Testing the thesis
A fair and fully functioning government needs to address three areas of concern for a well-balanced society: social justice, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. Under neoLiberalism, whether under a Labor or a Liberal flag, annual economic growth is the main river of government policy, at the expense of social justice and of environmental concerns. Herein lies a convenient way of defining ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in politics. Right-wing politics gives major if not sole weight to economic growth, while Left-wing politics gives proportionately more weight to social justice and to environmental concerns. Prior to the Hawke-Keating reforms, the Labor Party was seen as a party for social justice and thus of the Left. Today A.L.P. policy makes economic growth override social justice, the aspiration for social justice having almost totally disappeared – for example in their latest policies on asylum seekers. The A.L.P. is now another Right-wing party. The Greens started with environmentalism but later have extended their interest to social justice, seeing both as more important than unrestrained economic growth, focusing economic growth on renewable resources and associated infrastructure; they are accordingly a Left-wing party. Ironically, the Greens are accused of being a one-issue party but in this light it is Labor and especially the Liberals who are the one-issue parties.
(Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism)
The first element of an Australian Fascism is nationalism. This is expressed in its widest ramifications: ostentation of flags and lapel pins by way of re-assurance and self-confirmation of and in patriotism, uniforms from the cradle to the grave, an always ill-disguised sense of superiority and reference to ‘race’ – in Australia ‘the white race’, the cultivation, nurturing and indoctrination from early years of cliché views of life, accompanied with the use of symbols and slogans, sublimating in a quasi-religious respect for military ‘tradition’ and its representatives, all of which more often than not leads to an attitude to other people bordering on and often culminating in xenophobia.
Since the arrival of the English to establish a penal colony in 1788, hence the invasion of someone else’s land, Australians have participated, officially and unofficially, in conflicts in New Zealand 1845, 1860-61; Sudan 1885; South Africa, 1899-1902; China 1900-01; on several fronts during the first world war, 1914-18; Russia 1919-21; on several fronts during the second world war, 1939-47; Malaya, 1948-60; Korea, 1950-53; Indonesian ‘confrontation’, 1962-66; Malaya-Malaysia, 1964-66; Vietnam, 1963-75; Thailand, 1965-68; Somalia, 1992-94; East Timor 1999-2203; Afghanistan, 2001 -; Iraq, 2003-2009; and ostensibly against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, I.S.I.S. in and around Syria since 2015. In a recent article Dr. Gideon Polya, a scholar from La Trobe University, has documented that “As UK lackeys or US lackeys Australians have invaded 85 countries as compared to the British 193, France, 80, the US 70 and Apartheid Israel 12. History ignored yields history repeated and look-the-other-way Australia is consequently now into its Seventh Iraq War of the last 100 years.” (G. Polya, ‘As UK lackeys or US Lackeys Australians have invaded 85 countries …’).
Strong words, but they render the true meaning of sub-tropical bovver boys ready to go for adventure anywhere – and always for king/queen and country, of course!
The loss of Australian lives in such expeditions is close to 103,000. On at least two occasions the Australian people was lied to by its governments: by Prime Minister Robert Menzies about Vietnam and by Prime Minister John Howard about Afghanistan and Iraq. In all other cases, barring some aspects of the second world war, the ‘enemy’ was ‘over there’, unknown and un-identifiable, except in the crassest way: it was brown, red, yellow. It was always a threat to ‘the national interest’ – from time to time invoked by politicians, disrespected at all times but when they sent the best of youth to the slaughter. At those times obedience became blind, un-questioned – the lack of it always considered un-patriotic. Such un-reasoned attitude to life, the result of planned ignorance, has been fuelling in a xenophobic attitude which has only recently been clothed but not suppressed by some un-defined ‘multiculturalism’.
The figure of about 103,000 war dead does not include ‘white’ Australians who died in the wars against the original inhabitants, the Blacks of Australia – whose systematic extermination began in 1788 and is said to have terminated at Coniston, Northern Territory, where the massacre went on between August and October 1928. The fate of the Blacks continues in other forms of government ‘intervention’. And this has left, in the memorable words of distinguished historian Henry Reynolds, “a whispering in our hearts.”
On the contrary, there is a yearly ceremony which is called Anzac Day – by some regarded as an obscene Anzackery.
