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September 16th 2016 print

Nick Cater

Unrelaxed and Uncomfortable

Changing leaders, as the Liberal Party has discovered, is an uncontrolled explosion. It changes the fortunes of the party in unbridled and unexpected ways.The collateral cost is high. It does not, however, fix the party’s underlying problems -- indeed, in the short term at least, it exacerbates them

malcom glareSix weeks before July’s federal election, in a shopping plaza in suburban Australia, a Liberal candidate intercepted a middle-aged woman as she carried her modest purchases towards the carpark. Would she care for a shopping-list pad with the candidate’s smiling face and the Liberal Party logo printed at the top? The customer politely declined but took the opportunity to speak her mind. Why was the party she had supported at every election since 1996 trying to grab a slice of her retirement savings?

This was not Mosman, Toorak or Peppermint Grove, and the woman displayed no sartorial signs of conspicuous wealth. This was hardly the kind of constituency where the rule changes were supposed to bite.

“Would you mind saying what line of work you’re in?” the candidate ventured.

“Public transport,” replied the woman. “I drive buses. And in the evenings I help out at an aged care home.”

Pencils lingered uncertainly over ballot papers in the federal election as the Forgotten People pondered which candidate—if any—was on their side. An eight-week campaign conducted, or so it seemed, in a foreign language had left them none the wiser. Innovation, excitement, agility—the words evaporated into the ether without ever hitting the spot. The conversations that mattered seemed to be happening behind their backs.

Tony Abbott may not have won their hearts, but the manner of his departure was deeply resented. Malcolm Turnbull’s unassuming promise—jobs and growth—hardly justified the change. To top it all, the Liberal Party, the party of thrift, enterprise and self-sufficiency, was sending confusing signals; was it for or against the sober and industrious middle class?

In the weeks after the election the party seemed reluctant to face its own failings. Superannuation, the members’ talking notes insisted, had not been a factor in the election. Indeed, the notes continued, the party had performed well in affluent and ageing constituencies.

It was an exercise in self-delusion, as every marginal-seat campaigner knew; the problem with the superannuation measures was not tax-brackets or tax-breaks, it was sentiment. For the party of Robert Menzies to penalise thrift, however slightly, and discourage the people who strive to help themselves, sent morally discordant signals.

Superannuation policy was not the Coalition’s only fumble in the last three years; nor was it by any means the worst. Were a medical autopsy to be conducted into the Coalition’s near-death experience, superannuation would be but one item in a long list of contributory factors that would spill over half a dozen or more supplementary pages stapled to the back. Its significance however is not in its scale or the severity of its consequences but in its spirit. Few other unforced errors rubbed so awkwardly against the philosophy of Australian Liberalism. No other decision could be as easily repudiated with a simple reference to Menzies’s own words.

This essay appears in the September issue of Quadrant.
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In his fireside chats to a nation in the midst of war, Menzies established the manifesto of the party he would help create. It would learn from the mistakes of pre-war governments, including those in which he himself had served. In particular he would address the failure to pursue policies “designed to help the thrifty, to encourage independence, to recognise the divine and valuable variations of men’s minds”:

there have been many instances in which the votes of the thriftless have been used to defeat the thrifty … we have hastened to make it clear that the provision made by man for his own retirement and old age is not half as sacrosanct as the provision the State would have made for him if he had never saved at all.

We have talked of income from savings as if it possessed a somewhat discreditable character. We have taxed it more and more heavily. We have spoken slightingly of the earning of interest at the very moment when we have advocated new pensions and social schemes …

And yet the truth is, as I have endeavoured to show, that frugal people who strive for and obtain the margin above these materially necessary things are the whole foundation of a really active and developing national life. The case for the middle class is the case for a dynamic democracy as against the stagnant one.

Those familiar with the outpouring of intellectual and moral passion that we know as the Forgotten People speech will recall that this section is the prelude to Menzies’s withering critique of the immorality of socialism:

If the motto is to be “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die, and if it chances you don’t die, the State will look after you; but if you don’t eat, drink and be merry and save, we shall take your savings from you”, then the whole business of life would become foundationless.

