“Australians all, let ostriches, / For we are young and free”—the attempt by an expensively educated Australian schoolchild to notate the first two lines of Australia’s national anthem (the first line of which is “Australians all, let us rejoice”).
Bill and Hillary not surrealistic enough for your jaded tastes? Alarmed by passing signs of incipient realism in the Republican camp? Then come to sunny Australia, which now requires only the late Herve Villechaize frenziedly squawking “The plane! The plane!” before its resemblance to the more deranged outpost of Fantasy Island is complete.
Having presided over a few trifles like 12 percent unemployment (this on the most cautious estimates) and a foreign debt of $170 billion, the incumbent Labor government—led, if that is the word, since December 1991 by Prime Minister Paul Keating—romped home in last year’s federal election. Like John Major’s narrow margin of victory in 1992, the Keating triumph defied the expectations of almost all pollsters and op-ed “experts” —even the more timid of whom had predicted success for the opposition Liberal-National alliance by a margin of at least two percent. Had such panjandrums taken due heed of maverick Labor Senator Peter Walsh (effectively marginalized by his own party for his repeated censure of its incumbent treehuggers and mass-immigration apologists), they might have saved themselves the omelette-like quantities of egg that covered their faces as soon as the results began coming in on election night. Well before the average pundit had acquired the smallest consciousness of how deep popular hatred toward Liberal-National free-market ideology had always run. Senator Walsh—amazed despite himself by the anti-Labor parties’ defeat during four consecutive federal elections—remarked in his habitual, euphuistic manner: “Those dopey bastards are gunna lose another one.” And, with a perfection so complete as to border on actual beauty, they did, having lumbered themselves with a vow to introduce a 15 percent consumption tax if they won office. It should go almost without saying that the leader of the anti-Labor parties. Dr. John Hewson, was by profession an economist—burdened, to add to his woes, with a merchant-banker wife who publicly lauded Hillary as a role model.
The 1993 result’s ultimate touch of grotesquerie, however, did not occur until a month after Labor’s victory. When opposition leader Andrew Peacock lost the 1990 election, he had the decency to resign within days. Dr. Hewson, by contrast, had no sooner snatched defeat from the jaws of victory than he announced that he would stay on as leader. Sure enough, the party that he had enabled to lose the unlosable election voted to keep him in his job for another three years: the better to confirm its total divorce from anything that could be construed as political sanity.
At this point, the non-Australian reader might have grown sufficiently restive to echo P. J. O’Rourke’s expostulation: “Damn it, we can’t be expected to stay up to speed on every one of these Third World pissing contests.” What larger significance could elective dictatorship with Mr. Keating at its head contain now that History, as we all know, has ended?
One can best answer this question by stressing the completeness with which Australian conservatism now reflects the fissure between libertarians and traditionalists. On the other hand. Labor need fear no fissure at all, because since winning government in 1983 it has adopted Disraeli’s tactic of “catching the Liberals bathing and running away with their clothes”—and adopted it with a thoroughness that would have left Dizzy himself dumbstruck with admiration. There is no strategy, however incompatible with historic Labor traditions, that Labor since 1983 has not employed. Consider: Since 1983 the party that once swore never to permit uranium mining now permits three uranium mines in South Australia. The party that until the mid-1960’s opposed colored immigration in the most vehement white-supremacist terms (one recollects erstwhile Labor Cabinet Minister Arthur Calwell’s jibe at Chinese refugees: “Two Wongs don’t make a white”) now straight-facedly insists that it and it alone scrapped the White Australia Policy. The party whose more hebetudinous spokesmen long regarded even Queen Victoria as a stooge of Semitic bankers (and in 1897 sneered at what they called her Diamond “Jew-bilee”) now not only adores Big Business but is as assured of the Jewish vote as American Democrats are of the black vote. The party that applauded even the most cowardly protests against America’s role in the Vietnam War now enthusiastically defends America’s role in the Gulf War. The party that fortified Australia with one of the Western world’s most impassable tariff barriers now greets any favorable mention of tariffs with demands that the speaker wash his mouth out with soap and water. Even the sartorial difference between Old Labor and New Labor is instructive. Mr. Keating prides himself not only on his collection of Second Empire clocks but on his chic Italian tailoring. H. V. Evatt, Labor Foreign Minister in the 1940’s, dressed in so uncouth a style that at U.N. headquarters he was sometimes mistaken for one of the more slatternly menials.
