Quote of the week: Malcolm Turnbull

8 11 2008

Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby, evidently peppered with enough “marriage and families” references to suggest that the post-Howard Libs are still not completely above pandering to the fundagelicals. But he does deserve kudos for maintaining a firm stance on abortion and gay rights. On the latter, this gem:

“If you think about it, if you discriminate … against a gay couple, between two men living together, do you really think that they’re going to say ‘oh well, that’s no good, we’ll go off and get married to a woman’?” he asked the audience. (ABC News Online)

Apparently they do. (See also: “Is it Just Another Lifestyle?“)

The whingeous right redux

9 10 2008

Coalition senators are conducting an inquiry into the refusal of evil leftist academics in Australian universities to pander to the cherished opinions of persecuted Young Liberal students.

Several academics will appear before a Senate inquiry into Australian academic freedom in Sydney today.

NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye says the inquiry was set up by Coalition Senators at the request of the Young Liberal movement.

“It’s looking for Australian academics and teachers who are, in the words of the Young Liberals, trying to impose their ideological, political or cultural prejudices on students,” he said.

Dr Kaye advises those academics facing this kangaroo court to tell the inquisitors (in so many words) to go fuck themselves. As well they should. A mature and robust education system cannot be founded on an affirmative-action programme for ideas.

Sadly, it seems the youth wing of the Liberal Party and its fellow-travellers in Parliament are still besotted with the neo/theo-con movement of the United States, which uses Orwellian-titled “Academic Freedom” bills to legislate and lawyer its cherished beliefs onto university and high school syllabi. Purveyors of both the young-earth and intelligent-design strains of creationism have long used the “teachers trying to impose their ideological, political or cultural prejudices on students” meme to attempt to force educators to pander to their worldviews. In Australia, the high-water-mark of this brand of high-RWA anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism was reached when the Howard Government Education minister Julie Bishop asserted in October 2006 that “Some of the themes emerging in school curriculum (sic) are straight from Chairman Mao” . . . typical of the Howard Government’s schtick of demonising teachers (presumably on the basis that the teaching profession in Australia is highly unionised, and whose members—I am guessing—are generally not likely to support the Coalition).

I hope, then, that Australian politics (including the mainstream Liberal Party) have grown up a little since then, and this inquiry represents the feeble, plaintive bleatings of a whiny vestigial minority. We don’t want to go down the American road.

Conservatism is so last year

3 03 2008

In a recent post, Bruce reflected on the (possible) fall of the right-wing narrative that underscored the tenure of the Howard Government. Since they were booted out of office, the Lib/Nats have abandoned core policy positions on Aboriginal reconciliation, on industrial relations and on nuclear power. Even in the last term of the Howard Government they were dragged kicking and screaming to the party on climate change, and as has been recently revealed, were planning to pull Australian soldiers out of Iraq. Howard himself appeared on the cusp of a U-turn in indigenous affairs policy in the dying days of his regime, promising a constitutional referendum to recognise indigenous Australians in the constitution, and embracing symbolic as well as “practical” reconciliation. The major force in conservative politics in Australia is now sans a political platform, and sans a galvanising leader. [UPDATE: And how.] On the other side of the ledger, the Labor government has ratified Kyoto, apologised to the Stolen Generations, introduced legislation to dismantle Workchoices, and (as per party policy) will pull Australian troops out of Iraq. The death of a monolithic narrative, as Bruce put it, and Read the rest of this entry »

The ghosts of Liberals past

23 02 2008

I just stumbled across this eerily prescient YouTube of a 1993 Four Corners panel discussion conducted in the wake of the 1993 Federal Election–the Coalition’s fifth successive defeat. On the panel are John Howard, Peter Reith, Robert Hill and Amanda Vanstone, and the audience is made up of “grassroots Liberals,” including a very vocal Sophie Mirabella.

I would love to get access to a copy of the entire discussion, which is quite lively. Howard and Vanstone attempt to put a shiny gloss on the five successive defeats, and emphasise the Liberal Party’s success at state level (basically the reverse of the situation after the 2004 election). Howard–signature hand gestures on full display–talks about “the future” and the need to distinguish the “modern Liberal Party” from its traditions.

