RECONDITA ARMONIASTRANGE HARMONIES OF CONTRAST
AXE THE GP TAX Is a five-dollar GP tax bad public policy?
> CULTURE/ PAGE 11
> POLITICS/ PAGE 7
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN HOWARD I regard it as a compliment if people said: “I can’t stand him but I do know what he believes in”...
> FEATURE/ PAGE 4
N.U.S. Conference a farce
Conservative leaders Bronwyn Bishop, Tony Abbott, John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull all survived Sydney University. How will you?
Welcome to Sydney University.
Having chosen the best university in Australia, you now realise that you must contend with the smell. A smell which emanates from outside Carslaw (the ugly building next to Eastern Avenue lecture theatre, which is the ugly building next to the Law Building). In particular, it emanates from a table - the socialist’s table.
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SUPRA THROWS AWAY $$$ ON WEBSITE Callum Forbes Juris Doctor, II A recent decision by the Postgraduate Students Representative Council (SU PR A) epitomises a culture facilitating the inefficient spending of
students’ money. Months after being tasked with coordinating a new website for the organisation, a motion was put forward in November of 2013 to accept a quote sourced by paid Councillors to spend $6,000 for the development
of a new website. This is despite other Councillors having gained support from a local IT company to develop and complete the website project on a pro-bono basis, costing SUPR A absolutely nothing. The logic of an organisation that already has a forecast budget deficit to spend money on items available for free demonstrates a complete lack of economic sense had by members of some
be representative.” Motions discussed at the conference included “ F o e t a l Pe r s on ho o d Laws”, “Opposing Zoe’s interstate Law”, “Opposing Abbott correspondence A ppoi nt i n g H i m s el f Women’s M i n i s t er ”, La Trobe University in “Queer Refugees”, “Tony December 2013 was the Abbott is Threatened by venue for yet another failed Homosexuality” and othNUS National Conference, ers which bore little to no with the realistic link event being “It is a disgrace that to student m a r red issues. student money is by violent still being wasted protests, “NUS also on an event which reported passed a continually fails to cl a i m s o f motion to benefit everyday assault and spend hunstudents” a severe dreds of lack of cot hou s a nd s operation between delegates of dollars of students from different factions. money on a blatantly partisan campaign that “It is a disgrace that student smears Tony Abbott and money is still being wasted Christopher Pyne.” on an event which continually fails to benefit every- UWA Delegate Rebecca day students” says Claire Lawrence says “This was Chandler, Australian Liberal my first time at an NUS Students’ Federation (ALSF conference and I was dis)Convenor and Tasmanian gusted to see the amount NUS President. of student money being poured into such a dys“The National Union of functional organisation. Students continues to cater Due to riots and general for career socialists rather lack of competence on than regular students, and the part of the conference that is a real shame for an organisers, policy debate organisation that claims to didn’t start until the
student organisations. Seeing money wasted is frustrating. Seeing your own money wasted can be infuriating. All students at the University of Sydney have reason to be at the very least frustrated with the waste and inefficiency demonstrated by the SUPRA. You’re funding it. A s st udents of the University of Sydney, we each give the members of
the SUPRA council $11.19 to spend on our behalf through our compulsory Student Services Amenities Fee (SSAF). This provides SUPRA with $1 million from our own pockets to spend as they desire. SUPRA is the postgraduate student organisation of the University and promises a broad and frankly fanciful
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second night of the fourday conference. When it did, it was clear that the views expressed on conference floor were wildly unrepresentative of the views of everyday people.” An organisation with a primary focus of funding violent rallies (in which they congratulated themselves for organising disgraceful violent protests in Melbourne in October) and lobbying in favour of a tax on students will inevitably fail to contribute to public debate and continue to prove itself a devastating waste of student funds.
NUS uses union fees for partisan campaigns
THERE WERE NEVER IN THE WORLD
TWO OPINIONS ALIKE
2 February 2014
ast year, Honi Soit proclaimed the death of objectivity. This ‘revelation’ was something of a damp squib for regular readers of Sydney University’s historic student newspaper. The editors assumed a superior level of selfawareness when taking it upon themselves to reveal that media outlets are driven by varying agendas. Confusingly, the same leftists who announce the ‘death of objectivity’ no doubt decry the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the ABC may – heaven forbid – pertain to some sort of bias. The
ABC has somehow assumed a monopoly on “truth” in their minds. Interestingly, the left play on the heartstrings of 90’s kids by lamenting the loss of the Bananas in Pyjamas. The infallible ABC were themselves responsible for putting B1 and B2 into the blender. They decided to cut the program in June of last year because overseas merchandise sales were disappointing. Those at GetUp! and other ALP/Union fronts are tempted to think that a media outlet which is an emanation of the Commonwealth must somehow be more correct. This is preposterous. Thankfully, unlike B1 and B2 not all Sydney University students are of the same mind. Most people pursue the truth, but we also understand that cognition is burdened by purpose and layers of interpretation. For this reason, there is no such thing as value-neutral language - especially in the media, where the central motivation has always been advocacy for one political cause or another (implicitly or otherwise). This does not mean
EST. 2014 the pursuit of truth is a sham altogether. Nor does it mean that there are a multiplicity of truths corresponding to everyone’s point-of view. Objectivity remains a moral and a spiritual ideal. Perhaps for this reason, it remains elusive (even to the ABC). It is imperative that more people contribute to the printed opinion available on campus. The more voices we have, the less chance of deluding ourselves into thinking that there is a monopoly on truth or acceptable opinion. At Sydney University we go through the process of electing editorial teams for Honi Soit. Despite being such an ostensibly democratic process, this election does not result in
Executive Editor: William Dawes Senior Managing editor: Grace O’Brien Managing Editors: Will & Grace Cover Illustration: Sirina Le Creative Director: Greg Nucifora Printing: www.mpd.com.au
a plurality of voices. Every year, the editorial team will proclaim that they have a zeal not for the propagation of their own opinions, but of every opinion. In reality, the views in Honi Soit range from the extreme left to the pitifully innocuous. As always, there are exceptions which prove the rule; but contributions from the centre-right of the political spectrum are almost invariably met with negative framing and mockery. The origin of the title Mon Droit is surprisingly proximate to that of Honi Soit. The latter’s title derives from the motto “honi soit qui mal y pense”, which appears on the Royal Coat of arms of the Australian Monarch. Underneath rests another phrase, “Dieu et Mon Droit” – loosely
translated as “God and my right do I defend”. We hope that Mon Droit (My Right) will come to be associated with a new freedom to express mainstream, conservative opinion on campus - unhindered. It’s up to people who don’t feel comfortable with the established paper to make their own. That’s what we’re doing through Mon Droit. We hope that our initiative can come to represent the axiomatic truth expressed by Montaigne, that “there were never in the world two opinions alike.”
