Archive for January, 2016

In praise of Australians

January 26th, 2016 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

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.


Self-respecting lives

January 12th, 2016 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

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.


Rudd was right – sort of…

January 6th, 2016 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

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:

Ireland reshapedThere 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.

March of the Prosecco Socialists

January 5th, 2016 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

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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.