Category Archives: Australian politics

A Museum Makes an Exhibition of Itself

To be fair, there really is a lot of good stuff on display at the National Museum of Australia, but that value for the taxpayer dollar is hugely diminished by the distortions and sheer bastardry of the institution’s promotion of ‘stolen generation’ myths and slanders of self-sacrificing missionaries

NMA buildingCan a leopard change its spots? The National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra can’t. From inception it was captured by the Left’s social justice warriors and they’re still cementing their long march through the joint today.

The original  design for a wall  included some irregular dots and bumps. As an in-joke, the NMA crowd organized some of the dots to read, in braille, “Forgive us our genocide”, and “Sorry”. These were  stealthy insults to then Prime Minister Howard, who was scheduled to open the NMA in 2001. The plot was exposed and the braille words were made illegible.

I happened to visit the NMA last weekend, including the Aboriginal rights display.

It includes a 1997 poster featuring a hideous caricature of Pauline Hanson with “Pauline’s Menu of Truth” concocted by the cross-cultural “Campfire Group” of Brisbane artists. The pompous NMA caption says the group

harnessed  satire as a means of addressing issues negatively affecting Indigenous people in order to maintain a dialogue and challenge the veracity of information disseminated as fact. Fish ‘n Chips is a commentary on the policies and personalities of the late 1990s.”

pauline poster IIThe NMA has adopted here the ABC trick of deriding and insulting Hanson (e.g. as “Redneck Emperor”) using the pretext of “comedy”, as in the ABC’s “Pauline Pantsdown” shtick or an earlier ABC stunt of broadcasting filthy and defamatory songs about her.[1]To spot the agenda, try to imagine the NMA letting rip with comedic and insulting exhibits from a right-wing group about Julia Gillard, Penny Wong or The Green’s Sarah Hanson-Young.

Nearby in the NMA show, one of the larger (if not largest) historical posters was from the Communist Party of Australia, circa 1982. It included the party’s red flag and the wording, “You’re on aboriginal land…Pay the rent…Land rights now!”

The NMA-written caption reads

“At the time of the 1967 referendum, the Communist Party of Australia gained support from indigenous rights campaigners for their vocal stance against racially discriminatory policies.” The poster was “donated by Mr Peter A Murphy, Sydney District Committee, Communist Party of Australia.”

Bravo the Communist Party of Australia, except  that its Soviet parent and financier had a  habit of murdering racial minorities en masse. Mongolians (100,000 out of 2.4m), Chechens (up to 200,000 or 33-50% of the total), Volga Germans (160,000  dead) and Cossacks spring   to mind.   I’m not saying this NMA caption was inaccurate, just that it seems a bit unbalanced –   other, larger groups – Christian lobbies for example – were also campaigning for Aboriginal causes.[2]

I took a few more steps and another NMA caption literally stopped me in my tracks.

NMA CPA poster“Missions and Reserves” was the heading. The text began with a quote from a Gracie Bond of Cherbourg’s Barambah Mission (Qld) dated 2008:

“Growing up on ‘the mish’ was hard and life was tough. The way my family were treated is heartbreaking – especially the kids. That anyone could think that missions were about ‘protecting’ or ‘benefiting’ Aboriginal people is unbelievable.”

The main text reads:

“Between 1860 and 1978 there were over 200 registered government-controlled missions and reserves across Australia. These were compounds established to contain or control Aboriginal people and restrict or prevent their movement across their traditional lands. Originally, missions differed from reserves in that they were established by church groups rather than secular authorities, but later the word ‘mission’ came to refer to both.

“Those living on missions had their lives controlled by government officials. This could result in residents being unable to leave the mission without written permission, having little or no control over their money, and having their mail censored or withheld, for example. Often they faced the fear of having their children removed. The mission experience was so pervasive that it affected lives and families well after the dismantling of missions in the late 1970s.” [My emphasis].

I am deeply suspicious about the NMA’s attempt to conflate government-run settlements (mainly oriented to welfare distribution) and church-run missions with a philanthropic emphasis on education, protection of vulnerable girls and boys, job-training and Christianising. This mixing-up of the two types implies that the worst paternalism and neglect at the government-run establishments (e.g. at Moore River Settlement in WA’s south-west) were just as prevalent in the church-run stations.

Also, note the sheer bastardry of the NMA in wiping off the generations of self-sacrifice and charity of those church stalwarts who dedicated their lives to Aboriginal protection and betterment. NMA people drawing their fat public service salaries in Canberra (and many of the staff seem to be on the gold-plated public service super schemes)[3] would find it hard to identify with earlier Australians living for  decades amid the heat, flies and isolation of the outback. These missionaries and helpers were ministering to people suffering frightful diseases and disadvantages. The indigenous girls rescued by missions were saved from  violent cultural practices such as rape by mature and old men, including sexual tearing of girls hardly beyond toddler stage.

Moreover, the NMA’s caption does its best to liken the missions to closed compounds (or even a mild form of concentration camp), supposedly forcing Aborigines to stay there despite the  alleged appalling conditions inflicted by monstrous white overlords and overladies.

What bunk! First, the norm was that groups drifted in seeking better food and lifestyle than the bush offered (especially during drought). Missions, often staffed by a  bare handful of people, were  keen  to return them to their own lands rather than have them idly consuming mission resources. Second, when a group felt like returning to their lands, they just went. Who or what could prevent them?

To the extent women and children were in locked dormitories at night, it was for protection against the male black uniapon IImarauders, especially young men whose normal sex partners were monopolized by polygamous elders, with powers of witchcraft and payback to enforce their authority.

The would-be young marauders included David Unaipon, 25 at the time and whose portrait in suitcoat, winged collar and tie now graces our $50 note.

I include this anecdote thanks to the wonderful researches of Joe Lane in Adelaide, who   spent  years patiently re-keying and posting on-line at www.firstsources.info hand-written  early documents from SA’s missions and archives.

On May 27, 1898, the superintendent of Point McLeay Mission on Lake Alexandrina, Thomas Sutton, wrote to the Rev. Dalton, secretary of the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association in Adelaide, the mission’s agent. Sutton’s letter concerned Unaipon, who was Point McLeay-born:

“We have had a rather startling experience with some of our young men, and I regret very much that David Unaipon has been the ringleader of it all.

Last Monday night, about 11 o’clock or later, voices were heard in the dining room of the Dormitory but before it could be ascertained who they were, they made their escape. I set to work at once to investigate the matter, which resulted in proving most conclusively that David was the leader of three others, viz., Willie Butcher, Pat Williams and Mansell Tripp; first of all David persuaded P. Williams to leave his bed in the young men’s room to join them, then he tried to persuade Tom Lawson to do so but he refused; and subsequently led the above band; we found that he had a key that would open the young women’s door – (that is why I have sent for patent locks) – and if they had not been surprised and hindered, I don’t know what would have happened.

“I can only hope that no entrance has been previously made. I tried them on Wednesday morning and sentenced David to 6 months banishment from the station and from subsequent revelation am going to make it 12 months; and the other two who, I believe, were foolishly led into it but did not go to the extent of the others, I gave them the option of one month’s work without pay or 3 months’ banishment. I think they will choose the former. It has been a great worry to me especially the part that David played, but I believe the prompt punishment will be a good lesson to others.”

Sutton’s discipline didn’t prove very effective, as Unaipon and his co-conspirator simply camped just outside the station boundary. Three weeks later (June 18), Sutton was writing again to Dalton:

“D. Unaipon & W. Butcher I regret to say that these two fellows are now camping on the reserve just outside our ground; if we cannot get control of reserve, it is no use trying to carry out our regulations; the natives will only laugh at us.”

This Unaipon episode is just-by-the-way.[4] The missions generally had far more serious issues to deal with. For example, a prime purpose of many missions was to save children from infanticide, or save half-caste girls from the vilest prostitution,  leading to  rapid death from disease.

As mentioned, the NMA caption starts with the 2008 quote from Gracie Bond from Cherbourg, which is now a self-governing Aboriginal community (population 1300) three hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane. In that very year – though the NMA doesn’t mention it – Cherbourg was so dysfunctional that one in ten inhabitants was bashed severely enough to be recorded on police statistics. (The next year the rate fell to “only” 7%). Police rated 60% of the assaults in the “serious” category. The rate of hospitalization from assaults was more than 30 times the  Queensland average.

As for the children in Cherbourg, at least one in 20 at that time were  involved in substantiated notifications of being at risk of harm.[5]

I’ll repeat Gracie Bond’s allegation in the NMA but now in this black-on-black Cherbourg context:

That anyone could think that missions were about ‘protecting’ or ‘benefiting’ Aboriginal people is unbelievable.”

Moving along the NMA walkway, one gets the full “stolen generation” message, including that children were still being removed and traumatised as late as 1970, to be “better off raised as whites”, alleges the NMA. In other words, Prime Ministers Chifley, Menzies, Holt and Gorton presided over racist child-stealing regimes (federally); as did such decent state individuals as WA Premiers Bert Hawke (uncle of Bob) and Dave Brand (Lib).[6]

In Queensland the policy was to corral Aborigines away from the white community, not to integrate them. From 1908 to 1971, separations of Aboriginal children in  Queensland from their parents averaged four per yearand that was for all reasons, including neglect, incapacity etc.[7]

In South Australia the law explicitly forbade child removals without parental and judicial consent. The Victorian government from 1996-2003 ran six investigations seeking “stolen generation” evidence and individuals and found none, other than 300 informal adoptions and fosterings-out in the 1960s, which earlier governments had discovered, condemned and corrected.

In the Northern Territory, two “stolen generation” individuals sued for compensation, these being the best examples out of 550 prospective cases that phalanxes of lawyers could turn up. Both claimants lost – one case had involved possible parental consent and the other, re Peter Gunner, evinced the horrific evidence that his mother, Topsy, had abandoned the baby Peter on an ants’ nest or stuffed him down a rabbit hole, the finer details vary.

In  NSW, of 2600 children removed between 1912 and 1968, two-thirds were simply teenagers boarded out for apprenticeships (as also occurred with white teenagers) and the other third were largely welfare cases, such as orphans, destitutes and abused children. The NSW cases that involved weakly ambiguous support for the “stolen” thesis totaled three persons.[8]

The NMA display strongly features PM Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to the “stolen generation”, in which he said,

“We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.”

Tragically, since Rudd’s 2008 pledge, the number of indigenous children in out-of-home care has actually risen by two-thirds, to 15,455, as of June, 2015, such that these children represent 35% of all those in out-of-home-care  and 5.25% of all indigenous children – and the rate is rising. Even SBS TV wonders if there are more of these removals now than at “any other time in Australian history”.

Historian Keith Windschuttle estimates the total removals nationally (for all reasons) from 1880-1970 at about 8250, an annual rate of about 90 that is totally dwarfed by removals today.[9] The NMA could mount quite an interesting display on this contrast, if it chose.

I wasn’t intending a critique of the NMA, which is chaired by business man David Jones (VGI Partners; Kudos Energy) and  run by Dr Mathew Trinca, costs taxpayers $41m a year and gets  1.35m visitors annually
. Just for the rcord, Trinca had this to say about his institution when interviewed by the ABC:

“The one thing good about the cultural institutions of Canberra and elsewhere around the country is that they can be sources that people can trust.”

I just wanted to enjoy myself before my plane took off for Melbourne. Instead, I found myself choking on the NMA’s hotbeds of identity politics, notwithstanding that most of the NMA stuff is pretty good.

I notice that conservative columnist and Institute of Public Affairs board member Janet Albrechtsen is on the NMA’s council, along with gender-Valkyrie and journalism academic Catharine Lumby.  Surely Albrechstsen needs to rock the NMA boat a bit?

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here.


[1] “Before the Chamber Judge, [Hanson] contended that the broadcast material gave rise to imputations that she is a homosexual, a prostitute, involved in unnatural sexual practices, associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a man and/or a transvestite and involved in or party to sexual activities with children. The [ABC] essentially contended that the material amounted merely to vulgar abuse and was not defamatory.”

