Archive for June, 2013

Keith Windschuttle reviews The Lucky Culture

June 27th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

from Quadrant, June 2013

In his column the Australian Financial Review last month, former Labor leader Mark Latham denounced Nick Cater’s new book The Lucky Culture as of no cultural consequence, merely “an ideological text vainly searching for evidence … a call to arms to the lunar-right political fringe”.

Yet in a posting of almost 3000 words aimed at Labor followers on the Chifley Research Centre website, Latham treated the book far more seriously. It was a formidable threat to all his own party represented: an “attempt to demolish everything Labor might reasonably stand for this century: action on climate change, support for the Hawke/Keating economic model, ongoing higher education expansion, Whitlamite service delivery and sensible human rights safeguards”. [CONTINUES]

Vanity bill keeps homeless out in the cold

June 27th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amFrom The Australian, June 25, 2013

 

SOMEONE needs to help Kevin Rudd pack, for it was surely only poor suitcase-management skills that obliged him to carry his sleeping bag to Canberra in his hand luggage. There have been suggestions, entirely unfounded, that this was no mere oversight but a display of conspicuous compassion, that the sleeping bag was merely a prop to tell the world that Rudd is a decent sort of chap, the kind who would sleep rough in the middle of winter to raise money for the homeless.

If you’re looking for hand-wringing symbolism, however, a statement that says merely, “I feel your pain”, it is hard to beat the Homelessness Bill 2013, that is solemnly progressing through parliament and could be law by the end of the week. Indeed “law” may be putting it a little strongly, for this is an instrument with no legislative purpose, other than to proclaim that the government’s heart is in the right place.

Full marks to the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Mark Butler, for keeping a straight face during his second reading speech. “This bill,” he told the house, “is aimed at increasing recognition and awareness of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

That is all there is to this spineless, sanctimonious statute — enlarged recognition and awareness raising. Its passing will be without consequence; homelessness will be as miserable an experience as it has always been, and the chances of finding a home will not have improved one jot. [CONTINUES]

 

Why capitalism raises an animal’s spirits

June 18th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amFrom today’s The Australian 

NICK CATER

IMAGINE what would happen if pro-meat campaigners staked out a vegan commune and waited until the simple creatures were tucked up in their koala-suit peejays before bursting through the door with the cameras rolling.

Picture the startled tofu munchers with the lights in their faces, blinking, squealing and thrashing around in the air.

They would look something like Ean Pollard’s pigs in an 8 1/2-minute clip posted on YouTube. Mr Pollard told The Land last week that animal rights vigilantes had broken into his piggery near Young, NSW, in the early hours of the morning. “The sows have got up thinking they’re going to get fed, but they’ve become agitated because there’s no feed – only people running around with flashlights, filming.” [CONTINUE READING HERE]

Strewth, Australia, you’re getting rather prissy

June 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

2013-06-17 05.23.40 pm

 From The Sunday Times, June 16, 2013

NICK CATER

As a Brit looking wistfully at Australia in the early 1980s, my vote for prime minister would have gone to Bob Hawke rather than Margaret Thatcher. I encountered him fleetingly at a press conference in Brussels when, if I recall correctly, he used the word “bugger”.

It seemed the appropriate word to use when answering questions about the European Economic Community, the institution that became the European Union. Hawke’s no-nonsense rhetoric was a perfect advertisement for a nation that refused to stand on ceremony.

Thirty years later, the prissy self-righteousness Hawke eschewed has descended like a cloud over Australian politics. Prudery, moral outrage and manufactured affront are now the standard currency of debate.

[continue reading here]

 

Is progressivism a form of religion?

June 12th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-06-12 07.59.37 pmThat’s the question that Andrew West put to me on ABC Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Report this afternoon.

As I write in Chapter Five of The Lucky Culture:

‘While progressivism is commonly called an ideology, it may in fact have more in common with a religious creed or dogma, a confession of faith that requires no other justification.’

 

West is the first interviewer to have picked up on this aspect the book. His intelligent weekly show is a reminder of why we need the ABC. Download the audio here.

Genetically modified curriculum risks contaminating young minds

June 11th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In The Australian today I write:

THE abstruse lyrics of Midnight Oil’s nervous anthem Progress are hard to follow, but we get the drift: Peter Garrett and his chums are nervous about modernity.

