Testing the thesis (continued)
(Religion and ruling élite tied together)
Most Australians would regard themselves as tolerant; they would also claim to be eclectic, if they knew what it means. That would sit well with people who see themselves as both secular and living in a ‘Christian country’. This leads, among the general indifference, to the assertion of certain ‘values’ which are shared by government and prevailing religious organisations in order to manipulate public opinion. If a prime minister declares her/himself atheist, the government is likely to meet strong disapproval at an election. The result is loss of votes, and seats in Parliament. That connection is not subject to proof, but there are indicia: Queensland at the 2010 federal election. Therein is the rub.
Tolerance is often mistaken for indifference to what ‘the other’ thinks, feels, says – so long as that happen quietly, privately, and in the general expectation of social irrelevance.
From this point of view, it is difficult to sustain that Australia is Fascist. Fascism was born from anarchoid groups, runaway maximalist socialists, adventurers and broadly speaking people who were opposed to religion – meaning by that the Catholic Church. Soon, however, Fascism found support in the large landowners and latifundists, in the chieftains of industry, the banksters, and in part of the city bourgeoisie. In a short time it transmuted into a ‘respectable’ party which became conscious of the values of property, order and the sanctifying support of the Catholic Church. Within three years most fascists had turned monarchist, and their economic views had shifted towards Corporativism. Much of that, and large concessions allowing interference by the Catholic Church into the affairs of the Italian State, setting up civic discriminations amongst Italians, as well as large payments of money and assumption of financial obligations to the Church, led to the Concordat of 1929. The Duce of Fascism and the Pope of Rome recognised each other’s authoritarian regime.
No such formality has ever been sought in Australia, not even by the Anglicans and the other Protestants who, together, are a majority. Many things are assumed in Australia: after all the head of state is a Battenberg of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha lineage and recently camouflaged as a Windsor, Anglican by definition; Christian denominational schools are financially rewarded on the irrational ‘justification’ that they relieve a burden which otherwise would fall on the States – which have responsibility for ‘education’ – and that subtle piece of blackmail works persuasively to the point that Australians prefer to send their children to denominational, better still, non-government schools. Many ‘aspirational’ families scrap money together to send their children to these schools so that they may make friends with ‘nice people’, who might be useful to them in later life. Many such schools give no better an education than could be had elsewhere, but they do much to accentuate class division – in a so-called ‘classless’ society – and to produce snobs: some of such privileged pupils go around with ‘boaters’, an English headgear popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and in fancy uniforms.
Catholic schools have always taken ‘religious education’ – and there is an oxymoron! – seriously. Protestant ones often try to emulate, but in practice their boys and girls learn to set more store by ‘good form’ and ‘right thinking’ than by the values of what is assumed to be a ‘Christian country’. Most parents are happy enough in the knowledge that progress in all fields did not involve any falling away from what they regard as Australia’s ‘natural pre-eminence’ in tennis, swimming and other sports. The ‘new’ and ‘newest’ Australians have added to that soccer – and the consumption of good food, which has mostly replaced the time-honoured steak-and-eggs.
For a long time pupils were taught to look to England as their true homeland; now they confusedly look – when they so do – at the home of the ‘free market’, wherever that may be. Of course, it is estimated that the cost of such discrimination is well worth, in that private schools are seen as ‘one slice above the rest’, and secretly regarded by every ‘aspirational’ parent as a step for ‘better connections’ in the future of a child. Society responds to these expectations – literally from the cradle to the grave.
The States renounce to the vaunted secularism, allow religious indoctrination in their schools, later in civic organisations and finally in the Armed Forces. The clergy, overwhelmingly Christian, enter into the life of the pupils distorting their education with notions of gods and creation. About a third of State schools have a chaplain. Chaplaincy services are provided by non denominational companies. As of August 2013[update] there were 2,339 chaplains – 98 per cent Christian – working in Australian secular schools, along with 512 student welfare workers. In August 2010 the ‘Labor’ Government announced that an additional $222 million would extend the ‘chaplaincy’ scheme until December 2014, and fund chaplains for 1,000 more schools. There was more money in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.
Australian schools will lose the option of appointing secular social workers under the national school chaplaincy programme, for which the Abbott Government had found an extra $245 million in the 2014 budget funding. A case against that prevarication was heard by the High Court of Australia on 10, 11 and 12 May 2011 and on 20 June 2012 the Court ruled that the national school chaplaincy programme is constitutionally invalid to the extent that it exceeds the Commonwealth’s funding powers. But successive Attorneys-General have told reporters in Canberra that the government would continue funding the programme, despite the landmark ruling.
As for equality, there are uniforms. “They are a good thing” Prime Minister Gillard said during a press conference in July 2010. And she went on: “I believe having a school uniform gives people a sense of self, a sense of discipline, a sense of how to present yourself to the world. I also think it undercuts some of those unhealthy things that can happen at schools when there’s a competition for the latest, most fashionable items.”
Official religion accompanies an Australian from the cradle, through the scholastic system, into the Armed Forces and by social convention into the professions, and down to the return of the body of a soldier from the war front. The coffin invariably carries a symbol of religion, which is assumed was in the wish of the soldier and whether s/he in fact liked it or not. Political representatives set aside their profession of faith, attend ceremonies, display a visage of circumstantial solemnity, and whether believers, atheist, agnostic or indifferent reaffirm their gratitude for the Church’s support.
The symbiosis guarantees power to the parties against the people. The majority of the people do not know, have no time for distinctions, and/or are not interested in establishing the real cost of such alliance between Church and State.
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . Power of corporations protected
* 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.