Archive for September, 2013

Abbott Muscles up in the battle for ideas

September 24th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

TONY Abbott’s government is up for a fight in the arena of ideas. Senior party figures recognise in retrospect that the Howard government should have fought harder to dismantle the infrastructure that has supported to the progressive project.

Before 2007, however, the boundaries were less clear. The Rudd and Gillard government’s willingness to embrace the nanny state and their submission to the principles of political correctness have served to illuminate the fault line. As I write in The Australian today:

Under Tony Abbott, there will be zero tolerance for evangelism on the public purse on anthropogenic global warming or any other matter.

When it comes to what is lazily described as the culture wars, the progressives have been kicking sand in the faces of liberal democrats for more than 40 years…

Labor returned to power in 2007 with a somewhat romantic view of the state, believing that its instruments could be used to teach its citizens how to behave. From teenage binge-drinking to finding the cheapest place for petrol, the all-benevolent hand of the federal government was where wisdom would reside.

As George Brandis explained to the Sydney Institute this year, the democratic Left is an unreliable ally in defence of economic liberties, but up to now it had at least championed civil liberties.

“Today, it is the self-styled progressives of the Left who want to ban things,” said Brandis.

“They want to eliminate the expression of opinions which they find offensive.” [FULL ARTICLE HERE]

Labor loses the battle for the righteous mind

September 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Jonathan Haidt’s brilliant book The Righteous Mind should be required post-election reading for Labor’s thinkers. Haidt, a social psychologist, offers a convincing explanation for why the Left in the United States no speaks to the values of middle America.

In my review of Haidt’s book last June, I noted the same phenomena was occurring in Australia where the Coalition had become the natural home for working families:

2013-09-17 06.44.19 amHaidt explores the intersection between morality and politics and, if he is right, Labor, like the US Democrats, is losing touch with human nature, and divisive class-war tactics will only make matters worse. Haidt concludes we are born to be righteous and that political and moral choices are closely linked. The progressive Left’s failure is that it has not learnt what it needs to be righteous about…

Haidt identifies six moral virtues touched by politics, the “taste buds of the righteous mind”: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. The dish served up by the progressive Left satisfies three of these instincts at most, leaving the other half for conservatives to feast on.


Welfare for wowsers: How the grant seekers flourished under Labor

September 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Grant-seeking in the not-for-profit sector has become an industry in itself, complete with its own sub-group of experts ready to advise community groups how to better twist the arms of government and private philanthropists, I write in The Australian today.

The grant-seeker’s trade magazine, Third Sector, publishes tips. Not-for-profit consultant Frank Spranger recommends assigning a manager “to routinely review federal and state government websites for new grants and tenders that could be relevant to your organisation”.

Peggy Hailstone, who describes herself as a professional grant writer, writes about grant-seeking trends in the April edition, advising that “capacity-building” is particularly big this year: “2013 offers an excellent opportunity to progress your grant-seeking,” she writes. “Will you take up the challenge or let it slide past?”

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency, a creation of Nicola Roxon, has become a grant-seeking magnate for community not-for-profit organisations which devise ridiculous ways of encouraging responsible drinking:

Incolink, the union-dominated body that manages redundancy payments for construction workers, scored $300,000 for its Drink Safe Mate project, which will help young workers learn to handle the grog using “a capacity-building approach”. The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health in Victoria also went for capacity-building, intending to use its cheque for $492,267 to “improve the capacity of young people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harm”. The organisation Youthsafe opted for “a resilience-based binge drinking project” that must still be in the early stages, since we are told it will cost $356,678 to develop, deliver and evaluate.

Bathurst Regional Council was given $495,071 for its Smashed Arts project, which will “engage young people in the Bathurst region by providing health education messages”.

The Western Sydney Alcohol Awareness Initiative scored $95,439 to train young people in the Penrith area to produce videos for their peers “promoting the harms of binge drinking”.

When it comes to dishing out public money in the cause of preventive health, no multifaceted early intervention approach or awareness-raising initiative is too questionable to dismiss.




Abbott’s Menzian rhetoric is working the west

September 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-09-17 06.09.29 amAbbott’s cultural critics struggle to see anything coherent, let alone virtuous, in his philosophy, I wrote in The Australian last week. Yet rarely has a conservative leader presented a manifesto with such grounded philosophical underpinnings.

His repeated reference to a state that favours lifters over leaners comes from Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People radio talk, delivered in 1942, in which Menzies contrasts the socialist dystopia of Chifley and John Curtin with his classical liberal ideals.

As Menzies put it, “leaners grow flabby; lifters grow muscles”.

“Many of my friends will retort, ‘Ah, that’s all very well, but when this war is over the levellers will have won the day. But I do not believe that we shall come out into the overlordship of an all-powerful state on whose benevolence we shall live, spineless and effortless; a state which will dole out bread and ideas with neatly regulated accuracy; where we shall all have our dividend without subscribing our capital.

“If the new world is to be a world of men, we must be not pallid and bloodless ghosts, but a community of people whose motto shall be: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’ Individual enterprise must drive us forward.”

Read the full article here.

