Here and there – Fallacies, fallibility, and hypocrisy in our psyche


On the day of the underarm bowling incident, I had worked hard all day.  My cab driver was full of shocked disbelief and disgust.  When he told me, I started laughing.  This upset him.  ‘What else do you expect when you sell your soul for lucre?’  Then The Age reported on one tight one-day game under the headline ‘Come on dollar, come on.’  Creighton Burns told me he feared that they might go under.  I can’t recall if the article quoted that great line from The Great Gatsby.

It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people – with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.

As the smoke clears after the disaster at Cape Town, and as the pendulum swings back, we might reflect on two fallacies.  One is that sporting bodies can be run as a business in the same way that any business can be run.  That’s just wrong – for reasons that Donald Trump is finding out.  The other fallacy is that at the top professional level, people are playing games as part of a sport.  In some sense they are, but they are also leading figures in the entertainment industry, and that industry is a significant source of business for broadcasting and gaming companies.  The so-called players are as integral to the economy as widget-makers.  Hence their outrageous pay.

Next, with one possible exception, none of us is infallible.  We all make mistakes.  And thank God – the contrary is unthinkable automation.  Some of our wholly fallible young men in Cape Town made a big mistake.  They are paying a hideous price.

People say that the underarm job was lawful and that this case is worse.  I disagree.  I don’t think that you can measure moral culpability by degrees of lawfulness.  Our whole legal system is predicated on our capacity to review the ‘equity’ of the case.  If you break the rules, you face the sanctions imposed by the rules.  But if you evade the rules and by doing so you hurt the game, then in my view you are the more toxic and culpable agent.  It’s like tax evasion.  For that reason, I regard the conduct of Trevor Chappell and his brother, and that of Stuart Broad in refusing to walk, as doing a lot more harm to the game than the breach of the rules admitted in Cape Town.  For that reason too, I regard our young men as far less blameworthy.

Now for hypocrisy.  Let’s start with ‘we the people’.  We may be outraged, but we can’t say that we are surprised.  We tolerated a hopelessly outmoded administration – dominated by an old god with a gong – treating our champions as medieval serfs and making them ideal prey to Kerry Packer and the gods of television.  Then we supported those ludicrous pyjama games that have so debased our own coinage – and character.  Then we turned up to cheer an even sluttier version.  And for about a generation, we have sat idly by while a patently weak body, Cricket Australia, just allowed things to get worse and worse.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.  But, no, we had to have our ritual humiliation, and on Good Friday eve.

The hypocrisy of the ICC is unspeakable.  They are inept and bent.

Mr Sutherland’s position is untenable.  At its most polite, he has been standing too close to too many accidents.  He and the board are responsible, not just in the sense of being answerable, but because their failures of governance have led to this mess.  And the whole nation knows it.  If Mr Lehmann had to take responsibility, so must Mr Sutherland.

Then there are the corporates who talk about ‘core values’.  That is pure bullshit.  Did the CBA even have the gall to stick up its head?  People are already comparing our cricketers to our bankers.  The bankers committed their crimes over time, and directly for the thirty pieces of silver.  Will any of them be punished as hard as Steve Smith?  Not on your bloody Nelly, Mate.

As for the mockers elsewhere, do you really think that you are well placed to cast the first stone?  At least our boys came clean and are taking it down the front.  Your turn will surely come.

There is something very, very wrong when a good young man like Steve Smith must take all this pain, while those responsible walk free.  The whole body needs cleansing – the whole of it – and every player must have seared into his being the proposition that when he puts on that jumper, he stands in a position of trust to me because that jumper is mine.

And remember this.  Bodyline was lawful.  Who says that Smith is guiltier than Jardine?

Here and there – Dear Mr Sutherland,


Yesterday I sent an email to Cricket Australia:


At a bare minimum, Sutherland, Lehmann, Smith and Warner must be fired, and not just from their position in the case of the players, but from the team.  None of them is fit to wear or represent my colours.  Now in my 73rd year, I have never been so ashamed of my country.

Yours truly

Geoffrey Gibson

Here are my reasons for that call.

Sometimes people make mistakes and then their reaction shows that they were not up to the job.  That goes for you, Smith, Warner and Lehmann.

It also goes for the Prime Minister.  He said: ‘Our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play.’  Each of those propositions is pure moonshine, and has been so for forty years – ever since Mr Packer started shelling out lucre to his hired darlings.  And he only got the chance because your predecessors treated our players like medieval serfs.  They sowed the wind.  Now you reap the whirlwind.  And what sane parents would want their children to model themselves on David Warner?

You should resign or be fired because you have presided over and are therefore responsible for the decline in standards in our national sport for nearly a generation.  Money – from Mr Packer and now India – has become king and you have allowed those who claim to represent us to be corrupted by it.  You have allowed the horses to take over the stable.  Your response yesterday was, I regret to say, wholly in character – vapid.  I also have no idea why you had to send two people to get the facts.  Do we send teams overseas without putting some reliable proconsul in charge of them?

Smith and Warner have admitted cheating.  They have brought disgrace upon the whole of my country.  Yet their callous arrogance and wilful inanity show just how poisoned our Test cricketers have become.  This disaster at Cape Town is just the final step in the process of corruption that started with Mr Packer and was perfected on the subcontinent – where these brats coin millions by moonlighting.  And there is more than a whiff of cowardice in their decision to deploy a young bunny and then say that it was the idea of the seasoned players.

Nor can I understand what logic would conclude that although the guilty parties may be entrusted with my colours as players, they should not be so trusted in a position of responsibility.  When they merely pull on my jumper, they take a position of mighty responsibility.  To give them some but not all trust would be like saying that a dope-cheat in cycling or weightlifting may be trusted after taking a holiday.  These cheats have forfeited their trust, and I will not give it back to them.  I will not support a side that has either of them in it in any capacity.

Lehmann should resign or be fired because he has been in charge of and therefore responsible for the morale and morals of our team over the period of its worst decline.  On this incident, he has the Volkswagen problem.  He either knew or he didn’t.  Either way, he’s gone.  For what it’s worth, it’s been a long time since I saw a man look so guilty.

We will need more than one generation to get over this.  I will be long gone.  I agree with Jeff Kennett.  ‘A disgrace of the first order. All involved should be banned from international cricket for life.  Australia’s sporting reputation demands immediate response from CA.’  Painful surgery is immediately required to start the process of healing.  If that means that we may field an inferior team, we have brought that on ourselves, and we will get the needed reminder that winning is not everything.  That attitude, and the dollar, are what have landed us in this very visible gutter.

And I have the clear view that nothing short of these sackings will serve to ease the outrage being felt across this nation.

