Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

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Saturday, March 15, 2003

How the Left Manipulates the Protesters: Excerpts from a letter

by Brian Sayre

ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5TH, a few hundred of you at Stanford University participated in a "National Student Strike" against an attack on Saddam Hussein's murderous regime. This mass hooky was sponsored nation-wide by an organization calling itself the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition (http://nyspc.net); locally, it was purportedly organized by a collection of Stanford student organizations called the Coalition of Students Against War, closely affiliated with the Stanford Community for Peace and Justice (www.stanford.edu/group/peace/). Others have already shown the connections between the national front groups and shadowy Stalinist organizations like the Worker's World Party. The same sort of thing is true locally here at Stanford.

To find out who really ran the show at Stanford, one simply has to go to the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition's website, and search the list of participating campuses. There (www.nyspc.net/strikelist.html), the Stanford organizers are plainly listed as the Stanford Labor Action Coalition and the Young Communist League - the youth branch of the Communist Party, U.S.A. The president of the Stanford Young Communist League, a Clara Webb, is the contact person for both organizations.

I Was a Communist Activist myself

I cannot simply be silent about this. In fact, I have a moral responsibility to speak up, for once, not so long ago, I was the one organizing. I was the one manipulating others. You see, I was once a communist.

As a communist, I used people as simply means to an end. I discarded people as they ceased to be useful, and came to my senses only long after I was discarded in turn. I don't know any of the radical leftists at Stanford, and I hope I never do. But I do know the system of front groups, the 'non-violent direct action,' and the system of "affinity groups," all too well. This is a system that controls the individual protestor almost perfectly while giving the illusion of freedom; this is the system being used by anti-war protestors in America today.

Affinity Groups: The Communists' Organizational Weapon

What is an "affinity group?" In theory, it's a small group of people, maybe ten to twenty, who decide to work together by consensus for a political action. In practice, it's a ruthlessly effective way of manipulating the less extreme into greater acts of extremism, all coordinated by the group's leaders, who invariably belong to the shadowy communist organizations who run things behind the scenes. These groups first appeared in the 1960s and were self-consciously designed to transpose communist leader Che Guevara's armed "military focos" as popularized by the French radical Regis Debray to the American city.

In America, they work on the same "dictatorship of the most radical" principle as most leftist front organizations, which consist of two groups - a small core clique of fanatics, and a slightly broader group of willing stooges, with varying degrees of commitment to the cause. The fanatics obtain and control their flock through the force of their personalities - they are admired for their experience, commitment, and knowledge of authoritative-sounding leftist dogma, and generally adopt a hip, trendy, and friendly demeanor. While the communist organization of the fanatics is run by majority vote, the front organizations and affinity groups are run by consensus. No action is taken unless all within the group concur.

How the Communists Control the Group

On the surface, consensus sounds very open and democratic, but fans of the system fail to take into account the admiration the flock has for the fanatics, who pose as their friends. These elite members of the organization meet beforehand, in a secret and unpublicized gathering, where they make the actual decisions. They are then presented to the group as "ideas" or "suggestions" - suggestions that quickly find seconders. People are asked if they concur, and they almost always do, for the social consequences of dissent are great. To dissent is to issue a "block," which prevents the group from acting until the action is resolved.

While appearing chaotic, the mash of affinity groups is always under tight control. Large numbers of people are managed efficiently through a convened central body, the "spokescouncil," consisting of one or two members from each group - the ultra-radical "leaders" admired by the rest. Here they regularly sell out the desires of their adoring charges.

That is how an affinity group operates. That is how a mass of students in Toronto ended up spending a night huddled miserably on the floor of the lobby of a major bank in the middle of winter, without food or water, urinating in a garbage container barely shielded by a pair of plastic plants, surrounded by riot police - when they thought, starting out, that they'd be going on a simple march. Of course, the organizers, having planned everything in advance, had brought their own supplies.

My advice to potential protestors: bolt and run. Friends you can replace; your freedom, you cannot. You are being wooed into crime, something easily visible from the website of the Stanford Coalition for Peace and Justice

More here


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Friday, March 14, 2003

Carter Should Stick To Picking Peanuts

By Bobby Eberle

In Sunday's issue of the New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter not only proves that he is a devout follower of the "peace at any price" coalition, but he also lays out a case against military action with Iraq based on false statements and a surprising failure to see the facts right before his eyes.

Former President Carter begins his editorial titled "Just War -- or a Just War?" by naming his foundations of foreign policy and intervention, namely "basic religious principles, respect for international law, and alliances that resulted in wise decisions and mutual restraint." In the very next sentence, Carter writes, "Our apparent determination to launch a war against Iraq, without international support, is a violation of these premises."

