October 14th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: COMMONWEALTH-STATE RELATIONS: Will Howard override WA on natural gas?

EDITORIAL: Bushfires: an ounce of prevention

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Behind the move to lift cloning ban

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Farmers protests over free trade in Cairns

TRADE POLICY: Why WTO trade talks failed

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The decline of Labor, the fate of Smith Street, Blair's departure and the Regensburg Address

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: T3 sell-off will not end Telstra's woes

HOUSING: Urban planning is destroying the great Australian dream

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: North Korea's nuclear ambitions: is China really powerless?

ANTI-LIFE CAMPAIGN: The selective indignation of Senator Stott Despoja

OPINION: The case for optional preferential voting

BIOTECHNOLOGY: The ascent of Mount Improbable

The debt trap (letter)

The Pope and Islam (letter)

The Ice epidemic (letter)

BOOKS: LONDONISTAN: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, by Melanie Phillips

BOOKS: SCOURGE AND FIRE: Savonarola and Renaissance Italy, by Lauro Martines

Books promotion page

The decline of Labor, the fate of Smith Street, Blair's departure and the Regensburg Address

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, October 14, 2006
A ray of light ... Graeme Richardson's old comrade speaks out

Robert Ray has joined the growing, and quite impressive, list of senior Labor figures, who have publicly turned the lights out on the basket case which is our contemporary ALP. The list probably starts with Kim Beazley Senior, who found the ALP of the early seventies to be led by "the dregs of the middle classes", on to the present day, when Mark Latham, John Button, Rodney Cavalier joined in writing a Barry Jones new collection - Coming to the Party - and now Robert Ray ... has added his voice. Most critics date the beginning of Labor's moral and political decline from the Whitlam era, whereas I now see it as taking off under the leadership of Dr Evatt.

Robert Ray views Labor as having lost its soul to a production line of control freaks; Dahleks who are self-serving, ruthless leaders who would rather lose an election than their control of "the faction" and undoubtedly this is what has been happening. Ray singles out two of these lovelies, Conroy and Kim Carr, as especially culpable. Latham similarly excoriated these two particular eminent Labor persons. But in fact the party is now totally Philistine, bereft of idealism, and fanatically anti-intellectual. Rather like the old Russian Politbureau. All of which should please our teacher unions.

The Australian regards the domination of our unions, who nowadays account for only 20 per cent of the workforce, as constituting the most substantial obstacle to the leopard changing its spots, whereas it may be that Labor's Green Left membership are on the way to replacing the unions as the principal impediment to the ALP ever presenting itself as a party which speaks for the average Australian.

But then there are the financial backers lurking in the wings: the developers, builders and estate agents, the supermarket czars, the skulking underbelly of what is now a legal/judicial complex running wild; the mass migration engineers, the gambling imperialists and so on. Our politicians and public intellectuals - critical or otherwise - continue to describe a political world which is more and more appearance and less and less reality. But to tell it as it is leads in Australia to immediate marginalisation. At best.

On avoiding Smith Street

Returning to our suburban newspapers which I praised last issue; one of the things which really bugs the young journos is that as soon as they get on to a good story, their city colleagues swoop down, and turn it into a big beat up. But with no acknowledgement.

So I don't feel too bad in using a report from The Melbourne Times.

Yarra Council had worked with traders in Smith Street for two years on a plan to deal with anti-social behaviour. They planned a $2.3 million sobering up service and an Aboriginal culture centre.

The State Government has refused to come to the party. The CEO of the Aboriginal group Parkies Inc. - one Denise Lovett - said the Minister was "pretty damn stupid". Of course, she said, "Aborigines from across Melbourne gathered on Smith Street because street kids and adults needed somewhere to go."

So ... plans included a sobriety bus that would take intoxicated people to their homes and welfare services, and educational and social programs.

Of course, young people from all parts of Melbourne come to Smith Street, etc. - locals, new migrants and many tourists. So thrilling is contemporary suburbia. Do they need sobering up services too? Or the $150,000 per year night patrol service run by Parkies Inc., which safely transports Kooris at risk in public places?

The minister, Mr Jennings, suggests that these centres don't tackle the reasons for Aboriginal behaviour. I'm sure he's right. But clearly the problems we keep hearing about with Aborigines in outback Australia and their settlements there, are little different from those we now have here. Somehow, I don't think Land Title claims and Stolen Children throw much light on much of this - except as alibis for anti-social behaviour. Funny thing ... we didn't have this sort of misconduct nor public order problems, before the Whitlam revolution.

A master takes his exit

Watching the German TV news program, Deutscher Welle, has long been a not so secret passion of mine. What was once a really informative and well-produced program is now a limping, third rate shadow of itself. For long eaten up by anti-Americanism, for reasons I won't even bother to explain, there is now a long running and increasingly snide treatment of Britain and her Leader, Tony Blair. In fact, the two great failures of Western Europe, France and Germany - unable to tackle the gridlocks in their respective polities, are reduced to sitting on the fence, putting the evil eye on the most successful country in Europe, viz Britain, and the most successful and charismatic leader the British Labour party has ever had ... Tony Blair. He left the Labour Party Conference podium with his critics hiding under their usual stones and behind their stained old wall papers and with his supporters asking, "Why did he have to go?"

A very poor return for ten years of concentrated media eunuchry and bile. But do spare a tear for poor Deutsche Welle whose depiction of Blair's Conference triumph incidentally, was terminally puerile. But they no longer know what they say.

The Regensburg Address

A friend has just given me a copy of the lecture of Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg, on September 12. The occasion was described as "Meeting with the Representatives of Science". His Holiness entitled his lectured Faith, Reason and the University. Memories and Reflections.

I found the lecture most interesting with the principle themes the relation between Religion and Science; between Biblical Faith and Greek Philosophical Inquiry; the earlier Hellenization of Christian thought and the subsequent attempts within sections of the Church to "deHellenize" it.

These are all subjects of abiding interest. The delineation and the ultimate emphasis upon the importance of Reason in the religious and theological transactions of Man as it is in the other parts of human life ... are extremely important matters for discussion.

Then there was the papal exercise in comparative theology, whereby some of the teachings of the Bible were compared with some to be found in the Q'uran. All these are quite normal if not widely religious, philosophical and historical excursions, which the Pope undertook in his lecture.

Conducting them requires no apology whatsoever: indeed the very request itself for an apology was either impertinent or else, viciously intolerant.

When you come to read the lecture, you will be appalled as was I at the near universal incompetence of most of our journalists who, quite simply, were out of their depths.

And appalled at the vulgarity and puerility of too many of the characters purporting to speak in the name of Islam.

I wonder how many of these gentry had actually read the lecture, let alone reflected upon the rich variety of material contained in this Regensburg Address. Cardinal Pell was correct in endorsing the Pope's address, and his right to say what he did. Similarly, Peter Costello was entirely on track in supporting the two clerics. This is not to say that I, Mr Costello or anyone needs to agree with everything in the paper. Who would wish it to be otherwise?

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