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Guest Notes

Australian notes

10 September 2016

9:00 AM

10 September 2016

9:00 AM

On Quadrant

I organised a small fund-raiser to help Quadrant after the Literature Board cut off its grant without explanation while leaving untouched or increasing grants to Left-wing magazines.

My daughter, who is chairman of the Victoria League of WA, made the league’s premises available and provided the food. After some ringing around, about 25 turned up, including a couple of Liberal ex-State and Federal Ministers and an ex-Labor State Minister (who gave quite generously). One lady who could not attend gave $2,000.00. I said, in part:

‘The most important figure in Australian politics today died in Italy some decades ago. He was the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci adapted Marx to modernity. He believed that the way to overthrow the capitalist, democratic, State was not to attempt a working-class revolution but to overthrow the culture. This was to be done by the Left capturing the cultural institutions and the commanding heights of cultural power. In Australia this leftist capture of the commanding heights has advanced to a frightening degree. The ABC pours out leftist propaganda and provides highly-paid sinecures for leftist cultural figures and activists Its charter and its obligations of impartiality are blatantly ignored. It has been said the initials ABC stand for Anyone But Conservatives and Anarchists, Bolsheviks and Communists.

Thanks to the government money – that is, our money – which it receives, it is impervious to market forces and can unfairly compete with private enterprise. Political correctness is running wild in many areas. The Government allows the infamous Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, making if an offence to ‘offend’ anyone to stand.You may know that in Queensland three university students face fines under 18C of $250,000 – yes, $250,000 – for complaining that they were not allowed to use computers reserved for black students. Even if they do not have to end up paying all the money, and we do not know how the case will end, the process of litigation, dragging on over years, must be traumatic and a heavy blow to their studies and careers. It is in some ways worse than a criminal prosecution. Andrew Bolt was persecuted under 18C for expressing the opinion that some Aborigines who got large grants were not genuine Aborigines – something I know to be a fact. Our present Prime Minister has refused point blank to rid us of Section 18C, and has not even deigned to give a reason, though it could be done quickly and easily by amending the legislation. Even if it failed to pass the Labor-Greens in the Senate, attempting to get rid of 18C would regain for the Liberal Party a little of the moral high ground.

Apart from The Spectator Australia and the quarterly IPA Review and perhaps News Weekly, which are not publishing to the same market and have different emphases, Quadrant is the only major, high-quality magazine opposed to rampant political correctness.

It was founded in 1956 following the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary, when Soviet communism seemed to be advancing everywhere, to provide a forum for conservative and liberal-democratic, yes, and social-democratic, thought in Australia. From the very start the Left tried to destroy it. The editor of Meanjin worked frantically to prevent it getting Government support. For 60 years it has upheld its tradition, resisting one attempt by the Left to hijack it. It has attracted the support and praise of some of the greatest names in not only Australian but Western literature, such as Robert Conquest, the translator of Solzhenitsyn, who described it as flourishing in a jungle of pigmies armed with poisoned arrows. There was Frank Knopfelmacher, George Orwell’s pupil, its founding editor, the great poet James McAuley, another great poet, A.D. Hope, Patrick O’Brien, who so many of us remember and miss, Tony Abbott, John Howard, war hero Peter Ryan who wrote a regular column, its great tower of strength for so long, Peter Coleman. Les Murray, Australia’s only poet of International stature and its only poet who is a potential Nobel laureate, has been its poetry editor for many years. It also now has a website which publishes articles. To list all the great writers who have found a forum there would take a long time. A huge Government grant, incidentally, several times the size of the last Quadrant grant, was given to one Cassandra Pybus for a vile book attacking and denigrating James McAuley and accusing him of various crimes – the sort of tactic one would have expected from the Union of Soviet Writers. Peter Coleman, who knew McAuley very well over a long period, has given it the lie.

Many of Australia’s outstanding public figures have written for it or served on its board, from Dame Leonie Kramer to Barry Humphries, and, on the Labor side, Bill Hayden and John Wheeldon. In the 1970s it was one of the few organs – all on the so-called ‘right’ – which spoke up for Indo-Chinese anti-Communist boat-refugees and advocated their rescue.

It has never departed from its steadfast opposition to totalitarianism, mainly from the left, but also from the extreme right, which has never had a look-in with it. It has opposed what George Orwell called the smelly little orthodoxies which are contending for our souls. It has publicised, on its review pages, countless books which, because of their authors or their content, the Left would ignored in a continuous exercise in totenschweigtaktik – death by silence.

It has until now received a small grant from the Australia Council, the last being $35,000. This year, this was cut off entirely. No explanation was given, nor was one needed. As the Nazi guard said to Primo Levi in the concentration camp, when he refused him the water he was begging for: heir ist kein Warum – here there is no ‘Why’. It seems a blatantly political exercise to shut down the last major conservative voice in Australian literary and intellectual life.’

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