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19 February 1999. Thought for the Week: "All the liberty we enjoy, the peace, the safety, the comfort, the well being which our form of government secures for us, - all has been won for us by the efforts of those who went before us, and in some cases by their agony and blood. They fought and died to hand down to us what we accept almost without noticing it. And it is only by our own effort that this machine (government) can be kept running smoothly and doing its work well; it is only by our own effort that it can be improved, so that it may do its work better."
(Sir) Walter Murdoch, The Australian Citizen (1916
SELECTIVE EULOGIES CONCERNING DON DUNSTAN
by Eric D. Butler
In eulogising Don Dunstan as a great "reformer", Whitlam, Hawke and others neglected to point out that Dunstan played a leading role in having the long-standing Labor support for the Citizens Initiative and Referendum removed from the Labor Party platform. Dunstan's "reform" did not extend to allowing the electors any opportunity for vetoing legislation they did not want. Discreetly overlooked was that Dunstan was forced from office by his Labor colleagues following the publication of a revealing book by a former "boy-friend" whom Dunstan said had "betrayed" him.
Dunstan's "alternative lifestyle" did not appeal to South Australian Governor Sir Marcus Oliphant, the famous Australian scientist who, on one occasion, ordered the Premier to go home and dress in accordance with tradition before meeting with him on official business. Labor's appointment of Oliphant as State Governor proved that while Mark Oliphant had some progressive views on some subjects, he was basically a traditionalist. On leaving office after serving two terms, Oliphant gave an historic address in which he said that genuine democracy was dead and had been replaced with a type of "elected dictatorship". So much for Dunstan's "reforms.
Sir Marcus Oliphant was a true gentleman and attempted to discourage Dunstan's proposal to replace him with the Victorian Aboriginal leader Pastor Doug Nicholls. Doug Nicholls was well known as a successful sportsman in North East Victoria where I grew up. He was an outstanding Australian League footballer. He was a fine man, but Dunstan's attempt to appoint him as SA State Governor was a cruel attempt by Dunstan to use him for his own political purposes. Oliphant stressed in the kindliest terms that Doug Nicholls and his wife would be placed in the most embarrassing situations. Sir Marcus was not "racist", but a supporter of Aboriginal advancement. When Doug Nicholls fell seriously ill before taking up the proposed Dunstan appointment, Dunstan lost all interest in the unfortunate man and it was RSL leader Bruce Ruxton who befriended Nicholls while he was in hospital.
I only met Dunstan once, at a lecture I gave in May 1962, following my return to Australia from my tour of the UK on the Common Market question. The lecture was sponsored by the History and Politics Club at the University. An American lecturer arranged the meeting. According to K.G. Gott's notorious booklet, Voices of Hate, the title of my address was "The Jewish Bolshevik American Conspiracy Against the British Empire". No such address was given. Gott repeats a false report in the University student newspaper, "On Dit".
The meeting was packed out and at question time a dapper looking student arose, posed himself and, in a supercilious manner, asked a question clearly designed to embarrass me. I did not anticipate the crowd response to my answer. "Sir, you sound like some of those half-baked lawyers I have been debating in the UK." The questioner turned out to be Don Dunstan, law student and already a rising star in the SA Labor Party. I was told later that Dunstan never forgave me for my reply to his question.
The evil that men do lives after them, said Shakespeare. If the Dunstan legacy is the best that the present day Labor Party has to offer the Australian people, the longer it stays out of office the better for Australia. But with Liberal leaders like SA Liberal Premier Olsen also eulogising Dunstan clearly a deadly disease is afflicting the whole of the Australian body politic.
What is urgently required is a new initiative to create a grassroots movement, which seeks to restore power to the Australian people. When the name Don Dunstan is mentioned, it should be recalled that he was one of the opponents of genuine democracy. He was never a genuine reformer. He reflected Governor Marcus Oliphant's description of an elected dictatorship.
FISCHER, A FREAK FOR FREE TRADE
by Jeremy Lee
A feature article in The Bulletin (26/1/99) on the Fischer agenda suggested Australia, with its Fischer trade policies, was the keenest free trade nation in the world: "... 'Australia is taking perhaps the most forceful liberal position of all those nations that want a comprehensive new multilateral trade round to start in 2000,' one insider of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva told The Bulletin. 'Australia has clearly signalled it wants a full deal on agriculture with export subsidies removed. It also wants industrial tariff cuts to be part of the deal. Australia is basically saying that everything is on the table, let's talk'. .."
