CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnAustraliarnby R. J. StovernAustralians All, Let Ostrichesrn”Australians all, let ostriches, / Forrnwe are young and free”— the attempt byrnan expensively educated Australianrnschoolchild to notate the first two linesrnof Australia’s national anthem (the firstrnline of which is “Australians all, let us rejoice”)rn.rnBill and Hillary not surrealistic enoughrnfor your jaded tastes? Alarmed by passingrnsigns of incipient realism in the Republicanrncamp? Then come to sunnyrnAustralia, which now requires only thernlate Herve Villechaize frenziedly squawkingrn”The plane! The plane!” before itsrnresemblance to the more deranged outpostrnof Fantasy Island is complete.rnHaving presided over a few trifles likern12 percent unemployment (this on thernmost cautious estimates) and a foreignrndebt of $170 billion, the incumbent Laborrngovernment—^led, if that is the word,rnsince December 1991 by Prime MinisterrnPaul Keating—romped home in lastrnyear’s federal election. Like John Major’srnnarrow margin of victory in 1992, thernKeating triumph defied the expectationsrnof almost all pollsters and op-ed “experts”rn—even the more timid of whomrnhad predicted success for the oppositionrnLiberal-National alliance by a margin ofrnat least two percent. Had such panjandrumsrntaken due heed of maverick LaborrnSenator Peter Walsh (effectivelyrnmarginalized by his own party for his repeatedrncensure of its incumbent treehuggersrnand mass-immigration apologists),rnthey might have saved themselvesrnthe omelette-like quantities of egg thatrncovered their faces as soon as the resultsrnbegan coming in on election night. Wellrnbefore the average pundit had acquiredrnthe smallest consciousness of how deeprnpopular hatred toward Liberal-Nationalrnfree-market ideology had always run.rnSenator Walsh—amazed despite himselfrnby the anti-Labor parties’ defeat duringrnfour consecutive federal elections—rnremarked in his habitual, euphuisticrnmanner: “Those dopey bastards are gunnarnlose another one.” And, with a perfectionrnso complete as to border on actualrnbeauty, they did, having lumberedrnthemselves with a vow to introduce a 15rnpercent consumption tax if they won office.rnIt should go almost without sayingrnthat the leader of the anti-Labor parties.rnDr. John Hewson, was by professionrnan economist—^burdened, to addrnto his woes, with a merchant-banker wifernwho publicly lauded Hillary as a rolernmodel.rnThe 1993 result’s ultimate touch ofrngrotesquerie, however, did not occur untilrna month after Labor’s victory. Whenrnopposition leader Andrew Peacock lostrnthe 1990 election, he had the decencyrnto resign within days. Dr. Hewson, byrncontrast, had no sooner snatched defeatrnfrom the jaws of victory than he announcedrnthat he would stay on as leader.rnSure enough, the party that he had enabledrnto lose the unlosable election votedrnto keep him in his job for anotherrnthree years: the better to confirm itsrntotal divorce from anything that could bernconstrued as political sanity.rnAt this point, the non-Australian readerrnmight have grown sufficiently restivernto echo P. J. O’Rourke’s expostulation:rn”Damn it, we can’t be expected to stayrnup to speed on every one of these ThirdrnWorld pissing contests.” What largerrnsignificance could elective dictatorshiprnwith Mr. Keating at its head contain nowrnthat History, as we all know, has ended?rnOne can best answer this question byrnstressing the completeness with whichrnAustralian conservatism now reflectsrnthe fissure between libertarians and traditionalists.rnOn the other hand. Laborrnneed fear no fissure at all, because sincernwinning government in 1983 it hasrnadopted Disraeli’s tactic of “catching thernLiberals bathing and running away withrntheir clothes”—and adopted it with arnthoroughness that would have left Dizzyrnhimself dumbstruck with admiration.rnThere is no strategy, however incompatiblernwith historic Labor traditions, thatrnLabor since 1983 has not employed.rnConsider: Since 1983 the party that oncernswore never to permit uranium miningrnnow permits three uranium mines inrnSouth Australia. The party that untilrnthe mid-1960’s opposed colored immigrationrnin the most vehement whitesupremacistrnterms (one recollects erstwhilernLabor Cabinet Minister ArthurrnCalwell’s jibe at Chinese refugees: “TwornWongs don’t make a white”) nowrnstraight-facedly insists that it and it alonernscrapped the White Australia Policy.rnThe party whose more hebetudinousrnspokesmen long regarded even QueenrnVictoria as a stooge of Semitic bankersrn(and in 1897 sneered at what they calledrnher Diamond “Jew-bilee”) now not onlyrnadores Big Business but is as assured ofrnthe Jewish vote as American Democratsrnare of the black vote. The party that applaudedrneven the most cowardly protestsrnagainst America’s role in the VietnamrnWar now enthusiastically defends America’srnrole in the Gulf War. The partyrnthat fortified Australia with one of thernWestern world’s most impassable tariffrnbarriers now greets any favorable mentionrnof tariffs with demands that thernspeaker wash his mouth out with soaprnand water. Even the sartorial differencernbetween Old Labor and New Labor isrninstructive. Mr. Keating prides himselfrnnot only on his collection of Second Empirernclocks but on his chic Italian tailoring.rnH. V. Evatt, Labor Foreign Ministerrnin the 1940’s, dressed in so uncouth arnstyle that at U.N. headquarters he wasrnsometimes mistaken for one of the morernslatternly menials.rnContrast this eclecticism with the attitudernthat has prevailed in Liberal, andrnlately even in National, ranks since MalcolmrnEraser lost office in 1983. Betweenrn1981 and mid-1991, the Liberals lost 17rnout of 18 mainland elections, state andrnfederal. (The exception was the NewrnSouth Wales election of 1988.) In 1983rnQueensland’s Liberals, who had helpedrnkeep the National Party in control of thatrnstate for the previous 26 years, broke withrntheir allies and have been a nationalrnjoke ever since for their ineffectiveness.rnQueensland’s Nationals—in particularrnSir Job Bjelke-Petersen, Queensland’srnpremier for 19 years—typified everythingrnthat the Liberals detested and stillrndetest: low-church, sometimes fundamentalist.rnProtestantism; total oppositionrnto hard drugs and to sexual permissiveness;rnimpatience with intellectuals;rna school system that dared to penalizernlaziness; a criminal justice system concernedrnwith other things than thernsybaritic comfort of homicidal prisoners;rngenuine, rather than merely rhetori-rn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn