Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, August 30, 2004
YOUR CROPS FAILING? Apologise, Howard, damn you!

Lottery ticket failed to deliver? Howard, you bastard!

Some children had a horrible time in State government and Church institutions? Same answer:
A Senate report on children placed in institutional care has called for the Federal Government to apologise to those who were harmed by their experience [in State government and Church institutions].
Just as well our late medical Nobelist, Macfarlane Burnet, is dead. Otherwise Auntie's Michael Cathcart would be asking him for an apology for thinking about biological weapons in the 1940s and 50s.
the work of a coldly objective scientist. There is no hint of the humanitarian in his thinking, which is why he wanted weapons to target tropical food crops - so that the temperate crops of Australia would be immune.
In the end Cathcart exonerates Burnet on the grounds of his later transformation to humanitarian activist.

It would have been more truthful if Cathcart had employed a sounder grasp of history to understand both Burnet the biowar planner and Burnet the humanitarian, because they were both part of their times.

Auntie's viewers are left with little basis to understand the circumstances Australia faced in the Pacific War, a deadly struggle for survival between nations, political systems, and races. It was a vicious, hateful and, for Australia, a close-run thing.

For the Chinese Japan's war of expansion has never really ended, and they have no doubt that it was as much about race as Hitler's campaigns against the Jews and other 'inferior' races.

After 1945 the War transformed itself into the Cold War, which many reasonable people expected to revert to hot war at any moment. And who could doubt, after the fall of Singapore, that Australia's position in such a titanic struggle would always be marginal and expendable?

This awful scenario of wars of systems and peoples against each other was convincing enough for George Orwell to make it the basis of 1984, a bleak but plausible extension post-World War II reality.

Macfarlane Burnet knew that Japanese militarism did not accept the right of the Australian population of the 1930s and 1940s to occupy this continent. Nor did many other Asian leaders. Many still don't.

Here is an alternative proposition for the Manning Clark generation of priggish leftist post-adolescents, whose future was secured by the horrors of the Pacific War, to contemplate.

Instead of giving Auntie's viewers left-wing anachronism, provide them with a little history.

Macfarlane Burnet was just doing his patriotic duty at the time. It is only due to the enlightened re-capitalising of Europe and Japan by the US that 2004 is nothing like 1984.

Then, perhaps, we can be spared shock/horror/shame revelations about Australian scientists of the forties and fifties who were prepared to advise their governments on the nuclear options.

How many Michael Cathcarts is a Mac Burnet worth? Estimates above 500 will be entertained.