Mr Abbott and the Culture Wars II: Climate Change and civil society

flanneryOne argument I made in my earlier post about Mr Abbott’s relaunch of the Culture Wars is that he won’t have noticed that civil society is stronger than it was in the Howard years. It’s not just “clicktivism” – there is a real resurgence in and around social media, which funnels real changes in culture and social opinion into the political process. It can be expected that those thousand points of light will converge more readily now that there is an LNP government.

Tony Abbott, despite the liberalism his party proclaims (and what sort of liberal party makes it an offense for consumers to share information about products and companies?), is at heart an echo of an overwhelmingly Statist polity. To the degree that civil society strengthens, we can expect to see a shift in the power balance away from dependence on the state which has been central to Australia’s political culture for so long. There is no reason to celebrate a Coalition government, but that shift, if it’s nurtured, would be a democratic advance.

I’m thinking of all this as news breaks of the success of the project to fund the Climate Council, a non-governmental replacement for the Climate Commission the Abbott government disbanded last week, simultaneously sacking Tim Flannery and his colleagues.

Perhaps this is one reason (with the Labor leadership contest being another) that progressives are not all caught up in post-election gloom. The left is not over because Labor has been defeated (and Labor is not finished because it has been defeated).

In the context of debate in progressive and left circles around the reboot of the culture wars, I thought Ben Eltham put it nicely in New Matilda:

Some on the left have decried the new outbreak of the culture wars, claiming that it distracts from the real issues. Writing in The Guardian, for instance, Jeff Sparrow argued last week that the storm of controversy over Abbott’s blokey cabinet choices played into conservative hands. “If the left doesn’t understand the logic of culture wars,” Sparrow wrote, “we are doomed to be defeated in them.”

A glance at the way the right sees the coming culture wars shows how wrong Sparrow is. Quite apart from the fact that the gender make-up of the key decision-making body of the land is more than a symbolic issue, the very idea that the symbolic content of politics can somehow be divorced from the material aspects seems mistaken, almost quaint.

The right understands that symbols are every bit as important as policy details – much more important, in fact. That’s why the Abbott Government and its right-wing cheerleaders are pursuing the climate scientists with such vigour. The right knows that our disintegrating global environment is the largest challenge to the hegemony of capital since Marx. Climate change questions the very fundamentals of neoliberal ideology, including the centrality of economic growth and the idea – explicit in the tenets of monotheistic religions like Christianity – that the natural environment is a resource that exists for the beneficial exploitation of humans.

….

Like it or not, the next three years will see bitter battles over culture, the humanities and science. If the left decides not to fight them, they are battles that will be certainly be lost.

As it turns out, I think the left will fight. Indeed, the next three years are likely to see a much wider and more effective mobilisation of progressive sentiment than Tony Abbott and the tacticians at Crosby Textor may have bargained for.

In that respect, this morning’s announcement of the rebirth of the Climate Commission as the crowd-funded and independent Climate Council is a straw in the wind. Only days after its abolition, Flannery and his colleagues at the Commission have reconstituted themselves with the help of a groundswell of community support. As independent analysts, they loom as far more effective critics of Greg Hunt and Tony Abbott’s risible Direct Action policy than they would have been while still formally part of the government.

The rebirth of the Climate Council could not have occurred with anything like this speed and flexibility in the Howard years. It is a sign that the tools for community opposition to Tony Abbott’s agenda are effective and potentially highly disruptive. Like many a general before him, Abbott may soon realise that getting into a culture war is much easier than getting out.

 


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69 responses to “Mr Abbott and the Culture Wars II: Climate Change and civil society”

  1. Ben Eltham

    thanks Mark

    You might want to see Jeff Sparrow’s response to my piece over at Overland — much of which, interestingly, I agree with 😉

    http://overland.org.au/2013/09/how-to-lose-a-culture-war-a-response-to-ben-eltham/

  2. Andrew Reynolds

    I don’t understand the use of the rhetoric of war in this context – or any context other than that of an actual war and even then it is probably worse than useless. Our culture is not a victory to be won, but something that will forever be evolving over time. No side in the culture “war” has a monopoly of truth, and the use of this sort of rhetoric is not only unhelpful it actually perpetuates the problem.
    The use of war rhetoric just encourages both side to retreat to the bunkers and lob (hopefully verbal) bombs at each other. This will end up with both sides having, at best, a dialogue of the deaf.
    Writers like Klein (and, for that matter, Bolt) just appall me as they seem to approach everything not by looking for the best outcome but by looking at the source and judging any proposals that way.
    We need to talk and come to practical solutions, not shout and look to get to whatever we think is best for our “side”.
    The “Left” and the “Right”, whatever those mean, are just as diverse as each other and just as capable of error. Failure to appreciate that should, hopefully, lead the the irrelevance of those who don’t understand.

