Ain’t gonna study (culture) war no more…

If even Geoffrey Blainey’s upset with John Howard, you know the PM can’t be having a good week (or year, for that matter).

The eminent historian has expressed concern about Howard’s personal intervention in the awarding of a history prize worth $100 000 against the recommendation of a panel that Howard himself established to decide the winner of the PM’s Prize for Australian history. While the panel favoured Peter Cochrane’s Colonial Ambition, Howard reportedly intervened to ensure that his pick, Les Carlyon’s The Great War, shared the honours. Blainey also thinks that the inclusion of a federal government rep on the panel, Education honcho Lisa Paul, is inappropriate for an award which ought to be judged on merit.

Journo and author Gideon Haigh, who reviewed the best-selling Carlyon tome for The Monthly, says:

This isn’t a bad book, it’s even quite a good book. But it’s ultimately a pretty safe, unambitious and formulaic book — too big, too unwieldy, too superficial. In the end, too obviously in the Australia-saves-the-world-again camp.

Quelle surprise, as Alexander Downer might say…

John Howard’s tried his best to get the culture wars up as a theme in this election campaign, with a conspicuous lack of success, and it certainly hasn’t been a feature of the Liberal message. As a number of commentators, including John Quiggin, Guy Rundle and myself, have observed, the debate has already moved on and the culture wars have already been buried in advance of Howard’s passing from the stage of history. Nor, as Quiggin and I argue, is their revival post-Howard likely to lead to anything other than a continuing source of political negatives for the Coalition.

While early this year, some authors wrote hyperbolically about the activities of the culture warrior commentariat as if they were waging a “war on democracy”, in actual fact the rhetorical and political force of the crusade against the evils of Maoist postmodernism or whatever has dissipated in the blink of an eye – revealed as the chimera it always was. Armistice day has passed, and the discursive trenches have been vacated.

Yet, Blainey’s intervention points to a much more important phenomenon – the effective elision between the national story and the PM’s own prejudices. An instance of this can be observed in the quasi-Presidential usurpation of the role of the Governor-General, but it’s most starkly on show in the education and history wars.

The attempt on the part of the PM to mould the teaching of history in schools to his own beliefs was a failure – with the history summit failing to turn out a “single narrative”. That was always a predictable outcome, as unlike the culture warriors per se, academic historians from whom the PM sought educational salvation such as Blainey and Greg Melluish are not blinkered ideologues but scholars capable of seeing the complexity of history, even if their own political leanings are to the right. So we saw Howard himself effectively overturn the verdict of his own summit, and seek to arrogate the right to shape curriculum himself.

If the Howard government is re-elected, Education Minister Julie Bishop has signalled that this model will become normative for a national curriculum. It’s ludicrous to imagine, as Stephen Smith suggests, members of parliament determining what secondary school students should be learning in maths or English, whether with or without the assistance of self-promoting and self-serving self-proclaimed “experts”.

Bishop’s justification is the alleged “capture” of curriculum formation by the hordes of postmodernists and Maoists swarming in state education departments and authorities.

I’m no fan, personally, of teaching deconstruction at secondary level before any narratives have actually been constructed, and I must confess that I cringed when I first heard the awful neologism “learnings”, since enshrined by Tasmania in policy documents. Significantly, though, I first heard it from a Business School academic – and much of the tosh that is taught is really managerial speak aligned to a vocationalist agenda rather than some putatively left wing “march through the institutions”. That goes to the nub of the debate about curriculum – much of what’s wrong with education is in fact the effect of a certain corporatism rather than of some crazed and imaginary culture war. There’s much irony in the fact that the defenders of the big C Canon are the self-same people whose ideological fellow travellers can see education only through the lens of the needs of the economy, very narrowly conceived.

But whatever one’s personal preferences or position in some of the curriculum debates, and many of them (for instance those about literacy education) are quite arcane, I think that it’s vital that agreement be reached on the principle that the direction, and nuts and bolts, of curriculum should be determined by genuine experts, not newspaper columnists, former Liberal party staffers or pollies. A degree of depoliticisation would be a boon for both history and education, and the end of the culture wars gives me some hope that a serious evidence-based debate on education can begin. In the present circumstances, that in itself would represent something of an “education revolution”.

