Socialist Stalwart Tony Benn Dies In London, Aged 88

ONE OF THE GENTLEMAN of the Left has died this evening, Melbourne time; Tony Benn — a stalwart of the hard Left of Britain’s Labour Party, and a rank socialist to boot — has passed on after a short illness, aged 88. In life, he drew respect from across the political spectrum for the forthright nature of his views; he was an opponent with whom conservatives differed vehemently, but was nonetheless well liked. Above all, he was a character.

Whilst I detested his politics and despised most of his world view, I have always — always — liked Tony Benn enormously.

Whilst I’m not going to write at great length upon his death this evening, I nonetheless wanted to at least say a few words to mark the passing of one of the real characters (and true gentlemen) of politics; Benn was never going to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but he does deserve credit for the influence his ideas exerted on Labour policy in Britain and, indirectly, across the world.

An ardent advocate for the abolition of the monarchy and republicanism in Britain for decades, Benn — who inherited a peerage when his father died — will perhaps be most instantly remembered for his anti-establishment and republican gestures, such as engineering two by-elections in two years in his seat in Parliament to enable him to renounce the peerage (this drawn-out adventure was necessary to ensure the procedures followed were legal), and later in the early 1990s with his “Commonwealth of Britain” bill which aimed to abolish the monarchy and transform Britain into a federal republic.

Benn’s lasting contributions on policy, however, were ones that failed to generate sensational headlines; a minister in the governments of Harold Wilson (both times) and Jim Callaghan, the reforms and ideas Benn pursued in areas such as industry policy, industrial relations, welfare reform and relations with Europe have proven durable, and still underpin to a great degree the platform of the Labour Party today.

Indeed — to put this into a local perspective — some of his views were eerily similar to those pursued by the Gillard government, with the caveat that at least Benn had some class about him even if his ideas, necessarily, did not.

And he was a vigorous and enthusiastic opponent of Margaret Thatcher for decades, although it goes without saying that Margaret clearly prevailed in their “battle of ideas.”

I have always liked Benn — despite his socialism, which is odious no matter the cloak it wears — because he could be funny, witty, and was an intensely interesting figure to listen to.

He also was able to articulate why he held the views he did, rather than simply marking out a position and deploying spin and/or abuse in its defence: a lesson some of his antipodean contemporaries would do well to emulate.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the tributes pouring in from political opponents in the UK — my people — are heartfelt in their sincerity that on a personal level, he will be greatly missed.

A couple of articles from the coverage beginning to appear in the British press can be viewed here and here.

Not everyone who disagrees with you in politics is, viscerally, an enemy, even if their pursuit of ideas that you find repugnant is ruthless and relentless: in other words, as readers will have heard me say on numerous occasions, politicians are people too, and that human factor comes first when the battle over ideas is done.

Certainly Benn exemplifies this. For those not familiar with either Benn or his work, over six decades, I strongly recommend doing your homework.

Tony Benn was a class act. I wish him rest in peace.

 

Difficult Issues And The Thin Edge Of The Wedge

I READ an article in the Weekend Australian today that I want to share with readers, and invite comments in answer to; there are a lot of hot-button, emotional issues at the forefront of public discourse and debate at present, and that debate is marked to a worrying degree by intellectual belligerence.

Gay marriage, abortion, and I’d add “man-made” climate change: issues never far from divisive (and often ugly) confrontation, with adherents and proponents resolutely welded to their respective positions, often with well-reasoned arguments to back their cases.

Yet there is a slow movement to outlaw the right of the individual to hold an opinion different to those who would set the agenda; typically this movement has come from the Left, and those who disagree with their positions are being worked into the insidious choice of either complying with the agenda of the Left, or facing the prospect of committing a criminal offence for thinking or saying anything in defiance of it.

I’m not speaking necessarily, mind, of the political Left, but rather the ideological Left; there is considerable confluence between the two, of course, but we’re talking here about the social engineers, the thought police, and everyone else who would dream of a nanny state inspired social Utopia.

This article from the Weekend Australian is food for thought, and I would love to know what readers think.

