Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Australian policies in WWI primarily served Australia, not Britain

Another derogatory Leftist myth exploded

IN a bold re-interpretation of one of Australia's pivotal periods, historian Neville Meaney explodes the myth that the Great War broke upon an innocent nation of colonial deference devoid of any independent strategic consciousness. The myths about World War I constitute a cultural fortress in Australian life, perpetuating contemporary prejudices and denying the light of authenticity to a startling political era.

The central narrative beloved by our culture industry is that a generation of young Australians was sacrificed by weak, pro-British political leaders enslaved by Empire and without any concept of Australian nationhood.

Meaney has thrown a brick at this mythology. It is a very large brick in the form of his 535 page project, Australia and World Crisis 1914-1923, published by Sydney University Press and launched several weeks ago in Sydney by Kim Beazley, with support from defence analyst Hugh White.

Meaney has dedicated much of his life to this project while working in the history department at Sydney University and teaching generations of Australians, such as current Washington ambassador Dennis Richardson, New York Times reporter Jane Perlez, historian James Curran and aspiring Liberal MP Tom Switzer.

Launching the book, Beazley said it should transform conventional historical accounts of Australia and the Great War and assessments about the relationship between Australian leaders and Empire central in London.

The thesis is that in World War I, Australia was engaged in a "hot war" against Germany and its allies in Europe and a "cold war" against Japan in the Pacific. Meaney fuses two stories as never before: Australia's obsession about Japan's threat and its struggle with London to have Australia's national interests recognised. He enshrines the notion of an "Australian crisis", the possibility of having to face the menace of Japan, Britain's ally, at a time when all British resources were pledged to the struggle for survival in Europe.

For Meaney, Australia's fierce support for Britain against Germany went far beyond sentiment. With its geographic isolation, Australians were "drawn to embrace Britishness with an intensity which was greater than that evinced by the people of the British Isles". This was tied to the world view of many Australians that the conflict was tantamount to a British race struggle for survival. But it possessed another dimension: the belief that Japan was Australia's real enemy and an ultimate focus of its strategic and defence calculations. Meaney shows this convincingly.

"The cold war against Japan was very different," he writes. "It was peculiarly Australia's war. From its origins - that is, from Japan's triumph in the Russo-Japanese war - Australia had viewed Britain's Asian ally as a potential enemy. Learning from its European mentors (Japan) had set out on an imperial course, seizing Taiwan, annexing Korea, acquiring spheres of influence in Manchuria and seeking to gain a supreme influence in northern China.

"It resented the White Australia policy and took offence at the racial discrimination suffered by its nationals. The British had little sympathy for Australia's distrust of Japan. Even if they had shared Australia's anxieties, the British, hard pressed at home in trying to outmatch the German navy in the North Sea, were in no position to assist Australia.

"As a result, Australian policy-makers, their fears heightened by racial ideas of international politics, pursued their own defence and foreign policies, raising their own military forces, acquiring their own navy and seeking the co-operation of the other British Dominions and even the United States." Japan's entry into war on Britain's side merely intensified the "cold war" fixation of Australia's leaders. Wartime Prime Minister W.M.Hughes, with his international relations philosophy of pessimistic realism and his eyes on Japan, warned: "History shows that there has never been a weak nation worth attacking that has not been attacked. If Britain were defeated, Australia would be left merely to choose to whom it should surrender."

By references to cables, documents and speeches, Meaney shows that Australian leaders were in repeated conflict with London over war strategy, consumed with their inter-related fears about the consequences of a German victory in Europe, worried that if Japan switched sides, it could impose its own terms upon Australia.

He offers vivid portraits of the three war leaders, Liberal Prime Minister Joseph Cook, Labor PM Andrew Fisher and Hughes, leader for most of the war who broke from Labor to join the conservative side. Each of them knew Australia's interests were tied to Britain yet separate from Britain. Australia's diplomacy was dictated by the quest for influence, not colonial servility.

Cook was aware that "Australian and British strategic interests were not identical". Fisher, a practical romantic, realised that Britain had long ignored Australia's Pacific concerns, and he "put Australian interests ahead of imperial sentiment".

Meaney says: "Fisher's assertion of an independent defence policy was not motivated by an Australian cultural nationalism. He did not look to convicts, shearers, bushrangers to provide a separate story for Australians (but) his decision to put Australia first was the result of a settled view that Australia as a political community had a set of interests peculiar to itself and it was those interests which the Australian government had a prime responsibility to protect."

