March 31st 2012

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Articles from this issue:

QUEENSLAND: After the deluge: Anna Bligh's legacy

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The origins of Labor's visceral loathing of Abbott

EDITORIAL: Swan's budget surplus to depend on mining tax

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Radical green strategy to sabotage Australian coal-mines, railways and ports

CHILDHOOD: Same-sex marriage set to transform our schools


EAST TIMOR: Election swing against Gusmão government

HUMAN RIGHTS: Academics who rationalise post-natal murder

POPULATION: Seven billion reasons to celebrate

OPINION: America: Russia's Afghan catspaw

OPINION: School textbook misleads about Crusades

WEIMAR GERMANY: Why art flourished and democracy perished


DOCUMENTARY: Lifting the veil on the global sex industry
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (96 minutes)

CINEMA: Nihilism filtered through teen angst

BOOK REVIEW Rescuing history from Christianity's detractors

BOOK REVIEW The great class divide in the United States

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News Weekly, March 31, 2012

Whitlam’s “localism”?


I note that News Weekly’s correspondent (“Labor pushes the self-destruct button”, Canberra Observed, March 3, 2012) has repeated a grave error that most national political commentators have been making since at least 1975.

Your correspondent wrote: “The Whitlam Government had a program and a vision for the country that included boosting local government, constitution reform and decentralisation.”

These are big and, I’m sorry to say, inaccurate claims. Gough Whitlam’s Labor Government did not envisage “boosting local government”.

What it envisaged was subsuming local authorities under centrally (i.e., Canberra)-controlled regions, each made up of several such authorities so as to put Australia on to the path of doing away with state governments, which, at the various pre-Federation constitutional conventions of the 1890s, had been prepared to cede only limited powers to the Commonwealth.

Anyone doubting this needs only to recall that the Whitlam Government had a ministry of Urban and Regional Development. The word “regional” must have been included as some sort of joke or deliberately to deceive.

Local authorities were thus simply the instruments by which Canberra could create centrally-controlled regions and thereby entirely bypass state governments.

Anyone who persists in doubting this should look back to the Labor Party’s platforms after its split over conscription in 1917 and they’ll find the influence of Maurice Blackburn, the left-wing father of Labor’s socialisation objective, who also at the same time sold Labor on his blueprint for centralisation which would break up Australia into 31 provinces, and do away with the Senate and state governors. (For more details, see my piece, “Liberals turning to Whitlam-style centralism”, News Weekly, July 22, 2006).

Those provinces — called regions by the Whitlam Government — were to be totally centrally-controlled, meaning state police forces would be incorporated into a single Commonwealth police force. Similarly, education, health, transport and the environment, etc, would all be centrally administered from Canberra.

So News Weekly’s Canberra observer is in a sense partially correct. The Whitlam Labor Government did have “a program and a vision for the country”, but crucially it was not a federalist vision, but rather a centralist one.

Joseph Poprzeczny,
South Perth, WA


Labor’s “men of honour”?


When I read the Canberra Observed column, “Labor pushes the self-destruct button” (News Weekly, March 3, 2012), I was very surprised and extremely discomforted by the statement: “There are still the stalwarts and the men of honour [my emphasis] such as Martin Ferguson, John Faulkner and Simon Crean, who uphold the Labor tradition and understand that the party is there to serve the people, not them as individuals.”

It appears the writer was not aware that all three of these above-mentioned current federal parliamentarians are listed as having voted for anti-life or against pro-life legislation during the past two decades, whether on abortion, euthanasia, human cloning or embryonic stem-cell research.

The partial exception is Senator Faulkner who was the only one of the three to support Kevin Andrews’ Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996. This is hardly a consolation as he voted for all the other anti-life bills.

I acknowledge Messrs Ferguson, Faulkner and Crean may be seen as better options (and even stalwarts) than other Labor politicians. However, if the confirmed voting record of these three on life and other moral issues makes them “men of honour”, it only reinforces the now embedded parlous state of an Australian Labor Party as being generally bereft of ethical values and principles.

Peter Phillips,
Springvale, Vic. 

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