- The Australian
- July 31, 2013
But a small group of locals started calling it "Bronte Village" as a ploy to stop a large fruit and vegetable shop opening. We might call it progress. Nothing radical, just a new, bigger shop that sells stuff we need, like fresh fruit and vegetables. The activists call it destroying a village.
You have to hand it to this group of malcontents. They know how to steal a word, make it their own, and then flog it to stop progress. The other day a woman from outside the suburb asked me for directions to "Bronte Village." I told her there is no village here, just a set of shops up the road. Nonplussed she walked on in search of a village.
This is what the Left does best. Find some sweet-sounding words, repackage them as a beguiling catch-cry for a campaign, and you're on your way. Soon enough careers and industries are built around a few words - words like "social inclusion" - even though no one knows what the words mean. But when your currency is emotion, logic takes a back seat. That's why words matter more for those on the Left. By contrast, those on the other side of politics focus more on tedious matters such as outcomes and empirical evidence.
Think I'm being too tough on so-called progressives? Start with the misappropriation of that word. Progressive. For decades, so-called progressives championed symbolic, feel-good politics for indigenous people. They talked of treaties and cultural identity, collective land ownership, "rights" agendas, the need for more hand-outs. This was the "progressive" agenda, they told us. And don't dare mention other words like "assimilation". That's the other tactic. Find a word and demonise it, to demonise your opponents.
Assimilation became a dirty word and along with it the notion that indigenous people aspire to what non-indigenous people want - a home, a job, a life based on individual desires rather than collective agendas. After 30 years, there was nothing remotely progressive about the outcomes; the so-called progressive agenda entrenched misery in indigenous communities.
Facing the facts, many on the Left now accept that welfare dependency and rights agendas won't deliver a better life, but it's easy to forget how long unorthodox ideas - such as getting people off welfare - were treated with contempt.
As for the Left's lingua franca about asylum-seekers, the trick is to claim sole moral ownership of the word "compassion." If you reject their policies of open borders, onshore processing and no detention centres, then, ergo, you lack compassion. You are not entitled to use that word. Worse, you are nasty, fearful, intolerant and, of course, xenophobic. The Greens and many within the Labor Party are members of this compassion con. And so are many within our national broadcaster. Just a few recent examples: earlier this month, after yet more asylum-seekers - including a baby - died at sea, ABC News Radio ran an online survey asking listeners whether they supported (a) a tougher line (b) a more compassionate approach; or (c) the existing policy. More akin to push polling, note the sly use of "compassion" as if only an easing of border policy can deliver compassionate outcomes. The results surely disappointed the ABC compassionistas: 70 per cent of respondents wanted tougher measures.
The compassion con has been one of the greatest frauds perpetuated on this nation. When Barrie Cassidy - host of ABC1's Insiders - recently interviewed Immigration Minister Tony Burke about the so-called "PNG Solution," he said "Where is the compassion in the new policy?"
It's all very well for Burke and his Labor comrades to now tell us there is nothing compassionate about a policy that encourages deaths at sea. It was not always thus. Dripping with sincerity in 2007, Burke wrote to the "Buddies Refugee Support Group" : "The Howard government's use of Nauru as an immigration detention centre is not only a waste of money, it is inhumane."
In November 2007, Kevin Rudd said of the Manus Island and Nauru detention facilities: "On the humanity of the situation, we will exit those arrangements as quickly as possible." In 2001, then AWU secretary, Bill Shorten said the Howard government's Pacific Solution was "dirty and nasty."
What's not compassionate is the straight line that runs from the more than 1100 deaths of asylum-seekers at sea and Rudd's decision to join the ranks of the posturing moralists when he dismantled the Pacific Solution.
Acting against advice, a trickle of boats soon became a flow. Six years and eight policy switches later, people-smugglers still dictate our immigration policy and people are dying at sea.
Once again, so-called progressives have been forced to face the facts, but for too long they relied on the "compassion" word to win arguments. If the Left's use of sweet sounding words was harmless, we might forgive them as irrelevant Utopian dreamers. Sadly, the Left's emotional catch-phrases have led to disastrous consequences - and that's why exposing their hypocrisy is critical.
There are plenty of other examples. Words like "social inclusion," "social justice", "human rights" are used to claim the high moral ground, often delivering nothing very moral at all. The Left will mould the phrase "human rights" to include every fashionable agenda - but try asking them to defend the basic human right to free speech, and they slink away, finding excuses or other "rights" that matter more to them. When you trade in emotion, not reason, philosophical consistency is not required.
Take the focus on the royal family. Last week, following the birth of a new prince to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the usual smug, mocking overtures emerged from people like Jon Faine - host of local ABC radio in Melbourne - about the antiquated monarchy. Yet, I'm willing to bet the same people who would happily mow down that bit of our heritage would be keen members of the "Save Bronte Village" campaign. Save a village that doesn't exist but scrap the centuries-old monarchy, in the name of, well, progress. Go figure.