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Tom Switzer was kind enough to reply to a personal email about his article No Need For The Libs To Move Left which appeared in the SMH last week.

In his article Tom gave an opinion, with which I agree, that despite Kevin Rudd’s election victory last year, the ‘centre of political gravity in Australia remains conservative’ and in fact has moved further to the right. I asked Tom if he agreed with John Howard’s asessement that the media and Universities were “dominated by the soft left” and if so how does he (Tom Switzer) account for the rightward movement of the Australian polity.

In reply, Tom referred to an article of his “Conservatives Are No Longer Losing The Culture Wars,” Quadrant (CIA Love-Child), 2007, which was reprinted in Tony Jones’ ed. The Best Australian Political Writing 2008 (Melbourne University Press), as well a feature article for the London Spectator last October.

Man Of Steel, Brains To Match

Tom extracted the core of his argument from this piece which was that John Howard has PERSONALLY both arrested and reversed the leftward avalanche, the combined weight of all media and Universities, by the sheer force of his intellect and example.

In this piece, I deal with your specific question which to whch you could easily refer:
“Many conservative thinkers, such as the columnist Gerard Henderson, lament that Howard failed to win the culture wars.

Then again, he was by no means alone in failing to transform the nation’s culture entirely. Recall that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan themselves were unable to change substantially the entrenched attitudes of the Guardian, Oxford and the BBC in one case, or the New York Times, Harvard and Hollywood in the other.

Nonetheless, a strong case could be made that just as the Gipper helped set the scene for Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and the Iron Lady paved the way for Tony Blair’s New Labour, John Howard has pushed the ALP in a more conservative — and politically appealing — direction.

After all, during his nearly 12 years in power he was never afraid to challenge the old assumptions and provoke people into thinking and then arguing about the new attitudes on so many cultural and public policy issues. And although Rudd expresses himself in different ways, his government’s record thus far confirms this conservative trend.

Hero Worship

Many thanks to Tom Switzer for taking the time to reply, and permission to use his references but respectfully, I find it hard to believe that even the great John Howard could overcome all the massed (albeit sickly-minded and morally deficient) battalions of TEH LEFT on his own; though Howard did attempt to the limit of his influence by stacking the ABC Board with conservative ideologues and personal friends and by destroying Student Unions, considered by him to be dangerous purveyors of radical politics and thus inappropriate to be associated with education.

Try It From This Angle

In my opinon the right controls the most influential media and the most influential University faculties. Simply, this is why the polity is conservative – the most important opinion-forming institutions in Australian society behind the family (ok AND J.W. Howard, Order Of The Stealth Bomber, AEI Centrefold for December and Special Consultant to the Australian Wheat Board) are conservative.

The ABC, the Humanities/Arts and the opinion pages of The Age are mere niche markets. Real power is wielded by Alan Jones, the Daily Telegraph, the owners of commercial TV and the Economics and Commerce faculties. Nary a lefty among THEM.

Mr. Howard (and Mr. Rudd) treat Alan Jones et. al. like royalty because he’s speaking to the ‘Howard Battlers’ who, as Tom Switzer said in his SMH article, currently decide Australian elections. And they read The Telegraph.

Most of them, plus most of the rest of us are concerned about their Super and/or paying off Mortgages. These are long-term projects and provide a conservative inertia to economic thinking amongst the mass of voters. My apple-cart takes 40 years to pay off in Apples. I don’t want no flamin’ Marxist redistributing any before they are ripe.

In addition the collapse of the Soviet Union means the major alternative has been discredited while we all looked on.

Why Humanities Professors Do Not Appear On ‘Sunrise’

Business has got money. Humanities professors do not. Hence Business can buy media time whereas Humanities professors can not. Thus commercial media supports the interests of Business, not Humanities professors. Business lives on consumption. Hence the dominant message on commercial media is ‘consume’ not ‘share’.

Leftist Freak Show

I recall an appearance by the Middle East academic Dr. Robert Springborg on commercial breakfast TV at the time of the First Gulf War. Springborg gave an opinion that the USA has done morally repugnant things in the Middle East at which point the disgusted presenters treated him like human vomit.

