Brown Study

Brown study

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

Here is a rag bag collection of events and attitudes of the last twelve months. As we used to say in history lessons when I was a mere boy, some things are Good and some things are Bad. Or, as Arnold Toynbee put it, ‘history does not repeat itself; historians repeat one another.’

The biggest non-event of the year must be Christian Porter’s recent unveiling of the Morrison government’s industrial relations reforms. But, as usual, it turned out to be the IR reform that dare not speak its name. The ink was scarcely dry before the usual fear of even thinking about IR reform set in and Porter back-tracked with ‘Oh no, it’s not a real reform; just a nip here and a tuck there. Purely administrative. Best forgotten.’ The government is petrified of reforming IR for fear the ghost of WorkChoices will walk again. And most bizarrely of all, it refuses to say that workers will only get value for their labour when they can make direct contracts with the boss.

Speaking of the other Labor, the party is stranded somewhere between Scylla and Charybdis with the monster of the Greens threat on one side and its traditional working-class voters on the other. Its leading apparatchiks have taken to writing books about it, that being safer than showing your head above the parapets and committing to something. The educated money is on one of the two following options succeeding; the Taiwan option, where the party surrenders its traditional seats on the mainland to the odious Greens and retreats to an island enclave called ‘the outer suburbs’ where the true working class allegedly still live; and the Chris Bowen option, based on that great statesman’s unforgettable advice to the electorate at the 2019 election: ’Whatever you do, just don’t vote for us!’ The latter option seems the more likely to succeed.

As for the Liberal party, this surely must have been the year when, under the excuse of Covid-19, it abandoned restraint in government spending in favour of such extravagant spending that it will leave us in hock for the next generation or two, swamped the country with a mind-numbing battery of rules and regulations, put most of the workforce on the government payroll and took away self-reliance and making some sort of personal contribution as a pre-requisite for receiving government handouts. The party is almost unrecognisable to me.


At least we can look back with some satisfaction on defeating Covid-19 by self-discipline and sacrificing so much of what we have come to know as normal life. It would be a gigantic mistake to think that government action pulled us through. In fact, virtually all government interventions failed: allowing cruise ship passengers to disembark and wander off to spread their contagion, the monumental failure of the Victorian hotel quarantine regime, mis-directing  passengers who arrived by air and doing virtually nothing when it was obvious there was a lethal spreading of the disease in aged care facilities. The only success for government was in giving advice, and that succeeded only because the people themselves took charge and applied their own discipline and order.

Democracy succeeded in 2020. Many of our readers admired Donald Trump, and still do, for many of his decisions and the actions he took in so many areas during his presidency. I am one of them. But he talked his way out of the Oval Office by his incessant provocations and erraticism that eventually produced enough disenchanted voters to defeat him. I do not want to leave Donald Trump on a sour note, but he has done a lot of damage to what is generally understood, rightly or wrongly, as the conservative cause. So, the work ahead for conservatives here and in the US is to start again, an appropriate Christmas message of renewal.

Democracy also worked well, at least for me and at a more local level. I refer to the overwhelming vote that has just deposed the Victorian Bar Council. It is the classic example of how, if an elected body is consistently bad and shows it is not representing the interests of its electorate, people will rise up and throw them out. Scarcely a week went by over the last year or so without me receiving some profound announcement from the Bar to promote wellness, diversity, equality, non- judgementalism, peace and love and to abolish racism, discrimination and inequality. Eventually, we got tired of the moral posturing at our expense, while our real interests were being ignored, and we voted them out. With extreme prejudice.

A Bad thing was that Mungo MacCallum died. He was a great journalist of whom there are now too few. I used to read his articles assiduously, not because I agreed with him but because I did not. I knew I would be provoked, outraged and infuriated, but I would never be bored. What a contrast to today’s lot, many of whom are turgid, repetitive and, worst of all, so predictable. Mungo MacCallum was a larrikin and a ratbag and I loved him for it. If he is in heaven, God will toss him out pretty soon for arguing that He does not exist.

A Very Bad thing indeed this year was the hysterical campaign to prosecute soldiers in the Special Air Services regiment for alleged war crimes. If there were a plausible case against any soldiers, which I doubt, they should have been charged forthwith and an embargo put on gossip and rumour designed to paint them as guilty. As it is, the investigation has been stretched out over four years of smearing by the Age, the SMH and the ABC, with no denials or defence by the Army of its own and without even a request by the government that people should temper their comments. It followed the same pattern as the campaign to destroy Cardinal Pell; innuendo, gossip, smear, and of course, ABC Investigations.

But one thing remains safe, so far. Merry Christmas!

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