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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Murdoch on Australia's future « Previous | |Next »
November 3, 2008

The title of Rupert Murdoch's Boyer Lecture is A Golden Age of Freedom and it refers to the way the opening of new markets is leading to the rise of new nations, and adding hundreds of millions of people to a new global middle class. In this new world Australia's leading trade partners are the great nations of Asia not Europe.

In the first lecture Murdoch, an ex-pat, says that he is concerned about Australia's future in a globalised world, since, on his account, Australia is not prepared for the challenges caused by the global economy.

While Australia generally does well in international rankings, those rankings can blind us to a larger truth: Australia will not succeed in the future if it aims to be just a bit better than average. We need to revive the sense of Australia as a frontier country, and to cultivate Australia as a great centre of excellence. Unlike our parents and grandparents, this new frontier has little to do with the bush or the outback. Today the frontier that needs sorting is the wider world. Complacency is our chief enemy…

Australia is not prepared because it is complacent. Where, then, is the Australia's complacency in a globalised world, given the opening up of the economy in the 1980s and the embrace of the global market?

Murdoch says it is our continuing dependency on government:

[We] need to reduce dependency on government … to reform our education system … to reconcile with Australia's Aboriginal population and to maintain a liberal immigration system. At a time when the world's most competitive nations are moving their people off government subsidy, Australians seem to be headed in the wrong direction. In a recent paper [the director of the Institute for Private Enterprise] Des Moore pointed out that while real incomes had increased since the end of the 1980s, about 20 per cent of the working aged population today received income support, compared with 15 per cent two decades ago. While a safety net is warranted for those in genuine need, we must avoid institutionalising idleness. The bludger should not be our national icon.

It is not clear that the Rudd Government is institutionalising idleness or making and the bludger our national icon? Surprisingly Murdoch says that traditionally the Liberals have been more free market in their outlook than their opponents. But Labor has also recognised that central planning does not work. But increased middle class welfare was a characteristic of the way that the Howard Government used economic prosperity to deliver on the "fair go".

Murdoch says that traditionally the Liberals have been more free market in their outlook than their opponents and that Labor has recognised that central planning does not work. However, increased middle class welfare was a characteristic of the Howard Government. Since when has the ALP advocated central planning? Surely Rudd Labor is pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation.

Murdoch says that is a good start, but then warns:

....being pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation means working for a society where citizens are not dependent on the government. That means ending subsidies for people who do well. It also means sensible targeting and persistence - so that when subsidies are given, they help those passing through a rough patch or born into abject poverty build themselves up to a point where they can provide for themselves. And it means smaller government and an end to the paternalism that nourishes political correctness, promotes government interference and undermines freedom and personal responsibility

This requires reforming our public education system as it is a nineteenth century system in a 21st century economy that in effect writes off whole segments of society and deprives them of the skills to take advantage of the opportunities of a global economy.

Murdoch reduces freedom to economic freedom. Where is political freedom? Secondly, Murdoch's Australia appears to be a different world to the one where we live in, which is where the coal industry, miners and big energy users want lots of subsidies as Australia makes the shift to a lower carbon economy. Where in our liberal democratic world is paternalism is encouraging political correctness? Does that imply that Australia is not an open society? Would Fox News make Australia a more open society?

What does political correctness mean today? Leftwing? Presumably, Murdoch is not referring to the heritage of a decade of the Howard Government? If it is leftwing---as understood by the conservatives at The Australian is not a cleaner, greener world, or reducing inequality suffered by indigenous people, since Murdoch accepts the need to address these issues. More than likely "political correctness" means a rejection of neo-liberalism--small government, deregulated markets and limited welfare?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:50 AM | | Comments (22)
Comments

Comments

He lives as a wealthy person in a country that has completely screwed up it's social structure and he comes over here and suggests we should do the same. I just wish there was a smiley with two fingers in the air because that is how I would like to end this post.

Turned it off after 20 minutes. His comments on China and India were either bleeding obvious or puerile.