“Forget about your indecision, let’s get the beast off our land,” Garrett sang. “Got your last meal, filled up with pesticide; Hamburger, chain third world infanticide.”

The lanky, snarling 32-year-old skinhead who spat out those words is now a middle-aged education minister and oversees the development of the national curriculum that will determine what our children are taught about science, technology, progress.

The draft curriculum on technologies, released earlier this year, is being fought over by those who hold to the quaint notion that scientific industrial progress is generally a good thing and pressure groups fearful of modernity who would have us return to a simpler lifestyle. When Progress was released on the EP record Species Deceases in 1985, the proceeds were assigned to what the Oils considered to be good causes. Part of the funds were used to form the organisation Gene Ethics, a body dedicated to the eradication of genetically modified crops.

Gene Ethics is one of those Frankenstein non-governmental organisations that look harmless in the laboratory but turn into monsters when released, lurching across the public stage with an uneasy, half-vital motion, mocking human endeavour. Mankind has become too clever by half; science and technology are the cause, not the solution, to present problems. [read on here]

 

Outsiders take exception to The Herald’s ‘cheap shots’

June 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Chris Deeley

Sue and Chris Deeley from Wagga Wagga

I have not had the pleasure of meeting Sue and Chris Deeley, but I look forward to meeting them on Friday, June 7, at the Wagga Wagga launch of The Lucky Culture.

Chris takes exception to Dominic Kelly’s review in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age:

‘Dominic’s review is sullied by his own use of “cheap shots” and concomitant hypocrisy… For Dominic Australia’s cultural divide seems to be between the “fortunate”, meaning people like Dominic, and the “unfortunate”, meaning people like Nick.’ [read on here]

Nicole Flint

Nicolle Flint

Meanwhile, Nicolle Flint managed to slip this one past the gatekeepers at The Age:

‘The Lucky Culture invites us to recognise and reject the green merchants of gloom, those who tell women the odds are still stacked against them, who claim our farmers aren’t really growing food, or that the economy and economic growth doesn’t really matter.’  [read on here]

Warning: this program contains sexed-up history and very few facts

June 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amIn The Australian today, I look at the Whitlam documentary that screened on the ABC over the last two weekends.

Paul Clarke’s film-making talent is not in dispute, but its claim to be a factual program is audacious in the extreme. In fact, as many have commented, the excellent drams that followed, Paper Giants, was a more faithful account of people and events. [Judge for yourself on iview]

2013-06-04 07.52.13 am

 

 

 

NICK CATER in The Australian today:

NOT many people know this, but Andrew Denton was once sacked as Year 5 class captain at Roseville Primary School for reasons that are not particularly clear. Who better to talk us through the Gough Whitlam years in the ABC’s two-part documentary The Power and the Passion than Denton, who in November 1975 was aged 15 1/2?

“He knew what Gough Whitlam was going through when he was dismissed,” Denton’s biography in the program notes says.

Filmmaker Paul Clarke, also a teenager in the 1970s, admits his knowledge of Whitlam was limited before the project began. He does remember, however, a tumultuous day in November 1975, crackling with menace, when he tells us, “I felt him fall from his pedestal.”

Clarke describes his documentary as “Shakespeare in safari suits, or Orpheus, in a bogan underworld, illuminating the suburbs with his song of change”.

To be fair, it cannot be easy pitching a historical documentary to the ABC, where interest in the nation’s history is limited and attention spans are short. Even crackling, menacing tumultuous days need a bit of sexing up, if they’re to get a run in prime time. [continue reading here]

 

 

What would Allan Ashbolt make of ABC’s The Drum?

June 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Lucky Culture is an intellectual framework for those feeling bewildered and dislocated in the modern world, says the ABC’s Jonathan Green on the taxpayer-funded forum The Drum.

Green summarises The Lucky Culture

‘The argument… is that this country is burdened by an ‘insider’ class of over-educated inner-urban progressives, people divorced from the mainstream interests and opinion of the country’s overwhelming majority: simple plain-thinking folk, who care not a jot for same-sex marriage, climate change or the internationally acknowledged right of the marginalised and oppressed to seek asylum and refuge.’