William Dawes is a humourless right-winger, Editor of Mon Droit and Policy Vice-President, Sydney University Liberal Club
A Conservative’s Guide to Campus
ear not, the stench of appointment)) promoting publisocialism is dispersing as cation on campus. As you begin the latteyour tertiary edusippers, liberals, “The best advice we cation here, you useless lef ties, should note that can give you in exchattering classes ams is to write like lecturers at Sydney a nd t w it t e University are as a communist..” rati replace the biased as the ABC. shampoo adverse If you happen to Trotskyists. This metamorphosis agree with them then you probof the left makes them no less con- ably think they are balanced, just temptible. However it does mean like the ABC. This also means that you lose that up-turned nose that many are extremely left look, which some mistake for wing, just like the ABC. smugness, but which is actually a On that note, if you do believe natural reaction to the odour. that a lecturer’s bias is particularly Nonetheless, welcome to Sydney grating, let us know, so that we University, and welcome to the can name and quote them. Send only clean-shaven, soap (prefer- in quotes as I plan to produce ably Molton Brown (by royal a ‘best of’ list for every issue of
Mon Droit (mondroit.editor@ gmail.com). Do not worry the tip will be anonymous. STUDY The best advice we can give you in exams is to write like a communist. I am certainly not advocating tacit agreement in tutorials. Whilst challenging left wing indoctrination, you have the opportunity to assume the front line of the culture wars as a student. The ultimate Culture Warrior is of course the conservative arts student, in particular a conservative student who does Gender Studies and Political Economy, as yet a mythical
figure. But beware your mind may explode from the leftism if you do actually pursue that path, so we would advise against it. FOOD Having offered some advice on approaches to your studies - we should also give some thoughts on where to attain your daily victuals. Avoid the places off campus which can also be found on the NSW Food Authority’s register of penalty notices and there are a few. To avoid any accusations of vindictiveness, we will not reprint the list here. Special mentions: • The milkshakes are amazing at Mint Café, just next to the co-op • Pasta from Parma opposite SciTech is passable (also Panini and Pizza slices), • the food at Wentworth is better than that at Manning, but is a bit heavy. • Salad from USU Raw can include Quinoa, so you can
blend in with the aforementioned latte-sippers if you so wish. • Subway and Taste are like Subway and Taste respectively and evince the excellence of non-union, commercial enterprise on campus - God willing, we’ll have more of it! • Coffee on campus isn’t that great either but people rave about the Campos coffee on offer at Taste. Ralph’s is supposed to be good but is just too far away for Mon Droit. I’ve levelled a lot of criticisms at the USYD experience. Just to put things into perspective, look up, you could be at UTS. So, it is not all bad, just join the Liberal Club – the club which gave birth to the political careers of John Howard, Bronwyn Bishop, Tony Abbott,Malcolm Turnbull – and fight for your beliefs on campus. Yours Faithfully, Ignatius P. Wentworth
TOC - NEWS BRIEFLY
The Many Faces of the Right-Wing Grace O’Brien, BPES III
t’s early February, and just an hour outside of snow-drenched Boston I find myself listening to the nationally syndicated radio talk show, The Savage Nation, hosted by the infamous Dr Michael Savage.
HOLMELAND REPORT Holmeland
LOCATION: The University of Sydney Camperdown Campus TIME: 0900 hours SUBJECT The next USU president - Tara unlikely to end up ‘on top’... The race to become the next President of the USU is heating up, with Unity (Labor Right)’s man Robby Magyar the early front runner. Magyar has already begun lobbying for support. A source close to Magyar rated the ambitious board director’s chances at “better than 50%”, but added that “we are by no means overly confident”. Expected to provide the biggest challenge to a prospective Magyar presidency, is independent Tara Waniganayaka. The main obstacle to a prospective
Waniganayaka presidency, is fellow independent Tim Matthews - a director with wellknown presidential ambitions. Given that the independent faction doesn’t vote in a bloc, it is inevitable that one of the two would have to drop out if either were to pose a serious challenge to Magyar. One former board director opined that “it is likely neither can pose a credible threat to the common enemy because both want it so badly. Matthews will back himself, but realistically, he’ll have to pull out. Tara cannot win otherwise - it would split the vote”. Many see the current “swinging” - or crucial - voters, as being Kade Denton, Eve Radunz and Bebe D’Souza.
Vital to the presidential race, will be the composition of this year’s USU board. The USU election is in May, with the handful of successful candidates gaining a vote in the next presidential ballot. Mon Droit can report that several prospective candidates have been approached by Unity (Labor Right) with the promise of a strong preference deal. In exchange for votes, Unity are requesting a guaranteed vote for their candidate in the imminent election. However, a well known left-leaning Labor student remarked that “you can’t promise every candidate a preference deal. Unity have never been good with numbers though”. Mon Droit predicts an interesting pre-election fight between the vying factions.
Democracy in Asia Jennifer Zin BPES, II It was about three weeks ago that I found myself enjoying Capitalism in the centre of Bangkok’s busiest shopping districts. As an avid consumer with a keen interest in politics, it was difficult to choose whether I should fixate on the fervid cries for political stability that echoed from the ‘revolutionary’ masses on the piazza outside or continue shopping with a deep gratitude for the current exchange rate. Ultimately, and in a manner quite different to the current Thai Government, I failed to mute the cacophonic protests.
I expected to be doing on my trip abroad. However, it was difficult to ignore the multitude of defaced election posters that scattered the busy Asian streets. An unceremonious flashback to the election campaign of 2013, proved to be surprisingly inspiring. A number of my Young Liberal friends and myself devoted a lot of time last year campaigning for Hope, Opportunity and Reward. Whilst we were (happily) limited to the less militant, more conventional means of campaigning, in retrospect- we were involved in a sort of protest of our own.
Researching democracy and the footprints it has left in the South-East Asian political sphere was the last thing
Democracy accommodates these kinds of efforts. It’s hard to deny that Western forms of democracy have
pervaded certain niches in Eastern politics. But if we are considering a political landscape curved and characterized by an eclectic history of nepotism, monarchy and dictatorships, we should take note of why Post-colonial Democracy and its repercussions remain relevant today. Democracy remains relevant because Conservatism does. Values of collective identity, Nationalism and Tradition uphold pedigree in almost all of Asian history. Democracy has paralleled with the role of tradition in providing political legitimacy to Asian countries, amongst the growth of Modernity. Revisionist schools of thought will demonstrate how fundamental Conservative values are, in forging the nations we live amongst today.
