In the early 1990s I asked Gough Whitlam for the greatest crime that the Hawke-Keating government had committed against his legacy.
“HECS,” he replied unhesitatingly.
I said that the Treasury argument was that the cost was growing exponentially as more people sought higher education and university budgets ballooned.
Gough then delivered a short, sharp utterly convincing argument that by restructuring the budget, collecting taxation efficiently from companies and trusts, Australia could sustain free higher education way into the next century.
HECS was introduced by John Dawkins, a promising social democrat who was seduced and corrupted by Canberra. His political legacy is unspeakable.
Tony Abbott and the yapping Christopher Pyne never stop reminding voters that Labor introduced HECS and the Coalition is merely modernising it.
The academic/policymaker who authored HECS, whose name escapes me, is regularly dragged out of the Canberra woodwork to shout, “We wuz robbed”, and claim that a perfectly good model has been hijacked by the Coalition.
Not so. HECS was an inherently dishonest burden on uni students. Banks feasted on the loan arrangements. It was sold as a measure to save wage-earners from paying for the higher education of layabouts from the wealthy and upper middle classes.
But working-class people have never objected to paying for public education, public hospitals or public transport. Nor have they objected to paying through the nose for ABC TV, classic FM or Radio National, the CSIRO, the Arts Council and 101 other much-valued public entities of which they are immensely proud.
The simple truth is that the Tories want to tear them down – and post-Whitlam Labor helped supply the ammunition.
Joey’s Stolen Generation
When long lunches were compulsory for journalists, I was breaking bread in Sydney with a very mixed group of political, business and media figures when I first heard the name of Kurtley Beale.
It must have 10 years ago when a senior partner in a major accountancy firm told fellow lunchers: “We’ve found the next Mark Ella.”
“We” turned out t be his alma mater, St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, aka “Joeys” run by the Marist Brothers whose involvement in child sex crimes has been well documented by the current royal commission.
At 15, Beale left his parent’s home in Mount Druitt, western Sydney, to attend the prestigious school on a free scholarship. He immediately started playing five-eighth for the First XV and then was selected for the Australian Schoolboys.
In the same year, he began attending training sessions with the Waratahs, the NSW adult team, and signed with the Waratahs when he was 16.
He went straight from school to the Waratahs and then to a contract with the Wallabies, became an instant star and a phenomenal try scorer and playmaker.
Then the wheels fell off: drunken behaviour, fights, suspensions, lapses in form and rows with other players and officials.
Now there is the “texting scandal” which has resulted in his suspension and perhaps banishment from the Wallabies. He’s just 25 years of age.
(It is the Andrew Walker story all over again. Another brilliant Aboriginal footballer who thrilled union and league fans for years throughout a chequered career. At the same time he was pursued by the media and treated abysmally by culturally ignorant Men in Blazers).
So where are the pious Marists in the painful Beale saga and what of their involvement in a sports version of The Stolen Generation? We hear not a word. Perhaps they are all at prayer.
And the CBD’s rah-rahs? Most are too busy booking first-class airline tickets to London for next year’s World Cup and grabbing suites at The Savoy or The Dorchester.
A perfect spy
Ian Innes “Tim” Milne CMG OBE (1912-2010) joined Britain’s MI6 in 1941 and retired 36 years later after serving in Iran, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Hong Kong.
He was once a serious contender to become head of foreign intelligence but his lifelong friendship with Kim Philby – they met at Westminster School in 1925 –probably ended that aberration.
Milne’s daughter, Catherine, has recently published her father’s memoir which was completed in 1979 but denied publication by the Thatcher Government. (Kim Philby: The unknown story of the KGB’s master spy, Biteback Publishing, London 2014).
In his introduction Milne congratulates the Sunday Times (when it was owned by Lord Thomson of Fleet and not Rupert Murdoch) for its 1967 Insight articles exposing Philby’s life as a Soviet double agent and the British Establishment’s cover-up. He added:
“A secret service has no right to permanent immunity from public scrutiny and criticism; it cannot expect that faults and errors should be hushed up indefinitely.”
That’s precisely what Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants in Australia, and his
National Security Legislation Amendment Bill No 1, passed with Labor Party support and Murdoch-owned media cheers, promises 10 years’ jail for any journalist who exposes the bungles, misadventures or abuses of ASIO.
Media farce in Hong Kong
For 150 years Britain ruled the stolen territory of Hong Kong without offering its Chinese citizens any semblance of democracy. When Japanese imperialism invaded in late 1941 the British emptied the banks of bullion and fled, leaving the Chinese inhabitants to the mercy of the Army of the Greater Japanese Empire.
On the eve of the handover back to mainland China in 1997, the British Government started to install some meagre democratic reforms. It wasn’t done by the Foreign Office to meet the democratic desires of the locals but to embarrass the incoming pro-Beijing administration.
The recent wave of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong was financed and promoted by the last vestiges of colonial rule and the anti-communist regime in Taiwan. It brought the freedom riders from the world’s media flocking to Hong Kong to promote the “umbrella revolution”. Innocent idealistic students were swept into the protests demanding the authorities give them the right to choose the candidate for “prime minister”. You and I don’t have that right in Australia: the Liberal party room chose Abbott as their leader – he won by a single vote – and then as prime minister. I had no vote in his selection and neither did you.
The pace of democratic change in China – including Hong Kong, Macao, Tibet and the Moslem provinces – will be set by the working people of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Xi’an, Nanking and Hangzhou and the teeming peasantry who’ve been left behind. It will require a mass political revolution: umbrellas, the Western media and twitter won’t do it.
The Mad Monk
I’ve been criticised for saying that Tony Abbott is a mental case deserving clinical treatment.
Here’s what he said the other day: “Let’s have no demonisation of coal [only Moslems – AM]. Coal is good for humanity.”
And here’s what he said about the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G20 summit in Brisbane next month:
“Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin, you bet I am.”
A “shirtfront” is a front-on charge used in AFL to knock an opponent to the ground.
Still my favourite is his repeated advice on how to become a terrorist beheader: “As I have said a few times lately, all you need is a knife, an iPhone and a victim.”
I rest my case.