October 20th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?

LETTERS

CLIMATE CHANGE Hockey 1, hockey 2: Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree alarmism

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BOOK REVIEW
Essays towards reconstruction




News Weekly, October 20, 2018

MAKING AUSTRALIA RIGHT: Where to from Here?

edited by James Allan

Connor Court, Redland Bay
Paperback: 212 pages
Price: AUD$29.95

Reviewed by Chris Rule

James Allan states in his introduction that the overall theme of this book is “where to from here for the right side of politics” and that he gave each contributor “a very laissez-faire and minimal set of instructions”.

The book, published in December 2016, gets off to a good start with a Bill Leak cartoon on the front cover. It points out what isn’t right with Australia, what he calls the heavy industries of Canberra – shame, guilt, grievance, misery, resentment, complaint and despair.

Judith Sloan, in her essay on economics, states that, when it comes to economic policy, the Liberal Party is no longer a centre-right party. Under John Howard there was broad acceptance of a philosophical position that looked to minimise the role of government, to keep taxes as low as possible, to support free trade, to provide support for competitive markets, to encourage foreign investment and to avoid Keynsian solutions to economic issues where possible.

By 2013, adherence to this philosophical position had greatly diminished. As evidence of this, she points to provision of concessional loans to Arrium steelworks, re-regulation of the sugar industry, new rules to restrict foreign investment in both property and agriculture, and the establishment of the Anti-dumping Commission. The role of this commission, she says, is to investigate cases of alleged “anti-dumping”. I think she means cases of dumping; which is where foreign goods are deliberately sold to Australian buyers at prices below the cost of production, which is unfair competition for Australian industries.

In his essay, Brendan O’Neill sees political correctness (PC) as the most thorough system of speech and thought control of modern times, leading to the shrinking of politics. He makes the point that the term “politically correct” was originally a Leninist term used to denote toeing the party line. In America, in the 1930s and 1940s, it came to be used in communist circles to indicate “the proper language to use, or the proper position … to take”.

O’Neill says that the pervasiveness of PC is due to the “glaring absence of a counter-PC movement”. In conclusion, he argues that it is wrong to turn this into a “right-left issue”, as the current PC “is a challenge to the old moral foundation of both left-wing and right-wing politics in their earliest incarnations”.

In his essay, Gary Johns says that Coalition governments are being constrained from minimising taxes and government by the fact that more and more people are dependent on government for income and are, therefore, less likely to accept policies that lower taxes and reduce the size of government.

He writes: “Selling stringency and insecurity is not going to win elections. Rather the right have to argue a cultural debate in conjunction with the economic debate.”

The right has to try and “build a constituency that trusts government to be less intrusive”. It must argue the case that inequality means progress and that equality rewards rent seekers.

Johns presents a strategy for what he calls “the path to progress to smaller government and to liberty”. One of the steps along this pathway is to cut dependency on government, through, for example, more stringent conditions for receiving benefits. For example: women shouldn’t be allowed to have children while “the state is paying for you to re-enter the workforce or to look after existing children”.

His suggestion is that women in such situations should be forced to take “long-acting reversible contraception”! Shades of India’s forced sterilisation policy in the late 1970s and China’s forced abortion and sterilisation under the one-child – now two-child – policy. A strange suggestion for someone arguing for less intrusive government!

Jim Molan, in his essay on defence policy, argues that Australia’s defence policy has been based on what we can afford rather than an assessment of the threat environment we face. This is changing with the Defence White Paper 2016 – the best of all the White Papers, he claims – and an increase in the defence outlays to 2 per cent of budget since 2013.

However, we are 5 to 15 years behind where we should be as expenditure was as low as 1.4 per cent between 2007 and 2013. With regards to the United States and its pivot to Asia, he mentions, that, as of 2016 – before the election of Trump – it had been a relatively modest shift and that Australia is seen as needing to look after its own backyard. This seems to be the view of Trump as well.

In his essay, Roger Franklin argues, similarly to Brendan O’Neill, that conservatives need to push back against the left. As the editor of Quadrant Online, he says he “must regularly spike essays I would dearly like to publish due to fear of writs and ‘lawfare’”. He concludes by asking, are there no conservative lawyers prepared to do some pro bono work defending freedom?

Rebecca Weisser, in her essay on classical liberalism, argues that the interplay between liberalism and illiberalism, since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, “has resulted in media laws that are both anachronistic and oppressive and require urgent attention, particularly regarding freedom of expression, protection of property rights, media ownership and public broadcasting”.