[2] Another caption does refer to “academics, Christians, trade unions, peace activists, women’s suffrage groups…A broad range of political interests and parties, including the Australian Liberal and Labor parties, the Communist Party of Australia and the Socialist Party of Australia, also offered support.” Note that ‘Christians’ are listed second behind ‘academics’.

[3] NMA expenses last year for the gold-plated defined-benefit and the defined-contribution super were roughly the same.

[4] Put Unaipon’s shenanigans down to youthful indiscretion. Wiki says he was later employed by the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association as a deputationer, in which role he travelled and preached widely in seeking support for the Point McLeay Mission

[5] A child involved in multiple notifications was counted only as one case

[6] I was a reporter in Perth from 1958-69 and from a household active on Indigenous causes, but recall no such allegation of child-stealing ever being raised, let alone creating any controversy.

[7] This data is from the Qld Govt’s own submission to the “Stolen Generation” inquiry.

[8] Details from Keith Windschuttle’s “The Stolen Generations 1881-2008” or my “Pocket Windschuttle” summarizing his 660-page book.

[9] Ronald Wilson’s Bringing Them Home report (1997) implied up to 100,000 forced removals of half-caste children. Rudd’s apology halved that to “up to 50,000”. Neither cited any documentation for their wild estimates.

COMMENTS [8]

  1. pgang

    Years ago I visited a friend who was pastor at a very old mission. At that stage it had already been taken over by the authorities, and it was falling inevitably into decay. Anyway he told me a harrowing tale of an adventure he had recently had. A young man had been murdered (I can’t remember the details), and his tribe or family were rampaging and the situation was quickly fomenting. The police and school teachers were under siege in their compound, frightened for their lives. In desperation, a policeman phoned the pastor to ask if there was anything he could to do help. With extraordinary courage, this young family man left his house and went amongst the crowd, and found the dead youth’s mother or grandmother, who was in mourning. He started praying with her, and eventually the crowd calmed down and joined in with reverence, then dispersed. That is an example of what the missions did for these communities by bringing the truth into their lives and displacing their dreadful superstitions.

  2. joelane94@hotmail.com

    The meanings of words change: ‘late’, in the nineteenth century, didn’t necessarily mean ‘passed away’, simply that the former holder of an office or position was no longer in that position. ‘Removed’ meant’ moved’, or ‘transferred’, or ‘went from/to’. A policeman might be ‘removed’ from one place to another. Children ‘removed’ – especially if they were fourteen or fifteen – may have been apprenticed, or engaged, at some place away from their family. A hundred years ago, what we would now regard as children were employed at far younger ages: my grand-father went to work at nine in the 1880s, which wasn’t uncommon. School leaving age before 1914 was twelve, and in fact even in the 1950s, fourteen was the school leaving age. Old-age pensions weren’t available until around 1908. Unemployment benefits were unknown before the Depression. Single mother benefits didn’t come in until about 1971. Times certainly do change.

  3. Alistair

    Tony, Your articles are always so brilliant they make me feel ill!
    The problem is these ignorant ….. know that they must do everything in their power to vilify everyone from the past in order to misdirect away from the REAL crisis that is happening today, courtesy of poorly thought out self-determination policies of Nugget (and thats pretty much how I think of him) Coombs and his ilk. During the missionary period there was zero youth suicide, zero child sex abuse, low levels of Aboriginal incarceration, zero phoetal alcohol syndrome, low levels of domestic violence, low levels of drug and alcohol addiction, and on and on. The missionaries simply would not tolerate it. In these “enlightened” times though, the progressive government bureaucrats not only tolerate all these, but supress any disenting voices vilify anyone who attempts to correct the record.

Advertisements

Cartel Capers in the Menzies Years

As a conservative, I’m browned off at the growing adulation of Robert Gordon Menzies. It got a kick-along in May on the seventy-fifth anniversary of his 1942 “Forgotten People” speech.

Sure, our four most recent prime ministers, with their cumulative deficits of $400 billion would make a principled Liberal pine for Menzies’s small government, fiscal conservatism and stability. And it seems churlish to disparage a prime minister who presided over 4.1 per cent real annual growth between 1950 to 1965, and a stunning 5.1 per cent real annual growth between 1962 and 1968.[1] But I’ll have a go.

Menzies oversaw the cartelised Australian economy that operated form 1949 to 1966. It continued after Menzies until 1974, when the price-fixers were driven from the temple by Whitlam’s Attorney-General Lionel Murphy. (I’m not of course endorsing Whitlam’s economic management en bloc.)

Menzies praised the thrifty and ambitious family as the driver of progress. But Menzies was complicit in, and actively supported, the price-fixing and market-sharing rings that operated in their multitudes throughout Australia at the expense of that thrifty and ambitious family’s shopping budget.

Menzies fans would say that price-fixing in those days was non-contentious and just part of the long-accepted landscape—what was good for business was good for jobs and progress—and therefore it would therefore be unfair to tar Menzies with the cartel brush. One letter-writer to the Age in the mid-1960s, A.J.E. Gourlay, a fan of the Institute of Public Affairs, put the industry’s case:

Price fixing has come to be an accepted part of our social structure, and is no more morally reprehensible than wage fixing or fixing the price of a hair cut, or the price of electricity.

Some people think it would be very nice for them if there were perpetual cut-throat competition for everything except selling a person’s services; but that is surely a very one-sided proposition.

People who put their life savings into industry are surely entitled to some protection, and a flourishing industry gives secure employment and better conditions to its employees … [2]

Brisbane industry magnate Sir Leon Trout similarly opined that the only sufferers from the price-fixing regime were “a few disgruntled people who wished to buy retail goods at wholesalers’ prices”. [3]

But it’s easy to find moral condemnation of cartels at the time, including from Menzies’s own team such as a future High Court Chief Justice (Garfield Barwick) and a future Liberal Party leader (Billy Snedden). Down near the base of the social pyramid, the June 1957 Victorian State Conference of the Shop Assistants’ Federation passed a motion condemning “the tendency to increase monopoly cartels and price-fixing arrangements as being against the best interests of the working class and in particular the shop assistants”.[4] Low-paid shop workers, who rang up sales for the cartels, were also cartels’ victims. Decades later, in 1971, Labor’s then shadow minister Rex “The Strangler” Connor, not a chap I normally quote approvingly, was describing Australia as “the last frontier for economic banditry” where business was “controlled by every restrictive device known to the ingenuity of man”.[5]

Surprising numbers of otherwise well-informed people—historians included—have no idea how our pre-1974 business sector operated. A credulous reader would (or should) get a jolt to find in Blanche d’Alpuget’s Hawke: The Early Years, on page 247:

The argument that market forces controlled manufacturers was invalid in Australia, for by the 1960s there was a system of monopolies and cartels operating: while free enterprise flourished, free competition was a figment.

She was not exaggerating. In 1967 the competition lawyer J.G. Collinge wrote of restrictive practices and price-fixing that “horizontal agreements directly affect commodities in 52 of the 56 divisions in the Revised Standard International Trade Classification”.[6]

Business’s temptation to price-fix is so strong that even in 2000 to 2004, in the modern era with a $10 million penalty per offence, box-makers Amcor Ltd and Richard Pratt’s Visy, jointly controlling 90 per cent of the market, also production-shared and organised to raise prices. Amcor got immunity by dobbing in Visy, and Visy copped an enormous $36 million fine.

The cartels for price-fixing and restrictive practices originated in the Depression, to ward off price wars generated by over-capacity. During the Second World War the government fixed wages, prices, outputs and zones, and thereafter businesses took over price controls on a private enterprise basis. As the Trade Practices Commissioner, Ron Bannerman’s first annual report put it:

Many companies are as accustomed to identical selling prices as they are to common labour rates and to common or similar prices for the materials they use … Often there is no recent experience of prices competition, occasionally no experience of it at all.

Bannerman told a Perth audience in 1971 that there was more restraint on competition in Australia through restrictive trade practices than in “almost any developed country you can think of”.[7] Even New Zealand brought in anti-cartel measures fifteen years before Australia. Iceland acted sooner than us. So did the UK, Belgium, France, Denmark, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and West Germany.[8]

Those pre-1974 price-fixes could be elaborate. With frozen vegetables, there was a national agreement among all producers involving fourteen pages of text, twenty-one pages of pricing schedules (each page with about 100 prices), fifteen pages on terms, payments and discounts, and five detailed zoning maps.[9] One prominent trade association included among its imperious rules:

To stabilise prices by controlling and regulating the wholesale and retail prices and terms and conditions of sale generally and to eliminate unreasonable and unfair competition in buying and selling by manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers and to control and regulate supplies.[10]

At late 1974, there were 2721 registered anti-competitive agreements among manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. There were also 9289 restrictive distribution agreements (including some conglomerates writing deals for each of thousands of their distributors).[11] The registered deals had increased by 3558 since 1968.[12]

As I look around my study, the following items in the Menzies era would have involved pricing cartels: desk and chairs; books; lamps; stationery; hammer and screwdriver; building materials; heater; shoes and clothing items. If nature calls, I’d go to our price-fixed china pedestal (in one year, three of the four makers decided to lift their fixed prices by a whopping 18 per cent) or I’d apply price-fixed toilet paper.

Beyond my study, add smokes; bread; beer; chocolate; biscuits; soft drinks; ham and bacon; wholesale wine and liquor; greeting cards; classified advertising; optical goods; bicycles; sporting ammunition; paint; pressed steel baths; venetian blinds; pharmaceuticals; car parts and windshields; tyres, tubes and retreads; batteries; builders’ hardware; electric cables; ceramic tiles; concrete pipes and roofing tiles; electrical accessories; industrial safety products; welding electrodes …[13]

Here’s a grass-roots case: In 1965 the Franklins sixty-four-store chain in New South Wales mutinied against the machinations of the Chocolate and Confectionary Manufacturers Association. Franklins’ managing director, Norman R. Tieck, revealed that the association had chopped his supplies because he cut prices of chocolate blocks from 2/- to 1/9, still with a comfortable profit. The chocolate cartel was hitting “many thousands of industrial workers and housewives in their daily struggle to make ends meet”, he told the Sydney Morning Herald, perhaps over-stating chocolate as a staple food.[14]

The thousands of restrictive practices were given the government’s blessing of secrecy and provisional legality in 1965, pending public-interest examination at some distant future date. Meanwhile families and customers were none the wiser.

No one knows how much the price fixes hurt the family purse. Bob Hawke claimed in 2002 that one just one facet alone—manufacturers dictating prices to retailers—had cost Australian families “scores of billions of dollars”. A Treasury Round-Up issue (4/2008) referred to the “immense detriment anti-competitive practices caused to the Australian economy”.

In Victoria the Bolte conservative government not merely tolerated price-fixing but in respect of beer, enforced it through the Liquor Control Commission to ensure “a comfortable level of profit”[15]. As did, until 1976, the South Australian Licensing Court. Adelaide, city of churches, was also a bastion of retail price fixing, perhaps because of its small, clubby and long-standing business families. Some habits continued even after 1974. For example, hoteliers traditionally offered discounts on packs of a dozen beers in the run-up to Christmas. A leading hotelier disparaged this at a friendly lunch with three rivals on November 22, 1977. Next thing, the discounts disappeared. The prime mover was later fined $8000. Around the same time Adelaide retailers of name-brand bed linen had the convenience of a circulated price list that delivered a 70 per cent mark-up.[16]

Collusive tendering to authorities, “an elaborate pretence”, was also standard.[17] As Billy Snedden told Parliament, business was “agreeing first, who will win; second, the price; third, the higher ‘cover price’ which the others then tender”. [18] Menzies’s Attorney-General Garfield Barwick cited nineteen suppliers each bidding £27,578/14/2. Authorities were being held up to public mockery, he complained. Alex Hunter, professor of economics at the University of New South Wales, in 1963 estimated that 40 to 70% per cent of shires’ purchasing was hurt by rigged bids, as was 40 to 50 per cent of purchasing by all levels of government.[19]

 

I can insert here some personal stories, before my evidence for Menzies as guardian of the cartels.

