At an IQ Squared debate in Sydney 64 per cent of the audience supported the motion “Racism is destroying the Australian dream”, I note in The Australian today.
Stan Grant’s heartfelt contribution to the debate — a condemnation of claimed historical wrongs to Aboriginal people, and in particular his father — is said to have been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube.
With due respect to Grant, however, and not wishing to detract from the importance of his message about rural and remote Aboriginal disadvantage, his own ability to rise above his own working-class background and become an accomplished television reporter surely supports the case for the negative.
That racism exists is beyond doubt, but it is hardly destroying the Australian dream. That case was ably argued at the debate by Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi, an Iranian, non-Christian migrant who, if she ever appeared in Neighbours, would be classed as non-white.
“The bigotry that threatens the Australian dream isn’t racist attitudes,” said Panahi. “It’s the bigotry of low expectations which refuses to call out abhorrent behaviour because of ‘cultural sensitivity’. It’s the bigotry that seeks to wrap capable people in the cloak of victimhood. It’s the bigotry that sees easily outraged Western feminists turn a blind eye to brutal misogyny in Islamic countries as well as abhorrent practices much closer to home.”
Racism and ethnically driven civil war almost killed Adut’s dream in Sudan, a society that operates under an apartheid system. In Australia, where there is only one class of citizen, asylum seekers can expect more than deliverance. They have a chance to deliver.
While Labor likes to imagine itself as the party of compassion, it has been left to the centre-Right to build a fairer and more efficient welfare system, I write in The Australian today.
Yet it is centre-Right governments in New Zealand and Britain that are making the most progress in welfare reform. They have done so by toning down the rhetoric about balancing books and rediscovering core liberal-conservative principles of choice and opportunity. For Robert Menzies the goal of a Liberal government was to preside over a country that was both prosperous and just. “To every good citizen the state owes not only a chance in life but a self-respecting life,” he said in 1943…
Underpinning the new approach to welfare in Britain is the conviction that welfare is almost always a subprime solution. It is far better that people be in charge of their destiny, with the dignity that comes from work.
There is nothing overtly political about a policy designed to reduce moral hazard and make work pay. Innovative programs designed to reduce family dysfunction and reduce the number of children living in workless households deserve support from both sides. Yet in Australia, as in other developed economies, it is the centre-Right that is doing the hard yards, while the Left all but ignores the fundamental flaws in our welfare system.
So Kevin Rudd was right after all. The 2008-9 financial crisis really was “of truly seismic significance.” It was not an epoch-changing moment for capitalism, however, but for the Left.
Support for established centre-left parties has tanked across most of Europe since 2009 while populist socialist movements and independents are on the rise.
The collapse of the old two-party political system is striking in Ireland where support for Fianna Fáil and Labour has hit rock bottom. Sinn Fein is now the preferred party for voters under 35 and second overall, according to a November 2015 poll by The Irish Times/Ipsos-MRBI.
This chart shows what has happened in Irish politics since 2006:
There is a pronounced “bunching” of support for the parties in the 20-30 per cent range, suggesting that the days of one-party government are over.
As I wrote in The Australian yesterday, the crisis for old-school social democracy is not confined to Ireland. It has taken hold across Europe, notably in Spain and Greece.
The centre-right also faces the challenge of democratic disaggregation. Yet Fine Gael is surviving the new environment much better. Its primary support (like that of the Coalition in Australia incidentally) has remained relatively steady over the tumultuous ten years.
So much for Rudd’s brave boost in his February 2009 article in The Monthly:
“Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself.”
In reality it is social democracy that needs saving before it is consumed by the politics of grievance and populist socialism.
Anti-austerity campaigner Charlotte Church may be a multi-millionaire but she refuses to be called a Champagne Socialist. “I have to say I’m more of a prosecco girl, myself,” Church explained on her blog last year.
The Welsh singer-song writer, actress and television presenter admits she has earned “a lot of money” but says her ethical credentials are intact. “I could have made a lot more money by investing in arms and oil,” she explains. “I could have voted Tory.”
Instead, Church wants to “make a difference” by speaking at rallies and blogging in support of a fairer society, the National Health Service, and the plight of the less privileged.