Cross-posted at PollieGraph.

Posted in culture, education, federal election '07, media
56 comments on “Ain’t gonna study (culture) war no more…
  1. […] Cross-posted at LP in Exile. […]

  2. hannah's dad says:

    “…and much of the tosh that is taught is really managerial speak aligned to a vocationalist agenda”

    One of the last conferences I attended as teacher had a speaker who used a phrase that totally dumbfounded the audience.
    We tried interpreting it from context and theme but couldn’t figure it out at all so decided to ask her to explain the meaning of “education delivery unit”.

  3. silkworm says:

    One of the effects of ending the Howard era is going to be the equalization of monies given between public and private schools. Howard deliberately underfunded the public sector in education just as he deliberately underfunded the public sector in health. All this is part of the rorting that is increasingly coming to light. Although Rudd said he would not adopt Latham’s “hit list”, Rudd still has to address the huge disparity in the funding given to private schools.

    The churches are very much the happy recipients of Howard’s rorting. The Secular Party estimates $30 billion in tax exemptions and direct subsidies to the Catholic Church alone. This includes $700 million towards World Youth Day. I don’t really expect Rudd to address this type of rorting. Instead, I expect he will simply increase spending to the public sector, but I would be happy for Rudd to prove me wrong.

  4. Katz says:


    Post-Election Clearance Sale.

    White Blindfolds at Giveaway Prices.

    Expressions of Interest to His Grace, Tony Abbott, Leader of Her Majesty’s Oppositon in Exile.

  5. shishkin says:

    quelle surprise indeed … the howard government missuses a government program/award to achieve its self serving political end – gee, i never saw that one coming

  6. pablo says:

    I feel for Les Carlyon a great journalist, effectively getting shafted by Howard. I wish there was some legal redress he could take on learning the terms of this award, but I guess that would only prolong the culture wars soon to be declared dead.

  7. mbahnisch says:

    Carlyon didn’t get shafted by Howard. As I said in the post, Howard intervened to ensure that his book shared first price with Cochrane’s.

  8. David says:

    “I’m no fan, personally, of teaching deconstruction at secondary level before any narratives have actually been constructed, and I must confessed that I cringed when I first heard the awful neologism “learnings”, since enshrined by Tasmania in policy documents. Significantly, though, I first heard it from a Business School academic – and much of the tosh that is taught is really managerial speak aligned to a vocationalist agenda rather than some putatively left wing “march through the institutions”. That goes to the nub of the debate about curriculum – much of what’s wrong with education is in fact the effect of a certain corporatism rather than of some crazed and imaginary culture war.”

    Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing in secondary school stuff.

    I’m surprised how many conservative warriours bag out pomo bullshit jargon yet remain strangely oblivious to the every-burgeoining tide of US military cum managerial nonsense-speak, with it’s strategic implementations of key learnings criteria. The first has no effect on 99% of people’s lives; while we all suffer the second every day. (Although there’s interesting overlap between the two discourses – lots of izations, Latinisms, turning verbs into abstract nouns etc.)

    Actually the overlap at school is quite interesting. Anti-essentialist anti-representationalist ideas get debased into some kind of burnt-out Cali pot talk like reality doesn’t exist, there is no truth! This is wonderful because it reduces the cognitive dissonance associated with blatantly self-interested spin and arse-kissing towards status-giving authorities. Truth doesn’t matter any more so I may as well just say whatever will increase my POWER. It helps you approach life how a corporate lawyer approaches a case.

  9. mbahnisch says:

    Yeah, exactly, David – right-wing postmodernism in action. The whole pomo thing was always a project of the right in one way – as you can see from its origins in an anti-Marxist reaction, and as Martha Nussbaum famously argued with regard to Judith Butler speak, a retreat from real social and political engagement into a fantasy world of “discursive” interventions – all conducted from the safety of the campus by the always already privileged.

    As Jameson argued, what he calls “postmodernism theory” is the cultural logic of late capitalism.

