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Defending Australian institutions

April 27th, 2016

The (presumably) forthcoming double dissolution will raise many issues. But most of them can be summed up as the defence of Australian institutions that have been under attack by radical extremists. I’m referring to such institutions as the ABC, CSIRO, the weekend, public education, the union movement, the fair go and our natural environment. Mention of any of these is enough to raise a derisive sneer from the radical rightwing apparatus that dominates much of Australian politics, most obviously the supporters of Tony Abbott who (ludicrously) call themselves “conservatives”. Turnbull promised something better but he is campaigning against all the institutions I’ve mentioned. It’s time to tell those who want to undermine our way of life in the name of free market ideology and rightwing tribalism where they should get off.

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  1. Peter Chapman
    April 27th, 2016 at 10:45 | #1

    To the barricades, comrades!

  2. James of St James
    April 27th, 2016 at 11:21 | #2

    I completely agree.

  3. BilB
    April 27th, 2016 at 11:49 | #3

    I second that fully.

  4. bjb
    April 27th, 2016 at 11:58 | #4

    The only hope is if the LNP get tossed out.

    The LNP’s position couldn’t be more clearly illustrated than by MT’s enthusiasm for the 1 year old with the negatively geared property – it’s sure easier to climb to the top of the aspirational ladder when you start half way up, or in the case of Gina and James and many others with their foot already on the top step. For all those who haven’t chosen their parents quite so wisely, tough luck.

  5. Ivor
    April 27th, 2016 at 12:42 | #5

    The problem does not centre on the free market – the problem is capitalism.

    If we had capitalism – but no free market – things would be worse.

  6. Paul Norton
    April 27th, 2016 at 13:17 | #6

    For anyone who thinks JQ is being uncharitable in referring to Australia’s self-described conservatives as extremists, here is Exhibit A: Merv Bendle in QuadRANT.

  7. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2016 at 14:21 | #7

    I agree with J.Q.

    As for Merv Bendle, what a delicate flower. He’s worried about who pees next to him! Obviously he never went to a Railroad Gin concert back in the day. How can people get more out of date than their chronological age? It has always baffled me.

    Yet Merv doesn’t appear to be worried about children dying in detention centers or drone assassinations of M.E. villagers at weddings. He certainly doesn’t mention such things so that apparently is OK in his book. I mean if he is worried about fascism you would think he would point to some genuinely fascistic behaviors.

  8. Stephen
    April 27th, 2016 at 14:23 | #8

    Somebody bring out the tumbrils and chains we have important work to do.

  9. Ivor
    April 27th, 2016 at 15:01 | #9

    @Paul Norton

    Yes – a real, rightwing, Randite, Rant indeed.

  10. bjb
    April 27th, 2016 at 15:03 | #10

    @Ivor
    and the very definition of prolix.

  11. Tim Macknay
    April 27th, 2016 at 16:19 | #11

    @Paul Norton
    Mervyn Bendle is extraordinary. Even his name sounds like it was the invention of a satirist.

  12. John Quiggin
    April 27th, 2016 at 17:29 | #12

    “an ideological war that has been underway in Anglosphere countries for two centuries”

    Wow! It’s a pity he’s too culturally illiterate to cite Joseph de Maistre.

  13. Donald Oats
    April 27th, 2016 at 17:46 | #13

    I would consider large areas of the ABC have been successfully white-anted through reaction to the previous rounds of the culture wars. If you swung a dead cat in the tea room…well, it’d hit a few ex-Murdoch foot soldiers, maybe even the odd IP plant. Ironic, that.

    As for our publicly funded nation research organisation, I think it has been pummelled and pounded for a solid decade now, and finally the signs of structural failure are appearing. The last three years have been especially traumatic. Is it left wing to want a solid, appropriately well funded, national research organisation that does research primarily for the public/national good? [That question is rhetorical, of course.]

  14. April 27th, 2016 at 18:51 | #14

    Big Merv does have a point though. What if you do want to fly with a homophobic airline, and you don’t live in Russia? Clearly your human rights are being infringed.

  15. Peter T
    April 27th, 2016 at 19:13 | #15

    @Donald Oats

    Agreed. The ABC news has been thoroughly neutered. And I worked with CSIRO people up to 2009. The poor morale and dead hand of MBS-style management was evident, even if the people at the workface were very competent indeed.

  16. Ron E Joggles
    April 27th, 2016 at 20:57 | #16

    Prof Q writes ” the radical rightwing apparatus that dominates much of Australian politics, most obviously the supporters of Tony Abbott who (ludicrously) call themselves “conservatives”.

    In October 2013 I wrote here about the Left’s acquiescence in the Right’s expropriation of “conservative”:

    Every time that someone from the left sanctions the right’s ownership of the term by using it to describe, say, Andrew Bolt, or Tony Abbott, they are conferring on the right a significant advantage that they are not entitled to.

