December 9th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Australia's Pacific woes - what can be done?

EDITORIAL: Uranium: the way ahead

COLE INQUIRY: Single desk and farmers the victims of AWB fall-out

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Chinese organ-harvesting under scrutiny

ECONOMICS: Free-market capitalism's champion dies

SCHOOLS: Education at sea without a moral compass

ABORTION: Five doctors and a dead baby

THE SIEGE: A first-hand account of the G-20 protest

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Violence in Toy Town / There is nothing quite like free choice / Swatting insects / The future of Christians in the Middle East / The Golden Walking Stick Award

THE WORLD: Will Europe survive?

OPINION: Unemployment figures: lies, damned lies and statistics

Sheik al Hilaly has lost the plot (letter)

Democrats' win in U.S. elections (letter)

Affordable housing (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Unwed mothers / Populism / France ZUS

BOOKS: PERSECUTION: How liberals are waging war against Christianity, by David Limbaugh


Books promotion page

Violence in Toy Town / There is nothing quite like free choice / Swatting insects / The future of Christians in the Middle East / The Golden Walking Stick Award

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, December 9, 2006
Violence in Toy Town

I had no idea as I wrote this piece as to how Saturday's Victorian state election was going to go, but what greatly surprised many of us was the dreadful standard of the Labor campaign. The escalating reliance on spin, lies, cover-ups and character smears that marked those last catastrophic days of the Cain-Kirner Labor regime, is back in evidence.

Poor Premier Steve Bracks seemed almost literally afraid of meeting the Victorian public. He had to be moved from one pre-arranged encounter to another, like Tutankhamen's sarcophagus, surrounded by staffers and cheered on by our local media hacks - "Labor lickspittles", as their Marxist mentors used to tastefully put the matter.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Peter Batchelor is on hand to explain that these were the transport fiascos that we had to have. Suffice to say, had Opposition leader Ted Baillieu been given the Liberal leadership six months earlier, we might now be watching Labor in utter disarray.

As it is, Baillieu has been running rings around Bracks & Co., who can only counter with yet another grubby backroom deal with the police union.

It brings back memories of how Labor's Left - "Baghdad Bill" Hartley, Percy Johnston, etc - kept John Cain from the parliamentary leadership for so long, and probably gave the Liberals two free terms of office. So, there is a sort of cosmic justice about all this malarkey.

But none of this looks very much like participatory democracy, does, it?


There is nothing quite like free choice

We, and most sensible people, who knew how student unions and their apparatchiki worked, but also what most students wanted, have been well and truly vindicated by the fall-out following upon Canberra's decompulsification of students' union fees. Most students seem to be voting with their feet, and the National Union of Students is facing a crisis of confidence in Ballarat next month. Some 230 amendments to the constitution and to existing practices have already been lodged.

Thus, the NUS should give up its $60,000 a year office in the Melbourne Trades Hall - used for the last 10 years - and find something cheaper. No comment.

"We're looking for what we can get free. Finding people with spare space where we can stay for nothing." The Chamber of Commerce? Kew Cottages? Luna Park? The State Library?

Next: paid office-bearers to be reduced from nine to three. Cutting funding to a number of NUS departments. Cutting back on flights. Oh, the pity of it all!

The Australian Liberal Students' Federation president said that money wasted on "rorts, junkets and the personal political agendas of the NUS elite" would bring about its downfall.

And no more sweet real estate deals with kindly university administrators.

You know, we just might just get a bit of probity back into our universities - if only in one small corner.


Swatting insects

The poisoning of Russian defector and former KGB agent, Alexander V. Litvinenko - a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and his Government - simply continues a mode of Russian behaviour which dates back to Ivan the Terrible, or, to be more precise, to the Tartars. Then, a quite small number of Mongols had to rule a much larger number of Russians, etc., living in quite extensive territories.

The Tartars did this by an efficient and iron-fisted bureaucracy, the use of bribery, torture and poison to remove opponents, and a political police and concentration camps. Plus censorship, propaganda and alliance with anyone, including if necessary, the Devil.

Little has changed. After all, the Tsarist officers first tried to kill Gregory Rasputin by poison.

I think, to be quite serious, people such as Putin and friends know no better and are simply reverting to type. So, when Putin talks of restoring the power of the Russian state, at home and internationally, you should be sure you know what he means. There will be no room for latter-day Boyars, like oil tycoon Boris Berezovsky, nor insolent tributary states like Georgia, or ... Ukraine.

Syria and Putin think very much alike.

If we are not careful, we may have the old familiar KGB problem here, once more. Now, as then, they would aim at the chattering classes, who remain entrenched throughout our bureaucracies. So, thank goodness we're not tied into the Russian economic system the way Western Europe is - or as we in Australia are trying to be with the Chinese.

Therefore we can still talk to Putin and his buddies as equals, or superiors, rather than as aspiring mendicants.


