Peter Smith

Another mindless Monday on Their ABC

Q&A broke new ground this week, dispensing entirely with even the pretense of balance as some of the country’s most vacuous chatterboxes made Clive Palmer seem almost reasonable. Please, Mr Abbott, fix the ABC.

Some of the personalities and names escape me now but Malcolm Muggeridge and Michael Foot (yes a big leftie) resonate still as BBC panellists in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a callow youth I marvelled at their erudition. And they were interesting to boot.

Perhaps I am suffering from rampant and misguided nostalgia, but how in the world does Q&A represent progress. I think Muggeridge once said that there was no such thing as progress. He didn’t actually say, so far as I know, that there was no such thing as regression. If he had, he would have been badly wrong. Surely Q&A is regression writ large; if mindless, publicly-aired, chatter from the calibre of people whose views in past times would have been reserved for their own kitchen tables or the local pub is any guide at all.

The Q&A panel last Monday evening consisted of Mark Latham, Clive Palmer, David Williamson, Larissa Waters (who, thankfully, protects us from the bounties of cheap energy), Rebecca Huntley, and Nick Xenophon. Not a conservative in sight unless you count Palmer; and most conservatives wouldn’t. Nevertheless Palmer’s observation about the inadequacies of the voting system was the only incisive comment of the whole drab event.

He was spot on in drawing attention to the antiquated use of pencils to mark ballot papers, to not having a requirement to show ID, and to the absence of electronic records to guard against multiple voting. We have a Third World voting system. Though, even in third-world countries they often stamp people’s hands to try to prevent multiple voting. Maybe the AEC should buy some stamps and indelible ink.

It is a pity Palmer draped his remarks in some silly conspiratorial stuff about ex-military personnel working for the AEC. This allowed his vacuous fellow panellists to avoid the real and substantive point he was making. On the whole this summed them up. Palmer, despite himself, stood head and shoulders above them.

The audience (obviously shipped in from latte-sipping areas) clapped at a couple of cheap shots about Abbott. For example, “parading” around with his daughters yet “hypocritically” having only one woman in his cabinet. A number of the panellists made cheap shots at Palmer which, I have to say, he seemed to invite and enjoy. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (wouldn’t it have been good to have him on the panel), Palmer clearly thinks it is better to have people talking about him, however deridingly, than saying nothing at all.

Williamson bemoaned the fact that the Labor Party was forever thinking about itself when it should be turning its mind to turning Australia into a socialist state.

People on the loony left, like Williamson, will just never get it. They don’t understand that the rich make us all rich by getting rich. They suffer from arrested development. They are children looking like grownups. They are deluded by money. They think that if only Palmer and his wealthy ilk were made to share their wealth with the poor (and the not so rich) society would benefit and the poor would live happily ever after.

They don’t understand that the vast bulk of Palmer’s wealth is paper claims over productive physical assets. There is nothing real to spread around, only bits of paper. And if these were spread wide enough we would soon find that the growth in productive assets, which are the wellspring of our future prosperity, and which are largely sustained by the savings of the rich, would fall away.

It is possible to be on the left and be sensible. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating showed that. Williamson, the Greens, and others of the mindless left are just plain silly. They see the how prosperous Western societies have become without having a clue as to what brought this about. Magic they think, perhaps.

Together with cheap shots and silly economics talk was unanimity among all panellists that Rupert Murdoch is a complete bounder and mountebank; and a foreigner to cap it all. Murdoch apparently cemented his perfidious reputation by having his papers trash the worst government in Australia’s history. How unreasonable?

Clearly, some of those on the Q&A panel thought that but for Murdoch the Labor Government would have done much better in the election. Who knows, Australia might have benefited by returning the worst government in Australia’s history. We missed out on a continuation of wall-to-wall budget deficits and waste, the carbon and mining taxes, and flotillas of uninvited boats.

Political and social commentary on the ABC has a distinct left/green bias. But that is the least of it. Really objectionable, insufferable in fact, is the sheer tedium and inanity of its offerings. Please, please, Mr Abbott, save us from our ABC. Severely cut its funding and make it advertise for a living. That way it will have to appeal to a discerning audience, across the political spectrum, not just to its loyal and quintessential “Balmain” latte sippers.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

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