Leaving high school in 1958, I became a cadet reporter while a pal got a chemistry cadetship with Midland’s Government Railway Workshops. The Premier, Bert Hawke (uncle of Bob), the same year launched a royal commission into price fixing. Perth had only 500,000 people but hosted no fewer than 111 trade associations, busily fixing prices and assisting with collusive tendering. Business reps made it clear they wanted not free enterprise but literally “private” enterprise, free from public scrutiny and government interference.

 

Q: Can you indicate why you are not in favour of government control and yet are in favour of private control in relation to price fixation?

Business witness: Yes, because firstly, we stand primarily for free enterprise and the voluntary conducting of our affairs without being bound by statute.[20]

 

The companies were exploiting the Railway Workshops by identical tendering on forty-six products, including sleepers, cement, electrical cables, wire, car parts, fuels and toilet rolls.[21]

Bert Hawke’s 1956 Unfair Trading and Profit Control Act was replaced by his Liberal successor David Brand in 1959. Brand banned collusive tenders only if they were “contrary to the public interest”, top penalty being a mere £500.

Around 1960 my young pal’s Midland bosses decided to do battle against the bid-riggers on high-value white undercoat and red paint for wagons. So instead of requesting standard paint, the workshop labs created chemical performance specifications for each paint item, and called for samples from bidders before considering prices. “It busted the cartel apart. We had rival paint manufacturers knocking at our door,” my pal told me.

Soon after, Perth supermarket owner Tom Wardle, branding himself as “Tom the Cheap”, took on the grocery cartel buttressing the profits of the dominant Charlie Carters and Freecorns. Wardle ran his no-frills, high-turnover stores on margins of 10 per cent compared with his rivals’ typical 25 to 30 per cent. His rivals, in cahoots with about twenty key manufacturers, cut off his key supplies, forcing him to truck in goods from other states. He cultivated his “bad boy” image as a stripe-suited felon, and even took out newspaper ads naming companies that denied him supply. When the West Australian refused the ads, he brought out his own free weekly.

His business expanded by 1969 to 185 stores and $200 million turnover in four states. He ran Australia’s third or fourth-biggest grocery chain. He became Perth’s Lord Mayor and was knighted, but went broke in 1977 over property and Swiss low-interest loans. Tom the Cheap’s saga illustrated the huge resources needed to take on the entrenched cartels.[22]

 

In 1971 I joined the Canberra Press Gallery as the Age’s economics writer. One week in March 1972 I did a ring-around of Melbourne local authorities, and was told of the following level-tender rackets: Box Hill Council—concrete pipes; Camberwell—pipes, road metal, petrol; Doncaster—pipes; Essendon—petrol, diesel and power kerosene; Collingwood—petrol; Coburg—petrol, and each make of car requested. The Coburg municipal clerk said he’d complained to Canberra for years.

A chief of a large local authority told me that on electric cabling, nails, bolts and hardware, he would get twenty-five identical bids every time. He had busted one ring by awarding supply to the same bidder every time—it didn’t help him but it hurt the rest of the ring. On another product ring, he read suppliers the riot act. They agreed to cut their price by 10 per cent. But once out the door, they quickly restored the status quo by a 10 per cent price rise. On lamp globes, he said he had split supply nine ways to frustrate the bidders, “although it was hell administratively”.[23]Looking back, I’m mystified that Victoria had an Act (from 1965) banning collusive tendering to government. Maybe local government didn’t count.

In Tasmania, a royal commission in 1965 found the customary web of cartels and collusive tenders. For beer, all hotels had to be members of the Hotels Association to qualify for brewers’ rebates. The association also fixed the retail prices of bottles at hotels. The Royal Commissioner, J. McB. Grant, reported that the Tasmanian retail mark-up on booze was nearly double that in Victoria and New South Wales.[24]

But where was the Labor Party on this issue that degraded the living standards of millions of workers? It was preoccupied with factional squabbles and the lesser issue of monopolies, with an eye to controlling or nationalising them at the first opportunity.

Some unions enforced minimum price fixes of their own. When Sydney supermarkets offered a 5 per cent discount on day-old bread in 1977, the bread delivery unions black-banned 700 stores and shut down half the bread supply to Sydney. To sustain carters’ jobs, bread-makers agreed to sell to retailers at union-specified prices minus 14 per cent, an interesting twist on the staff of life.

The Transport Workers Union in New South Wales in 1975 banned petrol deliveries to stations displaying discount petrol prices. New South Wales motorists had to pay around seventeen cents a litre extra for tanker drivers’ job security.[25]

Bob Hawke, who saw that busting price-fixing could raise workers’ prosperity just as wage rises could, vainly argued this as advocate in late 1960s national wage cases. Then in 1971, as ACTU President, he launched a joint venture with the owner Lionel Revelman of the large Bourkes store, Melbourne. This venture was aimed at busting retail price-fixes demanded by the stores’ Dunlop and other name-brand suppliers. Dunlop refused supply unless Bourkes-ACTU marked up the goods at 42.5 per cent rather than the store’s preferred 22.5 per cent. Twenty other suppliers joined the blockade of Bourkes, including Julius Marlow, Crestknit, Bata and Parker Pens. On March 17, 1971, Hawke organised twelve unions to stop all goods to and from Dunlop companies in Victoria. Two days later Dunlop’s managing director Eric Dunshea capitulated, on orders from his London directors, followed by the others. [26]

The Prime Minister, William McMahon, was caught on the hop. Any support for price-fixers was not a good look with voters. The Liberals had first promised voters more than a decade earlier to break up price rings. Even so, McMahon continued to equivocate:

 

There are many arguments for and against retail price maintenance. A lot of people say they believe in orderly marketing and that orderly marketing is the best way there is of selling goods cheaply in the shops. [27]

 

Whitlam made all McMahon’s plans irrelevant with Labor’s win in December 1972, despite Whitlam’s own cluelessness on matters economic—“The vices of a regulated economy must be replaced with the virtues of a planned economy.”[28]

Meanwhile the Hawke venture was troubled from the outset by union in-fighting. Some unions even urged their members to boycott Bourkes-ACTU because these unions had discount deals with other outlets. The joint venture limped to failure. In 2002 Hawke recalled with pride and some exaggeration about “smashing the collusive practices of big business supported as they always had been by conservative governments. And, as always, the hypocrisy of that unholy alliance stank to high heaven.”

 

It’s time now to narrow the focus to Menzies and the cartels.

I checked an armful of books and lectures on Menzies and his era and found just one discussion (by John Howard) and one mention of the pricing rings that luxuriated in Menzies’s shadow. For example, Allan Martin’s two-volume Robert Menzies: A Life—nothing.[29] Ditto Gerard Henderson’s Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia 1944–94—nothing.[30]

Instead, we get the St Robert line. David Kemp writes in last year’s Menzies: The Shaping of Modern Australia:

 

Menzies liberalism was based on a deep faith in the capacities of each human being, in the desirability of “a fierce independence of spirit” and “a brave acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility”. These values would build a better society.

 

Kemp, in praising the Menzies ethos, scores an own goal by quoting Menzies further, from November 24, 1942, apropos of a fair deal for the public. Menzies began, “We must beware of cheap substitutes for the rule of Parliament. We must resist the rule of any sectional body, whether the employers’ association or the trades union.” Kemp’s quote extract follows:

 

There is some tendency today, as there was in the Italy of the early Mussolini, to organise the community by giving to each trade or industry a separate collectivist control of itself through the employers and employees engaged in it …

 

Thousands of employers’ price-fixing and restrictive agreements by the late 1960s weren’t far off what Menzies had decried in 1942.

The C-word  (for cartel) pops up once in that book, in the economic essay by Henry Ergas (ex-OECD) and Jonathan Pincus (Adelaide University). Neither seeming familiar with pre-1974 cartels, they remark that wage moderation, “cartels” and trade protection generated high returns for many producers, and that, reportedly, widespread collusion allowed inefficient firms to survive and efficient ones to earn “supra-normal returns”.[31] That’s all you’ll find in 390 pages, apart from a footnote.[32]

Petro Georgiou’s 1999 lecture in the Menzies Lecture Trust annual series on liberalism is one of a number showing incompatibilities between St Robert and reality. Georgiou held Menzies’s former seat of Kooyong. He said, “Alongside Menzies’ philosophical commitments to enterprise and initiative, to the incentive to prosper and create, was a commitment to social justice. A commitment embracing a better distribution of wealth …” (my emphasis).

Menzies himself remained adept at concealing his hand, generally equivocating about cartels in public utterances. Certainly, federal constitutional powers over cartels were a vexed issue, but Menzies, unlike Barwick, had been content to let sleeping dogs lie. This is from Menzies’s 1951 election stump speech (emphases added):

 

We have, as a nation, pursued a policy of increasing costs by reducing the working week, by restrictive practices, by too much inefficiency, by hot competition in wages, by vastly increased social services. I do not say that these are all bad things; some of them, on the contrary, are very good. But if we want them, we must pay for them …

 

His syntax magically conceals whether price rings are good or bad.

In the run-up years to the 1961 election, Barwick began working up anti-cartel proposals, combining moral and economic justification. By 1960 inflation (4.5 per cent) was a further incentive against price-fixing. The Governor-General Viscount Dunrossil’s parliamentary opening for Menzies in 1960 included—as a second-last sentence afterthought

 

The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.

 

What? “Development of tendencies”? As if price-fixing were not already saturating the economy! Economist Alex Hunter at the time estimated there were 600 trade associations at work, two-thirds promoting collusive practices.[33]

In Menzies’s election policy speech on November 15, 1961, his “supplement” on restrictive practices included:

 

It would be most undesirable to have an elaborate system of government controls which restricted true development, efficiency, and enterprise. On the other hand, the public interest must be paramount; exploitation must not occur.

 

Barwick had not yet formed proposals, he said, and when finally cabinet made some decisions, there would be six months for submissions “so that no proper consideration will be overlooked”. Not exactly fighting words against cartels.

In April, Menzies had written to his family:

 

But the men who have under my Government enjoyed unexampled prosperity for ten years and have become accustomed to high incomes and a minimum of competition, are the first to complain if they find their profits and dividends declining even by a fraction. [emphasis added][34]

 

Note that Menzies is complaining about big-business owners’ ingratitude: he was not showing any principled concern about their officially-sponsored feather-bedding. (Buttressing the cartels were effective import protection rates for manufacturing in the late 1960s of 61 per cent for metal products; 52 per cent for paper and printing; and overall 36 per cent).[35]

Still, Barwick’s 1962 proposals were the high point for the Liberals in (hypothetical) anti-cartel severity. That lawyer’s draft even cracked down on fixed fees for lawyers. But the proposals met plenty of internal opposition. As the SMH’s political correspondent wrote, “There is a lot of doubt whether the Prime Minister was really convinced either of [Barwick’s plan’s] political wisdom or necessity …”[36] It was another five years—and one year after Menzies retired—before the public got even token government protection from cartels.

A mysterious anti-cartel speech was delivered in 1962 by backbencher Billy Snedden, the future Liberal leader. He was morally outraged about what he called the multitudinous, harmful and untenable cartels victimising the “defenceless public” through “virulent and obstructive practice”. He seemed to hint at a revolt by a ginger-group of Liberals if government inaction continued.

Of restrictive practices, Snedden said that “the refinements are as exotic as the fire from a cut diamond”. Fixes were disguised as “orderly marketing” or a “code of ethics”:

 

They raise prices; they restrict production; they boycott people out of business; they prevent others from competing; they concentrate economic power improperly; and they care not for the public interest …

… agreements by one group beget similar and usually intertwined agreements by other groups in the distributive process. In its worst form it fixes prices much higher than they need be. In the lesser form it fixes prices to allow a comfortable margin of profit without the risk of a loss.