I happened to turn the radio on last night while driving home an heard the said Rupert.

I have listened to bits and pieces of the Boyer lectures every year, even Peter Jensen about the future of Jesus. Most of them have been quite well done and even inspiring.
But Rupert was completey awful and inspiring as a one-dimensional cardboard cliche. He even sounded awful. I turned it off after about 10 minutes.

A "frontier" society or "culture" in 2008?

And why has Rupert been given this opportunity any way? He already has more than enough toxic influence via his media empire.

I thought that Murdoch's comments about government were ironic in the context of the global financial meltdown.

I think that he is ignoring history in a deep sense. My perhaps not sufficiently informed view societies are different for a number of reason, including the time and circumstances of the original settlement. My impression is that European Australia was strongly strongly influenced by the fact that was a naval base with distance lines of communication. South Australia was a planned colony on the EG Wakefield model.

In a list of persons for whom I have no respect and may actually despise as evil, dishonest, greedy, selfish whatever, Rupert comes in at #1.
With a fair gap to second [probably little Johnny or maybe George].

Maybe I should promote to second place whoever it was who first mooted he idea of inviting him to speak. What a suckhole!

John,
It will be interesting to see whether Murdoch talks about the media--press freedom + watchdog for democracy--and if so, what he will say. Maybe he will just talk about the themes he's already mentioned.

Kevin,
I only read the transcript, saw a few grabs on TV, and heard bits on the radio.I agree . He is not saying much. He sounds dated--the voice of Reagan, Thatcher and Howard--- given the financial crisis and the global economic slow down.

Charles,
if you are going to talk about Australia's future in the context of freedom, the opening of new markets adding hundreds of millions of people to a new global middle class, then you do need to refer to political freedom and democracy.

Maybe he will surprise us all by his pearls of wisdom in the latter lectures. There are 5 more to go.

wmmmb,
I agree. Its about markets. Murdoch's reference to history is to a work by Russell Drysdale entitled The Stockman and His Family.

When Drysdale's canvas catches my eye, it of course reminds me of home and of Australia's past and of my own past. It must be said that the protagonist is Aboriginal and his ancestors (our ancestors) experienced the vicissitudes and violence of nature long before the coming of European settlement. The continent was the same, the summers as unrelenting, the gums as ghostly. These are more than just shared circumstances but a common heritage -- one that is denied in the dialectical deconstruction of the Aboriginal experience, for political points are too often scored at the expense of understanding.

Murdoch adds that the stockman scene also points to the future. --- there is a steeliness and closeness that suggest this family is ready for the future. Our national character should never lose that steeliness.

Kevin Rennie did better than me. I didn't last a whole 20 minutes.

My first thought was that he's looking very old and fragile. The second was that this was a set of policy direction instructions for the Liberal Party. The third, and last, was regret that he didn't turn out more like his mother.

Fred,
well, he is a famous expat Australian and a very powerful figure in Australian public life despite his absence. I'll wait and hear what he has to say. On a positive note Murdoch is talking about indigenous people:

The best way to redress the past and advance true equality for all Australians is to ensure that the next generation of Aboriginal children have access to top-quality schools and teachers, which they do not now have. Australia's system of public education can never be called a success until Aboriginal Australians benefit from it as much as any other citizens.

At the same time, we cannot avert our eyes to the abuse of women and children within Aboriginal communities. These are not simple problems. And they will remain serious problems until our response is informed more by true compassion and less by remorse.

He may develop this sketch and indicate what he means by 'true equality'.

Gidday Gary,
Look if I want to know what Rupert wants me to think, I will just read the Advertiser or watch ABC TV news whatever. Personally I have too many other interesting things to read, watch and listen to than to be voluntarily misled by the thoughts of Chairman Rupe. Blimey, he has at his disposal most of Oz's daily print papers why give him more oxygen? There are a wealth of people, who don't own their own mass media outlets, whose thoughts and opinions are worthy of consideration.
Most of that excerpt of Rupert's you gave I find ignorant, arrogant and offensive.
For example, just one example from several available in such a short extract, Rupert claims to be concerned about abuse within Indigenous communities. The best evidence we have, which is not good evidence in itself just the best available, suggests that abuse rates are about the same or maybe even lower in Indigenous communities as compared to the general Australian society.
Yet that fact managed to escape the attention of the Advertiser completely.
He is part of the problem, how dare he have the arrogant effrontery to suggest 'solutions'?