To say that Savage is the most irate radio host I’ve ever listened to would be an understatement; one doesn’t have to be a supporter of ‘Destroy The Joint’ to have a visceral reaction to some of his outbursts. Though I will admit the man likely sounds zanier than he really his, the thought of him and myself being cast under the same political umbrella term – ‘right-wing’ – is a perplexing one. Umbrella terms are comprehensive and vague by nature, but it’s difficult to imagine what a ‘right-wing’ man like Savage might have in common with another right-wing man by the name of John Howard (see page 4). Likewise, it’s difficult to imagine Rick Santorum having anything in common with Malcolm Turnbull or David Cameron. It’s obvious that their political beliefs are as varied as their geography, yet I’d wager that no one would deny that these leaders are ‘right-wing’, themselves included. What does ‘right-wing’ mean then? Why do American conservatives seem at odds with their English and Australian counterparts? There are a number of answers to this question considering the fact that there are a number of ways to map the political spectrum. Straight-line continuums, quadrant models, and circular representations all demonstrate a different understanding of ‘right-wing’. Mapping politics falls victim to the same problems faced when mapping topography; the projection used to visualise the data will, in turn, distort it. So it isn’t surprising that gunsn-taxes Republicans are cast in the same net as straitlaced Tories. For the purpose of simplicity, Wikipedia has decided to describe right-wing politics as supporting forms of social hierarchy or inequality because of their supposed inevitability, naturalness or desirability. It goes on to point out that although the term originally and exclusively referred to traditional conservatives and reactionaries, ‘right-wing’ has also become the adjective of choice for neo-cons, nationalists, racial supremacists and religious fundamentalists. Ouch. Anything goes. Rather than asking what we precisely mean by right-wing, perhaps we should be asking how this meaning has diffused and how the term itself survives, having been spread so thin. Furthermore, should we accept this definitional expansion or should we strive to redefine and cleanse the term of its many…connotations? History, the advent of modern capitalism, classical liberalism, irrational Lockeanism, cult of constitution worship – all have something to do with the chasm between American and UK conservatives (a divide that exists modestly within the right-wing community in Australia, mind you). And yet, for all its quirks and inconsistencies, the right-wing umbrella remains in tact and unturned in the ideological thunderstorm. It unifies an otherwise extremely diverse group of people against a supposedly cohesive opposition; at the same time, of course, it gives said opposition an identifiable, delineated group to target. Should we be accepting of this? The expansion of the term right-wing is in many ways positive, specifically as it keeps us questioning our views and values. This, however, can breed factionalism - the canker sores of organised politics - which nobody is willing to acknowledge, let alone address. (It is worth noting that the ‘original’ right-wingers, the supporters of the Ancien Regime, were explicitly against the forming of factions). Whilst factionalism and diversity of opinion keeps us on our toes, it also puts people like myself - who (contrary to popular belief) doesn’t hate the poor, is mixed-race and follows a plant-based diet - in the same category as the Westboro Baptists. If we are to be successful and united in our opposition to ‘cultural Marxism’ and socialism, we need to rediscover what it means to be right-wing and either break ranks or put our differences aside. In any case, we need to be more sophisticated than ‘marriage, minorities & markets’, and we also need to accept that gathering at the pub to swoon over the British Royal family won’t do us any favours either. It’s time to get serious. Maybe someone should start a newspaper or something. Grace O’Brien is a creature of folklore known as the Conservative Political Economy student, and Publications Officer, Sydney University Liberal Club
4 February 2014
Editors Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
his tea, and continued thoughtfully. “The important thing to remember about the Liberal Party in Australia is that it is the custodian of both the classical Liberal tradition which owes so much to people like Edmund Burke and Mill, but it’s also… the custodian of the conservative tradition.” The Liberal Party of Australia has always exhibited this peculiar syncretism. Clearly, Mr Howard is very conscious of it “As a centre right party, that’s its tradition… It’s very important to remember that.” LEADERSHIP When it comes to stable leadership, the Howard years stand out as an exemplar. It did not help the Rudd, Gillard and Rudd II governments that the Howard years were fresh in the memory of voters, offering a clear juxtaposition to Labor’s chaos and division. However difficult this seemed to the Australian Labor Party, Mr Howard was able to point to a few simple principles with which to lead “a proper, orthodox Westminster Cabinet government.” “[When I was Prime Minister] nobody could ever say that policies were presented as fait accomplis; that was the key was an illustration of just how to it,” Howard told us. “If you that issue divided people. But if involve everybody who’s entiyou’re using a slide rule of ‘small tled to be involved in the decil’ Liberalism, well, people who sion-making process, including use those slide the party room, r ules would n’t then that act s “As a centre-right have put Menzies a s mor a l su aparty, that’s its on the ‘small l’ sion on members tradition… It’s very of Parl iament. liberal side on important to that issue.” They f ind it remember that.” Mr Howard idenmuch harder to tified elements of kick against the continuity between himself and traces… Menzies, pointing us to what “If you subject yourself to the “you might loosely call con- discipline of the collective, you servative social values”. “We both believed in preservHOWARD’S ing existing institutions, unless APPRAISALS they were demonstrated no longer to work for the benefit of mankind or the benefit of Australians. “We were both strong believers in working closely with our proven allies; we were both people who believed very strongly in free enterprise and where appropriate, t he curtailment of the role of the state; we both believed very much in individual liberty and the importance of the individual as opposed to the collective. Now they were general philosophical views that are common to Liberals.” Here, Mr Howard put down
A Candid Interview with the Honourable John Howard OM AC In an office overlooking Sydney Harbour, William Dawes & Natarsha Terreiro (Vice-President, UNSW Freedom Club) sat down for a candid hour-long interview with Australia’s most successful Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard OM AC. William Dawes, Arts/Law IV Waiting in the foyer of Mr Howard’s offices, we occupied ourselves by admiring a painting of a grand sailing ship. At this stage we were too nervous to walk across the room to determine if it might be the HMS Endeavor or one of the vessels from the First Fleet. Something told us that it could have been either one. As we sat there, Mr Howard’s voice emanated from another room. Hearing his voice –clear, strong yet slightly removed – was instantly reminiscent of our childhood. That was an era when Prime Minister Howard’s voice constituted much of the ambient noise in Australian households. As he ushered us into his office, Mr Howard was quick to dispel our initially deferential approach by kindly offering us tea. He insisted that we needn’t be anxious, and the interview
soon became rela xed and conversational. Perhaps predictably, we began by discussing the effect of inspirational party leaders. Whilst many readers might identify as members of ‘the Howard Generation’, Howard himself belongs to a generation inspired by Sir Robert Menzies. Currently working on a book on Menzies, Mr Howard is clearly interested in looking to our past to identify what makes the right side of politics tick. Mr Howard was adamant that any characterisation of Menzies as a “small l” liberal, and himself as a “large L” liberal, is absurd. “It’s a nonsensical attempt to divide the Liberal tradition,” he told us. “Words like ‘small l’ and ‘large L’ liberal were just not used during the Menzies period. To suggest that Menzies and I had different views on issues that might define people as ‘small’ or ‘large L’ liberals is also
nonsensical; he was a person of his age, as I was, and everybody is conditioned by the circumstances they face.” Th i s nece s s a r i ly va r iable approach to contemporary concerns goes to the heart of centre right forces such as the Liberal Party of Australia. Mr Howard’s practical approach was articulated by Menzies himself, who sought to ensure the malleable character of the Party from the beginning. In his memoirs, Menzies states that “there was to be nothing doctrinaire about our policies. If I were to become the leader of a great nonSocialist party, I must look at everything in a practical way.” As an illustration of the superficial and simplistic nature of such distinctions as ‘small l’ and ‘large L’, Mr Howard pointed to Menzies’ banning of the Communist Party. “[Menzies] was opposed in 1951 by people who today would be described as ‘small l’ liberals because they thought banning the Communist Party was a violation of liberal principle. “It was a divisive issue; my own parents probably for the first time in their lives voted differently on that referendum...it