Menzies delivered the Forgotten People speech on May 22, 1942, two years before the publication of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. It is a mark of Menzies’s intellectual capacity that he foreshadows Hayek by warning that tyranny is the inevit­able consequence of centrally planned state economic intervention. The abandonment of classical liberal principles leads to a loss of freedom, stagnancy and weakening of moral fibre:

Are you looking forward to a breed of men after the war who will have become boneless wonders? Leaners grow flabby; lifters grow muscles. Men without ambition readily become slaves.

Seven and a half decades of experience have vindicated Menzies’s decision to invest his faith in the middle class and their aspirations. Governments don’t deliver prosperity, people do, and they do so more readily when they are lightly governed. The disempowerment of the individual in closed socialist economies, chiefly but not only behind the communist bloc, led eventually to their collapse. Open liberal economies, however, where human ambition and enterprise are encouraged, thrived to produce a degree of affluence that would have seemed fanciful in the 1940s. And in few nations was the converse of socialism practised so exquisitely as in Australia between 1949 and 1972.

The party’s current philosophical malaise transcends the question of leadership. Each of the three Liberal leaders who have struck a prime ministerial pose at the dispatch box in the last twenty years was accomplished and incomplete in his own peculiar ways.

Investing false hope in the coming Messiah is a mistake the Labor Party has been making for the last twenty years. The history of Australia is not, as Thomas Carlyle would have claimed, merely “the biography of great men”. Herbert Spencer appears much closer to the mark with his repudiation of Carlyle’s “great man” theory: “Before he can remake his society, his society must make him.”

Changing leaders, as the Liberal Party has discovered, is an uncontrolled explosion. It changes the fortunes of the party in unbridled and unexpected ways; the collateral cost is high. It does not, however, fix the party’s underlying problems; indeed, in the short term at least, it exacerbates them.

It is also worth noting, though not as an excuse, that Australian conservatives are not alone in their struggle for identity. The recent success of the Conservative Party in Britain—or more accurately England—has been greatly assisted by the Trotskyites who kidnapped the Labour Party after the 2015 election. It has not been without cost. By embracing the zeitgeist of the cosmopolitan sophisticates, David Cameron alienated parts of the party’s provincial base. UKIP, let’s not forget, finished third in the 2015 general election with 12.7 per cent of the vote, two points higher than the Australian Greens managed in July. If Westminster operated on Australian rules, UKIP would be holding the balance of power in a hypothetical British Senate. UKIP’s support, to some extent, represented the Tory base on strike. Cameron’s sticky end over Brexit was inevitable; a leader cannot oppose the general will of party members for long without consequences.

The comparative ease with which Donald Trump managed to take the Republican Party hostage betrays the intellectual and moral weakness at the US conservative core. The economic reform agenda that drove Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher is far from finished—the reform process never is—but the unifying force of anti-communism that held together the broad coalition of conservatives in the 1980s was a little-acknowledged casualty of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Isaiah Berlin observed in 1997 that “for the first time since 1789 the European Left does not have a project”; it has taken another twenty years for the realisation to dawn that sections of the Right are also struggling to find a post-Cold War purpose.

As identity politics fractured the Left into ever smaller and more improbable groupings, tribalism on the Right was having the same disaggregating effect. We are indebted to US historian George Nash for his anthropological classification of the new tribes of the American Right:

neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, “big government” conservatives, “leave-us-alone” conservatives, compassionate conservatives, reform conservatives, constitutional conservatives, crunchy conservatives, conservatarians, Tea Party conservatives, dinner party conservatives—and the list goes on.

From an international perspective, the Centre-Right coalition in Australia was something of an oddity until relatively recently, having remained intact for more than sixty years. The relationship with the Country Party that Menzies forged in the late 1940s had given both parties room to breathe while bestowing the security of a long-term relationship. For Menzies, and later John Howard, the Coalition partnership was the secret to political longevity. The stability of the Centre-Right was tested to the limit in Howard’s first and second terms with the emergence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Howard’s close call at the 1998 election is commonly remembered as a reaction against the GST; it is often forgotten that One Nation captured more than 900,000 votes that year, contributing in no small measure to a 4.8 per cent swing against the government.

