January 11th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Paid maternity leave: who benefits?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: 2002: when the chickens came home to roost

EVENTS: Claudio Betti to visit Australia

BIOETHICS: Embryo battle was worth the fight

STRAWS IN THE WIND: To America with love, from Osama bin Laden

LETTERS: Real world (letter)

LETTERS: Comparisons (letter)

PROFILE: Dr George Pell: Australia's leading churchman

SOUTH ASIA: India's ethnic conflicts

COMMENT: In the wake of the Cultural Revolution

BOOKS: The Life of Matthew Flinders, by Miriam Estensen

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In the wake of the Cultural Revolution

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, January 11, 2003
This is an edited version of a speech given to National Civic Council supporters in North Queensland by National Vice President Pat Byrne.

For over 2000 years, Christianity civilised Europe and the Western world to create what became the most dynamic culture in history. The laws, beliefs, and social and political institutions focused on protecting, bolstering and holding together the family. Only in the area of modern industrial economics was the question of providing the economic necessities for family life hotly debated, and for long periods relegated as a secondary concern to corporate profits and the free market.

Apart from this economic exception, Western culture took for granted that the family was the most vital grouping whose stability was essential for every human person - for their existence, their material, moral and social nourishment and support, and their well being and happiness. The family is our oldest institution, preceding the Church, the Old Testament and the great civilisations. The family is the original social unit.

Over the past 40 years, two momentous changes have reshaped modern social institutions.

The first change was the secularisation of society, the triumph of the philosophy of secular humanism, the idea that "I have a right to do as I please", the driving idea behind the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. It has become the dominant philosophy of our time, overwhelming Christianity for the hearts and minds of people.

Secular humanism, also called "individualism", has transformed the Christian moral norms of our culture and in so doing transformed our laws, media, schools, universities and economic institutions, and invaded even the churches.

The second change came with the fall of the Soviet empire. In the West after the Great Depression and World War II, corporations had to treat their workers reasonably or face trade union rebellion and even the threat of communism. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the brakes were off.

There was an attempt to globalise the world, to open up the borders of all nations for the economic benefit of the major corporations that now dominate the economic structures of our economies, national and international. The process of globalism has hollowed out the middle class, destroying the economic foundations of many families.

Secularisation is the first threat to the family, undermining the moral rules that build trust and fidelity between husband and wife.

Globalism and unemployment are the second threat, denying couples the financial resources to hold a marriage and family together.


A revolutionary class drives every revolution. The Cultural Revolution was driven by the baby boomer generation, and came, in particular, from the tertiary educated. A case study of one organisation that helped lead the Revolution illustrates how it occurred.

Australia's Humanist Society had as one of its most famous members the late Justice Lionel Murphy, whose 1975 Family Law Act ushered in divorce on demand. The Humanist Society gave voice and direction to the revolution by arguing people were only free when freed from authoritarian structures restricting their right to do as they please. The Church, the Christian-based laws of the state, and most of all, the traditional family, all imposed moral and legal rules that were seen as restricting an individual's freedom.

It was argued that as most people believe that what is legal is moral, society could be transformed by liberalising the laws restricting sexual freedom, divorce, euthanasia, the use of contraceptives, drugs and availability of pornography and light drugs. In so doing, the moral limits the law imposed on society would be widened if not destroyed. In turn, the moral limits set by the Church, the State and the family would be weakened.

The revolution was aided and abetted by a number of movements and scientific developments.

The contraceptive pill, first hailed as a means to allow a husband and wife to manage their fertility, in fact gave people sexual licence, undermining the virtue of fidelity, which is at the core of married life.

Paul Erlich's book, The Population Bomb, made popular again the theory of Malthus, that the world's population would explode and outstrip available resources leading to conflict, famine and misery on a massive scale. It led to a new secular moral imperative - population growth must be controlled using contraception and abortion, tied to development aid in the Third World, all in the name of saving humanity from its impending, self-bred disaster.

The feminist movement regarded married women homemakers as slaves, who could only be liberated by joining men in the workforce.