FEATURE STORY will find you not only have affected by the Global Financial more authority but you have Crisis [as other countries] is the a lot more unity. That was the state of the economy that we key, in my opinion. I treated left behind plus our resource the Cabinet process and the trade with China.” Howard party room process with great said. He noted that Rudd wore respect, and they were the two Australia’s AAA credit rating as ingredients.” a badge of honour and a vinMr Howard detailed the pro- dication of his personal efforts. cess by which he engaged with “Yes, it came back when Peter Cabinet and the Parliament in Costello was Treasurer and I the decision to commit Australia was Prime Minister,” Howard to the Iraq War, as an example. quipped, “And it disappeared “The decision when Keating to go into Iraq, was Treasurer which is very conand Hawke “...the abolition of troversial and very the White Australia w a s P r i m e unpopu l a r, a nd Minister.” policy occurred very difficult...,was He also drew courtesyof the subject of at tention to Harold Holt, not detailed, extensive Rudd’s clai m Gough Whitlam.” discussion in the “ t h a t h e ’d National Security really created Com m it tee of the G20”. Mr Cabinet; And then when the Howard pointed out, bluntly, final decision was made in that “he’d done nothing of the March to commit our forces to kind.” armed combat, I took that to “Now it’s very, very important the full Cabinet. I didn’t expect to know what my government they were going to reverse it but did and defend the legacy of my I nonetheless went around the government, certainly in areas table and invited everybody to of economic management and have a say.” economic reform.” Mr Howard “Then we of course presented “left behind a pile of money in a resolution to Parliament. We the bank, which Mr Rudd busdidn’t have to because it was an ily set about spending.” executive decision to go war, but it acted as a respectful and Howard then delved further important symbol.” into Australia’s past to highOn a more general level, Mr light other incredibly positive Howard identified two princi- reforms which the Liberal Party ples which are essential for lead- can draw on as part of its legacy. ership in any context: a clear set He highlighted Menzies’ comof beliefs and a good ear. “The mitment to provide government most important thing about funding to Catholic schools. leadership is to give people a Mr Howard said that in many clear idea of what you believe ways, opposition to such fundin. If you don’t have beliefs then ing at the time “was a relic of you can’t succeed, in my judg- the old sectarianism between ment.” He smiled as he contin- Catholics and Protestants in ued, “I regard it as a compliment Australia”. Menzies’ decision if people said, “I can’t stand him was an important step towards but I do know what he believes ending this divide. Even in 2004 in.” an underlying distaste for inde“You’ve also got to have a pendent and Catholic schools capacity to listen. Politicians never succeed if they’re poor listeners…The great bulk of people who engage on a oneon-one basis with a Member of Parliament are really taking advantage of the opportunity to get something off their chest. And if they feel that the Member of Parliament has listened to them then they will feel that they’ve achieved what they’ve set out to do.” Mr Howard took another sip from his cup of tea as the conversation turned to the legacy of his government. The crucial elements of his Government’s legacy are, Howard says, “the balance that we struck between economic management and national security, and the balance we struck in foreign affairs between what I used to call our ‘history’ and our ‘geography’”. “The principal reason why Australia has not been as badly
was given voice when the Latham Opposition sought to impose a Hit List of 67 private schools. Howard explained the reasoning behind his defence of Catholic and independent schools in the face of the provocative policy. “I had an enormous respect for the way in which Catholics in Australia carried on their independent system for 100 years without any financial help.” Howard told us. “I don’t know how they did it, but they did. And I thought it was a matter of justice in the end that they should get government help. Now that argument has been settled, but there were still a lot of people around who carry resentment towards the independent schools.” “My fundamental principle is freedom of choice, and if people want their children educated in the environment of a school attached to a church or a religious faith, then they have a perfect right to exercise their choice and to expect some assistance from the taxpayer in doing it. When it comes to the abolishment of the White Australia Policy… “I keep reading in the paper that Whitlam did that; the abolition of the White Australia policy occurred courtesy of Harold Holt, not Gough Whitlam.” Howard’s unapologetic articulation of the LPA’s legacy was inspiring. It would be safe to say that since the 2013 election, Liberals have been experiencing an understandable morale high. Nonetheless, Howard’s directive to ‘know’ what he did, what Menzies did and what the Party has done, is an important weapon when combatting the false narratives constructed by the Left.
IMAGE PLACEHoward with SULC’s winning team at the 2013 John Howard Debating Cup
WELFARE RELIANCE Tim Jackson Arts, II
6 February 2014
Continue Feature MINIMAL GOVERNMENT We then asked how the Howard Generation should go about selling minimal government when the incentives to ‘spend big’ seem so enticing in the shortterm to a lot of people. Howard noted the dependency which develops as a consequence of government handouts. “A society that encourages people to achieve their best is more likely to be a happy, fulfilled society,” Howard said simply. “And the way in which you do that is to provide an incentive for people to do it. You actually leave it to the individual, and the natural instinct of people is to have a go at achieving what they think their talents will allow them to achieve.” Additionally, he pointed to the comparative performance of organisations such as the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Telstra, as support for the argument in favour of minimal government. Howard recalled his support for privatisation when it became a topic of debate in Australia in the 1980’s. Mr Howard chuckled knowingly and noted “the track record of governments trying to do things commercially is very bad.”
We were interested to know We then turned our attention what Mr Howard considered the to a concern which has always most important aspect of debate preoccupied Howard: the in the public sphere. The epoappreciation (or lack thereof) nym himself had some advice of Australian history, particufor anyone competing in the larly the formative years of the John Howard Debating Cup, as federation, in the education well as any form of debate, either curriculum. amongst likeminded, or with the “I think the current...history Left. curriculum is quite inadequate; “Winning the debate about defiIt’s not just... neglected British nition is very important. It’s one history and the Judeo-Christian of the first things I was taught tradition of this country that I’ve when I was at school. In a formal complained about publicly; but debate, the opening speaker for it also doesn’t sufficiently manthe affirmative is the governdate the study of the Federation ment; defines the debate, defines achievement. the topic. Unless that definition “The Federation achievement in is challenged… it influences the Australia was extraordinary. Our whole debate.” Federation doesn’t, on occa“Now I of ten sion... function think about this all that well, but “After all, why do when I hear pubit functions a lot people want lic arguments… better than other to come to I’ve listened to federations; better Australia? They the debate about than the American want to come to samesex marriage or Canadian or and the people in Australia because of Indian...we got a who we are, not favour of it, and lot of things right because of who I’m not in favour at the time of we ought to be.” of it, but the peoFederation, and it ple who are in was voted upon.” favour of it say, Mr Howard noted “Oh, it’s marriage equality.” that women had a better role Mr Howard paused, and conin our democracy at an earlier Allies sidered his approach. “It’s...got time than in virtually any other nothing to do with ‘marriage country in the world. Although equality’. Marriage equality is there is a lot to be proud of, I about how a husband and wife lamented to Mr Howard that many people are at best embarwithin a marriage treat each rassed or at worst, invariably other...To most people that’s apologetic for our history. Can marriage equality. But it’s a Australia really function and catch cry sort of argument. grow with that kind of attitude? It’s... really got nothing “No, no, it can’t, and so much of in my view to do with the doctrinaire multiculturalism discrimination…” practiced by the cultural dieti“My point is that... peocians has been to the effect that ple who are defending we should be a bit embarrassed the status quo on this about our white Anglo Celtic issue, if...they conpast. Now it had flaws and miscede that the debate is takes like any nation; we’re not about equality then it perfect. We didn’t show approgives the other side of priate sensitivity towards indigthe argument a powerful enous people for a long time…. weapon.” Attitudes on that have changed and that’s a good thing. But the idea that Australia’s history has been one of racism, white triumphalism and so forth is just mistaken.” Mr Howard summarised this view in a handy aphorism. “After all, why do people want to come to Australia? They want to come to Australia because of who we are, not because of who we ought to be.” A s k e d h ow we m i g h t best counter this lacklustre approach to Australian Histor y, Mr Howard was quick to respond. “You’ve got to get onto the backs of State governments. The biggest problem in education in Australia is not money;
the biggest problem is what is taught and how it’s taught. States write the curriculum, and I haven’t seen a lot of evidence to date that they’re very worked up about the curriculum even here in New South Wales.” The campaign for equal rights by minorities in the 20th century is lauded non sine causa, sed sine fine. This emphasis is now perpetuated in the National Curriculum. An important question, rarely considered, is why did white, Anglophone men already expect these rights? Freedom of association, religion and speech should never be taken for granted are not recent initiatives. Equality before the law is not a novel development.
