Brendan Nelson leaves politics

As the recipient of two Federation Fellowships, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for their originator, Brendan Nelson. So, I thought I’d do a quick post marking his departure from political life. It was his misfortune to be thrust into the job of Opposition Leader, thanks to Peter Costello’s refusal and the unwillingness of his colleagues to accept Malcolm Turnbull. This was just too tough a job for Nelson. Maybe if he’d had a few more years as a minister or frontbencher he would have been ready for this challenge, but as it was, he wasn’t ready and it showed. He’s done the right thing by leaving.

109 thoughts on “Brendan Nelson leaves politics

  1. Anyone who is a doctor,has my suspicions.That profession has just too many smart arses by half.

  2. He’s done the right thing by leaving.

    Right for his country, right for his party, right for his family or right for him?

  3. I cant forgive him for VSU – he robbed universities of the richness of students contributions to uni life and to politics. He made campus life a whole lot more barren in every way for students (and when he …in his attacks on unions should have been going after real unions like the CFMEU if that was his objection…but instead made a scapegoat of students on the basis of “anti unionism” who couldnt fight back..and the fee wasnt even for a union, it was really an association of students who acted in the best interests of students of all different types, which included childcare, fun stuff like Toga balls and bars, political clubs, sports clubs, childminding subsidies, meal subsidies for students.

    Now we have coke campuses and pepsi campuses and box hamburger joints and junk food and no childcare instead of decent facilities for students.

    Nah..bugger Nelson, the silly ambitious man, I hope he gets a job working in the mines somewhere.

    Prof – your soft spot is a mistake. He turned like the wind, whichever way it suited him.

  4. @Alice

    VSU is the best thing which has happened in a long while in terms of the organisation nature of Universities. Firstly it introduced a fantastic thing called competition onto campuses which challenged unions’ “born to rule” attitude and cut quite a bit of fat off the inflated fees so as to attract individuals to the Union on the basis of merit.

    There is no reason to suggest that average students should pay for members of various extremist political clubs nor child-minding services for people who obviously have poor organisational skills. Meal subsidies? Jesus Christ, were students becoming so fiscally incompetent that they required a mandatory tax levied upon them to allow it to be given back to those who choose to consume subsidised campus food? They simply should have learned to make a sandwich! 😛

  5. As far as I was concerned the union facilities were expensive and useless at the university I went to. I was not the only person to find the food poor quality and expensive – I supported VSU. I had to borrow money to pay union fees so a bunch of people with more money than I had could play sports I had no interest in.

  6. @nanks
    For all of the socialist cries from so many Mosman Marxists, Chardonnay socialists, etc who are funded by their parents to attend University, against VSU were really and truly out of touch with average students who work hard and look rationally at the costs and benefits of services.

  7. Poor Alice.
    Never mind, here is someone who concurs and commiserates.
    As to thread, remember very well that month or so after the election, recall being astounded at the behaviour toward Turnbull and Hockey, by twats like Minchin, trying as they were to drag the (as usual) unconscious body of the Liberal party of the election wreckage. Instead of a quick recapitulation to our new century, a headlong rush followed back not merely to the worst of the twentieth, but the nineteenth.
    They used to talk about Labor eating its young, but both Nelson and Turnbull, the best chances for the future, were ruined in different ways by the reactionary refusal to give even the ghost of an inch, even on things as obviously wrong as aboriginal policy. Hockey, Julie Bishop and the rest of a mediocre second tier also seem as damaged.
    Only whacky Wilson left standing, and that’s only the fossilised shell remnant from something so ancient as to defy even the archeological record.

  8. I don’t forgive him for his terrible reply to Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations. It embodied all the mean-spiritedness and being-on-the-wrong-side-of-history that the Coalition has come to represent.

  9. “Now we have coke campuses and pepsi campuses and box hamburger joints and junk food and no childcare instead of decent facilities for students.”
    Not where I work. The food is good, healthy and cheap. You just need a high overseas-student ratio, as they tend to want good quality cheap food, not the muck that young Australians seem to like.
    It’s funny that VSU supporters and detractors find this the first thing to argue about. It seems to me the most important thing it did was take away an independent level of accountability for student problems (including problems with entire courses). Now if they want to complain about something, they generally do it to some management guy directly employed by the university to deal with it and a panel of academics, most of whom are sick of listening to student complaints. It’s easy to see who is going to win any disputes, especially in courses that are in high demand or where the funding for local students is too low to care about them.

