July 22nd 2006

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Costello stays on ... for the time being

EDITORIAL: China: let the truth be told

ECONOMY: ABS report card on Australia's economy

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Liberals turning to Whitlam-style centralism

AGRICULTURE: Tax breaks for wealthy hurting agriculture

INTERNET FILTERING: Coonan's cash buys a dud

STRAWS IN THE WIND: In days of old, when knights were bold / Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings / When the music stopped / The never-ending blood feud / Keeping the lid on our schools

CULTURE WARS: Is it too late to save our civilisation?

SCHOOLS: Time to teach proper history

OPINION: The Muslim problem facing Australia

MEDICAL SCIENCE: Media hype over cloning and embryo stem cells

MEDIA: Time to evict Channel Ten's 'Big Brothel'

Adoption fears (letter)

Aboriginal tragedy (letter)

Sexual integrity and Big Brother (letter)

BOOKS: Laurence Rees, AUSCHWITZ: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution' / THE NAZIS: A Warning from History


Books promotion page

In days of old, when knights were bold / Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings / When the music stopped / The never-ending blood feud / Keeping the lid on our schools

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, July 22, 2006
In days of old, when knights were bold

Some friends and I are starting to put together all the things that I've written since returning from England in 1965, and it reminds me a bit of Ben Chifley's definition of politics.

All it is, he said, is millions, and millions, of words. What we will finish up with - and what if anything I might do with the results - we shall see.

But, quite apart from anything else, what is painfully emerging so far is the remorseless decline of the standards of social and political life in Australia during those years, and the moral and political collapse of the media which now seems to be mainly occupied in choking on its own bath water.

It is in a condition of almost catatonic indifference to the very serious problems and challenges facing this country, both domestically and internationally.

Thus, the so-called Liberal leadership question, now 10 years old, has been the great alibi for avoiding all serious work or analysis.

The journalistic level has sunk to that of a suburban advertising handout. The commercial media is as it has always been.

But the great tragedy here is what has happened to the ABC. Something few of us anticipated, certainly not I.

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings

A young woman, born here of Polish-Jewish parents and very successful in her profession, now lives in Berlin and has, indeed, done so for more than a decade.

She recently returned here to visit her mother and her friends - something she does whenever she can.

She loves her country, but there is nothing for people like her, anymore.

Germany and Europe, she says, are full of talented young Australian musicians and artists who are greatly appreciated, and get lots of work. Not so in Australia.

She could, but it would be like taking an early retirement. No stimulus - no sense of connection to the greater society. It was not always so. "And you have to pay a hundred dollars to see an opera, or the ballet! What happened?" she asks. What indeed!

Our girl went to Canberra with her mother for three days to visit friends.

She had never visited Canberra before, but told me, upon returning, that one day would have been enough. More than enough.

Where are the people to befit the capital city of a country? It's all roads and trees and bushes. Lifeless and tasteless, she felt.

She understands that there are more porn shops there than in any other city in Australia. No zest, no hope, no style. Only anomie.

I had to tell her I'd always felt this - and to think that we are being governed by such time warps, such small-town eccentrics and mediocrities.

No wonder the MPs are packing days before the session ends, waiting to escape. Hence the fight over the free trips out of the country.

My little friend wishes things were different, for like our other one million plus foreign exiles she still calls Australia home.

When the music stopped

As to the Liberal leadership nonsense, analogies are being drawn between Bob Hawke's challenges and that of Peter Costello. But Bob Hawke in fact had a lot of support, and was a natural winner - although I myself was a Bill Hayden man.

And Hawke, given a chance, would have beaten Dr John Hewson who was as unelectable as is Costello. Keating was the original "Blind Freddy's" dog.

Strangely, he and Gough Whitlam, both consummate failures, get all the packaged adulation, while nobody wants to admit voting for Bob, or to acknowledge that he was, apart from Billy Hughes, Labour's only fireproof winner.

John Howard obviously should stay on and let the media moguls rant on, until he has had enough. After which, the conservatives will quickly disintegrate.

Incidentally, Gough did mention Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop as genuine replacements, and, for once he could be right. But the oligarchs will decide all this in the end.