Anyone who thought disaffected Liberal voters had nowhere else to go on July 2 clearly wasn’t playing attention; the leakage of the conservative vote cost the Coalition seats. Consider the swings to minor parties in the House of Representatives: 1.8 per cent to the Christian Democrats in New South Wales; 3.4 per cent to the Recreational Fishers in Tasmania; 5.4 per cent to One Nation in Queensland; and a 21 per cent swing to the Nick Xenophon Team in South Australia. Sooner or later someone was going to get hurt.

The search for a new unifying purpose is hardly assisted by the hardening of factional lines within the Liberal Party. If it were a contest of ideas between soft and hard Liberals it might serve a purpose; yet the party establishment—the Left in most states—is intent on shutting real debate down. This is hard-nosed, winner-takes-all politicking; unattractive, unproductive and unhelpful. Talented candidates are deterred from entering the race; factional favours, not merit, dictate the winner. Ultimately these internal skirmishes are exercises in futility; this is not where the 2019 election will be won or lost.

The fault lines on the cultural landscape have changed dramatically since the 1970s and with them the dynamics of politics. The old divisions by which we once understood politics—the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie, blue collar versus white collar, rich versus poor, country versus city, Protestant versus Catholic—have been subsumed by a profound dispute between insiders and outsiders. The development of a distinct political class, university-educated and technocratically minded, drawn from the same narrow subset that supplies recruits to the media, the arts and education, has put distance between citizens and their representatives. As I wrote in my 2013 book The Lucky Culture, politicians, most conspicuously on the Left, have paid a high price for following outdated maps of the cultural landscape, blundering back and forth across the trenches, uncertain of where the battle lines are drawn and unable to tell their allies from their enemies.

Demographic concentration skews the agenda of those living in the elite enclaves, meeting, mixing and chatting with people who think about the world in the same way. It is sobering to note that a quarter of all journalists in New South Wales share a mere fifteen postcodes. They are, in this order, Surry Hills, Bondi, Newtown, Clovelly, Leichhardt, Paddington, Potts Point, Glebe, Balmain, Crows Nest, Marrickville, Mosman, Redfern, Coogee, Erskineville and North Sydney. These suburbs have similar demographic traits: high numbers of university graduates; low affiliation to a religion; high numbers of same-sex couples; a high Green vote. They are suburbs where one can readily find small-batch artisanal pickles but less readily find an artisan to unblock a sink.

Labor, since the days of Gough Whitlam, has progressively detached itself from the suburbs and sought applause from within the macchiato belt. The Liberals’ good fortune under John Howard was to seize the ground Labor had vacated, making inroads into Western Sydney and other working-class strongholds. The brutal mathematics of politics in a system where voting is compulsory is that elections are won or lost in suburbs with double lock-up garages and reverse-cycle air-conditioning.

Labor’s inner-city focus has cost it dearly over the years. Mark Latham noted in his diary after the party’s 2001 defeat: “We abandoned our dialogue with suburban Australia, while the gentrified Left abandoned us for the Greens and the Democrats … A wedge has been driven through the middle of Labor’s ranks.”

The Liberal Party can ill-afford to make the same mistake, yet the evidence from the July election suggests it is in danger of doing just that. A clear pattern began to emerge as the votes were counted: swings to the government or modest swings against it in inner-city constituencies and large swings against it in the outer suburbs and regions.

A line on the map marking the inner-city commuter belt is one of the clearest ways of identifying seats in which the Coalition struggles. Of the fifty-three seats held by the Liberals or Liberal-Nationals in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria before the election, twenty contained 10,000 or more people who worked in the CBD. In contrast, there were thirty-three outer suburban and regional seats.

The difference in the swings between these two groups of seats was remarkably consistent. The swing against Liberal incumbents was 2.5 per cent worse in the outer suburban and regional seats. Victorian swings were 2.5 per cent worse, Queensland 2.6 per cent worse and New South Wales 3.5 per cent worse.

The party’s poor performance in non-CBD-focused areas almost certainly cost it seats. The LNP was able to hold inner-city Brisbane with a 1.6 per cent swing towards it, but it was unable to hold Herbert, centred on Townsville, where the swing against the party was 6.2 per cent.

The task ahead for the Liberal Party in government is formidable. Its capacity to pass the measures needed to secure future prosperity will be severely curtailed by a recalcitrant Senate. Treading water is not an option; it requires a swing towards the party in 2019 to be sure of holding government. The party’s base is demoralised and disillusioned. The debt mountain appears insuperable, the triple-A credit rating is under threat and a sense of impotency hangs over the Treasury benches.