In her book, Sisters In Suits, Marian Sawyer says that in 1973 the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) resolved not just to be a peripheral protest movement in the streets, but decided to penetrate all key institutions. They successfully set the feminist agenda in all political parties, media, public service, major corporations and the Churches.

The feminists were not averse to coercing women into the paid workforce. In the early 1980s, the National Civic Council had asked Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to introduce split incomes for families, which would allow husband and wife to split the breadwinner's income for tax purposes. Sawyer says, "one of the great unsung victories" of the Office of Women's Affairs, which advises the PM and Cabinet, is that it stopped Fraser from introducing this family friendly taxation system.

The corporate sector also pursued policies to drive married women into the paid workforce. Married women were difficult for unions to organise because of family constraints, so their wages would remain lower than male counterparts. In the late '60s the Federal Government decided to reduce family assistance in order to make families dependent on two incomes.

The Vietnam War street demonstrations gave the lead to feminists, green and gay liberation protests, which the media avidly promoted.

It was an accident of history that Vatican II happened in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. Regardless of what its documents taught, religious dissidents interpreted the changes the Council instigated as endorsing the moral and ethical changes underway in the wider culture. Many in seminaries and theological colleges took liberties, particularly in relation to:

  • The liturgy, where the sacred was replaced by the banal, even though all religions maintained sacred rituals and language to communicate with the transcendental;
  • Biblical studies, where many scholars believed their interpretations of the scriptures gave them licence to develop their own theological conclusions about the fundamentals of Christianity, the nature of Christ, his death and resurrection, the Church, its moral laws and sacraments; and
  • The Church's moral teachings on sex, marriage, divorce, abortion and contraception.

It is no coincidence that liberalised views on sexual behaviour have coincided with what are now the devastating revelations of sexual misconduct in the Churches, with the worst excesses being in the country with the most liberal churches, the United States.

Finally, the penetration of television into almost every home made secular values almost universal. Television dissolved traditional values just as the motor car dissolved the compact city and created sprawling suburbs.

By the end of the '60s, the revolutionary forces were ready to assault those established, Christian-moulded institutions which, for hundreds of years, had taken for granted the central role of the family.

The secularising forces locked in their conquests by radical changes in the legal system.

  • The 1969 ruling by Justice Menhennit on abortion in the Victorian Supreme Court, probably unwittingly, opened the flood-gates to abortion.
  • Don Chipp opened the flood-gates on pornography with President Clinton compounding the problem in the early 1990s, winding back the war on vice at the same time as the internet made it possible to have pornography on demand electronically anywhere there was a computer and a phone line.
  • Lionel Murphy's 1975 misnamed Family Law Act ushered in divorce on demand.
  • Homosexual law reform, ultimately aimed at giving same sex partners the same status and rights as married heterosexual couples, has been a constant issue before legislatures for the past three decades.
  • With the birth in Britain of Louise Brown, the first IVF child in 1978, this new procedure gave scientists control over the beginnings of life, which they now want to extend through human cloning and embryo experimentation.
  • The failed attempts in the late 1990s at legalising euthanasia have also given scientists control over the end of life. Curiously, Professor Peter Singer was to provide the rationale for both IVF and euthanasia.
  • The secular lifestyle values of the glossy Dolly, Girlfriend, Cosmo and Cleo magazines have led to a dramatic coarsening of the youth culture since the mid-1980s. At the same time, the religious practice of youth has plummeted. Among young post-school Catholics, the practise rate is about 2.5% for males and 5% for females. Today, this downward trend in entertainment has accelerated as a result of globalism and the influence of the US media.

The past two decades have seen the conglomeration of 20 large international media organisations into five media giants - each carrying huge debts after a spate of mergers and takeovers. Each is out to satisfy shareholder returns. Hence, each is out to exploit the annual $A300 billion youth market in the US, to satisfy both debtors and shareholders.

This Cultural Revolution took just 20 years. The revolutionary class, the '60s generation, has now reached its peak in the professions. As laws changed, people's behaviours changed. What became legal became moral. Even many of those with religious affiliations express values that in reality are secular, not religious.

