PAYING FOR AN INDULGENT MINORITY
Harry Richardson is a long-time student of Islam and author of best seller, "the Story Of Mohammed - Islam Unveiled', http://thestoryofmohammed.blogspot.com.au
The recent furore over the ABC’s inclusion of a convicted terrorist sympathiser on the guest list of Q&A is starting to die down. It has however raised an important but as yet unanswered question. Why do we need a public broadcaster at all?
After all, even before the digital revolution most Australian Capital cities had three perfectly good commercial channels. These were not only free, but contributed considerable sums to the Government’s coffers.
In today’s world, with almost a dozen free-to-air channels, scores of cable and satellite channels and untold content on the net, that question is even more pressing.
In recent times, sales of power companies, airlines, railroads and telephone companies have all been on the menu for revenue hungry governments. By contrast, the ABC has always been off limits to even the most fervent believers in private industry.
The argument advanced by our leaders is that “Aunty” has a special job to do. This job just can’t be trusted to profit driven entrepreneurs. We need the ABC to promote, protect and showcase the unique culture of Australia both here and abroad. For this reason and this reason alone, Australians are currently shelling out more than a billion dollars annually.
Australians are therefore entitled to ask, are we getting value for money? To answer this question, we need to consider what it is we are actually paying for. What is it exactly that we are trying to promote and protect?
Firstly, we all agree that Aunty’s job is not to protect the sitting government. The head of the ABC recently made the statement, “we are a national broadcaster, not a state broadcaster”. While most of us would agree that Aunty should not be a propaganda tool of the current ruling elite, the comparison is still rather disingenuous.
In countries such as Iran or North Korea, government is not a servant of the people, it is the master. State broadcasters are used as propaganda tools and valued for cementing control. In Australia by contrast, our politicians are democratically elected. They are supposed to be a tool for the people to control a rapacious bureaucracy.
These people would spend our tax dollars with less restraint than a drunken sailor in Bangkok.
By successfully arguing against political oversight, control of the ABC has now fallen into the hands of a few overpaid bureaucrats who are accountable to no one. Although we have accepted this situation for some time now, we are still entitled to ask, “How well are they fulfilling our objective of protecting and promoting Australian culture”?
The short answer of course is, not very well at all. Without even defining Australian culture, the ABC’s attitude to multiculturalism tells us all we need to know. The ABC has been a cheerleader of multiculturalism since the concept was invented. The dogma of multiculturalism rests firmly upon the premise that all cultures are equally valuable and equally important.
By supporting multiculturalism, the ABC is therefore refusing to either support or promote Australian culture above any other. Since this is what we are supposed to be paying them for, this is not an encouraging start.
There are different levels of culture of course. The most visible, yet probably least important aspects revolve around things such as language, dress, music, dance and food. On this level, it could be argued that the ABC does a fair job.
There are other aspects of culture however which are far more important and which are not usually on display in third world five star beach resorts.
These include things such as attitudes to resolving conflicts, attitudes to authority, corruption, the status of women and the elderly and weaker members of society.
There are certain aspects of this deeper level of culture which have been valued in the English speaking democracies far more than in most other parts of the world. These are central to the type of society we live in. These principles and ideals are highly vulnerable and are definitely candidates for protection from an institution such as the ABC.
If there is one way that the ABC could justify its overblown budget then this would have to be it.
The first aspect of our culture which springs to mind is a democratically elected constitutional government. Australians almost universally agree in such a government and that it should be overseeing the rule of law. This principle is built upon the premise that all people are entitled to equal treatment under the law.
Equally important is the right (as far as possible) to freedom. The mother and father of all freedom is of course is freedom of speech. Another hugely important freedom we more or less take for granted, is economic freedom, which is also known as capitalism.
In my own opinion, these aspects of Australian culture are among those which lifted our nation to its current level and made us into the “lucky country” we are. They form non-negotiable yet vulnerable aspects of our shared culture which should be protected at all costs.
How successful has the ABC been in defending these most important aspects of our culture? Let’s start with the democratic system.
