January 12th 2002


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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Eyewitness in East Timor

Editorial: Population - time for a new approach

Canberra Observed: Howard understands ALP better than it knows itself

Straws in the Wind: Cries for help / Political terrorism / Opium of the children

Public policy and the family

Books: Demons and Democrats - Re-evaluating Labor's disastrous 'Splits'

Media - Selective indignation / Ideological consistency

US welfare cuts coming home to roost?

Trade: Debt will return to haunt us

The search for meaning

Books: Don't despair: 'The Skeptical Environmentalist', by Bjorn Lomborg

'Queen Victoria: A Personal History', by Christopher Hibbert

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Straws in the Wind: Cries for help / Political terrorism / Opium of the children


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, January 12, 2002

Cries for help

A few days ago, Dr Mark Lopez showed me a video film which he had taken of a December 9 demonstration in Melbourne, widely advertised, and endorsed by Friends of the Earth, the Greens, Socialist Alliance, Melbourne University Arabic Culture Club, the National Union of Students, Western Suburbs Network for Peace, the Anatolian Culture Centre, the Turkish and Kurdish Human Rights Committee, ISLAC (?), "and many others". This veritable kaleidoscope of institutionalised rancour was endorsing an "Initiative by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)".

The bill of fare of this demonstration - on International Human Rights Day (yes, there was one) - was suitably ambitious. Not to say hallucinogenic. BIG headline, STOP THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN. Then, WELCOME THE REFUGEES FROM WAR. The journal Socialist Alternatives’ big whole-page headline runs: Refugees - LET THEM ALL IN. (There are at present 27 million.) But: the demonstration menu also contained calls for JUSTICE FOR THE THIRD WORLD - Drop the Debt, Not Bombs - End Racist Scapegoating. No attacks on CIVIL LIBERTIES.

So there it is. One would assume from the number of radical demands on show, the widespread leafleting and poster blitzes in cafés, shops, piano bars, lamp-posts and walls, and a very large number of organisations lending their support - that a great crowd would have marched, here and in the other capitals, to confirm their moral excellence. There had been preliminary mention of the march in the media.

Channel Nine’s coverage mysteriously glossed over the start-up meeting in the city square, addressed, among others, by union leader Craig Johnston, who is facing criminal charges; then it just touched on the subsequent march through town to the gardens, before really concentrating upon Leigh Hubbard addressing a crowd in the Treasury Gardens.

Not for the first time, the scene was photographed in such a way that you couldn’t tell the numbers. But Channel Nine said there were a thousand, and the ABC took this up. This soon became "Thousands marched for peace throughout Australia!" - in the public media.

But when I viewed the Lopez video, it transpired that there were only 250, and another 50 picked up on the way to the gardens. A total failure - legitimised by media fabrications. Filmed from just the other side of the street, the meeting in the square kept being totally obscured by a passing tram - so pitifully small it was. The film showed the same old lags from a hundred demos, which had all been lovingly reported in the past - inflated, and tarted up, by our media propagandists. You would never guess that Workers’ Power has five members. At the same time this was going on, a Christmas ride of 1,500 bikies was performing in the city.

These radical coalitions, this whole protest demonstration sub-culture, is clearly irrelevant. At the end of its political life. So why are our journos keeping it alive? No prizes for the right answers.

Incidentally, as Lopez reports in a forthcoming article, whereas in the past bystanders or observers of these "radical marches" were just indifferent or scornful, they are now increasingly hostile, as are motorists and pedestrians towards the endless "union" street marches. Like Labor, these attention-seekers are living on borrowed time.

Tampa, and September 11, have changed many people. So much so, that strikers are getting less and less sympathy. It’s not a matter of our radicals going back to the drawing-board; but of throwing it away, and reading a BOOK.

Back to political terrorism?

The latest personal attack upon a public figure - in this instance, the Governor-General - supported as it is by that exemplar of civic virtue, Peter Beattie, reminds us of just how badly Labor, and the caring industries, are taking their recent electoral defeat. To quote from Workers’ Power, "After Howard’s racist victory, what’s next?"

The most likely answer, I think, is a re-escalation of the McCarthyite attacks upon Ministers, public servants, and public figures, which followed the Howard victory of 1996. And a similar abuse of Parliament by Labor, and some of the small parties, using Parliament as a place for reproducing the smear-campaigns and personal calumnies being run by the media and the Lumpen-Left outside.

This whole style, this whole strategy, of the abuse of the institutions and values of liberal democracy, made its appearance under Keating, and has become, for the Left, the preferred way of doing things. I am sure Beazley was quite uneasy at the thuggishness and vicious dishonesties of many of his colleagues and outside supporters, as, I think, Crean would have liked to have been. But I don’t think they can control their McCarthyite and union hooligans, any more than Arafat can control his terrorists. These are dark days for Labor.

