Fred Nile’s Last Hurrah: a NSW Bunyip Aristocracy … Malcolm Turnbull renews the Culture Wars … Peter Dutton: Poster Boy as Most Hated Politician … Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is alive and kicking goals … Lessons in overthrowing Donald Trump … and more
Fred Nile’s bid to be Senator Nile
About 20 years ago when he was a Cabinet minister in Bob Carr’s Labor Government in NSW, convicted criminal Eddie Obeid had several business cards.
One of his calling cards carried the impressive introduction:
The Rt Hon Edward Obeid – NSW Senator
When challenged about his use of the moniker “Senator”, Obeid is reputed to have replied indignantly: “No one knows what Member of the Legislative Council, MLC, means. I am merely using a term which people from overseas, particularly Americans, understand.”
His lame explanation carried no weight with his comrades in the Upper House and they asked him to desist.
Now the “Senate/Senator” debate has been revived by another Macquarie Street eccentric, the Rev Fred Nile, leader of the so-called Christian Democratic Party. Moving his personally designed State Senate Bill, Nile told Upper House MPs that his legislation would offer choice: MPs could continue to use the current formality of “honourable” or opt for “State Senator”.
“We seek simply to introduce an alternative for ease of identification for those who are not conversant with history and tradition or with Australian terminology and for those who come from other countries that have State Senates,” the 83-year-old former Kings Cross taxi driver, Festival of Light and Mary Whitehouse supporter said.
“When I visit the United States of America there is always confusion as to exactly what role I have in the NSW Parliament.” [Supporting God, the Coalition and the cops in that order while fighting abortion, gay liberation, universal marriage rights, euthanasia and the Greens – AM].
Incredibly, an all-party Upper House committee chaired by Paul Green from Nile’s Christian Democratic Party was established to take evidence and review the proposal. Other committee members are: Wes Fang (National), Scott Farlow and Natalie Ward (Liberals), Adam Searle and Walt Secord (Labor) and Justin Field (Greens)
No date has been given for the committee to table its report but it is expected in late May or June. Only a tiny handful of written submissions have been received and they all oppose Nile’s proposition or ridicule it.
History says “No”
Among the heavy-hitters from academia, Professor Anne Twomey, a Sydney University constitutional law expert, recalled William Charles Wentworth’s 19th century bill to give LC members hereditary titles, later nicknamed the “bunyip aristocracy”.
When the proposal was debated it brought the House into public contempt and the plan was abandoned amid rousing opposition from settlers, former convicts and colonial administrators. What utterly bemused Aborigines thought is not recorded.
Professor Twomey wrote: “If today’s proposal were to be given the same degree of public scrutiny and debate as in 1853, I suspect the egalitarian spirit of the people of NSW would again rise and the proposal would be held in as much contempt and ridicule as that of the bunyip aristocracy. Indeed, there would be a substantial risk that the people would also demand the removal of the title ‘Honourable’ from Members of the Legislative Council on the grounds that it is a colonial relic and ‘misleading and deceptive’ in its description”.
Angry citizen Anthony Tortorici wrote to the committee saying: “This is a really stupid idea that makes the lot of you look like self-important wankers” while Alex MacDonald advised: “This inquiry should also examine the advantages, disadvantages and implications of the use of ‘pissant’ as an alternative, interchangeable title for Upper House members.”
The Bunyip Reformation
But the prize for best submission goes to Michael Egan, former Treasurer in the Carr government, who wrote that NSW citizens would wish to stay with their British heritage rather than adopt the American-style Senate used in a country “which elects a bullying bonehead as its head of state”.
He recalled Wentworth’s failed effort to establish a bunyip aristocracy and suggested that the Legislative Council should be called the House of Bunyips.
“Instead of just being plain old Mr [Don] Harwin, or Mr [Adam] Searle or Mr [Fred] Nile, they would be Bunyip Harwin, Bunyip Searle and Bunyip Nile,” he said.
Removing his tongue from his cheeky cheek, Egan concluded: “Alternatively, the committee might reconsider my proposals in 1999 to reform the Legislative Council by reducing its membership to 30, reducing the term of members from eight years to four years and having a joint vote of both Houses to settle legislative disputes between the Houses or, as is the case at Westminster, limiting the time the Upper House can block legislation.”
He signed his submission “Bunyip Egan”.
Turnbull’s Culture War budget
In the fine print of the thousands of pages of this week’s Federal Budget was $48.7 million to commemorate the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s voyage to make landfall on the “Great South Land” in 1770.
The cash will be grabbed by so-called “events organisers”, a new breed of scammers who specialise in getting public money to stage events from which they raise sponsorship and other loot from public and private donations. If the past is anything to go by, a token number of blackfellas will be consulted, given some cash and then ignored.
The “events” crowd is already planning exhibitions, monuments, festivals, books and performances with the aim of glorifying white Australia’s colonial past and its theft of land and systematic extermination of indigenous lives and culture.
The Liberal Party is the party of culture wars. They were begun by Robert Menzies and embedded by John Howard.
Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific on the Endeavour was a noble and exciting chapter in the history of exploration. That’s why it has generated the enduring interest of historians, scientists, students and schoolchildren. It was a feat of history that indigenous Australians acknowledge and celebrate. But what they have never accepted is turning Cook’s life into a glorious and magnanimous chapter in bringing civilisation to an uncivilised (and “empty”!) continent.
