Premature ejaculations from both Right and Left

29 Nov

Kevin Rudd has been Prime Minister for about ten minutes, but already judgements are being made. I mentioned Peter Coleman in the previous entry:

Most of the reporters have always known that Kevin Rudd is the absolute Hollow Man. But since they hated John Howard more than they despised Rudd, they usually stood ready to turn a deaf ear to Rudd’s empty rhetoric.

Not all of them. One of the stand-outs during the election campaign was Annabel Crabb whose sketches in the Sydney Morning Herald of Ruddbot, our “first android prime minister” with a Muppet-inspired smile, helped save a little of the reputation of Australian journalism.

There are essential triggers, she wrote, hard-wired into the Ruddbot cortex. Ask the android machine about the number of union officials on its front bench and it will also promptly divert into a charming reverie about a rock star, an academic and a Mandarin-speaking diplomat. Include a reference to Mark Latham in a question, and it will reply “I am not aware of those reports.” Ask it any difficult question and it has been programmed to reply by asking itself several of its own. It will then answer them all with mechanical precision.

Crabb was not alone in comprehending the Ruddbot. Let’s not mention the small handful of pro-Coalition columnists. But take David Marr, a leftist critic of the Liberal Party. Ruddbot, he reported, killed Labor’s Victory Party in Brisbane. The Rudd we got then, he said, is the Rudd we will hear for the next three years—a grey, passionless performer with a middle-distance stare and big jowels…

Last night The Chaser embraced the David Marr/Annabel Crabb line. They have been adopting this line consistently, after all, for some time, last September being one of the better examples:

And it is true: Rudd is not exciting. But what did people expect?  I am actually glad he is not exciting, and I also think his Victory Speech was not all that bad. A really boring “headmaster” (thanks, Jim!) might be what we need, rather than a charismatic Whitlam/Keating figure. So long as he is balanced, and efficient.

A week ago I put my own position thus:

I did start (in my 20s) from a Liberal Party base and have moved left over time, mainly because in most respects I believe left is right! However, I remain what some may call a Fabian, or even a conservative. I do not believe in blowing everything up; sorry, but I do relate to George Orwell’s position:

…The immediately striking thing about the Spanish war books, at any rate those written in English, is their shocking dullness and badness. But what is more significant is that almost all of them, right-wing or left-wing, are written from a political angle, by cocksure partisans telling you what to think… When one looks back at the twenties, nothing is queerer than the way in which every important event in Europe escaped the notice of the English intelligentsia. The Russian Revolution, for instance, all but vanishes from the English consciousness between the death of Lenin and the Ukraine famine–about ten years… So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot…

I sympathise very much with the position taken by After the Victorians by A N Wilson.

[I]n the years when other countries of the world had their civil wars, their Gulags, their Dachaus, and their Kristallnachts, it was the conservative, monarchical aristocratic Britain which maintained a political idea of personalized freedom, not merely for its own citizens, but also for foreign refugees to its shores and those in other lands who fought for freedom.

In context he is opposing the evolved Westminster system, which is also our heritage in Australia — a heritage I value, to the doctrine and practice of revolution. What that system has delivered is a rule of law, imperfect as it may be at times, and an ability to adapt with minimal pain and unintended consequences. I really believe in that. To that degree I am conservative. It may well be, too, that this is a large part of what Jim Belshaw and I have in common. On Wilson’s book, see also this review. Definitely a top read.

I have continued reading A N Wilson since then, and it has confirmed my rejection of the melodramatic in politics.

There is no way that we can, or even should, return to the Whitlam and Keating eras, exciting as they were. To take just one issue, the Northern Territory Intervention. We do need to concede that ill-considered as much of it was it has also started to achieve. We do need to concede that it is hyperbolic to call it a military invasion, just because Norforce was involved in implementing it. Of course we also must concede that insufficient consultation and forethought characterised this Intervention, as was true, in retrospect, of just about everything the Howard government ever did. On this issue, I very much agree with this: Respected Aboriginal academic Professor Marcia Langton has urged the Labor government not to wind back key elements of the Northern Territory intervention.