Yet the path away from this slough of despond may be less complicated than we imagine. It lies in retracing the party’s steps to reacquaint itself with the Forgotten People, who most certainly do not reside in North Fitzroy or North Sydney. The party must reconnect with its base.

This after all was Menzies’s strategy as he pieced together the coalition that became the Liberal Party in late 1944. The party’s philosophy came not from textbooks or ideological tracts, but from focusing on the concerns of the people the party sought to represent. Its wisdom came not from European intellectuals but from people power, personal aspiration and the wisdom of crowds. The Forgotten People were, in Menzies’s words, “salary-earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on”, the people who, in the political and economic sense, could be considered the middle class:

They are for the most part unorganised and unselfconscious. They are envied by those whose benefits are largely obtained by taxing them. They are not rich enough to have individual power. They are taken for granted by each political party in turn. They are not sufficiently lacking in individualism to be organised for what in these days we call “pressure politics”. And yet, as I have said, they are the backbone of the nation.

The Forgotten People expect less from government than governments often seek to provide. They want fewer taxes, less regulation and fewer obstacles to advancing their interests and those of their family. They expect security—physical and economic—reward for effort, choice and opportunity. They are on the whole a conservative lot, probably more socially conservative than the average politician and certainly more conventional than the average journalist, broadcaster or entertainer.

One thing is for certain; the Prime Minister will not win a third term by winning battles in the party room. Far from it; he must keep his enemies close and listen carefully to their advice. The argument the Prime Minister must win is not the one with his conservative colleagues nor the one with those who would encourage him to step decisively to the left. Turnbull’s powers of persuasion must be directed outwards, to Menzies’s Forgotten People, Howard’s Battlers and Tony’s Tradies. The immediate future for the Centre-Right in Australia will be decided by Malcolm’s Middle Class.

Nick Cater is Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre

Comments [30]

  1. Ian MacDougall says:

    The latte-sipping, chardonnay guzzling inner city trendies are the “elites”, but the mining barons, tycoons and business executives who write their own pay cheques are somehow not?

    Methinks the author might have had a drop too much of French champers before embarking on this quest: or should I say smoke-and mirrors three-card trick? Or should that be shell game?

    • Bill Martin says:

      As it happens, the vast majority of “…the mining barons, tycoons and business executives” are very much part of “ the latte-sipping, chardonnay guzzling inner city trendies.

    • Jody says:

      Don’t worry Ian, the Australia Institute has now said that the downgrading and removal of the coal industry in this country will represent very little material difference in our economy. If only there were more public servants. So, on that basis I cannot see how “mining barons, tycoons and business executives” are the elite – they’re so disposable.

      And, while we’re at it, ‘writing their own cheques’? Isn’t that what movie stars do? These people earn far more in 6 months than any CEO (for example, the person who runs the CBA or Qantas in Australia and is responsible 24/7) and they’re paid by public companies. I never hear any protests about that. They can make dogs of films and walk away to the next project without the slightest sense of responsibility. There’s been too much hypocrisy about this for too long. I’d much rather be Johnny Depp than Alan Joyce!!

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Jody,
        If they make dogs of films that nobody wants to pay to go in and see , these roosters very smartly get turned into feather dusters.
        I would not pay good money to see Depp; come to think of it, not even if he paid me, though if I came across him playing the harmonica on a street corner I would chuck some coins into his hat.
        One of our present mining magnates, name of Gina Rinehart, had a father who in 1962 flew his Cessna low to avoid bad weather and found the Hammersley Range. Then he played a bit of politics, did a deal with Rio Tinto, and had a compliant WA government sign him the rights to the whole caboodle, which duly made his daughter the richest woman in the world. The actual digging and loading of the ore was done by Rio Tinto.
        Now Gina’s children are in and out of court in a huge family fight over all the proceeds, and no doubt the lawyers are very happy to oblige.
        Depp is an example of the risks taken by entrepreneurs. Rinehart’s is a study in the formation of a new feudal dynasty.
        110 years before that Cessna flight, Edward Hargreaves found the first gold at Bathurst NSW, and the 19th C rushes began. My own maternal grandfather was a latecomer to it.
        Thanks to the mining laws of the day, it was all restricted to small claimers and diggers. That distributed the proceeds far and wide, and involved huge numbers of enterprising diggers, who arguably founded the Australia we know today.
        If Hargreaves had got the lot, the way Hancock did, the country would now be very different, and I dare say (no aspersions on Rinehart & her lawyers) very much more like say, neofeudal Argentina.
        Public servants like nurses, teachers and police, do not set their own pay. The pay machine that Joyce etc are part of allows them to do just that. So in their scramble to get to the front of this executive pack, they finish up awarding themselves about 1,000 times more per day than the ‘public servant’ gets.
        IMHO, it stinks.