Contrast this eclecticism with the attitude that has prevailed in Liberal, and lately even in National, ranks since Malcolm Eraser lost office in 1983. Between 1981 and mid-1991, the Liberals lost 17 out of 18 mainland elections, state and federal. (The exception was the New South Wales election of 1988.) In 1983 Queensland‘s Liberals, who had helped keep the National Party in control of that state for the previous 26 years, broke with their allies and have been a national joke ever since for their ineffectiveness. Queensland‘s Nationals—in particular Sir Job Bjelke-Petersen, Queensland‘s premier for 19 years—typified everything that the Liberals detested and still detest: low-church, sometimes fundamentalist. Protestantism; total opposition to hard drugs and to sexual permissiveness; impatience with intellectuals; a school system that dared to penalize laziness; a criminal justice system concerned with other things than the sybaritic comfort of homicidal prisoners; genuine, rather than merely rhetorical, hatred of the effete and treasonous mandarins running Canberra; skepticism about an unfettered market—in short, Australia’s nearest equivalent to George Wallace’s platform in 1968.
It is impossible to envisage an anti-Labor coalition ever again winning at the federal level unless it courts Australia’s counterpart to the Wallace vote. This it dares not do in the open, since Dr. Hewson’s deputy (Tim Fischer, the Nationals’ federal leader) has staked his whole career on making the Nationals as indistinguishable from the Liberals—and therefore as eager as any Liberal to pursue neoconservative chimeras—as possible. But recently certain Nationals, some of whom opposed Sir Job’s third-party drive seven years back, gave unmistakable notice to where Dr. Hewson and Mr. Fischer can stick their current zeal to abolish all tariffs before the year 2000. These Nationals, nearly all representing Australia’s sugar-cane belt, markedly increased their share of the vote in 1993, having condemned the damage that Hewson/Fischer dogma would cause Australia’s sugar production. Such increases occurred despite what elsewhere was an embarrassingly weak National performance this time around. Indeed, the fortunes of the “official” (i.e., non-Sir Job) National Party, since it changed its name from the Country Party in 1982, have plunged. The party forsook its old title in the vain hope that it could improve its image with city-dwelling electorates while keeping its agrarian support. Nowadays the Nationals can rely on only seven percent of the Australia-wide vote, which nearly puts them in the Kim Campbell league of political disaster; they count it as an excuse for self-congratulation when their federal leader simply manages to retain his seat. Their federal leader in 1990, Charles Blunt, ignominiously lost: thanks to veteran antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott, whose campaign was not strong enough to put her in the House of Representatives, yet was quite strong enough to kick Mr. Blunt out.
But does all the foregoing mean that Australia’s groans and travails matter? In themselves, perhaps, no; alongside Mr. Keating’s latest and most shameless attempts to rewrite Australian history, yes. For most of the years since 1901, when Australia achieved federation, demands that we overthrow our constitutional monarchy and establish a republic in its stead were restricted to the politically impotent. In 1954, when Elizabeth II first visited Australia (having been legally confirmed as “Queen of Australia” the previous year). Sir Robert Menzies’ expressions of royalist fidelity were matched compliment for compliment by each Labor leader, including Dr. Evatt, then ostensibly in charge of the federal opposition, and New South Wales Labor Premier Joe Cahill.
Intermittent childish gestures of Labor malice toward the Royal Family or its representatives did occur. In 1972 Bill Hayden—now governor-general, but then a rookie cabinet minister and self-confessed republican—refused to have a drink with Sir Paul Hasluck because he deprecated the vice-regal office. Nine years later the Labor Party wrote into its manifesto a call urging Australia to become a republic. But the dominant attitude among practicing politicians, however left-wing, was that Australia had no more urgent need of republicanism than Saint Augustine had of chastity.
