Thus Spake Mungo: Malcolm Turnbull’s brave new world


MungoMalcolm Turnbull began last week with the regular ritual of re-announcing that, yet again, he had solved the gas crisis.

That is, he had another chat with the some of the moguls who assure him that of course they could deliver the product wherever he wanted, if the price was right.

This may not be much comfort to the consumers who have suffered so long for his neglect, but that wasn’t the point: it could be given a new place on the list of Things I Have Done – or rather, things I have promised, which is not quite the same, but will have to do for the moment.

But the big one was the other talkfest, a surprisingly (and for some time depressingly) brief meeting of COAG to curtail a few more civil liberties. Turnbull plans to further suspend habeas for 10-year-olds suspected of watching bad things on the internet and bump up the system of facial recognition.

This, he insists, is not about some kind of mass surveillance – well, not yet, anyway. That would require further actions by government, so watch this space. However it will transcend simple terrorism, which was, as always, the excuse to foreshadow yet further authoritarian measures.

The ugliest thing about this attack on the open society we are supposedly defending is that it has passed with almost no serious debate.

In the meantime it can and will be used for other ‘serious’ crimes (meaning those that can attract prison sentences of three years or more) and it could easily be included not just in airports, but also in sporting venues, shopping malls – there are really no limits.

But fear not; your firm but friendly government will have to let you know when the next tranche is ready to put on the table. After all, there is plenty of time between now and the next election. Remember, set and forget is not an option.

The ugliest thing about this attack on the open society we are supposedly defending is that it has passed with almost no serious debate. The Greens and some of the crossbenchers have their misgivings, but the major parties rush to form Siamese twins as soon as the dreaded words national security, the safety of ordinary hard working Australians, the threat to our sovereign and sacred borders – any of the threadbare slogans on offer – are uttered.

Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have decided, for their own pragmatic (read: opportunist and unprincipled) reason that there are no votes in safeguarding our democratic traditions. It is more productive and a lot easier to go along with whatever Turnbull and his gang of enforcers propose.

Perhaps there will finally be a limit – even the usually compliant Kim Beazley broke ranks in 2001 when John Howard suggested that all the agencies on watch should be absolved from any crimes they could commit, up to and including murder. But as Turnbull continues to test the boundaries, there is no sign of resistance from Shorten. There are rumblings in the left of the party, but that is all. And Shorten jumps on them as fast and as hard as possible to forestall the wedging gleefully our Lord Protector, Peter Dutton, continually anticipates.

So our bipartisan capitulation to the fear of terrorists has become the default option – this is one we prefer to set and forget. And this was obviously the message the premiers and chief ministers received during their softening up dinner at The Lodge and which they faithfully regurgitated in the short time they were confined in their confab and which they repeated parrot fashion to the press conference that followed. Nothing to see here, move along please – until next time, which has now become inevitable.

Last week’s charade was certainly the first COAG devoted principally to terrorism; there was a mention of other stuff, mainly energy, but Turnbull was not interested – been there, done that.

For our prime minister was hailed by his supporters as an unalloyed triumph, another sign that he could negotiate his way through anything – well, at least through anything Tony Abbott and his right wing zealots would agree to. With the states and the Labor opposition available to have their tummies tickled on cue, a man would be mad not to have an encore or two ready in case things get tricky.

It may or may not affect the opinion polls – the public has become a little bored and cynical about the constant attempt to scare them into submission. But the good news is that the public seems content to stay on board as the toboggan picks up speed down the slippery slope of totalitarianism.

As with Labor and the premiers, the voters might – and we only say might – reach breaking point. But even if they do, the damage has been done. Although the draconian measures, which have been incrementally implemented over the years, have invariably been justified as a reaction to the extraordinary, unprecedented, utterly unique circumstances in which, through no fault of our own, we find ourselves, you can bet they will never be repealed if those circumstances change.

The cops and the spooks like their new toys too much to give them away, and in spite of Turnbull’s paeans to his team as the party of freedom for the individual and an opponent of government intervention, he, like virtually all politicians, enjoys power and control. He is not going to willingly relinquish the tools he has fought to acquire and the dissident civil libertarians can cop it sweet – if they have not already been arrested without charge for being suspected of thought crime.

Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews, generally seen as man of the left, absolutely agrees: leaders do not have the luxury of arguing abut civil liberties, he avers, and the security agencies must be given all the resources that they need – or that they say they need, which is apparently the same thing.

We wait with some apprehension for the enforcers to demand compulsory tattoos for all citizens, 24/7 surveillance anklets, the total elimination of bail, the abolition of trial by jury and of course lots and lots of new prisons (we can call them detention centres – that has a ring to it) to incarcerate anyone suspected of doing anything.

Welcome to Malcolm Turnbull’s brave new world.




13 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: Malcolm Turnbull’s brave new world”

  1. tuatha says:

    As Mungo notes, there is no prospect of this iniquity being opposed by the ALP or abolished if/when that deracinated party ever assumes office.
    As Hanrahan noted , “We are all rooned!”.

  2. Doug says:

    Please don’t mention the Australia Card. I said please donpt mention…..

    So the Bastards finally got thru a Defacto Australia card? I wonder if people really realise what this means.

    (Suggest re-read ‘1984’ written in 1948… So much has come to pass.

  3. Vince Kean says:

    Too depressingly true Mungo! Perhaps the best we can hope for is significant penalties for mis-identification, and some substantive measure of the accuracy of the system. Unfortunately the most likely outcome is that the lazy and inefficient (but cheap) administrators of our so-called protection agencies will continue bumbling along, without accountability of any kind, and fail as spectacularly as their Lindt effort where they knew full well who Man Monis was but failed the (mental) intelligence test.
    Mungo the one comfort that you can take from all this is your ASIO file will at least have an up to date photo attached.

  4. Ken Corbitt says:

    As usual, Mungo strikes the proverbial nail on the head. The Orwellian nightmare is now.

  5. robot says:

    The Orwellian nightmare is all this foppish agreement over what is wrongly called Brave New World, a book mainly about birth control gone mad, which describes more gender fluidity in its early stages, the assigning of sexuality. Get your books right.

  6. Mungo!!!!! Facial Recognition… ‘take back the pearls… take back the mink – or
    Rainbow Flag. I’m moving in with my giddy Aunt. It’s safer.

  7. Ron Barnes says:

    Mungo nailed it again great journalism

  8. Ron says:

    The other planks of the total security state are being rolled out against the vulnerable: the Welfare Card, to corral people into buying only from ‘approved’ outlets, no beer, never a flutter on the nags (they’ll likely free the Card up around Melbourne Cup and Grand Finals time, after lobbying by the internet bookmakers). All this despite the ominous statistics coming from the SA police about massively elevated crime levels in Ceduna, etc after the Card’s introduction.
    Then they will be testing our poo in the sewerage treatment plant, “to pick up an ice breakout”.
    What then? Lockdown of entire suburbs, while peoples’ homes are turned upside down? Remember, the ice epidemic is because of slack or corrupt police.
    Even more ominous, the 14 day detention without charge will give them time to break people down, adult or child, and a confession will be guaranteed. They could have made it 21 days, but 14 days is enough. The techniques of enhanced coercion are highly developed. There will be no more ‘not guilty’ pleas.

  9. robot says:

    Ice, ecstasy, the rest, all now cheaper than tobacco. Go figure!! (Please note two exclamation marks)

  10. robot says:

    Ice. Ecstasy. Dope. Any. Soma. All now cheaper than tobacco. Figure. Some statement with two exclamation marks!!

  11. j says:

    Soma? Has to be cheaper than tobacco.

  12. Mungo MacCallum says:

    For what it’s worth Brave New World (that has such people in it) is a quotation from Shakespeare’s Tempest, refurbished as the title of the Aldous Huxley novel. Shakespeare was sending up Miranda’s naive optimism; Huxley was being ironic about a totalitarian state in which gender was the least of the problems. The Turnbull version is simply dystopian. Mungo

  13. Yep!!! 3 exclamation marks, Mungo. Tempest is so. Our bull-turner?
    Obviously dystopian. The Giddy Aunt too won’t lie low.

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