July 14th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

COVER: Singapore's economic lessons for Australia

Canberra Observed: Electoral map shows uphill battle for Coalition

Falling fertility debate reignited

Dissenters highlight dangers in UN report

Cloning: how far will states ban go?

Keep the single selling desk for wheat

The Media

Straws in the Wind

Letter: Export figures disputed

Minister resists competition push

Mass destruction in the future

Manufacturing and the sinew of war

Is corporate cost cutting becoming lethal?

French applaud 35-hour week

Books: Colonial Consorts, by Marguerite Hancock

Books: The China Threat - How the People's Republic Targets America, Bill Gertz

Letter: Barley story wrong

Letter: Trade, US-style

Letter: Riddle solved

Books promotion page

Straws in the Wind

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, July 14, 2001
Another Bourbon restoration?

I've revisited a multi-page examination of the Salvation Army by The Weekend Australian, spreading over until Monday: the series being entitled, "Between God and Mammon". In case you thought God is the Salvation Army and Mammon the Murdoch Press - no; the fight is in the breast of every Salvo. How come? Well ... strange as it may seem, the Army believes it needs money to fund its operations, and raises a lot of it through its annual Red Shield Appeal. So ... this attack, for that is what it is, was made while this appeal was under way.

The Army also believes, quite strangely, that it shouldn't finish up broke every year, but put some of its income away into assets - e.g., nursing homes, hostels, medical units, meeting halls, etc. Rather than being asset-rich - rich, did I say? - and income-poor and unpredictable, it has reserves of $300 million. Far less than many councils, by the way. And it has those reserves invested where they will return profits, which will fund some of its future activities.

It's not clear at any point in this Australian "dossier" whether the Salvos (a) shouldn't raise money at all; (b) should put some aside or blow the lot each year; (c) have a right to own assets, whether these be its establishments, or cash reserves; or (d) should possess these reserves, but not in shares.

All religious and charitable organisations do - but apparently the Salvos are somehow at fault. A list of big corporations - miners, bankers, even News Ltd - are places where the Army has significant holdings: whatever "significant" means here. Our Australian article doesn't examine the ethical bona fides of any of the Army's investments; for this would earn a swift rap over the knuckles.

So we have to be content with a vapid, convoluted piece of underdeveloped, sectarian McCarthyism. What is really biting the hacks at The Australian, and the pressure groups for whom they are speaking? Basically, the Army, along with other religious groups and many companies, has taken on part of the task of finding people jobs. With some success. The long-running failure of the CES and its successor to discharge that commitment - only three per cent of job finders were getting jobs via the CES, costing $88,000 per placement - necessitated other alternatives being tried.

Breaking the public service monopoly by outsourcing was the answer. The Salvation Army has been one of the most successful job finders, and like everyone else, has been paid for its work. This Australian dossier report is really about forcing out successful private tenderers and legitimising the return to the old public service monopoly; while possibly leaving some politically correct charities who see the world through Labor/Australian spectacles.

And, "there is also concern among other charities that as the larger organisations expand, the smaller groups, already struggling for a slice of the fund raising dollar, will come under pressure to survive". This solicitude by News Ltd for small groups struggling against big and expanding corporations is as touching as it is unexpected. Except that it isn't to be extended to the world of commerce or the media.

But as the Herald Sun said (30 June) in "Charity Business is Big Business", there are 34,000 registered charities getting tax breaks and patently under-supervised. So, 79 per cent of donors say they would give more of they were assured money was ending up in the right hands. Two-thirds of Australians believed they were being ripped off by charities and 68 per cent said their money never reached the people who needed it. Certainly some, often quite prominent ones, seem to spend more time and money lobbying governments and making party political propaganda than talking to clients. Some are scarcely bona fide, in any sense.

Which is perhaps why the Salvation Army, and some other financially transparent and devoted groups are gaining market share, as they say, and why others, including some heavily politicised friends of the media, and the New Class, are losing it.

Education debate

Then we come to the current articles by Kenneth Davidson in The Age, savaging private schools. This campaign by The Age started with Catholic education, then moved on to private schools, per se. The campaign is of course very old, dating back to at least the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS). There are no fresh arguments. But then, such a campaign was diagnosed as a mixture of religious sectarianism and class envy.

Nevertheless, there is a new urgency: masses of people are voting with their feet and taking, or just as important, wanting to take their children out of our politicised parody of what was a fine system of state schools, superior to most private ones. So parents and children must be forced back into state teaching, just as job seekers must be forced back to the ministrations of the arrogant, unmotivated denizens of the CES sheltered workshop (its name has to be continually changed, to destroy the evidence); workers have to be forced back into unions they despise; and the sick bluffed and weaselled out of private medical care, back to the chaos and muddle of our state hospitals.

Had government bodies and policies been successful, or just efficient and possessed of probity, there would have been little call for private job agencies - which were always with us. Nor would religious bodies like the Salvos feel they had to weigh in, in a big way, to help clean the Augean Stables.

And if the state education system delivered as it once did - and could again, were it be drastically reformed, and deloused of ideology and ideologists - then private education would possibly return to being a minority option, for those seeking a religious background for their child. How many of us would buy something, no better than something else, which we could get for nothing?

And if union leaders hadn't intermarried with Labor politicians and Big Business they wouldn't have a credibility problem with workers. Ditto public medicine and its staff politics.

For failed social engineers and their beneficiaries, the strategy in every case is to deny the reality of the situation; refuse to accept responsibility, but rather, call for more of the same. Also, work to destroy all alternatives to their squalid tyrannies, so people have no option; censor out or victimise critics, and suppress or rewrite history. After all, invincible ignorance comes from invincible denial, which is based upon moral cowardice. But perhaps it would be more charitable to speak of our New Class Bourbons, who have learnt nothing, and forgotten nothing ... except their past actions and the consequences of those to others.

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