Peter Costello notes in the smh this morning that if the Queensland swing were duplicated federally Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd would lose their seats; which is true, uncontestably true. But it’s much like saying that if the Adam Bandt swing were duplicated in Costello’s old seat of Higgins that seat would be lost to the Greens too, which it would. But it’s not going to happen.
For it’s doubtful, very doubtful that the two Queenslanders who saved Australia from the Meltdown, and are proudly famed and thanked in Queensland for having done so, would lose their seats in an ‘economy, stupid’ election, any more than Costello would have lost Higgins, ever, in any election when he was Treasurer, and a widely admired money-manager. But he says what he has to say. Though on the government payroll, he sneers at that government with characteristic raucous ingratitude. As it is his democratic right to do.
He goes on to deride Bob Carr for mocking Tony Abbott, successfully and resonantly, as a ‘cheapskate hypnotist’ and for planning worse assaults on him hereafter. Bob Carr has no right to do this, he says, or he implies that he has no right. Costello should be careful about this. He should remember his own ‘hello, possum, I’m home’ gibe in Question Time, which precipitated, some say, Nick Sherry’s suicide. He should remember his own effective malice on the floor of the House, and the relish with which he deployed it, and the enjoyment many of us got from it, in the eleven years that he was Treasurer.
And it was his democratic right to deploy it. It is our democratic right in a democracy to argue with vigour and spleen and humour and contumely our point of view. It is what is meant, and precisely meant, by ‘freedom of speech’.
But the Liberals and their Murdochist pit-bull terriers don’t believe that any more. We mustn’t say things that make them uncomfortable. We mustn’t ‘play politics’ with a war their politics got us into. We mustn’t ‘play politics’ with their record of locking up and traumatising children. We mustn’t ‘play politics’ with their greed. That wouldn’t be fair. Speaking up on an issue of the day isn’t fair, or that is the Costello-Murdochist view of good manners these days. We mustn’t play politics. That’s not what politicians do.
And we mustn’t attack Twiggy or Clive or Gina for their wealth or their divine right to dig, Costello says, because this is the ‘politics of envy’. Mustn’t bring envy into politics. That would never do. Envy? Politics? No. No.
But politics is built on envy. The envy of the have-nots for the haves. The envy of the ignorant and the unschooled for the ‘metropolitan elites’. The envy of Australia for America’s ability to throw its weight around. The envy of Australia for China’s exchange-rate, and its consequent license to manufacture anything, which we have no longer. Politics is envy, voiced and punitive and combative. It has never been anything else.
Envy is the basis of the Arab Spring. Very rich undeserving unelected bastards are envied by the metropolitan poor, who have lately sought to overthrow them. Should they not practise ‘the politics of envy’? Or speak ‘the dated language of the class war?’ Should they be asked to hold their tongues? Why not?
It is the continuing trick of the Rove Right and the Abbott Right and the Hendersonite Papist ASIO Hydrophobics to say ‘You mustn’t say such things’. Which means ‘It’s wrong to argue effectively if your argument is against us. It’s wrong to rail against Gina for earning more money in a day than we earn in a year. That is just plain wrong. That is class envy, and we must maturely put it behind us, and maturely accept our impoverishment and her conspicuous vulgar wealth.’
Peter Costello thinks we should.
And when was he ever wrong?
P.S. The anti-slavery movement was the politics of envy too.
Or was it the politics of injustice.