  10. When I was at uni the student union provided crap services. The food was cheaper up the road at the shopping centre in spite of on campus subsidies. Mean while they sponsored a lets get pissed culture by providing cheap booze to young adults. Anybody could start a club and expect a handout so there was a chocolate club an Engineers beer club and probably a lets scratch our balls club. Rather than foster culture the funds siphoned from students via compulsory union fees was used to pervert the norms of civil society. And then there was the left wing politics. I recall vividly the sea of posters across campass depicting John Hewson as a vampire sucking peoples blood, paid for by the union, 100% emotive, devoid of reason or logic, pure left wing propaganda. Compulsory student unionism offended me when I found out about it in year 1, offended me all the way through and left me cynical about universities ever after. I went to university expecting a place of excellance and found a culture of indulgence, cheating and corruption. VSU was decades overdue when it came. Even so I fear it will take a long time to repair the cultural damage done by so many years of compulsion.

  11. p.s. The student union cafetera in my day was selling coke, pepsi, box hamburgers and lots and lots of hot chips. They did manage to make these items expensive but so were the healthy alternatives.

  12. p.p.s. Student unions in my day did nothing about the stupid courses. In fact they supported them. Some of the general studies subjects were crap. John Kaye (now a greens member in NSW parliament) took me for one of these (Engineers in Society I think) and I had to tell fibs in my essays in order to get a pass from him. For instance I recall arguing at length with him over the obligations of employers and then writing what he wanted to hear in order to get the necessary marks to move on. Nearly two decades later I still feel insulted by the attempts at political indoctrination.

  13. Very interesting reading Terje. Sad to see leftism entrenching into even engineering faculties although as a Mechanical Engineering student I haven’t found it to be all that explicit as of yet.

  14. TerjeP (say tay-a), you seem to whinge a lot about student union services so why didn’t you make a difference and nominate for the Student Union and make things better if it as bad as what you say?

  15. @Rationalist
    Rationalist – about the VSU. All students are paying more now across the board for uni services like childcare food, the whole box and dice, and having less fun and less interaction. Not only that, it stripped students of a voice and permitted uni managements to lather on all sorts of additional charges like higher printing costs etc and remove rooms like “post grads meeting rooms” or “student advisers” and “counsellors” etc.
    If you think students benefitted by saving money (approx $200 per year) from Brendans little ” lash out political strike at the baby union which wasnt even a union” position you are dreaming you are dreaming. The students across the country are worse off from what they get charged for food and only food now, let alone anything else like subsidised sporting clubs, many of which have disappeared – and add that to higher hecs and overcrowded classrooms. Thats the sort of blind ideological position the students didnt need just to help get one man’s face, Brendans’s, in the newspapers for his run up for the Prime ministers job.

  16. @Alice
    Oh and I didnt have any Mosman socialist chardonnay sipping parents who paid for me either. I paid it myself, all of it every year and didnt mind the fee at all.
    How much do you pay in tolls to cross the harbour bridge each year. No damn difference. VSU was an ideological beat up.

  17. @Alice
    Alright, so what I seem to gather is the following:
    *VSU has resulted in unprofitable/poorly run businesses rationalise their prices or replacement with better alternatives.
    *It has cut the living expenses of students (buying food on campus each day is not what I would call a living expense since it is a luxury for those who choose to pay the premium for premium food).
    *It has seen a rationalisation of student services which mainly benefited obscure minorities at the expense of the overwhelming majority.
    *Resulted in a cut to Union bureaucracy due to removal of guaranteed income despite any judgement on performance of organisation.
    *Enraged extreme political groups.

    Sounds bloody good to me!

  18. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I also had John Kaye for a class (on ethics), and I totally disagree with that characterisation of him. If you felt you needed to manufacture an opinion to get marks from him Terje, maybe that says as much about you as him. Maybe his strong opinions intimidated you.

    In my class, Dr Kaye, who was clearly strongly anti-nuclear, but facilitated a debate on the pros and cons of nuclear energy, and was quite happy to have students passionately argue the pro-side, even though he disagreed with them. He stated clearly in the class that he wanted to hear a good argument, it wasn’t about what side you took. I felt that he encouraged students to learn and express their view, even as he was open about expressing his own.

    Some people expect teachers to refrain from expressing their own view, I feel this is unrealistic – especially at a tertiary level of education. I think the teacher should express their own view, while encouraging and supporting the students in expressing their own. Surely that is the best way to encourage open thinking? That is what John Kaye did in my class.

  19. oh, and the fees were more than 200 and that was a serious amount of money for a family living below the poverty line. If the services are essential eg childcare/healthcare then they should be provided by the university. If they aren’t essential then why should people on low incomes pay for them. It’s not as if the union cared about the income levels of the people paying the fees – the fees was fixed regardless of income – scarcely a ‘progressive’ charge.

