In a clear indication that a federal election will happen this year rather than next, when it is due, Scott Morrison has announced a $50 million upgrade to the redevelopment of the Meeting Place Precinct in Botany Bay, which happens to be in his electorate (i.e. it’s pork barrelling). This will include $3 million on a new monument to Captain James Cook. The redevelopment will include a new visitors’ centre, café, exhibition space and ferry wharves as well as a new monument to Cook that will be completed before the 250thanniversary of Cook’s arrival in 1770 (i.e. in 2020)1.
This little leak from the 2018 Budget will be the first in a line of sops to the right wing nut jobs who have defected to One Nation, and presumably the Australian Conservatives over the last few years. While Morrison also mentioned that there will be some sort of commemoration of aboriginal culture, he gave the impression that this redevelopment was to be largely about Cook. This is a dogwhistle which makes it clear Morrison is smacking down the activists who defaced another statue of Cook in Hyde Park, in Sydney’s CBD, in support of changing the date of Australia Day2. This will be appreciated by those who were incensed at the slightest suggestion of changing the date of Australia Day3. Many of these people know when Australia day is, but have no idea what it purports to represent, but they just know that it should not be changed. Turnbull’s rejection of the Uluru Statement late in 20174was another sop to those who love the sound of the dogwhistle.
We can expect many more of these little presents from Morrison and Turnbull before the budget is delivered. The government are desperate, and will try anything to prevent sliding into political oblivion, which is a real risk when you consider all the fractures opening up in the conservative parties5, particularly within the Liberal Party itself. That is why they have brought out the dogwhistle so early in the game. You can expect to see more dogwhistles, more pork barrelling, perhaps a raid on another union headquarters, a terrorist scare, ‘kill bill’ headlines and all sorts of desperate fabrications in the Murdoch press.