Tim Fischer is at least consistent, if
misguided. If free trade means the destruction of existing
Australian industries and jobs, so be it. The trouble is that
Fischer is dealing with bigger and more powerful trading partners
who are not so "simon-pure". For example, The Australian
Financial Review (11/2/99) reported a major row brewing
about Australian exports to the US:
Personally, we believe the US has every right to protect its own producers before those of other countries, just as Australia should. If we are going to narrow our options down to the Fischer version of "export or perish", we are in deep trouble. The Asian collapse is now beginning to bite hard.
Another article in the same edition of AFR said: "Australian exports slumped dramatically in 1998 as the impact of the regional economic crisis finally hit with a vengeance, according to figures released in Canberra yesterday. The sobering assessment of Australia's trade prospects was contained in the '1999 Trade Objectives and Outcomes Statement' launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Mr. Tim Fischer. Australian goods and services exports grew just 2 percent in calendar year 1998, while merchandise imports surged 16 percent..."
The ever-growing disparity is, of course, financed by the ever-growing foreign debt. The logical policy should be to curb imports at least to the point where our foreign debt starts going the other way. We should again start producing the things we once produced but now import. Apart from anything else, this would do more than all the "job-starts" to give our young people a chance of employment.
In a major address more than 50 years
ago, the late C.H. Douglas pointed out that the "export-or-perish"
mania was one of the root causes of war. The alternative is
not, as Fischer claims, to retreat into fortress-like isolation.
But it does involve putting the home market first, with surpluses
exported in order to import equivalent requirements, rather
than a distorted belief that exports are the only purpose
of economic activity.
BUGS AND BREAKDOWNS
Among other dire predictions at the recent World Economic Forum (on which we reported last week) were major concerns about the millennium bug. The Australian Financial Review (3/2/99) reported: " The chief executive of Sun Microsystems Inc. Mr. Scott McNealy, set the dark tone on Monday when he urged businesses to start stockpiling computers ahead of January 1, 2000. Mr. McNealy said his company had discovered that key computer component suppliers in Asia were 'so disastrously behind' in fixing their year 2000 problems that there was likely to be a shortage of hardware at the start of the next millennium. "We have done some quite scientific surveys of our supply base and Asia is statistically way, way behind in terms of their preparations for Y2K' he said...
Mr. McNealy's concerns did receive strong backing from the influential chief economist and managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities in the US, Mr. Edward Yardini. He warned that the world's unpreparedness for Y2K might be the event 'that sets us up for a major correction in the US stock market' in the first two months of the next millennium. When it came to fixing the millennium bug 'there are still an enormous number of countries in the 'clueless' category'." Something of the size of the problem can be gleaned from the fact that, in the last 12 months in Australia, two million personal computers were sold - more than five-and-a-half thousand every 24 hours. The AFR (12/2/99) commented: "... But in an early sign of the impact of the year 2000 problem, sales of corporate PCs eased in the fourth quarter of 1998 as companies diverted their budgets from hardware to making their software millennium-compliant.. ."
NSW ELECTION CAMPAIGN NOTES
by David Thompson
The only significant policy initiative from the Coalition that has registered with the electorate so far is that on the privatisation of the State's power supply system. Premier Bob Carr would dearly like to sell off the power infrastructure (it would he1p pay for the disastrous Olympics debt coming up) but has been prevented from doing so by the Labor Party's members at State Conference. He now has to campaign on the basis that the re-elected ALP won't sell the power system, although they'd very much like to.
The unpopular Coalition policy of selling off the power system is accompanied by what smells suspiciously like a blatant electoral bribe: offering token shares in the privatised system to each household, and promising that power costs will drop by $100 per household next year. Ms. Chikarovsky is faced with a daunting task. Her only chance of becoming Premier of a NSW Coalition Government is to offer ideas of genuine merit, rather than relying upon Mr. Carr's mistakes. The Coalition parties have few ideas of genuine merit that could be fashioned into constructive policies, unless they were to oppose the dogma of economic rationalism. This they appear completely unable to do.
