June 14th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: House prices, mortgage rates to decide next election

EDITORIAL: Grave implications in mercy death case

QUEENSLAND: Premier Beattie's double standard on child sex abuse

Sugar industry survey opposes deregulation

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Old friends and new / Of bats and men / Little expected / Little people

Free trade and the USA: it isn't getting any better

COMMENT: Children already have advocates: their parents

Superannuation reform (letter)

Sir William Deane's courage (letter)

National Service (letter)

Tax cuts for families? (letter)

East Timor: a year after independence

WATER: Environmental flows could cost taxpayers billions

COMMENT: How deep is our 'killing culture'?

SOUTH ASIA: Can India, Pakistan reach an accommodation?

FAMILY: Canada sets the way on gay parenting

KOREA: Cold War flashpoint still heating up

BOOKS: Berlin: The Downfall 1945, by Anthony Beevor

BOOKS: Marriage and Modernisation, by Don Browning

Books promotion page

Old friends and new / Of bats and men / Little expected / Little people

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, June 14, 2003
Old friends and new

George Bush is going from strength to strength. At the St Petersburg 300th anniversary celebrations, it appears as if Russia has now come aboard the American liner. Putin and Bush gave a joint press conference and Bush read out their communique with Putin smiling assent. Russia and America are historic allies - and Russia can achieve the greatness she's always deserved. They agreed about nuclear disarmament and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Not a word about Star Wars - which Putin had earlier opposed. Maybe he now sees their point. They were both concerned about Iran's nuclear program, and urged Teheran to sign a special codicil to attach to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so as to cover this emerging problem. Iran immediately refused.

Iran has lost her Russian ally - who has changed sides.

Having split off Germany from France, Bush has split off Russia from these two non-achievers.

Now that looting Iraq in company with France and Germany is off the agenda, Putin is moving on. He is broke, his society is in chaos, he can't even handle the Chechens, is worried about the Muslims and should be uneasy about China. Who could help him? Only America. And to concentrate his mind, Bush is building a cordon sanitaire of Eastern and Central European countries headed by Poland.

A counterweight against the old West - sure. A big voice in the EU and NATO - sure. But also a counterweight against ... whom?

All these countries have suffered at the hands of Russia and would fear a revived Russia. Some hate her. So ... Putin had best come aboard and share in the new deal emerging in the Middle East. Starting with Iran?

Chirac fled St Petersburg to Evian before Bush arrived. He knew what was coming. Putin, however, is being invited to "The Ranch".

The panic being displayed by nations now bereft of power or relevance and old Left-wing parties everywhere is obvious. In Britain, Labour's Left may just topple Blair, with the help of shonky newspaper megalomaniacs sensing their growing irrelevance.

But Blair, unlike Thatcher, won't go down politely. He'll make the Labour Party destroy itself as Thatcher's envious witless Tory conspirators wrecked the Conservatives.

For, like Hawke - for whom I felt, to know the union leaders and the Left was to hate them - so I'm sure does Blair feel about most of his benighted colleagues.

Just to illustrate the advanced senility of Britain's Left, a notice in the London Review of Books for May 2. A panel - Marxism in history. Put on by Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University. Panellists: Eric Hobsbawm, Dorothy Thompson, John Saville.

I knew these codgers in the late 1950s. They must be over 80. And still quavering the same ideological tune. Cor blimey. Bring on Tony Benn to speak on Saddam Hussein meets the Levellers!

Just before World War II, H.G. Wells wrote a book called Mind at the End of its Tether. Alleluia.

And it's the same for our Left. Wraiths and apparitions are being produced to lecture us and pontificate. Now it's ex-Governors General spraying Howard's people with ancient rheum for daring to divert public attention from them. The leader of the Push is Sir William Deane. Were it James Dean! But a world authority on the new Aboriginal history, apparently.

Bill Hayden's spell as Governor-General is looking better and better.

Of bats and men

A friend of mine likes to take a detour through one of Melbourne's most beautiful gardens: the legacy of the labours and the visions of Melbourne's early settlers. This one is the Fitzroy Gardens, one of her favourites. It contains Captain Cook's Cottage, so is the magnet for many tourists, especially the now-absent Japanese. After a hiatus of a few months, she was horrified to find the gardens taken over by fruit bats - the ones which earlier had devastated the city's Botanical Gardens, this an international arboreal icon.

