The great reform summit has just ended and, as I predicted, was a complete waste of time. There were a couple of standard features of all reform summits, which was reassuring, as it lessened the danger of stumbling into anything original or sensible. The organisers made sure there were no normal delegates; so far as I could tell, there was no-one who had ever had a job, as distinct from being the paid mouthpiece of some industry or do-gooder organisation. The communiqué was settled (or ‘pre-agreed’ as Craig Emerson, one of the convenors, disarmingly put it) before the conference started, to make sure no-one could slip in any bright ideas that had come up. The communiqué was then sent around and everyone scrutinized it to make sure it did not commit them to anything. It didn’t. Rather, young Craig again, as the delegates had ‘Stockholm syndrome’, they went about ‘finding forms of words that at least partially insulated them from media attacks.’ Golly! Why do we give such nonsense the time of day?
You have to hand it to the ARM’s endless capacity for inventing new ways to ensure its proposals for a republic are defeated. This time new president Peter FitzSimons has outlined three ingredients. First, there is the curious notion of keeping the Governor-General, an odd feature for a republic; no doubt they will put him in a plumed hat to create some authenticity. Then there will be a plebiscite to ask the general question of whether to do away with the constitutional monarchy. If Australians have an ounce of common sense they will say: ‘well, perhaps, but it depends on what you would put in its place; I might say yes, I might say no.’ Then we hit pay dirt, the real proposal: a two thirds majority of the Federal parliament will decide the head of state. But wait. The proposal is that ‘perhaps’ we will do it that way; ‘perhaps’ we won’t. But assuming that perhaps we will, can you imagine the process of trying to corral a two thirds majority on so fundamental a proposal, or even a majority at all? Can you imagine the horse trading that will, perhaps, be necessary? The Senate can only get worse unless proportional representation is abolished and, until then, the final say on our head of state would depend on which left winger can muster enough votes from the world’s most dysfunctional collection of misfits, malcontents and eccentrics. And the people will have no say in this process. The monarchy is stable, permanent, practical; why throw it away?
I have always had a soft spot for the Hungarians since their water polo team clashed with the Russians at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. The Russians had just sent their tanks into Hungary and violently repressed the uprising, leaving many dead, thousands injured and the meagre flames of liberty flickering, but only just. In Melbourne, we were preparing for the Olympics, the highlight of which, for many, was the water polo heat between Hungary and Russia and, as they clashed, the blood flowed freely. The most vivid memory was the photo of the Hungarian Irvin Zador with blood streaming down his face after a despicable blow from a Russian. But the Hungarians won their heat and the final. Our sympathies were entirely with the Hungarians and that affection has lingered on. Hungary stood up to Russia because it was being invaded and it was that resolution that eventually won the day. These days, Hungary, like other European countries, is under another invasion, this time from waves of refugees, some of them no doubt genuine and others clearly not. But unlike most, Hungary is putting up a fight to control its borders and has erected a fence to stop the siege and get some order and discipline into who is allowed into their country and the circumstances under which they are allowed in. The Hungarians have every right to do so and we should support them. Needless to say, the impracticable do-gooders and the professional asylum seeker industry are denigrating Hungary for this quite reasonable act of self defence. But it is worse than that. The reactions of most European countries and the EU itself are now so irrational that I doubt whether they are motivated by a desire to help refugees or whether, more likely, they are happy to allow the africanisation and islamicisation of Europe to roll on unabated. For them, it seems, the more refugees the better. Turning the Italian navy into a water taxi and actively looking for more boats, simply tempts refugees to waste their money on people smugglers and risking their own lives; allowing open access, perpetually harping on the need to take more refugees and setting up ramshackle schemes to absorb them, only generates more refugees and tempts more of them to their death. Europe only need look at Australia to see that the old policy of holding out temptations to potential refugees generates more of them, but putting up barriers and preventing hazardous journeys stops them and diverts them into legitimate and safer avenues of refuge. The Hungarian fence will not solve the whole European problem, but is a vital first step. Europe should do more; if it wants to provide safe harbour for refugees and prevent mounting social disharmony within its own borders, it has to stop its open doors policy and take up a physical presence off the coast of Libya and Turkey to make it plain that this illicit trade in humans is now going to stop and that boats will be turned back. It worked for Australia; it will work in the Mediterranean.
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