 

Sanctions by the cartels—fines and expulsions—could drive transgressors out of business through denial of supply or refusal to stock the products.

 

Businesses divide into groups, each group interlocking with others to enhance the power of collective boycotts, and sharing of market and conditions of sale …

 

He warned that if the Barwick scheme was not rapidly implemented, the Liberals faced the threat of wilder, ignorant legislation by a Labor government criminalising business people with new laws “absolute in terms and extreme in penalty”. “Not only does the public want it [Barwick’s scheme] but the nation must have it,” Snedden said.[37] There was no love lost between Snedden and Menzies, who later described Snedden as “a good junior but a hopeless leader”.[38]

John Howard in his book The Menzies Era provides his own revealing take on Menzies’s distaste for his own government’s anti-cartel push. Howard, who in the early 1960s was a mere Liberal apparatchik, writes that Barwick’s anti-cartel proposals:

 

had a rough time, with Menzies ultimately stepping in, in response to business concerns that the plan was too interventionist … All of the major organisations reacted badly to Barwick’s proposals. Menzies was specially sensitive to the opposition of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, which had been highly critical of the Coalition in the 1961 election campaign … By the middle of 1963 the final shape of the legislation was still unresolved … Menzies publicly hinted at major changes, saying the tabled proposals “were by no means the last word” and promised a second look at the “sweeping, clumsy and autocratic plans of the Attorney-General”.[39]

 

Did Menzies really describe Barwick’s plan as “sweeping, clumsy and autocratic”? Howard gives no source. It would be incredibly disloyal and inflammatory of Menzies towards his eminent cabinet colleague. Regardless, Howard makes no bones about Menzies undermining Barwick’s efforts.

Menzies also had kind words for the conspirators of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures. Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell charged that Menzies had repudiated Barwick when addressing industry chiefs at a Chamber dinner in September 1963.[40] Menzies said their submissions were “the most balanced, sensible and impressive ideas” he had heard. Calwell’s translation of Menzies: “Let Little Gar have his fun, but don’t worry, Uncle Bob will fix it, boys!”

Barwick left politics for the High Court in April 1964, and the tatters of his anti-cartel proposals, after scores of debilitating amendments, were brought in next year. Cartels were given a further two years’ grace and then restrictive practices were merely subjected to registration and prolonged case-by-case examination—except for collusive tendering, which was banned.

Menzies retired, trailing his clouds of glory, in 1966. There are many reasons to praise Menzies’s policies and achievements. But please don’t bang on about his concern for thrifty and ambitious families. He didn’t care if business combinations—economic bandits—exploited them mercilessly.

Tony Thomas was Economics Writer for the Age in Canberra from 1971 to 1979, and wrote for BRW Magazine from 1981 to 2001.


[1] J.R. Nethercote (Editor). MENZIES -The Shaping of Modern Australia. Connor Court Publishing, 2016. p135-6

 

[2] Age 10/9/65, p2

 

[3] Age 17/7/65 p5

 

[4] AGE June 24. 1957 p7

[5] Restrictive Trade Practices Bill 1971, Second Reading debate from Nov 25.

 

[6] Australian Trade Practices: Readings. Ed JP Nieuwenhuysen, Croom Helm, London, 1976, p75

 

[7] SMH 2/4/71

[8] Billy Snedden, Hansard 16/8/62 p422

[9] Pengilley, Warren: Collusion – Trade Practices and Risk Taking. CCH, North Ryde 1978, p51.

 

[10] Pengilley, Warren: Collusion – Trade Practices and Risk-Taking. CCH Australia, North Ryde, 1978, p28

 

[11]

Trade Practices Commission, First Annual Report, 1974-75, p65

[12] JP Nieuwenhuysenm and NR Norman, Australian Competition and Prices Policy, Croom Helm, London, 1976 p19

[13] Sources: Miscellaneous including Royal Commissions, CTP annual reports, court cases, press reports.

 

[14] SMH 15/10/65 p34

 

[15] Review of the Liquor Control Act 1968, Vol 2, p684

[16] Round, DK and Siegfried, JJ. Horizontal Price Agreements in Australian Antitrust. Review of Industrial Organization, Vol. 9, No. 5, 10/1994, pp 569-606

[17] CTP second annual report, p8

[18] Hansard, 16/8/62, p424

[19] SMH, 18/2/63 p2

 

[20] Karmel PH and Brunt, Maureen: The Structure of the Australian Economy. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1962, p95

[21] Australian Trade Practices: Readings. Ed JP Nieuwenhuysen, Croom Helm, London, 1976, p176

 

[22] Westralian Portraits, ed Lyall Hunt. UWA Press, Perth 1979 pp287-95

[23] Age 10/3/72.

[24] Australian Trade Practices: Readings. Ed JP Nieuwenhuysen, Croom Helm, London, 1976, p31

[25] Tony Thomas, Age 28/4/1977 p21.

 

[26] Age 20/3/71, SMH 19/3/71, D’Alpuget, Blanche, Hawke: the Early Years, p277-86

 

[27] Age 1/4/71

 

[28] Age 26/11/65 p3

 

[29] Martin AW, Robert Menzies, A Life. Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne University Press, 1993/1999.

[30] Henderson, Gerard: Menzies’ Child- The Liberal Party of Australia. Harper Collins, Sydney, 1994

[31] J.R. Nethercote (Editor). MENZIES -The Shaping of Modern Australia. Connor Court Publishing, 2016. p152 and 158.

[32] Economist and regulation specialist Dr Alan Moran argues that cartels are not important in explaining inefficiency since they tend to implode from their internal tensions or can be undermined by new competitors. But cartels aided and enforced by government (e.g. the former two-airline policy) can have persistent harmful effects. Moran says that despite import protection, there is no evidence of super profits being earned, possibly because gains were leached off to organised labor. (Interview, 4/6/17)

[33] Australian Trade Practices: Readings. Ed JP Nieuwenhuysen, Croom Helm, London, 1976, p177

 

[34] Robert Menzies A Life. Vol 2 1944-1978. A W Martin, MUP 1999, p432

 

[35] Industries Assistance Commission, 1976, Assistance to Manufacturing Industries. AGPS Canberra.

[36] SMH 30/10/62

 

[37] Hansard, 16/8/62, p421-4

 

[38] Henderson, Gerard: Menzies’ Child- The Liberal Party of Australia. Harper Collins, Sydney, 1994 P186

[39] Howard, John, The Menzies Era. Harper Collins, Sydney 2014, p276

 

[40] SMH 17/9/63, p4

The Trump Doctrine on Energy

If you go by the mainstream media’s lockstep ‘coverage’ of the US president’s first six months, he is no more nor less than a tweeting buffoon. A comforting narrative for cant-addicted newsroom hacks and groupthinkers, it handily avoids any and all mooting of Australia’s need to follow his lead

blackout state IIIOur federal and state politicians scuttle about looking for innovative new ways to strangle the Australian energy sector. But across the Pacific, America is unleashing a world-changing energy revolution. The world’s energy fundamentals are in transition. Donald Trump is liberating American coal, gas, oil and nuclear industries from eight years of Obama’s harassment and restrictions.

The consequences for us as a player in energyexport markets are dire. In an officially supportive environment, Australian energy could hold its share – intrinsically, it has  global competitiveness. But politics here involves ‘renewables’ targets and other sacrifices to please the climate gods,  bans  such as Victoria’s on normal and fracked gas exploration, official and green lawfare against every new energy project (think Adani), impromptu Turnbull restrictions on LNG exports, Sargasso seas of red tape, and  on-going fatwas against nuclear proposals.

Domestically, American industry will enjoy cheap energy inputs, while our own industry’s  energy becomes as expensive as anywhere in the world. This disparity will play out in Australian factory closures and capital flight to the US.

A banana republic couldn’t do a better job of destroying its own wealth.

The US is now estimated to have 20% more oil than the Saudis – at USD50 a barrel, a storehouse of USD $13 trillion. The US has been a net energy importer since 1953, but thanks to fracking is now likely to be a net exporter as early as 2020. American LNG could move into net export surplus as early as this year. By 2040, US natural gas exports alone could bring in USD $1.6 trillion, and generate USD $110b in wages. US gas reserves are also enough to meet domestic needs for a century. The American energy revolution – in Trump’s word, “dominance” –  seldom makes the mainstream media here, which is fixated on the schoolyard narrative of Trump as a tweeting buffoon.

Want to know what’s really important? Trump on June 29 addressed the Department of Energy’s“Unleashing Energy” conference in Washington.

His policy announcements were so shattering to the green/left ideology – he talked of “clean, beautiful coal” for example – that his message went almost unreported here. Trump said

The golden era of American energy is now underway.  When it comes to the future of America’s energy needs, we will find it, we will dream it, and we will build it.

American energy will power our ships, our planes and our cities.  American hands will bend the steel and pour the concrete that brings this energy into our homes and that exports this incredible, newfound energy all around the world. And American grit will ensure that what we dream, and what we build, will truly be second to none.

Today, I am proudly announcing six brand-new initiatives to propel this new era of American energy dominance.  

First, we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector   which produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy.  A complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy will help us find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource.  [US nuclear plants have been shuttering because of cheap gas and low power demand].

Second, the Department of the Treasury will address barriers to the financing of highly efficient, overseas coal energy plants.  Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons right now.  There are many other places that need it, too.  And we want to sell it to them, and to everyone else all over the globe who need it. [Geo-strategically, US coal and LNG could weaken Russian energy hegemony in Europe. Cheniere Energy  has just delivered the first U.S. cargoes of LNG to Poland and the Netherlands].

Third, my administration has just approved the construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico, which will further boost American energy exports. [This New Burgos Pipeline will deliver up to 180,000 barrels a day. The US is Mexico’s main petroleum supplier.]

Fourth, just today, a major U.S. company, Sempra Energy, signed an agreement to begin negotiations for the sale of more American natural gas to South Korea.

Fifth, the United States Department of Energy is announcing today that it will approve two long-term applications to export additional natural gas from the Lake Charles LNG terminal in Louisiana.  It’s going to be a big deal.  [Currently the US exports LNG only through Sabine Pass, Louisiana, but four other terminals should come on line between 2018 and 2020, competing with Australia, Qatar and Russia].

Finally, to unlock more energy from the 94 percent of offshore land closed to development, we’re opening it up, the right areas. Under the previous administration, so much of our land was closed to development.   – we’re creating a new offshore oil and gas leasing program.  America will be allowed to access the vast energy wealth located right off our shores.  And this is all just the beginning — believe me.

Is Trump merely rhapsodising? No way. His energy track record in his first half-year — again, carefully ignored by Australia’s mainstream media — speaks for itself.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to dump Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” designed to bump up household electricity rates by 14%
  • The long-frustrated Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Illinois/Texas got fast-tracked approval
  • Obama’s ban on new coal leasing on federal land was revoked  – these lands involve 40% of US coal production.
  • The US has dumped its Paris Climate commitments, which Trump says will save taxpayers USD3 trillion, and protect 6.5m US industrial jobs. “Maybe we’ll be back into it someday, but it will be on better terms,” he said last week
  • Hundreds of thousands of hours of red-tape energy regulations – including on fracking –  were abolished.

Trump spelt out his energy philosophy. “With [our] incredible resources, my administration will seek not only American energy independence that we’ve been looking for so long, but American energy dominance.

“And we’re going to be an exporter — exporter!” he promised. “We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe.  These energy exports will create countless jobs for our people, and provide true energy security to our friends, partners, and allies all across the globe.”

Unlocking energy would generate millions of jobs and trillions in wealth, he said.  For over 40 years, America was vulnerable to foreign regimes using energy as an economic weapon. Americans’ quality of life was diminished by the idea that energy resources were scarce.

