Here’s a good example of something that fits that badly overused term “Orwellian” to the letter — and something else that we at Crikey have banged on about for years: no one in the national press gallery seems to have a memory longer than five minutes.
Anthony Albanese is now, by right-wing lights, officially Soft On China. The opposition leader’s crime has been to suggest that the government had handled its relationship with China poorly.
It’s China that has been a constant aggressor, abuser and interferer, and Morrison’s response has, for the most part, been appropriate. Has it been perfect? As Richard McGregor of the Lowy Institute pointed out today, not exactly.
McGregor’s observations about the government’s poor handling of Eric Abetz’s demand for Chinese-Australians to declare loyalty and Morrison’s commentary on police raids being “unforced errors” that undermined Australia’s position are correct.
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Still, according to Morrison, Albanese’s comments show that he wants to “have each-way bets on national security”, declaring himself “disappointed but not surprised”.
News Corp mastheads, self-acknowledged as the official media arm of the Coalition, went much further.
“Anthony Albanese is now dangerously at odds with the government and the weight of public opinion on China and the economy,” The Australian’s stenographer-in-chief Simon Benson wrote yesterday. Why? He had abandoned “the unity ticket he signed up to on Monday following the fake war-crime meme” and “has now left Labor dangerously isolated on China”.
“Labor abandons unity on China,” wrote another News Corp drone, Ben Packham, complete with a picture of Albanese with a Chinese official in 2012. You can imagine the disappointment at the Oz that they could only find an eight-year-old picture of Albanese colluding and conspiring with the CCP. Presumably they looked in vain for a photo of the opposition leader entering a Chinese restaurant.
Last night far-right dolt Paul Murray joined in on Sky News’ nightly Merry Gathering of Pissants to accuse Albanese of letting China dictate to Australia.
Except anyone with a memory that stretches back all of six years — to a dim, dark age when Tony Abbott was prime minister — should be able to remember that Labor’s crime back then was that it was too hard on China.
As Crikey has detailed this week, News Corp titles and the Abbott government swooned adoringly at the feet of Xi Jinping and feted the trade deal a desperate Abbott signed with the Chinese as, to use Paul Kelly’s grandiloquent phrase, signaling a “glorious future… this mutual self-interest is going to pull Australia far closer into China’s orbit in coming years”.
The official line from News Corp back then was that Xi’s China promised a wonderful new era for Australia — and Labor’s criticisms were simple racism.
The trade deal lasted a little longer than Abbott’s prime ministership, but delivered even less for Australia before Xi binned it in his war on anyone not bowing the knee to Beijing.
So Labor is both too critical of Beijing and too soft on Beijing — while a government that has gone from desperately seeking an overhyped trade deal to raging about the tweets of low-level Chinese functionaries is handling things brilliantly. We were, it seems, always at war with Eastasia.
Judging by the coverage yesterday and today, no one in the press gallery — which, as McGregor pointed out, reacted like Pavlov’s dogs to Morrison’s tirade about the tweet — seemingly recalls what they were writing about five years ago when things were exactly reversed.
Indeed, forget five years — bizarrely, just a fortnight ago, one Nine stenographer was reciting government talking points about how yet another new trade deal would be a “circuit breaker” with China.
Welcome to the age of disposable commentary, when it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the past. Each day is a blank slate on which to view the world afresh, unencumbered by what happened five years, or for that matter five minutes, ago.
Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.