Yours truly

Geoffrey Gibson




[This is a short version of a book ‘Terror and the Police State; Punishment as a Measure of Despair’, published in 2015.  The book focussed on France after 1789, Russia after 1917, and Germany after 1933.  The instalments will follow the 21 chapter headings that are as follows: 1 Terms of Engagement; 2 Enduring emergency; 3 Righteousness; 4 Good bye to the law; 5 Instruments of terror; 6 Civil war; 7 Waves of terror; 8 Degradation; 9 Secret police; 10 Surveillance; 11 Denunciation; 12 Fear; 13 Popular courts and show trials; 14 Scapegoats, suspicion and proof; 15 Gulags; 16 Propaganda, religion, and cults; 17 Surrealism and banality; 18 The numbers; 19 The horror; 20 The meaning?; 21 Justification.  The short version is about one quarter the length of the original.  Each instalment is about 1200 words.]


The meaning?

It is obvious that there is no such thing as a revolution.  ‘Revolution’ is a label that we apply to a series of events.  Some people like to use abstract or group nouns to categorise the kinds of people taking part in the violent changes.  These categories have bedevilled discussion of the French and Russian revolutions.  The notorious terms are bourgeoisie, class, elite, kulaks, masses, peasants, proletariat and sans-culottes.  It is obvious that these very loose and broad labels may involve unproductive word-games.  How do you define the criteria for membership?  How do you apply those criteria?  What on earth is a plutocrat?

If you take as given that each of us has an inner worth or dignity merely because we are human, the police state will inevitably work against that dignity, and be opposed to our humanity.  It does so in at least two ways.  It says that the state is more important than the individual – that the government means more than either you or me – and that therefore the individual has to give way to the state.  It goes further and says that if there is doubt, the issue must be resolved in favour of the state.

The other way that the police state is against our dignity is that it judges or assesses people not by their own worth, but merely by the fact of their being a member of a group.  In doing that, it engages in the kind of word-game that we have just looked at.

Both of those failings derive from a kind of arrogance.  Those behind the police state believe that they have used the power of their minds to find an answer to our social problems.  Since they believe that their answer is demonstrably true, if not logically necessary, they believe that they have the answer.  It follows that those who do not accept that answer are demonstrably wrong, and, equally demonstrably, that they are acting against the interests of the whole community, by standing in the way of the implementation of the answer the acceptance of which will benefit everyone.  But, and this is also fundamental to the police state, it follows that the state is entitled to use force to implement the answer because in doing so it will be acting to benefit the community as a whole.

We might recall the two first pillars of the rule of law.  First, the law is supreme over government and any one person or arm of government – government derives from the law, and not vice versa.  Secondly, and relatedly, everyone is equal before the law.  Obviously, rule by one man or the police or simply by ‘government’ above the law contravenes the first, and any regime that adjusts rights by political belief or membership of a group contravenes the second.  .

The first way that the police state puts us down is by putting the state over any one person and therefore over everyone.  It prefers an abstraction to real people.  That is the hallmark of the totalitarian state.  That state must be all-powerful and therefore it cannot give way to any man: no rights of an individual can stand in its way.  The people pushing this line tend to see the rights of individuals deriving from the state, rather than seeing the state as some kind of construct permitted under conditions by the people.

Intellectuals are prey to this kind of thinking, because they put too much faith in the power of their own thinking.  What is critical is the state of mind that says that when in doubt, the individual must give way to the state.  That is not the way that decent states try to proceed.  They think that it is better that some wrongdoers go free than that anyone innocent is imprisoned.

The second affront to humanity comes from a smallness of mind and meanness of spirit that is sadly common enough to be part of all of us.  It is, if you like, our dark side.  This is our attachment to prejudice – it is the refusal or failure to treat each person on their merits, but our readiness to deal with them merely as a member of a group, where such membership warrants certain treatment by the state irrespective of the merits of any one person in that group.

Examples of kinds of group that are the basis of prejudice seen in this book are class (aristocrats or bourgeois), office (priests and bishops), economic standing (kulaks or other capitalists), nationality (foreigners), religion (Protestants, Catholics, or atheists), politics (royalists or fascist or communists), sex and sexuality (women and homosexuals), infirm (aged or retarded) and race (gypsies).  These groupings have all been used to disadvantage the members of those groups.  When those disadvantages derive from the law, the discrimination contravenes the rule of law by expressly denying the principle of equality before the law.

Sometimes a regime will seek to ascribe dangerous attributes to members of such classes in order to give some warrant to a kind of block condemnation, but ultimately that is not necessary – the whole purpose of the prejudice is to relieve us of the task of facing one person and treating them on their merits.  The disadvantaged are objects of either contempt or fear or both in a failure not just of the mind but of character.  This failure is found more among people whose ignorance comes from a lack of intelligence or education and whose edge comes from a lack of recognition.  This weakness is then exploited by political leaders or their functionaries and their camp followers in the press.  The grossest modern examples are called shock jocks, parts of the Murdoch press, Sky TV, and fringe political parties that exploit fear of strangers like migrants or refugees or those following minority faiths.

The worst part is the evident pleasure that these people take in kicking someone when they are down – this somehow serves to redeem them from their own mediocrity and to comfort them in their frailty.  It is a kind of revenge on the world.  You get the impression that nothing could make them happier than a good clean lynching.

Unhappily the gorilla called prejudice lurks in us all – it is just that some are graced with a better capacity to keep the iron gates shut and stop the gorilla from coming out.  (Someone once said that that the major difference between us and the gorillas is cutlery.  The proposition is instructive.  It may be that the iron gates are properly called courtesy or manners, and that people get these at home rather than at school – or not at all.)

The police state has a circular process under which anyone who denies its maxims or who questions the authority of the current regime is without more an enemy of the people, and an enemy of the people is anyone showing any such behaviour.  The result of this circularity is that the accused cannot, and the accuser does not have to, identify any conduct the proof which would found a finding of a discrete breach of the criminal law.  Because the regime is above the law, it is commonly enough as a matter of fact for the state to act against someone on the ground that that person is suspected of showing such behaviour or otherwise being an enemy of the people.

The phrase ‘enemy of the people’ is of course itself a lie.  An ‘enemy of the people’ is in truth merely an ‘opponent or possible opponent of the regime’ and the regime does not represent the people.  The two propositions are worlds apart, but they are conflated by pride and prejudice.

Here and there – How taxing it is

Part II

[This is the second part of a piece on the current debate on refunding tax credits.]

Secondly, the relevant law has been in place since 2000.  Very many people have conducted their affairs on the footing of that law.  As I said, this law is no mere wheeze.  I should here disclose that you are now talking to a paradigm case of a target of the proposed change.  My superfund is invested entirely in public companies that issue fully franked dividends.  No other course even comes close for my purposes – I see cash as pure waste.  I believe that my fund will support me, but if the income of the fund is reduced by 30 per cent as a result of this proposal, I will have to look seriously at the alternatives.