  3. Judith Downey

    You have reason to see the opposition to Coalition as different from Howard years. One major change is the power of social media, and it is predominantly a tool of non-coalition groups. Another difference is the experience with the Gillard government which demonstrated that even when a government is in control of the ‘commanding heights’ it doesn’t always have supremacy in community discussion. The creation of an independent Climate Commission is a positive sign of the new environment.
    And the decision on the numbers of women in the cabinet was a silly one, which apart from being sexist and ensuring the decision making processes will be sub-optimal, shows that the Coalition misunderstands this new situation.

  4. Peter Murphy

    There’s another reason I’m skeptical of the success of “culture wars”, and it’s in this AFR article: Abbott’s office takes control of ministers’ media. A confident government would give their ministers more freedom in messaging, but Abbott doesn’t seem to have that confidence. It’s like he doesn’t trust them to say the right thing.

    Top down media messaging may work in another time and place, but compared to social media it’s extremely inflexible. Folk might reckon Abbott is to “culture war” what Napoleon was to “real war”, but I think we’re looking at another Haig. It’s lions led by donkeys – without the lions.

  5. jungney

    Thank you Mark. I wish I had put this OP together.

    They’re f*cked but have no idea what is coming. The Libs and meeja running dogs keep on repeating ‘normal and stable’ or some such, is it ‘business as usual’?; if they were confident they wouldn’t be saying that, it’s like aural soma, so soon.

    It’s now the job of the left to disrupt the practice of ‘normal’. Aussies don’t like trouble. If trouble happens around the Coalition then they become identified as the cause and the source of the trouble.

    I always approved heartily of the mini riot put on by, ahem, elements of the adventurist left, when Pauline Hanson visited Newcastle. It was ripe for the picking for them. But the left bunged on a shit fight and Novocastrians identified her as the cause of the problem.

    So, we take ’em on for the fight of and for our lives and future lives. Of all species, sentient or otherwise. We have nothing to lose.

  6. Sam

    Of course there will be a culture war. Abbott won’t be able to help himself. He is a product of Sydney University residential college right wing student politics, rugby and boxing. We all know the type. Abbott so fits the mould he is a cliche. He will bait; he will provoke; he will stir the pot; he will attack. He will do this because it is in his DNA to do this. It will come as naturally to him as hazing a fresher or trashing the campus women’s room. He will be aggressive, belligerent and take no prisoners.

    The war metaphor is perfectly apt on this occasion.

  7. Salient Green

    jungney, the perfect opportunity for the Greens to get off their soft, cushy pet projects of gay marriage, asylum seekers and the hypocritical carbon ‘tax’, and get back to issues of ecological sustainability.

  8. jungney

    yairs, sg, in many ways I agree with you. However, we are going to need the broadest possible coalition of social forces. These days, apparently and according to my daughter, FOE, in certain parts of Oz, is the organisation of choice for the GBLT mob. I wouldn’t exclude any form of human liberation from the project of the liberation of all life forms from exploitation and oppression. We’ve a way to go yet. Let’s build a massive common front.

  9. faustusnotes

    ’cause heaven forfend that a Green party focus on global warming.

  10. Salient Green

    Yes jungney, there are plenty of NGO’s tackling government on asylum seekers and gay marriage and they are far less likely to stimulate the hackles of the right wingers in Labor and Liberals than self righteous political machinations of the Greens.
    I think the Greens need to represent aforesaid people in parliament and senate in a non-judgemental, non-oneupmanship role(desperately lacking the best terms here) working towards solutions behind the scenes. The issues are too wicked to be used for political gain by a party of moral integrity.
    Humanity is facing a collapse of the civilised world and worse in the developing world if we don’t address our over-population and over-consumption and these are the issues that need to be front and centre of Greens policies if we are to have any relevance politically.