3.9%, I’d like them to remember our gun control laws… a case of proper government intervention to protect people…I’d certainly like them to remember the major economic reforms, the difficult things like waterfront reform, taxation reform, privatisation. But I’d also like them to remember us as a government… that delivered a great human dividend out of our economic management.” We can see in this legacy a catalogue of reforms which could only be considered coherent under a Liberal government. What is amazing about the Liberal Party, is that it can have a past leader like Menzies who “was a strong believer in the old
IMAGE PLACEHoward with SULC President, Alex Dore
As long as we only start our education halfway through the story, we will be tempted to think that these fundamental Western rights and notions of equality were invented by activists in the 1960’s. CONCLUSION Mr Howard implored us to know what his government did and what we, as Liberals, stand for. Luckily for us, John Howard has always been clear, consistent and unambiguous as to what he considers the most important aspects of his legacy. Mr Howard noted that conversely it was very difficult to say “Kevin Rudd believes in the following five things…” Readers should consider themselves inheritors of a centre right tradition. Our greatest asset is the way in which our past leaders, particularly Howard, have clearly articulated their beliefs and vision. “I would like people to remember that when we finished as a government, Australia was a stronger, prouder, more prosperous country than what it had been when we started… I’d like them to remember the strength of the economy, I’d like them to remember that in the month after I left office unemployment dipped down to
industrial relations order” with “very close personal relations with Albert Monk who ran the ACTU” as well as leaders like John Howard who evidently had “a more radical approach to industrial relations”. For the same reason, we can now have a Liberal leader, in Tony Abbott, advocating a very generous paid parental leave scheme. This is possible, because as Howard said, we understand that every Liberal leader “is conditioned by the circumstances they face.” We should be proud of a legacy unique for its continuity. The same coherence is not there for people in the Australian Labor Party. Surely, they can be nothing but confused as to what their party stands for and what elements of its legacy they should perpetuate. The Australian Labor Party maintains watered-down socialist sentiments, confused by Keating’s economic rationalism in the 1990s and finally trivialised by its attempt at Obama esque, pseudo-presidential pretensions under Rudd. The Liberal Party of Australia, however, because it has never been ‘doctrinaire’ but rather always practical in its approach to contemporar y concerns, offers a clear direction for the Howard Generation.
POLITICS AXE THE GP TAX Sam Stone, Economics III A five-dollar GP tax is bad public policy; it will do little to reduce unnecessary trips to the doctor, but will harm those who need to see a General Practitioner the most. The GP tax is supposed to signal that medical care is not free. This means that the price should reduce demand. Well, this seems reasonable and sounds like solid economics, until you think about it. Five dollars is simply not a large enough amount to prevent someone from visiting the doctor. Generally, people will sacrifice a cup and a half of coffee, for a trip to the GP. Especially, if they are, in the examples of the worried mother taking their son with a runny nose to the GP, worried. The demand curve for medical treatment is inelastic; if you think your headache is a brain tumour, you are probably going to go the GP, you might even insist on getting a scan, to great personal expense. Do not, laugh, this happens. The other slight issue with this argument is that most trips to the doctor are genuine. AMA President Steve Hambleton described General Practice as the most efficient place in the Health system. Further, if you have a GP tax people may then substitute GP visits with emergency room trips, which would increase waiting times at already overcrowded emergency rooms, preventing those with actual emergencies from being diagnosed and treated quickly. This is problematic and frankly, dangerous. There is a particular demographic who do not go to the doctor as much and die more regularly the working class man. Men are underrepresented in trips to see the GP - eighty six percent of women compared to seventysix percent of men in 2012. Men tend not to go to the GP for a couple of reasons. The first is that men are more likely to work full-time. GP office hours tend to be during full-time working hours, which conflicts with the working day. Unfortunately, the Australian cultural phenomenon of ‘chucking a sickie’ does not extend to actually going to the doctor’s office. The Australian working man does not want to be ‘defeated’ by going to the doctor. This
has even more dramatic consequences on identification of mental health. Men tend to go to the doctor more for physical problems as opposed to mental health issues. This, despite having proportionally more mental health issues than women. This is symptomatic of the pervasive ‘man up’ culture. Going to the doctor can also be embarrassing; few men of a certain age enjoy speaking to doctors about their prostates; fewer still enjoy getting it checked, despite early detection being vital for prostate cancer. Those on low-incomes or even those on average incomes with a mortgage, who need to work every day of the week to get by as well as casuals or self-employed without the luxury of sick-leave paid for by the company, will be most affected by the GP tax. A GP tax makes this problem worse by providing an additional excuse to avoid seeing the doctor to a group that needs to see the doctor more. The GP tax is a tax on services, which will stop vital GP visits by many on a low income. This burden will, however, not stop Mary taking Abdul to the GP for his runny nose. The Abbott government would be well advised to axe the tax; it would suit Labor much better. Sam Stone is Chief Whip of the Sydney University Liberal Club
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AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, NEGATIVE RESULTS Jack Tasker, BPES II
8 February 2014
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Narratives and Nation-States Julian Chu, Arts There is no rulebook for founding a modern nation-state. It is difficult to convey this when there is a natural desire among the citizenry to be proud of their nation’s forebears. Something formative, something instructive, something that happened “in history” seems to be needed to hold onto. But there is no good reason to hold onto an action or an event that might have involved Australians in the past simply for the sake of needing an identity when we have the potential to advance this civil liberal democracy of ours even further. Rather, it is our great strength that we are still “young and free”. David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon is a novel that speaks to this quest for identity. It is nominally the story of Gemmy, an 1850s Briton who was tossed overboard as a boy, only to land in Australia and live for a decade or so with the locals, and his later contact with the British settlers. His contact with the settlers profoundly considers Australian identity, then and now, and the sometimes uneasy relationship this nation has with its past. The mid-19th century setting uses our history to optimistically point to our potential in the future; while recognising our struggles with identity Malouf presents us with opportunity. To conform to our conceptions of history and the medium of the “narrative” we need the written word, and it is this modern Australian pre-occupation with
the written word that Malouf draws attention to early on, and then comically humiliates. The town’s minister, Mr. Frazer, believes he understands Gemmy’s incoherent babbling – the deeply tanned, formerly white, technically still English Englishman has almost completely forgotten English. The book’s title is a reference to the one true language of the Tower of Babel, now lost, and the struggle to communicate without it. If Australian consciousness lacks a connection to a founding moment, can we communicate what it means to be Australian? The story Mr. Frazer dictates is mostly his guess work, and may be further confused by Mr. Abbot incorrectly transcribing it. Once this comical episode is over Gemmy seems to feel like he has given something of himself over in having his story written down – its accuracy and indeed existence is a very grave matter for him. So too does the history of our nation seem to occupy a great many minds from across the political spectrum. The question Malouf is posing is one of Australian identity. The histories of modern states like France and the United States of America alike begin with ideas, revolution, and enduring principles. They are valuable stories and are rightly celebrated. This was quite unlike the beginnings of the modern Australian nation-state, the location of which was to be the solution to the most base of material problems, and only then evolving at
the mercy of bureaucratic necessities. Some seem concerned that without such grandiose stories we have a lesser identity. But there is absolutely no reason to see such a history as a lesser inheritance, to be hidden in language and debate.
