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June 01st 2016 print

James Allan

Spineless, Supine and Proud Of It

That an allegedly conservative government sits on its hands while the Left's arts bureaucrats de-fund Quadrant should come as no surprise. After all, for how long have Coalition governments been writing much bigger cheques to the very same ABC that ceaselessly assails them?

liberal logoThere is a benefit to being overseas for work for a fortnight.  For one thing, you end up reading a lot less about what is going on in Australia. Imagine a supposedly conservative government whose main selling point is that, in exchange for an immediate retrospective tax attack on our superannuation system, it will give us moderately trifling business tax cuts a decade from now.  That’s it.  That’s the right-of-centre ‘vision’ for this country at the moment.  Oh, and some basically meaningless verbiage about ‘innovation’, a one-word feel-good slogan that either implies ‘government will pick winners’ or is committing to yet more spending that will achieve nothing.  Other than that, today’s Coalition has a worldview that is as Labor as Labor’s.

This was driven home to me, this near wholesale selling out of the conservative voter in this country not least by the Coalition, when I returned to Australia yesterday to read about how the Australia Council has declared war on this publication, Quadrant.  Not a penny this year will that dispenser of taxpayer funds give to the journal whose website you are now reading, not even the comparatively small figure of $48,000 that it received last year. Of course left-of-centre publications continued to score big from the Australia Council.  But not a penny to anything on the right.   It’s hard to resist the conclusion that the left plays to win, and the politicians on our side simply have no capacity to do anything other than to wave a white flag.

You certainly see the same sort of thing at work in the universities in this country.  Go and take a look at the Australian Research Council and what it doles out to all projects sympathetic to such causes as taking more boat people, or to same-sex marriage, or to ever-expanding, rights-related international law.  Then see if you can find any money given to projects unsympathetic to these points of view.  Nada, zippo, zero, nothing.

What Labor governments do is pack these grant-giving bodies with like-minded people, and then all of the work is later done in the name of ‘an independent process’.  When the Coalition gets into office it is at a loss what to do, because the first step in any remedial action is some straight-talking that declares these bodies biased and unbalanced.  Our main right-of-centre political party lacks the intestinal fortitude to do that.  You even see it with the ABC, where the is obvious and patent. But the Coalition has thrown in the towel as far as any attempt to rein it in. Rather, the Coalition aims for no more than a détente of sorts with a billion-dollar behemoth that declines even to adopt the pretense of balance by employing not even a single, solitary, right-of-centre presenter or producer on any of its flagship TV current affairs shows.  Instead it just mouths over and over again that its people (whatever their uniformly lefty personal beliefs) are able to rise above their personal views. And then it goes back to being the propaganda arm of The Greens.  Or it does what it can to help drive the Coalition to defenestrate Mr. Abbott.

Which brings me back to the Australia Council’s blatantly political decision to de-fund the publication you are reading right now.  At the end of the day whom do you blame for this?  I blame the Coalition.  Everyone knows it will do nothing in response.  Think back to Mr. Abbott and the ABC or the Australian Research Council.  (Or go back to Mr. Howard’s government for that matter.)   These were supposed to be real conservative governments.  And yet they did nothing about the ABC, save subjecting it to a trifling 5% cut under Mr. Abbott.  No statutory demand that, say, there be two presenters on each show representing each side. Just imagine, to picture but one example, how much more lively Media Watch would be if the show came with a conservative counterweight to compere Paul Barry’s left-brained edicts and assumptions.

Nothing like that was done, or even a mooted. There was passing talk of privatisation or making the ABC take advertisements (which has slightly balanced the CBC in Canada, as the need for ad revenue carries with it the need for more viewers than the Left’s inner-city fiefdoms can provide).  Meanwhile, there was no attempt either to take on the main grant-distributing body to the university sector, though I personally have long wanted a change that would see grants go only to the hard sciences and medicine and an end to all these massive grants to the social sciences and the arts.  Of course to do that you have to say why, and the Coalition won’t do that – not at the commonwealth nor at the state level.

