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Jan 10, 2017

Bronnie rotten on socialism, defends using the N-word

Bronwyn’s Thatcherite hubris, as seen on Sky yesterday, is a relic to behold.


Bronwyn Bishop

Poor, miserable Sussan Ley. The Health Minister has surely earned a Gold Coast holiday. As investigations into her real estate “scandal” proceed, she is obliged to hand her portfolio over to the care of Arthur Sinodinos. The best thing that can be publicly said about that recent ICAC graduate is probably “no findings of his wrongdoing at this time”. If Turnbull plans on returning Ley, in many accounts a politician who comports herself honestly and well, he could surely do better than fill her post with a name so closely associated with slippery self-interest.

Things only got worse for Ley when she suffered proximity to another bad name: Bronwyn Bishop. Surely, the lady’s defence on the matter of travel rorts was about as useful to Ley as the defence of a mosquito by a rat.

With friends like these, the political class has no want of enemies. Nobody facing investigation of the type wants help from the unrepentant Bishop, who continues to assert that her profligacy was “within the rules”, with no understanding that it was far beyond what the electorate knows to be the pale.

Bronwyn’s Thatcherite hubris, as seen on Sky yesterday, is a relic to behold. When asked if such use of public monies — her own, in the unlikely case you’ve forgotten, was a four-grand chopper ride to a fundraising event easily accessible by rail — would pass the pub test, she answered, “it depends on which pub you are in”. Maybe she has a point. Bron is a Northern Beaches girl, and you can probably order scampi sashimi in the chic bistros of Mackellar. The rest of us wait for chicken parma night.

[Let them eat Centrelink debt notices]

This is no good for Ley, a person who has likely not erred so badly. It’s bloody good for a laugh though; Bishop really is such a marvellous antique. She is one of a very few in this era of economic hardship still making naked claims about having “earned” her privilege (even the US President-elect admits to bending the rules). After 40 years of wage stagnation, most Australians don’t permit this sort of talk past the pub test, the Facebook test or any other kind of trial. When the ALP’s Sam Dastyari said that he accepted money from a private company because he simply didn’t feel like paying his high travel bill, his career was almost done.

Bronwyn’s political career is utterly done, but her refusal to see why it ended is not. She just doesn’t get it, and won’t shut up about it, still using the language of Thatcher, her idol, to justify the privileges of the well-to-do and all the marvellous advantages of the “free market”, that set of conditions imposed by the state, which, for example, allow a few people to buy an investment property or a nice flat on the Gold Coast and coerce a rapidly increasing number of us to rent.

Nearly every other centrist speaker in the West now knows to keep their admiration for inequality — and the cheap capital offered by our “free market” leaders to property investors is a guarantee of inequality — a secret. The IMF, the cruel creditor of Greece, has denounced neoliberalism by name. Paul Krugman, one of the architects of Clinton’s aggressive era of financialisation, has remade himself as a kind Keynesian and opponent of the N-word. Krugman now travels the world lecturing on the evils of rent-seeking, having first made sure to introduce a range of rent-seeking policies to the world’s most influential economy. In short, every economist and politician knows not to say “Voldemort”. When Joe Hockey came close to uttering his true name in his DOA 2014 budget, the spell of supply-side thinking began to break. Shhh. You are not supposed to say it, Bronwyn.

Notwithstanding my friend Mr Keane’s efforts to reclaim the name of Voldemort for the people, let’s just call it what it is: neoliberalism, a creditor-friendly deflationary reaction to the full-employment regime run in the West from, roughly, the depth of the Great Depression to the height of Phil Collins’ career, is the thing that most leaders now know not to talk about. You don’t outright say “austerity” and you don’t accuse a nation of people immiserated by the investor class of feeling “entitled”. The language you now use is not Thatcher’s, as Bronwyn did, but those Silicon Valley buzzwords that Turnbull prefers. We’re going to “innovate” our way out of rising poverty, insecure housing and precarious employment. We’re going to have a TED talk and find the power within ourselves to overcome creditor-friendly policies. We’re going to have an app.

What we must not have, if neoliberal policies are to survive their challengers from the hard right and material left, is people like Bronwyn mouthing off like Gordon Gekko.