RESPECTED Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton has warned Labor to stop playing short-term politics with the commonwealth’s intervention in remote communities and expressed concern about moves to wind back key elements of the reforms.

Urging Kevin Rudd to work with indigenous leaders, Professor Langton yesterday told The Australian the main thrusts of the intervention, such as alcohol restrictions, should continue.

But she said the incoming federal government had an opportunity to redefine the intervention “in line with human rights standards”.

“There’s never a good time to play short-term electoral politics with the life-and-death issues in Aboriginal communities,” Professor Langton said.

“This is especially not the time to do so, and I urge Northern Territory politicians, whether they are elected to federal or Northern Territory seats, to desist from playing electoral politics with the lives of Aboriginal women and children.”

The prime minister-elect faces growing pressure to wind back key elements of the intervention, with a chorus of voices – including Territory Labor MP Warren Snowdon, former Fraser government indigenous affairs minister Fred Chaney, former ATSIC chair Lowitja O’Donoghue and ANU academic Jon Altman – yesterday arguing for significant changes to the plan. But Professor Langton said the work of the intervention, unveiled by John Howard in July, was too important not to proceed.

“I think the rush to review the intervention might be motivated more by short-term electoral gains, such as commitments made during the election, rather than working for good, long-term sustainable outcomes,” she said. “I note with interest that Kevin Rudd has asked his members of parliament to visit two schools in each electorate and to visit homeless people.

“Well, I would ask further that each of them visit an Aboriginal community and talk to women and children and ask them what they want.”

Professor Langton said Mr Rudd should take note of a speech in September by former Northern Land Council chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who broadly backed the intervention after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Howard government to establish a 99-year lease over his Arnhem Land community of Ski Beach.

“There’s a very good case for consultation with the appropriate Aboriginal people without delaying the intervention,” she said. “As far as I can see, the best means of doing that at this stage is to work through Aboriginal leaders such as Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who has proposed an elders council, or Mala elders (group).”

Aboriginal Territory Labor MP Alison Anderson has also urged continued support for the intervention. “I hear a lot of people … talking about the intervention and saying there are good and bad things about (it),” she told Territory parliament on Tuesday night.

“But when there is a national crisis and emergency, it means that things are bad. We know things are bad in our communities. We attend the funerals. We know our children are being raped. We know our women are being violated, and it takes guts for someone to do something.”

Mr Chaney said the style of the intervention should be rethought.

“To just lump everybody together and condemn them is just very demoralising,” he said yesterday. “It is a pity they (the Howard government) added so much baggage to it that it led to a sense that it wasn’t really bona fides among Aboriginal people.”

It won’t be easy being Kevin. I would urge everyone to refrain from premature ejaculations on the subject.

Speaking of which, my own first mention of Kevin follows: 6 October 2005.

Meanwhile, over at The Monthly, whither many a one-time Quadrant writer has fled, we have a notable article by Labor’s Kevin Rudd. I have read his article now. He is not advocating a blurring of the distinction between church and state. Rather, he takes inspiration from German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he could do a lot worse. Equally he may have taken inspiration with much the same result from Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Bertrand Russell, or anyone in the past one hundred years who has spoken essentially for humanity… 

I note he begins the article with a quote from God’s Politics by Jim Wallis of Sojourners. Again Rudd could do a lot worse. I’m afraid he’ll never lead the Labor Party though. He’s too good.

Rudd’s two essays are available here.

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3 responses to “Premature ejaculations from both Right and Left

  1. Thomas

    November 29, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    By my books, a *good* PM is better than an *exciting* PM.

  2. Jim Belshaw

    December 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Neil, having just chastised you, I almost missed this post.

    I absolutely agree with Thomas. While I reserve the right to be critical of Mr Rudd, I am looking forward enormously to his period.

    Now on a differet matter, you and I have far more in common than just the Westminster system. I would nominate three things.

    Fisrt, a belief in civilised debate.

    Second, a love and respect for our past. This does not mean condoning past wrongs, although we may disagree on elements of this.

    Third, a willingness to listen to facts, to change views if the evidence is different.

  3. ninglun

    December 1, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I absolutely agree with Thomas myself!

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