    That’s not to say that some of the debates about epistemology and essentialism haven’t provided some valuable insights, but the balance sheet isn’t that flash in my view. There’s no benefit whatsoever for the left in imagining that there is no truth. That’s not to say that truth is not multiple, but to give up on it is profoundly wrong from both a scholarly and a a political perspective.

  10. David says:

    Mark, I see it differently. I wish the whole talk about epistemology would just go away. Little is gained by standing up for the concept of truth (what is truth? especially if it can be “multiple”!). You just wind up in all kinds of abstract arguments and unnecessary logical problems that can have no bearing on practice. Nevertheless, we should be sceptical about people actively trying to attack the concept of truth. It suggests they are using truth as a proxy for other ideas, such as empirical scrutiny, argumentative fairness, charity, honesty, willingness to accept and talk about findings even if they are bad for your political views, etc. These things are the commonsensical practices associated with being truthful, and philosophy can’t really improve on them.

    I think the cross-fertilisation of business with adaptations of French theory is interesting, but that it’s an artificial force-fit thanks to the need for compromises in educational politics. I’m wary about saying they share the same origin in something called the “cultural logic of late capitalism”. (Jameson’s writing is so vague and abstract, you can fit it to practically anything.)

  11. mbahnisch says:

    I think Jameson’s argument is normally misread, David, though perhaps you’re right that some of the blame for that lies with him. I suspect we’re differing only on the emphasis we’d put on aspects of these questions, and perhaps the manner in which they’re framed.

  12. Paul Burns says:

    I’ve read both books. While Carlyon’s The Great War perhaps, (and I say only perhaps, because I have a feeling other historians have used the same techniques,some years ago) in relying on accounts from the lower ranks, found in AWM letters and elsewhere,and definitely in its use of various family histories, it is really a pretty ordinary WW1 history, though very w4ell written.
    Cochrane’s Colonial Ambition, on the other hand, is one of the best Australian histories I’ve read in years. (And Ive read a lot of Australian history and still do.) I can see why Howard wouldn’t like it. It was definitely not subservient to conservative colonial political elites, for starters.His treatment of the squattocracy in the 1842 Depression stands out. Indeed, I suspect the work would have been too complex for Howard’s tiny triumphalist mind.If he’s read it, he just wouldn’t have got it.
    As for circulation, even before the awarding of the History prize, The Great War had a very strong promotional team behind it, so its not surprising its sold so many copies. Cochrane would be pleased with selling 1400 copies, and the fact that its still selling well. As I understand it, these would be considered very good sales figures for any Australian history.
    I’ve been told by other historians publishers don’t expect to sell much more than 1500-2000 and that includes overseas sales.Sad but true.
    What is distressing is that for the moment, by his own actions, in egotistically demanding a choice in the winner himself because its “his prize” and putting a political appointee on the judging panel, he has temporarily devalued the prize’s intellectual and academic value.
    Not to worry, Rudd will fix it, much to Howard’s horror.
    You really can’t expect much more from a man whose view if history doesn’t go past 1950s sixth class Social Studies.

  13. Paul Burns says:

    after “various family histories” insert
    “may break some new ground”.

  14. mbahnisch says:

    Thanks, Paul, I’d been wondering whether to read Cochrane and now I’ll put it on the post-election reading list…

  15. Paul Burns says:

    Gird yourself for a wonderful reading experience. It truly is a magnificent political history.It was commissioned for the NSW 1856-2006 anniversary of responsible government in NSW.
    Another reason Howard may have disapptoved of it, if he got past the title page, is that Graham Freudenberg gave it a glowing review with phrases like ‘rapacious oligarchy’, ‘sharp contrast to the glossy mediocrity of today’s political discourse.’
    And Tim Bonyhady compared Cochrane to Manning Clark. High praise indeed, but Howard must have gagged on it.
    Might I also recommend Bonyhady’s The Colonial Earth, if you haven’t read it.A wonderful cultural/environmental history.