The trick to propagating ideology is never to mention it, perhaps not even acknowledge it to yourself as ideology. And what you certainly don’t do is mention its greatest historic antagonist, socialism. But Bronwyn couldn’t stop rubbishing socialism on Sky, giving it, to my delight, a very good name. She said that socialism had ruined nations. She said that the ALP was full of socialists. She said that socialism was “always on the march”. None of these statements is true.

[Rundle: how do you solve a problem like neoliberalism?]

For all the scientifically fixated terror that began to unfold in that nation 100 years ago this year, Russia was not “ruined” by socialism. There is not one socialist in the parliamentary ALP, a stack of quoits who justify their attachment to neoliberalism, cruel detention policies and unconscionable inertia on Aboriginal Australia by wearing rainbow ribbons in solidarity with gay teens, or whatever. There is, at the time of writing, about 50 socialists in the nation, and we’re all far too busy arguing about which International we liked best to ever march in a vanguard.

What will provoke a meaningful dedication among the vast army of Millennials to the socialism Bishop despises is not Bronwyn herself, nor Ley, who, again, probably didn’t do anything terrible. Like, say, charter a chopper to go and hit up Liberal Party donors.

The terrible thing that young people will revolt against is a 40-year-old regime that now allows a select few to buy a holiday flat on a whim while they themselves live in service to rent-seekers. Bronwyn is the prophet of the new synthesis! If radical changes to our economy are not made, those young socialists that we can already see being formed will be on the march. And I’ll be cheering them and the death of neoliberal enchantment on with cries of “Voldemort”.


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50 thoughts on “Bronnie rotten on socialism, defends using the N-word

  1. Aethelstan

    So … Susan Ley, her snout well and truly in the rich persons trough gets her portfolio taken over by Arthur Sleazibusiness … while the unseemly LNP war on the poor and struggling continues with verve and enthusiasm … same old LNP … same old Nasty Party…

  2. Hold My Unicorn

    Yes, Bronny’s contribution was a bit like that of her former colleagues in parliament turned commentators as well, unhelpful. I’m thinking of other great rorters like Peter (Reith), Peter (Costello) and Amanda (Vanstone). They always come out to play when something like this happens. Honestly, they must be a bit put out that Bronny’s stolen there thunder.

  3. graybul

    Exposure of Minister Ley’s indulgence once again raises the question of systemic excess open to all politicians. Rorts, benefits and a general expectation of entitlement pervades, motivates and protects our political class from principles of accountability, scrutiny and equity. The Parliamentary Pension is but one example of inequitable advantage comparative to a journeyman’s due. When one lives with a sense of entitlement; said individuals voluntarily divorce themselves from ‘the other.’

  4. klewso

    I can’t get over what a marvelous coincidence it was that led Ley to Brisbane “for an announcement, the same day that unit was auctioned”?
    And count those snouts – how many of them are on the Right side of the trough?

  5. Hunt Ian

    I don’t know why Helen thinks there are about 50 socialists alive and more or less well in Australia today, who are all squabbling about which international they like. I like calling myself a socialist but I hate squabbling over and among “internationals”. It’s a waste of time and intellect.
    I think there are quite a few socialists in the ALP and quite a few in the trade union movement. The problem is for all these people to put aside their differences and work on ways of explaining why capitalism is a bad social system with problems of phoney democracy, exploitation and social divisions, which should be replaced by a system that solves these basic problems.
    They could put their heads together again on this hundred year anniversary of the Russian revolution to explain how inspiring that attempt was to set up a new society and to spell out what lessons we should draw from its failure.

    1. AR

      Workers Education Associations, Mechanics Institutes, Starr-Bowkett building societies for starters.
      Just as in the 19thC and still extant in Bathurst St as late as the 60s.

  6. Dog's Breakfast

    Effing brilliant Helen. Full of rage, about a half of the rage I’m generally feeling about it all, although mine isn’t particularly directed to Sussan Ley, who was otherwise a reasonable minister by the standards of the LNP. (yeah, I know).

    My thesis for hope rests on a reasonable backlash by the young, a backlash which will be much closer to socialism.

    I’m just left to wonder what Bronny thinks socialism is?