I think our village Iago has fluffed his lines. Peter Ryan wrote recently in Quadrant of there being too many journalists and not enough news: politically we have too many Iagos and not an Othello in sight.

The never-ending blood feud

The Israeli/Palestinian blood feud is slowly revealing the awful truth. There is to be no peace between these two peoples. So disunited, so fragmented are the people of Gaza, and, were they given a chance, the other Arabs in the West Bank, that they are now ungovernable. Except by a dictator, with unlimited cash.

The fighting between the Arab parties seems to be about money, jobs and the power which these things give some Arabs over other Arabs.

The struggle is particularly transparent in Gaza, where the Palestinian Authority was supplying 80 per cent of the domestically-based jobs. (Incidentally, this kind of struggle may be at the root of the conflict in Timor ... and among Iraqis and Afghans).

In a sense, the Israelis, the Australians in Timor and the Coalition of the Willing are marginalised, while the Muslims fight for the hegemony of states which they don't even rule, or which haven't even come into being.

Hardline Israelis always said that an independent Gaza would simply be used to attack Israel and Israelis (and others) in the West Bank, while an independent Palestinian state would then become the larger base from which to attack the new, voluntarily reduced, Israel.

The Arabs would then be demanding a return to the 1948 borders and the right of return of what then were 700,000, but now are two million, displaced, stateless Palestinians. Outside Arab nations, such as Syria or Iran, would continue to covertly, or overtly, support this serial revanchism.

I am beginning to think the hard hats may be right, even though the Sharons, Netanyahus and their Likud predecessors must bear a lot of the responsibility for bringing events to this pass.

But that is spilt ... milk, and it is the present whose logic we are now facing. I must say that things could hardly be more unpromising. Certainly, the Israelis are becoming more united and determined with the passing of each day and each rocket attack.

As we might expect, the Western media coverage is disgracefully one-sided.

Israeli settlements are being bombarded, almost daily, by rockets, which have been hitting schools, hospitals, etc. - although, so far, without deaths.

Would we tolerate almost daily missile attacks from Jakarta? Would Russia or China upon their territories?

This is not simply or mainly about one kidnapped soldier. And our media know this.

Keeping the lid on our schools

As more and more students pour into private schools, and the Federal Government keeps pushing for transparency, accountability and uniformity in our schools generally, our teacher unions and the state governments which they control, are twisting and turning for ways to keep shut the doors and windows designed to prevent parents and taxpayers from knowing what is actually going on in these ailing patronage systems.

Mary Bluett, the Victorian branch president of Australian Education Union, has come up with a new diversionary tactic. The schools need repairing and replacing, for it is that which is driving parents to take their children away.

Before, it was not enough computers and CD-Roms that was causing the epidemic of illiteracy and innumeracy; before that, it was class sizes, and not enough teachers. And, always, not enough money.

These diversions are also intended to sanction the spending of billions, in contracts for friends of the government and little mates of the school bureaucrats. Mouth-watering, really.

And none of them deal, nor are intended to deal, with a syllabus, the assessment fiascos, nor the quality or behaviour of the teachers, or the principals and czars of the Happy Hour.

It is here of course, where the trouble is, for these people have engineered the collapse of standards and the culture of cynical abandonment of their duties of proper care.

From these derelictions come out blackboard jungles, our killing-grounds of the imagination, or of any desire to learn - indeed, to learn anything. These deformities now mark out too many of our contemporary school products.

Then there is the continuous, inescapable propaganda exuded by half-educated chalkies which is causing parents, with any money, to take their children and run.

The union, the ALP and the media know this, have always known it, but are not really interested in education per se, or in any freeing of the minds of children; but rather in controlling and forcibly indoctrinating them. The totalitarian dream, as everywhere.

So reformists should perhaps concentrate upon improving private and independent education because, for quite some time, this may be our only hope for real change.

Alternatively, we might resign ourselves to importing our skills and educated workers.

Our unions - which are always berating government for our skill shortage - still can't see the folly of backing the teacher unions, anymore than they do their folly in backing the building unions, which are forcing more and more workers out of the housing market.

But, Daddy, what's a worker?

  • Max Teichmann


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