Saturday salon 15/11


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Abbott puts his foot in his mouth

Yesterday David Cameron made a speech in Parliament about freedom and democracy. At an international business breakfast attended by David Cameron Abbott said there was ‘nothing but bush’ in Australia before white settlement.

The self-appointed “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs” Tony Abbott has reiterated the legal fiction of “terra nullius” stating that Australia was “nothing but bush” before British invasion and called pre-colonisation civilisation “extraordinarily basic and raw”.

Will someone please take this embarrassing man away and give us a real prime minister?

2. Palmer DisUnited Party

Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie have been engaging in a colourful slanging match. Lambie says she won’t resign unless she’s kicked out, but she might have to distance herself from the party. Palmer says she won’t answer the phone or return his calls and that she raises no issues when the party meets. It’s hard to see this fracture being patched up.

According to a vox pop conducted in Tasmania, she has a bit of support, but many are scathing and find her embarrassing. Her attitude may make things harder for the LNP to get legislation through the senate, but will reduce Palmer’s leverage.

3. Rundle on Palmer

Meanwhile Guy Rundle has been studying the mercurial Clive Palmer’s politics. He finds the politics of Clive Palmer:

a mildly centre-right politics, grounded in Australian Catholic traditions and social movement doctrine, and tracing their lineage back to the party whose name he wanted to adopt, the United Australia Party.

Rundle identifies a doctrine on which the Australian political and social settlement is based.

Because the arbitration system and the Harvester judgement that inaugurated it took their moral language from Rerum Novarum, the 1891 encyclical that sparked off the Catholic social movements, we can say that it is this doctrine, and its secular variants, that sits at the very centre of Australian political values, and major parties depart too far from it at their peril. It consists not merely of a set of social rules, but of an idea of what it is to be human, an idea of depth, and of selfhood as achieved in the exercise of mutual obligation.

Such a doctrine, drawing also from nineteenth-century social liberalism and classical and Christian notions of freedom as flourishing within communal life, is a world away from the atomised and content-less self of classical liberal doctrine, and the neoliberal political-economic movement that derives from it.

He locates Palmer’s politics within this tradition. Abbott promised to govern within this tradition, but he lied.

4. Wayne Goss in memoriam

Former Queensland premier Wayne Goss died during the week. Goss is noted for bringing the ALP back to power after 32 years of conservative rule and implementing the reforms recommended by Tony Fitzgerald in his inquiry into police corruption which flourished under Joh Bjelke Petersen. Fitzgerald described Goss as a man of “uncompromising integrity”.

The other Fitzgerald, Professor Ross Fitzgerald, described Goss as a “steady hand, but he really wasn’t a radical reformer”.

There was nothing steady about the way Goss’s government turned the public service inside out. In fact I left in 1991 in large measure because of the hypocrisy the Education Department displayed in ‘valuing people’. Ironically schooling in Queensland was modernised and humanised in the 1970s and 1980s under Joh, possibly because Joh himself took little direct interest in it and always handed education to a junior minister.

It’s astonishing to think that the magnificent Cultural Centre complex was built during the Joh years.

Still, the joint certainly needed cleaning up and Goss certainly did it.

5. Remembering the Berlin wall

“Die Mauer muss weg!” (“Away with the wall!”)

We also had the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall during the week.

Originally it was assumed that the West would take over the East. Der Spiegel suggests that in fact there has been movement the other way and what has happened is that a genuinely new Germany has emerged.

6. WA plans to close Aboriginal communities

I couldn’t believe this when I heard it. The West Australian Government will close as many as 150 remote Aboriginal communities in the next three years.