Yes, I did finish reading the entire column, but with an introduction like that, I knew the rest would simply be ridiculous. How can he say that the United States does not have international support? The current list of coalition partners stands at over 30, with more joining with each passing week. The violations of U.N.-mandated disarmament by Saddam Hussein span more than a decade, and the U.N. Security Council spoke with unanimity when passing resolution 1441 which gave Saddam Hussein one final opportunity to immediately and unconditionally disarm. France, Russia, China, and Syria (among others) all voted for resolution 1441. The international support for Iraqi disarmament cannot be more clear.

Carter goes on in his column to describe his criteria for a "just war." He writes that war can only be waged as a last resort and then writes that "with our own national security not directly threatened and despite the overwhelming opposition of most people and governments in the world, the United States seems determined to carry out military and diplomatic action." So, according to former President Carter, the national security of the United States is not directly threatened. I just don't know where to begin my reply. The national security of the United States and its friends and allies is absolutely threatened by Saddam Hussein both directly and indirectly.

Saddam Hussein, through his weapons of mass destruction, can directly attack any number of U.S. friends in the region, thus creating a destabilizing threat to the entire Middle East. In addition, Saddam Hussein, through ties with terrorist organizations, could sell his weapons to groups ready and willing to directly attack the United States. Are we just supposed to wait for the next 9-11?

Carter then writes that the first stage of the U.S. war plan is to "launch 3,000 bombs and missiles on a relatively defenseless Iraqi population." This type of statement is not only false but irresponsible as well. The goals of U.S. military actions against Iraq are to defeat the Iraqi regime, so that full disarmament can occur. The result of these actions will also liberate the Iraqi people. Where is the voice of Carter, and all the other bleeding hearts, who were so vocal when the debate was whether or not to take out Milosevic because of his unspeakable atrocities? The Iraqi people are being tortured on a daily basis, and yet the world is silent. They have no freedom to speak out, unless they wish to lose their tongues.

Carter writes that America jeopardizes its standing in the world community if we carry out military action against Iraq. On the contrary, our standing is at risk if we do not. America is great because America is good. We fight to protect ourselves and our friends, and we fight to secure and promote freedom. That is why a war with Iraq is not only necessary, but it is also just.

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Thursday, March 13, 2003

FROM MANHATTAN TO BAGHDAD: One enemy, one war, one outcome.

By V.D. Hanson

THE MONOTONOUS INQUIRIES of the critics resound: "What does Iraq have to do with al Qaeda?" "First Afghanistan, now Iraq — what next?" "Isn't Bush's war endless?" "Aren't we diverting our attention from the war on terrorism?"

On the eve of war with Iraq, we should remember that such uncertainty about enemies, allies, aims, and the scope and duration of wars is typical. That al Qaeda does not meet us with tanks and planes on the field of battle does not mean we do not know whom we are fighting and where and how we should do it.

We speak of the "Persian Wars" of 490 and 480/79. But only later did Herodotus and the Greeks look back on the defeat of Darius I at Marathon (490) and Xerxes at Salamis (480) as related events in one overarching campaign. In retrospect, they saw that these battles were not isolated victories over various Persian kings with different agendas, but, in fact, all part of a ten-year struggle to free Greece from Persian despotism.

So wars are not only difficult for their participants to envision as simple events; the combatants are not always so easily distinguishable. Britain and America — but not Russia — fought Japan for most of the Second World War. Germany, under a non-aggression pact with Russia, fought England, and only later was defeated with the help of Russia and America. There was no more synchronism between Germany and Japan than among the present Axis of Evil. Russia never invaded Italy. Nor did Germany send troops to the Pacific, nor Japan to Europe. Guadalcanal was part of the same war, as was Stalingrad — just as Anzio was connected to the capture of Copenhagen, jungle fighting in Burma, and Hiroshima. If all that is not true, then we are wrong now grandly to speak of a "World War II" — a single conflict that combines the Pacific and European theaters, unified by a common struggle against fascism in its various manifestations in Germany, Italy, and Japan, and started on September 1, 1939, June 22, 1941, and December 7, 1941.

Before we criticize President Bush for "diverting attention" away from the war against al Qaeda, we should pause and at least grant that historians may envision it in quite a different way. It is just as likely that at some future date we will come to see that the war on terror for the United States started on September 11 with the murder of 3,000 Americans and the destruction of our planes and iconic buildings in New York and Washington. Then the war moved on to a variety of other theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq — and anywhere else the Islamo-fascists and their sponsors of terror operated or received aid.

