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Federal

Jan 10, 2017

Bronnie rotten on socialism, defends using the N-word

Bronwyn’s Thatcherite hubris, as seen on Sky yesterday, is a relic to behold.

Bronwyn Bishop

Poor, miserable Sussan Ley. The Health Minister has surely earned a Gold Coast holiday. As investigations into her real estate “scandal” proceed, she is obliged to hand her portfolio over to the care of Arthur Sinodinos. The best thing that can be publicly said about that recent ICAC graduate is probably “no findings of his wrongdoing at this time”. If Turnbull plans on returning Ley, in many accounts a politician who comports herself honestly and well, he could surely do better than fill her post with a name so closely associated with slippery self-interest.

Things only got worse for Ley when she suffered proximity to another bad name: Bronwyn Bishop. Surely, the lady’s defence on the matter of travel rorts was about as useful to Ley as the defence of a mosquito by a rat.

With friends like these, the political class has no want of enemies. Nobody facing investigation of the type wants help from the unrepentant Bishop, who continues to assert that her profligacy was “within the rules”, with no understanding that it was far beyond what the electorate knows to be the pale.

Bronwyn’s Thatcherite hubris, as seen on Sky yesterday, is a relic to behold. When asked if such use of public monies — her own, in the unlikely case you’ve forgotten, was a four-grand chopper ride to a fundraising event easily accessible by rail — would pass the pub test, she answered, “it depends on which pub you are in”. Maybe she has a point. Bron is a Northern Beaches girl, and you can probably order scampi sashimi in the chic bistros of Mackellar. The rest of us wait for chicken parma night.

[Let them eat Centrelink debt notices]

This is no good for Ley, a person who has likely not erred so badly. It’s bloody good for a laugh though; Bishop really is such a marvellous antique. She is one of a very few in this era of economic hardship still making naked claims about having “earned” her privilege (even the US President-elect admits to bending the rules). After 40 years of wage stagnation, most Australians don’t permit this sort of talk past the pub test, the Facebook test or any other kind of trial. When the ALP’s Sam Dastyari said that he accepted money from a private company because he simply didn’t feel like paying his high travel bill, his career was almost done.

Bronwyn’s political career is utterly done, but her refusal to see why it ended is not. She just doesn’t get it, and won’t shut up about it, still using the language of Thatcher, her idol, to justify the privileges of the well-to-do and all the marvellous advantages of the “free market”, that set of conditions imposed by the state, which, for example, allow a few people to buy an investment property or a nice flat on the Gold Coast and coerce a rapidly increasing number of us to rent.

Nearly every other centrist speaker in the West now knows to keep their admiration for inequality — and the cheap capital offered by our “free market” leaders to property investors is a guarantee of inequality — a secret. The IMF, the cruel creditor of Greece, has denounced neoliberalism by name. Paul Krugman, one of the architects of Clinton’s aggressive era of financialisation, has remade himself as a kind Keynesian and opponent of the N-word. Krugman now travels the world lecturing on the evils of rent-seeking, having first made sure to introduce a range of rent-seeking policies to the world’s most influential economy. In short, every economist and politician knows not to say “Voldemort”. When Joe Hockey came close to uttering his true name in his DOA 2014 budget, the spell of supply-side thinking began to break. Shhh. You are not supposed to say it, Bronwyn.

Notwithstanding my friend Mr Keane’s efforts to reclaim the name of Voldemort for the people, let’s just call it what it is: neoliberalism, a creditor-friendly deflationary reaction to the full-employment regime run in the West from, roughly, the depth of the Great Depression to the height of Phil Collins’ career, is the thing that most leaders now know not to talk about. You don’t outright say “austerity” and you don’t accuse a nation of people immiserated by the investor class of feeling “entitled”. The language you now use is not Thatcher’s, as Bronwyn did, but those Silicon Valley buzzwords that Turnbull prefers. We’re going to “innovate” our way out of rising poverty, insecure housing and precarious employment. We’re going to have a TED talk and find the power within ourselves to overcome creditor-friendly policies. We’re going to have an app.