At the end, presenter Andrew Olle mentions in passing that four Liberal Party members who were invited by the ABC to participate in the programme pulled out at the last minute because they were “told to.” This prompts loud protests from the panelists, who accuse Olle of innuendo and taking a “cheap shot,” without giving the panelists a chance to respond. Olle will have none of it: “It’s not an implication; it’s the truth.” Truly a sign of things to come regarding the rocky relationship between the 1996-2007 Howard Government and the ABC. Also a sign of things to come is the indignation and denialism displayed by Howard and co. in response to Olle’s remarks, given the control-freakery that would mark Howard’s tenure as PM. (You can hear Mirabella in the background yelling that the Liberal Party doesn’t “kneecap” people. This is the woman who twelve years later would label as “political terrorists” four members of her own who went public with their objections to the Howard Government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.)

UPDATE: I can’t find an independent source for the information, but at Larvatus Prodeo Mark Bahnsich, discussing the Libs’ infantile behaviour in Parliament on Friday, writes:

It’s worth taking a step back to return to some of the little noticed coverage of this innovation in December. At the time, Liberal sources were quoted as worrying that a whole day for backbenchers would lead to their own MPs putting their feet in their mouth or prosecuting internal party disputes in the public eye. That says something about the state of the Coalition.

It certainly does, given Olle’s last-minute revelation on the 1993 Four Corners programme about Liberal Party members being ordered not to participate.


22 02 2008

Take a vat of whine, add a heaped tablespoon of chutzpah, and you have the perfect recipe for an RWA on the losing side of an argument. 3 cases in point: Read the rest of this entry »

The dustbin of history pwns John Howard

18 02 2008

Need a pick-me-up? Watch tonight’s Four Corners:

Howard’s End

Reporter: Liz Jackson

Broadcast: 18/02/2008

For nearly a year John Howard lived with a spectre of humiliation – the increasing prospect of his government being tossed aside, his own Bennelong seat swamped in a Labor deluge.

At Kirribilli House on election night, November 24, he gathered with family, close friends and staffers to watch the TV coverage – and to witness his own power ebbing away.

He was ready.

He sort of just said, ‘Well, that’s it then, I’m dead meat‘,” his old right hand man Arthur Sinodinos tells Four Corners.

Howard drove to the Wentworth Hotel and delivered a graceful concession speech to grieving supporters before exiting, grey head slightly bowed. And that was that, after nearly 12 years as PM. To this day he has maintained his public silence.

But now senior colleagues are going public to reveal the machinations behind the scenes as John Howard led them to electoral annihilation. Former allies and long time foes speak candidly about Howard’s role in the defeat.

From the secret Howard-Costello succession “deal” in the mid 1990s, through the big policy gambles on WorkChoices and Kyoto, to the panic Newspoll and leadership angst of last year’s APEC, an array of key insiders – among them Peter Costello, Alexander Downer, Nick Minchin, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb and Arthur Sinodinos – frankly assess the Howard Government’s slide to oblivion.

You’ll feel much, much better.

(BTW: Rudd’s preferred PM rating is up to 70%, the highest for any Australian PM in 20 years.)

The Liberal Party still doesn’t understand democracy

19 12 2007

Speaking at the National Press Club today, Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane offered the following as one of the reasons why the Howard Government lost the recent election:

He says WorkChoices united and activated the labour movement and the campaign against WorkChoices created anxiety in the electorate.

He says unions spent $30 million on their own campaign and this gave the Labor Party flexibility in deploying resources.

He says he feels this third force in the campaign is an unhealthy development and that the ACTU should have to set out how the money was spent.

I mean: heaven forbid organisations other than political parties should actually get involved in the political process. Democracy is supposed to be something we’re all permitted to have once every three or four years. Any manifestation of political engagement outside those terms of reference is an “unhealthy development.” Read the rest of this entry »