  20. Steve – I had John Kaye as a lecturer 15-16 years ago in a general studies subject. He was very political and very left wing and whilst he may have made some space for alternate views he also made it plain that alternate views were wrong. In fact one got the impression that he only made space for them so he could then explain how flawed they were. In terms of the engineering subjects (he marked my thesis) I had no problem with him. I met him on the campaign trail at my kids school about a year ago and whilst I still find myself in passionate disagreement with his politics I don’t mind him as a person. However the fact that we had to put up with stupid subjects pushing a leftist agenda by leftist lecturers that have added nothing in the way of professional capability is offered merely as an example of how irrelevant the student union was in this regard. They endorsed this sort of crap and they were never going to help. I don’t recall any lecturers in general studies subjects that challenged those already indoctrinated with the socialist mindset. In ethics you got bailed up if you disagreed with the lecturers notion that electricity should be free for poor people. In environment studies you got bailed up if you objected to the notion that wealthy countries are wealthy because they make other countries poor. The quality of debate at university was terribly poor and terribly biased. Even the leftist John Quiggin blog with it’s openly leftist moderator makes a million times more opportunities for real debate. University was positively stalinist by comparison. Mean while the student union stole our money and handed out free beer. Never liked them and never will.

  21. When I went through UQ (early 90s) Semper was orders of magnitude better than what it was the last time I was on campus. I may have begruded the cost of the Dutton Park Ferry, but at least I knew my union fees would get me a good laugh (from the postmodernist marxist diatribe of an 18 year old journo undergrad writing in semper).

  22. MoSH – your advice is putrid. It is like suggesting that if you don’t like the mafia and all the killing, leg breaking and extortion they get up to then you should join the mafia and improve things or else stop complaining. Utterly putrid ineffective irrelevant advice.

    The correct solution to the failings of student unions was to remove compulsory membership. If they have something to offer members that students can’t get a better version of elsewhere then students will join. If not they will fail. And if they fail then good ridance to them. They were a corrupting menace under compulsory membership.

    There was however one benefit to compulsory student unionism. And that is that they demonstrated so clearly the corrupting nature of socialism. They taught that lesson well and good.

  23. Sad to see you just gloss over his role as Defence minister when a million Iraqis were being slaughtered, John. Whatever fellowships you might have enjoyed do not obliterate his role as one of many Howard Liberal War Criminals.

  24. Nanks – Im still wandering around a couple of campuses….IMHO – Maccas food has seriously deteriorated except that you can walk not far to Macquarie centre. UTS – from pretty good to choice of same old indian, chinese or pides. Walk to China town better.
    And I agree with gandhi and Terje students association fees werent misportrayed totally as a UNION!!!! Utter drivel..

  25. @Rationalist
    Rationalist – the only extreme political groups happened to be in fed govt at the time of the VSU legislation. Goodbye and good riddance to one of the extremists.

  26. What Gandhi said – anybody with a role in that crime has blood on their hands. Some things can be forgiven as part of the rough and tumble of being in a Cabinet but being part of a conspiracy to wage aggressive war (in the language of Nuremberg) isn’t one of them. I’m still bitter that not one single member of that ministry resigned (unlike in either the Bush administration or the Blair cabinet) or has even made a public apology since.

    But of course Nelson was a failure as party leader, because the problem is not with the salesman but the product.

  27. It seemed to me that VSU was about middle-aged politicians re-fighting the battles of their University days. It seemed more about payback than anything else.

    As for Brendan Nelson, I’m glad he’s gone. He was an opportunist who bent whichever way the wind was blowing. He was someone who didn’t really believe in anything, who didn’t actually stand for anything, who didn’t care about anything, other than his own advancement.

  28. @GC
    The political left may rally behind this idea but in all honesty, the silent majority of University students who look objectively at the ridiculous political, bureaucratic and inefficient student unions under CSU strongly support the notion of free choice.

  29. Aside from DD’s excellent point, Nelson didn’t seem to get a huge amount right as minister. He didn’t have much success bringing Defence to heel. Then he suggested teaching Intelligent Design in Australian schools. He was Education Minister government whose primary use for universities was using them as a punching bag, something that will cost Australia for decades to come.

    I for one will not miss him.

  30. @Rationalist
    Rationalist – you did a survey on your “most students support the notion of free choice??” The political right extremists (now gone because most people got fed up with them when they extended free choices to the workplace) made it a beat up. A cheap, low, meaningless media play is what VSU was, and thats all it was.