 Many of us remember the long gas lines and the constant claims that the world was running out of oil and natural gas.    

Americans were told that our nation could only solve this energy crisis by imposing draconian restrictions on energy production.  But we now know that was all a big, beautiful myth.  It was fake.   The truth is that we have near-limitless supplies of energy in our country.  Powered by new innovation and technology, we are now on the cusp of a true energy revolution.

We have nearly 100 years’ worth of natural gas and more than 250 years’ worth of clean, beautiful coal.  We are a top producer of petroleum and the number-one producer of natural gas.  We don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty and tell us what to do and how to do it.  That’s not going to happen.  

But this full potential can only be realized when government promotes energy development instead of obstructing it like the Democrats.   We have to get out and do our job better and faster than anybody in the world.  This vast energy wealth does not belong to the government.  It belongs to the people of the United States of America.   Yet, for the past eight years, the federal government imposed massive job-killing barriers to American energy development.

Job-killing [Obama] regulations are being removed. I’m dramatically reducing restrictions on the development of natural gas.  I cancelled the moratorium on a new coal leasing on federal lands.  

We have finally ended the war on coal.  And I am proud to report that Corsa Coal  just opened a brand-new coal mine in the state of Pennsylvania, the first one in many, many, many years

We’re ending intrusive EPA regulations that kill jobs, hurt family farmers and ranchers, and raise the price of energy so quickly and so substantially.

From all this are two take-home messages: in the US, you ain’t seen nothing yet. And for Australia, we can either change tack on energy madness or fall under the wheels of the US juggernaut.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here.

 

COMMENTS [8]

  1. Bushranger71

    See this well-reasoned argument from a ‘Greenie’ that is supportive of clean coal derived energy:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-02/next-financial-crisis-not-far-away

  2. Bill Martin

    This article, particularly the quotations from Trump’s speech, read like an enthusiastic song of praise to sanity. That, of course, makes it an anathema for the insane.

  3. en passant

    Trump has set out the winning agenda for any Australian political party that adopts it.

    Do not worry about the screaming trolls and the MacBot sea level rise fakery, just get on with exploiting our wealth while we are still a sovereign nation.

    Oh, and how effective are the violent screaming trolls at winning elections by shouting everyone else down? Just ask Whitlam.

  4. Ian MacDougall

    First, we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector which produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy.

    Nuclear energy is finite. (We have not got up to controlled fusion, though there are some promising signs. Its fuel would essentially be sea water, and we are not likely to run short of that anytime soon.) But fission fuel is still not ‘renewable’, and is only ‘clean’ if one disregards the problem of how to dispose of the highly radioactive waste.
    Moreover, ‘emissions-free’ only has importance if one concedes that there is a problem with emissions in non-nuclear, conventional coal sources. But Trump as a fully paid-up member of the Ostrich School of Climatology, denies that anyway.

    He obviously needs a new speechwriter or supervisor. From Trump’s point of view, the existing staff leave something to be desired.

  5. Doc S

    You’re dead right about the almost total lack of reporting on this in the US (and thus the Australian media). A recent media monitoring centre analysis of broadcasting content in one news cycle recorded nearly 350 broadcast minutes on Trump and the Russia investigation – the next was terrorism at less than 15 minutes but every other theme of vital interest to your average American such as healthcare, education, and yes climate change (not forgetting Trump had just withdrawn from the Paris Accords) all got less than five minutes of broadcast time. Its insane. And our media here are not much better. Landmark events like Trump’s DoE address barely rate. Of course Trump realises energy security is the key to prosperity – cheaper and reliable sources of energy will be key to driving the US economy. The Finkel Review encapsulates our government’s view on energy security but is light years away from the American position under Trump (that is happening NOW) and of course not forgetting this all goes against the current climate warming narrative so beloved of the kool-aid drinkers of all political stripes including the Turnbull government. As for the ultimate clean energy – nuclear – well you can just forget about THAT sunshine!

  6. Ken

    Trump is playing the media for the suckers that they are. They spend too much time looking for nasty things to say about him and fail to see just what he has already achieved. Thinking people are enjoying the reactions of ” true believers”.

  7. Keith Kennelly

    An Aussie PM that dumps renewables and subsidies to renewables, promotes coal and gas would turn around the economy and would be PM for ever.

    Tony Abbott should replaceMalvolmTurnbull right now.

Andrew Bolt attacked – Thuggery in Carlton in daylight

bolt-front-page.jpg

Tony Thomas, on hand to record the fascist left’s latest attack on those with whom it disagrees, describes the assault in Lygon Street, Melbourne, today on Andrew Bolt:

Andrew Bolt was ambushed and assaulted by a trio of thugs at 11.55am today as he entered Il Gambero Restaurant in Lygon St, Carlton to speak at the launch launch of Quadrantcontributor Steve Kates’s new book.

Bolt was unhurt.  Two of the thugs wore ‘hoodies’ to conceal their faces, according to witnesses, and one was filming the ambush.  The thugs came off worse. Bolt, who is tall and strongly built, told his audience shortly after about his self-defence: 

“It is important when you have a chance, if you don’t mind, because I am an alpha male. You need to assert your masculinity even in times like these. It is important to smash one of the f*****s in the face (audience laughter) and when you have knocked him down, to kick him in the balls.

“I should not have said that word, I hope it goes nowhere…Western civilisation after all. They would hold it against Trump too, wouldn’t they?” 

He continued, “I beg them to release the video they were making of it , release all of it.” 

Bolt wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up. On his left sleeve he had a tennis-ball sized patch of pink  color  and on his collar, a smaller patch of blue from the dye the thugs sprayed on him.

He said, “They hope, by punishing someone symbolic, they will silence and intimidate the rest of us. It didn’t work on Donald Trump and it shouldn’t work on anyone here. It’s important to keep going.”

He told Quadrant, “They’d been waiting half an hour for me. When I arrived they shouted something and one came at me from behind over my shoulder. I punched one in the head and he fell over. I turned to face the other and the first scrambled up and I kicked him between the legs. Two came up to me to fight – it’s a bit blurred in my mind – one tried to hold me tightly and then they all ran off.”

Bolt says their operation was similar to that of the Antifa (Anti-Fascist)   group.

Bolt was interviewed half an hour after arrival by a male and female police member.

“It was frightening,” says Phoebe M., who was about to enter the restaurant with her husband at the same time. “I saw people attacking this man and there were outdoor chairs and tables flying about and I thought it might be a terror attack.” 

Her husband Michael M., who was closer to the action, said the two attackers wore black hoodies, rather than masks Bolt thought. “They were swinging blows at him but Bolt landed more on them. I can’t remember whether he knocked one down.”

Phoebe said, “I shouted to them, ‘Get out of here, leave him alone’. After, I asked the staff if Bolt was all right and they said he had gone  to the washroom to clean himself up.”

The incident is likely to have been caught on security cameras nearby.

Bolt on his blog this afternoon wrote, “Police are now looking for a Left-wing fascist with a big bruise on his face and another between his legs. They also want to speak to a tubbier protester once he’s stopped running.” 

Bolt was calm when he came to the stage on the upper floor to introduce economist Steve Kates and Kates’ book of blog entries he made while covering the US election, “Donald Trump: The Art of the Impossible”.

Bolt began, “Thanks Steve for inviting me. Next time I hope to get a better sort of reception. We are facing something     that is what it  pretends to oppose. It is the new fascism I met outside the door.

“This is, unfortunately, Melbourne today. The same sort of people have attacked at a number of other (conservative) meetings.

“We had to cancel my  own Melbourne book launch because of such threats. Groups had put up inciting posters all around the city. The police told us they could only offer to deploy one to three police to defend us because they were committed to a massive police operation to provide security at the annual South Sudan beauty pageant, which had involved extreme violence three times.

“That is where Victorians are today.

“Last night there was another attack by a refugee only a couple of weeks after the ASIO director said there was no connection between refugees and such events. There’s been four attacks in a row involving Muslim refugees. If you point this out you yourself  face violence in the streets from people who are against the freedoms we have, especially free speech. Without that freedom you can’t defend any  other freedom. 

“Laws are also being used to make it almost impossible to express dissent on some issues without being sued or risking physical attack. That’s poor and very sad.”

This, he said, was under a supposed “Liberal” government practising Labor-style finances, Labor-light social policies and looking for bi-partisan global warming policies. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had appointed a committee to better locally enforce UN treaties on our business leaders about  “human rights”, and Bishop had appointed ex-ACTU President Jennie George to help advise her.

“We don’t have a Liberal government any more, this one has no stomach for a  fight,” he said.

For more, visit Andrew’s blog via the link below.

Continue reading…


http://catallaxyfiles.com/2017/06/06/bolt-attack-tony-thomas-reports/

cropped-Six-day-war.jpg

Bolt Attack – Tony Thomas reports

Over at Quadrant Online (be sure to subscribe) Tony Thomas describes the aftermath of the attack on Andrew Bolt:

Andrew Bolt was ambushed and assaulted by a trio of thugs at 11.55am today as he entered Il Gambero Restaurant in Lygon St, Carlton to speak at a book launch.

Bolt was unhurt.  Two of the thugs wore ‘hoodies’ to conceal their faces, according to witnesses, and one was filming the ambush.  The thugs came off worse. Bolt, who is tall and strongly built, told his audience shortly after about his self-defence:

“It is important when you have a chance, if you don’t mind, because I am an alpha male. You need to assert your masculinity even in times like these. It is important to smash one of the f*****s in the face (audience laughter) and when you have knocked him down, to kick him in the balls.

“I should not have said that word, I hope it goes nowhere…Western civilisation after all. They would hold it against Trump too, wouldn’t they?”

He continued, “I beg them to release the video they were making of it , release all of it.”

Astonishing – a politically motivated attack on a journalist in broad daylight on the streets of Melbourne. And yet – no twitter coverage, no stories in the media. Nothing. Contrast that with the immediate confected outrage against our good friend Roger Franklin last week.

Update: Tim Wilms reports:

It was Midday and we were all awaiting Andrew’s arrival which we had been informed was minutes away. I was very nervous myself as MC for the event, as I wanted to put on a good show for the attendees as well as for the speakers. Then all of sudden a familiar face at these events rushed up to me to tell me Andrew Bolt had just been attacked on his way in by two assailants and had thrown punches at him.

My heart sunk, this was not the welcome I wanted Andrew Bolt to have to our event. After our initial reaction of shock and horror we learnt that Andrew was fine and that the event would proceed as planned. Andrew emerged after cleaning himself up, he had been doused with red and blue die. But undeterred, like he has been for his entire career he emerged to give his speech almost unflustered.

We soon learned that it was his attackers who came off second best, Andrew courageously fought back and sent the cowards running. We also learned that there was a third person who was there to film the attack for the assailants, it was clearly a well-planned ambush. Andrew commented after he fought back that whichever group arranged this attack they would dare not release for fear of their members being exposed as weaklings who can dish it out but can’t take it.

Update IISky News clip. If you can identify those individuals call police – 8379 0800

Update III: Andrew has a short note at his blog:

Luckily the cameras do not capture me kicking one between the legs. I cannot have my children see me acting like a thug.

Never mind his children – I suspect kicking someone in the nuts would be an excessive use of force in self-defence. Mind you, we’re yet to plumb the UK’s “Run, Hide, Tell” level of surrender-monkeyism.

Australia Drawn — and Quartered

All this ‘Gonski 2.0’ money being stuffed into the nation’s schools, what does it buy exactly, apart from happy teacher unions? While we might hope for more and better teachers of physics, chemistry, mathematics and other ‘hard’ topics, what we’ll get is more green-Left agitprop like ‘Australia to Z’

indoctrinationEver wondered how intensive is green-Left indoctrination in the school system? One example: Australia to Z, a textbook for schoolchildren 12 and upwards, pushing a nakedly leftist agenda. The book is accompanied by the publisher’s massive and even more rabid  “Teachers’ Notes” which seeks to get the kids out on the streets and campaigning on fashionable Left issues.