There is a well-established principle of our general law that if one party to an arrangement makes a representation that the other party relies on to their detriment, then the law will restrain the party making the representation from resiling from it.  Although I am prejudiced, that law seems to me to meet my case – and doubtless that of many thousands of others who have arranged their affairs in good faith in reliance upon the good faith of government.

We cannot preclude parliament from changing the law, but we can seek to hold politicians to their promises.  When the present government sought to legislate against retired fundholders about two years ago, I was struck by the vehemence of the opposition that came from members of the government’s own party.  Lawyers I respect said that the proposed legislation was retrospective.  I have some difficulty with that as a matter of law – but I have far less difficulty in envisioning some people feeling betrayed.  People were expressly invited to conduct their affairs on the ground chosen by government and now, in the middle of the game so to speak, the government wants to change the rules.  That is not fair – and as between parties subject to the general law, it would not be allowed.

Thirdly, the relevant law is horribly complex and looked at by most people, including most lawyers, with a blend of disgust and horror.  Whatever else may be said about the proposal, it will not ‘reform’ the law in the sense of making it better or clearer.  It will add another complication and inducement to people to get advice on how to beat it.  Those who clip the ticket – there are far too many of them – will be thrilled to bits.  The suspicion of government, and the system, will get worse – particularly if the proponents say that they are targeting the wealthy, or, worse, those who don’t vote for them anyway.  (That way lies the vice of Donald Trump.)  No one wants to see superannuation, something this country has done well, as what Alan Kohler calls ‘an object of political contest’ – or, put bluntly, a till to be tickled.  People who have worked hard and paid their taxes, and then followed the government’s advice and request to look after their own retirement, so relieving ongoing taxpayers, will justifiably resent and react to a government that seeks to go back on its word.  It’s no comfort to be told that a different party is in government – that’s like a company saying it can walk away from a contract because there is a new board of management.

My conclusion – which I agree is biased – is that although the proposal is justifiable on the theory of the original reform, it is at best unfortunate that its burden falls on the those who currently receive less income, and it is downright wrong unless the government moves to exempt or protect those who for about a generation have planned their retirement on the footing that the government of the Commonwealth of Australia can be trusted to keep its word.

We do, after all, have a long history of suspicion about tax and our parliaments.  In the book referred to I said:

In 1799, England was at war with revolutionary France.  France was then led by Napoleon Bonaparte, a man of military genius and unlimited ambition – and on the first count alone, he was a much more dangerous threat to England than Adolf Hitler would be.  The war was ruinously expensive.  How was the British government to fund it? 

William Pitt had become Prime Minister at the age of twenty four.  He was a leader of great authority, but the English parliament had been feisty about tax from its inception.  The national touchiness on revenue goes back at least as far as Magna Carta of 1215.  The American colonists had revolted over taxation – in the form of the Stamps Act – less than a quarter of a century ago.  (Ironically, France went bankrupt helping the Americans against their old enemy England and this bankruptcy had led to the Revolution and to the ascension of Bonaparte.  This could be the ultimate historical example of the cost of living beyond your means.)

Then the Prime Minister made a shocking proposal that was understandably denounced as ‘inquisitorial’.  He proposed a tax on incomes!  In the name of heaven, was no property to be sacred?  Well, it was just an emergency war-time measure.  It had to be – it was assessed at the demonic and confiscatory rate of two shillings (now, ten pence) in the pound (10%)! 

England went on to win the war – but not until Waterloo in 1815.  (Had England not won, we might be having this conversation in French.)  And some historians think that the victory of England owed more to revenue than naval or military successes.  But income tax reappeared, and has stayed, and it will be with us forever.  The only real change is that the law is more than ten times as long.  And it all started with an interim, emergency wartime measure.

Passing Bull 141 – A sole billboard outside Trinity


Am I the only old boy of another school to wonder about the sanity of Trinity Old Boys?  As I follow it, they think that a staff sacking was too harsh. Their remedy is to sack one or more of those responsible. It’s like the French Revolution – has anyone seen the ghost of Robespierre at the podium?  Is it possible to imagine a worse form of publicity for any school?   Do they not realise that any publicity for a school that is seen as – in that ghastly word – elite, is bad publicity?

Now, some well-heeled clown has put up a billboard.  ‘It’s time to go.  Our school community is far too progressive and inclusive for your 18th century values.’  Mate – ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’ are terms of abuse in some circles.  I had thought that such abuse was bullshit.  Now I wonder.  The Trinity Old Boys seem intent on murdering sense as well as the English language.

The herd mentality is rarely attractive, and it is never pleasant when it is as mean as this.  If they do get their man, his replacement will be looking at a cup as full of poison as any seen since the Crusades.


I propose to add some citations from the press that seem to me to be a symptom of our time.  I would be more than happy to receive suggestions.  I will start with one that will be harder to beat than Lewis Hamilton in today’s Grand Prix in Melbourne.

‘It makes sense for Australians to treat the President as he is.  Trump is clever and cunning.  He does not read much but he is highly intelligent.’

Gerard Henderson, The Weekend Australian 17-18 March 2018

Here is a party or pub game.  State the facts to justify the claim that Donald Trump is highly intelligent.  Here is one suggestion:

As when he instructed his lawyers to claim $20 million from a porn star for breaching an agreement to which he was not a party, and for which he gave no consideration, and for referring to something that did not happen.

Could Einstein have topped that?

Here and there – How taxing it is

[This is very long and difficult in parts, but there are many conflicting views out there, and it is hard to find a logical account of the relevant law and the proposed changes to it.]

Part I

If I shine shoes for a living – that is to say, for money – the law says that the income I derive will be taxed.  The tax is called income tax.  If I pay someone to do the shoe shining, or a buy a shoe shining business, the law says that any profit I derive will be subject to income tax.  The people that I pay to shine the shoes will have to pay income tax.  What I pay them is part of the cost of the business.  But the profit of the business is subject to one tax only.  I am the only person getting the benefit of the profit, and I am the only person who pays tax on the profit.

But the position is different if instead of my employing people in my business, I incorporate the business – that is to say, if I form a company to conduct the business.  The position is different because the law imposes income tax on the company for any profit that it makes.  Any profit that is passed on to those who own the business of the company – the shareholders – is arrived at after making allowance for the payment of the corporate tax.  If the company then distributes the after tax profit to shareholders in the form of dividends, the law says that those dividends are income in the hands of the shareholder.  As income they are liable to the personal income tax of the shareholder.