    1. Helen Razer

      Agreed re Ley. As far as parliamentary Libs go, she is tolerable. I have reported a bit on mental health policy, and I believe she is striving to make an informed decision about how best to spend the tiny amount of funding she has.
      What Ley did doesn’t strike me as bad. It’s not as clear cut as Bron’s chopper or Sam’s peculiar belief that it was okay to accept money from private companies when he overspent on his already generous travel budget.
      I believe that the reason this story is resonating is because (a) it comes on the back of the centrelink story where even the Herald Sun was forced, for the sake of its older readers receiving pensions, to report negatively on austerity (in this case to the actual infrastructure of centrelink) and (b) she said she bought a house on a “whim”.
      70% of Millennials rent. 25% of the broader population do, too. There are many people who cannot afford housing and millions of home-owning parents worried that their adult children never will have that advantage. So to say in this time that you could just buy a holiday house on a whim sound offensive.
      I would rather people be annoyed with those government policies that led directly to this state of affairs. I think Penny Wong, in attacking Ley head on, missed the opportunity to address the legitimate anxiety many Australians have about the future of where they are actually going to sleep. I actually agree with Bishop that the use of Wong in particular was a transparent gender play.
      If I were her adviser, I’d tell her to admit that some politicians do take advantage, and that it has happened on her own side. (I mean, Dastyari was spectacular.) And to use the opportunity to mention her party’s policies on negative gearing and CGT. But, no. They’re still playing the old politics. Because they don’t seem to realise that many of us live in such diminished conditions, we would now rather hear about a way out of that than some ranting about such-and-such being a doody head.
      People *will* vote for the world’s biggest a-hole if they promise a better deal for the people. Did they learn nothing from the US election?
      These parties deserve to perish even faster than they are. Wong’s performance was pitiful.

      1. C@tmomma

        Fyi, Penny Wong was Acting Opposition Leader at the time a comment needed to be made.

        ‘ I actually agree with Bishop that the use of Wong in particular was a transparent gender play.’

        Come, come, Helen, agreeing with BBishop’s obvious misconstruing of that reality suggests to me you are looking for a peg to hang the Anti Labor diss of yours on. Or are you, like most of the population as they age, becoming more Conservative and actually starting to succumb to the siren call of masters of the art of sucking people into the Con worldview, like that hairsprayed hag, Bishop?

        True, Labor could have made more of the NG/CGT angle but I think the great unwashed (as the Liberals identify them, no doubt, but the proles to you and me), are already quite well aware of Labor’s position on this issue, and nothing has changed in the interim. In fact, I’m sure they decided to let people out there draw their own conclusions. It’s not rocket science.

        1. Helen Razer

          Yes. I am clearly becoming more conservative. I think we can see this best toward the end, when I am calling for socialist revolution in the streets.
          I find I am having this argument a lot, these days. If one opposes centrism, such as that of the ALP or the DNC, one is seen to be “conservative”. It is pretty funny when, say, a Marxist like Richard Wolff or a post-Keynesian like Varoufakis or Mark Blyth are seen as “conservative”, and they have all been called conservative for saying “the way we do things is not working”.
          The ALP has given up. I thought (optimistically) last year that they might use another loss and the rise of people like Sanders to regroup and remember that they have the word “labor” in their name. It didn’t happen. They are conservative, in the sense they are devoted to upholding the last forty years of policy. Not me.
          Not liking Labor’s refusal to address the demise of the middle class is not a knee jerk conservatism. Those guys moved to the right. Not me. I am where I always have been.

          1. C@tmomma

            You must have missed the eleventy thousand times Bill Shorten has referred to Labor standing up for the Middle Class and Working Men and Women.

  7. gerald butler

    How can that entitled,greedy old cow who has done nothing to enhance the lives of the Australian people have the gall to appear on TV and tell them she never broke the rules. Some one please tell her the rules are fucked and she is lucky to be living in Australia where we are not allowed to lynch people in the street.

    1. Helen Razer

      This made me laugh, Gerard. Which probably means I am a very low person. I cannot endorse your comments. Lol, though.

  8. Corey Saint Barnyardi

    I was wondering about the Socialist thing too. I was wondering maybe with Ley it is another LNP ‘comrade’ taken down and made to do the walk of shame. It’s making politicians and capitalism stinky. Bronny, has her right wing reptilian brain convulse into a ‘fight’ response and starts fearing/attacking her ideological enemy, ‘Socialists’. I guess she thinks that ‘Communits’ would sound too ridiculous these days.

