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Australian Notes

Australian notes

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

So despite being ‘well-meaning’ I am, according to Peter Manning in last week’s Sun-Herald, some sort of ‘racist’. This became clear to him during my recent appearance on Q&A. What I said was, according to Manning, ‘a shocking TV moment’. He even heard ‘the old ideology of White Australia rise from the ashes of history.’ Manning is an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney and a champion of the Palestinian cause. What did I do to incur his wrath? I made a passing remark criticising the BDS campaign against Israel but I cannot believe this goes to the heart of this matter. What appears to have happened is this. He greatly admired Rosalie Kunoth-Monks’s ‘passionate defence’ of Aboriginal culture on Q&A. ‘It was the best speech I have heard since Julia Gillard on misogyny.’ (Look it up on the net and judge for yourself.) Then the chairman Tony Jones asked me what I thought of it. (Look that up too.) ‘I listened to Rosalie,’ I said, ‘with obvious interest.’ But I also listen, I went on, to Aboriginal leaders who totally disagree with her — Bess Nungarrayi Price MP, for example, or Marcia Langton or Noel Pearson.

From day one of British settlement we have tried out programme after programme to achieve equity with the ‘First Australians’ — from government welfare and church missions through to land rights, self-determination, the Intervention and the Apology, not to mention billions of dollars. But none has been seriously successful. In some regions, violence to women and child abuse have got worse. (As Bess Price put it: ‘Whitefellas are not killing us. We are killing ourselves.’)

I believe the only way ahead is by what I called assimilation, meaning (as is obvious from the context) the integration of the two cultures — the ancient Aboriginal culture and the Western civilisation. I mean the full monty, including inter-marriage. It will take many generations. There will be many disappointments. By the tests of civilisation — from justice and philosophy to science and technology to the treatment of women — the West has many but not all the advantages. This is not racism. It is to combat racism. It offers more promise than the terrible simplifications of John Pilger or the windy rhetoric of — dare I say it? — Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

At a recent launching of his book Democracy in Decline about threats to democracy in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, the author James Allan complained bitterly about the censorship of Mark Steyn’s comments in the blurb on his book — not in the Australian edition by Connor Court but in the overseas editions. This is what happened. Allan persuaded three prominent public figures — Dyson Heydon (formerly of the High Court), John Howard and Steyn to write comments which could be used as blurbs. Heydon wrote: ‘This book stands in the long Anglo-Saxon tradition of controversial pamphleteering. It is vigorous, energetic, independent-minded and full of boisterous good humour… It never loses sight of the main elements of the argument. Those elements centre on the primary threats to majoritarian democracy… The first threat… comes from an over-mighty judiciary administering bills of rights… The second threat, for the United Kingdom, is the European Union. The third threat… is the spreading influence of international law… on domestic constitutions and statutes.’ John Howard took up the same theme: ‘It is disturbing that, even in the Anglosphere nations, too much power has been given to unelected and, in the case of the European Union, supranational bodies.’

Mark Steyn echoed Allan’s call to arms. Here is what he wrote, in full: ‘Something very odd is going on. The core Anglophone democracies — among the oldest, most stable, constitutionally evolved societies on earth, and the indispensable members of Western nations which resisted the totalitarian temptations of the 20th century — have been spending the first years of this new millennium in a remorseless retreat from liberty. James Allan examines this disturbing phenomenon, and the supple, slippery threats to real freedom and representative government from ersatz “human rights” and transnationalism. This is an important book that charts free nations’ beguiling seduction into soft tyranny. If we are to reverse it, we will need more voices like Professor Allan’s.’

But here’s the rub. The publishers of the book in Canada, the US and the UK refused to use Steyn’s blurb. Although they have given no public explanation, they appear to have based their decision on his polemic against what he calls Islamofascism. This so distressed the Canadian Human Rights Commission that it took proceedings against him for ‘hate speech’. It later dropped proceedings. But the mud stuck. Steyn became almost persona non grata. The damage caused by being charged with ‘hate speech’ under 18C or its equivalents lingers long after the charge is beaten.

What seized David Williamson to end his comedy Cruise Control at the Ensemble by having the ocker Aussie murder the repellent Englishman? Is he telling us that the Aussie businessman is even more of a monster than the English novelist? The play has lots of laughs but murder is not my idea of a happy ending.

It’s good to see Hilda Rix Nicholas continuing her revival in her new exhibition at the Mosman Art Gallery. Critics used to dismiss her as didactic and ‘patriotic’. But I find her later Australian paintings, including the ‘tragic’ ones from the first world war, more vivid than her earlier French, Spanish or Moroccan works. The exhibition runs until 13 July.

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