Since that personal income is only derived after allowing for the corporate tax paid by the company, the shareholder’s income has been twice reduced by a liability to income tax, the corporate and the personal taxes.  This leads to unhappiness and a sense of unfairness.  (Of course, big businesses, like BHP or Telstra, result in myriads of other taxes being paid – the income tax of the employees, payroll tax, sales taxes on plant and machinery, and so on, but we can put all that to one side.)

In a book about superannuation, which is still in preparation, I said:

Prior to the Hawke/Keating government, investors in shares in companies had been subject to double taxation.  Prior to declaring a dividend on its profit, a company has paid corporate tax on that profit.  The corporate rate is 30%.  Then the dividend was taxable as income in the hands of the shareholder.  If he or she was paying tax at 50%, they had lost at least 80% of the value of the return on their investment as a result of this double taxation.  The government legislated to ensure that the taxpayer only paid the one amount of tax. 

But the government went further for dividends received by superannuation funds.  The law says that if a super fund receives a dividend from a company that has paid the company tax, and issued the dividend ‘fully franked’, the fund will get a credit for the tax paid by the company. 

The result is that you add about 30% to the value of the dividend in your hands.  6% becomes 8% (rounding off.)  While you need to be careful about allowing tax considerations to dictate how you do business, you need to bear this treatment of dividend income of super funds firmly in mind.  This is no mere wheeze.  This law is fundamental to the way that this nation has legislated for its future.  It does for example bear on the attraction of foreign equity.  European and American companies traditionally return much lower dividends than Australian companies – and you do not get the benefit of these tax credits.

As I follow it, and the thread is not easy to pick up, the relief from double taxation in the first place was limited to a credit on tax otherwise payable by the person receiving the dividend (provided, of course, that the dividends were issued ‘fully franked’).  Then a government of a different colour (that of Howard/Costello) changed the law, in the year 2000, to allow for cash credits to be paid to super funds that had no income tax to pay.

There is now a proposal by the other party – the one that introduced the reform – to take the law back to that made by made by the Hawke/Keating government and to stop allowing the payment of cash credits.  The Howard/Costello changes have been broadly criticised, if not condemned, as a profligate buying of votes in the form of what is called middle class welfare during boom times, and that it is time the government stopped paying perks that we no longer afford.  I can follow all that, but the proposal, as it seems to me, is open to the following observations.

First, if the object is to save revenue, which the government can then redistribute, then the people taking the hit will be those earning less rather than those earning more.  This is because the whole point of the change is to stop paying cash refunds to those who earn less than the fundholders who can apply refund credits to income they otherwise earn.  If that is right, it is an unusual exercise in redistribution to commence by putting a burden on those who receive less than those who are better off.  I refer to what Alan Kohler said in The Weekend Australian.

But the problem is that conceptually, there is no difference between cash not paid and cash received, to the party at either end; franking credit cash refunds are not a loophole but an equalisation, between those who pay 30 per cent tax or more and those who happen to pay less, mainly because they earn less.  Drawing a line between the elimination of tax that would otherwise be paid but is not because 30 per cent tax has already been paid on that money, and rebating it as cash refund is arbitrary, illogical and discriminatory.

In the same paper, Terry McCrann said:

In terms of the structure and integrity of imputation, it is irrelevant of whether the credit is less than or exceeds any other net tax payable by the shareholder.  More simply, the company has paid ‘too much’ tax on behalf of those shareholders with marginal rates of less than 30 per cent.  The refund is effectively exactly the same as normal refunds of too much personal tax paid by a taxpayer.

Is the answer to those objections that if the person receiving the dividend does not have to pay tax on it, then the issue of double taxation does not arise for that taxpayer on that dividend – and the cash refund has been paid to deal with an anomaly or inequity which in truth does not exist?  The revenue is boxing at a shadow.  The Latin phrase is cadit quaestio (the issue does not arise, or is dead)To go back to my starting sample, if I do not pay tax on the dividend I receive from the shoe shine company, there is no double tax for me to be relieved of.  That is why this proposal hits lower earners.

This is how Judith Sloan seeks to explain the argument for the Howard/Costello change to the law in The Australian.

If an individual earns more than $180,000 a year, the marginal income tax is 47 per cent, including the Medicare levy.

When that individual receives dividends from a company issuing fully franked dividends, the tax on the dividends is 17 per cent – 47 per cent minus the 30 per cent already paid.

When an individual earns less than $18,200 and pays no tax, then the individual receives a cash refund of 30 per cent.  This is only fair.  Without cash refunds, the effect on very low income earners would be a tax on 30 per cent of dividends.

I cannot follow that.  All income received as dividends is subject to 30 per cent tax.  If the dividend is not taxable in the hands of a taxpayer because he or she earns so little, that taxpayer needs no protection from double taxation.  The payment has only borne tax once.

My problem may be with the link to imputation.  I am familiar with the notion of a ‘progressive tax’, but to frame a law predicated on the need to look after those who are not so well off looks to me to come dangerously close to what some call ‘identity politics.’  A state-acquired El Dorado is not something we associate with The Australian.  It could lead to heart attacks at the IPA, and a call-out of the Minutemen at the Tea Party.  Just think of it – in the name of ‘equity’ or ‘fairness’, the government gives away money to those investors who have made less profit than others.  This would have brought tears to the eyes of the late Californian oligarch Chief Justice Rose Bird or a Russian oligarch wolfing down his black caviar in Siberian exile.  Nor should we forget that the word ‘imputation’ is itself pregnant with fiction – it is as intellectually respectable as ‘deemed’ – or ‘derivative.’

[To be continued.]

Passing Bull 140 – Bull about reform


The word ‘reform’ is loaded, and not just in the political context.  The Oxford English Dictionary says ‘To amend or improve (an arrangement, state of things, institution, etc.) by removal of faults or abuses.’  The word ‘amend’ has to be read with ‘by removal of faults or abuses’, and the ‘removal of faults’ must be read to include ‘rectifying omissions.’

So, there are two things involved – change, and improvement.  There is rarely doubt about the fact of change, but there is often argument about whether the change is for the better.  One of the most significant legislative reforms came in England with the passing of the Reform Act, 1832.  We now know that this reform paved the way for democracy, which was unthinkable then, and we believe that if the opposition to it had prevailed, there may well have been a revolution.

There is I think a general agreement now that changes to the law introduced by the Hawke and Keating governments relating to taxation, currency, and superannuation effected real improvements, and were therefore real reforms.  But it is not easy to think of many other reforms in our recent history.

