Brown Study

Brown study

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

If you would like to save $50, the fastest way of doing so is by not buying Bob Woodward’s biography of Donald Trump, Fear. It is a waste of money. You know what is in it already, a collection of smears and abuse of the President; it is so bad that it will probably win Trump another million votes. Most of it is based on unsourced gossip and conversations between people who are left unnamed or, when they are named, one of them must have spilled the beans although both deny it. Odder still, it is full of ludicrous statements like ‘Mike Pompei said to himself…’ or ‘Mike Pence thought…’. And it is a badly produced book; in its rush to get the abuse out as fast as possible, there is no sequence to events and a dozen different issues crowd in on each other in the same chapter so you do not know who is coming or going. But it has one great asset, clearly not intended. Woodward describes a series of alleged events where Trump lambasts his office staff and officials. This is supposed to show he is rude, crude and a bully. It had the opposite effect on me. Assuming these events are true, they show he is direct, awake to attempts to frustrate his orders, quick to stop obfuscation and waffle and, above all, resolute in his determination to get a clear, simple, message or plan of action up and implemented instead of suffering from the glacial and mind-numbing procrastination of inquiries and reviews that infect the process of government. When he orders a document to be on his desk for signature tomorrow, he means exactly that and woe betide anyone who blocks his path. To give an Australian example, after the shambolic performance of the ABC board, minister Fifield ordered yet another enquiry to meander its leisurely way through the corridors of power for the next six months; Trump would have had their resignations on his desk the next day — or their heads.

Again, look at Australia’s response to the flagrant breach of international law by China in the South China Sea. We know that China is in breach of the law by blithely announcing: ‘That sea over there; that’s ours; keep out or else.’ We know China lost its claim in the international court. We know it is turning the islands into military bases. We know this is part of an aggressive plan to be the dominant power in the region and exclude our ally the US. We know that the US is resisting the Chinese push and conducting freedom of navigation exercises. What do we do and say about this? We say to China: ‘You should comply with international law and the rules-based system of international relationships and we are very serious about this.’ But when asked exactly what we will do about it, apart from our Clayton’s-type freedom of navigation exercises where you sail around the contested sea rather than through it, we say ‘Not much, actually. We would not want to escalate tensions or be provocative, would we?’ What a weak and cowardly response. In the first place, international law is what you say it is; strange that it never seems to be on our side. And it is a funny thing about these rules-based systems; they always seem to be rules we have to comply with but other countries, like China, can build bases in international waters and they get a leave pass. Where would we be if such a backboneless response had been the way we did things in the past? The Duke of Wellington meets Napoleon who has just invaded Belgium. I can just imagine Wellington saying: ‘You have gone too far this time, mon ami, with your flagrant breach of international law and the rules-based system of relations. We were going to teach you a sharp lesson and I had Waterloo in mind as a good place to do it. But on second thoughts, that might escalate tensions and be provocative; please do not do it again.’ Somehow, I think China might treat us with some real respect if we showed some backbone and asserted the rights we claim to have under international law.

Back to domestic politics and talking of backboneless governments, I object to changing the name of federal electorates to fit in with political correctness, which has happened in Victoria. We have just had the names of three notable Victorian seats obliterated to re-write history. McMillan has gone because he was a pioneer and explorer, and, as the electoral authority says, McMillan ‘is not an Aboriginal name’. Batman founded Melbourne and is deeply embedded in our history, so his name has been rubbed out and replaced by Cooper, an Aboriginal advocate. Melbourne Ports has been as much part of Melbourne’s history as football, and has long links with the Labor party from the days when it represented working people and we had factories; best forgotten. Dame Annie Macnamara, after whom Melbourne Ports will now be named, could well have been remembered in a new electorate. So, it is not only in the US that monuments are being destroyed, for, as you see, our own monuments are also under attack, whether they be national days, statues and symbols or, now, federal electorates and the proud history that they reflect. It also reminds me to suggest that we preserve Australia Day, the national anthem and all historic monuments by doing exactly what we did years ago to preserve the Australian flag, but which no-one seems to know; pass a law that none of them can be changed except by an Act to that effect that has been agreed by ‘a majority of all the electors voting’. Even if Labor and the Greens opposed it, that would be a rich reward. The only problem is the government might say it would escalate tensions and be provocative.

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