Gary he under pinned Reagan, Thatcher, Bush and Howard. It's all over, the only problem is we can't vote Murdoch out.

I have no idea what the future will bring, but I'm pretty sure it won't be a repeat of Murdoch's dream.

"...centre of excellence".
After what he has done to the intellectual and community lifeof this cuountry?

Yeah he's a twat.

But he did it his way and he was very successful too.

If you don't like him don't buy his products you whiners.

Lyn,
If he is offering advice to the Liberal Party then he could advocate attacking Howard's massive expansion of middle-class family welfare and using the money to wind back the growth of single mother welfare and disability pensioners by encouraging them back into the workforce with some form of a working tax credit.

Paul,
there does appear to be a gap between what Murdoch is saying and his Australian newspapers--eg., climate change;

Climate change is another area where Australia needs to lead rather than follow. I'm not sold on the more apocalyptic visions of climate change. But I do believe that the planet deserves the benefit of the doubt......Our emphasis should be on practical solutions. We cannot address climate change merely with emotion. The ultimate solution is not to punish the Australian economy by imposing standards that the rest of the world will never meet. It's to take the lead in developing real alternatives to solve the problem by offering clean, cheap energy to meet the growing demand. The world desperately needs these cleaner and more abundant sources of energy. That will require huge investments in new technology. But the upside is huge. If we can develop cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, we will grow our economy while leaving a greener, cleaner world for our children and grandchildren.

You don't see The Australian explicitly advocating to cleaner and cheaper sources of energy.

Gary,
That's how I read the talk of bludgers - as a criticism of middle class welfare.

Nan,
The lecture series plans to address a whole bunch of important issues which have been muddied by his own media. His own writers tell us kids should study the classics rather than the world around them and the internet. Kevin Rudd shouldn't be wasting his time on overseas trips since we're a tiny, irrelevant country. He's the last person who should be commenting about important issues being used for political point scoring. That's the entire reason for The Australian's existence.

I agree with Lyn. Murdoch's use of 'bludger' means cutting entitlements for the middle classes as the way to fiscal balance. It means opposition to progressive taxation in favour of low-tax capitalism and smaller government.

So how do the Murdoch conservatives restrain the welfare state at a time when the entitlements the middle class have are broadly popular? Repeating the US Republican talking point-----"Pointy headed liberals with fancy degrees are looking down on you! Are you going to stand that?----isn't go to get these conservatives very far.

I didn't read much about the conservative values /virtues of ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity in Murdoch's lecture. Murdoch seems to be talking about a successful open society based on impersonal exchange in which the liberal impulses of freedom dominate completely, and the conservative impulses are stigmatized and/or essentially disappear. It is one where the impersonal mechanisms of capitalism ensure Murdoch's market/democratic order.

What has happened to the market liberal/social conservative story of Thatcher and Reagan? Were are the conservative values espoused by his tabloids---tribalism, subordination, and moralized disgust?

Peter,

"Were are the conservative values espoused by his tabloids---tribalism, subordination, and moralized disgust?"

You have to suspect that either Murdoch has lost interest in the Australian patch of his empire, or lost control of his own people. He's apparently said he finds Fox embarrassing.

On the other hand, he's in the business to make money. His tabloid readers and Fox viewers are unlikely to be paying attention to his lectures.

"bludgers" is usually code for the unemployed and aboriginals, isn't it?
Tony Abbott explained it a while back.
Relates to "deserving" against "undeserving" welfare, mutua obligation and work for the dole, preferablty with a cat o' nine tails in the hand of the vigilant overseer.