Keating haters

Throughout the days of the previous government, its media cheer squad denounced anyone who dared to criticise the government as a “Howard-hater”. This seemed to me to be either a silly piece of rhetoric or just plain wrong. To the extent that it was simply a label for anyone who disliked the government’s policies and therefore disliked the government and its leader, it was just a silly piece of hyperbole. A more natural reading is the claim that people who had no particular quarrel with the government’s policies opposed it because of a personal hatred of Howard. This seems to me to be just plain wrong. I don’t think I ever met anyone who liked the government’s policies but strongly disliked Howard himself (by contrast, other government ministers like Abbott and Costello were widely disliked on a personal basis). It’s notable that the only hostile nickname for him that ever really stuck (the Rodent) was due to one of his own backbenchers and didn’t emerge until 2004. The flipside was that very few people loved Howard in the way that many other political leaders have been loved. Liberal supporters stuck to him as long as he won elections, and forgot about him as soon as he lost one.

The only personal hatred that has any real force in Australian politics is hatred of Paul Keating. This emerged very clearly in relation to the 2020 summit but it’s true more generally that Keating has remained an energising figure for right wing culture warriors more than a decade after his departure. Whenever they go on about the chardonnay-sipping or latte-drinking elites it’s patently obvious that this stuff bears no relation to the current generation of Labor leaders. I have no idea what kind of drinks Kevin Rudd or Anna Bligh or any of the others favor, and Rudd is certainly more intellectually cultivated than Keating ever was, but the idea that they are members of some cultural class distinct from the ordinary Australians is patently silly.

Update: I posted this partly completed, there’s more over the fold now
Read More »

The flame of nationalism

As the Olympic torch touches down in Australia, it is hard to see how any good can come of the entire exercise.

After Kevin Rudd’s visit to Beijing, which seemed to herald a newly mature relationship between Australia and China, we’ve spent a week or more embroiled in a petty squabble, of a kind which is all too familiar in international relations, over the role of Chinese torch attendants/security guards, with the Australian government insisting that all security will be provided by our police and the Chinese saying that the attendants will “protect the torch with their bodies”.

George Orwell observed over 60 years ago that

Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

and history since then has given plenty of examples. It looks as if the 2008 Olympics will join them.
Read More »

RSMG blog back on air

After a period of quiescence, the Risk and Sustainable Management Group blog is back on the air. Some recent posts:

David on Monopoly Buyers and Market Based Instruments looks at the buyback of water from irrigators

David on Aus gets bigger but has funding increased? asks whether the expansion of our territorial waters will be matched by an increase in management capacity. (JQ notes:Certainly the responsible minister, Martin Ferguson, seems concerned only with the possibility of striking oil).

Peggy reports on the International salinity forum

Wander over, read and discuss!


The most amusing outcome of the 2020 summit has undoubtedly been the spectacle of Alexander Downer, grandson of Sir John Downer, son of Sir Alexander Downer, old boy of Geelong Grammar, former Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, former Foreign minister, now enjoying retirement on full salary at the expense of the Australian taxpayer, denouncing the participants as “elites”.

Of course, Downer has been backed up by his leading rival in the “anti-elitist” toffee-nosed snob stakes, Professor David Flint.
Read More »


The 2020 summit kept me too busy to blog. Looking back on the weekend I have a range of impressions.

* Rudd’s opening speech was inspiring, one of the best I’ve heard from him. The same was true of the opening ceremony as a whole.

* As numerous speakers said, the sense of new possibilities and a new openness to ideas has been one of the striking outcomes of the change of government, to an extent that has certainly surprised me.

* In many areas, including the water and climate change sessions, the real message was not so much the need for new ideas (though there were some good ones) but the need to act much more urgently on what we already know

* From the government’s point of view, the Summit had a couple of effects. One was to shake up the policy agenda, giving Rudd the chance to pick up a lot of ideas that are broadly consistent with Labor’s policy platform but got crowded out of discussion in the course of me-too election campaigning. The other is to raise expectations that the government will actually achieve things in areas like climate change and indigenous policy, rather than putting a better spin on marginal changes to the policies inherited from Howard.

* It was already obvious that, with Howard gone, and Labor in office, the Republic issue would return to the agenda. It’s something we have to come to anyway, and is just awaiting the right mood of national optimism. To sustain what is bound to be a fairly lengthy debate, we need more than the natural optimism of an electoral honeymoon. For that reason, I hope, and expect, that concrete moves towards a Republic will be deferred for a while, until the government has some concrete achievements to celebrate.

Guest post from John Mashey

I got a very long comment from John Mashey caught in moderation, so I’ve decided to put it up as a guest post. John makes a number of important points, but doesn’t convince me that oil is essential to economic activity, for reasons I hope to spell out in a reply. In the meantime, readers are invited to chew on this. As always, but particularly for guest posts, civilised and courteous discussion please.
Read More »