I think it’s disgraceful that people are being railroaded into a single-option choice when it comes to a position on delicate issues such as these; there is no easy answer to things like abortion, or gay marriage, or whether single women should have access to taxpayer-funded IVF, and what answers there are — on both sides — a generally not ideal in their entirety and raise other questions of their own.

I’m going to post another article here as well; I published it in this column quite some time ago, and I think it is instructive to read the two side by side.

It’s by American author, columnist and scholar Jeff Nyquist, and whilst he frames his piece in terms of the Cold War struggle between Communism and Democracy, it is interesting to spot the similarities in the two cases.

The striking thing about it for me is the case made by Nyquist is to some extent echoed in the article by the Murdoch columnist, but almost in a causal sense; when you think about it we don’t as a society really consider hard, tough questions of governance and world politics in the way we used to do, and the issues Nyquist identified are shaping a very different kind of society indeed.

Anyway, the purpose of tonight’s post is simply to share a couple of articles, dealing with thorny issues from very different perspectives, but asking the question: what sort of society, and world, do we want to live in?

Please feel free to share your opinions by way of comment; I’m curious to know what readers think, and I’m sure you will be keen to see what others are thinking as well.

 

Poisonous Ideas (reposted from JR Nyquist): Not Such A Poisonous Argument

Sometimes — when looking to encapsulate a foundation from which to mount an argument — it is necessary to look afield, and to share common thoughts; tonight’s post does precisely that, and Jeff Nyquist’s excellent article is one we will return to and discuss.

In ensuring I keep abreast with everything in the world I want to, I find that I read copious volumes of other people’s opinion pieces, essays and dissertations, in addition to following the raw flow of news, tonight I refer to a piece a read a couple of years ago by American author, columnist and scholar Jeff Nyquist.

To be clear, I certainly do not believe everything I read, and I disagree with Nyquist as often as I concur with him; even so, when he nails an issue he tends not to miss, and so it is with the piece I have linked to this evening.

Over the coming weeks, I intend to intersperse the comment pieces I have been publishing with other articles written from a more purely conservative philosophical bent; I do believe that all is not well in Western societies — Australia included — and whilst shrill generalisation is not the intention, it does seem that many of these problems emanate from the Left of the political spectrum and, indeed, could be characterised as the flows at the end of the tributaries of the “River Communism.”

With the strong caveat that I don’t agree with everything in this article (and to the extent that I do agree with some elements of it, that agreement is qualified), I would urge all of my readers to click the link and read the article I have reposted here.

And to think about it; to discuss it with family, friends and colleagues; indeed, share it: even if you disagree in the strongest terms with the substance of the Nyquist argument, forward the link to those around you with whom you discuss issues of substance, and see what they think.

And send me comments: there will be articles arising from the general ideas that are covered by Nyquist and — as always — all views, assenting, dissenting or otherwise — are encouraged and welcomed.

Please click the link below and read the attached article. I think the issues covered are important, and that it is high time to nudge social debate back onto a more meaningful footing. I look forward to hearing what people think.

And with that, over to J.R. Nyquist…

Poisonous Ideas | JR Nyquist | FINANCIAL SENSE.

 

The Wit, Wisdom And Socialist Dogma Of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan — Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, and pious little bubble of self-important rectitude — is stepping up his crusade against mining conglomerates, and against mining billionaires specifically. He should reflect: socialism is dead.

Swan’s set against the mining companies (and the likes of Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart in particular) boils down to a very simple premise: they’re filthy rich, so tax the living daylight out of them — in the name of “sharing the prosperity” of Australia’s minerals boom and resultant wealth.

In other words, Swan sees himself on an historic mission to be Robin Hood.

Little wonder Palmer described him yesterday as “an economic pygmy.”

Qualitative research already shows that Australians generally do not favour singling out the mining sector for excessive taxation treatment; indeed, it is the one sector of the Australian economy holding the rest of it out of recession at present.

I don’t propose to get into the tin-tack specifics of the brawl going on between “SwannyDPM” (as he vainly likes to be known on Twitter) and the miners, but I do want to make a few very salient points.

The first of these is on taxation; even billionaires, and their companies turning over tens of billions of dollars per annum, are subject to personal and corporate taxation regimes that ensure they pay a reasonable dividend to the federal treasury each year.