  16. Jack Robertson says:

    What’s ironic (I think, hard to know wot that word mean nowaday, mun) is that it’s the ‘no-nonsense’, ‘real world’, ‘free market’, macho word-craftsmen of ‘Newspaper of Record’ MSM-Land wot long-ago pitched this doggerel-ditty on the very subject of HowarDerridian post-modernism down the memory hole…while ’tis the namby-pamby, pomo, elitist, public-subsidy relativists of Academe/Public Servitude who are clinging onto it on my authorial behalf by the tips of their epistemological fingies.

    Yes, yes, I may be no Auden or Keats in the poetic prophecy stakes, MB, but…well, you know. Nothing hurts any of us wannabe writers more than a po-mo-desaperacido’d bit of the deathless. AKA non-approved history, as it were. Just thought I’d flap my vaguely witty, vaguely prescient and vaguely (once-again) topical black-armbanned pens’worth madly on the sidelined sidelines. A bit.

    Five years’ worth of online geenyus…pfffft! Mostly gone. Now that’s wot I call postmodernising history, SMH. Bless Pandora, too, and all who sail in her.

  17. mbahnisch says:

    Many thanks, Paul!

  18. alan says:

    This is going to have Devine, Albrechtsen et al. in hysterics. Who authorised this photo?

  19. Enemy Combatant says:

    Geoffrey’s pique is yet another indication that come E day, Howard is history.

  20. pablo says:

    Mark. You say Les Carlyon wasn’t ‘shafted’ as I described it by Howard’s intervention. I don’t wish to argue over the word itself but how would you like to describe Carlyon’s feelings on learning that Howard’s intervention had seen his work elevated to share first prize?

  21. adam says:

    Howard’s postmodernism is like the use by Israeli armed forces of Deleuze to guide their “walking through walls” strategy. That which is offered up in hope for play and joy in recombination and construction of ideas is turned to evil, as is its potential in the hands of the ill-intentioned. No wonder they regularly rubbish their secret weapon – that is, assuming they even know that they’re using it.

  22. Liam Hogan says:

    Bonyhady’s The Colonial Earth

    Have to disagree, there, Paul. This Colonial Earth treats the British Empire as if it drew its power from displacing cuddly animals from friendly human-free wildernesses.
    I tend to think, with Bonyhady’s critics, that imperialism was a phenomenon mostly confined to our own species.

  23. David says:

    “like the use by Israeli armed forces of Deleuze to guide their “walking through walls” strategy”.

    That is truely bizarre.

  24. mbahnisch says:

    Pablo, sorry, didn’t get your meaning the first time.

  25. Paul Burns says:

    Perhaps because Bonyhady’s focus was very much on environmental history, which is a relatively new branch of the discipline – I think there are only about seven major works on the area – and not all of those are strictly history – there are problems working out what to leave out.Of those I’ve only read Bolton and Lines,and of course, Flannery.
    I’m not sure its fair to criticise Bonyhady for not doing what he was not attempting to do, (if I understand your comment correctly)[smile]
    His intention was, I think, ‘to examine the relationship between environmental ideals, policy and practice’ in the period 1788-1900.
    He tried to examine both positive and negative colonial reactions to the environment, and their use and misuse thereof, with some emphasis on colonial painters.
    The historical problem of British imperialism in Australia was/is much broader,and it too, had good and bad aspects, but it wasn’t what he said he was writing about.I think the book has to be judged on whether the author succeeded or failed within the limits he set himself.In my view he succeeded admirably.

  26. devildog6771 says:

    There are people, intellectual elites included, who say that socialism/communism will never grow in America. We now have the Progressive Caucus and one state, New York, practically run by them. Maybe you need to get your head out of the elitists or intellectual clouds you live in and take a closer look at what is in your own back yard as I was humbly forced to do!!

  27. Paul Burns says:

    Delighted to hear Socialism/Communism is flourishing in New York. There’s some hope for USA after all. We have lived with alternating
    neo-classical capitalist governments and socialist or social democratic governments here for over 100 years, and until the current ultra right wing government, due to become defunct next Saturday, it hasn’t done us any harm at all. Howard’s government on the other hand, ably supported by George W. Bush, has singlehandedly managed to corrupt every single democratic value we have held dear since the 1890s. There is not a single part of our cultural, social or political process that hasn’t turned to some kind of stinking rotteness under his watch. He has made many of us ashamed to be Australian, and its not a feeling we like at all.When he loses next Saturday almost the entire country will be throwing the biggest party we’ve had since the Sydney Olympics.