  9. Will

    But Bronnie didn’t use the word neo-liberalism, did she, Helen? Because otherwise the title of this piece is misleading, and this may have problems for your argument.
    Sure, I get that Bronnie and Co. screaming ‘socialism!’ at any public attention toward the regular misdeeds of Coalition and associated business figures could be said to open a peephole into the actuality of (neo-liberal) ideology.
    But couldn’t it just as plausibly be argued that Bronnie’s howls of socialism distract from (rather than attract) ideological insight precisely by personalising the criticism of Leys (i.e. by implying it stems from the incomprehensibly deranged minds of a miniscule cabal of socialists)?
    In which case, suggesting as you repeatedly do here, Helen, that Leys personally “probably didn’t do anything terrible” slips completely into Bronnie’s anti-political trap. That Leys unapologetically likely rorted over $50,000 in parliamentary travel entitlements well confirms the neo-liberal worldview that the state’s role is to serve private rather than public interests. Leys did do something terrible – she personified the ideological dictate that promoting the particular interests of her class (herself included) is unquestionably in the national interest. And then she knowingly lied about that too!

    1. no chiefs

      Good post. I had not seen this before I wrote my own rather more simple-minded comment below expressing similar sentiments.

      1. Will

        Thanks NC. I think you’re right too (in your post below) to ask how the heck can Ley and Dastyari not understand the incredible damage they do. My own view on that is that it’s probably because they take the legitimacy of our political system as an established given, rather than as an unending problem (i.e. so what lasting harm can they as mere individuals do, after all?)
        But I also suspect the greater error is with the so-called material left writing off the importance of that problem of legitimacy, as encoded in its championing of ‘socialism’. (Smash capitalism, sure, but you’ve still got to manage the sticky problem of regime legitimation.)
        Hence, nothing could be further from the truth than Helen’s assertion here that “Russia was not ‘ruined’ by socialism.” The Soviet Union was indeed destroyed, ultimately and utterly, precisely by mass awareness of the impossibility of it ever being able to legitimate itself. How else could the Berlin Wall have been breached so painlessly, after all? (I can hardly believe I’m even needing to write this to be honest – unless you believe Reagan, more than the heroes of Solidarity, Charter 77, etc. achieved it.)
        Really, if you naively conceive material injustice to be at the root of all powerlessness you’ll invariably accept that in the end political mendacity is comparatively harmless. Comrade.

  10. campidg

    “and we’re all far too busy arguing about which International we liked best to ever march in a vanguard.”
    The Billy Brag version, hands down. And no matter what our leaders or ex leaders might think, we rank and file Greens are socialists down to the tips of our grass roots.

    1. Draco Houston

      Shame the rank and file for any party don’t matter to the organizational and parliamentary wings of the parties 😛

      I met LNP people that want free dental but you don’t see free dental for everyone in the platform, lmao.

    2. Helen Razer

      Billy Bragg has become a centrist fool.

      1. Helen Razer

        And also, I meant “this” kind of International https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_International not the Internationale, as sung by Bill.
        (He does have a nice voice, though. I really like that Wilco record.)

      2. db

        There was a lot to the left of Thatcher so maybe he always was in the centre.

  11. no chiefs

    Excellent piece but I think you’re going a bit easy on Ley. I cannot muster any sympathy for repeated travel rorting, even if the offences are relativly minor by our low comtemporary standards. Viewed in contrast with the contempouranious fiasco of the Centrelink robotdebt fiasco, I’m not sure how the heads of individuals such as Ley, Bishop and especially Dastiyari, do not explode with cognitive dissonance.

  12. James Brown

    So Susan Ley, who was attending to serious issues, like medicare procedures and costs, pharmaceutical benefits and pathology costs has been outed for abuse of travel expenses. So which group lit the fuse? And, obedient to their masters and using their own contrived version of public opinion, the media is in full cry over $55,000.
    The planned ministerial execution proceeds. Billions of unnecessary payments from the public purse continue.

    1. Matt Hardin

      Interesting comment. Notwithstanding the actual rorting and her own poor handling of the spin, did someone perceive her as a threat and feed her to the wolves? Just about everyone has something that would fail intense press scrutiny.