The future of Christians in the Middle East

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst and author who has his own website ( He is a Muslim, comes over as very anti-American, but sees amity between Muslims and Christians as a crucial element in any lasting peace or order in the Middle East. He is therefore greatly concerned at what is happening, and what has happened, to Christians in the Middle East.

In two recent pieces, "Christian Damascus" and "Preserving Christian Lebanon", he expresses alarm at the appearance of the "stranger" - the Islamic fundamentalist. The "stranger" has no place in either Syria or the Lebanon which have been multi-congregational.

The fundamentalist may be an interloper from outside, or he may be a brainwashed local, but he is a threat to Muslim to Christian alike.

Since the Lebanese civil war started in 1975, 730,000 Christians left the Lebanon for good, 375,000 of them settling in Canada.

Some began returning when the Lebanon stabilised in 2005, but, once again, another 280,000 left Lebanon from June to August 2006. That period includes the Israeli/Hezbollah war. 40 per cent of these fugitives were Christians, and only 17 per cent of them have returned. As I write, civil/religious war - with Syria and Iran pulling the strings - seems to be about to break out again. There might be no future for the Christians in Lebanon.

Syrian Christians are beginning to entertain fears that this could happen to them, in Syria - as it did to the Iraqi Christians. One reader of the Moubayed website wrote:

"Christians have been quietly exiting in the homeland of their ancestors because they don't feel safe in a Muslim Middle East. How can the emigration of those patriotic Syrians be stopped?

"Iraqi Christians came to Syria with horrible stories with how the Islamists stormed their homes, killed their sons, beheaded their priests, insulted their notables and bombed their churches."

Syrian Christians, who were an old community long before the Muslim conquests, always felt safe, but do so no longer. Their future is cloudy.

Interestingly, our local press has no taste for printing such news: no matter how many Lebanese, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans and Kurds have been forced out by religious hatred or by sadistic Middle Eastern dictators. No. America and Israel are the malefactors, the cause of the violence and injustice in the region.

Yes: the Jews, the Americans and the bicycle-riders. Why the bicycle-riders, I hear you ask? Why the Jews and the Americans? Never mind.


The Golden Walking Stick Award (or Homage to Rip Van Winkle)

Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), being an enterprise dedicated to cultural diversity, viz., to servicing a linguistic/cultural Tower of Babel, not to mention its support of lost causes everywhere, and 57 varieties of infantile communism, has showcased many revolutionary timewarps, via the presentation of certain announcers and voices off. So, I presume, to demonstrate there has been little or no progress in understanding people or societies since Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto.

Thus, we had a long Greek cultural dominance during which time the eternal flame of the unfinished Greek Civil War lit up just about everything. Mikis Theodorakis, the Papandreous, Gregoris Lambrakis and Zorba, towered over the fleeing present. Immortals.

But after more spins of the radical wheel, we are now getting a virtual surfeit of Irish republican voices and diction. Don't expect a Rev. Ian Paisley or an Orange Loyalists Lodge accent.

Our residential IRA manqués face a few problems: they would like to bucket England and the English all day and every day. But the Great Satan of the Oz Left since 1946 has been America. The SBS Irish try, but there's not nearly as much genuine hatred of the West, as we are getting from the English BBC journalists or some of our own journos.

I used to drink in an IRA pub in Melbourne. I knew it was IRA because an IRA flag flew on the pub masthead. It was a trade union pub, serving mainly building unionists, but also other odds and sods. It was also a little Spanish community, Chilean and locals.

Masses of Irish boys and girls - many of these illegal immigrants, unless I be mistaken - lived upstairs and flitted back and forth, and eventually away.

I don't think they harboured any revolutionary, let alone violent, intentions. They just wanted to enjoy themselves, preferably for free.

Some were signed up by the building unions, to keep them legal. And some of the boys would try out the job of brickies' labourer ... for a few days.

But clearly they weren't going to join any conspiratorial cells. I asked the owners if they were Irish, or at least supported the IRA. No, they were English from the North (of England)! They bought their son the pub lease just to give him something to do.

The leading unionist who lived down the street from me kept trying to enrol me in the IRA. It turned out he was a Scot and, I suspect, didn't like the Irish. He was an old Com from the Clyde, and not IRA.

And so it went on. Floods of radical talk, admittedly mixed with lots of Guinness. Few Irish, fewer IRA - a big joke, really.

When I drank at other Irish pubs in Melbourne, it was the same story. Lots of Irish music and posters of Irish dancers, the occasional Michael Collins poster, but no Eamon de Valera or W.B. Yeats! The workers' equivalent of our radical café-latte society, and just as ersatz.

But to return to SBS. When is it to be the turn of the Balts, the Tibetans and the Armenians in our midst to seize the mike?

Too avant-garde?

- Max Teichmann

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