Australia—Where to Now?

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Australia—Where to Now?

After 11 years of conservative government, Australia has chosen a socialist government. What is the nation now in for, given today’s rapidly changing global order?

In the middle of last year, the realists within Western society had reason to celebrate. Finally, among all of the simpering, mealy-mouthed, feminist, politically correct claptrap that passes for political dialogue in this disturbed 21st century, a loud bell rang. Melanie Phillips, that paragon of British political incorrectness, heard it, and she did a double take. “Just what was that ghostly and unfamiliar noise we heard over the weekend?” She asked in the May 13 edition of the Daily Mail. Answering her own question, she retorted, “[I]t was the sound of a country’s political leader actually exercising leadership.”

Phillips was referring to John Howard, Australia’s prime minister at the time, ordering his nation’s cricket team to pull out of a scheduled tour of Zimbabwe, and even threatening to suspend the players’ passports if the sport’s governing body did not abide by his decision.

At the time, Phillips had recently returned from a visit to Australia. Concerning her impressions of the political scene in the Antipodes, she made the observation, “Coming from Britain to Canberra to interview members of the Australian government is like leaving a fetid malarial swamp to be douched with fresh cold water from a mountain spring.” She praised these politicians for simply being “on-side in the great fight for civilization against barbarism” (Spectator, March 16, 2007).

Just one year on from that visit, I wonder what Ms. Phillips’s impressions would be of Australia’s new socialist government.

I visited my beloved home country last October. The mood on the Gold Coast in the midst of the Queensland spring was tangibly anti-Howard. The general feeling was that Australia, after 11 years of conservative federal government, needed a change.

Change it got.

At the national elections last November, John Howard and his conservative Liberal Party lost to Kevin Rudd and his center-left Labor Party. In the process, Howard lost his own Sydney seat by a tight margin. The conservatives now sit on the opposition benches of the Australian Parliament.

Kevin Rudd lost little time in revealing his true political colors, and pink they proved to be. He immediately announced the withdrawal of Aussie troops from Iraq and followed that up by creating history in the Australian Parliament, having Aboriginals do a tribal dance on the floor of the House. He then gave a speech declaring on behalf of all Australians an apology for the way they had treated the indigenous people that populated the land at the time that Great Britain took possession of it, and their progeny down to this day.

Although an Australian citizen, I do not include myself in the prime minister’s apology. The reason is that, in reference to my fellow Australians of any creed or color, I owe none of them an apology within the sense of that delivered publicly by Kevin Rudd. While I do owe each of them, like every single member of the family of man, due respect as a human being, I find nothing to warrant a blanket apology to any particular national group. This most particularly goes for the myth of “the stolen generations.”

One of the few vocal dissenting voices over the prime minister’s apology to Australia’s Aboriginal minority is journalist Andrew Bolt. Having clearly exposed the lie that claims Australia was guilty of a policy of stealing Aboriginal children from their parents, and very regularly providing ample evidence to support the fact that it is a lie perpetrated by self-interest groups, the entertainment industry and mass media, Bolt condemned the new Australian prime minister and his fellow camp followers for entrenching the deceit. “To Rudd and other Say-Sorries it simply doesn’t matter that there’s no evidence any Australian government had a policy to steal children just because they were Aboriginal.”

“Rudd is a sentimentalist who wants to say sorry regardless of the facts about the ‘stolen generations,’” Bolt wrote. “But I am a rationalist who can only say a sorry that respects the truth …” (Herald Sun,February 8).

What should be of even deeper concern to Australians is the method of government that is now in process of imposing itself on the nation. It is a form of government starkly in contrast to that which Australia experienced during its past decade of economic growth, of internal stability and external security. Australia’s swing to the left in the national elections witnessed how few really appreciate that there is a strong link between traditional, conservative values and experiencing these blessings.

When one reviews Australia’s brief political history since its federation as a Commonwealth in 1901, a cyclical pattern of swinging from left to right in regular rhythm over the past century is revealed. But through it all is threaded a degree of down-to-earth common sense that eventually bails the country out of local, statewide or even national disaster from time to time. Being largely of British stock, Aussies are known for producing their best when they are in the last ditch with their backs to the wall. That is the Anzac tradition, earned with honors in battle both in the desert of the Middle East and the mud of the Western Front during World War i.

