I don’t want to harp about the ABC and I hope this will be my last contribution on that subject, or at least on the widespread concern about the most recent of the organisation’s aberrations, namely its strange publishing venture with the Guardian and its glee at running tasteless and untested allegations against the Navy. But it deserves to be said that the issue has now evaporated and the ABC must be excused for thinking it won the dispute and that it is now free to go on as usual, as a sort of private club promoting its own ideology at the taxpayers’ expense, with no apparent control by its board and no real incentive to change. After all, several ministers made it clear they wanted an apology from the organisation and an inquiry into its behaviour, but none has been forthcoming and none will be given. So the ABC is entitled to think that if it stands its ground, no matter how sloppy it is on some occasions or downright disloyal it is on others, it will eventually win. As it has done. This might be seen as little more than an amusing cultural divertissement, a skirmish of little interest to anyone outside the gilded circle of the political class. But it is more than that. I am still sorry the government did not act on the ABC when the case for doing so was running so hot. The ABC now knows it can ignore the government with impunity. It has an opinion-making empire to promote its official views, most of its news is opinion, its ‘fact checking’ is the new way of declaring its own approved version of the facts and the role of Media Watch is apparently to intimidate the commercial media. All of this will simply entrench its left-wing mindset and will be arrayed against the government at the next election. It will be a powerful force.
Sometimes I feel sorry for the republican cause; well, a little bit. It seems they really can’t take a trick. Every time there is a royal marriage or birth, there is an outburst of royalist sentiment, not because of the pomp and ceremony involved in the monarchy, although pomp and ceremony are intimately associated with every form of government; the chocolate soldier syndrome is just as apparent when the guard lines up in republican Paris as it is at Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade. No, it is not the pomp and ceremony, but genuine affection for each manifestation of royalty and the royal family that takes place and it is this genuine affection that cements the monarchy into our system of government and makes it so hard for the republicans to get a foothold or advance their cause. Their task to persuade the people to change to a republican system has now been made even harder by the established line of succession. But for whatever reason, there is no doubt that support for the monarchy is gathering strength and support for an Australian republic is steadily eroding. It is not just in opinion polls that you see this trend; you also see it whenever a choice has to be made between symbolic adherence to the crown, knowing as we do what it stands for, and the uncertain vagaries of the republican alternative.
My own profession is the latest example and a good one, because the crown is intimately associated with the law, being responsible for the courts, launching prosecutions in the Queen’s name and that extraordinarily valuable creation and the scourge of wrong-doers, the Royal Commission. So it is not surprising that there has been dissatisfaction in the ranks of the law since the early left-wing flirtation with the abolition of the office of Queen’s Counsel and the centuries of tradition associated with it and its replacement by the anodyne Senior Counsel. What is particularly interesting is that the move to undo this retrograde step started as a groundswell from the profession itself and was not something handed down by government. When, at the instigation of barristers in Victoria, it was proposed to allow individuals to choose to revert to QC and then approved, about 90 per cent voted in favour. Queensland has gone in the same direction with 94 per cent accepting the title QC. In NSW the silk gown was first worn by, guess who, W.C. Wentworth and the NSW Bar is now seeking comment from members on whether to support the change (comments must be in by 17 March). In short, the move to QC is proving wildly popular. I suspect that this same sentiment to retain or revert to traditional titles and symbols, where appropriate, is there in many sections of society and will come to the fore whenever it is given the chance.
It is difficult to outdo others who have already condemned the small group of artists who successfully held the Sydney Biennale to ransom in protest at government policy on refugees. The result is that the sponsor, Transfield, has been forced to withdraw, the Biennale may fold, the interests of other artists not involved in the campaign have been damaged and the public may miss out on this major cultural event. Worse, this latest event marks another victory for the thuggish notion that minorities can push the community around whenever they like and impose their own minority views, always left-wing. Too much of this is happening and we see it, for example, in how easy it was for a handful of academics to put an embargo on contact with Israeli institutions. The good news is that we have also seen a possible way of combating this trend, with the resignation of Scarlett Johansson as an Oxfam ambassador rather than give in to Oxfam’s boycott of an Israeli company.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 15 March 2014 Aus