Any hopes that contemporary Labor was going to change for the better would have to be put to rest, with the calling-in of Bob Hawke and Neville Wran to change the party’s structure and ethos. I don’t know anyone who sees these two as reformers. Perhaps better to consider them as Labor’s pall-bearers.

The opium of the children

The Herald-Sun, which, virtually alone among the papers I read, is tackling, in a non-ideological way, the very serious and, frequently, structural problems afflicting our society - the ones most people really want examined and, they hope, redressed - has produced another Insight Report on Victorian society.

Marijuana-smoking is "rampant" among high-school students, both State and private. There is "alarmingly easy" access to ecstasy and speed, and daily drug deals are being done on school premises. One must assume that the teachers know this, and could easily observe, if they didn’t choose to turn away. And the Department knows - and has done nothing.

Almost half of Year 8 students say they have used marijuana, while 75 per cent of Year 10 students say they regularly smoke dope. As Insight reminds us, there are links between marijuana use and early school-leaving. And poor and declining performances, for those who stay on - I would add.

This decline is easily observable by any teacher who stays with a class, but most don’t enquire. They feel it is all too difficult. As is cracking down on schoolyard deals and drug transactions just outside the school. We are now being told that some very belated official moves are being made.

Perhaps the Victorian Government had counted on drugs being decriminalised, so that there would be no legal complications; just some moral questions remaining. Many politicians and bureaucrats in Victoria don’t seem very impressed by moral arguments, unless they concern events occurring in some other countries, or, where there are large sums of money involved.

Thus, there is far more money to be had selling drugs, greatly aided by decriminalising them, than by stamping the traffic out. Far more money to be obtained by conducting, and supporting, in the expectation of present and future gain, illegal immigration, than in the areas of bona fide refugee and migration programs.

Far more money in keeping Aborigines (and other disadvantaged groups) in a state of permanent dependence, rather than freeing them to break out and start doing their own thing. And far more money in protecting criminals and other law-breakers, by a whole battery of institutions, than supporting their victims - or, setting out, single-mindedly, to see that there are fewer and fewer victims of crime, because fewer criminals. Rudy Giuliani did this for New Yorkers, in the face of ferocious opponents with a vested interest in crime, and criminals.

So how many politicians, or clerics, here are campaigning to clean up the schools and call their custodians to account? As many as campaigned for shooting-up rooms? Half as many? A quarter as many?

And the Insight survey takes us through the rampant binge-drinking of many schoolchildren; the rage parties, with ecstasy and speed readily available; and the fast car craze. A lot of money is being spent on media advertisements castigating reckless driving, and drink-driving, but nothing about the contemporary school culture, where some of it starts, and much of it soon follows. Nor about the very persuasive evidence that marijuana and ecstasy, consumed over a period, often produce brain function deterioration.

In fact, the whole area of drug-pushing, and drug-addiction, in the community is air-brushed by the Establishment, as are alcohol and gambling. Too much money involved. Both main parties are as one on this.

Which has meant that any MP or prospective MP who takes a strong stand on the matters raised above is a marked man; not only blocked for promotion, but likely to have his seat withheld, or weaselled from him. David Perrin knows all about this, and I used to count the moulting Liberal vultures circling over Kevin Andrews.

The Bracks Government has all the marks of a one-term government - so many people are they antagonising or failing - but have the Napthine people any idea as to what they would do; or what it is that they believe? Russell Savage thinks they believe in supervised injecting rooms; broadening the Equal Opportunity Act to include transsexuals and cross-dressers; the racial and religious tolerance legislation; extending benefits and entitlements for married and de facto couples to homosexual couples. Savage and Craig Ingram didn’t believe in any of this, so voted against it.

But that apart, what do Victoria’s Liberals believe in, other than the joys of unfettered private enterprise?

To return to our schools, and our children. When one recalls that social progressives have long waxed indignant about the deleterious effects upon people of putting them in prison, viz., "It only makes them worse", or else makes criminals out of people who in reality weren’t, when first confined - it is very tempting to say that many schools now are actually breeding-grounds for drug-addiction, teenage alcoholism, and tearing around in fast cars before crashing them.

There is a very powerful argument for taking one’s children out of school, and educating them yourselves; or trying to find a private school which performs as we all expect them to perform.

But, alas, the same kinds of moral deformities and pedagogical indifferences have established themselves in some private schools as well.

Should we let this New Year be as bad as was the last?




























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