An interesting observation about life in Australia over the last twenty years is how the nation decided to look backwards and become insular in many fields.
One of the manifestations of this insularity is the sensitivity towards outside criticism by many of the nation’s business and political leaders.
Today saw an example with two Members of Parliament on the ABC’s The World Today program responding to criticism from a former Thatcher government minister, Lord Deben, over the government’s climate change policies.
GEORGE CHRISTENSEN STATEMENT (voiceover): The last time I checked, the House of Lords, that undemocratic anachronism in a modern British democracy, and its Privy Council, had no jurisdiction over Australia, thank God.
Yet Lord Deben has waded into Australian affairs, whingeing about what we are doing regarding climate change when we contribute less than 2 per cent to total global carbon dioxide emissions.
If this whingeing pom thinks the carbon tax was actually doing something for the planet, can he please advise us lowly commoners how many degrees the Earth would have cooled to because of the carbon tax?
IAN MACDONALD: I think the Australian Government and Australian policy should be run by Australians not by some retired English Lord.
MacDonald’s and Christensen’s sensitivity towards criticism from a ‘whingeing pom’ is notable – as is their contempt for the British House of Lords despite being members of a political party that supports the English Queen as Australia’s head of state.
On their own, the ramblings of a pair of insular rural apparatchiks doesn’t count for much but the same hostility towards educated outsiders was on show two days earlier when US economist Joseph Stiglitz appeared on ABC Television’s Q&A program.
An early audience question to Stiglitz set the scene;
Thank you for taking my question. My question is for Professor. Sorry, excuse me. What gives you the right, as an American, to come to Australia and criticise our budget, especially the $7 co-contribution payment, which is capped at $70 per year?
The ‘what gives you a right as an American?’ theme was gleefully picked up by Professor Judith Sloan, the token government apologist on the panel – faux news balance beings as alive and well in Australia as much as anywhere else in the world – who dismissed many of Stiglitz’s observations on the Australian economy as being the misguided views of an ill informed outsider.
Dismissing the whingeing poms and arrogant yanks harks back to an earlier time in Australia’s development. It may well be the nation has gone back to the days of Barry Mckenzie where Down Under is the working man’s paradise that the rest of the world desperately wants to be part of.
Strangely, the immigration officials in that 1972 movie could well pass for today’s Australian politicians.
As it turned out, the 1970s were a tough decade for Australia as it looked like the luck had run out. It may well turn out the Twenty-First Century is a lot tougher for the Lucky Country.