  11. Salient Green

    ’cause heaven forfend that fn actually says what it means so that it can be debated rather than obscure, hinting at snide asides.

  12. jungney

    SG: got it in one.

  13. Graham Bell

    Andrew Reynolds @ 3:
    Although I heartily agree with you when you say

    The use of war rhetoric just encourages both side to retreat to the bunkers and lob (hopefully verbal) bombs at each other.

    I cannot help but call Tim Flannery’s response to shutting down the Climate Commission a brilliant CounterAmbush.

    Mark @ 8:
    Be careful what you wish for …. my Inner Dadaist is already screaming for release 🙂

  14. Mr Denmore

    Recently returning from the USA, home of the confected ‘cuture wars’, I was struck at the gear-grinding obviousness and out-of-time nature of Abbott’s attempts to restart the circus here.

    See my blog post on the issue here.

  15. Graham Bell

    Thanks for your link, Mr Denmore @ 16. Sooner or later, Murdoch’s muppet will realize that following the U.S. Republican Party extremists will lead to the political grave …. then again, he may not.

  16. Andrew Reynolds

    Mr Denmore – seriously – do you really believe Rudd and Gillard were somehow not involved in the culture “wars”?

    The culture wars – summarised. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOoXwxqeVzg

  17. David Irving (no relation)

    Not sure what your point is, Andrew. Kulturkampf is a conservative obsession, as a rule.

  18. Graham Bell

    David Irving (not the misled one) @19:

    Huh? Andrew Reynolds points, @ 3, were as clear as crystal to me.

    You say that Kulturkampf is a conservative obsession. Well, the watered-down imitation Tories we have to put up with in Australia prefer that sort of counter-productive screeching and brawling. They don’t know any better – bullying, money and exclusiveness have got them everything they wanted so they haven’t had to think much at all. Yes, there are some brilliant and thoughtful people with conservative views; you can hear them from time to time on ABC Radio National’s Counterpoint – but the rest of the herd simply follow Mussolini’s slogan: believe! obey! fight!

  19. philip travers

    I always thought, even have heard occasionally that Abbott responds to his own dialogue.The matters of some of his positions are part of what the Liberals support as images.A culture on and about masculinity would be easier just to muddle through as oneself,as much as that can be,and, not conclude blokeyness in itself is some sort of porn style gone out of fashion.You would hear me say G’day consciously,as both a friendly expression,an open invitation not to dramatise the world ,as something familiar and as a defence.That is to recognise the existence of others,doesn’t require an over inflated sense of cerebral activity.Some of the smartest people I have ever met,seem like the village idiot.

  20. jungney

    This seems pertinent and is available at ‘Democracy Now’:

    Corroding Our Democracy: Canada Silences Scientists, Targets Environmentalists in Tar Sands Push

  21. Andrew Reynolds

    David – so the “Left” railing about the upper classes, the power structures, misogyny, the patriarchy, “right-wing” denialism, etc. is not part of a culture war. That’s just the Truth, isn’t it?
    So – when the “Left” makes points that is just Truth, while the “Right” is starting a culture war.
    lol.

    Graham Bell – Believe! Obey! Fight! seems to be the mantra on both sides of this nonsense.

  22. David Irving (no relation)

    Well, not Truth, Andrew, but a reasonably accurate view of things.

    You probably don’t accept that Abbott is a misogynist, that there is a real class divide in Australia, and that large chunks of the Right are flat-earthers, but that’s your problem, not mine.

  23. alfred venison

    obama says he’ll only approve the tar sands if the development can be shown to be carbon neutral.

    since canada pulled out of kyoto the gov’t have stopped monitoring greenhouse gas emissions so they have no means of their own to demonstrate anything up down or neutral about the carbon emissions associated with the project.

    so now in order to get obama’s revised approval, when he has no means to demonstrate on his own that the project is emissions neutral, harper cynically proposes that the two countries initiate “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector”.

    harper is bad news all over & has been anti science since the start. and while spouting denial himself he has employed a kind of scorched earth policy to sack scientists and knobble institutions, the work of which might be of some small use to opposition parties or citizen’s groups or anyone who might use knowledge to critique official policy.

    here’s some of what he’s done:-

    1/ closed the artic sea ice research station, when arctic ice has undeniably began to shrink

    2/ closed the climate advisory office, when large numbers of people called to find out how to future proof their homes.