The Australian Republican Movement embraced Mr. Keating, its two most prominent office-holders being Malcolm Turnbull and Thomas Keneally. Mr. Turnbull is an Anglophobic barrister (“the Ayatollah,” friends unabashedly call him), most famous for turning the 1986 court case over Spycatcher‘s publication into a wild attack on what he supposed to be the British ruling caste. Mr. Keneally, who once boasted a reputation as a solemn if not serious novelist, is today best-known among historians of AustLit as a snapper-up of what he supposed to be an unconsidered fictional trifle. The trifle’s original author was, alas, disobliging enough to sue Mr. Keneally for plagiarism, and since the expensive out-of-court settlement that his trial’s outcome obliged him to make, Mr. Keneally has mostly confined himself to exuding incoherent pulp-fiction and ungrammatical causeries. His latest attempt at a manifesto, Our Republic, was so illiterate that it disgusted even various professed republicans. No one familiar with AustLit moeurs will be astonished to learn that Susan Hines, the “editor” responsible for publishing Mr. Keneally’s effort, has been awarded a fellowship for study in New York, the most honored prize that her profession’s Australian branch can bestow. We may discern a fearful symmetry in the fact that the publisher of Australia’s most notorious literary kleptomaniac can now live in Martin Luther King’s homeland.
Such shenanigans might bespeak clownishness more than malice; yet, as the Good Soldier Svejk never tired of showing us, it is an all too frequent conservative vice to underestimate clowns, especially when they enjoy what Svejk never had—a cornucopia’s worth of taxpayers’ money, to be hurled down every last politically correct rat-hole whenever Mr. Keating nods (or screams) his assent: a half-million dollars for Mr. Turnbull’s Republic Advisory Committee; 500 million dollars annually for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s republican diatribes; republican “schooling” programs, aimed at the several million adolescents who (in the caustic words of Canberra reporter Paul Lyneham) probably suppose that the “constitution” is the name of a rock band; Mr. Keating’s endless lies—or delusions (after a while one stops caring which)—maintaining that Singapore’s capture in 1942 was a dastardly British plot against Australian troops; his subsidized contests to dream up a new flag, presumably in order that Australia may partake of the boundless multicultural joys that Canada reaped by expunging the Union Jack from its flag; his confrontation with a veterans association’s former leader, who when seen holding the present Australian flag was ordered by Mr. Keating to “give it to your Pommy [British] mates”; the new citizenship oath that omits all references to the monarchy; the surreptitious removal, with truly Orwellian lese majesty, of the Sydney plaque that commemorates Elizabeth II’s first footsteps on Australia’s shores . . . ain’t we got fun.
The rationale offered for such social engineering is always the same. A republic, Mr. Keating assures us, will make Australia “independent” (we’re $170 billion in debt, our armed forces can’t even fight off domestic feminists, and he still imagines we can be independent). Above all, we must become a republic because “Australia is a part of Asia” (a neat circumlocution for “Our immigration policy for the last decade has advocated flooding Australia with the unassimilable, the unemployable, and the unintelligible, while simultaneously denouncing all critics of this procedure as ‘racists'”). What appeal Mr. Keating believes that antimonarchist spite possesses for Japan, our biggest trading partner, remains unclear. It took New South Wales parliamentarian Helen Sham-Ho, the first Chinese member of any Australian legislature, to point out that our insistence on having the world’s highest per capita immigration intake is already creating quite enough community bitterness. Aggravating this bitterness—by appealing to childish Anglophobic rancor in the quest for a republic—is something that, as Max Shulman nearly said, we need the way we need extra nostrils.
But one would never gather as much from the Labor Party’s academic and journalistic entourage, several members of which openly crave bloodshed in a manner that even on Soldier of Fortune readers’ lips would seem excessive. This crowd’s guru was, and is, Manning Clark (1915-91), author of the Walter Duranty-like Meeting Soviet Man and of a six-volume infringement of the Trade Descriptions Act entitled A History of Australia. Last September, Peter Ryan, the publisher responsible for seeing this behemoth through the presses, suffered an eloquent though belated attack of guilty conscience: he admitted that Manning Clark was a totalitarian fraud, that Clark’s alleged historiographical masterpiece blended fustian with fiction, and that “of the many things in my life upon which I must look back with shame, the chiefest is that of having been the publisher of Manning Clark’s A History of Australia.” For proclaiming these conclusions, Mr. Ryan was traduced by Clark’s camp-followers, on nationwide TV and in the daily broadsheets, with a rage that evoked the treatment of Clarence Thomas. That Mr. Ryan would incur the standard leftist accusations of fascism, racism, militarism, and dementia—combined by some assailants, such as Time‘s Robert Hughes, with endearing admissions of not actually having read Mr. Ryan’s mea culpa—was easy to predict.