    This may seem a trivial thing, but I don’t think it is. Words are often loaded with connotations and implications that we are scarcely conscious of, but which nevertheless influence our reasoning and attitudes.

    Along with the primary dictionary meaning of reluctance to accept radical change, “conservative” conveys additional meanings:
    benign; cautious; considered; kind; moderate; rational; reasonable; respectful of persons, institutions and traditions; safe; thoughtful; trustworthy.

    These words apply more aptly to, for instance, Senator Doug Cameron, than to Senator Cory Bernardi, yet most people would identify the latter as the “conservative”.

    Similarly, they apply more aptly to Phillip Adams than to Piers Akerman.

    Defending the hard-won rights of unionists is conservative; seeking to nobble unions is not.
    Insisting on the right of farmers to bargain collectively with retail chains is conservative; outlawing collective negotiations is not.
    Respecting the independence of our judiciary is conservative; legislating to pre-empt court processes is not.
    Maintaining collective ownership of infrastructure is conservative; selling State assets is not.
    Valuing the natural heritage of a wild river above the mining of a common mineral is conservative; destroying prime farmland for CSG is not.

    The left should speak about those now dominant on the right in appropriate terms: contemptuous of tradition; destructive; determined; disrespectful of institutions; exploitative; extreme; fundamentalist; ideologically-driven; radical; right-wing; risky.

    The left needs to take back “conservative”.

    I apologize for repeating myself, but it needs to be said.

  17. April 27th, 2016 at 22:14 | #17

    @Ron E Joggles
    Good point. Perhaps if everyone starts calling them neoliberals, and saves “conservative” for its correct use. But from a marketing perspective, is “neoliberal” the best word? If you have to characterise these people in a few words, how do you summarise them?

    I was going to say that they oppose social change, but that is not true. They would, I’m sure, be happy if some limited form of slavery was re-introduced. Its probably fairer to say that they oppose social change unless that change makes money for the rich. So they have no qualms about abolishing penalty rates, but would be opposed to marriage equality.

    The Libs are basically two tribes, differing on things like gay marriage, but united by wanting to give money to the rich. That is, they favour inequality. Of course they’ll couch this in terms of rewarding enterprise etc etc, but ultimately they really support the welfare of those already rich. So what do we name them, so that the name conveys this desire for an unequal society? A constant reminder of their basic motivation. It can’t be a historical reference. It must be modern.

  18. tony lynch
    April 27th, 2016 at 22:19 | #18

    Suckwits?

  19. April 27th, 2016 at 23:23 | #19

    Its a start…

  20. Ivor
    April 28th, 2016 at 00:17 | #20

    @John Brookes

    The same point can be made about “neo Liberal”. Those in the Quadrant camp are not Liberal in any sense of the word except in the sense of ensuring the liberal spread of Capital.

    The only way to describe them is as extreme rightwing capitalists.

  21. rog
    April 28th, 2016 at 04:23 | #21

    John Howard, who has somehow morphed into a wise and elder statesman, has much to blame for the shaping of the current Liberal party. Anyone even vaguely sympathetic, or displaying elements of empathy, was labelled a ‘wet’ and hunted down and exterminated.

  22. rog
    April 28th, 2016 at 06:25 | #22

    From the Oz

    ..Dr Bendle’s case, his employer, James Cook University, did that.

    He won a WorkCover claim in 2004 after ongoing “harassment and vilification” by academics led to depression.

    He moved departments and found a greater level of acceptance, “but the prolonged series of attacks on me for engaging in public debate about Islam and Islamist extremism has seriously damaged my health, and I have chosen to take an early retirement”.

  23. tony lynch
    April 28th, 2016 at 09:44 | #23

    John Brookes :
    Its a start…

    Suckwits?

    @John Brookes

    Jeffrey A Winter speaks of the Wealth Defense Industry. No good with links here, but his 2014 ‘Wealth Defense and the Limits of Liberal Democracy’ is available online and worth the read.

  24. April 28th, 2016 at 09:47 | #24

    Attacking the weekend? Took me a while to figure that one out as I was a bit worried about having to get up for work Monday morning a mere five hours after the usual Friday night late boozing. But attacking the union movement? I’m not sure if the Coalition is challenging the right of unions to exist, rather than wanting to investigate and prosecute those that break normal criminal laws. And public education? Is allowing competition to exist, with still lower financial support per student, an act of aggression?

  25. James of St James
    April 28th, 2016 at 11:48 | #25

    They are rightwing extremists. Lets call them that. They have captured what was once a centre right party- but it is no longer. What is remarkable is this election they are no longer pretending their near the centre on a whole range of policies. I think they could lose this election by a large margin. And I certainly hope they do.

