Saturday, November 12, 2005

Alan Ramsay: Here and there, the signs of tyranny: "[Former PM Malcolm] Fraser said, very deliberately, almost as if he was thinking aloud: 'I believe there's been a change in the nature of politics worldwide, and a change in the nature of much of Australia. We're much less master of our own destiny than we used to be. I believe Australia has become, or been led to be, a fearful nation. I am really enormously concerned at recent laws that have been introduced, and I suspect that, in 50 years' time, this will be regarded as a watershed in Australian democracy, in Australian freedom.

''It will be regarded not as a time when we took an important step to liberation and to the preservation of the basic liberties, which we thought we could all take for granted, [but] a time when we took a very significant step back to a darker past. I believe that's what this particular period will be remembered for.'"

Fraser's statement represents the type of traditional conservatism informed by the philosophy of classical liberalism which requires respect even if one is a socialist or social democrat. Howard has betrayed and abandoned all that. Howard is not a conservative or genuine liberal but a radical corporatist, a pseudo-fascist, in the sense of Orcinus.

"The state of political debate in this country has to be pretty abysmal when the very few public figures who openly question the policy atrocities of the Howard Government and the fear-mongering and media hysteria being incited over "national security" include a 75-year-old Liberal ex-prime minister once reviled for seven years of national division and a 64-year-old scaled-back advertising yobbo (John Singleton), now one of our wealthiest corporate citizens.... The only political leader, state or federal, who says anything near as telling is the Greens' fearless Bob Brown."

"Instead we got this sort of vacuous game-playing from the Government's back bench: Bronwyn Bishop (Liberal, NSW), parroting a question written in the minister's office - "My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on developments in our alliance with the US? Is the minister aware of any alternative positions on the alliance?""

One of Howard's most fundamental ploys is to flog the 'alliance' for all it is worth, knowing that Beazley and Labor are too weak to distinguish themselves. Howard's tactic has to be taken head on, and the country ultimately led in a direction other than its traditional subservience to Imperial power under the longstanding delusion and folly that this provides either security or advantage to Australia. What advantage did Australia gain from a failed invasion of Turkey in 1915, killing 8,000 of our own kids, and an unknown number of Turks, many of whom probably died wondering where the hell 'Australia' was and why were they attacking our country? Did the British Empire provide us with protection from the Japanese? Of course not, not only did they abandon the entirety of the Far East empire after the fall of Singapore (in fact a logical imperial/strategic decison), they had the audacity to demand colonial troops remain at the disposal of London instead of defending Australia against imminent attack. Did the invasion of Iraq protect us from Arab terrorism? Did either empire or any empire ever do anything 'altruistically' for its provinces and allies or did it act in its own interests? Wake up Australia!

An alternative policy requires a detailed, committed narrative, something that the modern Labor party is obviously incapable of. Look at the feeble, tentative effort by Crean; and the odd performance of Latham, who either destroyed himself or was destroyed. And so we are back to the future with Beazley. Beazley: with a physique like a planet and a head like a chirping canary, Beazley has plenty of gut but no guts to denounce the rotten policies of the Howard government.

And now Ramsay moves onto what has been described as pseudo-fascism:

""In a [January, 2004] essay coyly titled 'Fascism Anyone?' Dr Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to the facist regimes [of] Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Soeharto and Pinochet. His comparisons yielded 14 'identifying characteristics'.

""[These included] constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs. Flags are seen everywhere. Disdain for human rights: because of fear of enemies and the need for national security, people are persuaded human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of 'need'. People tend to look the other way or even approve. Identification of enemies and scapegoats: people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe - racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals, communists, socialists and terrorists.

""Supremacy of the military [which receives] a disproportionate amount of government funding. Obsession with national security: Fear is used as a motivational tool. Corporate power is protected, labour power is suppressed. Unions are either eliminated or severely suppressed, the industrial and business aristocracy are often the ones who put the government leaders into power. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts … "

"In John Howard's Australia, who does this list remind you of?"

Mike Carlton has also not minced words in an earlier column: "And in the general hardening of outlook that set in ... practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years - imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages and the deportation of whole populations - not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive. George Orwell, 1984"

"ORWELL jumped the gun with the date, but everything else is moving along pretty much as he predicted.

"John Howard's anti-terrorism bill frogmarches Australia down the road to tyranny, towards an authoritarian state in which the police may arrest people at will, and hold them secretly and indefinitely without charge or trial.

""Suspects" may be questioned by ASIO, on subjects about which they may know nothing, and be jailed for up to five years if officialdom deems their answers unsatisfactory."

"Malcolm Fraser, bless him, was right to say on Wednesday that "these are powers whose breadth and arbitrary nature, with lack of judicial oversight, should not exist in any democratic country". At some risk of getting arrested for ill will, he urges that these laws be opposed. But no one is listening, least of all the Labor premiers, whose supine acquiescence is but another wretched example of the ALP's descent to irrelevance."

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