So the Australian Council, which is made up of real-life people with personal views and is not some ‘independent’, ‘totally impartial’ disembodied entity, knows full well that it will face no repercussions for this attack on Quadrant.  Seriously, hands up if you believe that any government led by Malcolm Turnbull will lift a finger in response.  No? Me neither.  The thing is, you have to believe there is a problem with what these various funding bodies are doing before you can try to fix them. And half the Coalition MPs don’t see a problem.  Virtually all of them lack the cojones to fight for values they claim every election season to embody. After the votes are counted, it’s back to their supine stock in trade.

So let me put this to alleged conservatives whose DNA has produced no evidence of a spine:  If you give taxpayer money only to left-leaning “independent” bodies, do you actually believe the cause of smaller government, strong borders, national sovereignty and democratic input views can get traction and win?  Or will it be lavishly funded left-leaning views that dominate the public stage and shout down any and all opposing perspectives?

I keep hearing how this election on July 2 will be one in which all of us on the conservative side of politics need to remember that we should not make ‘the perfect the enemy of the good’.  But there is little that is good about Team Turnbull in my view.  I have never yet to hear anyone suggest we ought to avoid making the perfect the enemy of the awful.

If you’re reading this, do what you can for this fine publication.  Quadrant needs your help. It won’t get any from the Liberal Party as it exists today.

James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, is the author of Democracy in Decline

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Comments [20]

  1. ArthurB says:

    I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Quadrant has been defunded. I fear that the battle is over, that the Left has won the culture wars, and we can look forward to more attacks on what remains of the conservatives. The Liberal government in WA may fall at the next election, leaving NSW and Tasmania as the only states with Liberal governments, and a Labor-Greens-Xenophon coalition is a possible result for the federal election. The Labor governments of Victoria and Queensland have given us a foretaste of what lies ahead, namely government by and for the union movement, and more “progressive” legislation similar to the Safe Schools program.

    One would hope that corporate Australia would step in and give financial assistance to Quadrant, I don’t know that whether it has done so, or is likely to.

    I saw in a newspaper recently that the Government is budgeting for $700 million for the 12,000 Syrian refugees that we have promised to take, that works out to about $60,000 per refugee, in other words the Government has saved $48,000 by defunding Quadrant, and anticipates spending more than that on one refugee.

    It is easy to be critical of the Liberals for not doing anything about the ABC, but I suspect that reforming the ABC is impossible, the staff could – and would – defy and frustrate any attempt by a Liberal government to reform it, and wait until Labor won another election.

    • Guido Negraszus says:

      “…but I suspect that reforming the ABC is impossible…!

      Sorry, but nothing is impossible. Remember how many people claimed that the boats can’t be stopped? How did that go? Remember how Donald Trump’s chances to run for presidency were ridiculed? How did that go? Nothing is impossible. What you need is a strong leader who is 100% committed. A strong leader doesn’t give in. There are so many good reasons to abolish the ABC all together. All it takes is will, commitment and determination! Sadly all we have at the moment are weaklings who time after time give in to the left.

      • ArthurB says:

        I think the ABC is a classic case of ‘provider capture’, and any reform would have to be imposed from above or outside, since, like the CFMEU or the Lebanese crime families of Sydney, there is no chance of reform coming from within. I doubt whether there is anyone in the Coalition who has the necessary strength and will power to confront the staff of the ABC and persuade them to appoint anyone right of centre to the current affairs section.

  2. mags of Queensland says:

    In this day of technology the need for the ABC has long gone and it should be too. A regional broadcaster could take up the slack where there are no regional tv or radio stations to service the area/ Apart from that it serves no real purpose except to chew up dollars so that a bunch of lefties don’t have to compete in the real world. I just hope that someone has the guts to shut this monstrosity down.Sbs too.

  3. Bran Dee says:

    Malcolm’s mother did a lot of writing for the ABC so this might explain his totally unreasonable tolerance shown for the intolerant ABC when he was appointed by Tony Abbott in one of TA’s silliest moves, to be Communications Minister.
    It makes me recall that another of Tony Abbott’s moves, this time said to be one of his nastiest was pursuing Paulene Hansen until she was jailed, until the sentence was successfully appealed. This election Paulene Hansen is said to have a good chance of regaining office and if so her now subdued old adversary should publicly embrace her and publicly apologize because that would be justice and because MT has done the opposite.

    • PT says:

      Turncoat has a lot of issues.