Studying these tracts, I felt I was missing something. Then it hit me that the class environment must now  be so palpably green/Left that teachers see no need even for a token effort to offer kids a counter-view. “On the one hand” — but there is no other hand. Yet on first principles, roughly half those kids’ parents vote conservative and their taxes pay the salaries of these supposedly non-partisan government workers.

Australia to Z by is Swiss-born artist Armin Greder. The publisher Allen & Unwin touts it as ideal for secondary schoolers. The alphabet-based picture book comprises 32 pages and 40 key words by Greder. But the  Teachers’ Notes by Queensland educationist Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright run to 6000 words across 23 pages.  Readers can download the .pdf by clicking here. Flip to Greder’s letter “R”. It’s “R for Rupert”, a snarling, eyeless and jowly caricature of the global media tycoon. Sheahan-Bright prompts kids, “What features are particularly pronounced in this portrait? What does this portrait suggest about the subject?” rupertIt seems that Murdoch derangement syndrome is fertilised early. In Orwell’s 1984, Oceanians each day have to watch a film of the Party’s enemies and then do a “Two Minute Hate”. Maybe that’s what teachers are enforcing about Murdoch.

Sheahan-Bright writes, “The opening page features a child draped in the flag, and another hoisting it – both indicative of the fact that xenophobia, jingoism, extreme nationalism, and prejudice are learned at a parent’s knees.” Any mum or dad with patriotic leanings clearly has a lot to answer for. She urges kids to make their own nationalistic cartoons involving black humour or satire –   ruling out any lurking positivism.[i]

The book’s last page sets out the lyrics of Advance Australia Fair. But alongside, as Greder’s ironic juxtaposition, are drawings of a boat-people family greeted with a sign, “Go Back – We’re Full”; three bald, singleted yobbos chanting “Ozzy Ozzy Ozzy”; and another Ocker celebrating with a beer can. Sheahan-Bright views the page as “a salutary reminder that perhaps our founding values are not best served by the current [2015-16] political and cultural agenda.” Her verdict in the Teacher’s Notes is that Greder’s alphabet is  “a disquieting and potent” and “profoundly significant” work. “This is an extremely important text with relevance for readers of all ages. It is also destined to become a contemporary classic,” she rhapsodises.

grederSheahan-Bright urges teachers to discuss with kids “offshore detention of illegal arrivals and refugees and whether that represents a humane policy”. Another topic suggested is National Sorry Day about European settlement, qua “invasion”. Kids are urged to become after-school activists supporting or protesting an issue selected by the teacher (one can imagine the choices – I don’t think protests against Gillian Triggs would be one of them).

“Create a campaign with your class”, Sheahan-Bright urges teachers. But she adds in an arse-saving aside, “Note, though, that not all students may wish to become involved.” I imagine any such juvenile recalcitrants being herded into a ghetto for wrong-thinkers. Sheahan-Bright says a “concerned group” can do protests via public demonstrations, media advertising campaigns, billboards, and street graffiti. Kids are to research the legality of such modes – “sometimes graffiti artists become well-regarded and even famous for their protests”, she says. Internet sites she recommends include Chilout – Children out of Immigration Detention; “The Facts About ‘Boat People’ – the Government and media are Lying’; GetUp!; and “The 25 Greatest Australian Graffiti Writers”. No site that she lists puts the case for secure borders.

Alphabets are thought to be the province of young children, she writes, “but here the format has been used to engage with adult concepts and topics in a cryptic and powerful way”, referencing “our sometimes myopic foreign policy and our national insularity.” Greder includes drawings of tradies and laborers, whom Sheahan-Bright finds confronting. In S for Stubbies,  for example, there’s a tradie in a bar in shorts, with a stubbie of beer.  “What does the combined image suggest about our culture?” asks Sheahan-Bright,  fishing for negatives.

greder 2Y for Yakka shows a road-laborer type swinging a pick. Sheahan-Bright for some reason decides “this image has a threatening aspect to it. What does it suggest about work? Or about this worker?” Maybe she’s never met a laborer. As for Greder, he writes, “I am fortunate: I have a pension that keeps me afloat and saves me from having to waste time on what is commonly called work.”

For “N for Nationist” the workaphobic artist has  drawn a bald, fat, squint-eyed thug with beer can, draped in the Australian flag and wearing military boots. The preceding page, “M for Meat Pie” shows a juvenile version of the thug, about six years old, shoving a whole pie into his craw. As our teachers’ guider puts it, the adult thug is suggestive of “how this child may develop”. A pie is ominous food, apparently.

F for Footy” shows two thuggish players in a rugby tackle. “What does the body language suggest about the game of football?” asks Sheahan-Bright, clearly no fan of what she calls our “national obsession”. As “D for Digger”, Greder shows a Digger in a flag-draped coffin with a mourning wife and child, “potent symbols of war and nationhood”, says Sheahan-Bright. (My own take is that when Greder happened to be born,  in 1942, his neutral Swiss homeland was waxing fat while Hitler plundered Europe).

greder 3X for Xmas” involves an Ocker in shorts and singlet, wearing plastic antlers, who is about to slaughter a turkey with a knife. Sheahan-Bright wants kids to write a story interpreting the image, but hints at no countervailing Christian narrative.

Stepping back a bit. and in all fairness, the 75-year-old Greder is an excellent stylist in charcoal, in the tradition of Germany’s Kaethe Kollwitz or our own Noel Counihan. He arrived in 1971 and taught tertiary-level art for 20 years.  He has authored and illustrated many books – at least one involving a grant application – and he’s won prestigious awards. An earlier Greder book, published in Italy, was about what he calls the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. He further glooms, “I am a pessimist, agreeing with the Spanish author Perez Reverte that the best of the twenty-first century is that we won’t be around when it ends.

According to Sheahan-Bright, his alphabet book shows “how we as a culture might appear to those from other cultures”. This is a bit rich: Greder’s cultural qualifications as an immigrant date from 46 years ago.  He now lives in Lima, Peru, from which remote outpost he opines on our Australian repugnancy.

Dr Sheahan-Bright herself is an icon of the national and Queensland  writers’ community, a former deputy chair of the Australian Society of Authors, former member of the Australia Council Literature Board and in 2012 was recipient of the Children’s Book Council’s  Nan Chauncy Award for Outstanding Services to Children’s Literature. She’s vice-president (Australia) of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) “which helps to build bridges to international understanding through children’s books.”  Australia to Z would build a somewhat rickety bridge, methinks.

Not content just with Armin Greder’s book, Sheahan-Bright recommends further alphabet-based agitprop to kids, namely “A is for Activism” and “ABC’s of Anarchy”. From those kids can learn that   “L is for Liberation Front”,  and “Z is for Zapatista”. My own thought: B is for Brainwashing.

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here.

[i] However, the cover of the Kindle version I am using merely shows one child straining to hoist the flag, with no perjorative element. I don’t know if the publisher has changed the cover or opener to tone things down.      

COMMENTS [4]

  1. Bill Martin

    This is outright treason! Reverse the situation, and all such people would end their days in the gulag for betraying the cause and rightly so. There is a saying in Hungary: “Repulsive is the bird that fouls its own nest.” So what of the ones who instruct young chicks to do just that?

  2. Ian MacDougall

    Well, after that rundown, and assuming it is an accurate portrayal of the book, it would appear to be such blatant political propaganda that it would create the conditions for a vigorous criticism of it.
    The most effective political propaganda is always subtle.

  3. Lacebug

    I would argue that the image of the yob portrayed by Greder is pretty damn accurate in many parts of Sydney. As one who detests the welfare state, McMansions, and Muslim immigration, I’d always thought I was of the extreme right, but perhaps I’m just a snob.

  4. ianl

    > ” … we might hope for more and better teachers of physics, chemistry, mathematics and other ‘hard’ topics …”

    Not a hope, there is no market for this knowledge except amongst children from the Asian groups. This has been increasingly evident for 20 years and together with many other outcomes has resulted in most of the population unable to know the difference between Watts and Watt hours. Nor is this considered important. An example only, but when people are told of (mythical) batteries with 100MW with the term MWh following in brackets, they feel comforted.

    The Disenlightment proceeds.

Chicken Littles Clucking About Trump

TONY THOMAS

Swapping leftist absurdities over coffee is every fashionable nitwit’s democratic right, and fair enough too. What isn’t fair is that taxpayers must underwrite Geraldine Doogue’s faux profundities, not to mention those of her latest Saturday Extra guest

chicken microphone IIMirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most ardent ABC Leftist of them all? What a tough question! Such a crowded field of candidates, parading their green-left credentials day and night!  The ABC Act (1983) does include the provision that our taxpayer-funded national broadcaster gather and present news and information impartially, but who cares about silly old legislation?

Anyway, I won’t keep you in suspense. My Captain’s Pick for ABC Leftist laurels is Geraldine Doogue, host of ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra, who also hosts ABC TV’s Compass[1].

Her 15-minute 7.30am session last Saturday (Feb 25) was about what a fascist Donald Trump is.[2] Doogue’s interviewee was London University literature academic Sarah Churchwell[3], whose views of Trump-as-fascist were never contradicted and, indeed, sometimes topped by Doogue’s own hyperbolic contributions. In fact Doogue and Churchwell – billed by her university as “one of the UK’s most prominent academics” — spent their 15 minutes competing to paint Trump in direst hues.

Churchwell is still traumatised by the defeat of her idol, Hillary Clinton. As she wrote for the Guardian (UK), “Stop suggesting that Clinton failed us. The truth is, we failed her.”

Doogue sought out Churchwell because of another Guardian article headed, ‘It will be called Americanism’: the US writers who imagined a fascist future”. Churchwell had gone looking for literary references to fascist dictators (e.g. in Orwell’s 1984 and Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism) and claimed they all presaged the arrival of fascist President Trump.

Doogue lauded Churchwell’s lame attempt at a knife-job as both “fresh” and “clever”. Inspired, Doogue went looking herself for literary allusions to fascists and regaled her radio audience with them, sometimes giggling about the parallels with certain recent events (the Trump presidency is now all of five weeks old, let it be remembered).

Here’s a sample from Doogue’s Saturday Extra interview:

Doogue:   You look at comments including Vice-President Henry Wallace quoted in a 1944 article, about American fascism. Quote, “…a Fascist  is someone whose lust for money and power is combined with such intensity of intolerance towards other races, parties, classes, regions or nations, as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.” 

It’s a pretty devastating old quote. You don’t think Trump is a fascist though really?

Churchwell: Yes actually I think he is. I do, I do.

Doogue: Oh you do! OK!

Churchwell:  That description is a very good description. I think Trump is a fascist in the strict sense of the term, a lot more like Mussolini than he is like Hitler.

Doogue: (enthusiastically) or Berlusconi, it  is a very interesting comparison actually.”[4]

Churchwell:  Absolutely! Elements of plutocracy, elements of corruption, he [Trump] is  authoritarian, he has no interest or respect for democracy as a democratic process. He thinks anyone who disagrees with him is not a real voter, and should be in jail. That is a pretty good litmus test for fascism.

Churchwell then cites a checklist by author Umberto Eco about what constituted Italian pre-war fascism, and continues, re Trump, “Yes, reading through it, Tick!  Tick! Tick! Tick!”

Later, Doogue quotes meaningfully from a 2004 novel The Plot Against America by Philip Roth:

To have enslaved America with this hocus-pocus! To have captured the mind of the world’s greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth! Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth!” 

Doogue had a little simper at that, then continued to encourage Churchwell:

Doogue: “You have a few examples of writers imagining the future where alternative facts — what we are told is fake news — sometimes basically outright lying, is at the centre of the rise of the autocrat. Again you say  we should not be surprised.