Instead of handing almost $50 million to white Liberals to pursue their culture wars agenda – including $3 million on an “aquatic monument” to Cook on Botany Bay – the money would do more good supporting housing, health and schools in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. I suspect the humble seaman from Yorkshire would not have wanted anything that smacked of glorification of empire-building and the extermination of native peoples, even though Hawaiian islanders killed him and baked his body on 14 February 1779 on his third and final voyage to the Pacific.
Mr Potato Head tops the poll
In the past couple of decades, the title of “most hated” politician in Australia has passed through various well-deserved recipients.
It was once Alexander Downer, aka Lord Downer of Baghdad, then it became “Little Johnny” Howard, then Tony “The Mad Monk” Abbott and more recently “Pastor” Eric Abetz, “His Grace” Kevin Andrews, Sophie Mirabella and Michaelia Cash. But today’s undisputed “hate” figure is Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Homeland Security.
This week the federal parliament awarded him unprecedented powers to spy on Australian citizens, whether they are politicians, lawyers, journalists, scientists or environmentalists. Your mother, father or children can have their phones tapped and computers monitored.
The standard rationale by Dutton and his gang of snoops is that lawful Australians have nothing to worry about. That’s all very well, but what does Dutton regard as “lawful”?
What if someone opposes a local land development or objects to a gas terminal in their locality – will they be targeted for exercising their democratic right to protest?
When Dutton was given sweeping new powers by Federal Parliament this week, Bill Shorten’s Labor Party voted with Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition. Only the Greens’ Adam Bandt and Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie voted against.
If you genuinely oppose “Mr Potato Head” and want him evicted from Dickson in Queensland at the next election, you know what to do.
England’s council elections
The election pundits have fallen flat on their faces … again. Almost unanimously they concluded that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was on its last legs, the Tories were gaining ground under the Thatcherite resolve of Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party was still a force to contend with. One report actually said the council results would be so devastating for Labour that Corbyn would be ousted by MPs in a matter of days.
In results so far, the trends are as follows:
Labour: 35% of the vote with a positive swing of 8%. Number of Labour councillors elected 2,350, up 77.
Conservative: 35% of the vote with swing against of 3%. Number of Conservative councillors elected 1,332, down 33.
Liberal Democrats: 18% of the vote with a swing against of 2%. Number of Liberal Democrat councillors up 75.
UKIP: Virtually wiped out. Lost 123 councillors and retained just three. UKIP’s bizarre general secretary Paul Oakley commented: “Think of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. It comes along and it causes disruption and then it goes dormant, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Our time isn’t finished because Brexit is being betrayed.”
The election determined the composition of 150 local authorities and the party allegiance of 4,371 councillors and six mayors.
When the electoral map showed a sea of Labour-dominated councils and boroughs across metropolitan, regional and rural England, the Corbyn-hating media decided to fall silent. They simply stopped reporting the results and moved to other stories – Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels, the royal wedding and the royal baby.
Right-wing Blairites have started begging their Big Business supporters for cash to start a brand new anti-Labour party with The Guardian-The Observer leading the charge.
Political columnist Andrew Rawnsley has stepped forward as chief spokesman: “The fundamental pitch of a new formation would be as the ‘Sensible Party’, but it couldn’t call itself that because, when I checked with the Electoral Commission, I found that the name has already been taken.
‘Mainstream’ is one potential label I’ve heard mooted, which sounds moderate and inclusive without being as anaemic as ‘Centre Party’.”
Rawnsley, an uncommonly good commentator, seems to have lost his memory as well as his marbles. Doesn’t he recall that 40 years ago The Guardian political editor, the late Peter Jenkins, became the mouthpiece for the Social Democratic Party founded by the “Gang of Four”, Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and William Rodgers? The renegade party collapsed but all “gang” members were rewarded by the class enemy, the Tories, with life peerages in the House of Lords.
The same fate awaits Rawnsley and the right-wing rump of pro-Blairite MPs, as well as Tony, Cherie, the brothers Miliband, Ed and David, and late night TV blatherer Alistair Campbell.
Whither Trump’s America?
America is divided against itself and going slightly cuckoo. While most of the world can see the symptoms quite clearly, Americans themselves seem engaged in a bizarre conversation about what hats Melania is wearing and whether Trump’s ties are too long.
Meanwhile, non-Americans in the real world are nervously bracing themselves for the denouement. Impeachment, resignation or civil war are some of the options that are most discussed.
Others like American academic Linda S. Kauffman, Professor of English at the University of Maryland, believe the current pace of protest is too tame.
She is recommending that the protest movement “use the stronger tools in the toolbox of non-violent action”.
The 68-year-old veteran radical feminist continued her advice saying: “We’ve used our voices to decry this national charade (the Trump administration), but mostly we haven’t been using our bodies to disrupt it or to shut it down. With millions of us in motion and the stakes so very high, the time may have come for that to change.” (We are living through a Golden Age of protest by L.S. Kaufman).
These questions spring to mind: Are wealthy Democrats in New York and Los Angeles ready to put their bodies in the line of fire? Does Ms Kaufman really know what it takes to overthrow the US government? Just asking …
Memory Lane Dept.
I can remember when every reporter and TV newsreader in Australia was a republican who thought that members of the taxpayer-funded English royal family were a bunch of twits and they were treated like an absurd joke.
How embarrassing to discover that today’s journos and autocue readers are screaming royalists. They go weak at the knees and teary-eyed the moment royal photos are handed out by Buckingham Palace’s immense public relations unit.
But show them photos of wedding parties being blown apart in Kabul and they simply don’t care.