"The Taliban War" (October-November 2001) was fought to destroy the Afghan sanctuary of bin Laden and remove the Taliban. It was waged simultaneously with the more insidious and stealthy "War on Terrorism" (September 12 through the present) conducted by police and intelligence operatives to stamp out al Qaeda cells in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

A third, concomitant "Iraqi War" with additional enemies is a further effort to destroy an historical patron of terrorism and his cachés of deadly weapons that either have gone or will go to terrorists. Saddam's defeat will end the possibility that his oil-fueled supply of deadly weapons will fall into the hands of al Qaeda and its epigones. His end will isolate and cut off al Qaeda operatives in Kurdistan; it will rid Baghdad of enemies like Abu Abbas (and the ghost of Abu Nidal) as well as various al Qaeda visitors; it will stop bonuses for the suicide-killers of Hamas and Hezbollah (who embrace the same modus operandi and similar religious extremism as the 9/11 killers); and it will send a powerful message to states like Iran and Saudi Arabia that subsidizing terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans is a very dangerous thing to do.

Fascist states and radical Islamists exhibit affinities that go well beyond sporadic and murky ties between such governments and fundamentalist terrorist groups. For one, in a post-Soviet Union world, they all seek weapons of mass destruction to be used as intercontinental blackmail as a way of weakening Western resolve and curtailing an American presence abroad.

For another, their common ideological enemy is liberal democracy — specifically its global promotion of freedom, individualism, capitalism, gender equity, religious diversity, and secularism that undermines both Islamic fundamentalism in the cultural sense, and politically makes it more difficult for tyrants to rule over complacent and ignorant populations. Third, our various enemies share an eerie modus operandi as well: Al Qaeda terrorists blew themselves up killing Americans; and so do terrorists on the West Bank — and so does Saddam Hussein send bounties to the families of such killers.

Nihilism — whether torching oil fields, gassing civilians, crashing airplanes, desecrating shrines, toppling towers, or creating oil slicks — is another telltale symptom of our enemies, as is the perversion of Islam, whether illustrated in bin Laden's crackpot communiqués, the rantings of Hezbollah and Hamas to extend theocracy and kill infidels, or Saddam Hussein's ugly nouveau minarets and holy books written with his own blood.

Muslims from the Middle East are not per se the enemy, but rather those renegade Muslims who use the cover of Islam to rally support for their self-serving politics. After all, without the bogeymen of Zionism and the Great Satan they would have to explain to their own dispossessed why Cairo is poorer than Tel Aviv, why heart surgery is done in London and not Damascus, or why so many Arabs seem to seek out Detroit rather than Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, bin Laden, Hezbollah, and others — they all talk in apocalyptic tones about Western decadence, the inability of Americans to take casualties, the need to destroy Israel, and the moral superiority of Islam. They all sprinkle here and there crazy references to crusaders, colonists, infidels, and jihad. They have all fought and killed Americans in the past, and brag that they will do so in the future — whether referring to cooked-up "victories" at "the mother of all battles" or the trenches and caves of Tora Bora.

Their real gripe is that the world is passing them all by.

Are we, then, confronted with a clash of civilizations? Not really, but rather the tottering of the last impediments to the reform of the Arab world before it joins the world of nations, and embraces freedom and tolerance, which alone can provide it with security and prosperity. While there are hundreds of thousands of terrorists and state fascists in almost every Arab government, hundreds of millions of more ordinary citizens are watching this war to see who will win and what the ultimate settlement will consist of. Many, perhaps the majority, may for the moment have their hearts with bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but their minds ultimately will convince them to join the victors and a promising future, rather than the losers and a bleak past.

The jailing of al Qaeda, the end of the Taliban, and the destruction of Saddam's clique will convince the Arab world that it is not wise or safe to practice jihad as it has been practiced since 1979. Killing American diplomats, blowing up Marines in their sleep, flattening embassies, attacking warships, and toppling buildings will not only not work but bring on a war so terrible that the very thought of the consequences from another 9/11 would be too horrific to contemplate.

Taking on all at once Germany, Japan, and Italy — diverse enemies all — did not require the weeding out of all the fascists and their supporters in Mexico, Argentina, Eastern Europe, and the Arab world. Instead, those in jackboots and armbands worldwide quietly stowed all their emblems away as organized fascism died on the vine once the roots were torn out in Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo. So too will the terrorists, once their sanctuaries and capital shrivel up — as is happening as we speak.

Excerpt from here


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Wednesday, March 12, 2003


By: Br. Marcal Lopes (Headmaster, Don Bosco Technical School, Fatumaca, Timor-Leste)

Dear Friends,

East Timor, now officially known as Timor-Leste became a nation in May 2002. We are not even a one year old ! We are a very poor country. It has been a very tough year.

I have received letters from people abroad asking me to nominate Timor-Leste’s greatest need and areas in which they can help. What can I say ? We need everything ! There are so many demands on all fronts.

