Tim Blair


New Criterion



Friday, December 31, 2004
So this is what the old fool has been doing? All those hours locked away in the library, the mounting pile of empty bottles, and all for this?

I would have preferred adultery, but that was too much to hope for. From now on Uncle will be sharing sleeping quarters with the dog.

Let me assure those of you foolish enough to read this "blog" that I and my darling communards will not be deterred by such malicious attacks as I find in this awful site.

That horrible little Johnny may cut our funds, the vulgar and the right-wingers may rant, but Auntie ABC goes on while there's a government to shovel your money our way.

We have had our hardships in the executive suite. Some economies in staffing have been necessary, but we struggle on, because no government will have the gumption to pension me off.

It is true that our next generation of communards make darling Phillip Adams and Pastor Lane appear scholarly.

What do you expect? We only pay them at mouthpiece rates. For the rest, the knowledge and professional standards, we rely on their prejudices.

They may be ill-educated and semi-literate, but their political souls are in the right place. For that we may thank our universities.

People like you owe us a living, so pay up and stop whining about it.

Now, would you all just go away. There's no place for you in my commune.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
We are, as the pretentious like to say, on the cusp of change. The world is moving under us and we progressives must promote the politics of compassion against those who promote sheer, bloody-minded reaction to the seismic tide of history.

Remember the names Mulan and Mundine. They will stand for the coming era of Aboriginal policy as Wattie Creek and Lingiari did for the last.

Mulan is a largely Aboriginal, remote community that could stand for more than 90% of the similar communities in which most of Australia's Top End Aboriginal people live. It makes the adjective "marginalised" seem the cruellest of euphemisms. Universal unemployment and welfare dependency, drug abuse, child and wife abuse, poor health and education that compare unfavourably with most of the Third World, kids going blind a deaf through preventable infections and blowing their brains out with petrol fumes; short and brutal lives that create only more of the same. Who could defend the policies that sustain these horrors?

The Howard government is proposing for Mulan a policy of reciprocal obligation.
The federal government has proposed linking Aboriginal welfare payments to behavioural contracts, such as keeping children clean and at school.

It means, in effect, a return to a policy of cultural assimilation, focussed on those aspects of culture that are central to the capacity of remote Aboriginal communities to give their people choices; health and education. It is a policy that is, in its essence, more than a century old.

The leaders of the Mulan community have accepted the deal without rancour.
Mulan's Aboriginal Corporation administrator, Mark Sewell, said elders supported the agreement because they believed it would improve children's health and education at the same time as strengthening the Mulan economy. Mr Sewell said fuel bowsers would attract tourists and provide extra income to the 150-member community.

"It's a big responsibility, but it's a shared responsibility and we probably need that to make the changes," he said. "If it was too easy, there'd be no change."
Latham Labor's spokesman, Kim Il Carr, called the move "patronising and coercive".

Meanwhile, Labor Party President-Elect, Warren Mundine, has called Native Title for the expensive failure it has been for most Aboriginal communities. We can forgive him for neglecting the cost incurred by the rest of the community through economic development forgone, but the Labor Party will concede Mundine nothing but a speedy trial for heresy.

Latham Labor, through its spokesman Carr, is standing firm in the old paradigm, promoting grievance, separation and conflict:
Senator Carr laid out early directions in the portfolio to caucus members yesterday morning, reaffirming Labor's commitment to reconciliation, an apology, native title and the need to replace ATSIC with an elected representative body.

Senator Carr said while Labor recognised the need for reciprocal obligations, he did not want to be bogged down in a debate about rights and responsibilities.
Labor prefers the tried and true way of being bogged down.

On this afternoon's PM programme, a Labor official reminded Mundine that he had signed a pledge to support Party policy, whatever the costs, as Mundine sees them, to Aboriginal lives and interests.

You can be sure the Party offical concerned is a loyal member of one of Labor's factions, and therefore puts loyalty to that tribe ahead of the interests of the federation of factions that is the Australian Labor Party.

Those leaders holding munificent office in the Aboriginal grievance industry swing out the usual terms of abuse: paternalism, racism, fascism, cultural insensitivity. The shrewder players, like the Dodson brothers, manoeuvre themselves to wield influence under the new paradigm while protesting loyalty to the old.

HREOC, our highly-paid citadel of human rights reactionaries, is opposed to change, of course, since thriving populations generate little work for rights activists, officials and lawyers. It seeks to bury the proposals under thousands of words of hostile drivel, of which this is just a sample:
We should not rush to a wholesale acceptance of a mutual obligation policy approach on the basis of a superficial attractiveness and apparent consistency with Indigenous cultural values or for reasons of political expediency. Consideration must be given to whether such an approach actually empowers Indigenous people and communities to take control of their lives and be self-determining. On this basis, we must question the ease with which an emphasis on ‘welfare dependency’ and ‘self reliance’ has distracted attention from the broader spectrum of issues related to the economic marginalisation faced by Indigenous people.
Who cares that black lives are at stake, when white careers are threatened?

