April 23rd 2005

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Articles from this issue:


EDITORIAL: Telstra: the latest push for privatisation

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Howard to use Canberra power against states

EDUCATION: Cutting university places in the not-so-clever country

TRADE: Where do we go next with Japan?

FAMILY LAW: 'No-fault' principle undermines marriage

HISTORY: The Vietnam War - 30 years on

STRAWS IN THE WIND: A society of hoons? / The Nobel committee's Syllabus of Errors / The triumph of Roma

ASIA: China's burgeoning naval power

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Taiwan's high-tech industry: lessons for Australia

INDONESIA: Obstacles to an Indonesian partnership

CLIMATE: Kyoto: why we should be sceptical

BOOKS: FORGOTTEN ARMIES: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945

BOOKS: Despite the Barking Dogs, by Stanislaw Gotowicz

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A society of hoons? / The Nobel committee's Syllabus of Errors / The triumph of Roma

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, April 23, 2005
A society of hoons?

In response to the steady rise of disorder in Melbourne streets, and what is as much a psychological as a logistical crisis on the roads, Victoria's State Opposition put up a scheme to deal with at least one aspect of a much wider social pathology, viz., to deal with illegal drag-racing, burn-outs and "donut" competitions in residential areas. Successive and escalating penalties could lead to vehicle confiscation.

The conservatives got some publicity, for it provided a chance for the television networks to show the drag-racing, etc., on screen; thereby sending out a quite different message.

Labor has now come up with virtually the same policies and has been given wide coverage. But anti-social behaviour emanating from the young disorderly is only a small part of the overall situation.

A friend of mine, living on a major road in Melbourne, was shaken by the sound of a very loud bang on the road outside with that awful sound of crushing metal. It was 10am on a weekday and the peak period was over; but a car coming out of a side-street had collided with a tram. My friend, looking down the road, saw a car partly wedged under a stationary tram. She thought she could see legs hanging out of the car. People were already there trying to help, and presumably the ambulance had been called.

Meanwhile, cars were starting to pile up, waiting. Very soon, first one, then another, then more of them started honking their horns angrily. She couldn't believe it.

First, a MICA car, with paramedics and oxygen arrived, followed by a large ambulance. Obviously a serious accident had occurred. Both ambulances were sounding their sirens as they came.

Nevertheless, our heroes - and possibly heroines - in the queue, kept hitting their horns. There are in fact nearby side-streets into which they could easily have gone, then proceeded on their way. But NO.

This is the Me Generation - selfish, ruthless and bereft of even a shred of moral imagination. It is the new Ugly Australian - and we are of course seeing them everywhere we turn. How could such people criticise young drag-racers, or set them an example of civility or compassion?

To return to the drag-racing etc., locals who hate it say that the police either keep away or, if there, do nothing; and now, almost every other weekend, in Melbourne, there are major brawls, sometimes involving a hundred combatants - and these could be early days.

(I assume our State Liberals are putting together a comprehensive law-and-order election package, for more and more Victorians are depending on it.)

Obviously, there weren't police there, because we don't have enough. Many of those 600 extra police promised five years ago don't appear to have turned up. Whereas in fact we really need 1,200 extra police.

But each time the police say this, another inquiry - or three - into some new aspect of police behaviour, seems to be launched by the Government.

I thought that this strategy would be dropped with the appointment of a new police minister, but it would appear not. I'll just say that it's making the work of the Force and its leaders more difficult each day.

And if the police stand around doing nothing, just reflect on the effects that self-styled civil liberties activists, lawyers and "rights" organisations, have been having on the rights of police to perform their duties, and the rights of citizens to receive proper protection. What we now have is catch-as-catch-can and selective justice.

And further consider the 57 varieties of legal verdicts likely to be handed down by our magistracy. When the police and prosecutor do get a miscreant into court, neither police nor prosecutor can say that they have a cast-iron case: no matter what the law says or how clearly it says it. Under the circumstances, the DPP and the police often just look the other way. Discretion has become the better part of valour.

In fact, presentiments of future chaos and widespread injustices to many Victorians, who are finding themselves only partly protected, if at all, are in prospect.

If the Conservatives want to stop this drift towards a kind of Hobbesian state of nature, they should be thinking about what to propose when the next election arrives.