We have just seen another example.  The federal opposition just announced a proposal to change part of the law dealing with double taxation of dividends in the hands of shareholders.  The relevant law formed part of the reforms of Mr Keating.  The proposed changes just announced can obviously be rationally defended as being required to make the law work better.  That would mean that the change would amount to a reform – and Mr Keating was reported to have said that it was.  But you could just count the minutes before a political hack used the term ‘tax grab’, usually with the epithet ‘brutal’, and wheel out a worthy couple of retirees who have structured their life savings on the faith that government will not then change the rules to make them worse off – the phrase is ‘shift the goalposts.’  For these people the proposed change is for the worse, and not for the better.  It is anything but a reform.  And they have a point.  They have invested in good faith relying on representations from both parties that government will respect their investments and leave them alone.  Taking away an ‘entitlement’ is far more threatening than offering a chance of another.

We see this problem all the time.  One example is tuition fees for university students.  These fees were put up as reforms – but not for the student being saddled with $100,000 debt – for fees imposed by politicians most of whose graduate members had not had to pay a cracker.

The Reformation at least began about reform.  In his History of the Reformation in Germany, Leopold von Ranke said:

No man, to whatever confession he may belong, can deny, what was admitted even by the most zealous Catholics of that day; viz. that the Latin church stood in need of reform.  Its thorough worldliness, and the ever-increasing rigidity and unintelligible formalism of its dogma and observances, rendered this necessary in a religious view; while the interference of the papal court, which was not only oppressive in a pecuniary sense, by consuming all the surplus revenue, but destructive of the unity and independence of the nation, made it not less essential to the national interest.

But while reform was essential, a schism, or split, was not.  Ranke said:

Public order rests on two foundations – first, the stability of the governing body; secondly, the consent and accordance of public opinion with the established government…..But when the constituted powers doubt, vacillate and conflict with one another, whilst at the same moment, opinions essentially hostile to the existing order of things become predominant, then, indeed, is the peril imminent.

That proposition is pregnant for our time, and we will come back to it.  But what happens when the reform movement hits full swing?

… is not in human nature to rest content with a moderate success; it is vain to expect reason from a conquering multitude….for the most part they were goaded by long-cherished hatred and lust for revenge, which now found vent.

We see that all the time. Some see a bit of it now in the #MeToo movement.  The Germans’ political dam threatened to burst.

It was now taught that as all were children of one father, and all equally redeemed by the blood of Christ, there should be no longer inequality of wealth or station.

Well, that was at least three centuries ahead of its time (although we may be due for another explosion about inequality.)  That was the way of the Peasants’ War, and a dint in the democratic glow of Martin Luther.

There were also consequences that were not foreseen.

By rejecting celibacy, they [the clergy] secured a new influence over the mind of the nation.  The body of married clergy became a nursery for the learned professions and civil offices; the centre of a cultivated middle class…..In the year 1750, Justus Möser reckoned that from ten to fifteen millions of human beings in all countries and regions of the globe owed their existence to Luther, and to his example, and adds, ‘A statue ought to be erected to him as the preserver of the species.’

That’s a diverting proposition, but if Ranke is right about ‘the centre of a cultivated middle class’ in Reformation areas – such as Germany, Holland and England – that may go some way to explain the difference in political maturity between the nations of northern Europe and southern Europe.

But to return to what Ranke said about the breakdown of public order, it finds a curious echo in in the Bagehot column of last week’s Economist.

The biggest threat to British institutions, however, comes from a growing sense that democracy has let people down.  Stephen Holmes of New York university points out that liberal democracy is ‘a time-tested system for managing political disappointment’ – once you’ve lost patience with the existing elite you can vote them out.  But disappointment is surging, at a time when democracy’s ability to manage disappointment is declining…..The proportion of Britons who support a ‘strongman leader’ has increased from 25% in 1999 to 50%.  The under-25s are much more critical than people of the same age were two decades ago.  It is too early to head for the exits….But anyone who doesn’t know where the exits are is a fool.

If you believe that a decent ‘strongman leader’ is a contradiction in terms – and we are daily given countless repellent examples – then this trend is very scary.  We may in truth need major reform.




[This is a short version of a book ‘Terror and the Police State; Punishment as a Measure of Despair’, published in 2015.  The book focussed on France after 1789, Russia after 1917, and Germany after 1933.  The instalments will follow the 21 chapter headings that are as follows: 1 Terms of Engagement; 2 Enduring emergency; 3 Righteousness; 4 Good bye to the law; 5 Instruments of terror; 6 Civil war; 7 Waves of terror; 8 Degradation; 9 Secret police; 10 Surveillance; 11 Denunciation; 12 Fear; 13 Popular courts and show trials; 14 Scapegoats, suspicion and proof; 15 Gulags; 16 Propaganda, religion, and cults; 17 Surrealism and banality; 18 The numbers; 19 The horror; 20 The meaning?; 21 Justification.  The short version is about one quarter the length of the original.  Each instalment is about 1200 words.]


The horror

[Warning: This chapter is gruesome and it may well cause distress in the reader.]

The surreal nature of terror is part of the horror of it.  An old widow who had been ‘Madame L’Etiquette’ to Marie Antoinette had been writing in her senility long letters to the Virgin Mary on the subject of protocol in Heaven.  They were answered by her confessor who signed himself Mary, but who on one occasion committed on her behalf a mistake that led the Duchesse to comment:  ‘But then one ought not to expect so much of Her.  She was after all only a bourgeois from Nazareth.  It was through marriage that she became a connection of the House of David.  Her husband, Joseph, would have known better.’  That old woman was put under the guillotine.

One survivor of the frightful eruptions known to history as the September Massacres recalled that some used to watch the butchery so as to try and learn how to die with the least pain when their turn came.  Carlyle said: ‘Man after man is cut down; the sabres need sharpening, the killers refresh themselves from wine-jugs.  Onward and onward is the butchery; the loud yells wearying into base growls.  A sombre-faced, shifting multitude looks on; in dull approval; in dull approval or dull disapproval; in dull recognition that it is a Necessity….She [Princesse de Lamballe] is led to the hell-gate; a manifest Queen’s Friend.  She shivers back at the sight of the bloody sabres; but there is no return: Onwards!  That fair hind head is cleft with the axe; the neck is severed.  That fair body is cut in fragment; with indignities, and obscene horrors of mustachio grands-lèvres, which human nature would fain find incredible, – which shall be read in the original language only.  She was beautiful, she was good, she had known no happiness.  Her head is fixed on a spike; paraded under the windows of the Temple, that a still more hated, a Marie Antoinette, may see’.

Carlyle went on to say ‘Of such stuff are we all made; on such powder-mines of bottomless guilt and criminality – ‘if God restrain not’ as is well said – does the purest of us walk’.’

The novelist Stefan Zweig wrote a book called Joseph Fouché, The Portrait of a Politician.  Here is his account of ‘the first of the notorious mitraillades of Joseph Fouché outside of Lyon.

