Discuss The Lucky Culture


MAY 9 

Johan Overbeeke:

Could please keep Mark ( failed politician and author ) down to 10 lines of comment a week? Me? I’m a normal well balanced tradesman ( insiders on my left shoulder and the bolt report on my right shoulder) with a masters degree, It is good to see a another viewpoint expressed , thank you sincerely.


Mark Christensen:

A tip for when next dealing with smug intellectuals like Tony Jones. The argument against intellectualism is not anti-intellectual in nature.  It’s about transcending accumulated knowledge, being so smart, as Socrates was, to know that we know nothing. It is the inability of reason to self-limit that crowds out the human spirit.  This, the lack of humility, is the real concern with those you refer to in your book (those that push the political system towards solutions that don’t/can’t exist).

Christine Hyde: 

One can compliment Tony Jones for a lively program. But you showed considerable skill in making your point after a rather chaotic set of interruptions from other panel members. Even so, Tony manages to snuff out disagreeable opinions by braying loudly at the very moment the last word is uttered, “let’s move on from there” or similar. He thus does not allow that micro-second needed for taking in the essence of the speaker’s argument!


Loved the book and I’m glad you have taken the debate to something beyond left and right. Insiders and outsiders makes much more sense. I am a radical libertarian, so am pretty much 180 degree opposed to anything the progressives, Get-Up and the Greens are trying to enforce on us. But even though I know what these social engineers are about in this day, I never understood how they come about in Australian culture. Not until your book, which charts the growth of these ideas.

Mark Latham:

Over the years I have read mountains of material on Gough Whitlam but yours is the first account to ignore the importance of his electorate – living in Cabramatta on Sydney’s urban fringe and developing policies on schools, health services and cities relevant to the aspirations of suburban Australia. His goal was to replace Labor’s limited 1950s agenda on industry nationalisation and IR with a contemporary program for improving the quality of life in the suburbs. What’s wrong with that? It’s even accepted by conservatives today as a legitimate role for government. You weren’t in Australia when this happened, hence your airbrushing of the core of Whitlamism. What sort of research went into this book? I found your reliance on TV images extraordinary, great slabs of analysis devoted to fiction such as Crocodile Dundee, Don’s Party and even Kath and Kim. As per your index, you devote 7 pages to the fictional character Barry McKenzie, while Peter Costello has no entries – how do you write a 361 page book about the ruling class in Australia without mentioning someone who was a highly successful Treasurer for 11 years? The TV-based research continues with Q and A (an obsession of the right-wing elites/media vigilantes who don’t like what’s being said) and lengthy analysis of the It’s Time commercial. I assume to make up for your lack of first-hand understanding of Australian history you spent a lot of time in front of a video-player watching shows. The time would have been better spent reading reliable accounts of Whitlamism. Ignoring Werriwa and Cabramatta (ie the evidence of Gough’s practical, empirical approach to policy development) allowed you to fit him up as the equivalent of an inner-city, out-of-touch intellectual (‘the platform of the cognoscenti’ as you write at page 154). Whitlam was never a public intellectual theorising about political ideology. He was a highly intelligent person who used his intelligence in a practical way, developing a new program for the suburbs. People like this exist – exposing a serious flaw in your jihad against tertiary education (the assumption that well-educated people can never be practical). So too, describing Lance Barnard (‘a teacher educated at Launceston Technical College’ – page 146) as an intellectual is ridiculous. Your account of Labor history is bad history. This is the problem with the right-wing elites: they arrive at a predetermined ideological conclusion and then thrash around for an argument supporting their position. Evidence counts for little. Your methodology is no less flawed than the far-left Green ideologues you so vigorously denounce. You appropriated my ‘insider/outsider’ framework and then used it in a jaundiced, intellectually dishonest way. I object to this very much. Mark Latham. PS If you understood Labor history you would not have described Jim Short as a Labor MP and then quoted him at length – as evidence of bipartisanship with the Liberals (see page 276). In fact, he was a Minister in the first Howard Government. Your instance of bipartisanship was actually a Liberal MP agreeing with Liberal policy.Good on you for expressing your views on the show tonight. I was in the audience and I picked up how people kept interupting you to avoid the audience applauding your honesty. I am not university educated and have always been aware of an exclusive culture that is basically elitist, and it’s nothing new I believe anyway. People from places like Elizabeth will never ever fit in a burb like North Adelaide, that’s life I think, sadly I agree with you that there are clusters forming. As a consequence I feel really disadvantaged people have very few opportunities and that is really dangerous, hence the weekly home invasions. I would love to see a politician honestly address this, but we just play this nonsensical bullshit game and vote for people who tell us nice stories! Good luck with your book.

