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Conservative Civic Codes Revisited: Modernist Hegemony in Action

In a society without the mass trade union membership of earlier generations, eyewitness news services and film or blockbusters become substitutes for real participation. Can the metaphors presented in movies like Eyes Wide Shut (1999) be applied to the illusions offered by mainstream politics? Do clever illusions of social reality as presented by movie stars with the caliber of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman emerge as lights on our life journey? Denis Bright reports.

The term Conservative Civic Codes (CCCs) is not prominent in the usual search engines. CCCs are derived from the concepts embedded in Napoleonic Civil Codes (1804-06) which gave consistency to French law after the Revolutionary Years. The Civil Codes extended to family law, titles and property law. CCCs operate at an informal family and community level. They have no legal standing in a democratic society

CCCs are indeed fluid community norms which provide a gel to social structures and personal relationships. They have both strengthened and weakened in their consistency across modernist societies. Perhaps similar guidelines are needed for the interpretation of modernist political culture. In the absence of these guidelines, these illusions can become social reality

Australia follows the inconsistencies between liberalism in popular lifestyles and the political conservatism at an elite level in society in politics and business. The trends are evident to varying degrees in all developed democracies.

Research papers from the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University are available online to show the extent of liberalism in Australian lifestyles.

The inconsistencies between popular lifestyles and conservative neoliberal politics was extremely obvious during the Nixon years in the US. Nixon temporarily won the popular mandate in both 1968 and 1972 before the excesses of his administration became all too obvious.

Presenting Policy Issues to Constituents with Eyes Wide Shut

During the early 1990s, governments at all levels were unable to service the new investment requirements of cherished public-sector enterprises during a time of extraordinary interest rates. All states and territories supported Commonwealth national competition legislation. The life expectancy of public enterprises from airlines to ports, housing schemes, transportation services became suddenly limited.

In NSW, predominantly Labor governments at the time were offered federal financial incentives to open the electricity sector to corporatization and partial privatization. The retail electricity sector was broken up for sale in 2010. The distribution system followed and finally electricity generation.

The commercial plan was to allow the ageing Liddell Power Station (commissioned between 1971-73) generate about 10 per cent of the electricity in NSW until the plant was completely obsolete. However, extraordinary expenses were encountered to keep the plant operational.

During a tour of the Liddell Power Plant for journalists on 19 September 2017, two of the four turbines were not operating for technical reasons. The other two were operating at 84 per cent capacity (Newcastle Herald Online 20 September 2017).

Despite these technical problems, AGL is being encouraged by the federal LNP to sell Liddell to a responsible generator of coal fired electricity to keep the lights on in the future.

The financial costs of such ideological proposals are immense (ABC News Online 19 September 2017):

A 2013 report commissioned by the NSW Government, obtained by the ABC, shows it would cost at least $980 million to keep Liddell open for an extra 10 years. This is on top of the expense required for maintenance until 2022.

More than $140 million would have to be spent on the plants’ boilers alone, the report by WorleyParsons Consulting concluded, but this would not guarantee the plant’s reliability.

“By extending the operation of the power station a further 10 years, increased tube failures and more frequent breakdown of plant and equipment can be anticipated,” the report said.

“Higher unplanned availability losses should be projected for the final 10 years even with the additional expenditure provided.”

In the traditions of Eyes Wide Shut, the wake-up call arising from people behaving irresponsibly has finally arrived. Despite clever rhetoric from the federal LNP, current energy policies are delivering sustainable and more cost-effective electricity output for Australians.

Yet Barnaby Joyce continues the charade in the best traditions of the least excusable CCCs (September 2017):

“Many people in the New England Electorate have told me that high energy prices are their number one concern, that’s why this Government is working to ensure energy prices remain affordable by working with energy retailers to give consumers a better deal,” Mr Joyce said.

“One resident contacted my office saying in winter she can only afford to heat her home for part of the day and is forced to go to bed early to keep warm, which is very worrying in modern day Australia.

“As much as 50 per cent of Australian households have not moved retailers or contracts in the past five years, even though their savings could be up to $1,500 by doing so and we now have the agreement of the energy companies to provide clearer information on the electricity rates available to households and businesses.

Mr Joyce said energy prices could only remain affordable with sensible investment in baseload power such as clean coal-fired power stations as well as renewable energy initiatives like the more than $1 billion investment in wind and solar farms in the New England region.

“It makes sense to continue our investment in clean coal initiatives to keep power prices affordable as well as protecting the thousands of jobs in the coal sector, however it is good to see that renewable energy initiatives like the White Rock and Sapphire solar and wind farms between Glen Innes and Inverell are moving forward in the New England Electorate.

