brutality to welfare recipients. The Australian corporate élite is demanding an end to “entitlements” in order to force welfare recipients to take any work available, and drive down the wages and conditions of the working class as a whole.
Morrison’s task is to enlist supporters for policies to restrict eligibility for social security, condemn people to utter destitution and reduce government spending as part of a broader austerity agenda. Access to payments such as unemployment benefits, disability support pensions, aged pensions and family benefits will all be targeted. Will the minister who ‘stopped the boats’ will be the one to ‘stop the bludgers’ next?
Perhaps, an elevation to the House of Lords may not be out of sight. That would place Morrison out of Abbott’s sight, too.
After all there is ‘precedent’. Stanley Melbourne Bruce, was first made 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne and in 1947 he became the first Australian to sit in the House of Lords; in 1960 Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, was made Baron Casey of Berwick in the State of Victoria and became the second Australian to be ‘elevated’ to the House of Lords.
It would be consonant to the Führer Prinzip that similar ‘honour’ should be bestowed, on delegation of a tired Hanoverian, by her consort: Philip – originally a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.
Arise Scott John Morrison, Lord Sixwords of Cronulla!
But why Sixwords? Simple: Eine Sprache, ein Gezetz, ein Kultur – translated into ‘One Language, One Law, One Culture’ for the benefit of the ‘boys of Cronulla’, Morrison’s grand electors.
Dr. George Venturini has devoted sixty years to the study, practice, teaching, writing and administering of law in four continents. He is the author of eight books and about 100 articles and essays for learned periodicals and conferences. Since his ‘retirement’ Dr. Venturini has been Senior Associate in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash; he is also an Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University, Melbourne. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.