Hughes had the quickest, most incisive mind and a compulsion to action. Yet he was prone to absolutist solutions that polarised the nation primarily in Meaney's view because of his extreme commitment to the "idea of nationalism". Confronted by the European war and obsessed by Japan, Hughes' view was that Australia's survival depended upon Britain's total victory in the war and in the peace.

At the Paris peace conference Hughes was openly contemptuous of US president Woodrow Wilson's peace proposals, demanded a crushing settlement upon Germany and alienated the Japanese by his extreme opposition to their campaign for a racial equality provision. Returning to Australia he declared the Treaty of Versailles was "not a good peace for Australia: nor indeed for Britain". Hughes failed to get his way more often than not because of the extremism of his stances.

"Victory in Europe offered little comfort," Meaney says of Australia's postwar policy makers. "Japan had become a world power." It had extended its empire in East Asia and was facing Australia across the equator. Respite would come with the US-sponsored 1920s Washington naval settlement that, in Meaney's view, ended the immediate world crisis.

The upshot, Meaney argues, was that the sense of independence within Empire displayed before and during the Great War was lost in the more compliant era of Australian history of the 20s and 30s.


Immigrants help to propel population near 22 million

AUSTRALIA'S population soared by almost half a million people in the year to March - boom not seen since the 1960s, according to the latest statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday shows the population increased by just over 2 per cent – or 439,000 people – in the year. There are now 21.8 million of us.

Most of the recent increase of almost 300,000 people was due to immigration. But there's also a mini baby boom, with 160,000 babies entering the world during the year.

Recent research showed Australia's population would balloon to 35 million – seven million more than previously thought – during the next 40 years. The government says the population boom is great news because it means the economy will keep growing.

However, some green groups say enough is enough. Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Charles Berger said the growing population was on a collision course with the environment. She said more people meant more greenhouse pollution, poorer river health and struggling infrastructure. Every extra million people added 25 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution, she said.

The ABS data showed Western Australia was leading the population proliferation, while Tasmania was last.


Feminists screwing it up for sisters

Janet Albrechtsen

“WHAT the hell has happened to feminism?” grumbled the Herald Sun’s Jill Singer a few weeks back. Here’s an idea. Feminists are screwing up feminism. Take last week. No matter which way you turned, women, especially those who talk most about feminism, were proving that women are often their own worst enemy.

Let’s start in parliament. On Tuesday last week, female ministers in the Rudd government were delighted at news that the Coalition was failing on a new measure of female progress. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told parliament that she woke up that day, read the report from The Sydney Morning Herald that this year women in the Coalition have been granted only 8.4 per cent of questions asked in parliament despite making up 20 per cent of Liberal and National MPs, and “thought that it was pretty bad”. Ditto, said her Labor sister Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for the Status of Women.

Forget about counting the number of women in the boardroom, in law firms or on the bench. The real sign of women’s emancipation is the number of questions they ask in parliament. Showing Labor’s enlightenment towards women, four female ALP backbenchers rose that day to ask questions of their frontbench big sisters.

Thinking she had the killer response to Labor’s brazen display of girl power, Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop reminded them that their own Paul Keating used his maiden speech to describe the increasing number of women in the workforce as “something of which we should be ashamed”.

Break it up, girls. As Speaker Harry Jenkins, said at the end of a disgraceful question time, “Calm down ... Not one of the greatest moments for the house.” Indeed, it was a low point for women, too. Bishop’s retort was embarrassing. Keating’s comments, made in 1969, reflected a different era. The world, including Keating, has moved on. Hallelujah for that. Better if Bishop had pointed out that handing out lame dorothy dixers, prepared by the minister’s office, to backbenchers, who take turns jumping up like a ventriloquist’s doll, is hardly a sign of female political empowerment. It’s tokenism, pure and simple.

This is feminism at its most flippant, phony and foolish. Deriding other women for not keeping up with Labor’s empty feminist question time gestures doesn’t advance the place of women. It’s just politics. But, then, feminism has rarely been about women. For so many feminists, feminism is, at its core, about pushing a particular agenda. For some ageing feminists, the agenda was, and sadly remains, one of man-hating. So it is with Adele Horin, The Sydney Morning Herald’s resident feminist.

On Saturday, Horin deconstructed the online responses to Singer’s sepia-soaked vision of early feminists “fighting sexual objectification by refusing to shave our legs and armpits, burning our bras and demonstrating for equal pay” in contrast to modern girls who are “behaving like brain-dead, underpaid and over-waxed hookers”.