If the ABC were truly to support democracy then they should, as far as is possible, be impartial (between parties who are not anti-democratic of course). In this respect, as Mark Scott so eloquently explained, they should be “a national broadcaster, not a state broadcaster”.
On this point however, they fail miserably by their own admission. The ABC claims that because the privately owned networks are mostly right wing, they ought to be left wing in order to counterbalance them. In simpler terms, two wrongs really can make a right.
By taking this stance, they have become the propaganda wing of one political party. When a Labor Government is in power, they really are a “State” broadcaster rather than an impartial “National” one.
By playing political favourites the ABC is clearly failing to support our democratic system of government. That even liberal Governments have been forced to accept this situation is testament to just how bulletproof the “protected” status of this institution has become.
Next on the list is free speech. Mark Scott’s claim that including Zaky Mallah’s inclusion on Q&A was in some way promoting free speech is utterly divorced from reality. Such ignorance of one of our foundational principles should of itself be grounds for instant dismissal.
Free speech is the right to express opinions without fear of (particularly violent) reprisals. This Government did at least come to power with the stated intention of restoring this right to Australians. They backed away from this promise specifically because they were afraid of inflaming Muslims.
Presumably, the kind of Muslims they were afraid of inflaming were radical Muslims such as Zaky Mallah.
This man was jailed for threatening to kill ASIO officers. Putting someone such as this in front of a Government Minister where he can abuse, threaten and potentially even injure him is not a promotion of free speech in any universe that I am aware of.
That is not to say that Zaky Mallah shouldn’t be allowed to express opinions which don’t threaten violence. Promoting free speech however, does not mean giving a platform to an anti-free speech extremist.
Next on my list are equality and the rule of law. These have been enshrined in our constitution since federation and are rooted in English Common Law and the Magna Carta. Once again, the ABC’s position is undermined by its support for multiculturalism.
Our laws are simply an enforcement of our culture. That is why Denmark and New Zealand have quite similar laws, as do Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Despite geographical separation and different languages, these countries share similar cultures which are expressed in their legal codes.
Multiculturalism has created a situation where individuals are now treated differently, depending on their “cultural background”. Reduced penalties for even such serious crimes as rape have been handed down after taking this factor into account. Some crimes (such as polygamy in the UK) are no longer prosecuted at all for certain “cultural” groups whilst still being enforced for all others.
The ABC’s support for multiculturalism destroys equality and undermines the rule of law.
It is worth mentioning that the right to equal treatment under the law is not the “equality” envisioned under socialist doctrines. This concept of equality is little more than a justification for governments to plunder their citizens’ possessions and redistribute them to those who are considered more deserving (invariably friends and cronies of the government leaders of course).
This brings us to the concept of capitalism. In a capitalist society, the government is tasked with the job of protecting its citizens’ property, even from itself. For decades after WW2, Australia was at the forefront of a war which pitted the capitalist West against the communist bloc.
This was mostly a “cold” war which was largely ideological rather than military. We were however drawn into regional conflicts such as Vietnam and Korea and we held our collective breath as nuclear WW3 was narrowly averted during the Cuban missile crisis.
Amazingly, only 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, capitalism is being blamed for all kinds of problems. These include everything from unemployment and inequality to bank failures and third world poverty.
Ironically, most of these ills have been visited on us by the uncontrolled growth in government spending and power. Meanwhile, the people blaming capitalism (including many professional economists) have not the foggiest idea what it even is.
When people in communist China seem to have a better handle on capitalism than the average Aussie, you have to wonder what the hell the ABC has been doing with a billion dollar a year budget.
Then again, it was somewhat naïve to expect a government to run an institution that would advance the cause of capitalism in the first place.
Therein lies the conundrum of where to go from here. The ABC has dismally failed to explain, promote and protect our most important cultural foundations. We could therefore try to reform the ABC and set some solid and specific guidelines of what we want from them. Alternatively we could go with Larry’s preferred option and abolish it altogether.
After all, one billion dollars per year is a hell of a lot of money. With a saving like that, we could pay off Kevin and Julia’s six year spending spree in less than three centuries (assuming they negotiated interest free terms of course).