June 4th 2005


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Schapelle Corby and Australia's drugs problem

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Alexander Downer - a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack?

ENERGY AND PRIMARY INDUSTRY: Day of biofuels has arrived

SCHOOLS: Teaching values and building character

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Behind the branch-stacking allegations

IN VITRO FERTILISATION: The games bureaucrats play (at our expense)

SOCIETY: Too many abortions, according to survey

CIVILIZATION: Christian foundations of the rule of law

DEVELOPMENT: Micro-credit - an antidote to poverty and political extremism

CHINA-TAIWAN: China double-crosses Taiwan over WHO

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Fools rush in / Shonky lending practices / Pinning the tail on the donkey / Vietnam: decadence now / Mother, I never knew you

Ho Chi Minh: the man and the myth (letter)

Electronic referenda (letter)

Bali and the Indonesian tsunami victims (letter)

Brisbane-Melbourne trunk rail route (letter)

Second thoughts on Labor Split conference (letter)

CINEMA: Finale in the bunker - The Downfall

Malice In Media Land, by David Flint

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STRAWS IN THE WIND:
Fools rush in / Shonky lending practices / Pinning the tail on the donkey / Vietnam: decadence now / Mother, I never knew you


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, June 4, 2005
Fools rush in

A very typical proposal from Des Moore, on behalf of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). He urges that, if the Department of Veteran Affairs "could be abolished" and if veterans were treated little differently from other welfare recipients by slashing through the whole structure of veterans' pensions, widows' pensions, including disability pensions, and compensations for services to the nation, constructed over many years by our parties, a sum of $128 million could be saved.

The ACCI quickly supplied the usual weasel words that Mr Moore's proposals are not necessarily those of the chamber, but then ... they would say that, wouldn't they?

In fact, the sentiments are wholly in keeping with the customary utterances of Mr Moore and the ACCI.

There are two groups who hate any mark of distinction or any reward for our soldiers and their dependants. One is our Far Left; the other the Far Right, who can't see why the rich should have to pay any taxes. Neither faction has a genuine base, moral or psychological, in Australian life; so both sections should return their warmed-up propaganda imports to sender, viz., the USA, namely Michael Moore and Ayn Rand.

The Vietnam Veterans' Association president, Tim McCombe, thinks the ACCI/Moore paper could be seriously considered by Treasury officials.

It is the mere possibility of this sort of thing happening that makes Costello unelectable against Howard, and certain to be defeated by Beazley. He would have to be seen to have got rid of life-hating "advisers" from his caravan to be even vaguely trusted by the voters. Howard understands all this; but does Costello?

Australians are not into electing Uriah Heeps and Ebeneezer Scrooges as their rulers or moral guardians. Back to the drawing-board, fellas - or even the knackers' yard.

Shonky lending practices

John Laker, chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has pointed out yet again (The Australian, May 24, 2005) that banks are lending more and more, on the basis of "sight unseen" property valuations, the veracity of which has yet to be tested in a major downturn.

Banks, etc, could face "unacceptable levels of bad debt".

"Drive-by valuations" - which now make up 22 per cent of valuation procedures - mean "driving past at 60 km/h and hoping there's a house on the property," said Laker. Money is then lent on that basis.

Far worse, credit companies, including very big credit card people, are offering a Gold Card which can be drawn upon up to $50,000, without any collateral required. And many people are taking up this offer. They draw on the $50,000, deposit in their account, then use it as the collateral for a housing loan.

Where are these people going to finish up, paying two sets of interest, if things go wrong, and still owning nothing?

Incidentally, the investment bank, J.P. Morgan, predicts that property prices may fall by as much as 10 per cent over the next 12 months, even without a rates rise.

To finish with APRA: their survey of 96 lenders who control the $500 billion mortgage market, found that some lenders physically inspected fewer than half of the properties they used as security for loans.

Ian Herriott, senior partner of Queensland's biggest independent firm of valuers, Herriotts, says: "There are many lenders relying on computers to do their credit analysis, and in a falling market it's a recipe for disaster."

We have never had such a situation of utter financial licence as we do now: far worse than the run-up to the 1890s crash or the 1929 Depression.

Whose will be the final responsibility? Will it be Treasury?

Pinning the tail on the donkey

One of the most initially puzzling games being played in our "quality" press - albeit more and more half-heartedly - is the Costello-to-the-Lodge movement.

The movement seems almost entirely confined to hack journalists, and malcontents who couldn't get a job with John Howard.

Every poll taken shows the overwhelming dominance of Howard over Costello; the fact that Beazley would probably defeat Costello; and that federal Coalition MPs are totally behind Howard, seeing him, correctly, as a winner, with support running right across the classes, the sexes and the regions. Why do our scribblers keep up the "We want Costello" cacophony?

One answer is that, at long last, they've realised that Labor are permanently on the nose, that there are no Canberra swill-buckets in the offing for these ageing propagandists. If they are going to escape the advancing media Ice Age in Australia, they need to ingratiate themselves with a new power group.

There is only Costello, so that's what it's all about. How much longer we will have to endure these gormless job-applications, masquerading as political commentary, and the ludicrous face-saving when things turn silly, is anyone's guess. But the public want none of it.