“All electrons are created equal and these initiatives are important in keeping the balance between traditional and renewable forms of energy production to ensure that residents and businesses continue to prosper in the New England and across the nation,” Mr Joyce said.

The press release from Barnaby Joyce is already old news as AGL weighs up its options to equip Liddell as a hydro and gas generation plant in opposition to the demands from the federal LNP (ABC News Online 19 September 2017). The new plans will be evaluated and released within 90 days. The federal LNP’s assumptions about ageing coal fired plants delivering for the future have come to naught.

As Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman acknowledged in their roles as Dr. Bill Hartford and Alice, it was time for a very fresh start because more of the same is hazardous to all parties.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion to evaluate pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.



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  1. Joseph Carli

    Denis wrote..: ” Can the metaphors presented in movies like Eyes Wide Shut (1999) be applied to the illusions offered by mainstream politics? Do clever illusions of social reality as presented by movie stars with the caliber of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman emerge as lights on our life journey?”
    I join in your use of historical reference as example for modern life..I am always quoting this or that historian for example…But I find a lot of folk do not seem to want to venture into a world they feel is outside this modern-day social if such things are :”Old Intellectualism”…not necessarily relevant to the here and now.
    For those people, I give this, fresh off the press..:

    Ode to Machiavelli’s Discourses of Titus Livy.

    Y’know..I can sympathise with ol’ Machiavelli,
    Seeing how things at this moment are not very
    Agreeable..somewhat friable..if’n you’ll allow…
    And HE did avow to explain with a lengthy refrain
    The deeper meanings of one : Titus Livius..THE man.

    I have picked over his “Discourses” as one does pick,
    Thread-bits from a new coat..or the currants, thick
    From granny’s fruit loaf..very nice..’til she thanks
    You with a rap of the wooden spoon, you’ll soon
    Learn to pay close attention to such indelible rune..

    And wonder, like he, whether such honour indeed,
    Bestowed upon those ancients, and their seed be
    But an impersonation of admired esteem,
    Less one’s smarts be seen as hollow sincerity, given as trope
    To impertination so vain as to promenade that path again and again….and again?

    Wisdom admired..but never imitated, even diluted, you may plea,
    So that WE, who have gained this Earth and now lost our soul,
    Given, on the whole, as fuel to the false god of intellectual flattery.
    Assault and battery on lost integrity exchanged impressionably
    For mutual back-slapping and the odd “gold echidna”.

    I wouldn’t be kidding yer if I was to say, with an underbreath ; “Ole’”
    That the measure of intellect today is, sadly, awry, Y,
    ‘Tis enough to make one cry..given what history has bequeathed
    So each generation in turn could turn over a new leaf.
    With so much, so ample that we have more than’s that simple.

    “For our civil laws are but decisions by ancient Jurisconsults,
    That teacheth our present Jurisconsults systems by which to judge…”
    A drudge with nought to follow but example and re-assemble
    Forebears preamble on things “socially medicinal”, as an endocrine?
    Should work out fine ..if we but listen, not descend to vicious hissing.

    The biggest mistake being; not understanding history,
    But make mystery of what we WILL NOT see..Is it just me?
    Or is it thee who takes more pleasure from the infinite variety
    Of incidents in this or that society and such scandalous pleasure
    As your measure of understanding, rather than demanding

    We take heed to the answers to those deeds, as if these
    Times have changed the behaviour of men and then of women too
    It’s a shoo-in to see ; the Sun the Moon, the sea and thee
    Have not changed their motions and power, hour on hour
    From ancient times, I’d avower and from such error; allora!

    I’d therefore call thee to hark to the wisdom of Titus Livy
    And give time to study the erstwhile text of Machiavelli
    Written in testament for us to understand such history
    For ; Zanobi Buondelmonti and Cosimo Rucellai..
    Which for this pleasure I now bequeath to thee…from me.

  2. Mia

    Federal politics is becoming a soap opera. It is time for politicians of all parties to put aside their egos and start behaving responsibly for the future of Australia.

  3. Roswell

    Good post, Denis. Good poem, Joe. Good point, Mia.

  4. Lalnama

    Interesting article, all sides need to look toward what is best for the long term for the Australian people & our place as global citizens, not just short term political gain

  5. Paul

    A fresh approach is certainly needed in today’s politics!

    Support the coal industry makes no sense (environmentally or financially) and history will judge us accordingly.

    Thanks for the article Denis.