    3/ abolished office of chief scientist, when she spoke out too much about climate

    4/ put the muzzle government scientists, who must clear all press releases with pmo.

    5/ reduced staff at national statistics office by 50%

    6/ in the name of individual liberty, and against the advice of every national statistical bureau in the civilised world, abolished the “long form census” given to small numbers each census and an invaluable longitudinal database & planning aid with 60 years of consistent data collection gone kaput. in the face of looming climate change a 60 years old data set is rendered useless to planners.

    7/ national chief statistician resigned.

    8/ supplies tax payer funded legal advice to bp in its action against the proposed european surcharge on tar sands sources petrol. –a.v.

  24. Andrew Reynolds

    David – exactly my point. You don’t seem to accept that you even could be wrong. “I’m right you’re wrong nya nya nya” is no good way to conduct a discussion.
    The kulturkampf is not just the preserve of the Right (again – whatever that means).

  25. David Irving (no relation)

    I’m quite prepared to accept that I might be wrong, Andrew, given sufficient evidence. (I’ve changed my mind on a number of questions, including nuclear power and GMO organisms, on the basis of evidence.) I note you haven’t provided any yet, just assertions that the left is as guilty of Kultukampf as the right (despite the almost complete abscence of hysterical shreiking).

  26. David Irving (no relation)

    Kulturkamppf, dammit!

  27. jungney

    a.v., very interesting, especially the attack on statisticians. If Abbott follows course with similar we’ll know that there’s ‘think tank’ advice being taken.

  28. Graham Bell

    Alfred Venison @ 25:
    Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it Harper who also put the kybosh on the free passage of merchant shipping through the new North West Passage? We get the climate change everybody worked so hard to get going – and now we can’t enjoy one of its few benefits.

    What say we do a deal with the people in Canada – we’ll take their Harper if they’ll take our Howard, Hawkey-boy, Julie Bishop (before she starts a war), 90% of the ALP’s NSW Right, a rubbish-skip full of shock-jocks and so-called journalists as well as platoon of high-ranking very timid ADF officers and ncos. That would be a fair swap, wouldn’t it?

  29. Andrew Reynolds

    David,
    I’m not trying to continue any culture war. I find the whole effort, from whatever side, pointless, or worse.
    If you are looking for evidence read the excerpts from Klein in Jeff Sparrow’s response. Listen to what Rudd and Gillard were saying in the dying days of their respective governments. Read the bits from Ben Eltham above. If they aren’t part of a “culture war” then the term has no meaning.
    In all wars truth is the first casualty – and the culture war is the same. Lines like this are risible (“[c]limate change questions the very fundamentals of neoliberal ideology, including the centrality of economic growth…”) for either their meaninglessness (is there really a single “neoliberal” ideology) or their blatant error (if there is such an ideology, a neo-liberal as the name implies would be interested in freedom, not growth) yet you seem to be in support of them.
    Both sides in this “war” seem to find dogma more attractive than any idea of the truth. When you say “misogynist” above, you are adopting a twisted version of the language – unless you genuinely accept that Tony Abbott really hates women. He may well be sexist – that is a genuine possibility – but does he really hate women? Really?
    That’s as silly as some of the things Bolt says – and just as bad.

  30. zoot

    Alright Andrew, is it OK with you if we are politically correct and just say Tony Abbott fears women, discriminates against women, is uncomfortable in their presence, belittles their achievements and doesn’t value their qualities?

  31. jules

    Andrew reynolds those things are not a “culture war” they are a class war, one that warren buffett observed his class was winning.

    The Australian culture wars were a response to the recognition of unfairness in the so called land of the fair go. They were a reaction to acknowledging what some people had gone through. When a bunch of rednecks decide there was no stolen generation and that not implementing the deaths in custody recommendations was a good thing, for example, then they decided they were fighting a culture war.

    It is possible to recognise the heroism and skill of Australian soldiers in ww1 and the destruction of indigenous communities that went before during and after that process, for example. The people who were incapable of this were a bunch of boofheads with a view that “this has gone too far and we don’t have anyone to kick around any more.” Also if you suggest with your rudd Gillard reference that the Apology to the stolen generation is part of a culture war you need to have a good lie down.