What we must not have, if neoliberal policies are to survive their challengers from the hard right and material left, is people like Bronwyn mouthing off like Gordon Gekko.

The trick to propagating ideology is never to mention it, perhaps not even acknowledge it to yourself as ideology. And what you certainly don’t do is mention its greatest historic antagonist, socialism. But Bronwyn couldn’t stop rubbishing socialism on Sky, giving it, to my delight, a very good name. She said that socialism had ruined nations. She said that the ALP was full of socialists. She said that socialism was “always on the march”. None of these statements is true.

[Rundle: how do you solve a problem like neoliberalism?]

For all the scientifically fixated terror that began to unfold in that nation 100 years ago this year, Russia was not “ruined” by socialism. There is not one socialist in the parliamentary ALP, a stack of quoits who justify their attachment to neoliberalism, cruel detention policies and unconscionable inertia on Aboriginal Australia by wearing rainbow ribbons in solidarity with gay teens, or whatever. There is, at the time of writing, about 50 socialists in the nation, and we’re all far too busy arguing about which International we liked best to ever march in a vanguard.

What will provoke a meaningful dedication among the vast army of Millennials to the socialism Bishop despises is not Bronwyn herself, nor Ley, who, again, probably didn’t do anything terrible. Like, say, charter a chopper to go and hit up Liberal Party donors.

The terrible thing that young people will revolt against is a 40-year-old regime that now allows a select few to buy a holiday flat on a whim while they themselves live in service to rent-seekers. Bronwyn is the prophet of the new synthesis! If radical changes to our economy are not made, those young socialists that we can already see being formed will be on the march. And I’ll be cheering them and the death of neoliberal enchantment on with cries of “Voldemort”.

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50 comments

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50 thoughts on “Bronnie rotten on socialism, defends using the N-word

  1. Aethelstan

    So … Susan Ley, her snout well and truly in the rich persons trough gets her portfolio taken over by Arthur Sleazibusiness … while the unseemly LNP war on the poor and struggling continues with verve and enthusiasm … same old LNP … same old Nasty Party…

  2. Hold My Unicorn

    Yes, Bronny’s contribution was a bit like that of her former colleagues in parliament turned commentators as well, unhelpful. I’m thinking of other great rorters like Peter (Reith), Peter (Costello) and Amanda (Vanstone). They always come out to play when something like this happens. Honestly, they must be a bit put out that Bronny’s stolen there thunder.

  3. graybul

    Exposure of Minister Ley’s indulgence once again raises the question of systemic excess open to all politicians. Rorts, benefits and a general expectation of entitlement pervades, motivates and protects our political class from principles of accountability, scrutiny and equity. The Parliamentary Pension is but one example of inequitable advantage comparative to a journeyman’s due. When one lives with a sense of entitlement; said individuals voluntarily divorce themselves from ‘the other.’

  4. klewso

    I can’t get over what a marvelous coincidence it was that led Ley to Brisbane “for an announcement, the same day that unit was auctioned”?
    And count those snouts – how many of them are on the Right side of the trough?

  5. Hunt Ian

    I don’t know why Helen thinks there are about 50 socialists alive and more or less well in Australia today, who are all squabbling about which international they like. I like calling myself a socialist but I hate squabbling over and among “internationals”. It’s a waste of time and intellect.
    I think there are quite a few socialists in the ALP and quite a few in the trade union movement. The problem is for all these people to put aside their differences and work on ways of explaining why capitalism is a bad social system with problems of phoney democracy, exploitation and social divisions, which should be replaced by a system that solves these basic problems.
    They could put their heads together again on this hundred year anniversary of the Russian revolution to explain how inspiring that attempt was to set up a new society and to spell out what lessons we should draw from its failure.

    1. AR

      Workers Education Associations, Mechanics Institutes, Starr-Bowkett building societies for starters.
      Just as in the 19thC and still extant in Bathurst St as late as the 60s.