There is no doubt that our country has many problems. However, we Timorese must face these problems and try to solve them themselves… hopefully with the help of our friends from overseas.

Many Timorese expect the Government to provide employment, medical and health services, resources for schools, maintain law and order, etc.

In reality, the Government has very little income; they don’t have money for everything.

The Church has a role and I feel it is making a significant contribution to the country. There is no doubt that the schools and clinics, run by Religious Congregations, are mostly running well though on very meagre budget.

The Salesians are heavily involved in education. We have elementary and high schools, two technical schools and agricultural school. These are at Comoro [Dili], Baucau, Fatumaca, Fuiloro, Laga, Lospalos and Venilale.

In my opinion, education is really the key to growth and the rebuilding of the Timor-Leste economy.

We are very grateful to the Australian Salesian Missions Office for their support of our work in education over the past three years.

In the schools our aim is to assist people to acquire skills and the self-confidence to help themselves.

Donations received from Australia have helped pay teacher salaries as well as provide essential resources for the schools. In addition, we have received assistance with the in-service training of teachers through the R E Ross Trust and other programs.

Salesian Missions Australia has also provided significant help “in kind”. Goods transported have included:

· Desks and seats for the classrooms;

· Filing cabinets and other school furniture;

· Stackable chairs;

· Teaching materials and resources for the classrooms;

· Blackboard paint and brushes;

· Second-hand computers;

· Equipment for our Technical School Workshops

· Workshop materials, including electrical equipment, power supplies, welding gear, woodwork glue etc;

· Hand tools;

· Agricultural equipment including tractor spare parts;

· School stationery;

· Sporting equipment.

These donations “in kind” have been especially welcome at the school where I am Headmaster, Don Bosco Technical School Fatumaca, as they have help us reduce costs and improve the quality of our teaching.

Our school has four sections: Carpentry, Electrical, Machine Tools and Electronics; we also teach basic academic subjects. There are 270 students, aged 16 – 22, and they board at the school. Our fees have always been very modest – US$5 per month. However, it is no simple matter to:

· Feed 270 students three meals a day;

· Purchase fuel to run the generators daily;

· Get the materials required for our Workshops;

· Maintain and repair equipment in the Workshops; and

· Cover other expenses associated with the day to day running of the school.

I know that Don Bosco Fatumaca makes a reasonable contribution by helping provide Timor-Leste with people skilled in the building, metal, electrical and motor trades.

The students who complete the courses at Fatumaca secure jobs – some as motor mechanics, carpenters and electricians though there is still not much happening in the local building industry. Many, however, are working in their villages, and some have set up repair shops. A good number are teachers, and others are working in Dili: at the airport, in radio communications, publications, etc.

Australian Salesian Missions support has also included assisting several small self-help income generating ventures and as helping with the logistics of the Dairy Project at Don Bosco Agricultural School, Fuiloro established by Kiwanis International [Australia District].

I will be involved in a National Education Conference in Dili during April 7 – 11, 2003. The aim of the conference is to basically to work towards an overall educational strategy for the nation and to develop guidelines for a Timorese School curriculum. There will be about 300 participants from all the education sectors.

The conference will look different challenges facing Timor-Leste including the complementary roles of academic and technical & vocational education.

I think the conference will have far reaching implications for education at all levels and the rebuilding of the nation. However I don’t expect any quick and easy solutions to our problems.

As I said above, we are indeed fortunate to have support from Australia. Considerable help has been provided to our schools over the past three years, without which I don’t know where we would be today.

While it is our aim to be self-reliant, I know we will need further support from outside for some little while yet. And I hope our friends will continue to assist us via the Salesian Missions Office

Finally I express my hope that Australians will continue to be patient and understanding of the needs of their new neighbour, Timor-Leste. Our nation is still in its infancy …I have no doubt we need help from our friends from the Land Down Under !

Donations to support Salesian work in Timor Leste [East Timor] can be send to;
Salesian Missions Office, PO Box 80, OAKLEIGH Vic 3166.
Donations are tax deductible.

May God bless you.
Br Marcal Lopes


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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Protectionist stupidity: Davidson demolished

By Gerard Jackson

“Davidson's cure for our unemployment is to apply the poisonous Keynesian snake-oil remedy of more government spending hot from the printing press.”

KENNETH DAVIDSON is an economics writer for The Age as well as being its most rabid anti-American columnist. (The Age is another paper where pro-Americans need not bother to apply for work). Davidson is also rabidly anti-market. This is no coincidence. One will find that the biggest Bush-haters, for example, also tend to detest the market place.

Considering the amount of time that Davidson has spent in recycling Chomsky's paranoid theories and passing them off as his own, I thought I should take the opportunity to return to Davidson economics. An oxymoron if there ever was one.