But the link to the Anzac tradition is now almost severed, as the generation that experienced that terrible war has all but died out. Australia is now governed by those who never knew the impact of world war nor suffered the privations of a global economic depression. Without such a test on national character, Australia is in danger of becoming soft—soft-headed in particular.

The recent swing from right to left in the Australian electorate is powerful. Latest polls give Prime Minister Rudd a 70 percent support rating. But, considering the early indications, although Australia’s left-wing mass media did an extremely effective job of brainwashing the public into accepting a change of government, what is emerging already is a form of government that they may well live to regret.

Andrew Bolt is one of few who recognize the danger. “Rudd is building himself a model of soft-corporatism, in which political opposition will be muted and dissenters denied political (and, increasingly, even media) representation. This is a terrible mistake for the Liberals, and an erosion of democracy” (ibid., February 14).

Australia enjoyed a feel-good mood in the wake of the recent election. However, realists perceive that the timing of Mr. Rudd’s electoral success could present the new Australian government with a real problem. In a hint of early worries about Australia’s economy, “The Rudd government has declared Australia should be able to avoid recession despite high inflation and a slowing world economy” (ibid., February 11). However, some see dangerous shoals ahead for an Australian economy that is so heavily geared to the commodities markets for income, drastically dependent on imports for consumer goods, and sports a currency that gives every indication of being overpriced.

To add to these concerns, this week Australians found out they were not immune to the spreading disease of financial failure courtesy of the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown. “The American subprime virus has arrived in Australia,” says Jonathan Pain, chief investment strategist with hfa Asset Management. “In an age of globalization, no nation can be viewed in isolation.”

“[A] wave of house repossessions,” reports the Age, “is now claiming about 800 homes every week around the country, because families can no longer afford their mortgage repayments. Now analysts are warning another 300,000 households are at risk …” (February 24).

But the subprime backwash is not the only challenge now facing Australia’s new government. The effect of the Rudd government’s platform on a number of items in which it proposes sweeping changes to the Australian economy and social order has yet to be measured.

There is the challenge of Australia’s labor union movement involving burning questions on contract work and workplace agreements. Mr. Rudd will have to guide legislation through Australia’s upper house of Parliament, the Senate, where his government has a minority representation. He will have to meet demands for compensation from Aboriginals now that the government has documented an admission of guilt for alleged crimes against them. He’ll have to balance the demands of Greens and global-warming cranks against those of a large mining lobby. At the same time, with recession looming, he will have to address the promises he made to reduce the impact of high costs on staples for the average Australian household.

All this is a tall order even for an experienced government, let alone for one as wet behind the ears as that led by Mr. Rudd, and it will all be reflected in the background of 16 years of continuing growth that has spoiled Australians of the present generation.

As commentators for the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Rudd Labor has vanquished the second-most tenacious leader Australia has known, but a series of demons, dragons and other dangers await the victors as they arrive in their ministerial suites.”

The burning questions that so heavily impinge on Australia’s future at this juncture are these: Just what is the Australian identity today? What are the real values that Australians respect and seek to protect from the impact of creeping multiculturalism? What are the standards that underpin Australian society today?

The realists worry about all this.

As Melanie Phillips observed, “Throughout the West … [t]he political class is incapable of disinterested statesmanship because it is no longer sure in what—if anything—it still believes” (Daily Mail, May 13, 2007).

Of Australia’s prime minister of the past decade, Phillips noted, “Mr. Howard, in sharp contrast, is entirely free of such absurd and crippling cultural cringe. He believes in Australia and its Western values. He thinks these values are superior to any alternatives. And it is this total absence of equivocation in upholding the national interest which explains his robust defense of both Australian identity and Western civilization against attack” (ibid.).

We simply pose this question: In this age of great global disruption, this age of immense challenges to Western civilization from contending cultures and great religious movements foreign to the West, does Australia—which for the past 11 years stoically resisted incursions upon its foundational values, institutions and freedoms—now, under its new government, have what it takes to continue a robust defense of Australian identity?