Down and Out: Trump effect

Waves across the waves

The gloves are off as the Trump effect gives licence for every nasty to crawl out of the woodwork. At a recent fund-raising dinner of the Q Society (self-described as Australia’s premier anti-Islam association) with journalists present, the speaker, cartoonist Larry Pickering, shamelessly told 160 guests: “Let’s be honest, I can’t stand Muslims… If they are in the same street as me, I start shaking.”

Former Liberal MP Ross Cameron said, “The New South Wales division of the Liberal Party is basically a gay club… I don’t mind that they’re gay, I just wish, like Hadrian, they would build a wall.”

And crime fiction author Gabrielle Lord, whose latest novel is about forced marriage in a Muslim community, said “Brothers and sisters, there is a war and unfortunately… we are caught a little unaware because they were better prepared than we are.”

Former Liberal MP Ross Cameron

Who will make Australia great? The angry South Australian politician Cory Bernardi, whose office is adorned with pictures of Margaret Thatcher, and who once linked gay marriage (which Australia still doesn’t have) with bestiality and polygamy, has volunteered his services, quitting the Liberal Party to form a splinter party, the Australian Majority. Also in the running is Pauline Hanson, who first alerted Australia to the fact that it was in danger of being “swamped by Asians” in her maiden speech in 1996, and is being called the Donald Trump of Australia. She was elected to the Senate in last year’s election.

Soon after Trump announced his ban on refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries, and plans to build a wall, Malcolm Turnbull’s government announced it would support the US’s “strong immigration and border protection policies”.

Then we heard that the government was working very closely with US officials “to ensure that Australians continue to have access to the United States, and people from the US have access to Australia”. And minister Scott Morrison said the Trump travel ban showed the rest of world to be “catching up” to Australia.

But none of that sycophancy or crowing or little-cousin allegiance protected Turnbull, who was thoroughly humiliated by Trump in a phone conversation in which the American reneged on a deal signed by the Obama administration to resettle hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers held by Australia on Manus Island and Nauru. Trump reportedly said it was a “dumb deal” and that he could not see why America would import “the Boston bombers”.

In the days that followed, Trump’s media spokesman repeatedly called Turnbull Trunbull.

Perhaps letting off steam at an easier target, when Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten called Turnbull “Mr Harbourside Mansion” for his palatial home, cornered PM lost his cool and lashed back, calling Shorten “that great sycophant of billionaires”.

Derided as weak, lacklustre and policy-less since he became PM, Turnbull is said (by journalist Katharine Murphy in The Guardian) to have “gathered in his chair like a minor hurricane; months of pure frustration and fury lifted him to his feet”.

“It was a levitation, a daylight miracle. His shoulders squared, rigid, the voice strained as he unleashed on the Labor leader: ‘All the lectures, trying to run the politics of envy – when he is himself a regular dinner guest at Raheen [the harobourside mansion] always there with Dick Pratt [billionaire owner of a cardboard empire], sucking up to Dick Pratt, did he knock back the Cristal?’”

Governing party MPs reportedly leaned forward in their parliamentary seats, at long last delighted by their leader: knees were slapped, raucous laughter swelled. The set fury on his face dissolved into relief as he ploughed on: “There was never a union leader in Melbourne that tucked his knees under more billionaires’ tables than the leader of the opposition!”

In her report, Murphy went on to describe it as “a speech of a politician who knows everything is ranged against him, that adversity sits in front of him, and poison and dysfunction behind; and the only option open to him, after reason, flattery, and crouching compromise have failed to deliver the breakthrough, is to lock your jaw, find the primal growl, and punch your way out of a corner”.

In other bad sad news, in January, six people were killed and over a dozen seriously injured when a mentally ill man in a maroon sedan drove at 60km an hour through a crowded shopping mall in central Melbourne. And some of the world’s oldest rock carvings dating back over 30,000 years, on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia, are under threat because of emissions from the some of the biggest natural gas and ammonia fertiliser production facilities in the world.

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