Australian Notes

Australian notes

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

It was one of the Prime Minister’s best speeches. He was clear, eloquent and convincing. Clear about the terrorist threats we face, eloquent about the liberal values we defend, and convincing about the measures we are taking to protect them. Like all his better speeches it came ‘from the heart’. It also placed in context the recent piddling attacks on him, originating mainly in the Australian, that, like some sort of mad war-monger, he had been ‘seeking advice’ from unnamed ‘military planners’ about unilaterally sending ground troops back to Iraq to help combat Isil. (In some versions he was even contemplating an ‘invasion’ of Iraq.) Andrew Bolt in one of his newspaper columns contemptuously dismissed these reports as ‘bullshit’. To be fair, no doubt all sorts of possibilities, likely and unlikely, may be canvassed when the Middle East is under discussion. But I am with Bolt on this one.

Do you have to be a scientist to be taken seriously in the Climate Wars? In his chapter in the IPA’s book Climate Change. The Facts 2014, James Delingpole writes that whenever someone wants to show beyond a shadow of doubt that ‘an evil, climate-change-denying, kitten-strangling, Big-Oil-funded ignoramus’ like him can have nothing useful to say about climate warming, the question usually asked is: what are his scientific qualifications? Delingpole may have dissected a frog at school, but his university education at Oxford was in English Language and Literature. Does that disqualify him for a role in the Climate Wars? He says it does not. People with a good literature degree may in some ways be ‘better qualified to contribute to the climate change debate than the average scientist.’ He gives two reasons for this. One is that over the past 30 years or so the science on climate has become ‘so systematically corrupted’ that the supposed experts propounding are no longer to be trusted. The other is that the debate has far more to do with ‘ideology, rhetoric and propaganda’ than with the extent to which man-made CO2 emissions may or may not be altering global mean temperatures by fractions of a degree. A rigorous English degree (still obtainable in some universities) may be a better preparation for coping with intellectual corruption and propaganda that immersion in a current scientific ideology. As English literature scholars and historians well know, science is moving on just like it did with humours, phlogiston and eugenics and all those other theories that were in due course superseded as surely as will be the ‘thoroughly discredited theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.’ Delingpole ends his chapter on humanism versus scientism by thanking God for know-nothing Eng. Lit. graduates and their pesky insistence on doing a bit of background and historical reading. Delingpole may not convince everyone but his chapter ‘Experts as Ideologues’ is worth looking up. Climate Change. The Facts 2014 is the best-selling of any book the IPA has put out. It sold 1300 copies in the first month, despite receiving no reviews or publicity of any kind in the media beyond a Green Senator’s witty announcement that he had found a use for it in his bathroom.


For years now Paul Delprat painter and teacher has been searching around for a writer. He is the principal of the Julian Ashton Art School which his great-grandfather founded in 1890. It is the oldest continuously operating art school in Australia. (Delprat thinks Van Diemen’s Land’s Mechanics Institute, founded in 1827, was Australia’s first art school but it did not last long.) It is time that the history of the School and its students from George Lambert and Thea Proctor on, was written up by a suitable scholar. (At one time he even had his eye on me but wisely thought better of it.) Now he has decided to write the book himself. No one could be better qualified for the job. He has been running the School since 1988 and grew up with so many of its famous graduates and associates Lloyd Rees, William Dobell and John Passmore, Joshua Smith, John Olsen, Brett Whiteley… He knew or knows everybody – from Hans Heysen and Norman Lindsay to Bill Leak. (He even met the great Julian Ashton himself, he says, although he was a babe in arms at the time.) Taking as his guide Ernest Gombrich’s aphorism: ‘There is no such thing as art. There are only artists’, his history of Australian artists will bristle with revelatory stories, confessions and impressions. He will also draw on the School’s collection of paintings, drawings and photographs. ‘Here is a photograph of George Lambert demonstrating to students in the 1920s alongside a portrait of Julian by Harold Cazneaux. Here are the scholarship nudes and hand studies by William Dobell and demonstration drawings by John Olsen.’ The school still possesses the casts, easels and appointments in use in the days of Syd Long, Elioth Gruner and J.J. Hilder. (The National Trust has ‘classified’ them.) For the scoffers they may symbolise the School’s ‘stuffy conservatism’ and its dismissal of what Julian Ashton called ‘twentieth century art madness’, but Delprat makes no apologies: ‘It is the philosophy of the School to encourage fine draughtmanship and excellence in the craft of painting.’ The book is well advanced. In due course the poet Geoffrey Lehmann will edit it.

‘It has to mean something,’ the Prime Minister said in his national security speech. He was referring to the pledge of allegiance at citizenship ceremonies. ‘I pledge my commitment to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.’ I do not believe I have heard a more convinced declaration of it than the one Tony Abbott delivered.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
Close