They are also subject to state-based mining royalty payments; this is the system Swan wants to use a “mining tax” as a sleight-of hand, smoke and mirror device to significantly increase the level of taxation revenue the mining sector remits.

It is true that these entities and these individuals seek to minimise their tax obligations each year, as they are legitimately entitled to do; just as anyone earning a salary who writes off expenses for motor vehicles, mobile phone usage or other work-related expenses can.

And if they do anything unlawful, the law will chase them — and chase them until they are either dead or prosecuted. Messrs Christopher Skase and Alan Bond respectively should provide ample reassurance to the general public that nobody is above the law.

Swan seems to imply that because of the sheer wealth of these companies and their proprietors, they should effectively serve as limitless cash cows to prop up the federal budget he has singlehandedly vandalised and trashed in four sorry years as Treasurer of Australia.

Yet I would note that a far more deserving target of Swan’s “Robin Hood” approach — the banking sector — escapes with no more than a few weasel words at a doorstop press grab designed to get him 10 seconds on the evening news bulletins.

It’s true that I have reluctantly called for the banks to be pulled into line as corporate citizens by way of a windfall tax on profits exceeding $2 billion per annum, per bank. But there are three very large differences between the banks and the mining companies.

One, each mining company was started and built as an entity by an entrepreneur (Forrest and Palmer; in Rinehart’s case, her father, the late Lang Hancock) — the banks are purely shareholder institutions driven solely by profit.

Two, the mining companies may make a lot of money, and so do their proprietors, but as they grow they both create jobs directly in increasing numbers, as well as fuelling indirect economic growth and activity in other industries.

By contrast — apart from their own workforces — the banks contribute very little back into the wider economy, and what they do (mortgage finance, general credit, advisory and brokerage services etc) simply returns residual profits and cashflow to their bottom lines.

And three, the activities of Australia’s banks (widening margins on finance lending, transaction fees, interchange fees, account keeping fees, administration fees, exit fees, in fact just about any fee imaginable) takes money out of the pockets of almost every Australian citizen to fuel obscene profits that return next to nothing constructive to the wider economy.

So let’s hear no more about the purported legitimacy of Swan’s crusade against the miners.

Ever the hypocrite, Swan whined in his speech to the National Press Club today that a small group of wealthy individuals was skewing the political debate in their own interests, and yet continued on to claim that unions also attempted to influence political outcomes, but they did so in the interests of everyday Australians.

Get me the sick bucket…you can’t have it both ways.

And to quote Swan from an article in today’s edition of The Australian newspaper:

“Can I just say I am really proud of our link with the trade union movement, and I don’t resile from that for one moment…they are working Australians who are bringing up families, going to work every day. And because they have joined a trade union they lobby collectively for their rights. Good on them. They are just doing what normal lobby groups do, or interest groups do, in our society.”

 So it’s OK for the unions to do it in the name of the less than 3 in 20 Australian working people who now belong to a union at all, but it’s bad when another “normal lobby group” — the mining sector — do the same thing.

What a hypocrite, but then that’s Wayne Swan all over.

And to frame this attack on the mining sector as part of a stated appeal to the blue-collar “support base” the ALP seeks to “reconnect” with is political naivety in the extreme.

For one thing, those blue-collar votes already lost to Labor (as it pursues the elites, the inner-city trendies, the minorities, and anyone who might vote Green) are going to be virtually impossible to win back; the so-called party of the workers — Labor — has already sold them down the river, and having found other quarters in which to invest their support are unlikely to return in any hurry.

And for another, that portion of Swan’s blue-collar “support base” that works for the miners — often enjoying better pay and conditions than anything a collective union agreement could deliver — will look first at their bosses, then at Swan, and back to their bosses.

These people know who will genuinely look after their interests, and those of their families — and it is not Wayne Swan.

I would make the observation that having mismanaged the Australian economy and its budget so horrifically in the space of less than five years that the country has gone from a zero debt position to owing some $190 billion to the rest of the world is evidence enough of Wayne Swan and his dubious claims to economic rigour.

And I would implore anyone with more than a cursory acceptance of what they read in a newspaper to question any claim the current government makes about having “saved” the economy from recession in 2008-09: the recession may not have eventuated (courtesy of mining receipts, primarily), but that heroic claim is being constantly and continually abused to mask the rocketing levels of public sector debt — where there was none previously.