Coel Healy:

I agree with you as to the divide between the inner city and the suburbs. I recently graduated uni and live in the suburbs with my parents about 50kmh south of Perth. The area that I live in Rockingham is often stereotyped as a bogan suburb. I can tell you from my own personal experience that there is a legitimate feeling of superiority towards people without a degree. I feel it’s something that the inner-city elite ignore as they’re not regularly exposed to the broader public they live in a bubble.

Mike Huynh:

I tried to find you on Twitter space, however, your non-existent. I wanted to make a brief response to what you spoke on ABC Q&A. Whilst you didn’t speak eloquently, I do share some of your sentiments and arguments. However, I think it is really because of our homogenised society and the ever increasing digitalisation of our workspace and functions as a human society, our purpose in life seems to be auxiliary given that most functions are being developed using software and machinery. The disproportionate demographic you spoke about, I believe, is how university theatrically does not teach any basic understanding of human function. We simply digress these fundamental tasks to “another class” of people who happen to be trade workers.

And ironically, of course, created by us as well. I don’t entirely agree with your statement on a new elite culture of Australian graduates being dispassionate, it’s rather individuality is being eroded because young would-be graduates end up believing that this x course and this x university will provide you with the elixir of grand success. I think you have to be a little smarter in your approach: thousands of students each year graduate with the same degree, how does this make you actually stand out?


Mark Latham:

In Chapter Three (and elsewhere) you are wrong about the end of publicly-funded dam construction in Australia. It was for economic reasons, not environmental. In the 1980s and 90s both sides of politics gave up on state-led development and the nonsense of turning deserts into Gardens of Eden. Howard and Costello adopted this view of dams as much as Hawke and Keating. If the Greens were so important in driving the policy, please show me the dozens of dams funded 1996-2007. State-led development had served Australia poorly. It was inconsistent with the new ethos of economic openness and market-based competition, values and polices which created Australia’s miracle economy. That is something to celebrate, instead of rewriting history. In drafting policies for the 2004 election, if someone had said to me, “We need to build more dams”, green concerns would not have crossed my mind. I would have said, “We can’t afford it and anyway, it’s part of an old, failed economic approach.” While on green issues, your book would have been more honest and complete if it gave an account of where the Tasmanian timber industry ended up after decades of policies trying to prop it up: ROOTED, well and truly. When you are not rewriting history you are ignoring it. Intellectually, you have put in a shocker with this book. It’s right-wing fundamentalism: whatever the Greens oppose, you support, and vice versa. A terribly disappointing way to deal with important issues for the country.

Mark Latham:

Which Australia have you been living in? Your account of ‘boorish’ criticism of Gina Rinehart on pages 92-93, demanding ‘courtesy and a modicum of respect’ for the big woman fundamentally misunderstands Australian culture. Our egalitarianism is a social habit, not an economic doctrine. The habit involves taking the piss out of the rich and powerful, which is exactly what the Q and A exchange did. You might share the IPA’s cult of personality about Rinehart but the panellists did not. They used common, irreverent Australian humour – the type one would hear in pubs, clubs and mateship groups every day. Get with the program, Nick. The Australian way is not to show respect and courtesy for the likes of Rinehart but to rag her silly. We don’t believe that ‘wealth carries virtue’ – that’s not social egalitarianism. Most Australians would think Gina got lucky when she inherited the dough from her dad – that’s the common impression (not strictly true, but that’s what people say about her). It’s not sneering to poke fun at her hairstyle, it’s merely taking the piss out of her extraordinary wealth – bringing her down a peg or two. Actually, the exchange is incredibly mild compared to the Rinehart life-story set out in Adele Ferguson’s book. Even conservatives like Michael Yabsley consistently portray her as an absolute horror. You need to read the book, please. Trying to depict Gina as exempt from a mild critique is just right-wing political correctness. There are so many things wrong with your book, but this one really jumps out.

Chris Hanson:

Nick, well done on the book. My dad was an old DLP man and said to me that Chifley would turn in his grave at the things Labor did under Whitlam. No doubt he would still be revolving at an even greater pace.

Mark Latham:

