IN The Australian today I examine the blobocracy within the Commonwealth bureaucracy that is attempting to smother the policies of a democratically elected government.
The science-fiction horror movie has enjoyed a minor revival in Britain since Education Secretary Michael Gove declared the Blob a metaphor for the permanent bureaucracy that smothers good policy in modern public life.
Nothing could kill the malevolent red jelly that consumed everything in its path, just as nothing can stop the regulatory activism oozing out of Sirius House, the Department of Health’s headquarters in Canberra.
When I read Frank Furedi’s Authority: A Sociological History shortly after the election, it occurred to me that while the election had granted Tony Abbott control of the House of Representatives, his authority to govern would be resisted by the cultural establishment.
I write today:
Seldom has the gulf between “imperium” and “auctoritas” – the holding of power and the possession of authority – been so starkly visible on the Australian political landscape…
The election last September granted Tony Abbott imperium, the right to command the parliament and the instruments of executive power.
Yet he does not enjoy auctoritas, the capacity to initiate and inspire respect, within the citadels of the insider class.
The skirmish with the blobocracy at the Department of Health over a health star rating labels on the front of food packets is a challenge to the legitimacy of Abbott’s government which he must win.
It boils down to a simple question. Does government chosen by the people have the right to change the country?
Or did the electorate merely select a group of bunnies whose unhappy fate is to be tormented by the Australian Public Service for the next three years?
I posted a warning at the top of an article on the British Euro MP Daniel Hannan that I wrote for today’s The Weekend Australian: a warning: ‘politically correct readers may find the views expressed in this article offensive.’
Dan’s analysis of the virtues of the English-speaking nations is historically sound. The notion that the state should be subject to the law, and not the other way round, was indeed a British invention, and the spirit of personal liberty it permits accounts for the extraordinary success of Britain and many of its colonies.
Hannan’s critics on the Left, however, are determined to see his celebration of the Anglosphere in terms of race rather than civic culture. Hannan told me:
That’s the opening gambit of somebody who can’t be bothered to read the thesis. It’s demonstrably false. The Anglosphere is why Bermuda is not Haiti. It’s why Hong Kong is not China. It’s why Singapore is not Indonesia.
The notion that the dynamic qualities of Britishness were racially determined was a heresy that took hold in the 19th century and flourished until World War II, says Hannan.
In an absorbing phone conversation with Hannan in Brussels on Thursday I asked: Would Australia have flourished as it did under the Dutch or the French? Hannan replied:
We can see that the French wouldn’t have done. They had a very different style of government and a very different style of colonial administration.
The Dutch might well have done. The Netherlands and the British Isles were developing very much in parallel towards individualism and free trade. In fact the Dutch beat us to it in one important sense which is that they got the modern system of capitalism, if we define it as limited liability and joint stock ventures – the Dutch got that slightly before us.
IF Tony Abbott thought his pep talk to the ABC would evoke an outburst of patriotic rejoicing he was sadly mistaken, I write in The Australian this morning.
Asking ABC staff to demonstrate their affection for the home team is like asking a chameleon to show its true colours. Today’s intelligentsia, as true citizens of the world, no longer know who the home team is, let alone how to cheer for it.
The postmodern, post-nationalist being is a sovereign agent, a jurisdiction of one, who respects humankind but can’t abide the neighbours.
The joy of being a nomadic global citizen, Julian Assange once told The Sydney Morning Herald, is that it “allows you to see the structure of a country with greater clarity”. “You’re not swept up in the trivialities of a nation. You can concentrate on the serious matters. Australia is a bit of a political wasteland, a suburb of a country called Anglo-Saxon.”
We’ve been too slow to recognise the dangers of anti-patriotic sentiment and too hesitant to proclaim the virtues of citizenship. The idea that one can chose to be a world citizen is one of the great delusions of our time.
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In The Australian this week, I examined the environmental activists’ asserting that the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal is a threat to the barrier reef.
“Out-dated practices like dumping dredge spoil in reef waters must stop now,” declared the World Wildlife Fund.
Dredge spoil – or sand, as we used to call it – is the stuff we put in children’s play pits. It has never been considered a threat to the reef in itself.
The activists cannot be appeased.
It makes little difference if the dredged sand is dumped in a marine park, as landfill or on the Environment Minister’s house.
The aim is not to stop the Abbot Point expansion; it is to shut the whole damn thing down.
You don’t have to watch the lengthy discussion on the ABC on Q&A on Monday to draw conclusions about the corporation’s notion of balance. Just look at the panel:
Tony Jones’s verdict on The Lucky Culture last year was: “I’ve read it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” That pretty much sums up my view on Monday’s Q&A.
(That ugly piece of neckwear I’m wearing is ABC property, incidentally. I was told by the director that the tie I had worn to the studio would flare in front the cameras.)
In The Weekend Australian on Saturday I took a look at the professional failures at the ABC that lay them open to criticism:
THE art of good reporting is to let the facts speak for themselves. First, however, the facts must be discovered. It is the ABC’s inability to accomplish this most basic task that is compromising the integrity of its news service.
Recent reports that Australian naval officers tortured asylum-seekers demonstrate how far news reporting has strayed from the fundamental principle that, in the reporter’s reasonable judgment, the facts presented are true.
The only facts so far established beyond reasonable doubt are that some asylum-seekers returned to Indonesia with burns on their hands and that they have alleged rough treatment while their boat was being turned back. Beyond that there is nothing but conjecture and assertion, elements that previous generations of reporters would have instinctively spiked or buried towards the bottom of the story with heavy qualification.