Now, Swan wants to talk about miners paying “their fair share.”

I would argue that they already do so, and in so many more ways than directly through the taxation system. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of jobs depend directly on this sector, and indirectly, so do hundreds of thousands of others — and all of those employees also directly pay tax to the government.

And this brings me to my point.

These mining companies and their owners might be swimming in money, but they pay their dues and — more importantly — have created something.

It is unacceptable for anyone in this country to advocate that those who work hard, take risks, back their judgement and get it right — and make money in the process — should then be asked to pay an unreasonable and extortionate amount of that money to an inefficient and largely unaccountable federal government.

It is doubly unacceptable when that same unaccountable Labor government is pissing borrowed money up against unknown posts and leaving behind the greatest level of public sector debt in Australia’s history.

If Wayne Swan really wants to spruik his economic credentials he should go down to DEET Street, and find out who of the dole recipients, sickness and disability recipients, single mothers et al are able to work and are genuinely looking, and those who simply want to bludge.

Those genuinely unemployed and desperately seeking work; those truly sick and disabled; those single mothers whose youngest children are below school age; and other welfare cases where there is a real and genuine immediate need should retain their payments — and, indeed, have them increased.

The rest should be thrown off benefits. Welfare should not be for those who can’t be arsed, or those with an entitlement mentality, or for those who feel a bit off-colour and find the taxpayer to be a suitable solution to their remunerative requirements.

There is adequate work for those who wish to do so, and it might not be the sexiest or best-paid job in the short-term, but in most cases it will pay more than the welfare money the rest of us subsidise.

And in one go, Swan can knock $10 billion out of the federal budget’s outgoings, fix his deficit problem, effect a cultural shift towards work and self-reliance, and leave the wealth-creating, job-creating, prosperity-driving, TAX-PAYING mining sector alone.

One final point: Swan has had a gripe today also about the miners taking out full-page ads in major newspapers across the country to make their point.

I would simply observe that with the government media unit behind him, its obscene expenditure on advertising each year, and the incessant media attention he receives simply on account of being the Treasurer, Swan still retains the upper hand in the PR battle by a mile, if a handful of newspaper advertisements is what he’s complaining about.

The problem with Wayne Swan is that if he says something is thus, then thus it is.

The only catch is that very few people agree with him anyway…but if you’re Wayne Swan, you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.

Even if you’re a socialistic hypocrite who also happens to be wrong — which Wayne Swan is.

Oh, and an economic pygmy to boot.

The Problem With Watermelons

I’ve been following, for some time now, a move to strip the federal government of its right of veto over legislation passed by the Northern Territory and the ACT; the move has succeeded, and — what a shock! — Bob Brown and his Communist Party are right in the thick of it.

I’ve made an editorial decision here at The Red And The Blue; I’m not going to even pretend any further that the Greens are not Communists.

I’ll make it clear that Greens are Communists and that Communists are Greens, but beyond that, there will be no further charade in trying to be diplomatic about those facts.

And there is no reason whatsoever to be diplomatic about the so-called “Greens.”

The latest manifestation of the outrage of Communists running the federal government lies in the passage by the House of Representatives of a bill to end the federal government’s veto over “laws” passed in Australia’s territories.

The bill is certain to pass the Senate on account of Communist Party control of the balance of power.

What this means is that the territories — one of which passed euthanasia legislation some years ago, only to be vetoed by a Howard government minister — are now effectively free to do what they like.

The bill (which is certain to become “the act”) now stipulates that a vote of federal Parliament is required to disallow these “laws” passed by territory assemblies.

For the record, I actually support euthanasia in very tightly controlled circumstances, but the rest of what’s likely to stem from this legislative change I bitterly and vehemently oppose.

So-called “Gay Marriage” is in my view the most socially repugnant concept ever devised; marriage derives from biblical origins (irrespective of your Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith) and involves a man and a woman.

In some faiths it involves a man and several women; make your own judgements there.

But in no faith does it involve two men or two women.

In case anyone thinks I’m a bigot, I think homosexual people should have the right to do whatever they like in their lives — with the same rider that applies to those of us who are “straight” that it shouldn’t affect others — and I am very pleased that those people now have equal rights under law and are recognised as couples.

