Diary Australia


11 June 2016

8:00 AM

11 June 2016

8:00 AM

Around the world in 280 hours for work. Jules Verne would have been proud of me. In Britain, I arrived to find a pitched political battle over Brexit. One side wanted to have a referendum to decide the issue, with each voter counting the same as all others and the decision depending upon who convinced the most voters. The other side would prefer to forego the referendum and instead resolve the whole question by means of a conscience vote of the Parliament’s MPs. They trotted out all the usual bumpf about representative democracy and Edmund Burke’s letter to the electors of Bristol (omitting the fact that Burke went on to lose his seat shortly thereafter). They intoned ‘isn’t that why we elect MPs, to decide these matters for us’, even though no party had campaigned on the issue at the last election. They disparaged the divisiveness of any referendum because, well, you know, regular people might have a view different to that of the elite. Okay, okay, that’s not how they’re deciding Brexit. But it should sound a tad familiar to Australians who don’t trust their fellow citizens to decide who can marry.

But back to Brexit. I’m a solid ‘get out’ man myself. And it was wonderful to hear Daniel Hannan and Boris Johnson make the case for ‘Leave’. What was particularly striking was to notice that all the ‘Remain’ team did was to throw around scare stories about how the economy would shrink. They had no answer at all to complaints about the deep-seated inroads into democratic decision-making that the European Union has made in Britain, and other countries. I suspect many of those in favour of ‘Remain’ don’t care, indeed see such an enervation of democracy as a plus, not a minus. Of course those same people seem not to have noticed that if you ignore voters long enough they will vote for parties that give the EU the old middle finger, witness not just Madame Le Pen but also the recent Austrian election. Even in straight out economic terms it beggars belief for an Australian or New Zealander to hear suggested that Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, cannot cope without the comforting embrace of the EU’s single market. A freed Britain would still be a WTO member and the MFN principle would still apply, not to mention that Britain is a net importer from France and Germany so that any retaliation for voting to ‘Leave’ would hurt those countries a good deal more than Britain.But put all those highly speculative economic arguments aside. Would you pay $5 a week to live in a country where your elected Parliament actually got to make its own decisions? Or would $5 a week be enough to reconcile you to the democracy emasculating EU, a club for democracies that runs itself in a way that makes Hong Kong look free and democratic in comparison? Personally, I’d pay a lot more than that to get out.

I was also in Edinburgh and Galway, Ireland. The former I know well, and love. Walking around its old city and Royal Mile is a pleasure not to be missed. Be sure to rub David Hume’s brass toe for good luck and hoped-for wisdom, or maybe because you are a closet admirer of Sarah Ferguson. Galway was charming, a smallish seaside town on the west coast with dozens of spectacular-looking pubs and very friendly people. I left three or four hours early so that I could avoid the big highway back to Dublin’s airport and just take small secondary roads. It reminded me of driving through Cornwall, with narrow roads and stone walls. Not sure where I was exactly, I stopped for a lovely lunch at a country pub. When I asked her where I was, the proprietress – take that gender specific language David Morrison, you politically correct, fat-headed moron, manifestly (oops!) unsuited (does that count too?) to your new role – told me I had just passed into Tiperrary. ‘So it’s not a long way’, I replied.

Three days in San Diego with a long layover in Hawaii. San Diego is one of the hidden gems in America. Go there if you’ve never been before. The climate is perfect; there is a world’s best zoo and wonderful golf courses. It is also home to a huge US Navy port. Take the harbour tour and see the many spectacular ships from massive aircraft carriers to stealth cruisers to nuclear subs and on and on that do more to give the world freedom and more rights than all the United Nations various human rights committees put together times one hundred. And here’s a little known fact. Which is the only US city to have a mayor who is a Republican rather than a Democrat? Yep, San Diego.As for Honolulu, I had half a day to kill so I took a cab into Waikiki and decided I would walk up Diamond Head. My wife and I love Hawaii; it’s Polynesia with American amenities. But neither of us has ever walked up this old volcano with the panoramic views it provides at its top. So I figured ‘just do it’. And I did. It was terrific. And let me let you in on a secret. There is no better way to feel supremely fit and something of a lesser athletic God than to start up the path and within minutes be passing all sorts of considerably overweight people pulled over gasping for breath still within sight of the starting line. If you power all the way up without slowing anywhere you can do it in 25 minutes. If you are really fat and out of shape, give yourself a couple of hours.

And now I’m back in Australia, and the interminable election campaign where, for those of us with small government, national sovereignty, low debt, right-of-centre inclinations, the choice is between diarrhea and dysentery. Whoever wins, the result will not be pretty.

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