      A runaway mother. A barely present father. Going to a posh school where’ve felt on the outer! Chip on the shoulder, anglophobia! Mark Latham, but without the actual hardship or need to sacrifice to provide for younger sisters which he did. Turncoat is clever and has ability. But isn’t half as clever as he thinks he is ands never has had the common touch! I’ll stop here’s!

      • PT says:

        It’s where “he felt on the outer”.

      • Jody says:

        I agree Malcolm has a lot of issues, but being clever and entrepreneurial isn’t one of these. What he does have is an unusual need to be approved of and liked and Peta Credlin identified this need very recently on Sky. Kevin Rudd was the same. Now, you might say, “everybody wants to be liked” but this wouldn’t be correct for there are plenty of leaders who don’t care what people personally think of them and who are willing to make tough decisions. I think Scott Morrison is one of these, but I deplore his decision about superannuation. Turnbull isn’t a leader and that’s why I think the Coalition will be defeated. Perhaps it’s better that they are; only then will we get the massive shake-down necessary to return the party to core Conservative values under a new team. But, until that day they will continue to be Labor lite and indistinguishable from that execrable group of socialists.

  4. Ian MacDougall says:

    I am opposed taking more boat people, indifferent to same-sex marriage, and likewise to “ever-expanding, rights-related international law.” BUT…
    Er… Ahem… Again…
    Sorry to rub it in but may I once again draw everyone’s attention to the double standard still operating here? We have right on the front page of this worthy online journal a window to a rant by Bob Carter headed The Best the IPCC Can Do
    .
    If a slick video and the IPCC’s latest inaccurate and untruthful arguments are the best it can do to demonstrate a dangerous warming problem, its advice should be ignored and funding withdrawn.

    .
    Carter then proceeds to summarise his case:
    Given the general absence of evidence for dangerous global warming after 25 years of focused research, the expenditure of breathtaking amounts of money, and at a time when there has been no warming for at least 17 years, such a nonsensical statement should prompt derision.

    (I contend, as do many others, that the increased heat content of the oceans and atmosphere is showing up as the ongoing sea level rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr (CSIRO) rather than as thermometer readings. But that is by the way.) My contention here is simply that it is pure hypocrisy for this journal to complain about being defunded by certain strategically-placed antagonists, while simultaneously calling for the defunding of the IPCC: on the grounds that the IPCC does not endorse the Quadrant preferred posture of ‘scepticism’ on anthropogenic global warming. Maybe what’s good for the goose….
    .
    In the modern world, slavery still exists. But the main way people nowadays create subjects and bring them to their will and order is by controlling those subjects’ supply of that essential of modern life: money. If I have control of your money supply, I have control of you: simple as that.
    .
    The use of defunding as a political weapon, in the manner opposed here in this article by James Allan, but also proposed by Bob Carter in this very same journal, is to be deplored. And fought.
    God knows this country is not short of ‘the readies’, or the means to raise them. Just ask the offspring of any mining magnate. (You will find quite a few of them down at the Court of Disputed Wills and Inheritances.)

    • PT says:

      Yabber yabber yabber. Your anti mining mantra isn’t just against coal. Drop the pretence!!!!

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Penetrating logic, ‘PT’. Is that the best you can do?
        Because I accept the mainstream science on global warming, I am “anti mining”.
        I suggest, PT (whoever you are) that you pull your head out of the sand. It leaves your backside too exposed.

  5. EvilElvis says:

    Nice piece of moral equivalence there Ian. Hopefully the paltry five figures that Quadrant is now not receiving can go into the steaming pile of billions that has already been wasted on your pet project of ‘climate change’.

    God forbid the right wing and conservatives can get anything from their taxes apart from roads and left leaning propaganda.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      EvilElvis (whoever you are): my position on Quad’s funding is above (June 1, 2016 at 6:36 pm.) You might care to read it again.
      But nb: taxpayers have always griped about how their government spends their money.
      But note again: I agree with you. Pretty well a total waste. The Abbott ‘direct action’ policy, continued by Turnbull, has been a cynical move to pass taxpayer dollars to Big Business, with little or no result.
      That stupid chook Gillard caved in to pressure from mining interests and got rid of the only measure that had a chance of working, namely carbon taxation.
      The CSIRO carbon observatory at Cape Grim in Tasmania is the latest target of the climate ‘sceptics’ of the political right.
      What you are really griping about is the habit of what goes around to come around. But hey. Don’t worry. You won’t pay.
      It will be your grandchildren.
      .
      http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-will-be-all-gone-as-csiro-swings-jobs-axe-scientists-say-20160203-gml7jy.html