However, marriage is not something that is for them by its definition.

There are a lot of smart gay people floating around; perhaps they might look to create their own institution. I’m not talking of “civil union” per se; how unromantic of a gay or a straight to say to their partner that “I want to civil union you.”

There are too many, talented, creative and inventive gay people around to believe they can’t come up with something unique for their own community.

And if they really are so proud of their difference (as suggested by “Pride” festivals, Queer festivals, and any number of events their community conducts in the name of “gay culture”), the last thing they would, or should, or ought to want is that ancient old hetero status of being “married.”

But back to the point.

Bob Brown (openly homosexual, by the way) has seen to it that the territories will no longer be subject to ministerial veto from the federal government.

Here’s a few things to chew on.

1. The “veto” by federal Parliament he now says will replace a ministerial veto also incorporates Senate endorsement; for Senator Brown to have placed his cards on the table in this manner, it suggests he anticipates controlling the Senate for some years.

2. The Communists openly champion not only euthanasia, but gay marriage, legal heroin injecting rooms, and lots of other things that until now — with them firmly in control of the Senate by virtue of their hold over the balance of power in that Chamber, and by virtue of their firm hold of the Labor Party by it balls — that ordinarily would never get past a majority of the electorate.

3. Opposition frontbencher Michael Keegan moved amendments to the Communist bill on Tuesday that explicitly sought to preclude gay marriage from the litany of agenda items that might be introduced as a result of the bill’s passage; these were shot down by Communist MP Adam Bandt on the basis it wasn’t appropriate to pre-empt what laws the territories might pass.

4. Even now in 2011, the NT and the ACT are not states of Australia and constitutionally do not have the entitlements that other states have.

5. The passage by the Senate of the Communist bill leaves open the prospect of a High Court challenge on the consequent basis that the resulting Act of Parliament would be unconstitutional.

And for any readers who think this is about gay marriage, euthanasia and “shooting galleries” and nothing else — think again…there’s more to this, and it lies in the Communist Green platform.

It’s a little ironic that Menzies’ Communist Party Dissolution Act was invalidated by the High Court; 60 years later the Communists are back in a different guise, and using tactics that leave them wide open to another battle in the High Court.

And just as Menzies took his case to the country in a referendum — which was narrowly lost — should the Green/Communist policy ever go to referendum, it would also be lost.

Most folk don’t go in for the agenda of the Greens; it’s “trendy” until people look closely at it and think about it.

The final consideration of my comments directly concerns Communist Party leader Senator Bob Brown, who claims that the passage of the bill to strip the federal government of veto over the territorian assemblies is a “victory for democracy.”

Firstly, Senator Brown, by their constitutional status, there are certain things the territories are not democratically entitled to.

Secondly, if Senator Brown and his band of Communists are such champions for democracy, perhaps they can explain why they bent Julia Gillard’s government over and demanded it implement a carbon tax when both the Liberal Party and the ALP explicitly promised no such tax would be introduced.

82% of the electorate voted for parties making the clear promise that there would be no carbon tax, but Mr Democracy, Senator Brown, enforced the breach of the promise with a mere 11% of the electorate’s support at last year’s election, and now well over ten million Australians are baying for electoral blood as a result.

And third, the sheer hypocrisy of Dr Brown ought to serve warning to anyone thinking the Greens are just a harmless place to park a protest vote: there are all sorts of nasties lurking in their platform; I haven’t published a fiftieth of it here…yet.

These aren’t nice harmless people making nice harmless noises. These are left-wing lunatics with a Stalinist agenda that is slowly — so ever slowly — beginning to be rolled out.

The lesson is that Senator Brown — Green on the outside and bright red inside — can’t be trusted as far as you could throw him.

Unless you’re a Communist.

The same goes for the rest of his ilk, some carrying explicitly Communist credentials of their own, and at least one who was a propaganda writer for the last Soviet government.

A final point: what do State/territory rights, gay marriage, euthanasia and heroin injecting rooms have to do with the environment?

NOTHING.

Doesn’t it bother people that the so-called Greens are even dabbling in this stuff?

Defend them or not, as you choose; either way…what do you think?