The other minor obsession of Australian literature seems to be that of landscape. Early Australian writing presents the landscape as the frontier, and as a harsh, unforgiving place. The landscape is paradoxically presented as both an object to be tamed and as an important character, if not a deadly one in Patrick White’s Nobel Prize winning work, Voss. Indeed, using 19th century German orienteering techniques to stum- Patrick White’s Nobel prize winning novel draws loosely on the historical experience of colonial ble through an early Australian personalities such as W.C. Wentworth and the explorer Ludwig Leichardt. landscape as conceived by Tom Roberts or John Olsen would when Jock McIvor, who has at word. Gemmy is on the verge surely prove fatal for anyone, let that point become something of two cultures – he is of neialone the hallucinating, teleki- of a guardian of Gemmy within ther on its own, he is somenesis-communicating Voss. It the settlement, finds an obscen- thing new. Indeed, with a lack is quite understandable that the ity written in feces on the side of definition between white and landscape would seem noth- of his out-house. What this black, Australia is presented as a ing but harsh and unforgiving shocking word is we are never chance to “get it right”. Rather to those who imported ideas of told – it could relate to Gemmy, than just an urban consumption it could relate to Jock, it of Aboriginal culture or a devoagriculture, astronomy, “there could relate to God. tion to a heritage now passed a nd weat her, a l l is absolutely I’ve already noted we need to live out our conceptotally useless in no reason Australia’s anxi- tion of Australia, which today this environment. Gemmy’s inabil- to see such a history ety with regard is a civil liberal democracy. as a lesser to constructing Remembering Babylon is a postity to commuinheritance, to be a liberating nar- colonial book – we are now on nicate and his hidden in language rative akin to that the verge of something greater. sudden, unbeand debate.” of other more bel- Home to the most ancient of lievable appearance licose and classically cultures, Australia is far from out of the ether make -inspired nations. But a blank canvas; but our most the settlers fearful of the de-evolution that has happened we should remember, in des- momentous of times may still lie to Gemmy – it could happen peration to write something – ahead of us. It is never too late to them too. Perhaps the most anything – we risk devaluing to write our own history. important scene in the book is our story as well as the written
The Morality of Economic Freedom Celeste Arenas, Arts II Much of Australian politics is tribal. Growing up in a Labor household, I had always understood that the Liberal Party serves the rich whilst trampling over the poor. It only took three months at a University soaked in socialism, taught by lecturers of a Marxist persuasion, to come to the following, shocking realisation. If you truly want to end poverty, you must vote Liberal. I had always been motivated by a sense of ‘social justice’. I
wanted to be part of a movement which empowered the helpless and created a better society for all. In my young mind, the means of improvement would be provided by a government. After all, how can we trust individuals to make decisions for themselves? Without a guiding hand, this could only lead to inequality, right? In the first few months of studying Political Economy however, I was one of the few in my class to develop a fondness
for capitalism. It turns out that using a wealthy person’s money to finance the poor made both sides considerably worse off. The statistics kept confirming my newfound ideas. The global poverty rate halved from 43% in 1990 to 21% in 2010 and the primary reason was not any mechanism of the UN, it was not an increase in foreign aid, or even state welfare; it was economic growth – made possible only by policies that encourage economic freedom.
I discovered that all the values I hold dearly; hard work, ambition and personal responsibility are embedded in the Liberal Party. The solution to end poverty seemed counter– intuitive. One must encourage capitalism if one hopes to lift people out of poverty. I joined the Liberal Party with the poor in mind. It was for them that I advocate Liberal economic policies. The worse off in our society do not suffer from a lack of money per se, but rather from a lack of employment options, cheaper goods and
services – all inevitable by-products of capitalism. A hand up is not only more benevolent, but far more effective than a hand out. The stark reality is that welfare makes poverty comfortable, but capitalism makes poverty history.
A Rolodex Of Radicals The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in a London street is symptomatic of a radicalism that is coming to Australia, writes Sam Stone. Sam Stone, Economics III “It is you versus many people, you are going to lose” Ingrid Loyau-Kennett said as she bravely confronted two radical Islamic knifeman. Shouting and covered in the blood of Lee Rigby, they had been hacking his body apart in broad daylight. A mother and scoutmaster, Mrs Loyau-Kennett had been on a bus when she saw them hovering over the body. In their bloodied hands, she saw a hack that was being used to slice through the flesh and instruments to cut through bone. She bravely stood between the killers and the lifeless body, refusing to move. The lifeless body, a young man, had returned from service overseas. He was not a massmurderer, not a terrorist, not a criminal. Drummer Lee Rigby was a son, a brother, a father and a serviceman. His last text to his mother, sent just hours before his death read “Good night Mam. You are my best friend. Love you loads.” The killers on the other hand, had attended radical rallies, and were inspired by hate preachers such as Anjem Choudary. We need to be more critical of these hate preachers. Anjem Choudary, the founder of organisations such as Islam4UK, Al-Muhajiroun, whose marches included chants of “British Soldiers Burn in hell” describing soldiers as “Baby Killers” and demanding “Hell for Heroes”. This radicalism is not unique to Britain. In fact, Australia is becoming increasingly radical. Last year, there were violent protests in Sydney, in response to a Youtube video. A young child was holding a sign that read “Behead all those who insult the Prophet”. This year we saw the ‘Peace Conference and Exhibition, it was organised by Waseen Razvi, who wants to bring Sharia Law to Australia. The proposed speaker list was a rolodex of radicals. Sheikh Za kir Naik, who suggested that ‘Every Muslim should be a terrorist’ and has claimed that 9/11 was conducted by President Bush. Sheikh Abu Ayman, based in Melbourne who has preached that he disputes any evil action linked to bin Laden. Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeen, who has described homosexuals as ‘animals that seek only their
IMAGE sexual satisfaction through their weird ways’, he has also called for them to be punished with death. These are radicals in the same mould of Anjem Choudary, and organisations such as Isalm4UK. These are bad people, espousing views antithetical to our way of life. The preacher who allegedly inspired the Boston Bombing, is Australian born and bred, Sheikh Feiz Mohammed. Not only did those responsible upload his videos, he is quoted as claiming that a rape victim has ‘no one to blame but herself’, that children should become ‘soldiers defending Islam’, that ‘there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid’, and it is no surprise that he described Jewish people as “pigs”. These views are abhorrent, and they do not have a place in Australian Society. Or any place, where religious freedoms, women’s rights, and the rule of law are respected. That’s why it was so surprising that former AttorneyGeneral, Mark Dreyfus would defend Feiz Mohammed, saying that “he is someone who is getting behind the countering extremism program that we have in many communities across Australia, it is about getting young men out on the sporting field, playing soccer, playing footy, playing rugby because that is where we want them not sitting on computer screen looking at videos about jihad.” If it were not for people like Mohammed, it remains to be seen whether we would even need this program. The comments are particularly odd, considering that Mohammed has not withdrawn his demand that critics of his brand of Islam be beheaded. The Attorney-General’s comments seem even more ridiculous, when Sheik al-Hilaly, who has described scantily clad women as ‘uncovered meat’, said of Sheik Feiz Mohammed “If religion had something like the Australian Medical Association, or a trade authority, they would
not allow him to be preaching, they wouldn’t give him a licence...I haven’t seen a change in him.” It is commendable that prominent Islamic Leaders are coming out and condemning extremism. If we are to defeat this extremism, we cannot be ‘tolerant’ we need to be intolerant of extremism. It would be better, however, if our Governments and media also condemned this extremism. News Limited, to its credit does, but Fairfax and the ABC, take a more ‘tolerant’ approach. It is enough to make your blood r un cold that af ter Dr um mer L ee R igby was hacked to death, the BBC News, Radio 4, BBC 1 Six O’clock news, ITV News, and Channel 4 News would give Anjem Choudary airtime to preach his hateful agenda. He said, “What he [one of the killers] said in the clip, I think not many Muslims can disagree with.” Choudary, if taken at face value, would have us believe that British foreign policy, rather than evil and hatred, was responsible for the attack. At the same time as he criticises the United Kingdom, it allows Choudary, and those like him, to draw generous benefits rather than work. As Australians, we have a lot to be proud of. But in this critical battle of ideas, we need to be more assertive of our values. We need to say no to vile preachers of hate. We need Islamic leaders such as Sheik al-Hilaly to continue to say no to extremists, and we need the media to say no as well. Islam is not necessarily violent and the vast majority of Muslims are not violent either. Most embrace and contribute to Australian values, and want to be a part of mainstream Australia; they should be celebrated and accepted. But, those who preach violence, terror, intolerance, and hate, must be rejected. It is vital that we ensure that this battle continues to be one versus many.