  28. Katz says:

    I’m looking forward to reading Cochrane, but in the meantime I’d like to save Carlyon from some of the feint praise he’s been damned with in this thread.

    Carlyon’s interpretation of the intellectual problem of understanding the nature of trench warfare is a tour de force.

    He explains with clarity the chain of command from the British Cabinet down to the individual private soldier. This has been done before. However, Carlyon identifies the novel feature of total war. The general officers perceived victory to consist of taking and holding positions clearly marked on very good maps. However, when soldiers set out to take those positions they discovered that the war had obliterated them. There was thus a huge mismatch between the reality of the general and the reality of the private.

    The meat in this sandwich were the field officers — majors and colonels. Carlyon demonstrated that men of this rank played a pivotal and unique role in the way the AIF responded to and overcame the novel challenges of total war. By often refusing to obey orders from on high and by understanding well the psychology of their own troops, these field officers turned the AIF into perhaps the most effective fighting unit on the Allied side.

    Carlyon is at pains to point out that the origins and experiences of these field officers were unique in the world, coming as they did from an urbanised, egalitarian, democratic meritocracy.

    Carlyon also shows how Australian warfighting methods spread through the Allied armies. The geopolitical, social and cultural consequences of that influence are large.

    Carlyon’s treatment of this story is by no means triumphalist. He accepts Australia’s involvement in the War as a given, which to the soldiers it was. In Northern France they found themselves in an inconceivable hell. The best decision-makers available emerged. The AIF succeeded by mobilising the cultural resources they brought with them from Australia.

    There is much to be regretted about the Great War and there is much to be regretted about how the Great War is remembered and celebrated by Howardistas and their fellow-travellers. Carlyon’s account supervenes all of that.

  29. David says:

    Howard’s intervention was an abomination.

    But I’m wondering what’s so bad about a book being “safe”, if it’s good.

    I haven’t read the book, or the review, but judging by Katz’s reading of the book the Monthly review falls into a meme common among literary-critical people: reading polite silence on certain points as tacitly endorsing orthodoxy.

  30. Paul Burns says:

    I think the point is that Colonial Ambitions was much, much better.While I enjoyed Carlyon and was grateful to have an up to date account of the war on the Western Front from an Australian perspective, after reading Cochrane, I came away feeling I had read a great history.It was the same kind of feeling I had after reading Vol 2. of Alan Atkinson’s Europeans in Australia.In his case Vol 1 was very good, but Vol 2 was sheer genius.
    I was lucky to have read Cochrane, Atkinson and Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause (about the American Revolution) all in the same year, and its not that often one gets the opportunity ro read three great histories in one year.

  31. grace pettigrew says:

    Slightly off topic, but given the mention of post-election reading lists, can I suggest one for the Xmas stocking – Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” (Penguin, 2007, RRP $33), which provides an interesting framework for interpreting Howard’s NT invasion and land rights changes, following his sudden discovery of social disintegration in poverty-stricken aboriginal communities. Klein does not mention Australia specifically but her shock doctrine fits the last decade of Howardism like a glove.

  32. mbahnisch says:

    Grace, I’ve bought it and it’s on the post-election reading list.