The Nobel committee's Syllabus of Errors

The extent to which the Nobel Prize - especially the Nobel Peace Prize - has been devalued, perhaps irredeemably, by being captured by groups running quite different agendas to the intentions of the founder(s), or just paying off old scores, was revealed yet again in an article by Ruth Gledhill upon the death of the Pope (The Australian, April 5, 2005).

Hers was the usual revisionist attack that we can expect until a new Pope emerges - and, depending on the cardinals' choice, thereafter, if the new man doesn't promise to pander to the disempowered malcontents. But what's new?

But - something I didn't know - "For many, most unforgivable, was the Pope's uncompromising refusal to permit the use of condoms in the fight against HIV and AIDS, a stance which cost him the Nobel Peace Prize," wrote Gledhill (italics are mine.)

She went on to say: "Many were surprised when the Pope failed to win the prize, but a Lutheran bishop on the prize committee said, 'The current Roman Catholic theology is one which favours death rather than life.' "

So ... you don't only have to be politically correct, but theologically correct, to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

So ... Arafat, Kissinger and the recent Kenyan politician, Wangari Maethal, who told us that the AIDS virus was manufactured in America (News Weekly, November 6, 2004), are eligible, but not Pope John Paul II.

Groucho Marx once said he didn't want to be a member of any club which would have him as a member. Groucho was right.

The triumph of Roma

A Polish-Jewish friend - Krakow-born and a Latin speaker - rang me to say how thrilled she was by the ceremonies and the Mass at Pope John Paul II's funeral in St Peter's Square, how impressive Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was, how beautiful his Latin was, but also, the astonishing organisational feat the Italian Government and the Romans brought off in hosting four million pilgrims, then seeing them home without a hitch. And all this at very limited notice.

This was no Commonwealth or Olympic Games with a long preparatory lead-time. Nevertheless the Italians and the Church produced a triumph of organisation.

One of her Krakow friends rang from Poland to say her that her daughter had gone to Rome. The girl and her friends, upon leaving the train in Rome, were approached by a policeman and asked if they had accommodation. They said they did not, but had brought warm blankets, and if necessary would doss down in the street.

"Yes, of course you can, if you wish," said the policeman. "But we have accommodation and tent-cities - and very warm - and I can give you tickets and a map to help you to get there."

They gladly accepted, and the tents and beds were as he had described. Like everyone else, the girl and her friend were most impressed and, needless to say, thrilled to be in Rome to participate in this momentous event.

Our Polish-Jewish friend said, "It shows what people, and certainly the Italians, can do with intelligence and common purpose." She directed me to ring our old comrade who runs the local Italian radio station to congratulate him and Italy. And I shall.

After which I turned on our local radio to hear the language uninviting of our gutter journalists fighting. But ... the papal funeral was a day to remember.

European states in decline

A number of international economic assessment units have just been marking down economic growth rates of various important European countries. Quite drastically.

Germany's projected growth has been cut from 1.6 to 0.8 per cent per annum; Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands to 1 per cent. Given the totally fickle and hip-pocket mentality of so many in those countries, changes of government will probably occur.

Silvio Berlusconi, who has been in power for an amazing (by Italian standards) five years, cannot move the economy. Who can?

Big Italian firms have to be propped up. All the enterprise and trading panache is coming, as always, from small and medium enterprise, many of which are family-based. They will go on, no matter who governs in Rome.

Berlusconi has just had a disaster in the regional elections, so may exit in the General Election next year.

Our Student Union press will say that it is due to his supporting America in Iraq. Fiddlesticks.

Over the Alps, professional anti-Americans, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his Social Democrat (SPD)-Greens Coalition, are stumbling to defeat because they can't stop the rise in unemployment - now over 12 per cent.

They can't stop the flight of capital to Asia and Eastern Europe, and can't control the flood of illegal immigrants and economic migrants. In fact, they can't do anything.

The largest German state, Rhineland-Westphalia, has its election in five weeks' time. And if, as seems likely, it goes to the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), they will have two-thirds of the federal upper chamber, the Bundesrat, and will be able to block whatever legislation that Chancellor Schroeder puts up.

The Social Democrats will have two years to sweat it out and meanwhile try to keep the lid on the visa scandal surrounding Greens leader and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (News Weekly, March 12, 2005).

None of this has anything to do with the Iraq War, or being anti- or pro-American.

Similar accounts could be given of Portugal, Holland and the other European states in decline.

Changing governments, given the kind of political parties Europeans have, is like rearranging the seats on Death Row. Donald Rumsfeld was right.

  • Max Teichmann

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