Early that morning sixty young fellows are taken out of prison and fettered together in couples.  Since, as Fouché puts it, the guillotine works ‘too slowly’, they are taken to the plain of Brotteaux, on the other side of the Rhone.  Two parallel trenches, hastily dug to receive their corpses, show the victims what is to be their fate, and the cannon ranged ten paces away indicate the manner of their execution.  The defenceless creatures are huddled and bound together into a screaming, trembling, raging, and vainly resisting mass of human despair.  A word of command and the guns loaded with slugs are ‘fired into the brown’.  The range is murderously close and yet the first volley does not finish them off.  Some have only had an arm or leg blown away; others have had their bellies torn open but are still alive; a few, as luck would have it, are uninjured.  But while blood is making runnels of itself down into the trenches, at a second order, cavalrymen armed with sabres and pistols fling themselves on those who are yet alive, slashing into and firing into this helpless heard, of groaning, twitching and yelling fellow mortals until the last raucous voice is hushed.  As a reward for their ghastly work, the butchers are then allowed to strip clothing and shoes from the sixty warm bodies before these are cast naked into the fosses which await them.

This was all done in front of an appreciative crowd.  When the guillotine is put to work, ‘a couple of women who have pleaded too ardently for the release of their husbands from the bloody assize are by his orders bound and placed close to the guillotine.’

Carlyle sensed that we tip-toe around the rim of a volcano that we do not want look down into, but that what we call the French Revolution gives us a glimpse of the molten fury that lies under us all.  One further citation from Carlyle will serve to link the horrors of the French Revolution with those of the twentieth century when mass murderers defiled their victims even in death:

One other thing, or rather two other things, we will still mention, and no more: the blond perukes; the Tannery at Meudon.  Great talkers of these Perruques Blondes: O reader, they are made from the Heads of Guillotined Women; the locks of a Duchess, in this way, may come to cover the scalp of a cordwainer, her blonde German Frankism his black Gaelic poll, if it be bald.  Or they may work affectionately, as relics, rendering one suspect?  Citizens use them, not without mockery; of a rather cannibal sort.  ….  Still deeper into one’s heart goes that Tannery at Meudon; …‘There was a tannery of Human Skins; such of the Guillotine as seem worthy flaying: of which perfectly good wash-leather was made; for bleaches and other uses.  The skin of the men, he remarks, was superior in toughness (consistance) and quality of shamoy; that of the women was good for almost nothing, being so soft in texture …’  Alas, then, is man’s civilisation only a wrappage, through which the savage nature in him can still burst, infernal as ever?  Nature still makes him: and has an Infernal in her as well as a Celestial.

Finally, you might recall Julia from the chapter headed ‘Fear’.  Her husband was arrested, as was her older son, and then she was arrested.  Her younger son, although ill, was sent to the camp with her.  After she had been denounced, she was sentenced to five years in a labour camp in Kazakhstan.  She was physically and mentally frail, and in no position to withstand the hardship of camp life.  But she still had her own beauty, and the commandant made demands on her.  When she refused, he punished her, by sending her to work as a labourer in the construction of a dam.  For sixteen hours a day, she had to stand up to her waste in freezing water to dig earth.  It was a long and tortured and ultimately degrading death sentence.  Another inmate called Zina found her in a sheep pen, lying on the freezing ground among the sheep.

She was dying, her whole body was blown up with fever, and she was burning hot and shaking.  The sheep stood guard around her but offered no protection from the wind and snow, which lay around in mounds.  I crouched beside her; she tried to raise herself but did not have the strength.  I took her hand and tried to warm it with my breath.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.  I told her my name and said only that I came from you, that you had asked me to find her.

How she stirred: ‘Igor – my boy,’ she whispered from her frozen lips.  ‘My little boy, help him I beseech you, help him to survive.  I calmed her down and promised to look after you, as if that depended on me.  ‘Give me your word,’ Julia whispered.  ‘Do not tell me how his mother died.  Give me your word….’

She was half delirious.  I crouched down beside her and promised her.

They degraded Julia by not killing her.  It was nearly fifty years later that Zina felt able to treat her promise to Julia as discharged and to tell Igor that his mother, Julia, had not died in a hospital, but had been left to freeze to death in a sheep pen.  Every son has a mother, but Julia Pianitskaia was just buried in the sheep pen where she was left to die.  The death of Julia was a demented and perverted reprise of the birth of Jesus.  God help us all.

Here and there – Time’s up for sledging


Cricket was once said to be a game for gentlemen.  There are two parts to that proposition.  First, cricket is a game.  A game is something that you play.  The full OED definition is: ‘A diversion of the nature of a contest, played according to rules, and decided by superior skill, strength or good fortune.’  The relevant definition of ‘gentleman’ is quaint: ‘A man of chivalrous instincts and fine feelings.’  It may be simpler to say what a gentleman is not – a cheat, or a bully, or a lout.

It is not surprising, then, that the Laws of Cricket – they are big on upper case – say that ‘The umpires shall act upon any unacceptable conduct’.

If you were playing a game of golf and your opponent sought to put you off your game by insulting you or trying to intimidate you, you might think you were playing with a cheat, or a bully, or a lout.  (And the hardest insult to survive is that you cheat at golf.)  You would certainly know that you were not playing against a gentleman – or a lady.  And you would also certainly have known that this conduct was unacceptable.

You might then be surprised to learn that at the highest levels of cricket, umpires do not think a player who seeks to put another player off his game by insulting or trying to intimidate him is engaging in unacceptable conduct.  That conduct is called ‘sledging’ and umpires have tolerated it.  So have I – but no longer.  I will just turn the cricket off if they start at it again.


Attitudes change, but all this looks to me now to be petty, childish, and vulgar – and entirely unacceptable under each heading.  To go back to where we started, cricket is hardly a game at the top level.  Hardly any sport is now at that level.  It is part of an entertainment industry that gets more vulgar by the day – as a matter of commercial policy. Those running cricket have deliberately sought to popularise it to raise more money.  The financial motivation of the entertainment industry has debased the game of cricket.  With that debasement has come an acceptance of what we should plainly see as misconduct.  My sense is that most people who care about cricket, or having people represent their country, have had enough of sledging.

Certainly, one thing that people are utterly sick of is this talk about ‘crossing the line.’  At least two propositions are entailed – first, that some criteria exist to allow the line to be defined; secondly, that players will be able to identify that line and avoid crossing it.

I have trouble with each of those propositions.  We are solemnly told that there is a line between, say, ‘You’re as weak as piss’ or ‘I can see the brown stain starting’ and ‘Your mother’s a tart’ or ‘Your wife has a colourful history.’  ‘You black bastard’ is on any view out of bounds.  I’m not sure where ‘You fucking sook’ or ‘We’ll break your fucking arm’ stands.  Neither, you may be sure, are the players.