  33. Paul Burns says:

    Fellow LP-ers, once you start me on history I’m hard to stop.I have to make an observation on ‘safe’ history. Despite what Howard tries to make out most history is safe. History is an essentially conservative profession, not politically, but because of the limits placed on historiography by the nature of the discipline. You simply cannot go too far beyond the evidence. If you are going to speculate, you have to label the speculation as such.
    Of the three works I’ve referred to above, Atkinson is in a class of his own. He doesn’t just write history; he creates great literature. (as did Manning Clark).
    Cochrane’s Colonial Ambitions is ‘safe’ history, but its great history.Middlekauff,in the light of some recent American historiography on the Revolution, say, Nash and Bicheno, for example is downright conservative.But it doesn’t stop his work from being great history.
    Howard’s problem is not really whether history is left or right. Its just that he’s pissed off that topics like Labour history, Aboriginal history, women’s history,history from below and themes like class, gender, race, and so on, have been the preoccupation of Australian historians for more than thirty years, and he is further upset that some of these themes and topics frequently engage in a critique of capitalism. Even military/diplomatic history of the 20th century finds itself questioning either the worth of the American Alliance,or the validity or consequences of our connection with Britain.
    Basically, regardless of their ideology, left, centre or right, a lot of the time Australian historians are talking about things John Howard doesn’t want to know about.
    Furthermore, he’s terrified what the verdict of history is going to be about his own regime.He knows. I think,that its not going to be anywhere as kind to him as it was/is, to say, the second Menzies Government or the Fraser Government.And when it comes to the Fraser Government, he’s going to be blamed as much as Hawkie for its demise.
    History is above all a discipline of the humanities, and in thirty years time when historians come to seriously examine the Howard Government, above all, regardless of its successful economic record (which even now is appearing doubtful,if what we are learning is not opposition party political propaganda, and its too seen to make that historical judgement)its going to be castigated for its inhumanity and its corruption of the political process, unless some hitherto unknown evidence surfaces that justifies its behaviour.
    Now, speaking as a leftie, not an historian,as I was in the preceding paragraph, that is what this paranoid little turd is terrified of about history.A really bad verdict.

  34. Paul Burns says:

    OOPs, too soon, not too seen.

  35. Katz says:

    Basically, regardless of their ideology, left, centre or right, a lot of the time Australian historians are talking about things John Howard doesn’t want to know about.

    I think this identifies the issue that was gnawing at the back of Ratty’s mind when he had to hand over $100K to a scribbler.

    In Ratty’s philistine and proscribed world history is only about a few topics. And so far as Ratty is concerned there is no topic more worthy of history than “the Diggers”, unless, of course, it’s “the Don”.

    But vitally, Ratty perceives his blind spots. His extraordinary concession recently about the effects of his own upbringing on his views about Aborigines, among other topics, indicate consciousness of the existence, legitimacy and even persuasiveness of countervailing perspectives. “Don’t blame me!” Ratty protested, “The picket fence made me do it!” It is important to note that Ratty’s admissions emerged at a time of maximum stress for him when he was fending off Brutus and Casca, who had to be dissuaded from stabbing him in the rotunda. That moment of danger passed, Ratty could then return to being his usual, egregious self.

    Thus Ratty isn’t merely a philistine. He’s worse. He’s a hypocrite. And he’s worse than that. He has guilty knowledge of his own hypocrisy.

    Ratty knows that history will condemn him. He knows that a condemnatory verdict will be a correct one. He can’t tolerate that knowledge. He must shut it out.

  36. Futt Bucker says:

    A bit off topic but could fit under this umbrella. Does anyone else find the Editorial in today’s Sunday Mail absolutely offensive?,22606,22777430-5006336,00.html

  37. mbahnisch says:


  38. Paul Burns says:

    On the evidence presently available to us, I couldn’t agree more. Imagine having to live with the knowledge that any history of the Howard era is going to have to include a chapter that has to make an historical judgement on the “Howard-haters’ so beloved by Dolly. All that criticism in one place, in one chapter, questioning his wonderful legacy.
    Can he live, even now, with the fact that David Marr et als. Dark Victory will be a major primary source for the years 1996-2007?
    I don’t think so.

  39. David says:

    Re: that article.

    Is it just me, or is this completely self-contradictory:

    “YET today’s voters are erudite and not easily fooled. For the past five weeks, they have been subjected to an electoral campaign cloaked in the political fad of “me too-ism”.

    “It has proved an effective strategy for Mr Rudd…”

  40. Paul Burns says:

    You’re right. But I guess the whole point of the tning is the headline. Futt-Bucker, it is offensive. Sadly there’s an equally ghastly piece of rubbish going the rounds in WA, though not as an editorial. Saw it on Google news this morning.

