I was watching a somewhat improbable telefilm about Nazis occupying the United States, and it led to one of those “Could it have happened here?” discussions. The consensus, as always in debates of this kind, was no, it couldn’t, because we’re somehow different, with our Aussie belief in mateship and the fair go, so there wouldn’t be enough potential collaborators to make the occupation work. Don’t you believe it, I suggested. Australia is teeming with would-be totalitarians, all of whom would collaborate like mad if they were given a statutory authority to push around their fellow citizens. In fact they’re at it already. And with nationalism now eclipsed by globalism in the minds of many, I wouldn’t count on patriotism outweighing a thirst for power, whichever boss might be delegating it.
The Human Rights Commission and the various “anti-discrimination” and “equality” tax sponges are too obvious an example of this to dwell on. But you’ll find plenty of less-publicised instances right in your own backyard. I meant that metaphorically, but backyards are a good place to start, because once upon a time we all had home incinerators out the back, which were an efficient (and for pyromaniacs entertaining) way of getting rid of garden and household rubbish. “Anti-pollution” fanatics managed to get them banned, so now the rubbish spills malodorously out of wheelie bins in the street, uncollected because the bins are over-full or “incorrectly” placed or violate some other rubric thought up by the recycling monomaniacs who, like codling moth, have wormed their way into what they like to call our “governance”, not only in urban districts but in tiny hamlets out on the sweeping plains of our sunburnt country.
This essay appears in the June edition of Quadrant.
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One of their pastimes is to sift through our garbage looking for “unacceptable” items, as eagerly as Mr Boffin looked for jewellery and coins in the dust mounds of north London in Our Mutual Friend. When they find something they send an officious warning that unless we conform to their byzantine taxonomy of “waste management” we’ll be denied the bin collection we pay for. I know someone who was threatened in this way for putting a chocolate wrapper in the “wrong” bin.
Rubbish removal is a local government matter, and the aspiring totalitarian—who, as in the three most tyrannical regimes of the last century is naturally of the Left—will find his local Town Hall a promising place to start a career. The municipal administration where I live is full of such people, who communicate their instructions to ratepayers principally by means of a bossy little publication called Divercity (ha ha, get it?), paid for of course by the ratepayers themselves.
As we have come to realise, diversity, of speech and thought anyway, is the last thing those who employ this weasel term wish to know about. Certainly, diversity is notably absent from the pages of Divercity, which, though ostensibly intended for all ratepayers, of various political views and none, is steeped in implied leftism. Indeed it issues forth from leftist loins: its production is “outsourced” to a “community education” publisher—there’s a chilling concept—which boasts on its website of having had the Victorian Teachers’ Union among its “clients” and of “working for the ACTU” and the Victorian government on “targeted education programs”. We get the picture. (Another of this publisher’s taxpayer-funded customers was Quit Victoria, a money-down-the-drainer of Guinness Book of Records stature to judge by the number of younger people you see smoking outside clubs and pubs, with blithe disregard of the Francis Baconesque depictions of nicotine-wrecked vital organs on the packet.)
Anyway, Divercity is full of the imperatives dear to the heart of bullying eco-lefties. “No time to waste, let’s take sustainability to the next level,” barks the editorial like a loudspeaker in a prison camp. “Cut your rubbish in half,” another heading orders—this from the type of people who prohibited home incinerators, the quickest and most efficient rubbish reducers of all.
The authentic Achtung! note is not missing: “Dumping rubbish is ILLEGAL!” Ratepayers are encouraged, in true totalitarian style, to spy on their neighbours: “If you see dumped rubbish, report it and help Council identify illegal dumpers.” Divercity doesn’t actually ask children to denounce their parents but such information would doubtless be welcome. In my street dumped rubbish—mattresses seem to be a specialty—is a permanent part of what urban planners term the street furniture, yet “Council”, for all its exhortations (“Let’s work together to get dumped rubbish off our streets”) rarely lifts a finger to collect it. That’s left to scavengers.
Yet another injunction is “Don’t Make History a Mystery”, the theme, Divercity tells us, of this year’s “writing competition” sponsored by the municipality’s “Citizens for Reconciliation”. I don’t know what their idea of a mystery is, but I suspect that an essay pointing out the perfectly unmysterious fact that there would have been no municipality or Divercity or citizens to be concerned about reconciliation if whitey hadn’t turned up to establish it all for everyone’s benefit would not be the winning entry.
As in a dictatorship, the citizens—not the reconciliatory ones, they’re safely on-message, but the ordinary ones who just pay the rates—are treated as though they are a great lumpenproletariat who need to be badgered and hectored into doing the correct thing as defined by the self-satisfied elite of the enlightened. The correct thing seems always to be taken from the Greens’ manual of world improvement, even where the Greens are not officially in charge. Greens are obsessed with “global warming” so in Australia’s municipal offices “climate change” is a universal enemy: no room for untotalitarian differences of opinion there. Everything “indigenous” or allegedly so is “celebrated”. “Traffic management” largely consists of building roundabouts and rockeries and other obstacles to fulfil the Green dream of making streets impassable to any but a pedestrian or cyclist. “Sustainable-construction” besotted Town Hall planning departments are laws unto themselves. In one I know of, ring to inquire of the progress of your application and you go straight to the bottom of the pile.
Gays and the rest of the sexual “identities” that multiply around us daily as by mitosis are venerated civically like the heroes of Greek mythology: in my municipality vast sums are being spent on a “Pride Centre” to appease them. The weird code of leftist morality is everywhere implicit. You can abort away till the cows come home—the fewer unwanted or eugenically unacceptable infants born the better—but pick a few sprigs from a “protected” wattle or flowering gum and you’re an enemy of the people.
Australia is ludicrously over-governed and local councils should be pared down, with rates slashed to cover the traditional essential services only. Bureaucracies at state and national levels are scandalously swollen too. The bloating leads to the constant search for new fields of endeavour in which administrators can throw their weight around; add to this a chippy leftist monoculture in the public service and you have the essential conditions for small-scale totalitarianism. Limited government is the only answer and if voters won’t insist on it we’re bound to get it anyway sooner or later when a recession turns up and there just isn’t enough tax revenue to keep the present extravaganza going.
Small bureaucracies with a good work ethic are not a congenial habitat for the totalitarian-minded, who like giving the orders, not carrying them out. If they can’t hack it once the downsizing starts they’ll just have to stay at home and crouch over Twitter and fume—and hope that some day a Greens dictatorship will arise with which they can collaborate to their misanthropic hearts’ content.
Christopher Akehurst lives in Melbourne.