Take your old Uncle's word for it. The Gondwanaland of Aboriginal policy is breaking up, and Latham Labor and its allies are on the bit that will soon be as politically remote and frigid as Antarctica.

None of this would have been possible without Latham Labor, but they don't deserve any praise for it.

Monday, December 13, 2004
Media myths dismissed.

1. Global warming is raising the temperature of the surface of the world's oceans and threatening a catastrophic decline in coral reefs.

Such evidence as there is points the other way:
New Australian research claims the world's coral reefs could expand in size by as much as a third as oceans heat up.

2. In a major embarrassment to the US's Iraq policy, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld was ambushed by mutinous troops, furious at the US government's neglect of their armaments.

In a remarkable display of open government, Rumsfeld subjected himself to questions from the troops during a visit to Iraq. The troops welcomed Rumsfeld and the opportunity to raise issues with him. One US reporter, told that only military personnel could ask questions on this occasion, used a soldier to get up a question on a relevant technical issue, the bomb-proofing of humvees, with the intention of catching Rumsfeld out. This confirmed the value of the meeting for the military attending, and confirmed the New York Times and the media in general in their opinion that the security of US troops in Iraq is being neglected by the Bush administration. (via today's OpinionJournal)

Thursday, December 09, 2004
The tawdry stunt that began with Mike Scrafton's letter to The Australian accusing the Prime Minister of deliberately misleading the nation over the kids overboard affair has come to its inevitably tawdry conclusion.

The Senate Committee's Labor majority has found in favour of Scrafton and against the Prime Minister. In one sense that is a remarkable achievement. As Senator Brandis's questioning of Scrafton revealed, his account of what he told the PM and when could not have been true. So how does the Labor majority come to its conclusion?

Simple, really. They cover the embarrassing implosion of Scrafton's evidence with that handy little band-aid "alleged". As in the following:
3.10 The Prime Minister’s answer also fails to acknowledge the significant doubts about the ’children overboard’ incident that flowed from Mr Scrafton’s alleged advice that no-one in Defence still believed such an event had occurred.
Much of the rest of what you might call the substance of the Committee's report is concerned with documenting the Prime Minister's failure to acknowledge what Scrafton alleges he told him.

"Mr Scrafton’s claims...", we are told; "Mr Scrafton has said that he left the Prime Minister in no doubt...", "Mr Scrafton’s claims suggest these comments were deliberately misleading", "In short, there is a clear conflict between Mr Scrafton’s testimony ... and Mr Howard’s denial in Parliament" (3.22) and so on, as the fatally-tainted Scrafton claims are deployed by the Committee majority as if they were evidentiary gold.

This is my favourite example of Senatorial double-talk: "The Prime Minister’s answer also fails to acknowledge the significant doubts about the ’children overboard’ incident that flowed from Mr Scrafton’s alleged advice" (3.10).

The Labor majority's sole basis for accepting the Scrafton claims are the reports of others to whom he passed on accounts of his telephone conversations with the PM during a well-lubricated dinner with his girl-friend. I had better remind you, since the Committee's report fails to deal clearly with the issue, that the telephone records established beyond doubt that Scrafton could not have told the Prime Minister what he claimed in his letter to the press.

The Committee's finding on this point,
3.87 The Committee notes Mr Scrafton’s lack of certainty about the number and timing of his phone calls with the Prime Minister on 7 November 2001 and his certainty about the key points discussed during those conversations.
would be greeted with derision by anyone with more than an infant's grasp of the probity of evidence in circumstances like these.

The Committee's supine acceptance, at face value, of Scrafton's explanation of his deliberate lies to the earlier Bryant enquiry into the same accusations against Howard is equally risible. In the course of the the Committee's enquiry it emerged that the Cabinet directive Scrafton used as an excuse on this matter was not in fact issued until long after the Bryant enquiry

Apart from all this, the Committe fails to accommodate the simple and uncontested fact that, as the Coalition Senators put it in their minority report, Scrafton's allegations were "based upon Mr. Scrafton’s unassisted recollection almost three years after the event." (paragraph 16)

This report tarnishes the reputation of the Senate staff who were obliged by the ill-tempered Labor majority to persist with a stunt that had collapsed on itself so spectacularly before the election. The innocent among us might have hoped that Parliamentary staff would have had the professionalism not to draft such low-grade partisan twaddle, or the integrity to refuse to accept it if it was the handiwork of the Labor majority.