      1. Will

        One night once I set a mousetrap that caught a mouse. Before I woke up to clean out the trap another mouse scalped it and ate its brain. Honest to God: it’s a true story.
        I have always wondered though which mouse would have failed intense press scrutiny. The victim, or the victor, of neoliberalism?

  13. klewso

    What a job? Where you can manipulate your appearances to conicide with those jobs you want to do for yourself – across the country? Maybe catch a football game? Taking ‘the other half’ as well.
    And “Bugger the phone. We can fly to the Gold Coast/Cairns (you name it) and see my mates and party donors! And who knows? Maybe pick up another real estate bargain, to ad to the family portfolio?”
    And all you have to do is write it down to “business” and the tax-payer pays your way?

  14. Matt Willis

    “neoliberalism, a creditor-friendly deflationary reaction to the full-employment regime run in the West from, roughly, the depth of the Great Depression to the height of Phil Collins’ career”

    Your friend Bernard makes a habit of pointing out that this period wasn’t the golden age many think it were. In 1966, workforce participation was a tick over 60% with a 2% unemployment rate. Today it’s about 65% with about 5% unemployment. So the economy today can support more people than it once could, even though we don’t live under a regime that tries to “protect” us from all the cheap stuff foreigners want to send us.

    The gains made by women in the neoliberal period are substantial – up from 36% to over 60% participation in the market. Don’t forget the other wonderful throwbacks of the post-war era: the bit about women being unable to open a bank account on their own or Aborigines not counting as people, or yellow people not allowed in. Yep, the ’60s were great for people, only if you were a specific kind of people.

    The upside though is that in 1966 a house cost roughly 2 or 3 times the average annual income. Today that number is closer to 10 or 11. But thanks to that “deflationary reaction” a TV doesn’t cost 2 months of labour, instead it’s now down to about 24 hours.

    But hey, don’t let me get in the way of a good reminiscing.

    1. Will

      Glad to hear neoliberalism has made you and yours more comfortable, Matt, and really hoping that holds for your grandchildren too. If like Bernard you can look past the criminally uneven distribution of outcomes entailed and just see a shining future, good Galt on you.
      No-one here’s probably reminiscing though. We’re just concerned that a seriously crap situation is getting seriously crappier. (But don’t mention it to the kids – they’ve likely followed advice to take out powers of attorney already!) Best hunker down and get used to the bunker.

      1. Matt Willis

        No, no Will, not just me, you, me, and the majority of all Australians.

        You’re just unwilling to see that at the height of the supposed golden age, things were also seriously crap.