Non-conservative politics are simply obscene to the breakfast TV crowd. The media is dominated by the right, not by leftists. When a leftist appears in Prime Time it’s for the purposes of a freak show, intentionally or not.

Where The Left Wins

Where the left HAS gained ground is where their agenda intersects with the basic self-interest of the masses e.g sexual permissiveness, killing unwanted babies; or where this is in not in conflict with the right e.g. Women in Work equals increased labour force, should equal cheaper wages; or sometimes where the left cause strikes popular appeal e.g Climate (crucially supported by scientific consensus).

But the fundamental gravitational pull toward the hip-pocket nerve is always salient. This is why the right attacks Climate on the basis of ‘it’ll cost yer’ and its also why disapproval on the Iraq War did not shift votes in 2004. Australians were much more concerned that Latham would cost us money on the Mortgage than we were about half a million dead Iraqis.

Once again, Tom, thanks for taking the time to reply. Any further correspondence welcomed.



    • ricc
    • Posted January 19, 2009 at 8:47 pm
    • Permalink

    Stronly disagree with the economic imperative

    Look at the opinion polls favouring tough action on climate change. Even if half melted away under economic pressure, still a sizeable movement for change.

    If you have heard David Chalke’s Australia scan results…
    -majority support death penalty
    -majority do not support toughening abortion law
    -majority want the government to do something about income inequality
    -majority worried about natural environment (only 25% are solid rednecks)

    etc, basically a mixed bag. Tend to be economically mixed, socially liberal but with “hang’em high” and “throw away the key” attached to it.

    According to David Chalke, still the majority of people alive in Australia today do not have tertiary education, and many did not complete high school (and have a literacy level to match)

    Oh, and they didn’t like John Howard when Rudd was available as an alternative.

  1. It’s hard to take Switzer seriously. Arguably, Hawke and Keating dragged Australia more ‘right’ economically than Howard ever did (setting aside how much he and Nick Minchin might have actually wanted to). The collapse of communism provided the evidence that the Friedmanites had been banging on about and Keating either rode that wave or used it for cover, depending on your point of view.

    Howard’s moral conservatism might well mirror middle Australia’s, but there’s possibly just enough larrikin/disdain for authority left in Australian culture to rebel against it being constantly shoved down their throats. That’s where Rudd’s on thin ice unless he lays off (and throttles Stephen Conroy).

    • baraholka1
    • Posted January 20, 2009 at 10:32 am
    • Permalink

    Hiya Ricc,

    Thanks for the comment.

    IMO, Australians wanted to ditch Howard as soon as we got him. He won 1998 (just – despite the GST) because we hadn’t stopped hating Keating yet. He won 2001 because of Tampa/Children Overboard/Refugees showing his most distasteful attributes, He won 2004 because Latham was judged incompetent to handle the economy but lost in 2007 when the economically safe Rudd emerged.

    Climate is a winner for progressives because of the scientific consensus. The West is still fundamentally an enlightenment society and Climate has science on its side despite the well-funded Ostriches who tell us otherwise, thus winning enduring love from those for whom Capitalism is a religion and Climate Change a heresy (because it shows something is wrong with the religion),.

    I am not surprised that the majority want some action on Income Inequality, after all Ted and Marge (let alone Alicia and Aidan) are not usually subscribers to Quadrant or IPA Review, but how much action ? Increased taxation is a good way to get electorally slaughtered. Howard only just survived in 1998 with a 45 (?) seat majority.

    Fundamentally I say that self-interest is the bottom line for Aussies. Strewth, we had a whole decade where the only politically salient issue was Interest Rates! Self-interest is the basis of the economic philosophy of the West which has not had a major challenger for 30 years, so the right is totally safe there. Where leftist causes intersect with self-interest the left can make progress. The exception is Climate, but the right is not lying down on that and will hammer the costs of the Emissions Trading Scheme down every Howard Battler (glued to the Plasma)’s throat.

    But yes, as I was trying to intimate, Australians in general are not as Right as Tom Switzer at. al. …yet.

    In the USA, however, where Tom’s mob has more mindshare, the concept of Taxation itself is all but discredited in the Republican Party. That’s where the IPA/Quadrant wants to take us.

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