I know that readers enjoy occasional updates on the doings of John McTernan, UK/Australian Labo(u)r’s intercontinental omnishambles, the arch-Blairite who went from Iraq War boosting to cash-for-peerages, to two Scottish elections that have reduced Labor to a single seat north of the border. In between he was hired at great expense to save the Gillard premiership. What’s our boy doing now? Defending the tax avoiders pinged by the release of the Panama Papers, of course. “Tax avoidance is an expression of basic British freedoms,” quoth the transcendent political genius in, where else, the UK Telegraph, arguing that the average voter will applaud the canny desire of the rich to minimise how much tax they pay, while only “the political class” will care. In the era of Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and much more, this anti-elite ventriloquism by political lifers is getting a little old, no? Apparently not. What could possibly make this most stalwart defender of Tony Blair come out against busting global tax avoidance? Another pre-emptive strike, perhaps?

***

Godwin alert! There’s a special and delicious type of Godwinning that involves corporate types comparing any form of taxation or regulation to Hitler. Its first appearance was years ago, with the low-tax fanatic Grover Norquist comparing progressive income tax with Nazism, because it identified the rich as a group “for special treatment”. Joe Aston had a crack at it in the AFR a few weeks ago, saying of a column by Jessica Irvine that suggested that quite a lot of the rich were cheats was the sort of thing that was “levelled at Jews in the town halls of Munich and Nuremberg in the 1930s”.

Now, we have a third entrant, David Murray, who reacted to the idea that CEOs might have to take some legal responsibility for what goes on in their companies by focusing on the word “culture”:

“He described ASIC’s proposal as anti-competitive because it might force all companies to adopt the same culture, and this would be one shaped by ASIC’s own image. Rather, he said different cultures should be used to boost competition.

“‘To be completely candid, there have been people in the world that have tried to enforce that belief [that the same culture should be adopted]. Adolf Hitler comes to mind. If you want people to be free, you cannot do that,’ Mr Murray said.”

This is a beauty, because it focuses on the code word “culture” — for regimes of practice in a business — in order to compare enforcing the law with the annihilation of a whole people. It reminds us what a ridiculous use of the word “culture” this is — and also of the bottomless self-pity and narcissism of the business class, who really believe that they are as persecuted by regulation as 6 million murdered people.

No one will be surprised to learn that Murray is a climate change sceptic. They’re persecuted too. Just ask Dennis Jensen, if you catch him at the members’ entrance, carrying a cardboard box full of personal effects, sometime in the next few weeks.

***

Which reminds us of an older item in the drive-bys file, the maiden speech a few weeks back, of James “Sprog” Paterson, the Libs’ newest tad-Senator. Sprog’s effort was the usual IPA boilerplate, apart from a plea to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Say what now? Ah, that is what is called in the US “the Adelson moment” after US super donor Shelton Adelson, whose generous support of right-wing candidates (he propped up Newt Gingrich’s run in 2012) always came with the proviso that moving the US embassy to the Holy City be a plank in the candidate’s platform — in Newt’s case, it was always fourth, or even third in his list of “Day One” imperatives. Now, we have no doubt that Sprog’s mention of such is nothing other than a commitment to diplomatic logistics, perhaps a longtime passion. But given his work history at a lobbying outfit that pretends to be a philosophical think tank, Sprog might want to avoid the appearance of using parliamentary speeches to give shout-outs in the future.

***

Still no Maurice Newman this week, so the Oz had to buy in the wacky. It succeeded magnificently with this piece from Melanie Phillips, a UK correspondent who was once a leftie Guardianista, but who long since went to the apocalyptic wacky right, with an ultra-Zionist touch (she calls liberal Jewish groups who make mild criticisms of Israel “Jews for Genocide”). Phillips does not like these tattoos, which have been around for 20 years or so, and thinks they are a sign of rising paganism. The article is a mix of flatly wrong socio-blather — about a seven on the Maurice scale — which ends with suggesting that such cutting is a measure of an individualist and etc, etc society. To which one can only say — yes, imagine if a ceremony of mutilation were at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. What then? The article itself is barely worth noticing (and Rupert’s bean-counters might like to know that it’s pretty similar to a piece Phillips wrote more than a decade ago for The Daily Mail), but together with the above entries, it’s a measure of something: how batshit unhinged the right is becoming.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW