Peter Coleman, Spectator Australia

2013-05-28 05.09.23 am





Spectator Australia, May 4, 2013

Every 50 years or so Australians need a new book marking the end of an era and the start of a new one, albeit still undefined.

In the 1960s there were several books of the kind (including a well remembered Australian Civilization!) The most famous was Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country, which mocked the boring Age of Menzies and painted Australia as a second-rate country. A harbinger of Whitlamism, it looked forward to a clever country run by university graduates. What we got was the age of political correctness. Now 50 years later Nick Cater is calling for a counter-revolution. The Lucky Culture and the Rise of an Australian Ruling Class is its manifesto. It proclaims a new Revolt of the Masses, the comeback of aspirational Australians sick of being pushed around.

English by birth, Cater arrived in Australia in 1989, ‘unemployed, exhilarated and terrified’. Australia was still classless and egalitarian. But it soon changed. It became polarised by an elite that does not simply feel better off than the common herd, but better. This moral aristocracy claims to be indifferent to money. They eat healthily and drink in moderation. They are compassionate. They believe themselves neither racist nor sexist. They make a show of solidarity with lots of gay friends. They are plastic bag refuseniks and tickers of carbon offset boxes. They run the quangos. Mirthless, illiberal, intolerant and virtuous, they have set out to change the country root-and-branch.

Cater examines their grim program in the commissions, universities, the ABC and political parties. Take our nine (!) Human Rights Commissions. There is no evidence of institutionalised discrimination in Australia. But that is not the Commissioners’ concern. Their purpose is to impose controls and provide status and stipends for the elite. The same elite is destroying universities by turning them into self-serving ‘engine rooms of progress’. In the ABC a rigid consensus — on the environment, border protection, Iraq and Afghanistan, same-sex marriage, the mining tax, the Catholic Church, Rupert Murdoch, and Tony Abbott’s unsuitability for high office — is ‘unmistakable’ and getting worse. As for the political parties, Cater quotes Martin Ferguson on the influence in the Labor party of special interest groups which cloak self-interest in the language of compassion and level their outrage at what Ferguson calls ‘fundamental working class values such as hard work, independence and the traditional family’. And you can’t expect too much from a Liberal party which in government approved and funded a new National Museum of Australia with no understanding of the anti-Australian blitzkrieg that the museum was about to wage.

What is to be done? Where will the counter-revolution begin? Cater has no hopes of restoring the old Australia, however fondly he remembers it. But we can still free up the underlying democracy that the new ruling class has not yet eradicated. Cater doubts the ABC can ever be reformed, but we could make a start by abolishing the Human Rights Commissions. Cater ends his manifesto by quoting from a splendid tract published in 1847 by an English-born Adelaide editor urging Englishmen to come to South Australia, a land where ‘almost everything is possible’ for honest, sober, aspirational men and women with sturdy sons and daughters. Everything is still possible in Australia, says Cater, although he notes that the Adelaide editor discouraged immigrants whose only instrument of industry is the pen: ‘We have too many of that class already.’