In 1997 he wrote an article that demonstrated his brilliant economic insights and penetrating wit. He began by calling free marketeer supporters a "ragbag army of vested interests." This is pretty cool when one considers the "ragbag army of vested interests" consisting of inefficient clothing, textile, footwear and foreign car manufacturers, etc., who clamoured, threatened and begged for tariffs. But then Davidson's vicious anti-American diatribes provide us numerous examples of ideological commitment, cheap rhetoric and total lack of perspective.

He falsely describe the Industry Commission's report on the car industry as "fundamentally flawed", going on to assert that "free traders no longer occupy the high ground of economic principle. The reason is, full employment — the fundamental assumption underlying the free trade position..." This statement is absolutely false. The doctrine of free trade does not and never has assumed full employment of any resources, including labour. The basic principle of the doctrine is the law of comparative advantage. The only fundamental condition that needs to be fulfilled to maximise the gain from free trade is that markets be free. In which case, incidentally, persistent widespread unemployment will not emerge.

Comparative advantage is a difficult concept for most people to grasp, including Davidson I fear. An example would be that even if a country could produce a number of goods more 'efficiently' then its trading partners it would still pay that country to import those goods if its opportunity costs of production, the value of the alternative production it has to sacrifice to produce those goods, exceeds their value. The effect is to rearrange production in away that raises total output. Full employment is irrelevant. However, creating widespread unemployment by overpricing labour, as Australia has done, will certainly reduce the benefits of free trade while giving protectionists like Davidson an excuse to justify tariffs, while, believe it or not, taking side swipes at the US.

Davidson pushes the line that the majority of those who would have lost their jobs in the TCF (textile, clothing and footwear) industries if tariffs had have been lowered would never have found work. This means, according to Davidson, that consumer gains from lower tariffs would be offset by increased taxes to pay unemployment benefits and cover the loss of revenue from fewer tariffs and a smaller tax base. I would not accept this nonsense from a third rate first year undergraduate.

1. Davidson ignores the fact that the promised increased investment by the TCF industries could only come at the expense of curbing investment, output and the demand for labour elsewhere in the economy.

2. It totally eluded him, and still does, that lower import prices raise purchasing power which raises the demand for other goods and services, including their inputs.

3. Lowering tariffs increases the demand for the products of Australian exports which raises their demand for labour.

4. Australian consumers pay the tariffs which means that their abolition would not raise aggregate taxes but only change their incidence and probably bring new ones into existence.

5. The solution to the so-called revenue 'problem' is to impose a uniform tax on all of the products in question.

6. He willfully ignores the increase in national income which tariffs reductions would bring.

7. His claim that taxes would have to rise is based on the assumption that most of the redundant TCF employees would never find work.

8. It totally eludes him that the labour intensive nature of the TCF industries means that their tariff rates have to rise significantly if they are to attract capital.

Point 8, the one he cannot seem to grasp, is particularly important because it explains why in a growing economy labour intensive industries producing tradeable goods must eventually shrink in absolute terms. As an economy becomes more capital intensive its demand for labour rises. This obviously raises gross wages in the labour intensive industries. Attempts to combat this trend with tariffs will only retard economic growth.

Davidson refuses to admit that 'permanent' unemployment is the result of overpricing labour. So long as there is sufficient land and capital available to employ labour and markets are allowed to clear then widespread persistent unemployment will not emerge. Davidson's pathetic response to this fact is to ignore it, even asserting that our unemployment has been aggravated by the Government's 1996 and 1997 "deflationary budgets". Rubbish. Australia has probably not suffered a genuine deflation since 1929-31 when the money supply contracted by about 11 per cent.

Davidson's cure for our unemployment is to apply the poisonous Keynesian snake-oil remedy of more government spending hot from the printing press. What Davidson cannot grasp is that there is no functional relationship between government spending or total spending and employment.

American history provides us with a couple of graphic example of this fact. US government federal spending in the fiscal year 1944 was $94 billion (1944 dollars). In the fiscal year 1947 spending had dived by $55 billion to $39 billion, a 63 per cent drop in 3 years. According to Davidson's 'economics' this was a massive deflationary policy that should have plunged the economy into a deep depression, creating mass unemployment. (Keynesians actually predicted that the policy would cause unemployment to reach 8 million by the middle of 1946). Instead of going into depression the economy experienced a significant increase in prices, output and wages.

