Brown Study

Brown Study

2 August 2014

9:00 AM

2 August 2014

9:00 AM

The success of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop in handling the aftermath of the ghastly events in Ukraine has been dazzling. I have been pondering how they made such a spectacular mark so quickly and of course the answer lies partly in the question. They were quick off the mark; hours after the crash they knew what they wanted to do and only a few days later they were working on a resolution to the Security Council and drumming up support. This has been dramatically successful because it was such a contrast to the glacial speed with which these crises are usually handled, with weeks of groundwork and conferences and a wishy washy result. So, speed was a major reason for the Abbott/Bishop success. Secondly, the Australian move actually did something; no waffle about history and noble objectives, but a simple statement of what had to be done and how. So our resolution was a moment of truth for all nations, something to which they could say yes or no, realising that they would be judged by how they responded. Thirdly, Abbott and Bishop kept to their brief, bringing dead Australians home, and did not waver from that single objective. A Julia Gillard would have asked the Greens what she could do. A Kevin Rudd would have had a ten-point plan to change the world, a plan for three new international bodies, a new tax, pompous position papers, uplifting homilies at the church gate, abrasive encounters with world leaders and the result being much the same as his diplomatic triumph at Copenhagen on climate change. But Abbott and Bishop’s three principles, speed, action and a single-minded focus on one objective brought success. They should be applied to all international issues.

And what is the next issue? Undoubtedly it is to find a way to set up a body to investigate the crash, what caused it and who was responsible. So far as I know, there is no finality or clarity about what sort of investigation there should be. We should get in first. There should be an international inquiry, as many nations lost citizens in the disaster and several others have been involved at the crash site or are otherwise affected by the geopolitical implications of the whole event. Australia’s case for having a central role in the inquiry could scarcely be denied and Australians who sit on international dispute resolution tribunals have a good reputation, partly because they are good and partly because we are independent and impartial. In fact, the Australian part should start now, and until a tribunal is appointed, the time should be spent appointing staff and analysts who can work on the available evidence, preserve it, declare some lines of inquiry, pursue them and generally get going. In the long run we will be grateful that we moved on this so early.


Some associates of mine and I have been developing a political theory that says the intelligentsia and opinion-makers judge a policy not on its merits, but on who is promoting it. If it is put up by a progressive chap with a sound background in the unions and one of their think-tank acolytes, it must be good. If it is a policy from business or someone with a commitment to freedom and free enterprise, it must be bad. We had a good example of this the other day when Eric Abetz announced the government’s revamped work-for-the-dole scheme. You would think this would be self-evidently good and would be greeted with universal approval; to give people working skills, the experience of going to work, handling money and yearning for something better must surely give at least some people a better chance of getting a foothold on life. But no. Work for the dole, according to the progressive establishment, will apparently send the unemployed into a spiral of despair; it is too hard to have them applying for jobs; worse, even, to have them note it in a book. Why, some of them will become anxious. Better they stay at home, spend the day in a pinball parlour or be paid until a vacancy comes along that meets their own specifications. Some of the responses were bizarre. The Orwellian-named Jobs Australia — which must surely want anything but jobs — is opposed to the scheme because the unemployed could not survive under the pressure of doing community service. But the prize for the most pathetic response came from the academic economist, Professor Borland of Melbourne University; apparently, work for the dole schemes actually increase unemployment, at least ‘internationally’; the more qualified , experienced and keen to work you are, the less likely you will get a job. I am glad he clarified that point.

As this magazine is a journal of record, it should be noted that the 50th anniversary of the Australian has occurred and been marked with a series of great articles. How lucky we are that we have one of the best newspapers in the world, with vast news coverage and stimulating pieces on industry, resources, the arts and Aboriginals (particularly their art and particularly by Nicholas Rothwell). Another stunning feature is the quality of the photographs, which are now as inspiring or horrifying as the subjects they depict. I have on my notice board an Australian picture of huddled masses in an obliterated Damascus street that is probably the most realistic photo I have ever seen; they say the Israelis are making a mess of Gaza; you should see what the Arabs have done to Damascus. The Australian has reflected 50 years of wonderful progress; long may it keep doing so and long may it put the torch to governments who let us down. And thanks to those who have put their money on the line to start the Australian — and keep it going.

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