Yesterday, in the wake of 18C, the Turnbull government became fluent in doublespeak, using it on multiple fronts, to great effect.
“We have to bear in mind that we have in our society, as in all free societies, to balance the demands of free speech, of which we’re all in favour, with also ensuring domestic harmony.
“The short answer to your question is the government has no plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all.”
Those were the sacred words of then-freshly installed Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull in October of 2015.
Of course, some may argue that that was the old Malcolm’s point of view – nuanced respect for a multicultural society, from a persona long since shed under the ever shortening leash of his extreme right wing. Indeed, you could just as equally argue that phrasing is king.
“No plans to change” the act, he said in the above during Question Time.
“A longer discussion” about the wording of 18C, but “no plans to make any changes to it”, he said during a doorstop in February last year.
But then, Turnbull’s trademark wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing nature gets the better of him, and the electoral poison his conservative rump has been serving him starts to take hold.
But the silver tongue still moves at 60 miles per hour, all the spinning in the world cannot distract from what is once more an empty handed, delaying tactic. 2 plus 2 does indeed make 5.
The silver-tongued Turnbull mused on the ability for his government to “walk and chew gum at the same time” on the 7:30 Report in November, and told of his belief that the “question mark has always been over the use of the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’” in speaking to 3AW two weeks prior.
But all good charades must come to an end, and like the bride at the end of her walk, the veil must be lifted.
With a kick in his step from a Cabinet back-patting, the agile and innovative PM proudly showed off just what a group of rich white men think racism looks like.
The bill is, for the most part, dead on arrival: despite extraordinarily being introduced to the Senate first, Labor and the Greens have committed to voting down the changes, and Nick Xenophon and his team are showing major doubts.
But if the eventual downing of Racism For Dummies gives you cause for relief, the Turnbull government’s monopoly on Orwellian double speak should more than put the bile back into you.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to examples, too.
There’s the classic pledge to never lead a government that is not committed to action on climate change. Or the apparently unwavering commitment to a free vote on same sex marriage.
Heck, you could even think about how, despite a pledge to not change 18C being an election promise, the government has no issue with pressing ahead, all the while standing by their promise to legalise same sex marriage via a national plebiscite, or not at all.
But the science of spin is not a formula solely possessed by Malcolm Turnbull. No, the ability to do something while simultaneously swearing to high heaven that such a thing could not be further from your intention trickles down in this Coalition government, whether overtly displayed or otherwise.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – you know, the nice man who joked about Pacific Islands being submerged due to his government’s lack of climate change policy – this week showed off just how talented in the field he is.
Just a week after telling business leaders to “stick to their knitting” in response to their having the audacity to call out government inaction and put their names behind an ongoing human rights issue, Fairfax reports that Dutton is working under the sheets to find a path to legalising same sex marriage.
This is in spite of his public displeasure towards marriage equality as a whole, and his contempt of businesses for trying to make any progress on the issue.
The ultra-conservative is reportedly making waves with Senator Cormann, the pair seeking to take the issue off the agenda, which would undoubtedly improve Turnbull’s standing with voters.
Also on The Big Smoke
- For/Against: Two dividing opinions on the 18C changes
- Reality check: The left’s political criticism moves no-one
- While you were asleep: Bible funds SSM pissup, NZ’s big day, Breaking Bad re-cut
It has been alleged that in private, Dutton has admitted that it is inevitable that same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia, and that as such it is important for the Coalition to take the reigns, rather than let it be a vote winner for Labor.
Of course, when you’re as conservative as Peter Dutton is, marriage equality can never be exactly equal. That’s why he hopes the Coalition does the big work on the reform, ensuring maximum protections for religious freedom.
Still, all of that does at least sound promising; a plan to take control of the marriage equality debate (or what little debate remains), and to get it through the parliament once and for all.
So does this mean a Coalition free vote, full steam ahead?
But the silver tongue still moves at 60 miles per hour, all the spinning in the world cannot distract from what is once more an empty handed, delaying tactic – yet another plebiscite, this time via postal vote. A non-binding, non-compulsory postal vote at that. But an election promise is solemn, at least when it counts, and our all knowing leaders are sure to remind us of that.
2 plus 2 does indeed make 5.
Malcolm Turnbull tells us his team can chew gum and walk at the same time, but he tells us this while simultaneously denying he is chewing gum in the first place.