The online responses to Singer’s Herald Sun column revealed an avalanche of misogyny, wrote Horin. One chap told Singer to “suck it up princess and just worry about what fabric softner (sic) to put in the wash”. Aghast, Horin concluded: “The Herald Sun is not a fringe publication. This is a segment of ordinary Australian menfolk, unleashed.”

Now, I have more than a little experience with online hate mail. During the past few years, it has arrived each week in predictable lashings: rude, obnoxious, spiteful, nasty stuff. Like Singer, I’ve been told to get back in the kitchen (this chap would like my cooking even less than my writing). Some guy told me not to breed. (Too late.) The Australian is not a fringe publication. But you’d have to be desperate or dishonest to extrapolate from a group of unrepresentative online maddies, whether from the Left or Right, to the views of ordinary Australian menfolk.

The fundamental mistake, made over and again by women such as Horin, is to assume that the world can be utopia or close to it. Alas, some men will take longer than Keating to come to a more enlightened view of women. Some may never get there. A mature, honest feminism would stop dwelling on the trivial and irrelevant.

In that vein, while Horin was lecturing an unrepresentative bunch of dopes for doing the men’s cause no favours, the same can be said for a bunch of women. Their constant cries of discrimination often do women no favours. Three decades ago, feminists maintained that equality in the workplace depended on universal child care for children and full-time work for women. Anything less was discrimination. Never mind that many women wanted to work part time to combine the cherished role of rearing children.

Having finally caught up with the notion that many women want this, the latest feminist demand is that part-time work be regarded as some kind of new human right.

Last week, The Sydney Morning Herald reported a woman’s tale of discrimination woe. Rebecca Salter was offered the position of assistant principal at a primary school in Sydney’s inner west. The job offer was withdrawn when she revealed that she was returning from maternity leave and wanted to work part time. NSW opposition spokeswoman for women and former sex discrimination commissioner Pru Goward said it was “an open and shut case” of discrimination.

Is it too much to expect a former sex discrimination commissioner to stop with the stereotypes? The school, Marrickville West Primary, wanted a full-time assistant principal. Not unreasonably, some jobs cannot be done as well, or at all, on a part-time basis. That’s not evil, unlawful discrimination against women. That’s life, as even Plibersek acknowledged amid last week’s parliamentary melee.

While so many feminists refuse to accept it, some jobs demand full-time attention. Not every job can be done on a part-time basis.

Contrary to the newest feminist mantra, the world of work and families is not some kind of utopia where women (or men, for that matter) can have it all. Having children raises difficult, imperfect choices. You can do the full-time work, full-time child care caper. Or you can work part time, allowing more time at home with children. Each person will make a personal decision but whatever the choice, something has to give: whether it’s losing precious time with young children or making difficult career sacrifices. That applies to men as much as it does to women.

Indeed, let me suggest that society’s bias makes it easier for women to work part time if their preference is to rear children, than for men to do so. So here’s another idea. How refreshing and grand it would be if women could sometimes, just sometimes, resist the temptation to treat every occasion as proof that women are being mistreated by a big bad boys’ world.


Coverup of bullying at NSW government hospital

The New South Wales Opposition says nurses who have complained of bullying at a far south coast hospital would not mind if findings of an investigation were made public. Bega MP Andrew Constance says an external investigator's report on bullying and operational issues at Pambula Hospital should be given to the community.

The Greater Southern Area Health Service says the report will not be released publicly. However, a summary and set of recommendations will be released. Its eastern sector general manager, Ken Barnett, says staff and appropriate unions will be consulted before it is considered whether to implement recommendations.

Mr Constance says if unions are entitled to know the findings, so should the broader community, and nurses names could be omitted from the documents. "You don't necessarily need to disclose names but the community are entitled to know what occurred at the facility and what is going to be done about it in the future," he said. "The only way that the confidence can be regained by the community in what's occurring at Pambula Hospital is for that availability of the information and that openness and transparency around what's happened."

He says not releasing the investigation findings to the community will further erode public confidence in the health system. "I think nurses want accountability in the system. They want to be able to raise issues of concern and I think there's been enough secrecy clouding the hospital as is without it being furthered by a government not willing to be open and transparent about this report," he said. "The community is aware of the investigation. It's important that the community have the recommendations and the findings of that investigation."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Frequently, the biggest bully wannabes are (nearly always) female nurses. They cloak it in the guise of "professionalism" or lack of, an idea they constantly use to bignote themselves and denigrate others.