  32. Andrew Reynolds

    zoot,
    You can say whatever you like, truth be damned. I won’t try to stop you.

    jules,
    Your position seems to be that the culture wars were started by the “Left”, in response to something else. Personally, I doubt it. I don’t know who started this whole concept. Whoever is trying to continue it is the issue.

    Again – as soon as we use the language of war, we start imagining those who disagree with us as the enemy – and then lying, misrepresenting not listening to your interlocutor and even violence somehow become acceptable. To me, this is the problem.

  33. alfred venison

    Graham Bell – Not harper, it has always been claimed by the canada as inland waters.

    see: ” SS Manhattan (1962) ” & ” 1985 Polar Sea controversy ” – in wikipedia for interesting past challenges to canadian sovereignty claims.

    it might work if you swap queensland for quebec and australia takes the remains of that parachute regiment they had to disband because of aryan nation infiltration. 😉
    -a.v.

  34. jules

    The “left” didn’t start using the “war” – the “right” did. Directly in response to the recognition of what actually happened to indigenous people.

    There’s a certain element of this culture thats in love with the idea of war – on bikies, terrorisms, drugs, brown people, and the rest. Don’t think its the “left” tho.

  35. jules

    “..didn’t start using the concept of culture war..”

  36. Graham Bell

    Zoot @ 32:
    I think you are mistaken and unobservant. My guess is that Abbott, in private, probably likes and respects women …. BUT he plays the sexism card like a professional card-sharp. As I said elsewhere, Abbott is projecting an image of being a virile he-man in a position of power and, as such, he puts women “in their place(??)” whenever he feels like it …. he is what all those wimpish men out there wish they could be. Perversely, it is an image that also appeals to some women. It is an image he has put a lot of effort into building and maintaining; however, If there were no political gains in being sexist, Abbott’s fake sexism would get turned off like a tap in an instant. What about all the weak-gutted men who try to emulate and surpass this false image and all the women who suffer as a result? Bad luck- that’s only collateral damage, isn’t it?

  37. Graham Bell

    a.v. @ 35:
    Hey. Fair go! I live in Queensland and I hate shovelling snow and walking on black ice. The rest of the deal is fine. Don’t worry about those ex-parachutists: we’ll give them extra training – with big black Torres Strait islanders despatchers (with a wicked sense of humour) each time they exit the aircraft. 🙂
    Thanks for the info on Canadian sovereign waters.

  38. pablo

    Predicting another Abbott led round of the culture wars may be a bit indiscreet – TA might not have thought of it yet – but I can see the centenary of the ANZAC Gallipoli landing providing an opening. Abbott may have telegraphed his leanings with the appointment of a minister in charge. Also 2015 is a year away from the next federal election, so best be prepared.
    It could begin with Canberra’s venerable war memorial, headed by the ‘trusty’ Brendan Nelson known to be keen to stamp his credentials on a revamp of the institution’s displays. Helping things along will be the group who want a formal recognition of the Australian colony’s effort in the Boer War 1899 -1902. They want a memorial site along the drive up to the War Memorial. The dates of the war pose a problem in calling this an ‘Australian’ expeditionary force. If it gets the nod then who knows… the backers of our effort in Sudan in the 1880’s, or the Maori Wars in NZ in the 1860’s will be knocking on Nelson’s door. Far fetched? Probably, but one who will join any resulting culture war will be Prof. Henry Reynolds who has long advocated official recognition of Australia’s indigenous frontier war. As a vocal critic of some aspects of ANZAC as covered in his book ‘Forgotten War’ Reynolds was centre stage in Howard’s black armband effort. Abbott will be wary. His own indigenous council headed by Warren Mundine is currently looking for recruits. They could be drawn into possible conflict. Round two?

  39. alfred venison

    “Hey. Fair go! I live in Queensland and I hate shovelling snow and walking on black ice”
    fair go, Graham, i agree, winter is great fun when you’re a fly-in, fly-out visitor. snow and black ice must be why 800,000 quebecois (residents and tourists) are in florida at any one time. and now you know why its viable for a place like florida to have a hockey team, eh? -a.v.

