Hello Humans: Turnbull kills the culture coz he can’t flip the bill

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He would have known going in amending the Racial Discrimination Act would get him nowhere, but he did it anyway.

President Trumble spent what feels like week #1010 in Parliament paying lip-service to the ideological minority in the backbench. Amending section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was actually strengthening Australia’s free speech, he claimed, while simultaneously protecting Muslims, the Indigenous, LGBTIQ, women, other vaguely ethnic people and any of those other bullies out for equality and freedom from harassment by the likes of the career politicians enacting the reforms in the first place.

But harassment is harder to prove than “insult, offend or humiliate” and that is the point. If it isn’t already clear as mud, The Prime Minister bounced on the podium with the fervour of a well-heeled schnauzer (his leash hidden from view by his loyal owner to the right, a balding man with spectacles), promising to make it easier for his colleagues to use their power against those they deem an enemy, without legal reprisal. Mainly the anti-equality folks I mentioned in the previous par.

This past week our own Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was goodly enough to serve as a test case for exactly this scenario. 

Under the current act, “go back to your knitting” could be seen as a deliberate attempt to “insult, offend, or humiliate” Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce – who happens to be gay – for having the audacity to partner with Telstra, throwing the companies’ support behind marriage equality.

But if Brandis and Co are successful at having the act amended, Dutton is home free and spared the threat of a defamation lawsuit, and is therefore free not to watch his Ps & Qs as he goes about diplomacy. (Funny how legal reprisals, not basic human decency is the incentive here, but I digress). If section 18C is successfully amended, we can expect more thinly veiled homophobic jibes like this from the leaders of our nation and their loyal lapdog, Malcolm.

“We won’t be bullied by CEOs on gay marriage”, Dutton snarled, still days away from having it revealed he was meant to be helping the Turnbull government secure marriage equality before the next election, mainly so Labor will stop using it as a tool to beat it over the head with, and seemingly had been doing so, behind the scenes.

Obviously someone from the backbench had a little word and next thing you know Dutton’s fronting the cameras, all sound and fury, warning party donors they better not push this government around on marriage equality…Everything else is still on the table, though, obviously.

If today’s editorial was meant to restore Dutton’s reputation, it failed, rather reading as though he deliberately sabotaged his own leader’s push to have everyone deemed equal under the law. It makes him look bad to both sides: Either Dutton was sabotaging marriage equality, or he was helping his leader.  It’s a lose-lose scenario that I’m rather tickled to be writing about, really.

Let’s also not ignore the fact that the minority government is prepared to risk Liberal Seats over an issue that won’t pass muster, let-alone the Senate. Liberal Ministers are being forced to betray their multi-cultural constituencies in order to sell this bitter onion. (See, Abbott never really left).

For never was there a more ironic tail than these so-called champions of the free market and free speech spewing rhetorical bile and hellfire at the private sector claiming that the companies keeping the party – and the economy –  afloat are holding the government hostage. Never mind that allowing the other 50% of this country to wed – and divorce – would pump much needed resources back into the economy. If you can’t get your head around Marriage Equality as an ethical or moral issue, Petey, think of it as economic one.

Between restricting the free speech of anyone who disagrees with you and wasting billions keeping dying industries alive – coal, gas – when there are cheaper more sustainable alternatives, it smacks of leftism of the highest order.

That’s very un-Pete of you, Dutton.

Australia just marginally avoided a recession and there’s Malcolm at the lectern talking about strengthening freedom of speech in a country that just laid to rest a documented racist who made a career out of predictable Indigenous and Muslim stereotypes.

Besides the increase in the number of civilised people publicly telling Dutton he’s wrong, where is this so-called war on free speech coming from? Dutton all but called Joyce a ‘poof’ on television. I don’t remember anyone trying to stop him, or censor him or pull the segment from the airwaves.

In any case, Turnbull’s announcement to strip 18C followed less than 24 hours after the release of  the government’s Harmony Day statement, “a message to the seven and a half million people who’ve migrated to Australia since 1945, a recognition that nearly half of Australians are born overseas, or has a parent”. The Prime Minister had this to say:

“Mutual respect, learning English and national security are the keys to continued to success”.

Did you catch that?

In a statement celebrating multiculturalism the Prime Minister suggested that its continued success relied on them foreigners learning to speak English proper and protecting national security…. by not being terrorists? I don’t really know but arguably the statement was badly timed and in poor taste.

He continued:

“No-one can look in the mirror and say, ‘Australians only look like this’. Australians look like every face, every race, every background because we define ourselves and our nation by our commitment to shared political values, democracy, freedom and the rule of law…. Which I am about to change for the political convenience of my colleagues.”

I made that last bit up but I think you agree the language is more honest and transparent.

In any case they don’t have the votes.

Labor was all but breaking out the stubbies, such was the grilling in the Senate this morning.

Which means Turnbull, Brandis and Dutton have wasted a fortnight (if not a year) lowering the standard of debate in this country. All for the ideological satisfaction of the fundamentalists on the backbench and the NLP’s ageing older constituents, putting to bed “the perceived slight of not being able to demonise them like you could in the good old days”, as Crikey political editor, Bernard Keane so eloquently put it.

What a man. What a visionary. What a dudd.

Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott because he said Australia needed a new vision for its future. That vision for the future reads a lot like the past.

Claire Connelly is working on her first book, How The World Really Works, a guide to recognising rhetorical red flags and immunising yourself against bullshit. You should definitely buy it when it comes out. A podcast of the same name will also be launching in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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