A few years ago, I had a look at Tony Abbott’s maiden speech (‘One of the depressing features of modern Australia is the low esteem in which governments and politicians are generally held‘) and Barnaby Joyce’s (‘Abortion is the slavery debate of our time‘). Here’s some snippets from Fraser Anning’s maiden speech delivered today:
There are a lot of hot takes about the ABC. The problem with most of the hot takes is the unasked question at their heart: what is the point of the ABC? Because people do not articulate clearly and precisely what they think its purpose is, we get a wild and stormy sea of opinions. The ABC should do this, not do that, be run like this, or sold off like that. The Charter, the Charter, the Charter.
One of the key policy intents behind the public broadcaster is outlined in the Budget papers:
Informed, educated and entertained audiences – throughout Australia and overseas – through innovative and comprehensive media and related services.
What this means in practice, however, is left open to people to interpret. There are a wide variety of ways to meet this goal but, perhaps surprisingly, not a lot of ways objectively to fail to meet it.
I was interested in reading a new book on the subject by Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson of RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub. A check of local bookstores, newsagents, and petrol stations came up empty, so I was disappointed not to know their argument for selling off the ABC. Given their other books and work, I imagine it treads the path of other libertarian rightwing arguments: the ABC presents views which with some group of taxpayers disagree and this is morally wrong.
As a conservative myself, I’ve always been confused by this view. It makes some sense intuitively but doesn’t hold up, thus the question of how to sell it off doesn’t arise.
It is impossible to say anything that is both honest and positive about Rowan Dean’s Corkscrewed. Even the font is all over the shop. Its main joke is about how the protagonist (some thin kind of Mary Sue) keeps trying to sexually assault women while he’s drunk. By the time you get to the scene where a near victim throws up truffle vomit into his mouth while he’s trying to assault her while she’s passed out from alcohol intake, you realise that you could be doing literally anything else with your life except read this trash.
With the mad rush of everything, I haven’t been making enough time to sit down and write. It’s a weird dynamic. I feel much better after I’ve written something, but I have recently found myself too stressed, too tired, or too miserable to write. We need some way of bringing the future psychological reward of an activity back through time to immediately before you undertake the activity. Get cracking, STEM nerds.
I keep feeling like I haven’t achieved very much this year. And it’s weird how that feeling — a feeling which often severely interferes with my day — doesn’t align with objective facts. Although it has been an extremely rough year for me personally, I got my postgrad degree, started two more postgraduate degrees (but one of them is a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, so it doesn’t really count), and am now more firmly on the pathway to my PhD. It feels like those achievements were so long ago; I graduated in July.
Anyway, I hope you are all well. Write back soon.
A friend of mine argues that the reason old white guys are so anxious about the Fall of Western Civilisation is that there’s no longer much content to it. Whatever culture we had, it has been replaced with the blandest and cheapest form of capitalism. Our education system is about preparing people to exchange their labour for sub-poverty salaries. Our ability to enjoy nature is tempered by our desire to dig up whatever might be profitable underneath. And school children read Harry Potter because they can always watch the movies and buy the merchandise if they struggle with the prose.
So when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott gets up to the podium and praises Western Values, we know — even without hearing the speech — that there is something not serious about his claims. Back in May, Abbott’s account of Western Values somehow necessitated the amendment of s 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Apparently, creating a safe haven for people to say the ‘N-word’ is an essential part of our cultural heritage. More recently, he claimed that Indigenous Australia prior to colonisation by the Bristish was ‘prehistory‘.
‘Western Values’ should not be a cloak for racism. One of my concerns, as a conservative, is what conservatism looks like in a multicultural society following the colonial period. How do you reconcile an Anglo-Australian with their cultural heritage when their prosperity depends upon extremely recent atrocities against Indigenous populations? How do you encourage everybody (regardless of cultural background) to connect with the best and most inspirational of their cultural heritage to shape their ongoing identity and contribute to the ongoing development of contemporary multicultural society?
Worse, ‘Western Values’ should not be treated like a monolith of pap liberalism. The same enterprising spirit of individual values was the same motivating force behind the global slave trade. John Locke wrote the Californian Constitution which defended the rights of slave owners against interference from the legislators. It’s the dynamic energy of Western Values — the constant synthesis of theses and antitheses — that makes it a fertile place for innovation and expansion. Sure, our conception of the individual was an interesting creation of Western culture, but our concept of the community is even more interesting. It is the tension and how we — through historical accident — conceptualised them and reconciled them that created our present condition. That’s the bit that’s worth both celebration and critique.
Here are five policies that Abbott would back if he were serious about promoting Western Values.
Holy shit! Who would have guessed that s 44 of the Australian Constitution would bite as hard as it has over the past year or so? Rod Culleton (One Nation), Bob Day (Family First), Scott Ludlam (Greens), and now Larissa Waters (Greens) have all fallen victim of s 44, either through High Court intervention or through voluntary resignation to inevitability. Technically, Bob Day was twice ineligible under s 44. And there’s another case on the boil: National Party MP, David Gillespie.
What I find interesting — really interesting — is how difficult it is to intuit the purpose of s 44. It’s a provision that excites popular imagination. Perhaps it’s a relic of a racist past. Perhaps it is a protection against foreign interference. Perhaps it should be amended. Perhaps it shouldn’t be.
But perhaps it’s not the technicality of the provision that we should consider, but bigger theories about constitutional democracies. Why should there be restrictions on who can become a parliamentarian? Shouldn’t we be able to elect whomever we want?