        • ianl says:

          What stinks, MacDougall, is your spiteful and ignorant envy.

          Rinehart inherited a debt-ridden sub-lease with conditions that Rio Tinto had freely agreed to, and which they would mine when it suited them, not Rinehart, nor any Government you imagine as corrupt in your foetid envy. Further, her father didn’t just stumble on those deposits, he had been prospecting for many years; he knew what to look for. Which you don’t in your geological ignorance.

          His daughter has risked real capital in developing deposits across the country. She has chosen good exploration and development teams. Which you cannot do in your ignorance.

          Every time you spout, your wilful ignorance of geology and engineering show. You never defend your rubbish. Contemptible.

          Note, please, that I am not defending Rinehart’s family stoushes – I know nothing of substance about them and could not care less anyway. They are irrelevant to the points here.

        • Jody says:

          No, I’m sorry but your comments about film stars won’t cut it. They are paid perverse salaries from public companies for learning lines. This is a far far cry from the onerous responsibility of a company MD earning less than a quarter of their wages and yet subject to constant public abuse. Unacceptable hyprocrisy here. I think if you accept that Depp and his ilk are worth 20 million dollars for 6 months work then Alan Joyce deserves his (less than half of this) for his 24/7 x 52 week a year heavy responsibility. It’s much much more than learning lines and each is responsible for companies with huge market capitalization.

  2. Russell Potter says:

    Well, what *really* makes the “trendies” you describe “elites” isn’t so much the raw income of the latter group
    (although, demographically, they certainly constitute a “genteel” strata), but attitudes on many put them at odds
    with much of the rest of society, the opinions of whom, because they’re not in the media class, aren’t heard except
    at the ballot box (which is the reason half our political life since Federation has been spent under the “evil”
    Coalition – despite having almost no support from these “chatterers”)
    pp
    Business groups, on the other hand, at least contribute to prosperity in the form, as Peter Smith has noted, of
    business investment, amongst other wealth drivers: but, of courae, progressives tend to be in denial of this
    “trickle-down effect” – although, according to Ross Gittens, Australia’s is actually larger than most comparable
    economies

    • Jody says:

      Ross Gittens!!? Absolutely priceless.

      • Russell Potter says:

        Jody: I know, I know: Ross Gittens isn’t someone I’d normally quote, either (and just because I do so doesn’t mean its an approving one): he’s just someone to whom I thought Ian McDougall (the intended recipient of my reply) could better relate

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Russell,
          I have never read anything Ross Gittins has written with which I disagree.
          There, that should probably keep you happy, for a while at least.
          Meanwhile,the Rinehart billions (see above) should do a helluva lot of trickling down. Especially to the lawyers.

          • Russell Potter says:

            A couple of points for you. Ian: in “Gittenomics”, he notes that the wealthiest 10% of the population (well short of hthe billionaires to whom you so disdainfully refer, I know, but still something of an “elite”) earn about three times as much as the poorest 10%, but actually work about three times the number of hours for for it: hardly an “elite” pay rate :-)

            … and, as for those billionaires: I’m not saying these people there a group of Mother Theresas: its just that, in their drive to accumulate wealth, they employ (and otherwise inadvertently enrich) large numbers of the rest of us, us: and basic Corporations Law will tell you that they’re actually only mere custodians of the public companies on the boards of which they sit: responsible to the real owners, the millions of “Mum and Dad investors” out there: if directors aren’t doing a good job, the shareholders will make their collective displeasure quickly known.