Churchwell: Yes I think that is right; people recognised that was why this was always going to  work — propaganda was crucial.

Churchwell wafted along to an obscure 1942 Katherine Hepburn film, Keeper of the Flame, in which Hepburn’s character marries a popular politician who is a covert fascist. One of his plots for a US takeover is planting fake stories in newspapers to stir up revolts. Churchwell says, This is the media. It  will be central to any (inaudible – either ‘fashion of’ or ‘fascist’ )  project”.[5]

Doogue respondsAnd the point is these were a few private individuals to whom money didn’t mean anything anymore but who wanted political power. Gosh I wonder who that sounds like, heh heh heh!

In her introductory riff about Churchwell, Doogue incorrectly attributes to a New York Timesreporter a 1938 warning, “When and if fascism comes to America, it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’, it will not be marked with a swastika, it will not even be called fascism. It will be called, of course, Americanism.”

Doogue: “Now whatever your view is, one thing is certainly under way, millions of Americans and those beyond  are trying to discern what is the true nature of current developments in the US. Can literature help?  

Well, people are voting with their feet to some extent — 1984, Sinclair Lewis, Hannah Arendt, all apparently are back on the top reading lists as people search for answers and solutions.”

Churchwell: You go back and you look at some of the things they said in America during the rise of European fascism, that are terrifyingly apt, they could have been written today.

Churchwell cites the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel It Can‘t Happen Here, warning how American democracy could give way to a fascist leader:

And again it looks like a lot of what was said in the novel could be written about Trump…That is an aspect of American fascism that was really important;  it has a corporate tinge to it, about providing government of the profit, for the profit,  by the profit.”

Churchwell is really clever, isn’t she![6] She then again quotes Sinclair Lewis

Churchwell: ‘When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross’, and as I was re-reading these novels, I think that it will also have a dollar bill. It is religion, it is patriotism and it is about saying  this will be all about  everyone getting rich.”

Doogue is not to be outdone and has a quote of her own from some Der Spiegel journalist “in  a very big article”, she says.  This think-piece on Trump adviser Steve Bannon was, Doogue says, “deeper than a discussion about current politics,  with a real sense of worrying about  the state of the Judeo-Christian ethic in the US among the cosmopolitan elites,  and actually aligning  with elements of purity and orthodoxy in Russia! Can you see that deeper strand running through any of the literature you have examined?”

After some waffle, Churchwell says,

“Fascism in America has always been recognised as something  that would come with a religious  cast, have an evangelical  flavor to it, which a lot of Americans have responded to…”

The two ladies then make much of Trump posing by a big portrait of himself after winning the Republican nomination. They agree, using their unique psychic powers, that Trump had been inspired by his favorite film Citizen Kane (1941). Director Orson Welles in turn was showing that Kane was in sync with past European fascists who used similar posters.

“People were appalled; why on earth would he [Trump] set himself up to look like a fascist?”Churchwell exclaims. Apart from big portraits now being a mainstay of political campaigning, this doubly-extended analogy seems a stretch.[7]

Doogue, winding down, thinks their analysis of Trump “makes for an interesting way of trying to examine what  is under way. We have not even talked about McCarthyism or Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.”

This had me wondering to where Doogue would take an excursion into Trump and McCarthyism. As for the Handmaid’s Tale, it is “Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government. (The) dystopian novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency.”

The ABC guidelines on impartiality run to a truly massive 4041 words. The bit I found eerily prescient (to use Doogue-speak) was the sub-head,  “Impartiality – what could possibly go wrong?”[8]

Tony Thomas’s new book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here.


[1] Doogue’s personal and subjective perspective is also a feature of Compass. As her September 4, 2016 show had it,

“Are the Brexit vote, the Trump phenomenon and the resurgence of One Nation all signs that democracy and capitalism are under pressure and failing to deliver? If so, what can we do to build a fairer more equitable system?” 

[2] The ABC blurbed it, “George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four; Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism are back on the top reading lists as people seek insights into to Donald Trump’s America.”

[3]  Churchwell  is professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, and director of the Being Human festival at the University of London.

[4] Silvio Berlusconi was scandal-plagued Italian prime minister from 2008-11. He was convicted of soliciting a minor for sex but this was overturned on appeal.

[5] The transcript is my own

[6] Churchwell was not referring to “prophet” because she had also introduced the word “profiteering”

[7] Churchwell seems to have visions of Trump-style concentration camps for intellectuals like herself.  She has re-tweeted,

Sarah Churchwell Retweeted Arthur Goldhammer

“Funny how many academics, writers, and intellectuals the Trump administration has already encouraged CBP [Customs and Border Police) to ‘mistakenly detain.’ ‪#resist

[8] Sure, Doogue’s next respectful interview on Saturday Extra might be with a die-hard Trump fan who also elaborates on the numerous reasons why Clinton is nicknamed “Crooked Hillary”. But I doubt it.

Reporting Islam in the Approved Way

When I get ‘mindful’ about Islam, as urged by a think-tank at Griffith University, I recall the fire in a Mecca girls’ school that saw religious police force children back into the flames because they were deemed insufficiently modest to warrant rescue

beheaded corpsesWith help from lslamic community leaders, the Reporting Islam think-tank at Queensland’s Griffith University  re-educates journalists nationally to report Islamic issues “more mindfully” (whatever that means).  It’s not as though the ABC, SBS and Fairfax need any encouragement. 

The unit, billed as a world-first flagship in terms of educating journos about Islam,  got at least $445,000 grants for 2014-16 from the Attorney-General’s department in the Abbott government era. The AG’s top-level contractor for service delivery is the Queensland Police Force. Predictably, the unit won a Multicultural Award from the Queensland Government and SBS last year.

Like most of our universities, Griffith swarms with Islam-friendly academics (except, maybe, in the LBGTI etc safe spaces).  Griffith University’s funding has also included $100,000 direct from Saudi Arabia, that bastion of academic freedom and respect for women, gays and Christians. This $100,000 a decade ago went to Griffith’s Islamic Research Unit (GIRU). Graham Perrett, Labor MHR for Moreton and a Griffith U fan, told Parliament, not altogether re-assuringly, that  “Griffith University is just one of many institutions throughout the world to receive funding from the Saudi government.”

When I get “mindful” about Islam, as urged by Reporting Islam, I recall the episode in 2002 when a girls’ school in Mecca caught fire. The religious police, instead of helping the young girls to escape, locked them in or forced them back into the blaze. Why? Because the girls weren’t in proper Islamic dress; were not necessarily escorted by male guardians; and might create sexual frissons with the firemen. Fifteen girls burned to death.[1] Saudi’s public beheadings and all that? Watch if you dare.GRAPHIC material

However, nothing the Saudis get up to is as horrific as the deeds of the self-described Islamic State, which are nothing to do with Islam. There was an (STRONG CAUTION: GRAPHIC MATERIAL) ISIS video published a month ago showing a prisoner hog-tied to playground equipment. A boy of about six years is given a large knife and saws the live prisoner’s head half off.[2]

Close to home, nothing-to-do-with-Islam incidents have included

  • In 2006 Shaykh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly, Mufti (or Grand Mufti) of Australia, gave a sermon in Arabic to a 500-strong crowd in the Lakemba Mosque describing  immodestly-dressed women as ‘cat’s meat’  inciting rapists. [3]  Hilaly also quoted approvingly an Islamic scholar who said women who were raped should be arrested and jailed for life for provoking males. Hilaly, who was appointed Mufti by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils in 1988, had a subsequent history of anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist statements.
  • Melbourne Muslim cleric and terror cell leader Abdul Benbrika was convicted in 2008 of leading a terrorist network which wanted to blow up the 2005 MCG Grand Final crowd and blow up Crown casino on Grand Prix weekend.
  • The late Farhad Jabar, 15,  in 2015 was allegedly handed the gun which he used to kill Parramatta police worker Curtis Cheng, in the female section of the Parramatta mosque. Jabar shortly before had listened to a sermon in the mosque from extremist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
  • Four men are under arrest in Melbourne for allegedly planning a Christmas Day attack on St Paul’s Cathedral,   Flinders Street Station, and Federation Square.

These sorts of things make it hard for earnest reporters to keep up the positive spin on Islam. But Griffith’s Reporting Islam unit will be their coach, with the backing of the journos’ union, the MEAA. Key people on the team include   leader Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart,  and Professor Mark Pearson, a one-time reporter for The Australian.[4] They are supported by manager Dr Abdi Hersi, and other Muslim researchers and trainers.

Ewart says the unit started in 2014 after research showed routine negative stereotyping of Muslims in the media.  The team laments that anti-Islamist reporting not only isolates Muslims but inspires “ violence and vitriol against law-abiding Australians who are Muslim, and encourag(es) youth radicalization.”

The unit’s main message is that the great majority of Australian Muslims are decent, law-abiding and worthy citizens. Hersi puts it, “Muslims are not terrorists. Islam is not a religion of terrorism. We need to be very responsible in the way in which we cover stories of certain individuals engaging in criminal activities.” (My emphasis).[5]

Reporters need to promote inter-cultural harmony, the team says, so that fewer Muslims will get annoyed at negative media coverage and “become radicalised” – and we know what that can lead to.

Among the questions journos are meant to ask themselves are, “Does my proposed angle make the basic error of portraying Islam and Muslims as a threat to national identity and a particular way of life?” (My emphasis). It might not be such a “basic error” had the alleged Christmas triple-bomb plot in Melbourne succeeded.

The Reporting Islam philosophy had its apotheosis in Cologne on New Year’s Eve a year ago, when police reported the night had been “relaxed”, notwithstanding mass sexual assaults on German women by asylum entrants. The public broadcaster ZDF had the sensitivity to put a news blackout on the assaults for four days, until that strategy of suppression by omission became unworkable.

A local equivalent for sensitivity came during the 2014  Lindt café siege. NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn later explained she had been concerned about community harmony and conveying tolerance “so as not to fuel anger which might have led to bias-motivated crime” [ie hypothetical anti-Muslim backlash]. Interesting priorities while an actual maniac with a shotgun held 18 hostages.

Griffith’s Mark Pearson concedes that local bomb plots, outrages and the like have to be covered, but journos should handle them “fairly and accurately, and perhaps even offer solutions that might actually help heal wounds in a community, rather than exacerbate or inflame community tensions.” Note the elitism here. The hallmarks of poor reporting, he says, include a tendency to link terrorism to Islam and focus on negative stories creating community alienation – a known risk factor for radicalisation.

One improvement, the team believes, would be for media to employ more Muslim reporters who will provide the Islamic perspective, as well as using more Muslim sources and writing up “the good stuff” going on in the Muslim community. The team’s materials make passing mention of sharia law but I could find no details there about its Dark Ages mindset and misogynist aspects.

The site does, however, warn reporters covering Islamic issues about not just violations of the “offend, insult etc” provisions of Section 18C, but also reminds them of eight sets of state-based anti-discrimination legislation. Be nice, reverential and choose you words with the utmost care.

The team’s handbook projects Islam becoming the world’s largest religion by 2070. By 2050, one million more Australian Muslims will have lifted today’s proportion of the population from 2.2% (about half a million) to 4.9%. Globally, Muslim numbers will rise from 23% to 30% — some or 2.76 billion adherents — and by 2070 Islam will be the world’s largest religion, it says.

Politicians, academics and Muslim leaders in Australia and the UK have argued (without evidence) that extremists are only a tiny minority of the Muslim population. But a detailed UK poll presented on Channel 4 last April — “What British Muslims Really Think” – showed radical views are in fact widespread among Britain’s 3.5 million Muslims (5.5%; cf Australia 500,000 and 2.2%). In other words and put simply, Britain’s 30-year experiment with multiculturalism has created a chasm dividing religion, one religion in particular, and democracy. The same disturbing results have appeared in earlier, less rigorous polls in the UK and in polls in Germany and Western Europe.