Consider this: by dictum of Prime Minister Abbott, beginning early in 2014, Australia was preparing itself to spend $325 million to commemorate Anzac. “It is an extraordinary amount of money for a country that already has a war memorial in nearly every suburb. It stands starkly in contrast to the cost-cutting across every other area of policy in cash-strapped state and federal governments.
Though we are absolutely right to mark the significance of the centenary of the First World War, Australia will outspend the United Kingdom’s centenary program by 200 per cent. Anzac remembrance on this side of the Tasman will cost nearly 20 times what our New Zealand colleagues have allocated. Rather than letting silent contemplation be our offering to those who served and died for us, we are embarking on a discordant and exorbitant four-year festival, that looks like an Anzacs arms race of sorts.” These are the words of James Brown, presently an academic attached to the University of New South Wales, but also a writer and journalist and for a while scholar in residence at the Lowy Institute. He has previously served as an officer in the Australian Army, commanded a cavalry troop in Southern Iraq, served on the Australian task force headquarters in Baghdad, and was attached to Special Forces in Afghanistan. He was awarded a commendation for work in the Solomon Islands and as an operational planner at the Australian Defence Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command. He also instructed at the Army’s Combat Arms Training Centre. Mr. Brown is entitled to speak that way.
There were contemplated the inevitable side-business: in 2015 cruise ships played Anzac Cove while ‘Bert’ Newton, an Australian entertainer and radio, theatre and television personality/presenter, narrated the war. A company applied for permission to market an Anzac ice-cream, another was awarded AU$ 27million in contracts for Anzac events management. The Abbott Government was crafting an Anzac merchandising plan to match. A century after Gallipoli, the Anzac spirit was being bottled, stamped, and sold.
Brown again: “Over the past years I’ve been staggered by the fact that despite attending dawn services in increasing numbers, Australians I speak to seem to understand less and less about the nature of modern war and the work of our serving soldiers.
Compared to our closest allies, public conversations on the military in Australia seem excessively simplistic and bifurcated.”
And then there followed an observation perhaps influenced by the fact that Australians watch too much third-rate American television: “Because of our constant stories of Anzac, many Australians believe in the exceptionalism of the Australian soldier. A belief that all Australia needs do in time of war is hand a rifle to every athletic man, and a grenade to every cricket player, engenders complacency about current defence policy.”
Finally, the sad truth of the matter: “Today, the military experts on the amphibious battles of the Dardanelles are to be found in Quantico not Canberra. In the 1930s George Patton jnr, then a lieutenant-colonel, was dispatched to Anzac Cove to study the Australian defeat.”(J. Brown, ‘Excess in the Anzac centenary overlooks other military endeavours’).
Violence abroad is as Australian as drinking beer. Violence at home is accepted for the most incredible non-reasons. So it is ‘alright’ that, as Russel Ward wrote, “in April 1974 Her Australian Majesty’s loyal opposition behaved more like a gang of fascist thugs than responsible politicians in a democratic country.” (R. Ward, Concise history of Australia (Brisbane 1992) 322). It was even ‘more-alright’ that a just meliorist, twice-elected, tormented Whitlam Government should fall victim in November 1975 to a coup by Royal-C.I.A.-Agrarian Socialists and other back-stage-powerbrokers, who had been scared out of their scanty wits, in an ambush performed by an habitually-drunk Governor-General. ‘Respectability’ and ‘stability’ would be returned by the hand of Malcolm Fraser, the beneficiary of the Royal Ambush, who for seven years as prime minister almost succeeded in his avowed ambition to govern so quietly that political news would be replaced in the headlines by ‘sporting intelligence’.
The Australian is one of the most violent societies of similar physiognomy – probably the second most violent after the United States. Silence shrouds certain types of social violence. Suicide kills more Australians than die in road accidents – already at a pick. In 2010 – according to the most recent figures available – 2,361 people took their own lives, while the annual road toll has fallen to 1,193 in 2013. For the past decade suicide numbers have hovered around 2,250 a year – on a population of 24 million. The facts are not widely known because of medieval stigma, prejudice, ignorance and a centuries-old taboo which once barred those who had taken their own lives from burial in the local cemetery. One should understand here: Christian burial.
Fascism being essentially irrational, un-reasoning and violent the tag fits a certain view of Australia.
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . Disdain for the importance of human rights
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.