            So, reducing th wealth of these indviduals wili only, as described on in “Atlas Shrugged”, ultimately impoverish us all: except that those with attitudes like yours might at least feel a bit less envious …

            I know these facts will puncture some of your orthodoxies. and I don’t hold much hope I’ll change your mind: after all, George Orwell has said that delusions are like living in a whale: “where it’s warm, comfortable and cosy, with wards of blubber between you and reality” :-)

          • Russell Potter says:

            if “wards of blubber” sounds somewhat non-nonsensical, it’s because t it should read “yards of blubber” …

        • Jody says:

          Gittens espouses Year 7 economics and is a comprehensive embarrassment.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            But Gittins is writing for a newspaper following. Year 7 Economics is quite fitting in popular journalism.

            The CIA has compiled a list of 145 countries in order of increasing Gini coefficient (ie order of increasing inequality of family income) with Lesotho, South Africa, and the Central African Republic in positions 1, 2 and 3 respectively, ie most unequal; Australia at position 119 and Denmark, Ukraine and Slovenia at positions 143-145 respectively. It is at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html

            Guess which would be the safest and most pleasant of those countries to live in. ?
            As for ‘trickle down economics’, I think that noted US economist J.K. Galbraith summed that up very well. It is the notion that if you feed enough oats to the horse, enough might make it through to the road to feed the sparrows.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Russell,

            I consider myself to be a quite wealthy man, in that I have more than enough to meet my material needs, and have no need whatever for baubles and status symbols, nor envy of those who find themselves caught up in a frenzy of ostentatious display and conspicuous consumption. The Rineharts of this world do not fill me with envy and resentment, particularly since I am not involved in legal battles with my children, nor likely to be so.
            I trained in a Japanese martial art for 27 years. The wealth to be found within is far greater than any which can be accumulated without. As Christ said in one of his more lucid moments: “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
            NOR have I a clue as to how people like Rinehart spend the wealth that has come their way. But I dare say it trickles down to those eager souls who make the baubles, clean the mansions and service the limmos etc, etc, etc. Not to mention the feeding frenzy of the sharks below: I mean lawyers.

  3. Ian MacDougall says:

    Actually, that should be order of increasing equality.

    • Russell Potter says:

      Ian,

      > “I consider myself to be a quite wealthy man” …

      Now, that doesn’t surprise me *at all*, since there’s a distinct demographic connection between gentrification and the types of progressive attitudes you espouse: it’s why you’re learning your martial art and fretting about global warming/climate change/extreme weather events/, our asylum-seeker policy or gay marriage (although I believe “marriage equality” is the latest euphemism), while shunning those “burbles and trinkets”, and not about your job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees.

      I’m not saying that the former mattermoore than the latter, just it’s just that there’s room for vastly more o nuance hthan any kind of simple, strict dichotomy, and your choice of one over the othet is likely influenced by your’s socio-economic situation

      znxd. as for the “trickle down effect”, isn’t it better to be indignantly employed cleaning limos or to be fed by the scraps from an eating horse than to be starving or unemployed?, … But then, it’s a feature of the progressive outlook to conflate the way the world *should* be with the imperfection of its reality

      • Jody says:

        Some very perceptive and interesting observations here. I agree about the more “nuanced” response as I tend to paint with broader strokes and tend to stereotype myself. However, having said that, there are certain cultural traits to be found amongst materialists, moralists, progressives and the gentrified left which lend themselves to observation and discussion. This doesn’t mean that all people in all groups will be found to have the same characteristics, but lots of them do share many of them. It’s a consequence of education and living with the same kinds of people in their communities. This is why I think it would be greatly advantageous for them to have their fair share of migrants from the muslim religion, as well as Lebanese people who’ve been damaged by war and who are, so far, confined to the Sydney western suburbs. It would then allow the progressive, inner city left to speak about the good that comes to all of us from immigration and taking more refugees from a practical, rather than theoretical, standpoint. Yep, I think that would work a treat.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Russell:
        How’s this for a “distinct demographic connection between [my?] gentrification and the types of progressive attitudes” I allegedly espouse?
        1. I support the AGW hypothesis, and mainstream climatology, and think that our fossil carbon reserves should be kept in reserve for feedstock for the road tar, plastics and chemical industries; not burnt for fuel, and that we need heavy investment in renewables.
        2. I believe strongly in border controls, and support the existing Coalition policy there.
        3. I will probably vote against gay marriage in the forthcoming plebiscite, as I wonder what comes next. Muslim agitation for polygamy…?
        4. The ‘trickle-down effect’ is a rationalisation and an illusion. You could use it to argue that 18th C France had perfectly rational economy, with all those builders at work building opulent palaces for the aristocrats, and milliners and seamstresses kept in work making costumes for the likes of Marie Antoinette. Etc.
        5. The countries with the highest Gini coefficients (ie least inequality) are IMHO the best to live in. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html; http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings )
        6. What on Earth leads you to believe that 1-5 mean carefree abandon re “…job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees?”