In a broad-ranging essay, she begins with attempts by Governor Darling to muzzle the press in the 1820s. She then proceeds to describe attempts to regulate the media over nearly two centuries. She deals with diversity of ownership, cross-media ownership laws, the public interest test, the Finkelstein media inquiry initiated by the Gillard government, the internet revolution, and the lack of diversity in public broadcasting.

Graeme Haycroft, in his essay on industrial relations (IR) reform, argues that the current IR system, which privileges the union movement, the Labor party and big business, needs to be broken up. He argues that big business and the unions negotiate cosy deals that advantage the employer and the union, but not the employee.

Haycroft states that Coalition politicians have “never” understood the system. How can that be, given that some of these politicians have been involved in the “big end of town” and others have been small-business owners who have been disadvantaged by the system?

He also details how the system can be changed to break up the cartel arrangements that are so costly to our economy.

James Allan in his essay on universities concludes that the Coalition Government, since 2013, has been a “huge disappointment” as it has dealt with none of the issues facing the tertiary education sector. It has not dealt with the bureaucratic nature of our universities, where 60 per cent of the staff are “non-academics”. There is an obsession with obtaining research grants. Staff are far more likely to have leftwing than rightwing views. There are too many law schools.

In her essay, “Aboriginal Australia”, Kerryn Pholi makes the point that there is an influential class of urbanised, integrated, middle-class Aboriginals which is best positioned to take advantage of affirmative-action measures aimed at improving the situation of Aboriginals in society. This class is “deeply invested in maintaining a narrative of ubiquitous Aboriginal disadvantage, and in promoting separatism over integration as the preferred solution”.

She goes on to say that the growth of a non-Aboriginal underclass “with roots in intergenerational welfare dependency and with social problems of a nature and scale to rival those of remote and marginalised Aboriginal communities … makes it harder to convincingly attribute entrenched disadvantage … to the effects of ‘colonisation’ or ‘Stolen Generations’”.

Jeremy Sammut, in his chapter on health, argues that making health reform about cuts and savings to help the budget doesn’t work. To make the health system more sustainable we need to make Medicare an opt-out system. This would involve converting taxpayer-funded health entitlements, currently funding Medicare, into a superannuation-style, health savings account for those who opt-out. He believes that those with such accounts would be more cost-conscious and spend their health money more wisely.

In her essay on law, Lorraine Finlay argues that governments today think they need to be seen to be active. This means that government, and lawmaking, has become an end in itself rather than the means to an end. We actually need to make fewer laws as “good governance is about much more than law-making”.

Each of the branches – particularly the Executive and the Judicial – and levels – particularly the Commonwealth – of government have moved far beyond their original remit as envisaged in the Constitution. This needs to be stopped and, if possible, reversed.

Peter Kurti, in his article on religion, argues that we are seeing the development of a new sectarianism as the anti-religious work at forcing those whose views are influenced by religion, particularly Christianity, out of public debate. It is the task of those of the right to ensure that every citizen can be involved in public affairs.

In his essay on interest-rate policy, Steven Kates lays out a five-point plan for managing such a policy. In discussing this plan he emphasises that low-interest rates have encouraged a massive increase in government expenditure and that much private-sector spending is driven by government expenditure and subsidies. At one stage he states that, today, every currency is a national one, which is not true in the case of the euro.

In his essay on energy policy, Alan Moran discusses how Australia has gone from having almost the cheapest energy in the world, at the start of this century, to almost the dearest in the world, despite our plentiful supplies of gas and coal. He puts the change down to a “resurgence of regulation” due mainly to the renewable energy targets.

He points out that frequent calls for domestic gas reservation have not been supported by the Commonwealth or state governments. This is not completely true as, even in 2016, when this was published, the West Australian government had put aside a certain percentage of gas reserves for domestic use. Since then the Commonwealth has intervened to force LNG exporters to put domestic supplies before its export commitments in the case of non-contracted volumes, to reduce the price of gas.

He also points out that, since the developing nations, which produce 65 per cent of carbon emissions, are under no obligation under the Paris Agreement to reduce their emissions, this makes the agreement meaningless. The countries include China and India.

I found this book in the main easy to read and all contributions are worth reading: generally concise and cohesive. In my opinion, the best contributions were those by Rebecca Weisser, Brendan O’Neill and Lorraine Finlay. Weisser’s was a tour de force on the issues of media and freedom of the press and of speech.

The more technical essays – those by Molan, Kates and Moran – require more focused reading. Jeremy Sammut’s idea of people being able to opt out of Medicare was innovative.

The few illustrative figures included were poorly produced and hard to read, especially the last one in Alan Moran’s essay, which was almost indecipherable.

While each essay provides much food for thought, I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the solutions provided would help to make Australia right again. Obviously it is aimed at conservatives, but anyone with an open mind would find it of interest.


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