  40. David Irving (no relation)

    Again – as soon as we use the language of war, we start imagining those who disagree with us as the enemy – and then lying, misrepresenting not listening to your interlocutor and even violence somehow become acceptable. To me, this is the problem.

    So, Andrew, I want to be sure I’m not misrepresenting your position here.

    Recognising Aboriginal land rights is culture war, but denying any responsibility for past massacres is not. Suggesting that women, being 51% of the population, should be equally represented on boards and in Parliament is culture war, but having only one woman (and, to be frank, a not particularly intelligent or able one) in your Cabinet is not.

    Give me a break! I knew you’re blinkered, but I didn’t think you are stupid.

    Perhaps you’re correct. Kulturkrieg is a better name for what the Right has been waging since the late ’60s.

  41. Graham Bell

    a.v. @ 42:
    And here I was thinking all along that “snow birds” was an ornithological term. L-O-L.

    Pablo @ 40,.
    Dream on. Some Diggers were amused when Flak-Jacket Johnny started turning up at every embarkation like a bad smell – less so when word of his Young Liberals background and other personal history became known – and were downright unamused when the injured were reinjured, by the system, when they got back to Australia.

    Many politicians – Turkish, Australian, Irish, French, Indian, New Zealand, British – will take part in the Centenary of the Gallipoli/Canakkale Campaign; that’s inevitable; that’s part of the job we pay them to do.
    But only some juvenile LNP back-room boys, smoking non-tobacco substances, would be so stupid as to try and score political brownie-points out of that centenary. Times and circumstances have changed since Howard got the heave-ho.
    However, well-rehearsed and moderately sincere reserve and dignity might work in their favour.

  42. Graham Bell

    Pablo @ 40:
    Has the thought crossed your mind that it may have been Henry Reynolds’ activities and those of his pals that have delayed the long-overdue official recognition of the Australian Frontier Conflicts?

  43. Russell

    “having only one woman (and, to be frank, a not particularly intelligent or able one) in your Cabinet is not.”

    DI, I’m no fan of Julie Bishop or her views, but living in Perth, I’ve heard a few things about her from people who don’t like her … but I haven’t heard anyone say she is unintelligent or unable. I remember seeing her debating Steven Smith and she wiped the floor with him. She’s certainly as intelligent and able as anyone else in that cabinet.

  44. jules

    Graham bell @ 45 – are you for real?

    “Did it ever occur to you that recognising Aboriginal Frontier Conflicts might be the reason that official recognition of those conflicts has taken so long?”

    I spose it was Bringing Them Home that delayed the apology too??? Seriously – wtf??? Honestly I’ve seen logic like that before in some pretty disturbing places. One was (believe it or not) The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which raised the premise that the reason democracy in the West was invented was to …. wait for it … discredit democracy – for the benefit of the usual suspects.

    Its twisted, anti-logic bullshit, Graham. I’m sure you are capable of better than that.

  45. alfred venison

    non-tobacco substance brownies, i hope, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. -a.v.

  46. zoot

    @46

    She’s certainly as intelligent and able as anyone else in that cabinet.

    That bar is set pretty bloody low.

  47. Brian

    I’d like to emphasise what Melanie Klein said, as quoted by Jeff Sparrow (it’s from page 4 of her piece):

    Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as ‘people’ under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

    If as progressives we take on an agenda like that, or similar, we’ll need to travel under the sign of justice, with a clear view of liberty and equality for all. But lest we create some new phallocentric hierarchical monster we’ll need to see ourselves as part of one human family embedded in the whole system of life, rather than just rights-bearing isolates.

    Working on ourselves will be every bit as challenging as working towards a new political economy.

  48. Helen

    Pablo @ 40:
    Has the thought crossed your mind that it may have been Henry Reynolds’ activities and those of his pals that have delayed the long-overdue official recognition of the Australian Frontier Conflicts?

    I’m sorry, I am a bit slow today. Could you elaborate? How has Reynolds scholarship and describing the aboriginal-settler conflicts delayed its recognition? And who are his “pals”? This makes no sense.