  6. Dog's Breakfast

    Effing brilliant Helen. Full of rage, about a half of the rage I’m generally feeling about it all, although mine isn’t particularly directed to Sussan Ley, who was otherwise a reasonable minister by the standards of the LNP. (yeah, I know).

    My thesis for hope rests on a reasonable backlash by the young, a backlash which will be much closer to socialism.

    I’m just left to wonder what Bronny thinks socialism is?

    1. Helen Razer

      Agreed re Ley. As far as parliamentary Libs go, she is tolerable. I have reported a bit on mental health policy, and I believe she is striving to make an informed decision about how best to spend the tiny amount of funding she has.
      What Ley did doesn’t strike me as bad. It’s not as clear cut as Bron’s chopper or Sam’s peculiar belief that it was okay to accept money from private companies when he overspent on his already generous travel budget.
      I believe that the reason this story is resonating is because (a) it comes on the back of the centrelink story where even the Herald Sun was forced, for the sake of its older readers receiving pensions, to report negatively on austerity (in this case to the actual infrastructure of centrelink) and (b) she said she bought a house on a “whim”.
      70% of Millennials rent. 25% of the broader population do, too. There are many people who cannot afford housing and millions of home-owning parents worried that their adult children never will have that advantage. So to say in this time that you could just buy a holiday house on a whim sound offensive.
      I would rather people be annoyed with those government policies that led directly to this state of affairs. I think Penny Wong, in attacking Ley head on, missed the opportunity to address the legitimate anxiety many Australians have about the future of where they are actually going to sleep. I actually agree with Bishop that the use of Wong in particular was a transparent gender play.
      If I were her adviser, I’d tell her to admit that some politicians do take advantage, and that it has happened on her own side. (I mean, Dastyari was spectacular.) And to use the opportunity to mention her party’s policies on negative gearing and CGT. But, no. They’re still playing the old politics. Because they don’t seem to realise that many of us live in such diminished conditions, we would now rather hear about a way out of that than some ranting about such-and-such being a doody head.
      People *will* vote for the world’s biggest a-hole if they promise a better deal for the people. Did they learn nothing from the US election?
      These parties deserve to perish even faster than they are. Wong’s performance was pitiful.

      1. C@tmomma

        Fyi, Penny Wong was Acting Opposition Leader at the time a comment needed to be made.

        ‘ I actually agree with Bishop that the use of Wong in particular was a transparent gender play.’

        Come, come, Helen, agreeing with BBishop’s obvious misconstruing of that reality suggests to me you are looking for a peg to hang the Anti Labor diss of yours on. Or are you, like most of the population as they age, becoming more Conservative and actually starting to succumb to the siren call of masters of the art of sucking people into the Con worldview, like that hairsprayed hag, Bishop?

        True, Labor could have made more of the NG/CGT angle but I think the great unwashed (as the Liberals identify them, no doubt, but the proles to you and me), are already quite well aware of Labor’s position on this issue, and nothing has changed in the interim. In fact, I’m sure they decided to let people out there draw their own conclusions. It’s not rocket science.

        1. Helen Razer

          Yes. I am clearly becoming more conservative. I think we can see this best toward the end, when I am calling for socialist revolution in the streets.
          I find I am having this argument a lot, these days. If one opposes centrism, such as that of the ALP or the DNC, one is seen to be “conservative”. It is pretty funny when, say, a Marxist like Richard Wolff or a post-Keynesian like Varoufakis or Mark Blyth are seen as “conservative”, and they have all been called conservative for saying “the way we do things is not working”.
          The ALP has given up. I thought (optimistically) last year that they might use another loss and the rise of people like Sanders to regroup and remember that they have the word “labor” in their name. It didn’t happen. They are conservative, in the sense they are devoted to upholding the last forty years of policy. Not me.
          Not liking Labor’s refusal to address the demise of the middle class is not a knee jerk conservatism. Those guys moved to the right. Not me. I am where I always have been.

          1. C@tmomma

            You must have missed the eleventy thousand times Bill Shorten has referred to Labor standing up for the Middle Class and Working Men and Women.