BOOK REVIEW Michael Davis, Arts II
‘HOW WE INVENTED FREEDOM’
10 February 2014
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The Cult of Tolerance
Ancient prose writer, Herodotus, was one of the earliest thinkers to exhibit cultural relativism with his comparison of funeral practices of Greeks and an indian tribe, the Callatiae. Histories 3.38.
This article was also published in an edited form in Yemaya: SULS journal of Gender & Sexuality. The author has agreed to re-print his original article for the benefit of Mon Droit’s readers. Calvin Chan We can start with some thought experiments. Suppose that you are an explorer and you come across a tribe of cannibals in the forest you are visiting. Should you respect the custom of the locals and let them go about their business or should you try to talk these people out of this barbaric practice and, if that fails, stop them by force? Should you, in other words, leave them alone or should you intervene? This is roughly a choice between adopting an interventionist and an isolationist policy. In this particular case, it seems that the only defensible course of action is to intervene. We should not leave them alone. Cannibalism is wrong, and we have a duty to prevent it if we can. But suppose now that, in pursuing this interventionist route, the cannibals complain that you are interfering with their way of life. It is arrogant, they say, for you to suppose that your Western, anti- cannibalist values are superior to their procannibalist values. By intervening, you fail to recognize their autonomy, and you impose your values onto others. Since such acts assume the superiority
of one’s own set of values, they are paternalistic and fail to show others respect. The above example is fictional, but it exaggerates a problem that is real in modern society. Although we are not explorers, we inhabit an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. We thus frequently come into contact with people whose values and shared practices are as foreign to us as those of the cannibal tribe. When such practices are harmless, there is no objection to simply letting people do what they wish. But when such practices are, by our lights, open to moral criticism, we are torn between the choice we face in the thought experiment. On the one hand we feel obliged to intervene to prevent what we perceive as atrocities. On the other, we want to respect other people’s way of life, and indeed we are sometimes reminded to mind our own business when we pursue interventionist policies. The first aim of this article is to point out that in these situations, we in the West are biased in favor of isolationist policies. Modern society, with its emphasis on the autonomy of individuals, tends to unthinkingly apply the same autonomy-first philosophy to groups as well. When the value of autonomy is placed on groups and not on individuals, the consequence is that we sacrifice important moral values for the sake of showing
woman in an abusive relationship, whose request for a speedy divorce was rejected by the judge on the grounds that - and this is quote from the judge: “in [her] cultural background [...] it is not unusual that the husband uses physical punishment against the wife”.1 The intention of this judge is no doubt wellmeaning - trying as she was to respect cultural differences, but the ruling is morally horrific. In a confused affirmation of cultural tolerance, the judge sided with a physically abusive spouse. By permitting such acts, she is, in an important way, complicit in perpetuating domestic violence, since offenders now see that they can get away with such crimes as long as abusive practices are permitted by their culture. It sets a repugnant legal precedent according to which domestic violence is acceptable if it is sanctioned by the offender’s religious or cultural tradition.
other cultures and communities respect. We should therefore reconsider our general support for isolationist policies. The second aim, in this article, is to Countless other such cases suggest that we should be more exist. The above example open to pursuing interventionist involves an institutional sancpolicies. tion of gender- based violence, The kind of problem we have but other, non-political organibeen describing is sharply mani- zations are also inclined to take fested in the context of gender the view that in such conflicts equality. Such cases arise when of values, non-interventionist we interact with people from policies are to be preferred. In religious traditions or cultural Saudi Arabia for instance, combackgrounds that do not share panies such as McDonalds, Pizza our commitment to (or at least Hut, and Starbucks conform to our understanding of) gender- local customs by maintaining equal norms. When we con- segregated seating zones for front, for instance, immigrant men and women, where the communities that defend polyg- “men’s sections are typically amy, female genital mutilation, lavish, comfortable and up to or unequal inheritance arrange- Western standards, whereas the ments on the grounds that such women’s or families’ sections practices are essential to their are often run- down, neglected cultural identity, and, in the case an uneasy tension of Starbuck s, “The mistake of emerges between have no seats”. respecting our commitment These compathe autonomy of to gender equality nies defend such groups and our commitar rangements consists in shifting by appealing, as ment to multiculthe unit of tural tolerance. In we have come moral concern from to expect, to the such cases, we are the individual made to decide need to respect to the group.” between respectloca l custom s. ing the autonomy But in showing of these groups such respect they and imposing our are compl icit moral standards onto those who in perpetuating gender-based defend sexist practices under the discrimination. auspices of their cultural heritage. Perhaps the most striking It is perhaps surprising that, example of the Western bias given our otherwise vocal supagainst intervention is a 2007 port for gender equality in the German court case. The case West, we should be so tolerant involves a German Muslim of oppressive and discriminatory
practices when they are defended as “cultural”. If we truly believe that abused women have a right to divorce their husbands, or that it is wrong for seats in restaurants to be so arranged that only men are entitled to the good spots, then why do we tend to act as if we do not when we are presented with the “cultural” defense? One reason, which has been gestured at, is our reluctance to impose our values onto others. We treat groups as if they were individuals, and suppose that it is a violation of their autonomy for us to act paternalistically. But the idea that groups have the same claim to autonomy as individuals is highly problematic. It first requires the assumption that members of the group all subscribe to the same set of values, such that the collective can be treated as a singular, coherent, deliberating agent. But this is never the case. Even when it comes to people who belong to the same group - the same religion, the same political party, and so on - they inevitably deviate from one another in the details of their beliefs and convictions. The result of respecting group rights as opposed to individual rights is thus that dissenting members of a given group are underrepresented, or not represented at all. Only the interests of the dominant majority are recognized. Thus the interests of women in gender-biased cultures are often neglected since they belong to groups that are led and represented by men. Respecting group rights leads, absurdly, to the consequence that individual rights become ignored. The abused woman in the cited court case for example, was never asked whether she endorsed the cited Koranic passages. She simply had her beliefs interpreted for her by the judge. The mistake of respecting the autonomy of groups consists in shifting the unit of moral concern from the individual to the group. We should not regard the Workers, the Hindus, the Teachers Union, or the Immigrants as units of moral concern whose “will” we should somehow take to be morally important. Only individual workers, individual Hindus,
“The cultural defense poses a sizable barrier to the push for gender equality.” individual teachers, or individual immigrants deserve to have their autonomy recognized. In deciding the legitimacy of a shared practice, the question we should ask ourselves is not whether gender biased practices are approved of by various cultures or religions in which they are practiced. The question we should ask is whether individual women consent to these practices. Our bias in favor of isolationist policies depends on the assumption that groups are entitled to claims of autonomy similar to those of the individual. But when we see that that is not the case, we should reconsider our knee-jerk resistance to interventionist policies. When we clarify this distinction between groups and individuals, we can avoid much of the more difficult debate over the clash of civilizations or cultures. In my imagined cannibal case, we do not need to address the more substantive, first-order
moral question over whether cannibalism is wrong. We can simply ask whether those who are being eaten can agree to such treatment, and not ask - as we tend to - whether the tribe as a whole affirm the legitimacy of the arrangement. In the case of the abused woman mentioned above, it is no longer necessary to regard it as an instance of Western vs. non-Western values. This is because the morally important question is not whether the non-Western culture to which the woman belongs approves of domestic violence. The morally important question is whether the individual woman herself approves of such violence. Similarly in the case of US fast food companies in Saudi Arabia, the question is not whether Saudi Arabian culture approves of seating arrangements in which women are less favorably placed. The question is whether individual Saudi women agree to being so
treated. The cultural defense poses a sizable barrier to the push for gender equality. It would, however, be remiss to end on a pessimistic note. Although the problems mentioned above are challenging, more and more have become aware of it, and more has been done to address the issue. In the 57th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this year, the commission has urged specifically for states to “refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations” when it comes to eliminating violence against women.4 It is too soon to tell if such “urging” will prove to be effective. But this is progress of sorts, given how pitifully shy our political institutions have been in the past when they were confronted with the cultural defense. An official recognition of the issue is at least the beginning of a much needed change.