    2. Helen Razer

      Things Have Never Been So Good, Helen. If you do not concur then you are Living In The Past. Moreover, you hate women, despite being one of them, and all of their advancement. (I can’t tell you how much I adore reading versions of these arguments., especially being reminded to be grateful for my gender’s privilege.)
      First, I do not have a sentimental view of a past regime. One that I simply described—I am not sure why you take issue with that description and open your “blistering critique” with it, as though it’s something I got wrong.. We did move in the West to make the New Deal at a particular time and we did then apply Chicago/Austrian school ideas in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. This is a statement of fact. There is nothing in my argument to suggest a return to those early iterations of Keynesianism. There is something in my argument to suggest that the current regime no longer suits the cycle of capitalism it initially sought to correct. I am hardly alone in making this argument. Even, as noted, the IMF says “down with policies that serve the investor class”. (Notwithstanding their habit of exclusively serving the investor class, being prepared to ruin entire nations in that service.)
      I would suggest that you have a sentimental view of the present, though. You are probably aware we call this thinking “end of history”. I.e. we have reached the best of all possible forms of economic organisation and now, nothing needs to change. Perhaps you know that Fukuyama, the man who popularised the popular use of this phrase two decades ago, has now said “Um, I got it wrong.”
      Now, I understand that many people, including you and the policy makers at the IPA, openly retain their faith in von Mises. But, please. If you are as well-read in economics as you purport to be, you would know that this “come now little girlie and live in reality, do you want to serve a husband all your life?” trickle-down stuff is being openly questioned across the world. Joseph Stiglitz is hardly a radical. Nor, for that matter, is Robert Reich. Nor is anyone who thinks that the crash of 2007-2008 was inevitable, and not just the work of “cronies”. Some of us believe that the fact of millions of Americans being turfed out of their homes, many of which remain vacant, while the class that made this happen faces no recrimination, no regulation on the bail-out money they received, is a sign that demand-side regimes may not suit this particular period.
      Let’s look at some of your specific assertions about how we’ve never had it so good, though. You say that employment hasn’t really dropped that much. Perhaps just before Christmas, you saw the Reserve Bank finally admit that the figures were being diddled, and that the thing many columnists and professors across the world are calling the “precariat” is a monumental force? You are aware, right, that large organisations who set policy are also responsible for writing report cards on that policy? This is why the World Bank can keep on saying it has cured poverty. Even as one billion starve and 62 people on the planet have wealth that exceeds that of the poorest 3.5 billion on the planet. Among this 62 is Jeff Bezos. Interesting that his publication, The Washington Post, believes that the present is as perfect as you do.
      You do admit that housing affordability has diminished, though. Like where you sleep at night is just a little problem, trifling compared to all the fantastic “rights” gains we marginalised women, blacks etc have made. You say it is twelve times annual income, whereas once it was just two or three. Actually, it’s twelve times *household* income in that period. So, more than twenty times individual income, given that my gender now has the “privilege” of working. Or, obligation, if you prefer. The yummy thing is that women work AND perform all the same necessary labour in the home they did in the 1960s. Yay, liberation. Yay, child care costs. Yay, stagnant wages.
      The median weekly income for Australians is one grand a week. If two people are working, this means you can *just* afford to buy a home in Hobart or Adelaide, possibly Perth or Brisbane. As long as you haven’t selfishly had children. Given the casualisation of current labour, you’d better not get sick, either. You’d better not have your work replaced by a machine or some poor bugger in the Global South.
      Still. We can buy tech super cheap, though. And isn’t it nice that those smartphones are full of solder made from tin mined in Indonesia, tantalum and gold mined in Congo. That each of them contains conflict and child labour. That they are assembled by people who work exactly like slaves. The person who made the device on which I am currently typing sleeps and eats in the factory. When the factory closes, as it will in the next decade, thanks to automation, they may encounter some trouble finding somewhere to sleep or something to eat.
      As for your assertion that the movements for race and gender equality were the product of the neoliberal age. I suggest you consult a calendar. It was under a full employment regime that the great movements like feminism, black power, gay rights etc. flourished. It has been under your “end of history” palaver that those gains ebbed, and became largely about women on boards, black presidents and gay men running Apple than about basic needs met for the many. A great movement like civil rights would simply not be possible today, as black workers do not have the labour rights that are the inevitable effect of a full employment regime. MLK Jr met his end at a workers’ strike. And when our rights as labourers diminished, so did the real possibility of all the equality action you praise, as though it’s evidence of a fair and free market, and not the direct result of (a) the communist agitation that led to the New Deal and (b) Keynesian prescriptions.
      Get your hand off it. People are poor. Including myself. And I don’t want to get all identity politics here, but it is very easy to suppose that things are just great when they’re just great for you. For most of us, they are precarious. But, gee. I guess I have all those inspiring women on boards to look up to.
      You are going to be really embarrassed in a few years when this recession claims more lives and you remember that you wrote on a website somewhere that everything was hunky dory, and that there was no problem at all with a return to feudalism. That you didn’t see the signs that the many had very little and lived in service to those who had everything.
      I really can’t believe I have to make the case that the middle class is shrinking. But I am so appalled by this “end of history” thinking, much more antique than my own, that I made it.
      I am very happy for your prosperity.

      1. Matt Willis

        Thanks for the wall of text you consider a reply.

        Where to start? Nowhere did I say that we’d reached a point where we’d reached an end of history, nor did I claim the problem of the business cycle has been solved. Nor did I say that there wouldn’t be a recession in Australia in the next few years. Quite the opposite. I see an imminent collapse in housing prices, followed by policies designed to keep said prices artificially inflated for as long as possible, leading to a zombie economy on life support.