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Ian MacDougall
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        September 19, 2016 at 9:04 am
        Russell:
        How’s this for a “distinct demographic connection between [my?] gentrification and the types of progressive attitudes” I allegedly espouse?
        1. I support the AGW hypothesis, and mainstream climatology, and think that our fossil carbon reserves should be kept in reserve for feedstock for the road tar, plastics and chemical industries; not burnt for fuel, and that we need heavy investment in renewables.
        2. I believe strongly in border controls, and support the existing Coalition policy there.
        3. I will probably vote against gay marriage in the forthcoming plebiscite, as I wonder what comes next. Muslim agitation for polygamy…? (to be continued….)

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          4. The ‘trickle-down effect’ is a rationalisation and an illusion. You could use it to argue that 18th C France had perfectly rational economy, with all those builders at work building opulent palaces for the aristocrats, and milliners and seamstresses kept in work making costumes for the likes of Marie Antoinette. Etc.
          5. The countries with the highest Gini coefficients (ie least inequality) are IMHO the best to live in. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html; http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings )
          6. What on Earth leads you to believe that 1-5 mean carefree abandon re “…job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees?”

          • Jody says:

            Never mind the Gini coefficients…nothing in the world would induce me to live in the Ukraine – a city of violence and Soviet domination. Not to mention old fashioned socialism.

            Norway is ranked high on the list but you have to deal with incredibly cold weather to live there – and hoards of ‘migrants’ from all over the world.

            Many of those countries you see on that list are mired in unsustainable debt and their ‘livability’ will only last as long as their credit ratings. A place like Austria is a good example of a debtor nation with more so-called equality; the people pay very very high taxes to support those less fortunate BUT (and this is an important ‘but’) they have a right wing government which assiduously enforces law and order and will not tolerate any form of anti-social behaviour. So, statistics may provide one part of the equation but there are other paradigms in force which many Australians would regard as unacceptable. I loved the feeling of security when living in Austria (which, I hasten to add, has now significantly diminished since ‘the migrants’ arrived). You have to look at the rest of what’s going in the society and general politeness and respect for the law is a huge part of Austrian life.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        4. The ‘trickle-down effect’ is a rationalisation and an illusion. You could use it to argue that 18th C France had perfectly rational economy, with all those builders at work building opulent palaces for the aristocrats, and milliners and seamstresses kept in work making costumes for the likes of Marie Antoinette. Etc.
        5. The countries with the highest Gini coefficients (ie least inequality) are IMHO the best to live in. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html; http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings )
        6. What on Earth leads you to believe that 1-5 mean carefree abandon re “…job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees?” (COMMENT ENDS)

  4. Jody says:

    I suspect Gittens and the Fairfax crowd really needs to read Niall Ferguson, who talks about profligate welfare and how that is ruinous to modern European nations. So much for ‘inequality’!!

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      4. The ‘trickle-down effect’ is a rationalisation and an illusion. You could use it to argue that 18th C France had perfectly rational economy, with all those builders at work building opulent palaces for the aristocrats, and milliners and seamstresses kept in work making costumes for the likes of Marie Antoinette. Etc.
      5. The countries with the highest Gini coefficients (ie least inequality) are IMHO the best to live in. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html; http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings )
      6. What on Earth leads you to believe that 1-5 mean carefree abandon re “…job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees?”

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      My posts on this thread have got caught up in the infernal ‘awaiting moderation’ queue, from which as a rule they never emerge until the whole topic is well and truly stale.

