Democracy Subverted, Betrayed (2001)

THERE are two things that need to be plainly said concerning the Federal Government’s treatment of the ABC.

The first is that the Prime Minister, John Howard, would abolish the ABC tomorrow if he thought he could get away with it.  Let’s not pussyfoot around. The Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, was asked last year when the  Government would stop destroying the ABC. He replied that it hadn’t started.

The Government objects to a lot of the news and views that are aired on the ABC. Of course it objects, because the  ABC’s general reporting and informed commentary make the Government look bad, and deservedly so.

The previous, Labor, Government was hardly any more tolerant, for the same selfish reason. These people running our  government just don’t believe in democracy and an informed electorate.

Howard knows that he can’t just abolish the ABC without suffering an unacceptable backlash from voters. So instead the  ABC is being turned into a commercial network. ABC managing director Jonathan Shier is the hatchet man. The discipline  of the marketplace will soon pull the ABC into line. Then Howard won’t have to put up with independent minds with  independent voices pointing out the biggest rort of all, which is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia selling  out to the big end of town.

This brings us to the second thing that needs to be said plainly. The Australian Parliament has been captured by  ideological extremists. So have many other key Australian institutions.

There’s a lot of talk about the ABC having been captured by its staff, which is asserted to be leftist and biased. It’s not the  ABC that’s biased. It’s the Parliament, the Government and the commercial media that are biased. They have been  captured by an unholy alliance of secular fanaticism and greed.

The ideology that rules Australia now is variously called economic rationalism, neoliberalism or neoclassical economics. It  is an intellectually bankrupt belief system. Its founding assumptions are grossly violated in the real world.

It is therefore not surprising that its central prediction, of an optimal general equilibrium, bears no resemblance whatever  to the global chaos of ever-more-gargantuan centralised corporate command economies that bestride the present world.  It uses clever mathematics to hide its empty core, but it is pseudo-science.

Real scientists test their theories against observations of the real world, to see if they bear any useful resemblance. That  hasn’t been done seriously for over a century in neoclassical economics, for the very good reason that you quickly find  that the theory has nothing useful to say about the real world.

As a scientist, I’ve seen some shonky theories in my day, but nothing I’ve ever seen in real science comes close to the  shonkiness of neoclassical economics. Neoliberal adherents are true believers. They have the truth and they will brook no  other view. To question their policies is to be accused of selfishly condemning the poor to continued poverty, because that  is what their baseless little theory tells them.

The truth is the opposite. The truth is that there are poor people because we allow the super-rich to twist the rules so that  most of the wealth flows to themselves. (This is not an argument against markets, it’s an argument for fairly managed  markets.)

Neoliberalism has survived for a century or more, and lately come to dominate the world, because fat cats love its  message. The message is, whatever you do in the marketplace is great, because our antiquated little theory says that  free markets always make the world better off, so go for your lives. Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch and friends say thank  you very much, and go for their lives.

One result is the Australian commercial media, the stamping ground of those wise and unbiased commentators Alan Jones  and John Laws. Talk about staff capturing the company.

The station was so afraid of their egos and so grateful for the money they brought in that it was afraid to ask them  exactly how much money they were pulling for themselves, with their unsavoury fare of commercial advertising  masquerading as independent commentary.

What did Laws, Jones and 2UE suffer for what, by any standard of liberal democracy, should be regarded as a gross  abuse of the high privilege of a broadcasting licence? A rap over the knuckles. Why? Because the Government and the  Opposition have sold out to big money, and especially to Australia’s media duopolists.

Howard had the gall to say that he’d be more sympathetic to the ABC if it balanced the views of Phillip Adams with  someone on the other side of the spectrum. It’s not enough for Howard to have a non-stop daily barrage of self-serving  manipulation and propaganda from the entire multi-billion-dollar Australian commercial media industry, he has to have  the poor, lonely, late-night voice of Phillip Adams snuffed out.

The great sin of Phillip Adams, the ABC, the universities, the CSIRO and so on, is that they have a brain in their heads,  they keep themselves informed, they often see through the thin haze of media opiate drip-fed to the people, and they  speak up. Look! The Emperor has no clothes.

Australia, we are piously told, is a liberal democracy and a free country. Well it’s not. Australia is a manipulated,  subverted, betrayed democracy. The perpetrators of these outrages are traitors. That includes most Members of  Parliament, who every day betray the trust of their positions by serving fat cats and heeding extremists instead of  guarding the interests of the people who elected them.

That is why the people regard them with contempt. Pauline Hanson is there to claim their protest vote.

The Howard Government is mean-spirited and intolerant, and it has set Australia on the path that leads to fascism. By  suppressing dissent, by tramp-

ling on the interests of small farmers and small business, by treating domestic unfortunates as cheats, and by treating  foreign unfortunates as criminals it takes the first big steps to tyranny.

It also makes a gift to the Hansonites, whose professional hatred would take us much further down that path.

This is an election year. If the Commonwealth of Australia were a proper democracy, there would be an Opposition willing  to call the Government on its pathetic and disgraceful sell-out and betrayal, and offering to restore and preserve the  institutions of liberal democracy. Can we hope for even a pale semblance of such an Opposition?

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