        The point of my post is that things are better than they were 40 years ago. Objectively better. What you say doesn’t counter it at all. Yes, the guy who made your laptop sleeps at his workstation. A generation ago his dad was tilling his fields, making sure he didn’t have an accident at his job as a subsistence farmer. So what? Yes, the richest people make as much money as the world’s poorest. The thing is, this is of no moral significance whatsoever, not at least for those poor people. Sorry to break it to you.

        The most disheartening thing I’ve read today. A well-educated women, living in a first-world county writing about child slaves on a laptop computer calling herself poor.

        1. Helen Razer

          Okay. We started with that popular internet favourite, “Don’t you know how much better your gender has it these days, little lady? Why aren’t you grateful for the chance to do both housework and paid labour?” and now we’re on to “Your reply was really long, how embarrassing for you”.
          You know. My reply was long, because you posed some complex questions. You said people, including blacks and women, had it better because of current economic forms of organisation. If you were not saying this in reply to an article that was almost purely concerned with current economic regimes, then I don’t know why you were saying it at all. Because at no point in this piece did I say, “things were better in the olden times” other than to state that our present forms of economic organisation produce different results to those in the past.
          It is, plainly, true that I cannot meaningfully compare my own lot to that in the Global South. But, I didn’t. I said that I was not personally enjoying the advantages of our age that you tell me are there for the taking. I do not own property. I do not enjoy secure employment. I have no super. I earn the median Australian weekly wage of one thousand dollars. My situation is becoming typical. The precariat is real, across many sectors. And, no. It’s not enough. I suggest the abolition of private property. That will shut me up.
          Again. At no point did I propose a return to the White Australia Policy, Dalkon Shield, pre ’67 conditions for Aboriginal Australians or unequal pay enshrined in law. Where did I say any of these things? Where did I valorise the past in a piece that concerned changed economic policy? Point it out, and I’ll apologise.

          1. Matt Willis

            In your article you referred to the pre-Sussudio period of full emplyment in the West. The question I raised was that could we really refer to an economy where only 60% of people are actively in the labour force, and many many people are purposefully excluded from the economy as “full employment”. It’s ambitious to say the least.

            A house costs at least 10 times household income nowadays. I’m not ignoring that fact at all – but I think that it’s a product of something greater than market forces – negative gearing, subsidies, fast and loose monetary policy and so on. Like I said, I don’t see the government doing anything about it (quite the opposite in fact).

            It may be absurd to think that so much of our income is going into housing. And you’re right. On the other hand it’s hard to imagine an alternative universe where a large portion of your income goes towards buying your kid a school uniform (as Our Mutual Friend BK likes to point out). But that’s how it was. I don’t think that the supposed benefits of the combination of protectionism and subsidies and interventionism were worth the costs. You may or may not.

            I’m not going to get you to shut up, or apologise for anything. I don’t want to, either. But it would be great to cut down on the references to the cultists at the von Mises Institute, the IPA and Fukuyama, and all that stuff.

  15. Reverend Owen

    More than 50, surely.

    1. Charlie Chaplin

      Quite a few, I’d say, RO. Even quite a few self described conservatives turn out to be socialists when you lightly scratch the surface in my experience. But unfortunately we’re all out here in the real world, not in that rarefied world of privilege called parliament.

  16. MAC TEZ

    An exemplary effort to kick off a year that I think you’re going to have some fun writing about and we’ll have reading about .
    Whilst an occasional critic of your work , I do think I missed you over the break.
    HNY Helz !

  17. Northy

    Amazing piece! Helen starts the year with a bang!

  18. Marilyn Quinlan

    If it it true that Ley’s trip to Broken Hill cost $12K (private jet)
    we should surely know why the trip was made.
    We have been told that many people want their privacy protected,
    especially re health matters, hence no names.
    Anyone with a $12K health issue should fly themselves to a specialist
    and then, if they wish, take a flight to Canberra for the big discussion with Ley.

  19. Graham R

    51, Helen. 51 Socialists in the country – you forgot me.

    And really, replacing yet another mega-earning politician who simply cannot help herself going up to and over the limit of her entitlements with Arfur Seenodonors? Is the LNP talent pool so shallow that this little grifter can get a Ministry?

    Sorry – silly question.