EXHIBITION REVIEW Kanika Batra
‘RECONDITA ARMONIASTRANGE HARMONIES OF CONTRAST’
THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY UNION The University of Sydney Union (USU) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing the best student experience in Australia. Through our programs, products and services, we aim to enrich the life of every student attending the University of Sydney – socially, culturally and intellectually. We strive to offer an extensive range of student programs, leadership opportunities and entertainment, including our coveted Clubs and Societies Program which boasts over 200 groups on campus. We also provide O-Week, our flagship festival and Australia’s biggest university orientation, as well as INCUBATE, a first-of-its-kind startup development program in Asia-Pacific. We also host a jam packed events line up throughout the year. With more than 12,000 members, we’re the largest independent student union in Australia. All income generated by our operations is invested directly back into our student community providing them with the chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime university experience. To take advantage of all the USU has to offer, grab yourself an Access Card at the Access Desk, Level 1, Manning House.
12 February 2014
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SUPRA THROWS AWAY $$$ ON WEBSITE
purview. Apparently, students can “look to SUPRA for assistance with any issues that may confront them – both academically and personally – during the course of their candidature”. It is an on-campus, student-led organisation that seeks to represent all 16,627 postgraduate students. All operational and administrative costs of SUPRA are financed through the SSAF funding. So, where does that $11.19 that we’re obliged to give to SURPA go? $250,000 is shared between ten student councillors. Salaries range from $9,390 for the Queer Officer and the like, to over $53,664 per annum for the President. In isolation these salaries are not so problematic. It is entirely
CHOICE IS KEY FOR STUDENTS The debate over compulsory unionism and student service fees is one that dates back quite some time now. Many politicians have cut their teeth on this issue at campuses across the nation. This debate centres around a question of choice and the right of students’ to spend their own money as they please. There have been many false representations regarding what happened when Voluntary Student Unionism came into effect in 2005. These misrepresentations often go along the lines that university life was gutted and that services suffered as a result. This couldn’t be further from the
appropriate for a successful, economically sound organisation (not-for-profits included) to remunerate their directors and staff. The issue with SUPRA is that its ‘success’ is questionable and its financial position is based on precarious, year-by-year negotiations with the University. This is in turn based on the continued imposition of a SSAF or similar tax on students.
administrative matters. Without a doubt, many of those matters regarding plagiarism were important. Whether they warrant $970 of students’ funds to be used in providing advice is another question. The amount spent on providing advice on such matters through SUPRA is more than the cost of tuition for many subjects.
The biggest issue that was investigated by SUPRA in the last financial year: university
It could be argued that an organisation like SUPRA is not just about providing legal advice on matters related to students’ academic and personal issues. However, it is apparent from the state of the budget that this is not presently a high priority for the Council. Less than 1% of the total annual budget is spent on ‘community development’ – the events, networking and equity group portfolio functions provided by SUPRA for postgraduate students. Inefficient
truth. What actually happened was that political organisations stopped receiving money to run partisan campaigns. Student Unions were forced to put in place strategic plans that made them accountable to their members, and actually provide services that students wanted. The clubs and societies that were popular among students still survived and prospered. The average student that attended university from 20052011 saw practically no difference in their university life. The Student Services and Amenities Fee is a $273 compulsory tax on all students, which goes towards non-academic services that only some can use. This tax is charged irrespective of whether you are studying part time, full time, on campus or by correspondence. It also puts an added financial pres-
sure on students who are some of the poorest members of society, who also face huge financial demands at a time of year when they are paying for textbooks and stationery. The main beneficiaries are students from wealthy backgrounds living at home who can afford to take advantage of subsidised services and don’t need to work outside of University to pay for rent, food or textbooks. Why should a single mother undertaking her studies before going home to look after her children have to fund a social club so that a 21 year old student who still lives at home can get cheap beer on campus? The fact is that essential services like childcare, welfare services and alike still survived under Voluntary Student Unionism because people actual-
Success (or the lack thereof) becomes apparent when the outcomes of the organisation are assessed. Across a twelve month period, just 1,031 matters were dealt with by SUPRA. On a per matter basis. This means that for every issue SUPRA assisted with, an average cost of $970 was incurred.
spending by student organisations such as SUPRA provides a handy exemplar for proponents of voluntary student unionism (VSU) and those against compulsory ‘Student Services’ fees such as the SSAF. If student groups are to be the recipients of a tax on students there must be more accountability surrounding their spending. Opacity is not a quality we should find in our student representative bodies. The frustration students have surrounding inefficient spending amongst student-led organisations is appropriately placed. It is up to each of us to take an active part in elections and demand accountability to prevent the frustration of seeing your own money be wasted occurring.
ly used them. If these services are so important and required by students, then students will pay for them by choice. The real reason the folks at the National Union of Students are getting so fired up about this is they know most students don’t use, or want pay for things like funding their partisan political campaigns. And it’s not surprising considering their office bearers are made up largely of paid up members of the Labor party. If this tax is scrapped, they wouldn’t be able to afford to run campaigns with students’ money like the ‘Abbott’s heaven, your hell’ campaign they ran at the last two Federal Elections smearing Tony Abbott’s views on various issues. We’ve also seen students’ money funnelled to the likes of the radical Socialist Alternative movement and
the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the state of Israel. If you ask your average student if they wanted $273 of their own money going to services they do not want or need (that can be exploited for political purposes by student politicians to run partisan campaigns on campus) you will get a resounding no. NUS knows that when students are given the choice, the vast majority will choose not to fund their partisan political activities. That’s why they want to force them to do so. Individual students are always best placed to know how to spend their own money. VSU should remain a first order priority for any political party that believes in choice. Evan Mulholland is President of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation
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Published on Mar 1, 2014