  49. Helen

    DI, I’m no fan of Julie Bishop or her views, but living in Perth, I’ve heard a few things about her from people who don’t like her … but I haven’t heard anyone say she is unintelligent or unable. I remember seeing her debating Steven Smith and she wiped the floor with him. She’s certainly as intelligent and able as anyone else in that cabinet.

    Well, she’s only taken two weeks to comprehensively shit off our closest neighbour. Great going, champ! What next – annexation of PNG?

  50. Helen

    Mark, I heard Andrew Downer’s nasty entitled little voice whining away on the ABC last night. It took me back to the Howard years (not nice at all.) Anyhoo, I think it’s interesting that he should pop up now after being relatively silent for years. It’s as if, with their one female minister, they can’t even leave her to do her job without wheeling out Dolly to look over her shoulder and put his oar in. (It’s true that she has been pretty terrible so far – see also – but Downer is no better).

    Although I’m headdesking at the fulfilment of my prediction that Bishop would make us into an international laughing stock / nuisance, I’m enjoying the refusal of the Indonesian foreign minister to let her push her agenda onto them.

  51. Mark Bahnisch

    Me too, Helen!

  52. Sam

    Greg Sheridan says she’s off to a brilliant start

    Greg Sheridan? I thought he was dead.

  53. David Irving (no relation)

    Greg Sheridan says she’s off to a brilliant start

    Well, Mark, with a recommendation like that, what could possibly go wrong?

  54. Russell

    So Kevin Rudd never handled foreign affairs badly? Julia Gillard didn’t make some stupid mistakes? Calling them unintelligent too are we?

    Feminists should open their notebooks now: calling someone who was the successful managing partner of a large law firm before entering politics unintelligent … well, it doesn’t seem like the right word to me, so why use it?

  55. Sam

    someone who was the successful managing partner of a large law firm

    Let’s be accurate about this. Julie Bishop was the managing partner of the Perth officeof a large law firm. This was in the days when Perth was a backwater, well before the mining boom.

  56. Liz

    I don’t think Julie Bishop is unintelligent. I think she’s pushing an arrogant, colonialist policy that the Indinesians just won’t have.

  57. Russell

    I agree Liz – her handling of the relationship is disastrous, but she’s not unintelligent.

    Sam – W.A. has had a long succession of mining booms, and it wasn’t a small office, it was a major office doing big deals.

  58. Andrew Reynolds

    David Irving,
    Fascinating. You get all that from me finding that the “culture war” is worse than useless.
    So many logical fallacies it is staggering. Perhaps you should concentrate on finding out what I am actually saying rather than building a strawman, appealing to emotions, ad hominem, answering criticism with criticism, loaded questions, genetic and black or white arguments – all of which you appear to have employed here.
    If such a litany of fallacies is the best you can do then I have little doubt you are trying to wing an argument rather than find what truth there may be. The way you are arguing I am starting to wonder if the relationship you decry is closer than you claim. Is that less ad hom than calling someone blinkered and stupid?

  59. Graham Bell

    Helen @ 51 and Mark @ 52:
    The problem, as I see it, is that Henry Reynolds is secure in his position as an unassailable Sacred Cow and his scholarship immune to criticism because (and I really do mean ‘because’) he and his work has been attacked so many times by rabid racists that anyone who expresses any doubts about him and his work – and its effects – is assumed to be in league with the rabid racists too. Jules’ rant @ 47 is typical of what happens to anyone who has doubts about, or who doesn’t show worshipful respect to, a Sacred Cow.

    I want to see all aspects of Australia’s Frontier Conflicts (skirmishes, mass murders, ambushes, armed intimidation, deceits, dispossession – the whole damned lot) brought right out into the open and then acknowledged. For that to happen with reasonable speed and with a better chance of beneficial outcomes for all, we need something like the South Africans’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than resurrecting last century’s culture warriors for more knock-down-drag-out brawls. I want to see genuine Reconciliation – and Aboriginal Advancement – happen in my lifetime.

    Jules @ 47:
    Kindly stop trying to put words into my mouth. Without me explaining why it is so, you really made a fool of yourself by saying

    Honestly I’ve seen logic like that before in some pretty disturbing places. One was (believe it or not) The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,

  60. Graham Bell

    Mark @ 52:
    Reynolds was a late-comer when it came to spreading awareness of what happened in Australia’s Frontier Conflicts. Yes that is a plural because each conflict happened in different circumstances – although there were patterns in what happened.

