Thursday, February 21, 2008

Commies in our Schools

My housemate revealed yesterday that at his primary school, the powers-that-be had eschewed bells, hippie-like, in favour of music. Which music? Well, there was the Chariots of Fire theme, and then there was this:

Muscovite propaganda. In the late eighties. In Tasmania. Course, it's just an Olympic theme, but it certainly sounds communistic. The Howardians were right all along – primary schools are hotbeds of leftist indoctrination, or at least they were under the Hawke government.

This never would've happened when Dr Nelson was the education minister.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thoughts on the Apology

- Rudd was pretty damned good. He can never entirely escape his inner technocrat; even on this most emotive of occasions, he felt the need to bring up policy reform and procedural objectives and special cabinets. He's no poet, but somehow it worked. I, along with many others, was moved to tears.

- If there was ever any doubt that Rudd's prime ministership would be different from Howard's, it should now be banished. One of the best parts of Rudd's speech was his repudiation of the idea that acknowleding blemishes in our history constitutes a "black armband view" - it is, as Rudd said, "just the truth". Ah yes, truth: I remember the concept. Rudd might not be a raving lefty, but his moral compass is sound.

- Jokes about post-reformation theology: a surprise hit?

- I have little doubt that Dr Brendan Nelson is a good man. Really. He was clearly affected by the notion of taking children away from their parents, by his experiences in indigenous communities, by the emotional presence of dozens of members of the stolen generation. His task today was utterly thankless. But it was also self-inflicted. Had he stood with Malcolm Turnbull, weeks ago, and said unequivocally that he would support an apology offered by the government, he could today have given full voice to the compassionate doctor within. He could've played gracious statesman, transcending partisanship to right an old wrong. But he did not. So he was stuck blending compassion with occasional, strange detours into petrol-sniffing and ANZACs, obvious bones to the dogs of the hard right. And he pleased nobody.

- Watching Nelson squirm as Rudd announced the Bipartisan War Cabinet: solid gold.

- My hero: Tom Calma. I've had the pleasure of meeting him, and it's hard to imagine someone whose decency and intelligence and compassion are more clearly and immediately in evidence. If he weren't so busy healing race relations, and if I weren't a republican, I would suggest him for Governor-General.

- Paul Keating was in his element talking, post-apology, on ABC TV. Eloquent about indigenous disadvantage, generous about Rudd, scathing about John Howard. His view on Howard's non-appearance: it's a disgrace that he wasn't there, but consider the alternatives. To show up in support would've been rank hypocrisy; to show up in protest unthinkable. So his staying away was the best that could've happened. Still, for shame.

- And speaking of shame, the black list of Opposition MPs who didn't show:
- Wilson Tuckey (who nonetheless managed to make it to the Lord's Prayer, directly before)
- Alby Schultz
- Sophie Mirabella
- Don Randall
Add to that Chris Pearce, who remained seated throughout and read a magazine. I'm not saying we should steal their kids, but a keyed car or two wouldn't go astray.

The Hardest Word


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Keelty Update

Sometimes, you just wish you hadn't opened your big mouth, right, Mick?

With his quasi-totalitarian suggestion of a media blackout during terror cases, Keelty has managed to unite, in one fell swoop, a number of disparate groups. Well, one might expect those bleeding hearts in the Council for Civil Liberties to be against it. And the Rudd troops have demonstrated much less squeamishness over the Haneef case in government than it did in opposition: first McClelland, then Rudd himself condemned Keelty's argument.

But then, to add insult to injury, the Opposition's justice spokesman, Chris Pyne, joined the chorus. Pyne is, to be sure, one of those Libs - they do exist - whose past record has a faintly suspicious whiff of humanity about it; he's a moderate who's been known, for instance, to voice concern about certain aspects of the Howard government's immigration policy. But that was as a backbencher; now, he is speaking in an official opposition capacity. If Keelty can't rely on the Libs' spokespeople to maintain their support, who can he turn to?

Of course, there's always someone. And that someone is, as usual, Gerard Henderson. Ah, Gerard: lone voice in the wilderness, brave contrarian flying the flag for the AFP, taking the fifth-estate consensus and ripping it apart with nary a care for his own interests. In these confusing, apology-offering, Kyoto-signing times, it's good to know that some things will never change.

So what's the argument? Sez Gerard:

Journalists, editors and producers are invariably willing to advise police how they should behave but do not appreciate being told what they themselves should do by police.

I see. There is a distinction between the media advising police how they should behave, which is non-binding and constitutional, not to mention part of the intended function of the media, and the police suggesting, seriously, that the media should be dealt blanket legal restrictions forbidding them to publish details of terror cases on the off-chance that what the media has to say might damage the credibility of the case put forward by police. One is part of the checks and balances of a democratic society; the other runs directly counter to them. But never mind. Next objection?

Also, many in the media do not approve of Australia's updated national security laws which were passed by the Howard government, with the support of the Labor Opposition, following the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

All true. Lots of us, even outside the meejah, don't approve of Australia's 'updated' national security laws, which were, apart from anything else, of dubious constitutionality. I, for one, would rather expect laws expanding executive power and suspending habeas corpus to cop a hiding in the press. But we're not really talking about an interpretive matter here: Keelty is mostly peeved that The Australian - the Australian! - published a full transcript of the Haneef interview. To quote from the great cop himself:

... we are now witnessing these records of interviews being leaked to the media to add weight to public campaigns. When a "record of interview" is given to the media with accompanying commentary, we run the risk of jeopardising the accused's ability to receive a fair trial when the matter reaches court. It is also only one part of the greater body of evidence, and when considered in isolation it may serve as a public relations tool in the short term, but it has the potential to severely harm a case in the longer term.

Translation: this is not merely a crusade against soft-on-terror writers of opinion pieces. It's factual reporting Keelty is opposed to. Get it?

Look, Gerard. We all understand that you're feeling a little beleaguered in the post-Howard era. There are certain socially acceptable remedies available to you; one would understand if you felt like turning to the bottle, or perhaps kicking the cat around a little. But defending Mick Keelty's call for a media blackout is not the way to cope. It makes you look silly, and it alienates you from your peers. Chris Pyne has proven he knows which way the wind is blowing. It's probably time you took heed.