  20. klewso

    She does seem to have an imaginative sense of “due compensation” : for when public life encroaches on her own …. not unlike “Broom Hilda”?
    ….. “Bestest friend” (and large party donor : compared to her Labor largess) Russo must throw some swell NYE parties ……. how much government work has gone her way in the last 3 years?
    And the Limited News Party donor (with a day-care business) from whom she bought a unit at a loss (to “him”) – did they get a bit of work valued at around $110,000 while she was Minister for Childcare?
    …. How many personal appearances, to be with “stakeholders” in Western Sydney, or Outer Melbourne has she made compared to those on the Gold Coast?

  21. Will

    Latest in from Fairfax suggests Ley was rorting charter flights to retain her commercial pilots licence: “Ms Ley holds a commercial pilot’s licence and must fly three flights every 90 days to retain it.”
    Even her own Liberal colleagues are appalled –
    Another Liberal MP said: “Her position is completely untenable. Most people [in the Coalition] agree she has gone way over the line on so many occasions – it’s indefensible.”
    Another of Ms Ley’s parliamentary colleagues said: “I can’t see her coming back. This is about judgment.”

    Article –

    1. Helen Razer

      I see you’ve commented on my easy treatment of Ley several times, Will.
      It is entirely possible the minister has been naughty. It’s also possible she was not. Either way, I believe that the shock felt by many was not the result of illegitimate individual behaviour, but that legitimate behaviour permitted by the state economy.
      Why can someone buy a holiday flat on a whim? How is this possible in a time of such high housing prices? For mine, and I think for many, these are more interesting questions to demand answers to that whether or not such-and-such is a bit of an arsehole.
      Of course, parliamentarians should not take advantage of their positions. Of course, being people, they will. Sure, fight for reform and transparency. But don’t kid yourself that the fact of individual misdeeds by politicians hurt democracy anywhere near as much as their actual politics.
      I get that you have a bee in your bonnet about rorts. Good. They shouldn’t be permitted to happen. But even if they are made almost impossible, what happens to the rest of us? There’s no illegitimate behaviour among politicians? Great. This should not be confused for the end to an illegitimate, if perfectly legal, politics.
      I genuinely believe that many people don’t care if politicians are arseholes. We all suppose they are in any case. They care about the decisions politicians make. This is not to say that Ley should, if wrongdoing is found, not be reprimanded. It is to say that we should not confuse this for politics.

      1. Will

        I never argued anything so trivial as that politicians shouldn’t be arsehats or that rorts shouldn’t be permitted to happen, Helen. I suggested that your distinction between mere personal misdemeanours and acts of political significance when it comes to a federal minister was itself ideologically suspect. You’ve in essence replied here that I’ve failed to see that there is a distinction. Well, what can I say?

      2. Hunt Ian

        I’m sorry, I’ve seen quite a few people who don’t take advantage of their positions.

  22. Marilyn Quinlan

    I hope that Crikey might check on this when more information is available:
    “According to Civil Aviation Safety Authority guidelines commercial
    pilots must fly three flights every 90 days to maintain their licences.”
    There is a difference between ‘taking a charter flight”
    and chartering a plane in which Ley herself is the pilot.
    Do some/most of Ley’s pilot flights parallel
    the required three flights every 90 days ?
    Is there a pattern?
    (Also, if it is true, $12K for a ‘private’ flight to Broken Hill interests me)
    Are Ley’s charter flights a case of . . .
    pilot three of these in every three months or lose your licence . . .
    and so . . .
    taxpayers pay for these piloting flights to maintain Ley’s licence? (Nice one)

  23. Mark Duffett

    I submit Venezuela as a an instance of a nation ruined by socialism.

    1. db

      I’d argue that a monoculture was the problem and ideology was almost entirely irrelevant in that case. Remember that governments that are not socialist have had state owned oil companies in the past.

  24. Honest Johnny

    Calling Bishop a “Northern Beaches girl” does not reflect well on true Northern Beaches girls, those born and bred on the Northern Beaches . Bishop parachuted in from the North Shore (Mosman) to grab a safe seat that was vacated by Jim Carlton. She would probably admit it herself but the North Shore is an area that far better suites Bishop’s personality type. The only time she would ever go near a beach would be to cut a ribbon at a surf club. While being a safe seat they voted for the Liberal candidate, but the good people of the Northern Beaches would never regard Bronwyn Bishop as a “Northern Beaches girl”.

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