  6. Bran Dee says:

    Good comment Jody about weak politicians needing to be loved and not being emotionally robust enough to be satisfied with respect. It seems that Tony Abbott was also like this but that may in part be due to his seminary training. Seminary training is for a vocation in which love is important but questioning the leader’s ordained authority is not allowed. Tony was deaf to advice.
    The hard fact is that after a knife edge ballot the appointed conservative leader dropped the ball and let the side down along with fumbling teammate Joe Hockey. Turnbull is not to be blamed for stepping into the breech but he also is not up to it. Where Turnbull deserves most blame is for toppling the very skillful Brendan Nelson.

  7. Ian MacDougall says:

    Check out the latest salvo in this ‘culture war’.

    After being funded by the CIA, having received over a million dollars in Government subsidies, Quadrant magazine has sustained collateral damage from George Brandis’ cuts to Australia Council funding. It didn’t take long for editor Keith Windschuttle to blame someone, predictably ‘the left [which] remains in control of the arts’.

    More at
    http://arena.org.au/no-poetry-after-the-arts-council-quadrants-funding-cut/

    http://arena.org.au/no-poetry-after-the-arts-council-quadrants-funding-cut/

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Ian MacDougall
    Your comment is awaiting censorship: correction ‘moderation’.
    June 2, 2016 at 10:52 am
    Check out the latest salvo in this ‘culture war’.

    After being funded by the CIA, having received over a million dollars in Government subsidies, Quadrant magazine has sustained collateral damage from George Brandis’ cuts to Australia Council funding. It didn’t take long for editor Keith Windschuttle to blame someone, predictably ‘the left [which] remains in control of the arts’.

    More at
    http://arena.org.au/no-poetry-after-the-arts-council-quadrants-funding-cut/

  9. en passant says:

    Ian,
    You have never answered the points I raised against you argument in several other articles, yet here you are again polluting rational debate. Why? Go and blog among your fellow trolls of the ‘mainstream climate science’ church. But just so you can show how much you know, can you answer the following two simple questions?

    Tell me the actual ‘tipping point’ concentration for CO2 after which catastrophe is inevitable? An open goal for you to score I would think. What will the temperature be at this point and at what level of CO2 will the temperature stabilise into boringly perfect weather? Here are the questions – with helpful hints to make it easy for you, though I will bet you will obfuscate and avoid the trap of a straight answer.

    1. What is the optimum level of CO2 in the atmosphere?
    000ppm
    100ppm
    200ppm
    300ppm?
    As we are at about 400ppm it must obviously be less than that. Also, as plants stop growing at 250ppm the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ must be somewhere between the two. Tell the world what it is.

    Several years ago I did a rough study on CO2 by trawling some websites to understand its effects on humans and plants. The personal conclusion I reached is that 2,000ppm – 4,000ppm is the optimum level of CO2 for the majority of life on the planet, with a probable/maybe rise of <2° – <3° centigrade increase in temperature, mainly in the temperate regions. To help you out, please note that US nuclear armed submarines operate with a CO2 level up to 8,000ppm for extended periods without harm to the sailors breathing it. The USN has set a maximum limit of 12,000ppm before they become concerned, so no doubt that still contains a safety margin.

    I am breathlessly awaiting the answer from any ‘climate’ pseudo-scientist mainstream alarmist priest, but I am not expecting to receive one any time soon, just the usual histrionics or more likely, no answer at all.

    2. What is the optimum average global temperature?
    So, what is the optimum global temperature if any rise is thought to be somewhere between dangerous to catastrophic? Surely if we don't know where we are going we cannot formulate a realistic plan to get there?