In the second quarter of 1953 US federal spending was running at $61 billion; by the second quarter of 1955 spending had fallen by $15.8 billion to $45.2 billion, a 26 per cent drop. (A 0.26 per cent drop here is enough to have Davidson screaming deflation and depression). Despite this considerable fall in government spending the economy experienced a sharp increase in production. The Keynesian nonsense that spending determines employment also leads to the fallacious conclusion that consumer spending drives investment and hence the economy. That continually stimulating consumer spending can actually reduce investment, as the 'Austrians' have demonstrated, has obviously never occurred to Davidson.

Davidson well knows that since the 1970s unemployment after each recession has not only risen but the level of 'permanent' unemployment has also tended to rise. The 'Austrians' were the only economists to predict and explain this phenomenon. They explained that inflation misdirects production and creates malinvestments. When governments finally apply the monetary breaks the malinvestments appear in the form of idle capital and labour. If governments inflate again before the malinvestments are fully liquidated they add to newly created malinvestments which results in higher unemployment next time the breaks are applied. The 'permanent' unemployment, as I already stated, comes from overpricing labour. This is the theory in a nutshell, though I fear I may have done it considerable violence.

Economic reporting by Age commentators is now so bad that it is only through the contributions of outsiders that the paper has managed to redeem itself — and the same goes for its so-called war coverage.

(Reprinted from BrookesNews.com)


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Monday, March 10, 2003


By Sir David Smith

(Sir David Smith was Official Secretary to five Governors-General from 1973 to 1990).

During 1900 Queen Victoria signed a number of constitutional documents relating to the future Commonwealth of Australia, including Letters Patent constituting the Office of Governor-General, and Instructions to the Governor-General on the manner in which he was to perform certain of his constitutional duties.

Two distinguished Australian constitutional scholars, A. Inglis Clark, who had worked with Sir Samuel Griffith on his drafts of the Constitution, and who later became Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and W. Harrison (later Sir Harrison) Moore, who had worked on the first draft of the Constitution that went to the 1897 Adelaide Convention, and who later became Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne, expressed the view that the Letters Patent and the Instructions were superfluous, or even of doubtful legality, on the grounds that the Governor-General’s authority stemmed from the Australian Constitution and that not even the Sovereign could direct him in the performance of his constitutional duties.

As Inglis Clark pointed out, The British North America Act 1867 did not contain any provisions relating to the appointment of the Governor-General of Canada, or to the exercise of executive authority in that Dominion, that were in any way similar to the provisions contained in sections 2 and 61 of the Australian Constitution relating to the powers and functions of our Governor-General; nor did the Constitutions of any of the Australian States contain any similar provisions relating to the State Governors. These provisions were peculiar to the Australian Constitution and they conferred upon our Governor-General a statutory position which the Imperial Parliament had not conferred upon any other Governor or Governor-General in any other part of the British Empire. Our Founding Fathers had indeed drafted exceedingly well.

Unfortunately, British Ministers advising Queen Victoria failed to appreciate the unique features of the Australian Constitution, and Australian Ministers failed to appreciate the significance of the Royal Instructions which Queen Victoria had issued to the Governor-General. No notice was taken of the views of Clark and Moore, in Britain or in Australia, and between 1902 and 1920, King Edward VII and King George V were to issue further Instructions on the advice of British Ministers, and in 1958 Queen Elizabeth II issued further Instructions on the advice of Australian Ministers.

At the 1926 Imperial Conference, the Empire’s Prime Ministers declared that the Governor-General of a Dominion was no longer to be the representative of His Majesty’s Government in Britain, and that it was no longer in accordance with a Governor-General’s constitutional position for him to continue as the formal channel of communication between the two Governments. The Conference further resolved that, henceforth, a Governor-General would stand in the same constitutional relationship with his Dominion Government, and hold the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion, as did the King with the British Government and in relation to public affairs in Great Britain. It was also decided that a Governor-General should be provided by his Dominion Government with copies of all important documents and should be kept as fully informed of Cabinet business and public affairs in the Dominion as was the King in Great Britain.

The 1930 Imperial Conference decided that, henceforth, recommendations to the King for the appointment of a Governor-General would be made by the Prime Minister of the Dominion concerned, and not by British Ministers as had been the case until then. This decision further strengthened the constitutional role of Governors-General and their relationships with their Dominion Government. The Conference decision was taken at the height of, and in support of, action which had been initiated earlier that year by Australia’s Prime Minister, J.H. Scullin, in insisting on advising the King on the appointment of Australia’s next Governor-General. Scullin’s insistence on the right to recommend the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Australia’s first Australian-born Governor-General became the genesis of the new rule for the appointment of Governors-General throughout the Empire.

