Brown Study

Brown study

14 August 2021

9:00 AM

14 August 2021

9:00 AM

The Commonwealth government is at it again, doling out money for a fashionable cause and without any need being demonstrated, no means test and based on a highly dubious justification. It also marks another capitulation by the Commonwealth to the threat of a class action which shows an utterly irresponsible attitude by the Treasurer and Minister for Finance whose policy seems to be: ‘ask and ye shall receive’. But justification for spending the taxpayers’ money has long been abandoned by the profligate Liberal party in favour of giving into hysteria as a reason for wasting money. This time it is a $380 million bucket of money to settle a claim by the so-called stolen generations allegedly taken from their families in the ACT and the Northern Territory. It is not clear if the money will be paid to the individuals concerned or if this is another spiritual miasma that keeps hovering around until we satisfy it by administering the newly-discovered wonder drug for all social ills, money. And there is an extra lump for lucky recipients to be spent on secret ‘healing’. These days you can concoct any imaginary complaint you wish and the federal government will pay up, fork out inflated damages and costs without a trial or any evidence and never reveal the name of even one of the so-called victims who in my view were actually given a better, safer and more prosperous life by the opportunity to be brought up by a white family. This is a minority view, probably coloured by the fact that I know a white family who took in a teenage aboriginal girl and brought her up as their own. But they only stopped her from being murdered, raped or abandoned which is neither here nor there when it comes to a government trying to make itself popular by wasting money on token issues like the stolen generation, not one of whom apparently can be named. And this lavish waste of money does not even work: for instance, the Covid-19 programs have only seen the government’s standing in the polls collapse. Saddest of all, when the money is spent, there will be nothing left except more precedents that if you keep paying these unjustified claims for imaginary wrongs you will convince the indigenous Australians that they are better off remaining dependent on the taxpayer.

I am also surprised that the Commonwealth should so easily have agreed to settle the claim for wrongful dismissal brought against it by Christine Holgate, the ex-CEO of Australia Post. The case was settled so quickly that it suggests the government simply gave up without assessing its chances of winning or losing. This is a feature now of all government litigation where, instead of acting as a trustee of the peoples’ money, governments surrender and pay up, whereas they could have won and been vindicated and saved taxpayers a lot of money. Moreover, everyone now expects the government to give in, so they make ambit claims, knowing the government will probably pay the inflated claim. It is also a bad look for a government to be so belligerent from the beginning and then to capitulate; from now on, no one will take seriously anything alleged by the boy who cried ‘wolf’. Also, whenever the Commonwealth messes up a case, as it does regularly, how come we never get the names of the incompetent people who caused the Commonwealth’s loss? The prime case must be the public servants and ministers who stuffed up the robodebt escapade and left us with a bill for $112 million. The incompetence of the government and the ease with which they threw away the $112 million on robodebt, $380m on so-called stolen generations, and over a million on Holgate is scandalous. Is there a shred of reputation left in the Liberal party’s claim that it stands for small government and cautious government spending? I doubt it.

One of the best words in the political armoury is ‘hagiography’. It used to mean the biography of a saint who would be written up as unbelievably saintly, above reproach like Caesar’s Palace and perfect in every way. The genre is still alive and well today and encompasses all commentary on individuals that is so adulatory that no one could be as perfect as the sycophantic press paint them to be. (The explanation is usually that they are not). There was a hagiography in the Australian the other day by Troy Bramston, on Chris Bowen, who for some reason has written a book about six forgotten ALP luminaries who have one thing in common: no one has ever heard of them. It was a class one hagiography because Bowen emerges as a cross between Plato and Albert Einstein; we are told he is ‘one of Labor’s most cerebral MPs’ which, comparatively, is probably right; his research is ‘thorough’ and he apparently knows a lot of anecdotes. Actually, since the ALP turned its back on normal people and their interests, it is probably better for his party that he stays at home writing about dead white politicians. We are also told ‘it is a pity there are no photos’. I agree, and I have not even read the book. But this hagiography may be only a half-hag in that it omits that Bowen actually made one of the two most significant reforms to the democratic process of my lifetime: during the last election he urged voters not to vote for the ALP if they did not like its policies, a tactic that showed his remarkable skill in influencing voters. (The other great reform was when the Central African Republic declared in its last presidential election that the votes should be counted before they were cast, to determine the true intention of the electorate). Anyway, public figures do not need help from the press in telling us how perfect they are. So why not concentrate on what the press is supposed to be concerned with, criticism and not praise?

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