Other accusations were more memorable. Don Watson, Mr. Keating’s speechwriter and a self-styled advocate of something called “a postmodern republic,” applied to Mr. Ryan the term “cannibal”: an epithet last publicly employed, to my knowledge, when Stalin was still in his Kremlin and all was right (i.e., left) with Mr. Watson’s world. Geoffrey Blainey, hounded out of his Melbourne University job because of his allegedly “Eurocentric” utterances, had gently but firmly condemned Clark’s anti-British ravings as “the Black Armband view” of history. (Upholders of the Black Armband view aver that white male Australians should spend their whole lives in orgies of breast-beating because of what they or their ancestors did to Aborigines, Kanakas, women, homosexuals, ecosystems, and so forth. Sound familiar?) Professor Blainey’s sentiments provoked one Henry Reynolds into announcing that “you [Blainey] are going to get shot at . . . you have to expect to be clobbered and people will jump on you.” Since then Professor Reynolds has predicted, with chop-smacking relish, “violence and direct action” by Aborigines against their white “oppressors”: oppressors who happen to spend a mere $1.5 billion per annum on social welfare for those whom they purportedly oppress.
Thanks to the Australian High Court’s present craze for judicial activism. Professor Reynolds’ calls for mass murder can no longer be laughed away. In the 1992 Mabo v. Queensland case, a majority of High Court judges ruled that the concept of terra nullius—which had underpinned European settlement in Australia from 1788 onwards—was invalid. (Had the judges been half as interested in history as in appeasing Aboriginal extremists, they would have emphasized that terra nullius meant not “unpopulated land” but “unowned land.” Since the Aboriginal tribes were nomadic—this trait itself explaining much of their Rousseauist appeal to urban white degenerates—it is hard to see how they could ever have harbored Western ideas of land ownership.) Disregard the pettifogging jargon in which the Mabo ruling is predictably couched, and the message—as several High Court judges have admitted—becomes clear. Inalienable native title, on the lines of (dare one say it) Verwoerd’s “tribal homelands,” is what the High Court wants Australia to have. The mere fact that Aborigines already and exclusively control almost half the Northern Territory and substantial areas of the states—around 14 percent of Australia’s total area—is apparently irrelevant. We must hand over all Australia, if need be, to Aboriginal rule. Hence the widespread cruel joke, “What does Mabo stand for? Making Aborigines Billionaires Overnight.”
So what if mining, which now generates over 40 percent of Australia’s export income, is the one industry that even now might yet save us from sempiternal Third World status? So what if various Aboriginal groups, fearful of the dole-queue, want mining to go ahead in their locality? So what if a concerted federal policy to stop Aborigines from drinking themselves to death would be (as the Northern Territory’s government has been saying for years) a better service to Aboriginal Australia than any liberal cant? To these inquiries the answer of the High Court—not to mention Mr. Keating, the Labor Party, the churches, the universities, the teacher unions, and the press gallery—is changeless; you are living on borrowed time and stolen property; the latter is de facto, and might well soon be de jure, up for grabs; whenever you aim to offer us any effective resistance, we shall simply invoke international law against you; and if the resultant despoliation of what was once among the West’s most peaceful societies makes you want to shut your eyes and think of Somalia, that just demonstrates what a loathsome fascist you are.
Never mind. To distract us from these and other disagreeable musings, we at least can now claim our indigenous variety of bread and circuses. Why not attend the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where the circuses will be inescapable, and where most of the bread will go toward making Australia’s largest metropolis the best thing to happen to druggies since Woodstock? Honestly, with all those degenerates chasing one another, you’ll feel right at home.