  41. Futt Bucker says:

    I suspected that Editorial would be a common theme from the News Ltd papers in the final week of the Howard Government’s existence. They play on the ill-informed and hope that they can influence these people by telling them how to vote.

    It’s not so much the fact that News Ltd backs the Coalition that I find disgusting it’s the blatant barracking and cheer leading from them. Why do News Ltd paper’s insist on having zero credibility? Do they even try to look at politics objectively? etc.

    It’s starting to heat up here in Adelaide with The Advertiser/Sunday Mail waving their flag but with the now added piece to the Liberal’s “Go For Growth” backdrop (something like “Don’t trust Labor with the economy”)and Howard’s announcement today of taking welfare money away from anyone that has ever been convicted of taking drugs, one becomes worried that they all might influence enough people to vote them back in.

    I hate to sound negative at this point but I’d be quite upset if Labor “won” the overall vote but just fell short of winning the required 16 seats.

  42. Futt Bucker says:

    “They insist on being mugs, Mr. Speaker, absolute mugs”. 😉

  43. David says:

    “I hate to sound negative at this point but I’d be quite upset if Labor “won” the overall vote but just fell short of winning the required 16 seats.”

    That seems to be following the fallacious logic I’ve heard so much in the papers it’s starting to really bug me. The entire “catch up” x seats concept is nonsense. It implies “starting behind” by whatever you got three years ago. But that is irrelevant. Each election is a new slate. Nobody would say Australia has to “catch up” 150 runs in the second cricket test because they lost by that amount in the first. The one issue is that the poll findings may not be evenly dispersed across seats. But that’s got nothing to do with previous elections.

  44. Katz says:

    So Ratty attempts to bottom-feed on votes garnered from putting druggies on a short leash.

    Oh dear, oh me. This is the social policy version of excision of Australian territoriality.

    First Aborigines on a pension drip-feed, now druggies. Who else?

    Will single mums be denied support until they are locked into a chastity belt?

    What about Vietnam Vets? If they insist on standing under ceiling fans that remind them of Hueys hovering overhead, bringing on PTSD, should they have their military pensions stopped?

    How much will all this beadling cost?

  45. nasking says:

    “Slightly off topic, but given the mention of post-election reading lists, can I suggest one for the Xmas stocking – Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”…”

    good recommendation Grace…watch this:

    (The Shock Doctrine by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein:DIRECTED BY JONÁS CUARÓN. Alfonso Cuarón, director of “Children of Men”, and Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo”, present a short film from Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”)

  46. mbahnisch says:

    Thanks, David, that’s a point I’ve been trying to make (usually in response to Mr Strocchi) but it appears to be a difficult one to get across because of the way these things are always framed in the media.

    FWIW, I think the Galaxy marginal seat poll today is rubbish and I don’t think that it’s at all likely that there’ll be a “win 2PP but lose the election” scenario. But I’m so sick of discussing polls that I’m afraid I can’t be bothered setting out my reasoning!

  47. mbahnisch says:

    However, I am happy to recommend Possum for anyone who’s having the wobblies about the polls:

  48. Peter Kemp says:

    Well I guess the kids won’t be reading “The Wind (Schuttle) in the Willows” co-re-written by Costello and John Stone, anytime soon. Would have been a great line having Toad’s self pork barrelling revised as non-inflationary and assisting a trickle down economy. (I guess the weasels would have been cast as teh evil unions, with black armbands?)

    OTOH, the writing of Howard’s End in the history wars, (trashed by his own side, another joyous exercise in schadenfreude soon on that account), will inevitably be part of future school texts and POLS101 lectures which I hope he is alive to hear about. (Dolly likewise gets a serve in INRE101 and Cozzie starts a new uni, in association with Liberty University and Hillsong with ECON-ALCHEMY 101 as a pre-requisite for a life in religion, politics or whatever b/s the corporate world demands?)

  49. goodtobewithyou says:

    Lisa Paul gets a gurnsey hey? She’d be the new Jane Halton then, a safe pair of hands when there’s dirty work to be done, can be relied on to take her rewards quietly.