  6. Karlo

    When all facets of the power industry were privatised, power ceased to be a service and became solely a commodity. Hence the rise in prices. After working on the construction of Bayswater power station I then turned to other power stations for economic survival. For over 20 years I worked on maintenance shutdowns at Bayswater, Liddell Eraring and Munmorah power stations. All the time working for private contractors but under the supervision of State Government supervisors. What I am hearing from former workmates who are still in that industry is quite alarming. Every thing is self regulation and the engineers and involved companies are involved in cost cutting measures. So expect more blackouts in the intermediate future.
    As for Barnaby Voice. His example from a constituent is amazing. She actually has a house and a bed to sleep in.
    Quoting Beetroot: “One resident contacted my office saying in winter she can only afford to heat her home for part of the day and is forced to go to bed early to keep warm, which is very worrying in modern day Australia”. Sheer luxury, when I were boy we had to sleep in a toilet using hessian bags with newspaper sewn in (Wagga Rugs).

  7. Joseph Carli

    ” when I were boy we had to sleep in a toilet using hessian bags with newspaper sewn in (Wagga Rugs).”….looxshery, lad!…I remember working on Florina Station up near the SA /NSW border..was it Yunta, or Cock-burn?…p’aps Whyte-Yarcowrie? and I had the aforementioned Wagga Rug sans newspapers on top of a straw-stuffed chaff-bag “mattress” and we were fed chuncks of mutton hacked off a carcass with a tomahawk…and we’d sit around the mess-table growling at each other like mongrel dogs!

  8. Maria

    Thanks Denis for an another interesting article.

  9. Tessa

    How can we participate more to challenge these illusions. That’s the problem.

  10. Jim

    Magic Makcolm:Master of Illusions? Is this a circus or a side-show. Good read Denis!

  11. Joseph Carli

    Tessa wrote..: “How can we participate more to challenge these illusions. That’s the problem.” ..Turnbull is in a personal conundrum of not having a good judgement on what is a “good act” against a measure of what is a “bad action”..therefor he jumps from one to the other, usually settling on the worst..I suggested above one could do worse than consulting a historical evaluation..there is nothing new under the sun in the driving actions of humanity.

    ” …but it is concluded that men do not know how to be entirely bad or perfectly good, and that when an evil has some greatness in it or is generous in any part, they do not know how to attempt it. “….””

  12. Jim

    It would be refreshing if politicians focused on the issues that they believe in & their communities believe in rather than following issues based on polls.

  13. Joseph Carli

    The ABS has warned people about photo-posting their “voting form” online, because of the unique (to you) bar-code on the side there… ;

    “Why? Because the bar-code on your form is uniquely yours and designed to only be counted once, so posting a photo of it on social media could compromise the security and privacy of your response.”

    If that is the case, then it has to be presumed that same bar-code will identify YOU WITH YOUR VOTE…just for future reference….of course, you can be assured THEY will protect your identity and preference etc, etc…

  14. diannaart

    Eyes Wide Shut is so cruelly apt a metaphor for contemporary politics. Must check out the movie – not a huge TC fan although have enjoyed a few of his movies.

    @ Joe

    If that is the case, then it has to be presumed that same bar-code will identify YOU WITH YOUR VOTE…just for future reference….of course, you can be assured THEY will protect your identity and preference etc, etc…

    …and, of course, the postal vote does not present a valuable opportunity to increase the data banks with our mega data…

  15. Patrick for Change

    Looks like capitalism controls our spirit! The popular media is a big player in this market hegemony and this includes populist news services which are made worse by the nod from One Nation and X Party to CBS and its takeover of Channel 10. Thanks for the liberating thoughts, Denis.

  16. Tristan Ewins

    interesting stuff Denis ; The problems with energy privatisation have been numerous. Privatisation and corporatisation arguably have seen prices rise. Many people have then defected to micro-renewables. But this has not been an option for those on lower incomes and welfare. A contracting market then means economies of scale are lost – and disadvantaged consumers end up paying more and more. That said – even where infrastructure is still public the same problem exists – there is still the narrowing market – the lost economies of scale. And corporatisation means they behave like private corporations anyway. What we need is an energy system which does away with waste and duplications ; which generously subsidises those on lower incomes during this transitional period. Give it 10 years micro-renewables could become more widespread and affordable ; and more viable because of improved storage technologies. In the meantime, though, we need to protect those on lower incomes from a rising cost of living – including energy. Another possibility is to pursue centralised renewables on a massive scale. At the end of the day the bottom line is cross-subsidies for vulnerable individuals and families during what could be seen as a ‘transitional period’. And if there are big, centralised renewables projects – why not do them publicly? Energy is still properly a natural public monopoly ; and competition has been taken to unnecessary extremes by neo-liberal economic Ideologues. That would be portrayed as ‘radical’ – but really it is just good sense. Before the 1980s even the Liberals might have appreciated it. Time for Labor to come on board also – and recommit to a robust mixed economy.

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