Our early Governors-General were British. They were appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of British Ministers and were in reality British civil servants. Their role was to represent British interests in Australia. Their principal duties and responsibilities were to the British Government. The 1926 and the 1930 Imperial Conference decisions changed the status of the Vice-Regal office and established a new relationship between the Governor-General and the Australian Government. We were able to alter our constitutional arrangements to meet evolving constitutional needs, but without having to alter one word of the Constitution itself. These changes are further examples of the far-sightedness of our Founding Fathers, and evidence of the adaptability and flexibility of our allegedly outmoded Constitution.

In 1953, in the course of preparing for the 1954 Royal visit to Australia, Prime Minister (later Sir Robert) Menzies had wanted to involve the Queen in some of the formal processes of government, in addition to the inevitable public appearances and social occasions. But the Government’s legal advisers suddenly discovered what had been apparent to Clark and Moore at the time of federation. The Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Sir Kenneth Bailey, gave the Prime Minister a legal opinion that the Constitution placed all constitutional powers, other than the power to appoint the Governor-General, in the hands of the Governor-General; that the Governor-General exercised these constitutional powers in his own right, and not as a representative of the Sovereign; and that the Governor-General’s powers could not be exercised by the Sovereign, not even when she was in Australia.

Nothing could be done, except by way of a constitutional amendment under section 128 of the Constitution, to enable the Sovereign to exercise any of the Governor-General’s constitutional powers while she was in Australia, but by means of the Royal Powers Act 1953, Parliament legislated to enable the Queen, whenever she was personally present in Australia, to exercise any statutory power of the Governor-General under an Act of Parliament, when advised to do so by her Australian Ministers. The Act further stated that the Governor-General would continue to exercise any of his statutory powers even while the Queen was in Australia, and in practice Governors-General have continued to do so.

In 1975 the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Mr. (later Sir) Maurice Byers, gave Prime Minister Gough Whitlam a legal opinion that the Governor-General’s constitutional powers could not properly be the subject of Instructions, thus again echoing the views expressed at the time of federation by Clark and Moore, and confirming that all constitutional powers and functions, except the power to appoint or remove the Governor-General, had been given to the Governor-General by the Constitution on 1 January 1901.

The dismissal of the Whitlam Government by the Governor-General later that year was to provide confirmation of the correctness of all the legal opinions which had been given over the previous seventy-four years. Writing after the event, Sir John Kerr, a former Chief Justice of New South Wales, said: “I did not tell the Queen in advance that I intended to exercise these powers on 11 November. I did not ask her approval. The decisions I took were without the Queen’s advance knowledge. The reason for this was that I believed, if dismissal action were to be taken, that it could be taken only by me and that it must be done on my sole responsibility. My view was that to inform Her Majesty in advance of what I intended to do, and when, would be to risk involving her in an Australian political and constitutional crisis in relation to which she had no legal powers; and I must not take such a risk.”

After the Governor-General had withdrawn the Prime Minister’s Commission, the Speaker of the House of Representatives wrote to the Queen to ask her to restore Whitlam to office as Prime Minister. In the reply from Buckingham Palace, Mr. Speaker was told: “As we understand the situation here, the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General as the representative of the Queen of Australia. The only person competent to commission an Australian Prime Minister is the Governor-General, and the Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution. Her Majesty, as Queen of Australia, is watching events in Canberra with close interest and attention, but it would not be proper for her to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution Act.”

As the defining Head of State power is the power to appoint and remove the Prime Minister, that reply confirmed, if confirmation were needed, that the Governor-General is indeed Australia’s constitutional Head of State. Even so, it took another nine years before the matter was finally resolved.

On 21 August 1984 Prime Minister Bob Hawke advised the Queen to revoke Queen Victoria’s Letters Patent and all Royal Instructions to the Governor-General, and to issue new Letters Patent. In the words of the Prime Minister, this would “achieve the objective of modernising the administrative arrangements of the Office of Governor-General and, at the same time, clarify His Excellency’s position under the Constitution.” At last the Royal Instruction that should never have been issued in the first place were revoked. The 1901 views of Clarke and Moore were finally vindicated, and the Governor-General was acknowledged to be what he had in fact always been, namely, the holder of an independent office as Australia’s Head of State, and not subject to any Royal Instructions

To summarise, the Australian Constitution does not refer to the Head of State; the Head of State is the person who performs all of the duties of the Head of State; the Queen has never performed any duties as Australia’s Head of State; such constitutional duties as the Queen does perform are as Sovereign and Queen of Australia and not as Head of State; the Governor-General performs all of the duties of the Head of State; the Constitution confers the duties of the Head of State on the Governor-General in his own right and not as a surrogate or delegate of the Queen. As this paper shows, there is a long list of legal advice and judicial opinion in support of the case that the Governor-General is the Head of State, and not a skerrick of constitutional or legal evidence to the contrary.