      Norway is ranked high on the list but you have to deal with incredibly cold weather to live there – and hoards of ‘migrants’ from all over the world.

      Re your post of September 19, 2016 at 10:33 am: With due respect, I think you miss the main point of the Gini list. Third World countries tend to have corrupt and authoritarian governments, and the worst are found in the low Gini numbers, which indicate poor distribution of wealth. On the other hand some of those with high numbers, like Australia and NZ, are very pleasant countries to live in. Low numbers the opposite. I would prefer Norway, cold as it is, to most of the other countries in the list.

      The ruling neofeudal elites in those other countries naturally make it their business to ensure that their wealth and power are maintained. The way they do this is to ensure that the social layers immediately below them are wealthy enough to believe that their fortunes are solidly linked to those of the ruling elite. Soaring wealth of a few vs misery of the many is what they want to avoid. Above all, the armed forces must be sufficiently looked after to remain loyal to the regime. When that does not happen, or goes pear-shaped, the elite at the top is stuck like a flock of shags on top of a rock: with disastrous results for them, as happened in France in 1789: where modern history conventionally begins.

  5. Bushranger71 says:

    Getting back more to the theme of Nick’s article. The Liberal Party under John Howard’s stewardship materially strayed from the Menzies beliefs and unless they quickly shed the legacies of Howardism, they will be their shroud. The sooner Australia sheds preferential and compulsory voting, the quicker we are likely to get governance more representative of the people, albeit more diverse. By the way, I am now 79, formerly a member of the National Party and began voting informally in 1996 because I feared what Johnny Howard would do to the nation.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      4. The ‘trickle-down effect’ is a rationalisation and an illusion. You could use it to argue that 18th C France had perfectly rational economy, with all those builders at work building opulent palaces for the aristocrats, and milliners and seamstresses kept in work making costumes for the likes of Marie Antoinette. Etc.
      5. The countries with the highest Gini coefficients (ie least inequality) are IMHO the best to live in. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html; http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings )
      6. What on Earth leads you to believe that 1-5 mean carefree abandon re “…job security, keeping up with the mortgage repayments and how to afford the kids school fees?”

      • Russell Potter says:

        Ian,

        I’m not sure which of the many, many near identical comments you’ve left (and I must say your leaving so many with the same result reminds me of that definition if of insanity – and, BTW, I’ve also had that “moderator” issue myself) to which I should try to reply, so I’ll just reply to this one.

        I’m also not really sure where to start with the content of your comment: it leads me to to believe you don’t have the slightest inkling of what I was getting at in linking gentrification to prioritisation of public policy issues, and I’m quite clueless as to what a “rational economy” (whatever that might be) has to do with a bizarre and troublingly simplistic and stereo-typed story about Marie Antoinette, or what “free abandon” w.r.t school fees and paying mortgages (issues of more concern, after all, to the “great unwashed”) might mean

        I also find troubling your preoccupation with the attractiveness of very low Ginis, since the last time they were widespread was during the communist era which, between its Gulags, Killing Fields and Great Leaps Forward only cost around 85 to 100 million lives

        Perhaps when you can understand an argument and respond in kind we can resume our discussion …

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    Russell:

    I also find troubling your preoccupation with the attractiveness of very low Ginis, since the last time they were widespread was during the communist era which, between its Gulags, Killing Fields and Great Leaps Forward only cost around 85 to 100 million lives.

    I would be grateful if you could supply a link to information on Gini Coefficients in the Eastern bloc countries during the communist era. (BTW I am not, nor ever have been, a member of any communist party.)
    I say this because as far as I can gather what happened in the communist countries from the late 1920s onwards bears a remarkable similarity to what is happening in the western corporate world today. When people are placed in the position of being able to determine their own pay scales, as both communist bureaucrats were and the corporate executive layers of today are, they become both remarkably generous and at the same time highly competitive amongst themselves. The size of the salary received is a status symbol in its own right.

    Arguably, the chief of the Australian Air Force has similar responsibilities to the CEO of Qantas. (I know, I know: the aims and internal operations of both are significantly dissimilar.) But I think you will find that the pay received in both cases is quite different: though that difference will likely be used as an argument in whatever gathering to bring them both more into line.