Straws in the Windby Max TeichmannNews Weekly
, February 10, 2001
Labor's Secret Room
The Melbourne Herald Sun, at present the only readable or credible daily appearing in Melbourne, produced perhaps a fortnight ago, the results of a survey of two thousand Victorians, randomly selected from a much larger number of respondents, but corresponding to ABS population categorisations, e.g., sex, age, locality, occupation, etc. - concerning attitudes towards a number of social, moral and communal problems. Quite unusually, our press obsession with voter intentions, and how the Leaders rated, i.e., the media's permanent rigged election campaign, was foresworn. Oh joy! Oh rapture! Instead, matters which really affect and engage Australians were presented, and the results confirm what most people not of the contemporary, antediluvian Left, have known for a long time.
I'll first outline the question/answer pattern.
Eighty two per cent of Victorians worry about declining moral values. No less then 63 per cent of Victorians aged 24 and under fear such values are declining, while 90 per cent of those aged 55 and above agree with them.
Sixty seven per cent think there are too many divorces, while 85 per cent think single mothers are having children, just to get welfare payments. The young agree as strongly as the over fifty fives. Seventy three per cent think children are having sex too early (as against 69 per cent a year ago). Interestingly, some 46 per cent are now worried about the "declining influence of the churches upon morality."
As to apologising to the Aborigines, 67 per cent agree with John Howard that we should not. And, not asked in this survey, but of considerable topical interest - most Australians think our government is being too soft on illegal immigrants, especially the clients of people smuggling.
To remain on this point momentarily, the saturation campaign being waged by the media, supported, naturally, by the phalanx of "rights" front organisations, to somehow legitimise people smuggling and illegal immigrants (persistently relabelled "refugees" in the approved Owellian Newspeak - by the hopeful beneficiaries of crime), is in full swing. This mendacity offensive, slipping effortlessly into McCarthyite attacks on Phillip Ruddock, or indeed anyone seeking to maintain the laws - was predictable, given the resistant state of public opinion.
Now that Mr Ruddock has been given an extra anti-rorting task - i.e., seeing that rather more of the money meant for Aborigines actually gets to them - all hell, it may be assumed, will break out.
Ruddock will need our total support. And he should remember to keep his back to the wall so as to better protect against the by-no-means beautiful people in his own Party.
But to return to our original questions and answers: they reveal an almost total dissonance between the members of the political parties, and those obliged to vote for one or the other of them; a complete rejection of the non-stop campaign of salacity, intrusive vulgarity and character assassination, which is the staple of media utterances; as well as the bogus compassion of which so many, often unsalubrious characters are living.
The gulf between what governments want, and often successfully turn into law, and the views and subsequent reflections of, for example, the Victorian public, simply confirm the above points.
Seventy per cent do not support supervised drug injecting rooms. Sixty one per cent totally disagree with the offering of free needle dispensaries. Eighty five per cent of Victorians think there are too many poker machines. Nevertheless, the Bracks' Government does not appear to have given up on narcotics de-legitimisation nor free needles, although our cash-for-comment journalists and clerics are having to maintain the public struggle for the time being.
Nor are Labor in Victoria taking any notice of Victorians' clear desires for the curtailment of gambling, or the culling of venues, despite their election promises to do so, and Labor's seven year campaign against Kennett for massaging the gambling barons.
Why are they defying public opinion and ignoring the fact that 23 per cent of this polled sample said that they knew at least one person who has, or had, gambling problems? And why ignore their own promises?
Putting on hold some quite discreditable hypotheses, the fiscal facts seem to be these. The Bracks' Government has just announced the likely Budget surplus of $1 billion, far more than earlier predicted. At the same time the Herald Sun revealed that Victorians had lost $2 billion on poker machines alone. The Government take was $1 billion. That is the surplus.
When you add all other forms of gambling, massively advertised and government endorsed, we may be looking at a total of $3 billion lost by Victorians, per annum. And subsequent state gambling revenue of $1.5 billion. Victorian Labor is hooked. Trapped. And the losses to small business due to the diversion of their customers' expenditures, to gambling - have had a far worse effect upon small business viability than any GST effect.