(The above is an excerpt from a much longer document to be found here)


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Sunday, March 09, 2003

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

(Excerpts from News Weekly, 14 December 2002).

“For most of the 20th Century Australia had a high-protection economy. It declined economically compared to other developed countries. It hit a low point of 88.6 in 1992, and since the adoption of more free­-market economic and trade policies has begun to recover.”

This can be put another way, giving a longer picture: in 1870 Australia's per capita GDP was 187% of the average for "developed" countries. By 1997 it was 84% of the average.

(a) inflate costs for domestic producers, in particular farmers and miners, making it harder for them to export, as well as for all fixed-income earners who cannot pass these costs on, and
(b) punish the workers of other countries, in particular the poorest countries, by denying them markets.


The overall effect damages both standards of living for all and world peace.

The Great Depression had many causes, including delayed effects of the First World War, nothing to do with "neo-classical economic and financial policies". Most countries had high protection.

The major single cause, however, was probably the US Hawley-Smoot Act, the result of lobbying by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Federation of Labor which further raised US tariffs and prevented other countries selling to the US and therefore prevented them having the money to buy from it.

The Depression was made worse in Australia by the Scullin Government's response of raising tariffs yet further, thus making Australian primary producers yet more uncompetitive. The many causes of the Depression can be traced back not to deregulation but to government intervention of various kinds.

Similarly, the rise of Fascism in Italy, of Nazism in Ger­many, and of aggressive militarism in Japan, were largely due to those countries being shut out of the global economy by trade barriers.

This bred resentment, aggressive nationalism and support for extremist parties prepared to pander to prejudice and intuition rather than rationality.

Goods could not cross frontiers so eventually armies did. It may be ex­tremely harmful for the peace and well being of future generations to now im­plant an idea that the disease was actu­ally the cure.

Subsidised sugar

Queensland sugar has probably had more government subsidy, protection and other support than any other in Australia. This has done great damage to the rest of the country, and probably to other Queensland industries.

In 1932, when depression-hit Aus­tralia needed all the political talent she could muster, Queensland Senator General Sir William Glasgow, a man of the highest ability, forfeited his career for having dared to make a speech suggest­ing the high levels of support for sugar were distorting the Queensland economy.

I believe News Weekly favours a social policy that encourages small independent farms. Historically, West Australian and other farmers who made their own jams and preserves, using subsidised Queensland sugar, had their costs at least doubled. Of course their costs were also increased by tariffs on machinery, clothing, textiles, footwear and all manner of other goods. This helped send many to the wall.

So why should we want to keep out Brazilian imports? Importing cheaper sugar both benefits Australian consumers and helps relieve poverty in Brazil, a country whose agricultural workers are desperately poor.

The flintiest-hearted capitalist might point out that people without incomes are seldom good customers. The precept on which human civilisation and progress have been built is not that trade is a zero-sum equation but that both parties benefit.

Further, those who must pay more for their supplies of anything than their competitors, other things being equal, become uncompetitive.

In 1991, on the centenary of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II issued Centesimus Annus, a strong endorsement of the ethics of a free-market economic order.

In the same year Prime Minister Hawke rightly stated, following the Garnaut Report on Australia's trade relations with North-East Asia:

"The most powerful spur to greater competitiveness is further tariff re­duction. Tariffs have been one of the abiding features of the Australian economy. Since Federation ... the supposed virtues of this protection became deeply embedded in the psyche of the nation. But what in fact was the result?.

‘Inefficient industries that could not compete oversea and higher prices for consumers and higher costs for our efficient primary producers.

‘Worse still. tariffs are a regressive burden – that is, the poorest Aus­tralians are hurt more than the richest. We have rejected the views of the so-called, new protectionisms' because they are simply proposing, in effect the same discredited trade policies that had isolated our national economy from the rest of the world and caused great damage we are all working to repair."

President Zedillo of Mexico, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2000, said:

"In every case where a poor nation has significantly overcome its pov­erty, this has been achieved while engaging in production for export markets, and opening itself to the influx of foreign goods, investment and technology."

For most of the 20th Century Aus­tralia had a high-protection economy. It declined economically compared to other developed countries. For example, its per capita GDP expressed as a per­centage (i.e., the index taking the average of a group of "rich" countries including Western Europe and the US as 100.0) declined from 132.3 in 1950 to 99.9 in 1975. It hit a low point of 88.6 in 1992, and since the adoption of more free­-market economic and trade policies has begun to recover.

This can be put another way, giving a longer picture: in 1870 Australia's per capita GDP was 187% of the average for "developed" countries. By 1997 it was 84% of the average.

I suggest the evidence of the failure of protectionism and regulation is overwhelming and the reason both major parties turned away from high protection. It was simply and unavoidably the correct policy.

More here


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