    11ºC? – according to Henry Field in 1970 (of Earth Day fame) this would trigger an Ice Age, but your choice if you like.
    13ºC? – I suspect this is the dream of climate alchemists, but I will leave it to you.
    15ºC? – The currently accepted figure though the provenance of this calculation is suspect and the equivalent of reading the entrails of chickens
    17ºC? – as this is the mythical ‘tipping point' after which we fry & die this cannot be it

    So, to seriously answer the question my view is that we need MORE CO2 – and lots of it soon as the quiet Sun is going to cause havoc in the coming decades with serious cooling the result. Ah, skiing in Melbourne, now that would send Flannery and Garnaut into a new series of incantations would it not?
    I await your reply with interest, especially if you can explain your 'scientifically settled' answer with references to the science supporting your views.

    If you cannot answer, why not apply for a grant? It’s the right thing to do and it sounds like science.

    Oh, did I tell you I am building a house overseas in which high tide is less than one metre below the one metre retaining wall. I guess I just didn't listen to you or Noah. In my current home I have to cross the road to get to the beach so I have decided to move much closer.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      en passant:

      As we are at about 400ppm it must obviously be less than that. Also, as plants stop growing at 250ppm the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ must be somewhere between the two. Tell the world what it is.

      Given the present rate of glacial melt, the present level of 400 ppm appears to be too high. So I would guess around 350 ppm, as suggested elsewhere. (eg at https://350.org/).
      For the present, let us take your statement that “plants stop growing at 250ppm” as a given. I guess that this would likely be because the CO2 they produce in respiration is insufficient for their needs in photosynthesis: effectively forcing them to try pulling themselves up by their own physiological bootlaces.

      So, to seriously answer the question my view is that we need MORE CO2 – and lots of it soon as the quiet Sun is going to cause havoc in the coming decades with serious cooling the result.

      I actually think you are onto something there. Controlling CO2 levels looks to me like the best and cheapest future way for our species to control the entire planetary environment, which is why I am critical of the geosequestration of carbon being promoted by the Mining Council. But the peoples of industrial civilisation have so far been blundering around in the dark, running what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on the planet; pumping CO2 into the air and then trying to rationalise it after the fact.

      Also, your 250ppm and other levels come out of work in controlled environment labs such as the CSIRO Phytotron in Canberra, where all growth factors (light, temperature, humidity….) can be controlled, and a chosen oneof them varied for experiment. But back in the real global environment, such factors as temperature and humidity tend to link together. Thus your world of “MORE CO2 – and lots of it” will likely have more acidic ocean water and rain, higher humidity, more frequent violent weather events and so on. Moral: be careful what you wish for: particularly as far as your ocean frontage is concerned.

  10. en passant says:

    Ian,
    Just for once (and it may have been to annoy me) you actually said something rational – well almost.

    “Controlling CO2 levels looks to me like the best and cheapest future way for our species to control the entire planetary environment” Contemplating for just a moment that guykind can control the weather has to be the ultimate in delusional hubris. Even if we could, how would we decide who gets sunny days and who gets rain?

    Did it ever occur to you that the Earth is a self-regulating entity? More CO2, means more plant growth , more surface cover and more food. The carboniferous Age was the most prolific eon for life, yet the temperature was thought to be about 25 degrees C & CO2 around 2,000ppm. Dinosaurs roamed the Poles and there is a coalmine in Spitzbergen.

    “MORE CO2 – and lots of it” will likely have more acidic ocean water and rain” Acidity? You have been reading comic books. At worst, there my be a slight reduction in ‘ALKALINITY’ as the ocean Ph levels are nowhere near acidic. There is a lot of water out there. What happened to those thousands of gallons of irradiated water from Fukishima? How much damage did that minor event do?

    Unfortunately I cannot post photos as I have two that would show you I am not worried about sea levels swamping my beachfront home (if Flannery is not worried about his place then we know it is a con). They were taken 46 years apart, from the same spot and show that there is no change. In fact, check out the following:

    http://www.john-daly.com/ This shows the High Water Mark in Hobart carved in 1841. It is unchanged in 2016.

    https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/falling-sea-level/ – Falling sea levels? Deny! Deny, Crucify!

  11. John Jones says:

    Dear James,

    See the defunding as a blessing.Once you make your existence dependent on the largesse of Govt,you become their slave.No surprise that corporate Australia won’t take up the slack,stacked as it is with mediocrities who put profits over principle.Remember how hot they were for Kevin 07? How,London to a brick, they all endorsed the Carbon Tax? How quick they are to abandon free speech when C