No equivalent poll has been run in Australia, where a few small-scale exercises have instead focused on Muslims’ experience of racism and other victim-narratives. Australia’s Muslim population may be a completely different set of liberal and tolerant citizens compared with Europe, although that possibility has not stayed local authorities from forewarning of much the same terror incidents here that afflict the EU.

UK pollster ICM  in mid-2015 surveyed 1081 Muslims at home in face-to-face talks with Muslim interviewers, plus a control survey of 1008 non-Muslims by phone. The Channel 4 presenter was Trevor Phillips, a Guyana–born black man and former head of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.[6]  That made it hard for bien pensants to shoot the messenger.

The UK survey’s findings include:

  • Only 34% would inform the police if they thought somebody they knew was getting involved with people who support terrorism in Syria.[7]
  •  4% (i.e. an indicative 100,000 UK Muslims) sympathise with people who take part in suicide bombings
  • 4% (100,000) sympathise with people who commit terrorist actions as a form of political protest
  • 32% refuse to condemn those who take part in violence against those who mock the Prophet
  • 23% support the introduction of Sharia Law.
  • 66% completely condemn   people who stone those who commit adultery, but 5% are sympathetic with the stoners
  • 31% think it’s acceptable for a man to have more than one wife (illegal in the West)
  • 39% agree that “wives should always obey their husbands”
  • 52% do not believe that homosexuality should be legal in Britain.

The results also showed what Jewish lobbies called “shocking and thriving” anti-Semitism, and a very low prevalence of social mixing with non-Muslims outside work.[8]

Young Muslims showed little difference in non-liberalism compared with older Muslims. Phillips interviewed a female Muslim primary school teacher who said the small boys were acting as thought police and hitting girls on the head if their heads were not well covered.  The teacher said, “I even had one boy, one nine-year-old boy, say to me, ‘Why haven’t you covered your head? It is only slags who don’t cover their head’.”

Liberal-minded Muslims were only about 20% and dwindling. These Muslims wanted Western values on women, gays and democracy to be enforced nationwide, said Phillips, who told the Daily Mail,

“There is one truly terrifying finding. Muslims who have separatist views about how they want to live in Britain are far more likely to support terrorism than those who do not. 

Liberal-minded Muslims have been saying for some time that our live-and-let-live attitudes have allowed a climate to grow in which extremist ideas have flourished within Britain’s Muslim communities. Our politicians have tried to reassure us that only a tiny minority hold dangerous views.

All the while, girls are shipped off to have their genitals mutilated, young women and men are being pressured into marriages they do not want, and teenagers are being seduced into donning suicide vests or becoming jihadi brides.

We have ‘understood’ too much, and challenged too little — and in doing so are in danger of sacrificing a generation of young British people to values that are antithetical to the beliefs of most of us, including many Muslims.

In my view, we have to adopt a far more muscular approach to integration than ever, replacing the failed policy of multiculturalism.”

The survey does show that 88% of British Muslims believe Britain is a good place for Muslims to live. According to Philips, this is because the tolerance they enjoy allows them to practice their religion however they want.

“For centuries we have managed to absorb people of many different
backgrounds. But the integration of Muslims will probably be the hardest
 task we’ve ever faced,” Phillips said. He urged halting the growth and expanding influence of Sharia courts, placing them under regulation, and opening them to public scrutiny: “It will mean an end to the silence-for-votes understanding between local politicians and Muslim leaders,” he said, “the sort of Pontius Pilate deal that had such catastrophic outcomes in Rotherham and Rochdale.”[9]

A BBC survey of 1000 British Muslims in February, 2015, found that 93% believed they should follow British laws. But 27% said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. A  quarter thought violence against those who published images of the Prophet could be justified, and 11% were sympathetic to Muslim fighters against Western interests.  Nearly half  (45%) had sympathy for Muslim clerics preaching  violence, and did not consider the preachers were out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion.

A 2008 study by Ruud Koopmans,  director of Germany’s WZB Berlín Social Science Centre, surveyed 9000 Europeans in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Sweden, to compare Muslim and non-Muslim religious fundamentalism.[10]  Koopmans found 40-45% of the European Muslims were fundamentalists, compared with 4% of Christians. Almost 60% of Muslims surveyed would return to the roots of Islam, 75% thought Muslims should heed only the one interpretation of the Koran, and 65% said that religious rules over-rode the legal framework of their adopted state.  There was marked hostility towards gays, Jews and Westerners among 70% of Muslim fundamentalists. The study found that in Germany, 47% of Muslims considered the Koran over-rode German law.

Other studies claim that between 10% and 15% of EU Muslims are prepared to use violence to defend their faith.

Dutch Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders, under serious beheading threat from jihadis for the past half-decade, quotes Koopmans as telling the Dutch media that “of a billion Muslims worldwide, between ten and twenty percent are willing to accept violence, even against civilians, to defend Islam.” I was unable to verify the Koopmans quote, which is likely in Dutch.[11]

A study from the German Interior Ministry in March 2012 found nearly a quarter of non-German Muslims there rejected integration, questioned Western values and tended to accept violence.

The survey showed 48% sought separation from mainstream German culture, or 22% if those who had gained citizenship were included.

The survey also exposed a 24% subgroup of 13-32 year old non-German Muslims who were extremists holding anti-West and pro-violence views (15% including German Muslim citizens). With 2 million Muslim non-Germans, the 24% suggested 100,000+ young extremists.

A study of Salafi-jihadism propaganda in 2015 for the Tony Blair Foundation by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, cited polls that:

  •  Over two thirds of the populations of three large Muslim-majority countries agreed with the need for a caliphate.
  •  Three-quarters of respondents in four large Muslim-majority countries agreed that there was a need to ‘stand up to America and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people’. Today, jihadis fight the West and its allies to ‘deliver’ the ‘Muslim world’ from a ‘Zionist-Shia-Crusader’ conspiracy, it said.

The study said that the broader Muslim culture and jihadi ideology overlapped significantly, but the broader culture was not necessarily extreme or condoning violence.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of the jihadist propaganda studied involved Islamic creedal values. The authors said,

“We know that this does not make for comfortable reading…  Unless we are honest about the nature and appeal of the jihadi ideology, we cannot uproot it… Political leaders must not shy away from identifying ideology and warped understanding of theology as a cause of modern terrorism.”

Many overt government responses have been particularly weak.  They are at best mocked by jihadis and at worse, used by them to back up their own messages, it said.

It can be argued that Western critics of Islam are in more danger than Western Muslims, with state apparatus in many Western countries eager to suppress criticism of both immigration and Islam per se. As a local example, know that The Australian’s  cartoonist, Bill Leak, has been forced to secretly relocate his family residence after death threats.

In Germany, authorities are prosecuting critics of Merkel’s  immigration free-for-all by labeling them with “hate speech”. A married couple, Peter and Melanie M., were prosecuted and convicted in July, 2016, for criticizing  online the government’s migration policy. Their page stated, “The war and economic refugees are flooding our country. They bring terror, fear, sorrow. They rape our women and put our children at risk. Make this end!” Last July, 60 homes of such allegedly hate-speaking people were raided by German police.

But other parties who had anti-Semitic views were not merely left unchecked, but at times officially facilitated. In July, 2014, Frankfurt police let mainly Muslim “protesters” use the police van’s megaphone to shout in Arabic that Jews were “child murderers”.  Two German Arabs who firebombed a Wuppertal synagogue in July, 2014, were given suspended 15-month sentences (i.e. no jail time) for arson. The judge ruled the fire-bombing was not anti-Semitism, but  a mere “act of protest” against Israeli’s response to attacks from Gaza.  As if anyone firebombing a Western mosque would get comparable leniency.

German officials, according to a leaked memo, have been urging their federal government to act fast to enforce “authentic political communication” before the upcoming elections. The government, of course, would define what is “authentic” and what is “fake” news, especially about its immigration policy.

In an interview with Deutschlandfunk public radio, retired public media personality Wolfgang Herles admitted that public broadcasters receive “instructions from above” when it comes to reporting the news:

“We must report in such a way that serves Europe and the common good, as it pleases Mrs. Merkel. There are written instructions … today we are not allowed to say anything negative about the refugees. This is government journalism, and this leads to a situation in which the public loses their trust in us. This is scandalous.”

In Finland, Finns Party politician Terhi Kiemunki was fined 450 euros last November  for writing of a “culture and law based on a violent, intolerant and oppressive religion.” Finns are  now legally required to make a distinction, whether real or fictitious, between “Islam” and “radical Islam,” to avoid fines for “slandering and insulting adherents of the Islamic faith.”

In Holland, a hotline run by the state-funded anti-discrimination bureau MiND refused late last year to act on a complaint about death threats to gays. A Muslim commenter online called for gays to be “burned, decapitated and slaughtered”. The supposed watch-dog group said it couldn’t intervene, arguing, “The remarks must be seen in the context of religious beliefs in Islam, which juridicially takes away the insulting character.”  Outraged Dutch MPs called for MiND to be defunded, at which point MiND’s bureaucrats changed their collective mind about the case. In contrast to MiND’s initial ruling, Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders was fined last December merely for saying Holland was admitting too many Moroccans.

I agree that most Western Muslims are upright people and worthy citizens. It’s the minority (how large?) who aren’t nice that are the problem. Plus politicians, officials and academics who don’t see any problem.

Tony Thomas new book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here.

________________________________________________________

[1] As of now, Saudi adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, marry, or exit prison. They may be required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare. Women regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions without a male relative, from renting an apartment to filing legal claims. All women remain banned from driving cars in Saudi Arabia.

[2] As if no horror can be great enough, another ISIS video shows boys aged about 10 armed with pistols hunting a dozen ‘bad guys’ in an abandoned building, except that it’s not a computer game. The bad guys are prisoners with bound wrists but able to move about clumsily.   When cornered or trapped, the prisoners cry and moan until the children shoot them down, sometimes shooting the legs first. On the roof, a terrified prisoner backs away and then chooses to throw himself down six-storeys.

[3] In the translated text of Hilaly’s full sermon, which I can no longer locate on internet,  he had a broader definition of women as ‘cat’s meat’ inviting rape. They were not just immodestly-clad women but women who go outside the home without a male escort.

[4] He wrote that the Abbott government’s anti-terror laws “represent the greatest attack on the Fourth Estate function of journalism in the modern era. They are worse than the Gillard government’s failed attempts to regulate the press.”        

[5] Pro-refugee, Islamic-friendly academic centres have a bad habit of getting things wrong. For example, in October, 2015, “terrorism expert” Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College in London, said that there was not a shred of evidence of ISIS people smuggling themselves to Europe among refugees, and that ISIS had prohibited this form of infiltration. Within weeks, exactly such ISIS people killed 137 in the Paris massacres.

[6] In 1997 as commissioner, Phillips wrote a  report, “Islamaphobia: A Challenge for Us All”,  which brought the term “Islamaphobia” into the language.

[7] Critics of the survey note that even in the control group of all Britons, only 30% would inform police. But 57% of the control group thought the hypothetical situation was irrelevant to them (Muslims, 27%). Muddles could have resulted.

[8]  For example, 35% of British Muslims – compared to 8 per cent of others – believe Jewish people have too much power in Britain.

[9] In 2014, the government’s Jay report found that more than 1,200 girls from Rotherham had been raped, trafficked, and abused by mostly Muslim gangs. The abuse was allowed to go on for a decade because authorities were scared of accusations of racism, the report found. In Rochdale,  an Asian grooming gang  preyed on girls as young as 13.

Despite destroying the lives of dozens of young girls, paedophile Shabir Ahmed claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy to scapegoat Muslims.

[10] WZB, with 160 researchers, was founded by all-party German parliamentarians and is federally and Berlin state-funded.

[11] Australian Muslim preacher Feiz Mohammad in an internet chat room in September, 2010, called for the beheading of Wilders for insulting Islam.