There’s a moment in Proust when he relates the experience of discovering through a sudden, illuminating fragment of conversation, that the person with whom you’re talking, someone you’d assumed was perfectly civilized, intelligent and rational, is in fact quite and utterly, mad.
Peter Costello produced just such a moment of revelation in his address to the Catch the Fire prayer rally in Melbourne on Monday. Delivered by video, the man who for so long craved the Australian Prime Ministership, declares his firm belief that the Bible and the Ten Commandments form the foundation of Australian society and its property laws, and that any movement away from those “God-given commandments” will lead to a breakdown of social order. “As we look back over hundreds of years of Australian history, we can still see the benefits of God to us in this country,” says Costello, presumably surprising indigenous Australians, whose ancestors were here a damn sight longer.
Declaring one’s Christian faith is one thing. Arguing that only the maintenance of Christianity preserves order, directly implying that those of other faiths, or its complete atheistic absence, are a threat to that order, is an extraordinary statement from a major political figure in an allegedly secular state.
John Howard blocked Peter Costello from the Prime Ministership as long as he could, preferring even to take his party to defeat rather than let him run it. Based on this bizarre rant, it looks like Howard’s judgement was absolutely right.
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(Enthusiasts can watch the full Peter’s Letter to the Nutters here. Just click on the picture:)