  7. gerald butler

    How can that entitled,greedy old cow who has done nothing to enhance the lives of the Australian people have the gall to appear on TV and tell them she never broke the rules. Some one please tell her the rules are fucked and she is lucky to be living in Australia where we are not allowed to lynch people in the street.

    1. Helen Razer

      This made me laugh, Gerard. Which probably means I am a very low person. I cannot endorse your comments. Lol, though.

  8. Corey Saint Barnyardi

    I was wondering about the Socialist thing too. I was wondering maybe with Ley it is another LNP ‘comrade’ taken down and made to do the walk of shame. It’s making politicians and capitalism stinky. Bronny, has her right wing reptilian brain convulse into a ‘fight’ response and starts fearing/attacking her ideological enemy, ‘Socialists’. I guess she thinks that ‘Communits’ would sound too ridiculous these days.

  9. Will

    But Bronnie didn’t use the word neo-liberalism, did she, Helen? Because otherwise the title of this piece is misleading, and this may have problems for your argument.
    Sure, I get that Bronnie and Co. screaming ‘socialism!’ at any public attention toward the regular misdeeds of Coalition and associated business figures could be said to open a peephole into the actuality of (neo-liberal) ideology.
    But couldn’t it just as plausibly be argued that Bronnie’s howls of socialism distract from (rather than attract) ideological insight precisely by personalising the criticism of Leys (i.e. by implying it stems from the incomprehensibly deranged minds of a miniscule cabal of socialists)?
    In which case, suggesting as you repeatedly do here, Helen, that Leys personally “probably didn’t do anything terrible” slips completely into Bronnie’s anti-political trap. That Leys unapologetically likely rorted over $50,000 in parliamentary travel entitlements well confirms the neo-liberal worldview that the state’s role is to serve private rather than public interests. Leys did do something terrible – she personified the ideological dictate that promoting the particular interests of her class (herself included) is unquestionably in the national interest. And then she knowingly lied about that too!

    1. no chiefs

      Good post. I had not seen this before I wrote my own rather more simple-minded comment below expressing similar sentiments.

      1. Will

        Thanks NC. I think you’re right too (in your post below) to ask how the heck can Ley and Dastyari not understand the incredible damage they do. My own view on that is that it’s probably because they take the legitimacy of our political system as an established given, rather than as an unending problem (i.e. so what lasting harm can they as mere individuals do, after all?)
        But I also suspect the greater error is with the so-called material left writing off the importance of that problem of legitimacy, as encoded in its championing of ‘socialism’. (Smash capitalism, sure, but you’ve still got to manage the sticky problem of regime legitimation.)
        Hence, nothing could be further from the truth than Helen’s assertion here that “Russia was not ‘ruined’ by socialism.” The Soviet Union was indeed destroyed, ultimately and utterly, precisely by mass awareness of the impossibility of it ever being able to legitimate itself. How else could the Berlin Wall have been breached so painlessly, after all? (I can hardly believe I’m even needing to write this to be honest – unless you believe Reagan, more than the heroes of Solidarity, Charter 77, etc. achieved it.)
        Really, if you naively conceive material injustice to be at the root of all powerlessness you’ll invariably accept that in the end political mendacity is comparatively harmless. Comrade.

  10. campidg

    “and we’re all far too busy arguing about which International we liked best to ever march in a vanguard.”
    The Billy Brag version, hands down. And no matter what our leaders or ex leaders might think, we rank and file Greens are socialists down to the tips of our grass roots.

    1. Draco Houston

      Shame the rank and file for any party don’t matter to the organizational and parliamentary wings of the parties 😛

      I met LNP people that want free dental but you don’t see free dental for everyone in the platform, lmao.

    2. Helen Razer

      Billy Bragg has become a centrist fool.

      1. Helen Razer

        And also, I meant “this” kind of International https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_International not the Internationale, as sung by Bill.
        (He does have a nice voice, though. I really like that Wilco record.)

      2. db

        There was a lot to the left of Thatcher so maybe he always was in the centre.

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