The government in its 10th year - a running report

If one did have to assess Australia's conservative leaders after nearly 10 years work and speak of the next wave, it seems clear that Alexander Downer, with Howard's help, has conducted our foreign affairs very nearly as well as they have ever been done - and this in the face of a department still heavily contaminated with last century's Labor hacks looking for documents to leak.

The variety and gravity of the demands for policy and action on the part of foreign affairs are surely unique, and Downer has made very few serious errors. He has as much reason for satisfaction as has Costello with his performance.

Tony Abbott has performed some quite remarkable work, such that more and more of his party and the voters see him as a tower of reliability and moral stamina. Kim Beazley must pray for such colleagues. Poor Kim.

Howard's ministers for the greater part lift him up ... whereas Beazley's fretful incompetents drag him down. Kim may well be in the wrong party - and his is virtually the only Labor voice which can speak with authority and experience on foreign affairs, defence, security or the economy.

And, latterly, Brendan Nelson has come through on the rails with some proposed reforms in education and the future of tertiary life (which seems to be involving every second person in a country where there is such a shortage of real work). Nelson, like Abbott, faces vicious attacks from vested interests out there, and Trojan Horses within.

But they are portents for a healthy Liberal future, which is why our media dare not take their work seriously. They keep flogging the dead horse of the "Howard-Costello stand-off". There is none, as far as I can see.

Finally, Downer delivered a controversial but most interesting paper on what he saw as systemic failures, going right back, in Labor's approach to foreign policy and defence.

The paper calls for discussion - and we might do this in the next issue. But the Labor/media response has been appalling, only helping to confirm Downer's basic critique: talk of "fishnet stockings", "playing with battleships in his bathtub", or "he's after the deputy's job". And all this from senior Labor politicians and journalists. It only shows how far political discussion and analysis have collapsed on the Left.

In fact, Downer's paper had, almost intentionally, sections which many of us would want to contest. So, we should have a dispassionate look at this Downer paper very soon.

Vietnam: decadence now

An old friend of mine is working in Vietnam, as are more and more Australians.

Like most Left-Laborites of his generation, he opposed our intervention in Vietnam; but that was a long time ago - so his accounts of contemporary Vietnam, after 30 years of communism, are salutary. He says:

"Probably the first thing one can say about Vietnam is that it calls itself the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but that it is anything but. It is a fiercely capitalist country, particularly in the south, that pays lip-service to socialism and is dominated by the merchant Chinese.

"I have no doubt that the poverty of the masses barely rates a mention within the elite - north or south. So much so that they might as well be on different planets.

"The south is the economic powerhouse that the north bureaucratic 'Mandarin Class' (now called socialist) feeds off."

So now we know what the Vietnam War was about. Or do we?

Mother, I never knew you

Kate Legge had an extraordinary write-up of some PhD research of some Melbourne academic Petra Bueskens, under the headline, "Exhausted mothers walk out on families" (The Australian, May 20, 2005).

Researchers advertised for women "who had left their families to pursue individual goals." She got 20 respondents, some of whom had walked out in desperation. "They said their sense of self had been eaten up," she said. "They didn't know who they were any more." Others had left their children and partners to pursue creative projects.

Ms Bueskens said women who walked out on their families "were not so much abandoning motherhood as reinventing a more fluid model to resolve conflict between individualism and the self-sacrifice of care-giving.

"They are not leaving their children, but reclaiming their minds and their souls in a society where they are isolated and the mothering is a lot harder because of the intense dictates about what constitutes good mothering." You could have fooled me.

Apparently, in the 21st-century, "motherhood has placed women in a pressure-cooker where they worked two jobs (of which only one is paid), while coping with social anxiety over child-care and their children's development."

Walking out on your children is certainly one way of affecting your children's development - for sure. Of course, women, and men, have performed two jobs (one unpaid) for centuries - but this was not considered a reason to walk out on your family.

No-one could claim that this self-selected group of volunteers is in any way representative; but the invented rationalisations of the 20 are illuminating. But a lot of the figuring in this whole article was quite peculiar. The Growing Up in Australia survey "reveals that nine out of 10 fathers work full-time and spend an average of an hour a day alone with their children."

This comes from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward's inquiry into work and family balance. Now ... do nine out of 10 fathers really work full-time? Where are the unemployed, the part-time, the casual workers of whom we hear so much? Can these figures really be true?

The Melbourne woman academic, Petra Bueskins, drawing on the Meryl Streep Hollywood creation, Kramer vs. Kramer, predicted a new model of "revolving-door" motherhood, based on a study of women who had left their husbands and children after feeling "strung out, suicidal and exhausted". No comment. Bathos is all.

The academic speaks of one group who moved out permanently and eventually negotiated shared custody arrangements.

A second "returned to the hearth, conditional on regular intervals of escape for individual pursuits".

No father would be allowed such liberties by law, nor should he. Institutionalisation of such practices and the creation of such rights for the mothers of children are to carry the me-generation philosophy to its logical conclusion. In fact, it sets up a tyrant, a blackmailer at the heart of the family.

We have seen the campaign to redefine, if necessary out of existence, the concept of marriage. Now we are seeing the first attempts to re-define motherhood, i.e., revolving-door motherhood.

But to date, no-one has spoken of the effects - life-long - on the children, let alone the fathers. But ... they will. A survey will turn up to show that such treatment actually benefits the children. Would a sample of 20 be sufficient?

  • Max Teichmann




























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