Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Oz cremates Abbottry; Canada ends Harperism

Stephen Harper, the insufferably arrogant conservative Canadian politician, has been chucked out of office by the neophyte Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau has scored a treble victory: as the son of the late Pierre Trudeau, he has restored the family name to a place of honour in Canada’s political history; he has ended the odious political career of Harper who has resigned as Conservative Party leader; and he has inadvertently delivered a well-deserved blow at Tony Abbott, the ousted Australian prime minister, who regarded Harper as “my good mate”.
Indeed, in the opening year of his administration, Abbott modelled himself on Harper and adopted the Canadian’s flat-earth economic approach known as “Harperism”.
In his 2014 book, academic Donald Gutstein examined Harper’s political philosophy which incorporated Reaganism, Thatcherism and much more. Gutstein established that its key objectives were:
1) a weakened labour movement – and preferably the disappearance of trade unions;
2) cutting back government scientific research and data collection because it would “improve public policy-making”;
3) eliminating First Nation (indigenous-titled) reserves by converting them to private property “to improve the conditions of life for aboriginal people”;
4) “inequality of incomes and wealth is a good thing – and Canada needs more of it.”
(Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada by Donald Gutstein)
No wonder “The Mad Monk” was such a fan. Keen Canberra observers will easily find traces of “Harperism” in Abbott’s brief but utterly destructive reign as prime minister.
Other books tracing the divisive course of Harper’s nine-year rule in Ottawa include The Arrogant Autocrat – Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada by Mel Hurtig and Dismantling Canada – Stephen Harper’s New Conservative Agenda by Brook Jeffrey.
I have a sneaking feeling that Abbott’s humiliating demise on September 14 emboldened Canadian voters to remove Harper. But they did it the very civilised Canadian way – bloodlessly and through the ballot box.

Trudeau’s back

At his first post-election press conference 43-year-old Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canadian warplanes would withdraw from bombing raids against Islamic State.
He phoned US President Barack Obama to tell him that Canada was pulling out of the strategically dumb US-led anti-IS mission.
Trudeau told reporters: “I want to say to this country’s friends around the world: Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years.
“Well, I have a simple message for you on behalf of 35 million Canadians. We’re back.”
Can you imagine Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten saying such a thing? We are led by jelly backs.
Incidentally, Trudeau’s 50/50, male/female Cabinet, will be sworn in on November 5.

Night at the opera

I greatly enjoyed a rare visit to the Sydney Opera House this week to attend the launch of Kerry O’Brien’s new biography of former Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Both took centre stage in the main recital room – which was packed to the rafters – for a discussion lasting 90 minutes on PJ’s life in politics. If you have an interest, here is the link to their debate:

However, I want to write about the Opera House management. Opened in 1973, Australia’s leading cultural venue has hosted probably tens of thousands of events in the past 40 years.
Yet on Tuesday evening the ticketing arrangements were calamitous. The foyer was a scrum, a melee, a ruck and maul, a mosh pit – hundreds of people in two queues going nowhere.
Frantic staff, dressed in black, ran to and fro with mobiles in their hands and microphones plugged into their ears. Who were they talking to? Not the increasingly agitated ticketholders.
We gradually inched forward and 40 minutes later, at 6.40pm, I had my ticket. More rude people snapped at me to go upstairs “to the entrance”. Which one? Right or left? Upstairs or straight ahead? More queuing and more rude people in black.
This is what happens when the management of a publicly-funded cultural venue is usurped by corporate types who are only interested in “the bottom line”.
They “cut costs” and “reduce overheads” (euphemisms for eliminating staff and services), introduce outsourcing and hire bloated private consultants to tell them how to run the place at a profit. Soon the venue’s life is governed by weddings, birthday parties, wakes, barmitzvahs and corporate launches, with music, opera and ballet elbowed into the margins.
The notion of a public venue offering cultural life to the visiting public is lost in the rush for a “return on investment”.
In the coming months the NSW government will allocate hundreds of million of dollars to renovating the Opera House – ridding it of concrete cancer, replacing old plumbing and wiring, affixing new tiles and carpets – and I won’t begrudge a single dollar of it.
In return, however, we should insist that the Opera House management starts offering a better service to the public.
PS: London-born Dr Gabriele Finaldi, newly-appointed director of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, said last month: “The museum is fully committed to maintaining free entry. It’s in the DNA of the National Gallery, it’s one of the great traditions we have, it’s what the gallery is admired and loved for.” (London Telegraph, 30 September 2015).
Are the grubby philistines in Arts NSW and the Treasury listening?

Fanning the flames

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fast swinging out of control but the outside world seems not to notice or care.
Decades of Zionist warfare, both psychological and physical, has turned people off. World opinion is no longer on the side of the Israelis; it has shifted to the Palestinians.
The Zionists have “cried wolf” too often. Nobody believes them any more. They have dragged the Western world into one conflict after another – Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – and tried (but failed) to get the US to bomb Iran.
In 20 years the West’s military attacks across the Middle East have simply resulted in a collection of failed states and a massive humanitarian refugee crisis. Israel has closed its borders to all refugees, but those of proven Jewish background are eligible for a free flight to Tel Aviv, accommodation, a job and/or social security.
On a visit to Washington DC this week, Israeli “Justice” Minister Ayelet Shaked declared: “We are against a Palestinian state. There is not and never will be a Palestinian state.”
They are the views of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu as well. Bizarrely, he is now blaming Palestinians for the Nazi holocaust of European Jews in World War Two.
Sounds to me like the Zionists are goading the Palestinians into a new intifada (uprising) with the aim of inflicting a “final solution”. This is going to get ugly.

Quote of the Week

“You can never go wrong opposing thuggery and officials lining their own pockets. You will always go wrong ignoring or defending the old rorts.”
– Graham “Richo” Richardson, former NSW Labor Party general secretary, in his column, “Leaders must clean up their acts”, Rupert Murdoch’s Australian 16 October 2015.

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