||Issue No. 170||14 March 2003|
Coke or Pepsi?
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
A Plea for Legal Action
Johnny's Green Card
Veto The War
Law and Order
Letters to the Editor
Re-considering the Accord
Your editorial(Issue No 169 - 7 March 2003)is both thought provoking and timely. The viewpoints of Leonie Bronstein and Neale Towart also struck a familiar note. I did my Local Government studies at University back in the early 1990s. On reviewing the Industrial Relations literature of the day, I could not help feeling that the Labor Party did themselves and the workers a great disservice by going down the economic rationalist path couched in terms like 'micro' and 'macro' economic reforms'.
The sterility of economic rationalist thinking is only matched by the paucity of evidence of any causal relationship between 'micro' economic reform and 'macro' economic change. If economics had started out with economic history first and then followed by economic theory, Western democracies like Australia would not be in the bind that they are in now. The Labor Party's throes of grappling with a GST to fund the shortfalls of multinational corporation taxes in the running of a welfare state, is a by product of this misguided thinking.
As John Ralston Saul of 'Unconcious Civilization' fame has opined, two decades into a social experiment that has gone horribly wrong is a very long time. Corporate values which have contaminated government continue to hold sway. This is very much reflected in the emergence of a New Right in the ilk of Tony Abbot and John Howard. Newt Gingrich in the USA is the archetype of this band of copycats.
With the 'machinery of government' reforms in NSW under bureaucrats like the late Dr. Peter Wilenski and in Canberra under John Keating (no relation of Paul Keating)in the 1980s and the 1990s, the civil service has since been picking up the pieces. If Chinese imperial history has taught us anything, it is this. The easiest way to undermine a country is to undermine its civil service. When that happens, governance gives way to corporate greed.
In today's context, does it surprise anyone that the captains of industry give themselves obscene pay packets whilst they preside over corporations with a track record of sacking workers to prop up the long term dwindling value of shareholders' funds? Yet we get more government 'newspeak' reports in the likes of Wallis. Business school graduates do not have bigger brains than philosopy graduates. We have too many 'bean counters' but not enough thinkers. We have to bring back 'Nugget' Coombes from the dead if honest government is to be resurrected.
Professor Pusey did his research some years ago to show the same dullness of our civil servants in Canberra. Around the same time one correspondent for a leading newspaper even commented that the 'mandarins' in Canberra were about the most mediocre in Australia's post war history. The Chinese civil service used to get only the best brains to manage the country. This was done through a rigorous selection process such as formal examinations and submissions of original thinking.
That sort of ethos persisted for two thousand years until it had to face the aftermath of the Opium Wars in the 1840s. Before that 'mandarins' or scholars held centre court and social justice was meted out in the name of the Emperor. Next down the line were the peasants, then came the artisans. The lowest of the low in Chinese society was the business class.
Ironically, the 'social pecking' order was turned upside down after the Opium Wars simply because British 'drug lords' needed middlemen to push opium to the populace. The business class soon acquired such wealth unseen previously that they were able to buy their way into the civil service without even having to pass any examinations. We see parallels in Western democracies today in the form of political advisors. When business people advise politicians how to govern, the natural fallout is deregulation, cutbacks on welfare and small government.
The toppling of the Chinese scholar gentry was the precursor of the Chinese diaspora that continued for 150 years to this day. Just before all these upheavals were taking place in Chinese society, the British had appreciated the marvel of the civil service examination system that powered the Chinese dynasties to heights of cultural, naval and military achievement. The Chinese civil service model was transposed on Westminster. But very little acknowledgement is given to the fact that 'Rule Britannia' rested on a civil service system essentially copied from the Chinese.
It is unimaginable that the Labor Party during the time of Bob Hawke and could have condoned anti-intellectual freaks to wreak irreversible damage to the social, intellectual, phychic and natural capital of this country. The Labor Party has forgotten its history. It was the diaspora of the Chinese at the turn of the previous century awash with Social Darwinist thought, that the Party's founders sought to protect the quality of worklife of 'fair dinkums'. The lesson for today's leaders of the Labor Party is that 'bite the hand that feeds you, and you'll be sunk'.
Y. K. Yau
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