The only alternative for Ms. Chikarovsky and the Opposition is to abandon the insipid versions of ALP policies, and offer ever more outrageous promises to dazzle a distinctly underwhelmed electorate. The law and order angle is being 'done to death', and concern for the failing public health system rings hollow in the absence of any genuine ideas about how to fix it.
Premier Bob Carr has achieved little
of memorable quality for NSW in the last four years. But there
is little to distinguish the Liberals from the ALP in NSW.
There is not even enough fire in the Liberal belly to promise
to restore status to the office of State Governor, and ensure
that Government House once again houses the Governor.
BRAZIL: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN...?
Brazil, the eighth-biggest economy in the world, is still in real trouble. Since the crisis started a few weeks ago, its currency has fallen in value by 43 percent, and interest rates have climbed to 39 percent. Its third Central Bank chief in three weeks formerly worked for the world's biggest speculator, George Soros. Soros was one of the speakers at the Davos shindig.
The AFR (3/3/99) reported him as follows: "Billionaire financier Mr. George Soros says time is running out to shore up Brazil's economy and has urged the International Monetary Fund to take immediate action. "Mr. Soros also told journalists at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting that he wasn't opposed to controls on short-term capital flows of the type imposed by Malaysia's Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir....
Meanwhile, in a speech to the Davos forum, the German Chancellor, Mr. Gerhard Schroeder, attacked the actions of speculators which had driven national economies 'to the brink of ruin and had caused precarious instability in many parts of the world'. 'If even George Soros - and he's a man who ought to know, having earned billions through such speculation - urges us to introduce regulatory factors to ensure justice, then it is high time for us go get down to some serious negotiating on an international financial architecture,' Mr. Schroeder said."
Prime Minister Howard's proposal to tie the dole to literacy levels has produced the astounding conclusion from a number of surveys that unemployment is highest among the illiterate! This has led to a totally unfounded assumption that, by improving literacy levels, unemployment will go down. While it may be true that, in a choice between someone who can read and add up and someone who cannot, a job will go to the first, it is an illogical step to conclude that literacy creates jobs. The fact is that for 250 years industrial nations have been developing a huge array of labour-saving devices in the form of machines, robotics and electronics, designed to reduce the number of people employed. Whether one can read or not cannot increase the number of job-vacancies.
What has been revealed, however, is the
dismal results of modern, compulsory education systems. The
Australian (2/2/99) reported:
Either the standard of education has dropped even further over the last 5-10 years; or school leavers learn more shortly after leaving school than they did while in the classroom.
THE ROYAL FAMILY ON THE NETHer Majesty the Queen opened her own website on March 6th, 1997. It has proved amazingly popular, becoming one of the world's most visited sites. Within three months of starting it had been visited 12.5 million times, as opposed to 2.5 million times for the Spice Girls, who were all the rage at the time. A separate website was opened by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, listing his interests, charities, projects such as his organic farming project at Highgrove and his engagements. It was visited over 2 million times in the first two days of operation.
OPPOSITION TO IMF GROWSAccording to a new report Japan is now pushing for the establishment of an Asian Monetary Fund as an alternative to the IMF. A Government task force has been established for the project. The idea has been proposed before, but received the "thumbs-down" from the IMF and the US. Since then, the IMF has not endeared itself to Asian nations and has, in fact, received strong criticism from economists in many areas of the world. The AFR (12/2/99) said: "... The re-emergence of the idea comes in a climate of growing anti-American feeling in the region and fears in Japan of the country and its currency being marginalised..."
HOWARD PUSHES FOR BABYLONIAN ADMINISTRATIONAccording to a front-page article in the same issue, Prime Minister John Howard is urging prompt Cabinet action on a plan to transform Australia into a global financial centre. The AFR said: "... The aim is to exploit Australia's moment of relative economic out-performance of the other economies in our time zone. Indeed, the Prime Minister is now considering a visit to the US in the second half of the year to promote Australia as a strong and stable destination for foreign investors. The idea that Australia's future would be improved by attracting a number of international banks to set up headquarters here is bizarre. And what happens to such an idea if the Japanese proposal for an Asian Monetary Fund succeeds? Perhaps we could appoint Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as "broker" between the opposing monetary systems?
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