Federal politics has gone all topsy-turvy and I’m having trouble hanging on. It’s an upside-down-world where night is day, black is white, and cats bark at cars driving people.
At least that’s how it seems, with the Prime Minister and his government insisting that things are the opposite of reality.
In this new reverse-world, the federal budget is under control. Yet only two weeks ago, the PM and his Treasurer were still talking about Australia having a budget emergency – thanks to the ‘profligacy’ of previous Labor governments – and that we’d all be rooned if the Senate didn’t wake up to itself and pass the rest of last year’s budget.
However a few days later Abbott told an astonished gathering of press gallery journalists that the budget is now under control. This is despite there being no change in the Senate’s disposition to block budget measures that are unfair to the old, the young and the sick.
In fact, in this back to front world, the PM says we should stop focussing on the ferals in the Senate altogether. This is probably because they draw inordinate attention to what the government hasn’t achieved. Abbott says we should pay attention instead to matters of greater importance to voters, such as labelling food to ensure Australians can avoid buying stuff from foreigners, and cracking down on other laws to ensure Australians can avoid selling stuff to foreigners (like houses and property).
However, in our alternate reality (a place I like to call “the real world”), the budget isn’t under control at all. In fact, Treasury officials confirmed last week there’s no chance of Australia achieving a surplus on current budgetary settings in the next forty years.
Tertiary education reform isn’t under control in the real world either, despite Education Minister Christopher Pyne saying otherwise. After trying to extort the Senate into passing his legislation to allow universities to set their own fees – by claiming the jobs of 1700 researchers were dependent on the associated budget savings – Pyne ‘found’ the required funds to ‘save’ the jobs that he alone had threatened.
That, according to the Minister, resolved the matter, because apparently he’s a ‘fixer’.
Yet the matter didn’t look particularly resolved last week when the Senate blocked Pyne’s legislation yet again.
These are the most prominent examples of the strategy to convince voters that the government’s alternate reality is in fact the real world – a strategy that’s based on the political reality that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes a generally accepted fact, even when the lie seems patently obvious to those who are paying attention.
Regrettably, the strategy works best with those who aren’t paying much attention, which is the vast bulk of the Australian community. And it is particularly potent when the lies tell voters what they want to hear.
While those of us who try to keep across the facts are appalled by the government trying to create an alternate realty with blatant porkies, many others will be guided by their own confirmation bias and unquestioningly accept the lies as truth.
These are the people who believed the carbon tax was bad and they’d get $550 when it was scrapped. Who think the aged pension is increasing even though it’s being cut in real terms. Who accept the contention that Australia is now safer than a couple of years ago even though the threat of terrorist attacks has increased in the past 12 months. And who’ll offer no protest when told that “things” like abuse in offshore detention centres can “happen”.
Abbott and his government are building an alternate reality with nothing other than lies and chutzpah in the hope it will provide them cover until the next election. This reverse-world can induce dizziness in those who’re paying attention, but it’s up to them to challenge and tear down the edifice.