But to turn to our public, who are deploring the effects of gambling (while so many indulge in it): gambling losses break up into $700-800 per person, per annum, or $3,000 per family of four, to use an old-fashioned measure. Then, the illegal narcotics industry was taking $2 billion per annum according to Mr Kennett, when he first took office, briefly in reform mode. Consumption since then has greatly increased.
The dimensions of self-indulgent waste and the problems flowing from it start to show Victoria's society in its true beleaguered condition. And yet, we are being told that the higher price of petrol, due to OPEC, and the GST component of the excise tax, could be the most important issue in the election, so enraged will the voters be. Less money available for pokies or booze, or paying the card? Anyway, this is the Big Issue which the ALP and the media want to talk about in this, our Federation Year.
But obviously one situation which most Australians, including Victorians would like the parties to take seriously, is education - notably State education. Labor, virtually everywhere, is a lost cause - either dominated at a Party level by teacher unions, or successfully blackmailed by ideological groups, who would have no private education, no private medicine, no gifted children streams, etc., if they could.
Whether Liberals have the courage, or the unity, to do any better, is not yet clear. But consider the headline (Herald Sun, 29 December, 2000) - "Wide alarm over teaching." For once a valid headline, extrapolated from the same poll of November 30 to which I've already referred.
Thus, 65 per cent say pupils are not adequately taught reading, writing and arithmetic; and less then a third of recent pupils, viz 24 years and under, think they were adequately taught. And the Three R's are necessary but not sufficient conditions for education.
The almost total ignorance of History and Geography, the parody of English Lit. provided, ensure half-educated products. Most parents (54 per cent) say they would send their children to a private school if money were not an issue. And 92 per cent of respondents are worried about drugs in schools.
This is pretty devastating stuff, especially for an old state school product such as myself: but it is fact.
And we all know throwing more money at teachers, more computers, more counsellors, smaller classes are but palliatives. The deformed and politicised syllabus, the basic unaccountability of teachers to parents, the Department or society, leading to collapse of control over students, and student withdrawal of respect for them, are the causes - apparently irremediable under our pressure groups system of politics.
So parents are fleeing, their children under their arms, this rancid scene, to private schools, where they hope their kids will at least have a chance to learn something, mature naturally, not develop unnaturally, and became citizens.
These are but current examples of the general stand-off between majority wishes and values, and the Establishment, which in reality is little more than a risotto of pressure groups, the new sleazy rich, and their lobbyists and bag men.
Immigration, multiculturalism, the prerogatives of unions, the role and rights of the police are but a few of the social and value issues which divide the rulers and the ruled.
Party and Parliament are the charades - deals between pressure groups and the super rich on the one hand, and the political class, viz politicians and the bureaucrats on the other is the real stuff of contemporary politics, here and in the West generally. The political class believe they can defy voters, and party programs - such as they are - indefinitely. Bracks certainly thinks so - even his party preselection process is suspended.
John Howard may have a great opportunity. Labor has just announced they have no program, while at the same time they certainly have no ideology, nor moral analysis. The slogans which they borrowed from the Greens and the flat earth Democrats only appeal to the class of the permanently hysterical - the ressentiment belt. Indian rope trick
So Labor is like the fakir, just visible at the top of a forty foot pole from which flutter down, every now and then, pieces of paper bearing messages such as, global warming, sustainable development, free the refugees, cut tax on beer, on petrol, etc., etc. Elevated stuff.
The conservatives have a ready made high moral ground waiting - the views and values of most Australians as revealed in genuine polls and studies. Allowing the debate to revolve endlessly around money - which incidentally is all journalists and Labor politicians think and talk about, is a mistake. It is to fight on their ground, which is low and marshy. For example, Melburnians robbed of tuppence off the bottle. Two journalists furious.
People who service their credit cards, loans, mortgages and hope for recouping at the pokies - will be ready to object to any tax, any charge, any cost. For they live on the wire, and will never accept the suggestion that their predicament may be partly due to their self-indulgence and mismanagement. It has to be Costello or Howard.
So, the Liberals should let Labor talk about money, for the Opposition have no credible suggestions on that; while they go for the Big Picture, which the majority want put up on the wall in place of the agit prop of the lobbies. And the Libs should start taking public pot shots at the more vexatious or nauseating lobbies. Only the voters can take away John Howard's driving licence.