In The Weekend Australian on Saturday I noted that despite some disappointing results for the Liberals in western Sydney, the party drove deeper into Labor’s former heartland where the primary vote of both parties is  equal – both are on 43 per cent across 15 seats in the west and north-west suburbs.

Abbott’s Menzian rhetoric goes down well in the west:

Counter to received political wisdom, the people of western Sydney appear not to be looking for handouts. They are less likely to collect all major categories of welfare, with the exception of the Youth Allowance. Nationally, one in 11 adults are on the Newstart Allowance; in western Sydney it is one in 23.

Read the full article here.



Election night: The Sunday Times

September 8th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Anyway you look at it, the 2013 Election is catastrophe for Labor. As The Weekend Australian’s leader remarked a the weekend:

There is only one thing worse than losing an election. And that is losing it without knowing why. [IN FULL]

This is how I covered the news on election night for The Sunday Times:

THE new prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, declared last night that his country was “under new management and once again open for business” after humiliating the Labor party in an emphatic win for his conservative Liberal-National coalition.

Last night’s result was a humiliating defeat for Labor’s Kevin Rudd, who had been installed by his party as prime minister only 10 weeks ago in a last-ditch attempt to stave off electoral disaster. [IN FULL]

Time’s up for this Ruddy technocracy

September 6th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Rudd’s technocratic dreams were his great undoing, I write on spiked today. No wonder the technocrat’s journal The Economist is backing him.

From the vantage point of its offices in LondonThe Economist presumes to possess either knowledge more perfect or judgement more reasonable that the citizens of Australia.

The Economist has fallen for the technocratic delusion that Friedrich Hayek examines in The Use of Knowledge in Society, an essay Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says helped inspire him to create his collaborative encyclopedia. Hayek, writing in 1945, notes that it had become fashionable to downplay the wisdom of the streets and assume that the experts, armed with lumps of aggregated information, knew best. Yet, as he pointed out, ‘these facts are never so given to a single mind’, which is why commentators, like central planners, so often get it wrong. It is hardly surprising that an international magazine, so remote from the world it describes, should fall for the technocrat’s delusion, nor that by doing so, it should find itself backing Rudd, the supreme technocrat. [FULL ARTICLE…] 

Abbott lacks vision, thank goodness

September 3rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amIn The Australian today I test that theory that Kevin Rudd is an Encyclopedia Britannica leader. He falls for technocratic illusion of perfect knowledge and supremely rational judgement.  

Rudd, the self-imagined visionary leader with a plan for the nation, is clearly a Britannica man. He acts on the assumption that a single mind possessed of all the facts is uniquely positioned to distil the information and write the perfect narrative.

While Tony Abbott operates on the Wikipedia model:

Wikipedia, by contrast, operates on a different assumption: that knowledge is dispersed among the community.

The theoretical foundation for this theory of knowledge is Freidrich Hayek’s 1945 essay The Use of Knowledge in Society. Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales cites Hayek’s essay as influential in the thinking behind Wikipedia. [FULL ARTICLE]

Here’s Rudd the Britannica man on Sunday:

So these are the contours of our vision for Australia’s future – a strong Australia, a secure Australia, a sustainable Australia and an Australia where we never throw the fair go out the back door.

Versus Abbott, the Wikipedia man, the week before:

 My vision for Australia is not that Big Brother government knows best; it’s that our country will best flourish when all of our citizens, individually and collectively, have the best chance to be their best selves. Government’s job is rarely to tell people what to do; mostly, it’s to make it easier for people to make their own choices.






The Sunday Times: Australia calls on ‘Action Man Abbo’

September 3rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-06-17 05.23.40 pmIn a profile of Tony Abbott for The Sunday Times last weekend I challenge the received wisdom. The image of the opposition leader as wild, ignorant and il-disciplined, reinforced daily in The Age and elsewhere, is an absurd caricature. On any objective reading, he is quite the opposite.

As party leader Abbott has shown remarkable discipline, curbing his wilder instincts and consciously trying to shake off his nickname of Captain Catholic. He noted that his first stirrings of civic duty came from Ladybird books about historical leaders such as Julius Caesar and Alfred the Great.

“I’m just very conscious of the fact that you’ve got very serious responsibilities to the party,” he said.

“And if we win the election I’ll just have the heaviest of all duties to the country.” [full article]

The Economist, meanwhile, has lost its way. The magazine’s judgement will be difficult to trust on anything after this week’s extraordinary editorial:

Mr Rudd gets our vote, largely because of Labor’s decent record.

The Australian today is closer to the mark, as it should be:

IN April 2008, when seven out of 10 Australians were satisfied with Kevin Rudd’s performance and Labor held an 18-point lead in Newspoll, George Megalogenis asked an impertinent question about the Prime Minister: “Will he become our first federal premier, a master of the media cycle who ultimately runs a do-nothing government?” Megalogenis wrote in The Weekend Australian.

The article prompted a bemused response from the Labor camp, since it was out of kilter with the laudatory commentary of the time, but in hindsight it is clear that the importation to the federal sphere of an approach that seemed to have worked well for state Labor governments masked a hollowness at the heart of Mr Rudd’s first-term government.