Brown Study

Brown study

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

 London

Here, you can scarcely avoid the looming presence of the European Community. It seems that, every day, news arrives of some new expansion of European bureaucracy or yet another restriction on the ancient liberties of the British imposed by Brussels. The latest expansion is the proposal to establish a vast new propaganda unit, but not the usual one that governments set up with a few dozen hacks churning out self-serving press releases. No, this one is to boast hundreds of journalists extolling the virtues of their master at a cost of millions. The official statement from Brussels announcing this momentous event said that the journalists would have complete independence, but if you believe that, you probably believe the sun rises in the west. There seems to be no end to the EU budget; for 2014-2020 it has just been fixed at 960 billion euros, including 278 billion described euphemistically as covering ‘aid’ for farmers. The next great leap forward is to have a giant European Public Prosecutor’s Office, a notion that comes from the Lisbon Treaty, on which no one in the UK had a vote. The office will be concerned with cross- border crime, primarily fraud against the EU’s budget, and will be allocated so many billions, even in euros, that it should provide lifetime employment for thousands of people. I wonder if it occurs to them that less government money sloshing around means less waste, less fraud and probably no need for a new bureaucracy? No, it wouldn’t have.


The expansion in EU power seems to march in lockstep with the erosion of peoples’ rights and the reach of the politically correct nanny state. Even the current heatwave has spewed out new forms of harassment. The worst one I know of is the boy who was chastised by his school for having the audacity to drink from a water bottle during Ramadan, as this was claimed to be insensitive to Muslims who were fasting. Fortunately, the school had to apologise to avoid a greater uproar, but why do these things happen in the first place?

So, sitting in an armchair in the Athenaeum Club, as I have been doing, the thought has often come to me that we are so lucky in Australia with our constitution and our laws that are determined by us and not by some remote bureaucracy over which we have no control. We are doubly fortunate that we have inherited the best of the British constitution without the limitations imposed by Europe which can reverse British laws and court decisions, and impose absurd prohibitions like preventing the deportation of terrorists. We have a workable constitution that diffuses power, so it does not corrupt, except when the NSW Labour Party holds sway. Most importantly, our constitution can only be changed when the people vote at a referendum that they want a change, unlike Britain where the people are never given a choice. Indeed, it is an empty cliché, and wrong, to say that changes to our constitution are always defeated and that we are stuck in the past; they are passed when they propose something the people want and defeated when they would give more power to governments.

As the only bananas I could find in Tesco were from Ecuador, they naturally put me in mind of Julian Assange, who is still holed up in the embassy of that distinguished country. I would clearly be failing in my duty if I did not at least try to visit him and ask for an interview while in London, so your intrepid reporter set forth to see if I could secure a meeting with our famous countryman. I was quaking in my shoes as I approached the embassy, which is in a respectable block of flats in Knightsbridge, and I expected at least to be set upon by the police dog squad. However, it all turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. There were two policemen stationed outside the building, no doubt ready to clap young Julian in irons if he stepped beyond the zone of diplomatic sanctity. But as they pointed out to me with lots of smiles, immense politeness and not a hint of obstruction, we were on a public footway, anyone could go into the building and that if I wanted an interview, why didn’t I go inside and ask for one? This was a bit of a setback as I was pretty confident that by this time I would either have been arrested or be seeking refuge myself in one of the neighbouring chancellories (although hopefully a more respectable one, like Monaco’s). I found another polite police officer who explained that the foyer of the building was also open to anyone and that if wanted to talk to Julian, I could always knock on the door and ask for him. This I did and, after a respectable diplomatic interval, an emissary came forth and listened politely as a I explained that I represented The Spectator Australia whose vast readership wanted nothing more than to read the considered reflections of Ecuador’s illustrious guest. Regrettably, I did not get a knock-back or any obstruction at all, as that would have been a story in itself. The response was far more prosaic, namely that young Julian was asleep, as the poor chap worked all night, but that if I wanted an interview I could call or send an email; he even gave me the contact details. I hovered around for a while outside in the hope that, as with Madonna or the Rolling Stones, our hero would make an appearance to address his adoring fans. No such luck, unfortunately, and my time in London is up.

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