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Liberal Rule « Previous | |Next »
July 28, 2009

I got back to Adelaide from a few days holiday in Broken Hill in NSW doing some photography just in time to watch the second episode of Liberal Rule on SBS. It was so much better than the ABC's The Howard Years, which was very wishy washy and lacked any sense of critique of the spin from the ministers in the Howard Government. There was no counter narration by agreement apparently. Silly ABC.

HowardLiberal.jpg

I'd missed the first episode Cycles of Power. The second episode, Hearts and Minds deals with issues (industrial relations, multiculturalism, education and indigenous affairs), the contrasting positions on these issues and the strategy behind the policies of the Howard Government. The episode is upfront about how determined the Liberals were about using the political power they had gained by winning the 1996 election to change Australia into their conservative conception of Australia.

SBS are dead right. A decade of Liberal rule did change Australia.

Howard may have won the battle of the waterfront in the end (reduced union power and membership, greater productivity), but he lost the war of ideas around unionism and the role of the government as umpire between employer and employee. He also definitely lost the battle of ideas around reconciliation, despite rolling back Mabo. Australia, to all intents and purposes, remains a multicultural nation whilst the views of the one nation conservatism are those of a conservative minority. Howard succeeded in creating a two tiered education system by squeezing the public system (school and university ) of funds.

Conservatives lost the battle of ideas---ideology---at the cultural level and a decade of Liberal governance of the capitalist system failed in key aim to make conservative Australia the majority, electorally speaking.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:17 PM | | Comments (9)
Comments

Comments

I haven't watched any of it, but would dispute the simple notion that Howard changed the nation. Depending on whether nation means the people or the political entity.

He definitely did change the political entity, but as far as the people goes, he just emphasised some attitudes more than others. Over the longer term Australian attitudes have become more progressive, regardless of who's prime minister.

Take the Cronulla riots for example. Those attitudes have always been around, but we had a political environment that supported them for a while. A year and a half later they're back to being cranks in the corner.

The conservative family thing - people don't make their decisions on marriage, divorce, church attendance, having and raising kids, according to what the government of the day would like them to do. Sure the financial support makes it easier for families to conform to the biscuit tin image, but inside the house the parents are still eating in front of the tv while each of their three kids is playing a different game console in their separate bedrooms.

When someone comes to the house with the Australian Election Survey, growing majorities of them will still support same sex marriage, action on climate change, abortion on demand, no fault divorce, secular public education and voluntary euthanasia. Not too conservative.

Meanwhile last week the OZ featured two excerpts from the new book by Tony Abbott titled Battlelines---the title itself reveals a lot.

Tony and co would even begin to suspect or question the possibility that the Father Knows Best (battleline) world-view that they subscribe to, has inevitably created the situation featured on your Sorry Old World Junk For
Code posting.

Altogether the two featured excerpts was a remarkable display of the dim-witted unconscious group-think that (mis)-informs those on the right side of the culture wars altogether.

Tony quoted Howard to the effect that us progressive smarties think that we know more than our grand-fathers. Whereas by contrast "conservatives" know that they dont.

What did my grandfather "know" and believe?

That Christianity and its self-serving tribalistic mommy-daddy "creator-god" was true, and even the one true faith. Conversely he also knew nothing about the other great faith traditions.

That the white man was SELF-EVIDENTLY culturally superior to everyone else, and thus born to rule the entire planet.

He even celebrated Empire Day as testimony to the "self-evident" truth of this belief.

He most probably believed in the one dimensional Newtonian (Victorian) clock-work universe.

And conversely couldnt have even begun to understand the radical cultural implications of E=MC2 and Quantum physics/reality/theory.

etc etc.

Lyn,
re your comment:

He definitely did change the political entity, but as far as the people goes, he just emphasised some attitudes more than others. Over the longer term Australian attitudes have become more progressive, regardless of who's prime minister.

He divided the nation into two camps, reinforced the conservative camp and belted the hell out of indigenous people.