    The problem, i.m.h.o., is that many people now imagine that a single well-planned strategy was used in a single war against Aborigines. That is dangerously simplistic as well as being bloody inaccurate …. I’m sure neither Reynolds nor Blainey nor any of the other 20th Century culture warriors ever said that there was such a single war but the cumulative effect of what they said, in the entertainment media, is that many people believe that there was. In neglecting to fight against this widespread false impression, all of the well-credentialed culture warriors of a bygone era have contributed to the delay in official recognition of Australia’s Frontier Conflicts.

    I cut my teeth on Tom Petrie’s informative reminiscences as well as as on the recollections of whitefellas and Aborigines.

    Now, just to upset the narrow-minded …. I suggest that the writer, Ion Idress, whose dislike of wild Aborigines was obvious, did much to inform city-dwellers of some of the things that happened in Australia’s Frontier Conflicts and that his readers then asked their own questions and made their own judgements; merely reading an author does not mean agreeing with everything that author wrote.

  61. Moz of Yarramulla

    [email protected]: I always assumed there were a bunch of different people settling Australia at different times for different reasons. Even if you just count subjects of our queen, the South Australian colonies were very different from the infamous Sydney situation. When I visited Broome it was all Chinese pearlers and assorted europeans heading south from Indonesia.

    I grew up in NZ, in an area where we’d had multiple waves of English and other UK subjects, Russians, Dutch, French and Germans. Just off the top of my head, I suspect I’ve missed a few, and not counting the post-WWII flows. There’s an official French colony in Akaroa, and Scots in Dunedin if people want to only count official sanctioned-by-the-PTB ones. So I suspect I expect to see multiple points of origin, where anglo-aussies are perhaps more able to focus only on the anglo history.

    Still annoyed that the “Immigration Museum” in Melbourne only counts anglos when recounting the early population of Australia (they still say it was zero when Cook arrived. Really).

  62. Judith Downey

    Ian Idress di much to raise my awareness of the historical situation when I was a child for which I am grateful. These matters were never discussed then.

  63. Russell

    Historians can correct me, but I thought that Henry Reynolds was important because he provided so much new evidence; other people may have recounted stories, but Reynolds presented new evidence from official documents.

    There was a wonderful project – the Australian Joint Copying Project – that took decades, and involved copying all the records relating to Australia, held in British government archives – hundreds of thousands of microfiche. Reynolds, I believe, set his students to combing through this vast amount of material, and they turned up a lot of new official documentation never seen since it had been deposited in those archives. Changed Australian history, helped lay the foundations for Mabo. A fantastic achievement.

  64. Graham Bell

    Russell @ 68:
    Good point. I don’t want to start a squabble on historiography but, in general, I have good reason to look beyond written records alone – and especially beyond official records. That said, I think searching the British archives was long overdue and very necessary.

    Both formal (usually written) and informal (usually oral) sources can be chock-a-block full of misunderstandings, outright lies and whopping great big holes …. so I can’t see much difference in the value of information gleaned by combing records (as you mentioned) and that obtained by collecting and collating widely dispersed recollections and the like, and then analysing them..

    The most serious problem is Omission. Nobody, in their right mind, is going to admit to having been involved in crimes, or, worse yet, in moral outrages and callous conduct that would bring down the scorn and disgust of their peers …. this, I think, one of the things that caused so much grief and injustice in the Stolen Generations tragedy and led to the test case in the N.T. being lost.

    I still say that the 20th Century’s culture warriors in the field of History have a lot to answer for in allowing a false history to spread like a virus through the non-academic populace. They have absolutely no excuse for allowing this to happen. They each have prestige and influence; journalists eat out of their hands – and, yes, their interviews and articles did restate what they had written in their scholarly works. But not one of these great scholars deigned to present their wonderful research in terms that could be well understood and readily accepted by all those awful lowly boagans and yobbos and whiteys. Not one of these famous professors went into a suburban gathering to answer the fears about Aboriginal land rights taking everything these people had worked so hard for. Not one of these lordly academics had the guts to take on the shock-jocks in hand-to-hand struggle.

    Let’s just lock up these culture warriors from the past in their libraries where they can’t do us any more harm by their neglect.