Today it is understood that culture powerfully affects behaviour, even among people with religious beliefs. As acid eats away steel, modern secular culture can erode even strong Christian belief. Christians and those who believe in the traditional family are now involved in a counter-cultural struggle.

For this reason Pope John Paul II says it is the duty of Christians to be involved in the lay apostolate, transforming the culture. It is a necessary part of the process of evangelisation and of immunising believers from secularism. In his encyclical Familiaris Consortio, he says in the strongest language, "families should grow in awareness of being 'protagonists' of what is known as 'family politics' and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference."

His exhortation underpins what the Church has long understood: where the family is weak, the Church is weak; where the family is strong, the Church is strong.

Globalism and unemployment

The second crisis that threatens the family is unemployment. Since 1983 Australian governments have followed the US and UK in abandoning full employment as a primary economic objective. Instead, they have embraced what is called the Washington Consensus or globalisation, or more accurately, the new economic ideology of globalism.

Globalisation is the process of technological development and change, fast transport, fast communications and other advances.

Globalism is different. It is an economic ideology, just as Marxism was an ideology. Globalism is blind faith in free market economics and minimal government intervention.

Globalism is based on the same secular humanist principle that has made our culture hostile to families. It is the idea that "I have the right to make as much money as I please", without moral restraints, without regard to the effect it has on others, without regard to the those policies necessary to secure the economic foundation of the family life - a just wage and a fair profit, and fair redistribution of income so that all may share the fruits of the economic system.

Increasingly, globalism is the force driving governments and international regulatory bodies like the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund to open up and deregulate national economies so that multinational companies, using modern transportation and communications, can freely shift their capital, technology and products around the world to maximise profits.

Globalism began in Australia in 1983 with the deregulation of the financial markets. Today it is vigorously pursued by both the Federal Coalition and the Labor Party. It has several components.

1. Deregulation of the financial system has left Australia with a $330 bn foreign debt, growing under compounding interest. With such a huge debt, the foreign financial institutions' quid pro quo for further extending credit is a government commitment to privatisation and deregulation. This raises the question, who determines Australia's economic policy, the parliament or our international financial creditors?

2. The cutting of tariffs and emasculation of the anti-dumping mechanism have resulted in heavily subsidised dumped imports destroying Australian industry, farms and jobs.

3. Labor market deregulation, a euphemism for busting the organised power of labor and replacing arbitration with collective bargaining, is designed to keep a downwards pressure on wages.

4. Zero inflation, achieved by maintaining relatively high interest rates high, also has the effect of maintaining a sizable pool of unemployed.

5. Under National Competition Policy the Federal Government is paying the states up to a billion dollars a year to deregulate energy, water, health, government business, transport, primary industries, financial services, legal, planning and construction, retail, social regulation, communications, and education.

Deregulation of agriculture has resulted in a flood of highly subsidised food imports, undermining the all-important domestic market for agriculture.

The slashing of tariffs and the emasculating of the anti-dumping authority have resulted in cheap imports decimating the manufacturing sector. Australia now has just 11.5% of its economy in manufacturing. If Australia had kept up with the rest of the developed world, as it was 25 years ago, manufacturing would be 19.5% of Gross Domestic Product and there would likely be up to a 500,000 more full-time jobs for unskilled and skilled workers.

The loss of industry has had a profound effect on employment.

The 1996 census showed that for men aged 24-45 years:

  • 32% were not in full-time work, and were living on less than $21,000 p.a.
  • 20% had incomes less than $15,600 and, of these, their family life was severely impeded with much lower marriage rates and more than twice the divorce rate of men earning $52,000 or more annually.
  • The women these men are not marrying are becoming sole parents. There was a 50% increase in sole parent families in the past decade.

Official unemployment is about 6%, but in reality is much higher as a person working one hour a week in paid employment is classed as being employed. Further, for every job available there are 7-10 people looking for work.

Low incomes first impair marriage prospects and increase divorce rates. This affects the birth rate. For women of child bearing age during the Great Depression, 31% remained childless in their lifetime. During the prosperous years post-war until 1970, only 9% remained childless. Today, it is expected 24% will remain childless.