It is tempting to dismiss such crowd-pleasing progressive sentiments as distractions from the main political game. Yet the emergence of prosecco socialism is a profound challenge to the political establishment. Old-school social democratic parties are in retreat while newer, populist Left-wing movements are gaining ground.
The cost of doing nothing is sending the country broke if we are to believe the fright stats peddled by the City of Sydney council, I write in The Australian today.
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke, The Australian
“Physical inactivity is a major killer,” chides the council in a news release. “It costs the nation almost $135 billion a year.”
Fiscally retentive readers will have noticed already what an improbable figure that is. It is almost three times larger than the commonwealth’s 2015-16 health budget or, to put it another way, roughly 8 per cent of gross domestic product.
The good news about fright stats, however, is that they seldom turn out to be true. Fright stats are not empirical measures of the world as it is but blunt instruments fashioned to fight noble causes, in this case Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s plan to tear up Sydney’s arteries of commerce and make everyone ride bikes.
So Duncan Lewis wants us to watch our language when talking about — how should we put it? — the less savoury side of an otherwise delightful religion.
If Islamic fanaticism were confined to Sydney’s Lakemba and Melbourne’s Greenvale he might have a point. But as I write in The Australian this morning,
The hostilities consuming the Islamic world have a momentum of their own. It is a fanciful to imagine that the conflict was provoked by the West, fuelled by the West or that the West alone has the responsibility to end it…
Sadly, the tendency of young suburban Australians to fall for this dangerous nonsense is but a small manifestation of an international ideological struggle.
(Thanks to Bill Leak for his cartoon)
Seldom have the warped priorities of the Left been so apparent as in their framing of Middle-Eastern geopolitics generally and theocratic Islam in particular, I write in The Australian today.
The Islamic State’s sadistic rule in Syria and Iraq and indiscriminate acts of terrorism abroad are trivialised or denied while the BDS brigade takes up the cudgels against Max Brenner chocolate shops and Israeli-designed Soda Stream devices. Catholic bishops in Tasmania are accused of homophobia for stating their honest views on gay marriage, yet homosexuals are ritually slaughtered by ISIS without a murmur of complaint.
The romance of Silicon Valley is distracting us from the innovation that matters, I write in The Australian this morning.
Labor has plans for a new tier of welfare to assist a recently discovered pocket of need – businesses that struggle to persuade private investors to take their innovations seriously.
Bill Shorten claims that pumping a lazy half a billion into business start-ups will “capture the wave of digital change that is washing through the whole world.”
Labor calls it co-investment. Others might call its an expensive, one-way ticket to la-la land since it rests on the ridiculous premise that innovation can be unleashed by government decree.
Australia’s Grand Mufti has unhelpfully diagnosed the ‘causative factors’ behind Friday’s atrocities.
He claims they are “racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention.”
ISIS, on the other hand, claims the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted Paris because it was ‘the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe.’
In today’s The Australian I write that attempts to rationalise the behaviour of these demented people serves only to dilute their guilt.
It is enough to say simply that they are our enemy. They are enraged by everything civilised people stand for and claim the authority of Allah to reap carnage in crowded restaurants, streets and concert halls. There is nothing to negotiate; we just wish them dead.
Will slagging off same-sex marriage opponents as gay-haters make Bill Shorten more popular? One suspects not. Identity politics is best left to protest parties such as the Greens.
As I write in The Australian today:
Outside the inner city, the political class’s sudden obsession with gay marriage must seem strange. Why has it suddenly become the burning moral issue of our time? Why should it take precedence in debate over, say, the injustice of indigenous ill-health? What puts the assumed rights of gays to tie the knot ahead of the right of an Aboriginal child to a decent start in life?
One wonders what Chris Bowen’s constituents might make of it all in the western Sydney seat of McMahon. Tanya Plibersek’s electorate of Sydney was home to 2068 cohabiting male couples on the night of the 2011 census. In McMahon there were just 25.
The concentration of same sex couples in inner-city electorates is not surprising. But it does help explain why same-sex marriage is high on the media’s agenda. The federal electorates favoured by same-sex couple closely matches those where journalists live.
|Same-sex couples: Top five seats
|Same-sex couples: Lowest five seats
Source: ABS 2011 Census
WHERE DO SAME-SEX COUPLES VOTE?
WHERE DO JOURNALISTS LIVE?