  31. Its over Rationalist – any word with the word choice in it sounds like workchoices to the average Ozzie…you better get over it.

  32. At my workplace, they have an internal discussion forum on the intranet. When Brendan “Doc” Nelson and Howard were agitating for the Un-ID CD to be used in schools, I was still innocent to the extent of the cult behind Intelligent Design. So I suggested that the ID argument might be good to use at school as a way of demonstrating the differences between scientific process and, pseudo-scientific arguments. At the time I naively thought that some philosophy of science lessons might be a sensible addition to science curriculum, but the fact is that even Darwin’s theory of evolution is unsatisfactorily taught in some/many schools.

    Sometime later I looked into the ID proponents further, and since then I’ve regretted ever suggesting ID arguments should be exposed at school level, even if only to demonstrate the fallacies embedded in the ID argument. Schools just don’t prepare students well enough in appreciating how scientific processes work, for students to appreciate the difference between evolution versus the latest incarnation of creationist diatribe. These days, I’m not sure that even universities provide the necessary preparation.

    The fact that Howard and Nelson were advocating ID pseudo-science as “the other side of the debate” on evolutionary theory, and tacitly as a replacement for Darwin’s theory of evolution is most alarming – fridge magnet time!

    And wasn’t Doc Nelson the one who set up the Australian Research Council (ARC) research grants to be assessed by “independent” people, such as Paddy McGuinness (deceased), and two other stooges? Or have I got my bastards mixed up?

    And wasn’t he on watch as the baby bonus kicked in? And did nothing to lift school infrastructure spending to anticipate the increased studend numbers? Just wondering.

  33. @Alice
    This isn’t about IR (for which I do not care for). This is simply about the previously forced association students had with the Union which is intrinsically counter-intuitive.

  34. @Donald Oats
    No Don – you dont have your bastards mixed up.

    The ARC process was twisted into a form of “pro war” rightwingnuts emporium of handouts. Anything that had the words “global strategic…”, “free markets and choice” “de-regulation and how to trim (or razor) public inefficiencies..” in the title passed muster, as did studies on ?”bio security…anti terrorism… policing and special hazardous bomb materials handling…how to train a bomb sniffing dog…how Asio can tap phones to catch people like Haneef…how to eradicate civil rights once and for all”…you get the picture, those studies got the funding under the good Doctors medicine (with people like McGuiness presiding over judging academic merit ha ha)…hence on every campus up popped special anti terrorism and policing and security units that got the good Doctors ARC funding..

    and Rationalist…how much choice in workchoices huh..? Choice is a word much bandied about by conservatives happy to preside over others having less choice. Good word in very bad hands Rationalist.

  35. Pr Q says:

    As the recipient of two Federation Fellowships, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for their originator, Brendan Nelson.

    So thats the way the Howard govt waged its “war against science”, showering its most determined scientific critic with glittering prizes. They chose a funny way of prosecuting it.

    More seriously, and generally, isn’t it time to give a bit of credit to Malcolm Turnbull for bringing most of the Coalition “over to the side of reasonableness”* on the matter of climate change and industrial awards?

    I dont much care for Turnbull’s reflexive liberalism in cultural matters. But he has very sensibly steered the Coalition towards the scientific consensus, not to mention electoral viability, on CPRS and IR policies.

    If he does nothing else in politics but achieve this he will have done well.

    * much as Mathew Arnold brought the Anglican Church around to accepting evolution and curbing some of its more evangelical fervour.

  36. @Andrew Reynolds
    Andy – as much as I like you (and I do) – I like freedom of choice when it really really means choice and isnt just an empty rhetorical term bandied around when the reality is so much different (like our choices between “Coles and Woolies” or “Caltex and BP” or “sign this or dont work”). There isnt a perfect liberal competitive market out there Andy, no matter how much more you want to de-regulate markets to get “free choice”. You are only opening the cage door and letting Lions, Tigers and Gorillas run amok in the city.

  37. @Jack Strocchi
    Jack does have a point re Turnbull and Id say similar applies to Barry O’Farrell at state level. He is actually reasonably decent, not as extreme as JH and his war mongering workchoices silver selling circle of admirers or Barry’s own mate Brendan. Plus he is bog irish. Id put a bet on Barry.

  38. Rationalist, I don’t know why you rave on like TerjeP (say tay-a) the whinger for even Barry O’Farrel who has a Bachelor of Arts in history, politics and Aboriginal indigenous studies has not hindered his ascendency within the Liberal Party. Get real.

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