Brown Study

Brown Study

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

I regret to say that this will be my last column, at least in this regular form. I am afraid that my work, particularly in arbitration and mediation, has so overtaken my life that, instead of retiring and growing roses, I find that I am working all the time. I also have some international work coming up which necessarily limits the time I can devote to writing, much as I love it. A magazine also needs refreshment from time to time and this distinguished one will benefit from some new contributors under the guidance of a new editor. I suppose, subconsciously, there is also another reason for putting down my pen, at least temporarily, which is that a columnist needs a continuous supply of targets. During the inglorious reigns of Rudd and Gillard, there seemed to be no end of them; scarcely a week went by without some scandal; either Rudd was off on another neurotic frolic of his own that could bankrupt the country while it fed into his egomaniacal vision of himself, or Gillard was lying her way into power on the carbon tax and corrupting her entire government by its alliance with the Greens, not to mention the festering leadership struggles that produced a completely unstable government, even if it provided endless copy for the biography-led recovery Labor is inflicting on us. Now, however, things are different. The Abbott government has had its ups and downs, but at least it has returned proper process and deliberation to government; at least it is making a sincere effort to get the budget under control; at least it has stopped illegal boat arrivals from sailing into our waters whenever the mood takes them; and, more importantly, it has a genuine commitment to fighting terrorism and all its evil works. Indeed, under this government, a major event has taken place, that many have not yet fully appreciated: Australia, under the guidance of the PM and his able Deputy has become a significant power in world affairs. So, frankly, not a lot to criticise.

Does that mean everything is perfect? No, certainly not. Since I was elected to the federal parliament in 1969 and even while I have been writing this column, a lot has changed and a lot of it has been for the worse. The major one is probably the expansion of government into fields that not even the most fiery-eyed progressives of an earlier era would have thought were legitimate areas for government involvement. Moreover, government and its cost have triplicated, as federal, state and local councils overlap and vie with each other to control and regulate the same activity. Governments are now into beliefs and morals, so that official views, opinions and language are allowed but others are not, the whole panoply being enforced by the human rights establishment and the ever-expanding government media empire. I suppose that because I work, in part, in the law of the internet, it is natural that I particularly notice changes in the media. The most prominent has been the change in the Age from a respected newspaper to a depressing green left, life-style magazine that few people read, fewer buy and most – even the left – treat with complete contempt. And the great mystery to me is why the shareholders tolerate this continuing erosion of their fortune. But the good news is that there is one institution that cannot be changed without our consent, namely our system of government. It has steadily grown on me just how fortunate we are; we have the best of the British system, including our head of state, but without the financial burden of Europe and its bureaucracy, without the EU’s embargos on laws we pass and without its controls of our courts and the decisions they are allowed to make.The recent close shave on Scotland also shows that no-one can hive off bits of our country without a real vote on it.


Finally, I must give praise to Troy Bramston for being generous enough to concede (‘Bottom Drawer’, 27 September) that he was wrong in alleging John Gorton was overthrown after not winning a ‘no-confidence’ vote on his leadership; as I pointed out in Brown Study 20 September, it was a vote of confidence that failed to pass and it is an important historical fact that no-one had the guts to move a vote of no-confidence. Mr. Bramston’s explanation, that his article ‘had to be truncated’ and that he had made a ‘typo’, sounds a bit limp, as well as clearly inconsistent; but, I suppose, the prevailing standards of the press gallery being as they are today, it is probably close enough. As to the rest, whether Gorton had and used a casting vote against himself, will probably never be known. If any reader is interested in my contribution, being the only person in this debate who was actually there on the day (and one who voted against Gorton, the most foolish thing I have ever done), my contribution to history is that Gorton simply said the vote was not a majority and that the party had to find another leader. Moreover, there were no rules to say, one way or the other, whether he had a casting vote. I may be wrong. But I just find it ludicrous to suggest, as Mr Bramston does, that some rules were found in the whip’s office ‘on the day’, when no such rules were revealed to members who did the voting, either on the day, before, during or after the vote. Perhaps the party whip ‘truncated’ the information he gave us or perhaps it was just a typo.

I wish The Spectator Australia all the best. Its virile father was established in 1828. It has one standard above all, good writing. Long may it prosper.

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  • EschersStairs

    Neil Brown’s departure is a great loss to the Spectator, and to us, the readers.

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