Presumably, that line turns on something as nebulous as taste.  Courtesy can’t come into it because the exercise in all cases involves trying to put someone off their game by insulting them.  There is in truth no satisfactory intellectual or moral basis for drawing any such line.  Too many players are incapable of seeing or adhering to such a line.  If I am right on that, the only answer is a blanket ban on sledging.

May I mention three related points?

First, it’s about two generations since parents could tell their children to emulate their sporting heroes, but that is no reason to tolerate forms of misconduct that can only serve to mislead or coarsen our youth.

Secondly, the behaviour of some of our cricketers is getting uncomfortably close to the truly scandalous behaviour of our tennis players.  I got turned off tennis about thirty years ago.  McEnroe misbehaved to obtain an advantage.  That’s called cheating – or bullying.  Too many tennis players are what were called ‘bad sports.’  We can’t afford to let cricket go there.

Thirdly, and perhaps most worryingly, some people want to defend sledging as being in some way tied to the way Australians play cricket.  In its customarily anaemic style, Cricket Australia said: ‘Australia has always prided it itself on taking a highly competitive approach to international cricket.’  That’s obviously bullshit.  Aren’t the English, Indians or South Africans highly competitive?  But it’s worse than bullshit.  It’s an appeal to nationalist instincts in the context of an appeal to pride.  We are in the realm of the last refuge of the scoundrel.  In truth it’s worse than that.  We have relapsed into the era of the macho Marlboro man.  And as my old man said, the Marlboro man went out with hessian drawers.  It’s revolting to see grown men behaving like that now.  It’s as bad as Donald saying that his button is bigger than Kim’s.

One of the tragedies of our sport is that too many of us don’t get to follow our national team in footy.  I happen to follow an NRL club.  I take an interest in Origin games.  And I take a real interest when the Australian side gets an outing against New Zealand or England.  It’s not the same as a rugby union test, but it is a test match.  And when Cameron Smith and Jonathon Thurston come out in my colours they carry my pride and trust.  Boy, do they ever.  They, and other Kangaroos, doubtless indulge in what’s called gamesmanship, but I don’t see or hear of the coarseness that some of our cricketers show – and that’s in a sport that is as rough and tough and down-market as you can get.  The Australian cricketers no longer carry my pride or trust.  And if you know anything about footy here, that means our cricketers have a real problem.

Our coach has failed to set the right tone.  He should go.  The captain is weak; he needs to grow up and be firmly told that he is not a shop steward to represent the comrades, but the captain of a national team that wears our colours and purports to represent all of us.  The vice-captain has so much form that he should be fired from that position and be given some time to be at home with his Lamborghini.  The piddling penalties handed out suggest that the game is now being run by the players.  Cricket Australia is responsible for this.  They were utterly gutless in allowing Indian money and caste to run over them when the Indians thought it was OK to sledge one of our players of colour as a monkey.  Cricket Australia needs a new CEO.

The time may have passed when cricket was a game played by gentlemen, but at the rate we pay these spoiled brats, they could at least try to feign some manners.  Otherwise, our only remedy is to turn them off while they falsely wear our colours.  Cricket Australia can tart up and trivialise either form of the pyjama game as much as they like.  But in the only real game – test cricket – our players are claiming to represent us as a nation, and it’s time that they learned again how to do so decently.

Finally, can anyone imagine Victor Trumper being so crude?  Of course not – and Trumper was and is our hero and our idol.

Passing Bull 139 – Madness in the commentariat elite about conservatism


I am sorry to harp on the love of labels and abstractions at The Weekend Australian, but last weekend it reached tsunami proportions.  I apologise in advance for the length of this note, but I do see more than bullshit at work here.

Paul Kelly sees the crisis of conservatism as ‘a moral crisis.’  While Mr Kelly does not say what he means by ‘conservatism’, it is not hard to see the crisis as ‘moral’ – at base, all political issues involve moral questions – unless you subscribe to the view that winning means everything.

But then you look at what Mr Kelly says that ‘conservatives’ demand from Turnbull – ‘quitting the Paris accords, pitting coal against renewables, ditching Gonski funding, revisiting the National Disability Insurance Scheme and achieving small government with a new round of spending cuts.’  Then you are even more at sea about what a ‘conservative’ may believe – except, as Mr Kelly says, ‘a package for guaranteed electoral suicide.’  It’s little wonder then that Mr Kelly concludes that ‘the political contest over morality is pivotal and the conservatives mainly lose it.’

But Mr Kelly’s infatuation with –isms finds another demon.

The issue for conservatism has been its paralysis before its gobsmacking individual expressionism and its violation of Christian views of human nature.

The last phrase looks over the top – are we not supposed to be a secular community? – but what on earth is wrong with individuals wishing to express themselves.  Isn’t that what ‘conservatism’ is about?  ‘Thank you, Government, but no – leave me alone to look after myself.’  And Mr Kelly refers to a writer who gives a horrifying indication of what happens when the individual surrenders to the herd.  The highest rating TV show of the 1950’s, I Love Lucy, had a 67.3 Nielsen rating.  Can you imagine a worse indictment on the intellectual life of a nation?  In 2014, the highest rated show Saturday Night Football maxed out at 14.8 rating.  Is not that the best news you have heard from the U S in ages?

Finally, Mr Kelly says that ‘the problem with Turnbull is that he remains a transactional rather than conviction politician.’  There are two labels in play here.  What is a conviction politician?  If it is politician who is in some way ideologically driven, then they have to confront an aversion that is not just Australian, but Anglo-Saxon.  We have produced Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating.  The UK produced Mrs Thatcher.  Any other takers?  One thing is sure.  Mr Trump is not a conviction politician.  He has no convictions at all.

What then is a transactional politician?  When applied to people like Trump or Shorten, it is one of disfavour.  Buy why?  Is not the ultimate platitude that politics involves the art of compromise?  The Turnbull government in my view has transacted good business on trade with our Pacific neighbours, and looks to be navigating the turbulence of Trump.  That, for me at least, is good politics, not bad politics.

But Grace Collier tells us the truth about what she and her colleagues think of a ‘transactional politician.’

It is true that Shorten is often described as ‘transactional’.  Further, this term is one you always hear when people are trying to account for his seeming lack of core values and belief systems, friendships with the super wealthy and other inexplicable contradictions…..The word transactional and really seems to me just a polite way of saying someone is an untrustworthy shyster who would sell his grandmother to the highest bidder.

Well, sadly, that’s not far off how many Australians see most politicians.  But, if you haven’t guessed the politics of Ms Collier yet, she is keen to disabuse you.

