X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Australian Notes

Australian Notes

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

If there is one prediction that may be confidently made about the Middle East, it is that there will be no two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict this year — if ever. Australia and the UK helped ensure this in the recent UN vote when Palestine was recognised as an observer state, although there was no concession of any kind from the terrorist Hamas of Israel’s right to exist. Yet at their meeting in Perth, Foreign Minister Bob Carr and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed on the ‘particularly urgent need’ for a two-state solution. Hard to take them seriously.

But never mind. At Parliament House in Sydney last week the audience — mainly men, hundreds of them — sprang to their feet and applauded as William Hague, the guest of honour, arrived, accompanied by Tony Abbott and John Howard. It was the Fourth Annual John Howard Lecture of the Menzies Research Centre. It was also on this occasion a sort of tribal rally of Anglo-Australians. The speeches may have seemed inconsequential, containing little that was unexpected or new. But they all celebrated the bonds linking Australia and Britain. John Howard quoted Samuel Johnson: ‘A man, Sir, should keep his friendships in constant repair.’ Tony Abbott recalled the Labor Prime Minister John Curtin in 1942 on Britain and Australia: ‘We are one people.’ William Hague, in his pleasantly booming voice, declared: ‘Our ties are now more relevant than ever!’ The audience clearly agreed, or wanted to. At question time Hague would not be drawn on Australian politics, but he stressed one theme that may have Australian resonance: he took pride in the role he had played in setting up a UK panel of experts to combat by all available means the growing use of rape as a weapon of war, especially in Africa and the Balkans. In the light of Prime Minister Gillard’s preposterous if successful ‘misogyny’ speech, Abbott might do well to consider Hague’s initiative.

The English critic Cyril Connolly used to say that the life of a good book is about ten years. So imagine my amazement when I stumbled on the December-January issue of Inside Story, a lift-out of the Canberra Times, which carried a commemoration of the 50th (!) anniversary of the publication of my first book, Australian Civilization (still spelled with a z in those days). I didn’t write the book. I edited it. My job was to assemble a collection of prominent freethinkers to discuss what was right and wrong with Australia. The book was the idea of Andrew Fabinyi of the Melbourne publisher F.W. Cheshire. The good thing going for it was timing. Australia seemed around 1960 to be radically changing — I called my Introduction ‘The New Australia’ — and so was the world: the age of ideology, of Stalin and Hitler, was over and a new age of civility was upon us. It was, at least for a time, possible for people who deeply disagreed with each other to talk out the issues without dogma or malice. So we had Max Harris and Jim McAuley, Manning Clark and Donald Horne, Bob Hughes and Ken Inglis, Vincent Buckley and Robin Boyd, A.A. Phillips and Ron Taft among others.

[Alt-Text]


Three unplanned themes emerged. One was the conviction that the Old Australia — deemed ‘insular and monotonous’ (Doug McCallum), ‘bleakly uniform’ (Max Harris), ‘crashingly dull’ (Robin Boyd) — was over. Another was the idea that an exciting New Australia was emerging in which clever chaps would be in the saddle applying the spurs to create a more tolerant, liberal country. (But Manning Clark, in a widely quoted chapter called ‘Faith’, prophesied that the choice for Australians was Moscow or Rome.) A third more pessimistic theme also appeared: the intimation that the very intellectuals whom some of the symposiasts were puffing up were less interested in freedom and culture, let alone Australia, than in power and self-interest. Whitlamites avant la lettre, they were both reformers and predators. The Old Australia, for all its limitations, was a free and easy democracy. The New Australia may be neither free nor cultivated, just Politically Correct.

In commemorating the symposium’s 50th anniversary in Inside Story, Frank Bongiorno finds it ‘an immensely valuable period piece’, a product of ‘the almost forgotten early 1960s’ and its ‘rational, liberal and measured idealism’ — but it was also, he says, ‘a failure’. It did not understand the world that was opening up in the 1960s and 1970s. In that new era the issue would be not civilised reform but thoroughgoing liberationism, not genteel anti-censorship but pornography rallies, not the end of ideology but radical contempt for anti-communists and their self-serving ‘Cold War calculations’.

In a sense Bongiorno is right. Australian Civilization did not anticipate the 1970s. But you may think that — in the third and darker theme mentioned above — it saw beyond them and waved the flag of liberal resistance to the coming ascendency of the New Class and its fatwa on nonconformists like Geoffrey Blainey, Les Murray, Keith Windschuttle, David Stove. Perhaps someone should try to pull together a new symposium reassessing the past 50 years. But will people talk to each other?

One of the challenges facing Bill Pulver, the new chief executive of Australian Rugby Union, is penalty kicks. Consider the number of minutes (out of a precious 80) in which 29 players wait and watch while one player lines up a penalty goal kick. No wonder the young switch to the NRL or AFL. Pulver has had great experience in marketing. He will surely find a way to change the rules to fix the excessive role of technical penalties and other time-wasters.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close