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Prime Ministerial self-righteousness

By Reg Little - posted Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Australian’s Editor at Large, Paul Kelly, published an outstanding piece on June 5, 2010, titled “Government that knows best”. Yet, he included the following passage:

For Rudd, nation-building is exemplified by the early 2009 $42bn fiscal stimulus. This was one of his finest decisions. He is right to claim vindication with Australia avoiding recession.

This is, of course, received wisdom in Australia. Yet, anyone who has read the growing body of analysis like that of William Engdahl in The Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century must wonder how Australians can see that fiscal stimulus as anything other than treacherous waste. It plunged an unburdened nation into “affordable” sovereign debt. This was done for a little short term political gain at the cost of longer term debtor’s pain.


Worse still, it revealed a political leadership that is gullible before the blandishments of Wall Street’s global bankers. These brought on the Global Financial Crisis, are now using the Group of 20 to make a last stand in defence of the American Century, and like nothing better than to subject the people of other nations to disciplines they would never consider for themselves.

Australians need only talk to the Greeks, Irish, Icelanders and other members of a growing community whose political leaders have been tempted by short term gain offered by obliging financiers. Or they might reflect on the fate of the United Kingdom under Tony Blair and George Brown.

Kelly’s piece was, nevertheless, outstanding because it highlighted how Australians have fallen into the clutches of one man, with a few, now grim, hangers on, among whom nothing over-rides a conviction of self-righteousness, unless it is an ignorance of the contemporary world.

With some subtlety and irony, Kelly draws attention to the fact that this is a “Government that knows worst”. It is not just dangerous insulation batts and the ill conceived and badly managed school halls, but also the wildly expensive and technologically naïve plans for ambitions like a National Broadband Network at $43 billion and 12 Australian-built submarines at a cost estimated by some at $36 billion. This will grow well beyond the reach of a super profits tax on a troubled mining industry.

The Prime Minister’s extravagant Copenhagen delegation of more than 100 bureaucrats displayed a man out of touch with all reality in two areas where he has been credited with unique expertise and dedication - China relations and climate change. He lacked either the professional understanding or the political integrity to recognise that the decision of Hu Jintao not to go to Copenhagen signalled that the Chinese were developing their own, world leading strategies to deal with environmental challenges.

The Chinese did not want to be tied to a cap and trade system dreamed up by Western elites to grow their tax incomes, extend their political control and further fatten their bankers. They cannot have been impressed by a slow-witted and frustrated Australian Prime Minister who had earlier announced himself in China as a “zhengyou”, or true friend, but who reportedly complained in Copenhagen that “those Chinese f**kers are trying to ratf**k us”.


Our Prime Minister embraced the climate change cause but has never ventured into exploring the real dilemma facing humanity - the sometimes fruitful but increasingly troubled marriage between the corporate profit motive and simplistic scientific paradigms, which make little allowance for the subtle and complex balances of nature. There are neither votes nor corporate funding to be gained from such daunting challenges to many of the certainties that have underpinned Western “progress” over the past several centuries.

Perhaps Prime Minister Rudd has done most damage, however, in his area of professional expertise and experience. As a Mandarin speaking ex-diplomat, it was reasonable to expect he would bring unique skills to his role as national leader at a time of difficult global change -with the rise of China and questions of the sort raised by Engdahl about the discrediting of American power and influence.

Rather, he has been a disaster, displaying ineptness that is difficult to believe, in casually giving offence not only to China but also to Japan, India and Indonesia. As a consequence, while Australian commentators have continued to feel obliged to treat seriously his notion of a new Asia Pacific Community, China has discreetly built up new institutional structures that are well placed to reorder the global community.

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About the Author

Reg Little was an Australian diplomat from 1963 to 1988. He gained high level qualifications in Japanese and Chinese and served as Deputy of four and Head of one overseas Australian diplomatic mission. He is the co-author of The Confucian Renaissance (1989) and The Tyranny of Fortune: Australia’s Asian Destiny (1997) and author of A Confucian Daoist Millennium? (2006). In 2009, he was elected the only non-ethnic Asian Vice Chairman of the Council of the Beijing based International Confucian Association. His other writings can be found on his website:

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