John,
I haven't read the Abbott material ---I was in Broken Hill without internet access and I didn't touch a newspaper. I've just read this extract in The Australian where Abbott claims that:

Unlike liberalism or socialism, conservatism does not start with an idea and construct a huge superstructure based on one insight or preference. Conservatism starts with an appreciation of what is and what has been and tries to discern the good from patterns of conduct.

He then goes on to say what conservative stands for:
Conservatives are engaged in their country's history, proud of its symbols, concerned for its welfare, attached to its values and vigorous in its defence. The instinct to defer to authority and to respect tradition - the sense that each individual has been shaped by the past and will influence the future, having both ancestors and descendants to keep faith with - is deeply ingrained in human beings, even if it's under-appreciated by intellectuals. A conservative apprehends how so much modern thinking is actually in revolt against human nature.

On his own account conservatism does start with an idea----namely the instinct to defer to authority and to respect tradition ...is deeply ingrained in human beings. The tacit claim is that human nature is unchanging in a biological sense, rather than a changing nature.

Abbott doesn't even understand what it is that he is defending!

John makes a good point.

Out of my two sets of grandparents one set was communist. The other set had a shotgun wedding, one ran off with an American sailor, the other with another woman, leaving my father behind with his poverty stricken grandmother.

But I guess People Skills wasn't talking about my grandparents.

Gary,
I agree Howard belted the hell out of indigenous people and anybody else he had a personal grudge against. But the two-camps environment fell over without him to sustain it. I suppose what I'm getting at is that he didn't change it permanently, and that your average person was apparently too busy getting on with life to notice too much.

Having said that, I might have to rethink, given the success of the hype over Australia Day. Maybe Australia Day and ANZAC Day are the two days of the year the cranks get to themselves?

Gary, what on earth are you saying by suggesting he 'won the war in the battle of ideas about unionism'?

He crushed the unions, it was his longest lasting legacy, and workers will be paying the price for decades to come. Even with wall to wall ALP governments there was nary a voice in favour of unions or workers rights. What the Rudd government has done has barely made a scrap of difference to the reality of life for workers in private companies.

Brent,
I said that Howard:

may have won the battle of the waterfront in the end (reduced union power and membership, greater productivity), but he lost the war of ideas around unionism and the role of the government as umpire between employer and employee.

He may have crushed the power of the unions--as you put it--- but Australians still accept the role of the government as umpire between employer and employee. They do not accept that industrial relations is just about individual contracts between employer and employee. The unions won that war and Workchoices helped to dislodge the Liberals from power.

It is true that what the Rudd government has done has barely made a scrap of difference to the reality of life for workers in private companies. However, they are working their reforms within the framework of the role of the government as umpire between employer and employee.

Brent,
Jeff Sparrow, the editor of Overland, asks us in today's Crikey to:

consider the peace deal struck for this conference, in which the ACTU says it will accept the retention of coercive powers in the building industry, laws that mean workers can be gaoled if they refuse to answer questions. These are extraordinary powers, abolishing the basic common law right of silence in a manner elsewhere seen only in anti-terrorism legislation.

He then asks:
And what trade-off has the ACTU received for biting its tongue about the building industry? Some encouraging words about its "Buy Australia" campaign! Never mind that it’s far from clear exactly what the government’s agreed to in its procurement plan. Never mind that, in the unlikely event that this minor outbreak of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" protectionism makes any economic difference, it will legitimate an equal and opposite reaction by foreign employers in respect of Australian workers, in the traditional zero-sum game that such things always foster.

He says that this this "Buy Australia" deal has been cooked up by ACTU leaders and Labor ministers with minimal involvement from the membership.

Peter- there would be minimal involvement from the membership, because in the private sector, there IS only a minimal membership.

Gary thinks unions still won the battle of ideas. If this was a victory, I hate to think what a defeat would look like. For we have come to such a pass in the battle of ideas that an ALP government is perfectly content to see penal powers remain in place against workers.

When you read even progressive blogs, you don't see any serious push to put workers rights back on the agenda. The idea is seen as so toxic that they just won't go there. Whatever the public might say in theory, in practice the ideas have been crushed. And we're all the poorer for it.