Instead, this report will stand as a monument to the depths to which Parliamentary procedures have been lowered, not by government pressures but by the contempt in which they are held by an anti-government majority soon, thank the Lord, to expire. The Coalition's Senator Brandis has ensured this by including in his minority report the unedited transcript of his cross-examination of Scrafton's evidence.

The extraordinary thing is that John Howard, despite the pressures he was under during the previous election campaign during which much of this was played out, comes across as the most credible and the most trustworthy of the parties involved. It may take a generation before the gatekeepers in the media and academia allow that simple fact into general circulation, but you can know it now, just by reading this sad little report.

And what of those other defenders of honesty in politics, the Australian Democrats? Their then leader, Andrew Bartlett, was a member of the Committee. Here is what comes down from the Democrats moral high ground these days:
I support the contents and findings of the main report, but wish to make a couple of additional points.
You don't need me to tell you that those "additional points" do not bear on the central issue of whether John Howard or Mike Scrafton was the more trustworthy witness. Call it pusillanimous, call it gutless if you prefer, but it's not the kind of third way that's worth electing to our Senate.

Southpaw and Moore.

A telling comparison of Auntie film critic David Stratton's response to the politics of Michael Moore (four stars for Fahrenheit 911) and the politics of South Park's Team America (one star).

The difference? Moore attacked Bush with lies and innuendo. Team America satirises Hollywood leftism (among other targets) in its own terms.

On Auntie, one's OK, the other's not to be watched.

Andrew Bolt has other examples of Stratton's unapologetic, and apparently unconscious, political categorising of plots that pass and fail Auntie's political test.

When Andrei Illarianov tried to tell Phillip Adams this the other day,
According to the Kyoto protocol proponents, Australia and the US are the rogue nations. But in the eyes of the absolute majority of the world, they are reasonable and smart.

After all, Australia and the US -- along with nine developed countries and 167 other nations -- are refusing to undertake legal obligations in restricting their greenhouse gas emissions.
he was smartly moved on.

It's OK in the commune to back Russian dissident intellectuals, but not if they dissent from Putin's Kyoto opportunism.

It's one thing to get divergent views into the commune's door. It's another to get them broadcast.

About one third of Great Aunt Beeb's staff face the axe, if their new boss has his way.

The idea is to push funding from overheads and ancillary activities to programme-making.

Director-General Mark Thompson's other aims are to step back from reality programming and to hive off the commercial product sales.

Here's hoping for an Antipodean version. Anything that would reduce our Auntie's insistent huckstering would be an improvement. And then there's Auntie's commercial activities.

Rumours that The Bill is to be coshed are unfounded.

Corrupting the young is one of the few vocations left to aged Uncles, so this note was especially welcome:
If memory serves, yours is the first blog I've ever visited, after one night getting really fed up with Tony Jones or the like and I typed something about 'ABC dissent' into ANZWERS. I got a link to you. Blogs were totally unknown to me then but I've never looked back since, so for that I shall always be indebted to you!
So indebted, in fact, that Romeo Mike now has his own blog, and so the cycle of low-life continues.

Who watches Auntie's Media Watchers? Why, the Watchers themselves, of course. And they really love what they see.
At times, I've got on and I've been furious. I've been lofty. I've been continuously hilariously funny, of course.
That's the tagline David Marr gives himself for his three years' work pontificating from the Media Watch chair.

Let's not be too concerned about a Presenter's self-praise. Narcissism is, after all, the second qualification for the job.

The first qualification for an Auntie Presenter is sharing uncritically the tanticular world-view, and never, ever reflecting on that foundational fact. You can see that from the Media Watch mission statement as Marr and minder McEvoy present it.

Like any good leftists, Marr's Media Watch was concerned with root causes, not just performances.
One of the things that we wanted to do, which I think is a slight shift, has been to go into a bit more detail about the kinds of structural reasons for shitty journalism. That it's not necessarily the individual failings of an individual journalist.
And so the policies of owners like Murdoch and Packer are treated at length. At the same time the policies of the Auntie commune are sadly neglected.

The shenanigans of the Golden Tonsils and the Platinum Parrott as they maximise their wealth on the backs of their listeners, these appear as regularly as your favourite plods in The Bill. The gruesome corruptions of Auntie's own Phillip Adams, a root cause if ever I saw one, are treated, when once they had to be, with the deference and delicacy of George Pell reviewing the Pope's wisdom.

The evident ideology of other Presenters and minders - and if you don't know what I'm referring to you've just arrived at ABCWatch - are as invisible on Media Watch as infidelity in Mecca.

And if you don't think that's a serious derogation of the role of journalism in our battered old democracy then I don't know why you're here.