    You won’t find it anywhere in the DEST, (or any site methinks but I’ll be happy to be corrected) that it was good ole boy Lisa ( what a disgrace to the initials LP!!) who signed off for us ( on October 31 2007, after caretaker period start ????!!!, that’s the point, know what I mean? ) on

    “Sino-Australia Arrangement on Higher Education Qualifications Recognition. The Arrangement is renewed and valid for three years. The former Arrangement was signed in October, 2003 and expired last year.” … Oops. (Maybe Mr “China” Rudd wouldn’t have been such a “no questions asked” walkover?)

    So does that mean Chinese MBBS degree holders, as in Medical Doctors, are good to work here in “Areas of Need”, like Dr Patel, crap English or not? China is big on being The_New_India in the Medical_Qualifications_Industry, so we better hope their quality control is good, we’re gonna see a lot of its outputs.

    Thanks for nothing, in terms of detail, I suspect. What China wants, China gets, done deal, no worries. After all, whose students are propping up our higher education “system” with their fees? At least China had the decency to report it, not like our sneaky lot. Onya Lisa, enjoy your seat on the board. You might go down in history yourself for making the next flood of dubious medical operatives, (pardon the pun), a doddle and disaster waiting to happen.

    Of course it goes both ways, they might turn out to be top cutters and stitchers, the salvation of our collapsed medical system, in which case Lisa can take the credit of making sure it happened. Just doing her job.

    I’ll put up a chart of pinyin for “I’ve got a pain in my chest” and the like if DEST doesn’t, these Drs will never have heard patients reporting symptoms in English before.

  50. mbahnisch says:

    So does that mean Chinese MBBS degree holders, as in Medical Doctors, are good to work here in “Areas of Need”, like Dr Patel, crap English or not?

    In short, no. A mutual recognition of qualifications agreement means just that. It doesn’t imply that people meet the registration requirements to practice medicine.

    I’d also query your emphasis on “crap English” but I suspect if we get into that discussion, we’re going to be well off topic.

  51. goodtobewithyou says:

    “in short, no”… good, much relieved.

    What then is practical import of Recognition? OK to pay for Master’s by Coursework here, get visa, if there’s B.Whatever back home?

    Agree, crap English topic can wait for another time and place… after all, as Bob Birrell’s 2007 report points out, crap English is good enough to get a degree from Australian universities, (some Uni’s crappier than others)…the problem isn’t going away.

    Since it’s clearly not “on topic” anywhere ( as I say, the apparently proforma extension was not even reported, apart from on the Chinese Embassy site), this will be my last chance to maybe clear up my other concern here, courtesy of your superior knowledge and experience, and happenstance of Ms. Paul’s mention:

    How comes this actioning of policy committment was allowed inside the caretaker period? Just not major enough? Bipartisan support assumed?

    “Caretaker period extends from the date of dissolution of the House of Representatives at 12 noon on Wednesday 17 October 2007 ….Governments avoid making major policy decisions during the caretaker period that are likely to commit an incoming government…”

  52. dj says:

    Howard has always struck me as having little to no understanding about History how historians work. His fundamental lack of appreciation for the ways in which different interpretations of various sources are formed is on par with the lack of understanding of the scientific process (however flawed it may be at times) shown by members of his own government who continue to deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming. I think this in part is influenced by his own educational experience but also by what seems to be an inherent personality trait that places incredible limits on his ability to think beyond his own experiences and empathize with persons or causes outside of his narrow social circles. If one was to be Shakespearian, at a time when his political star appears to be all but extinguished, you could say it is his tragic flaw.

  53. Stephen Hill says:

    As Umberto Eco would say, the cliches are having a ball.,25197,22785002-7583,00.html

  54. mbahnisch says:

    Stephen, I couldn’t work out what the GG thought they were going to achieve when they got that character to start writing for them. At least most of their columnists write in such a way that you can get an idea of what they mean.

    And I’m sure that Rudd has no intention of responding to lectures from the GG punditariat when deciding what to do in education policy.

  55. Andyc says:

    Had me worried there, Mark. I thought for a minute that you meant that a certain Italian Professor of Semiotics now had a regular column in the GG! 🙂

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