Hello Nick, Congratulations on your willingness to have an open debate on your new book. My starting point is to ask how you are any different to the ‘cosmopolitan sophisticates’ who you describe as part of Australia’s ‘self-appointed ruling class’ (in itself a strange notion, as surely the capacity to rule other classes cannot be by self-appointment)? For instance, here are your bio notes for tonight’s Q and A program: “Nick Cater is a senior editor at The Australian and the author of The Lucky Culture and The Rise Of An Australian Ruling Class, in which he argues that Australia’s egalitarian national identity is being threatened by an educated elite concentrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Nick grew up on the English south coast. He studied sociology at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1980, and spent a year installing roller towels in Southampton before joining the BBC as a studio manager. He joined Channel Seven’s London bureau after being offered a job by the late Paul Lyneham in 1983. In 1986 he re-joined the BBC as a television journalist where he spent some time in Newcastle upon Tyne covering the Lockerbie bombing, the closure of the shipyards and the early career of the MP for Sedgefield, Tony Blair. He produced the BBC documentary Bridge Builders in 1989 after discovering rare archival film on the construction of the Tyne and Sydney Harbour Bridges. Nick was sent to Australia to cover the Bicentenary in January 1988 and decided to quit his job and emigrate. He found work as a reporter on The Adelaide Advertiser where he became state political editor before being appointed Asia Correspondent by News Limited in 1993, based in Hong Kong. He famously tracked down the Australian paedophile Robert “Dolly” Dunn to a village on the Indonesian island of Lombok in 1996. His story in The Daily Telegraph prompted the famous headline “Hello Dolly”. Back in Australia Nick worked in the Canberra press gallery in 1996 then moved to The Daily Telegraph in 1997 where he was assistant editor under Col Allan. He became deputy editor at The Sunday Telegraph before moving to The Australian in 2004. He is currently the newspaper’s Chief Opinion Editor. Nick is a cyclist and a lapsed soccer supporter. He gave up watching the game in 2006 after realising it offered a low return on emotional investment. He now barracks for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.” This strikes me as a prototype of cosmopolitan sophistication: tertiary-educated, widely travelled, bulk of working career in an information industry dealing with abstract concepts (and now the author of a 361 page book), committed to the high arts, plus the pomposity of being a “lapsed soccer supporter” because of insufficient “return on emotional investment.” (who talks this way?) And I must add, from page 4 of your book, not being trackwise enough to know the name of the great Australian stayer, Strawberry Road. Less cycling and more backside trackside, please. Doesn’t it seem absurd to be critiquing other people for being part of a social cohort to which you belong – it comes with your SSO membership, doesn’t it? What is the difference between right-wing cosmo sophisticates and left-wing cosmo sophisticates, other than political beliefs? Same culture, just barracking for different parties within Australia’s out-of-touch, self-contained political class. When the elites critique the elites the argument tends to disappear up its own orifice. You need to address this contradiction, please. thank you, Mark Latham. PS I hope this is part of a published blog on your website.

Mark Christensen:

Agree whole-heartedly with (reported) thesis that Australia is subject to a powerful new commentariat, dominant in the media, academia and public administration, that demonstrates a narrow, small-minded perspective on humanity.

I agree that the Australian spirit is strong.  I also think we are less prone to making the mistake America continues to make: a constitutional formalising of the human spirit.

All that said, we have not deal with the dilemma at the heart of politics.  A society only progresses if it believes it can go all the way and solve its shared problems.  The leftist elite maintains its undue influence because it taps into this progressive belief, the conviction there exists formal Utopian solutions to a “fair go”.  The conservative side can’t dispatch interventionist paternalism because it can’t quite declare there are no positive solutions (other than radical individualism).

Paul Cunningham:

Re your article Religion And Groupthink and your request for explanations as to why it drew a mixed reaction. You state yourself only 20% of population have no religion – therefore 80% do and a lot presumably Christian – and you publish your article on Christmas Eve. As you and Durkheim seem to believe (and I agree) religion has complex social and psychological meanings. Therefore people have complex relationships with it. Our society at its best is based on Christianity at its best. Christmas as opposed to Easter is a happy time. Dawkins argument that belief in miracles is mad and presumably an argument against religion is disingenuous. All the so called miracles in the Bible have rational explanations (a doctor friend of mine has misdiagnosed death three times). These things are unimportant. The sermon on the mount is what’s important and it will continue to impact on millions when you and I and Emile are less than dust.


Jon How:

Somewhere along the line Australia the Lucky Country has become the Greedy Country. Australians, who once had a reputation for being friendly and easy going, are preoccupied with self and with money. Perhaps these are unintended consequences of population growth and the property boom with increasing competition for living space.  It is a pity because we are at risk of losing our sense of humour.


Jimmy McPhedran:

 I’m a couple of chapters into your book and I’m finding it absolutely thrilling. I have a real sense that the next 50 years or so will be the time Australia makes its particular contribution to the human journey and this book will provide impetus towards us doing just that. Could I bother you for your own definition of the word ‘culture’ as I find the dictionary meaning deficient as common usage just plain silly. Many thanks and congratulations on the book.


Matt Freeman:

I just thought I would take the opportunity to congratulate you on what’s turning out to be an outstanding read in “the lucky country”. As a proud Aussie growing up in western Sydney I have been waiting for a ages for a book to come along and raise sensible debate about class and culture and the emerging trends that I have witnessed in Australia society. Being a 30 year old male with left leanings and a degree I find your style of writing to be honest, to the point and deliriously engaging. Keep up the good work…. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to discover your work but alas i can make up for lost time. Sorry promise to buy your book when I get back to work. The price lagers of working in a book shop hahaha!