Marr and McEvoy neglected to remind us of the occasion a learned judge found their smearing of a journalist with a commercial television channel to be "illogical, unfair and unreasonable", but I'll remind you.

And then there was the time Media Watch failed to notice the most egregious and potentially damaging case of news spinning by an organ of the Australian media - the ABC as it happens - apparently designed to damage Australian-Indonesian relations.

I could go on, but that would be boring. In any case you have access to Google.

The last word to he who is used to having it:
I've done exactly what my mother told me not to do when I began. She said, "Dear, you'll be very good at this job so long as you don't show off." I've showed off outrageously ...

I can't say I feel grateful.

Sunday, December 05, 2004
Who cares who the people of the Ukraine want for their President, when it's the resurrection of the Soviet Union that really matters, according to the Guardian's Jonathan Steele.

Yuschenko is no better a person than Russia's favourite Yanukovich, and look who's supporting him.

Not President Bush, as it turns out, who's happy to see the Ukraine within the Russian sphere of influence, but the links between US and Western European sponsors of democracy and the Yuschenko forces are enough to condemn the Yuschenko forces in the eyes of the Guardian left.
In Ukraine, Yushchenko got the western nod, and floods of money poured in to groups which support him, ranging from the youth organisation, Pora, to various opposition websites. More provocatively, the US and other western embassies paid for exit polls, prompting Russia to do likewise, though apparently to a lesser extent
And that's reason enough for Steele to conclude that Yuschenko represents a "postmodern coup d'etat, the CIA-sponsored third world uprising of cold war days adapted to post-Soviet conditions. Instruments of democracy are used selectively to topple unpopular dictators, once a successor candidate or regime has been groomed."

Just as in the case of Iraq, the Ukraine's circumstances and the gullibility of its population mean it is not capable of real democracy, according to the Guardian's columnist, and intervening in any way to support fair electoral processes can not be justified:
In Ukraine's case this is playing with fire. Not only is the country geographically and culturally divided - a recipe for partition or even civil war - it is also an important neighbour to Russia.
From the point of view of the European left, the end of the Cold War was a disaster, and now the Ukraine has missed a golden opportunity to shut up in the interests of making life simpler for Putin, as Jacques Chirac might have put it.

Friday, December 03, 2004
One Presidential candidate is in prison for multiple murders.

Another is under indictment in the US.

These Palestinians sure know how to run interesting elections.

All we could offer the world was Mark Latham.

Roger Sandall has been reflecting on the historical background of today's Sudan.
* Because much of 19th-century civilization in the Nile Valley depended on slave labor, in the fields, the house, and the boudoir
* Because both Ismail Pasha and his Prime Minister were deeply insincere and hoped, in their heart of hearts, that nothing would be done to disturb their lifestyle ...

They therefore appointed a whole series of outsiders from the West to do what the region would not do for itself—abolish slavery —correctly expecting them to fail

In some parts of the world, keeping the blacks in their place has never been out of favour.

The Ivorian insurgency is not getting a good press, at least from the BBC, which thinks claims that French soldiers have indulged in some decapitation to be less than credible. Our own Auntie thinks French 'peace-keepers' are just doing their job.

When French forces suffered the indignity of friendly fire, they responded by destroying the Ivorian air force. President Gbagbo thought that an unfriendly act, no doubt aware that it weakened his government's capacity to resist the Islamic insurgency in the north of his country.

The state media have been urging the citizens of the Ivory Coast to resist the French and protect their government.

This, the BBC editorialises, is a "hate media" campaign. It uses emotive images of those killed and injured by French fire to incite resistance. Governments under foreign occupation should not do this, it seems.

In Iraq, on the other hand...

The BBC's warm relations with al Jazeera have not been affected by its new-found objection to broadcasting material that might inflame viewers.

(via Biased BBC)

Thursday, December 02, 2004
How to be unilateral, in a multilateral kind of way.

This lesson comes to us from the European Union, which has bribed the Iranian regime to pretend to respect European influence, just for a little while.

The Europeans have done this by promising to prevent the UN acting on its non-proliferation policies.

As they can, since two of the Europeans on the delegation have Security Council vetoes.

You can see that if the Great Satan could be persuaded to behave in the same way the world would be a safer place, at least for despots with murderous ambitions.

The moral: if one country ignores a UN corrupted by self-seeking staff and veto-wielding members, that's unilateralism. The left hates that.

If a few countries trade the UN's reputation for their own purposes, frustrate its puny capacity for action, or direct it in support of murderous regimes, that's multilateralism. The left endorses that.

I hope that helps you understand where Auntie's commentariat is coming from.

Mark Latham's leadership is strong, as even his enemies concede, at least until sometime next year. Unless they can agree on someone better, sooner.

It's called the Switkowski gambit.