  26. Robert (not from UK)
    April 28th, 2016 at 12:00 | #26

    @rog

    I am old enough to recall the days (only about 20-25 years ago) when the Australian Right had serious people in it. Have a look at what IPA Review published back then. Serious stuff by Dame Leonie Kramer (who has just died), B.A. Santamaria, Ref Kemp, Alan Barcan, America’s Russell Kirk, and old-fashioned social democrats like Laurie Short and rather more hip social democrats like, yes, Bob Carr. Agree or disagree with the arguments involved, but at least the outcome obviously wasn’t astroturfing.

    Or have a read of what The Australian published under Dame Leonie’s byline. Again, serious stuff about literature and public culture. Good grief, you could even find her referring occasionally to Matthew Arnold or C.S. Lewis.

    Not a single one of the public figures I have mentioned would have dreamt of whining for workers’ compensation after being allegedly (and we only have Bendle’s word for it) vilified and harassed. Laurie Short, you will remember, actually got beaten up by a bunch of commies.

    Compare and contrast with the present bunch of whining spivs. As Kim Beazley Senior might have put it, the cream of the Right has turned into the dregs of the Left.

  27. BilB
    April 28th, 2016 at 13:13 | #27

    The reason for that, Robert nf UK, is that 25 years ago multi billionaires were reasonably rare. Now they are more common and the billionaire-wanna-be contingent most of whom have the desire but not the means to get there see social need serving taxation as an “unfair barrier” to their totally unrealistic aspiration. These people are your Harvard MBA’s who use the CEO hopping method of wealth acquisition which gets them fairly easily to 50 million from which point they can see the void ahead between there and “their” billion. The other kind are the merchant bankers and share traders who see the flows of billions and decide that that money should be theirs, in the manner of Trump who famously said of Iraqi oil, “that is our oil we should just go over there and take it”.

  28. Robert (not from UK)
    April 28th, 2016 at 13:29 | #28

    BilB :
    The reason for that, Robert nf UK, is that 25 years ago multi billionaires were reasonably rare. Now they are more common and the billionaire-wanna-be contingent most of whom have the desire but not the means to get there see social need serving taxation as an “unfair barrier” to their totally unrealistic aspiration. These people are your Harvard MBA’s who use the CEO hopping method of wealth acquisition which gets them fairly easily to 50 million from which point they can see the void ahead between there and “their” billion. The other kind are the merchant bankers and share traders who see the flows of billions and decide that that money should be theirs, in the manner of Trump who famously said of Iraqi oil, “that is our oil we should just go over there and take it”.

    Hmmm, BilB, I don’t know that I’m convinced. After all, already circa 1990 there were plenty of billionaires and Gordon Gekko type merchant bankers throwing their weight around in Australia. Remember John Elliott, Robert Holmes a Court (OK he might’ve died by then), Alan Bond etc.

    The difference is that back then, there were also billionaires like Sir Arvi Parbo to serve as counterweights. Parbo was an absolute intellectual and moral giant compared with the sleaze-puppies at today’s IPA.

    I guess it was a variation of “hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” In the 1990s the Harvard MBA toting CEO hoppers at least pretended to be culturally literate. Now they don’t. They can’t be bothered.

  29. James of St James
    April 28th, 2016 at 15:56 | #29

    On further thoughts, perhaps rightwing radicals is a better label. This better expresses the non-conservative nature of the Coalition politics. (I agree they don’t deserve the label conservative any more, and they get too many positive connotations from that label.)

  30. John Goss
    April 28th, 2016 at 19:45 | #30

    Can we get ‘military-industrial complex’ into the label somehow? The label should indicate who’s interests they are serving.

  31. April 28th, 2016 at 22:51 | #31

    I’m not so much after an actual description, but rather something that reminds you what they stand for.

    We all share an experience of school. After that, our paths can be quite divergent. Do these people have some characteristics that stood out back in school? I was going to use a bully analogy, but both the left and right have bullies. In school yard terms, they are the ones who’ll dob you in to the teacher. But this is no use, as the teacher generally does have the good of the kids at heart.

    Nah, it needs more thought. What genuinely distinguishes them from other people? How does this manifest in everyday life?

  32. J-D
    April 29th, 2016 at 14:57 | #32

    @Edward Carson

    ‘… But attacking the union movement? I’m not sure if the Coalition is challenging the right of unions to exist, rather than wanting to investigate and prosecute those that break normal criminal laws. …’

    You may not be sure. I am. (That is, I am sure that the Coalition is dedicated to attacking the union movement well beyond prosecutions for actual crimes.)

  33. Tim Macknay
    April 29th, 2016 at 15:29 | #33

    @James of St James
    I’ve long thought “the far right” is a pretty good label.

  34. alex
    May 4th, 2016 at 13:37 | #34

    @Ron E Joggles
    how about “the rich” ?

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