…and then portrays the insider class as saviours:

‘…the only sensible response is to be thankful… perhaps it is the duty of the intelligent, connected, politically engaged minority (elite if you like) to stick to their guns and provide some sort of point of difference in a culture that otherwise would be subsumed by commercially manipulated mass-taste at the expense of cultural adventurism, by xenophobic smugness in the face of a seething world rattling at our borders and by head in the sand over-consumption against the pressing challenge of a increasingly unstable and threatening nature.’

Green provides an honest critique of The Lucky Culture and displays admirable self-awareness. Green is prepared to own the idea the notion that the ABC should be a forum for cultural adventurism that he and his fellow sophisticates form “an intellectual and cultural elite”.

Unlike Tony Jones and others, Green has no problem identifying the bunyip alumni as an “intelligent, connected, politically engaged minority”. He is prepared to defend their role as a “vanguard” and “the hope of the side”.

Green’s argument, which he states with uncommon clarity, rests on two premises: first, the outsiders are “simple… country folk” suffering from an an “instinctive sense of bewildered dislocation”.  Second, the progressives reform agenda – “same-sex marriage, climate change…  the internationally acknowledged right of the marginalised and oppressed to seek asylum” –  is unquestionably the right way forward for the country.

TLC deals with the first premise on pages 181 – 182. Demolishing the second premise, that the modern progressive  agenda is the morally upright position, takes up much of the rest of the book.

Alan Ashbolt

Alan Ashbolt

 

Green takes the position of Allan Ashbolt (LC pp 202-204). Green is more polite about simple, country folk than Ashbolt was about the Australian Man of Today, a creature he characterised as “a sentient being, but hardly rational or purposeful”. Green sees a society in danger of being subsumed by commercially manipulated mass-taste. Ashbolt’s AMOT lived in a world that was mass-produced and mass-manipulated, outside his own control.

In Ashbolt’s view, there is no such thing as pure information:

 

‘The work of a journalist is not simply that of a kind of traffic policeman, watching over the flow of information from sources to the public and waving it on at arbitrary intervals.’

For Ashbolt, journalism was a branch of history:

‘…its task is to provide a running commentary on issues in the public arena, and to show, if possible, which way the historical wind is blowing.’

Ashbolt notes:

‘What seems to be emerging, for the first time on a worthwhile scale, is the realisation that , if journalists are to break free from a traditionally subordinate work situation, they must be prepared to give one another, on ethical issues, the sort of collective backing which they have occasionally applied in the sphere of wage awards.’

 

Ashbolt, I believe, would have welcomed the arrival of The Drum and the amendment of the ABC’s staff code that legitimised its extension into opinion journalism. I suggest he would have been frustrated by the poor quality of many of the arguments carried on The Drum, and bewildered with the New Left in general. Ashbolt belonged to a tradition that wanted to take over the factories, not one that wanted to close them down.

Ashbolt made a bold case for cultural activism at the ABC. He was intellectually rigorous, literate and honest. He was passionate about broadcasting standards and a mentor to many. The careless historical inaccuracies in the documentary Gough Whitlam: The Power and the Passion would have disappointed him. He would have been particularly aggrieved at the implication in part one that Whitlam was at the forefront of the moratorium movement; Asbolt was a committed member of the moratorium movement long before the Tet Offensive made it fashionable and marched alongside Jim Cairns before, during and after the 1966 election.

The Drum may be the forum he imagined, and he would not be troubled by the absence of traditional balance. In substance, however, it has strayed far from the professionalism he championed.

Green was kind enough to invite me onto his program on Radio National, Sunday Extra, last weekend on his Outsiders panel, with James Button and Richard Cooke (from around 1’40”). Among the arguments we considered was the privatisation of the ABC.

I rejected the idea (around the 1’50” mark). The ABC is an institution that should be funded, in part at least, by the taxpayer. We should not abolish the ABC, but we must insist on a better return on our investment in cultural capital.

[Ashbolt quotes appear in Ashbolt, Allan, An Australian Experience: Words from the Vietnam Years, Australasian Book Society, Sydney, 1974 p. 29 and pp. 133-135]