The major political parties have embraced globalism. The Liberals, founded by Menzies to represent "the forgotten people" (small businesses and the middle class) have abandoned them for the corporate sector. The Nationals have effectively been compromised by the Liberals, particularly on deregulation and national competition policy, which continues to cut a swathe through rural and regional Australia.

The Labor Party has abandoned its traditional working class principles. According to the Party's former National Secretary, Gary Gray, Labor is now four times more dependent on corporate money for election campaigning than on the trade unions. This has driven Labor's disillusioned supporters firstly to vote Democrat, then One Nation and now The Greens.

Middle Australia and the growing under class have no political representation.

Under globalism, the policies of deregulation have come at a price. While capitalism can produce wealth like no other economic system in history, without a just moral framework embracing the needs of family life, it cannot justly distribute wealth.

What is more, unbridled capitalism leads to "casino capitalism" and serious instability in both the national and international economies. It has destabilised the US economy, and collapsed many large developing economies in Latin America and the old Soviet Union.

Today, the idea of one large, worldwide, globalised economy is faltering, if not dead. Yet it has not registered at all with many of our political leaders.

The geo-political reality is that the world is heading in a fundamentally different direction, polarising into three huge economic blocs. These are likely to dominate the world stage over the next century.

  • The Americas is likely to be dominated by the US as it progressively extends the North American Free Trade Agreement across Latin America.
  • The European Union is developing into a "United States of Europe and North Africa", with a population and economy larger than the US.
  • In a less formal arrangement, Asia is coalescing into a trade bloc dominated initially by Japan. China is likely to emerge as an enormous economic power alongside Japan.

At present, Australia doesn't fit into any of these blocs. While the Federal government is pursing a broad free-trade agreement with the United States, it runs a serious risk of further undermining more Australian industries. Australia trades far more with the Asian region than with the US, but we have not engaged Asian nations sufficiently to be accepted into their emerging trade bloc.

This does not portend well for Australian industries, the economy and families.

The Challenge

Secular forces have severely eroded Christian culture and turned the economic system against the family in Australia. The strategy of the secularists and utilitarians was to change the laws, divide the churches internally and redirect economic policy in their own interests.

The National Civic Council counters secularist philosophy with its own five fundamental primacies: the integrity of the human person from the beginning of life until death; the family as the core social unit for the individual and society; decentralism, the idea that a larger organisation should not replace what a smaller body can do just as efficiently; national sovereignty, the idea of being able and prepared to defend the nation's borders and of maintaining an independent economy, not subservient to the dictates of international financial institutions; and traditional values that underpin the other four primacies.

On these primacies is built a raft of policies to counter secularism and globalism, policies in particular to restore the family as the core institution of our society.

The National Civic Council has a national organisation which supports a group of publications and related bodies to implement these policies.

  • News Weekly addresses the international, economic, political and broad social issues;
  • AD2000 is a magazine of religious opinion that confronts the secular issues now inside the Churches;
  • The Thomas More Centre focuses on bioethical issues and the spiritual development of youth;
  • The Australian Family Association (AFA) is Australia's leading pro-family organisation, which is responsible for defending the family against secular influences in the culture and politics.

Recently Do No Harm was formed to oppose human cloning and human embryo experimentation.

In the fight over the social issues corroding the culture, there are many church leaders, ministers, pastors ordinary family people who are looking for leadership on an array of cultural issues.

In the struggle to preserve religious values, AD2000 has drawn a line in the sand. Now the work of the TMC with youth needs to be spread widely across the country.

In the absence of a political party to effectively implement economic policies needed to rebuild industry and the middle class, there is the huge task of putting the brakes on deregulation, reversing Australia's trade policies, and promoting a raft of industry building and family-friendly economic policies.

As the NCC works in the varied social, political, economic and religious arenas, there is a growing force of people being educated and united on the whole array of issues facing Australia. It is a force that is needed to create a critical mass in order to effect cultural, political and economic changes.

The NCC has no illusions about the enormity of these tasks. But in history there is no such thing as inevitability. Most often it is creative minorities that ride the wave of change and set new historical directions.

That is the role the NCC set itself from its beginning, 61 years ago, and it remains true today.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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