She had thought the bats had been moved to suburban Ivanhoe to trash the river area and surrounding suburbs where ordinary Melburnians live and few tourists go.

"The bat plague is reaching epidemic proportions," says the Lord Mayor John So, "and, with the breeding season coming in August, you can imagine how they will multiply."

Facing this threat and knowing that about 200 trees in the Fitzroy Gardens, including 120 historic elms valued at $10 million are in danger, the Lord Mayor, as reported by the Sunday Herald Sun, wrote to Victoria's Environment Minister Thwaites requesting an urgent meeting.

Two weeks later, Cr So is still awaiting a reply.

The Lord Mayor says, "What people have to understand, is that it is a question of whether we want our gardens or not. We have tried relocation and noise harassment, so culling must be one option on the agenda."

But the State Government, which has had to suspend its anti-bat program due to "lack of resources" is standing firm against a cull. The disturbance program would resume in the next two weeks it said.

Premier Bracks and friends are choosing the Greens before our gardens as they chose the builders and property speculators against our urban environment, and the Greens before our forests and farmers. And the casino and the pokies before all of us.

The Victorian farmers have just presented a document detailing the litany of failures leading to the disastrous bushfires which destroyed 1.3 million hectares of forest and pasture in January and February. They sheet the responsibility straight back to the relevant Department; its arrogance, its incompetence and its subservience to green rustic fantasies. Unless there is a total change in philosophy, in practice, and in personnel, the same is bound to happen again - possibly this coming summer.

Little expected

Bracks' people are supposed to make public the results of an inquiry conducted by themselves, but little is expected from them other than denial and cosmetic politics.

But whereas I have described a Melbourne crisis, then a Victorian crisis, let us look at a national crisis in which the Greens and Democrats, as well as Labor, are complicit.

We, like more and more countries, are experiencing water shortages, urban and rural, which are not going to go away, but rather, get worse. The familiar struggles between country and city for now-insufficient water resources; between states and territories over rivers ... what to do with them and who is to get the water, is being re-enacted here. And as the crisis deepens, new and old grand schemes for conjuring up additional enormous supplies of water are being produced.

The same the whole world over - liquid cargo cult.

Great and widening conurbations are insatiable - the quality of life drops and drops. Melbourne is now on semi-permanent water restrictions: Adelaide faces a most serious water situation early next year, and Sydney - described by an ex-Sydneysider as a "heavily-polluted, divided and mutually-hostile melting pot, with the quality of life being enjoyed by a shrinking few ... Mexico City without the charm and the nice Amero-Indians" - is bursting with people. As Bob Carr says. "No more people." Sydney is booked for a water shortage.

Why does this involve the Democrats and then the Greens? Because they saw the connections between resources - especially non-renewable or non-expendable - and public consumption patterns. And between that and population numbers. They saw that from the very beginning.

Deciding Australia was a dusty, tired, dry old continent, they called for a population policy and a resources policy and finished up urging something like zero population growth.

In the face of massive lobbying opposition they settled for sustainable development. Economies could be made in many of our consuming habits without harm; and past resource (including land and water) policies were excoriated. We could do better. But only so much better.

We were not a nation of 50 millions; we could not keep blowing out our cities like Madras or ... Mexico City. So we had to stop pouring in people. We may have already exceeded our limits. This became their policies.

A strange thing then happened. All this talk was dropped. Instead, mining companies out in never-never-land were harassed until they took on green consultants and lawyers. Loggers were driven out of their jobs and homes. Forests locked-up to burn. And ferals and vermin (e.g. "bats") protected so as to destroy the resources that our radicals say they value.

Little people

A tragedy - for the Green philosophy is potentially one of the most important to come up since the war. But, like aid, peace, caring, feminism, it has fallen into the hands of little people - beggars-on-horseback. So most potential Laborites and potential Greens can have no truck with them.

Someone like Bob Brown hasn't opened his mouth about bushfires, or park destruction, or the implosion of cities - or resources, water and population. But just the terrible things that the Americans did to the Taliban or Saddam and friends. The new pseudo-religion - anti-Americanism. Which ends as racism.

None of this has anything to do with the Greens or Social Democracy but it is the old cracked screech of the Labor Left.

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