Most people think that the purpose of the union movement is to look after working people, in workplaces.  That is a naïve assumption and wrong.  The purpose of the union movement is to put union officials into parliament.

Well, there it is – and perhaps not surprising from a journalist who sees a friendship between the leader of the ALP and some of our very rich people as involving an ‘inexplicable contradiction.’  Why?  Has the man got uppity and got ideas above his station?  Is Ms Collier’s commitment to the tribe so commanding?  God help us, has she succumbed to ‘identity politics’?

Noel Pearson has a piece on how conservatism has been hijacked by reactionaries.  He makes the obvious point that people are never exclusively conservative, liberal or socialist – unless you melt those terms down to nothing.  So much of our discussion is flawed by the fallacy that you have to be one thing or the other.

Mr Pearson makes an observation that is so true for most of Team Oz:

so-called conservatives, while railing against the victimhood of the leftish tribes, are themselves pushing their own victimhood.

He says that Keith Windschuttle, Gary Johns, Andrew Bolt and so many more ‘started in the left,’ but after a Damascene conversion wound up ‘more extreme in their views than their new associates.’  Mr Pearson subscribes to the view that Mr Bolt just ‘found a business model.’  Mr Bolt, then, is no conviction commentator.

Mr Pearson then gets into his stride.  ‘The Centre for Western Civilisation is the apotheosis of this reverse identity politics….Conservative English philosopher Roger Scruton in his 2012 book Green Philosophy argued that conservatives should properly be conservationists.’  How could they be otherwise?  How could anyone in our political tradition prefer theory to evidence, ideology to facts, or dreams to sense and reality?  And Mr Pearson gets something else right.

Howard deferred major crises of conservatism, such as same-sex marriage and religious freedom, climate change and energy security, rather than resolving them.

Chris Kenny riffs, as is his wont, by pushing his own victimhood, to use the term of Mr Pearson.

Bring back the Barnaby story.  Half of what passes for national debate is almost as inconsequential….It can’t only be me who simultaneously feels overgoverned and ungoverned…..If voters want environmental gestures, nanny state laws and never-ending government interventions, they can vote for the past masters – Labor – so why vote for the cheap imitations?  ….Perhaps Labor did them [Tassie Liberals] a huge favour by proposing a radical poker machine ban they could never accept, thereby forcing them into a strong position of differentiation…But in my view the warning signs are flashing for Liberals across the country.  In a haze of opinion polls, social media, and superficial spin-driven politicking, they have forgotten their mission.

Will Mr Kenny never see that he is one of the main creators of the ‘haze…..and superficial spin-driven politicking’?  What else has he ever done in life?  We can come back to banning poker-machines, but do we not see here Mr Kenny condemning politicians for being naïve in making a moral stand on a matter of conviction?

Speaking of the haze of opinion polls, Dennis Shanahan is obsessed by them.  He is also obsessed with the ‘regicide’ of his mate, Tony Abbott.  If his piece had any other point, I missed it.

Greg Sheridan wrestles with the moral dilemma of Trump and conservatism.  It is or ought to be common ground that Mr Trump is a liar, a fraud, a coward, a fool, a lout, and a man so deeply in love with himself that the word ‘shameless’ is hardly enough.

Trump is in many ways a very unsatisfactory president.  But the crisis in Western governance is morphing into a crisis of Western civilisation.

What could that mean?  Well, at least Mr Sheridan believes that imposing tariffs is a bad idea – as does Judith Sloan – but why does he feel the need to justify the man and put blame on the ‘exaggerated and hysterical reaction’ of the rest of us?

John Durie has an interesting piece on Mr Andrew Mackenzie, the CEO of BHP.  Mr Mackenzie (or Dr Mackenzie) studied geology at St Andrew’s University, took a PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Bristol, and was awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship at the Julich nuclear research centre in Germany.  He is a member of the Royal Society.  (The members of the Royal Society don’t elect idiots.)  Not bad for a corporate CEO.  Far, far better credentials than mine.

But Terry McCrann in his piece sees Mr Mackenzie as part of the ‘commentariat elites’ and an idiot.  Since Mr Mackenzie says ‘we don’t hide from the global challenge of climate change’, the rest of the commentariat elite at that paper would also think he’s an idiot.  As would all others who falsely call themselves ‘conservatives’ while refusing to act to conserve the earth that we live on.

Leaving the best to last, what does the good Christian Gerard Henderson say about the moral issue of middle class recreational facilities living off the earnings of gaming?

The comments from the likes of White, O’Connor and Brown [people who said the Liberals were ‘a bought government’] are imbued with elitism…..the absence of poker machines and the customers they attract would have put financial pressure on hotels and clubs throughout the state….Whatever the damage caused by the small number of problem gamblers, hotels and clubs give a vibrancy to local life for many citizens.

It’s true the Federal Group campaigned to retain its poker machines in hotels and clubs throughout Tasmania.  That’s what the management of a legal business is expected to do.  Yet Labor and the Greens are delusional if they hold the view that the Federal Group ‘bought’ the Liberal Party.

Well, there you are.  We have so far been looking at bullshit.  Now we have more bullshit, and with it, a searing hypocrisy.  Bugger morality – just look at the politics.  Had the moral question been answered against the government, some businesses would have felt ‘financial pressure.’  Since those businesses were prepared to give a lot of money to the government to avoid that pressure, the moral issue would just be ignored.  I was, apparently, wrong to say that all political questions resolve into moral issues – although I did say there was an exception for those who believe that winning is everything.

That’s apparently the view of Mr Henderson.  I find it impossible to believe that that view could even have been contemplated by the holy man who preached the Sermon on the Mount and who issued his own death warrant by taking to money dealers with the lash.

If people at the Australian really want to know why newspapers and politicians are so on the nose, just look at those comments of Mr Henderson.  They also indicate why his church is sinking before our eyes.  The whole mess is terribly sad.  I had thought that Mr Henderson was harmless.  I now think that I was wrong in that.

In fairness to the faith I have lost, I may say that a good friend of mine who subscribes to that faith – if it matters, as a member of the cloth – was appalled by the comments of Mr Henderson.  As I recall it, when the golf club in his town said they would shut down without pokies, my friend asked why shouldn’t they?  I think that’s a real question – but not for Mr Henderson.  If people cannot maintain a recreational facility without relying on income from a business that inevitably causes harm to other people, why should the rest of us allow it?  Are we not complicit in their living off the earnings of wrongdoing?

What is clear is that there is a lot of bullshit involved if people want to talk about morals, convictions and transactions when looking at poker machines in Tasmania.  The Liberals knew a transaction when they saw it – you piss in my pocket and I will allow you to pick the pockets of others – to hell with conviction or morals.  As squalor goes, this is hard to beat; and when God gets invoked, it becomes unbeatably squalid.