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Nothing but blue ties from now on? Or academic and democratic freedom?

Blue ties

Smiling at me

Nothing but blue ties

Do I see

(With apologies to Irving Berlin)


“Blue ties … nothing but blue ties” is the theme of this week’s Canberra soap opera. It’s about the Coalition’s vain attempt to flog off a hugely ignorant, intellectually bankrupt concept which “suppository of all wisdom” Tony Abbott once pitched to Liberal donor and private health Czar, the late Paul Ramsay, as a cure for our national identity crisis.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, would confer an undergraduate degree that would supply what ‘this current generation was missing … familiarity with the stories and the values that had made us who and what we are’.

Like any snake oil or hair restorer salesman, Abbott suggested other key deficiencies in our national psyche would also be cured. Above all, bigotry and dogmatism would thrive. “Almost entirely absent from the contemporary educational mindset was any sense that cultures might not all be equal, and that truth might not be entirely relative.”

Desperately, the Turnbull government begs the ANU to take on The Ramsay Centre; confer ersatz academic legitimacy on a cheer squad for cultural supremacists. It woos the university for six months but is flatly rejected Thursday.

Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt BS Phys, BS Astro, AM Astro, PhD Astro is polite but firm as he lets Ramsay know it’s on the nose. ANU has “serious concerns about its autonomy”, he says. His objections expose The Ramsay Centre utterly. And by extension they are a trenchant criticism of a Coalition keen to undermine if not silence a free and open society.

Professor Schmidt tells Fairfax Media, Thursday, that the Ramsay Centre had “sought a level of influence over our curriculum and staffing that went beyond what any other donor has been granted, and was inconsistent with academic autonomy”. This would set a precedent that would completely undermine the integrity of the university,” he continues, noting the ANU had declined donations before and “will again”.

The word integrity mystifies the PM of an anti-academic, coal-powered, business-friendly government. He just cannot fathom Schmidt’s decision, he declares sounding less confounded than condemnatory: “I find it very hard to understand why that proposal from The Ramsay Foundation would not have been accepted with enthusiasm, he tells Fairfax.

Rejecting Ramsay is quickly conflated with rejecting western civilisation. Publicly, the PM vows to drum some sense into ANU’s curmudgeons. PM of a mercantile government of mean, narrow and contracting horizons, Turnbull might find himself out of his depth, however, with Schmidt, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize and leader of the High-Z Supernova Search team which in 1998 made the wonderful discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating.

At stake is the very idea of the university, a place for inquiry, academic freedom and intellectual rigour, concepts, ironically that are central to the Enlightenment a part of what it suits some to call the western tradition.

On the other side of the ledger is Paul Ramsay’s $3 billion legacy. The late corporate oligarch, was a former land surveyor who put away theodolite and tape to open a Sydney psychiatric clinic in 1964, a portal into a Mad-man meets Wall Street world of profiteering via his Ramsay Health Care, a thriving private hospital business empire until it “diworsified” overseas.

A market darling, Ramsay Healthcare’s motto is people caring for people. But only for people with money, darling.

While Ramsay may struggle a bit now, with underperforming overseas investments, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts see a healthy profit in private healthcare. Australian hospitals enjoyed 13% earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, (EBITDA) margin ten years ago. Now it’s 18%-20%. Ramsay has been a nice little earner.

In the five years to 2016, Ramsay Health Care Limited shares rose 321%: 14.6 times better than the return offered by the ASX during the same time period. Since Winston Howard’s 1997-2000 private health subsidies and other ways of getting government to foster private enterprise in the private health industry, Ramsay has never looked back.

Ramsay’s inspiring devotion to profit, the public good and the undermining of our public health system also included his building regional TV: the mighty Prime Network which along with a mind-boggling swag of products to flog, including pay-day lenders’ usury, gambling and scams such as health and funeral insurance and banking, still manages to find space for daily crusades to expose welfare bludgers and for other truthiness to enlighten our benighted nation.

An army of jeremiahs at The Australian don sackcloth and ashes. Poison barbs are lovingly fashioned by News Corp hacks. Forget culture war, The Oz declares a holy war. A broadsheet, broadside ensues. Like the heads Christians cut off the Turkish wounded and dead and catapulted into Nicea in 1097, the word Ramsay is now hurled at all infidels; evidence the great white way of the West is superior to Islam, the East or anything anyone else might have to offer.

Surely all that money talking must be heeded, suggests policy-free, Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, who blames ANU’s student associations and the National Tertiary Education Union for “stoking negativity” about such a “significant bequest”. He warns other universities “to resist politically correct objections” whatever that means.

Never get between a Vice Chancellor and a source of funding say the wags. Sydney University, The Canberra Times reports, now may take the money and run – (the degree). Yet more than 100 of its academics sign an open letter declaring that they are “strongly opposed to the university entering into any arrangement with the Ramsay Centre”..

The Australian smears this protest as “including refugee and pro-Palestine activist Nick Riemer, fellow boycott Israel campaigner Jake Lynch and Tim Anderson, who courted controversy by defending Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.”

On economic fronts it’s all good news for Pollyannas. We are world’s best in the GDP, a contest to equate a statistical blip caused by mining and government spending in health with progress. The economy is booming. Except for wage-earners. For the first time on record, less than half of all workers now enjoy secure work reports The Australia Institute.

Scott Morrison may well boast that real wages for those in the best paid job category – permanent full-time jobs – have grown but wages for casual workers are declining. Part-time workers in marginal self-employed positions, including so-called ‘gig economy’ workers fare the worst, with real wages falling 26 percent in the last five years.

“There are one million more Australians in work than there were when we were elected,” boast con-artists Turnbull and Morrison. No hint that our adult population has grown by 1.4 million in that time. One million jobs is inadequate. An endlessly-repeated hollow boast; the lie has sadly now by dint of repetition become accepted as a Coalition success.

The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Stutchbury appears on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to cheer on the government’s fantasy employment boom although he does get a rise out of News.com.au’s Malcolm Farr when Stutchbury smugly dismisses workers on low wages as “whingers”. Bugger the facts. Everyone is fabulously well-paid at bullshit castle.

Everyone gets a share of our national magic pudding featured in ScoMo and Co’s big show this week. Even his PowerPoint tables groan under the weight of his porky-pies. In a feast of aspirational mind-setting, the treasurer flogs a drop-dead gorgeous set of figures. And takes credit. Our hero is on a mission to ease our “tax burden”.

Like a favourite footy team, homespun metaphor-king Morrison, the Malcolm Roberts of economics, bellows, Australia has “climbed back to the top of the global leaderboard”, growing faster than all seven of the biggest rich countries.”

No. ScoMo our economy only looks as if its growing faster because our population is growing faster.

None of ScoMo’s boast is true. Above all, it is impossible to measure our economy from quarter to quarter. Such is the faith-based fervour a Neoliberal government invests in anything to do with the economy – it’s heresy to dispute ScoMo’s misrepresentation of what’s caused the GDP to become a bigger, sexier figure. Or whether it really has changed.

Ross Gittins in Fairfax points out that for the last two years we’ve endured implausibly weak figures on quarter and implausibly strong the next. The only possible meaning lies in the trend. And even jobs are now 600 a day.

Nor dare anyone dare challenge the Prophet of Trickle Down’s wilful distortion of tax bad; cuts good. Or the tax burden.

Tax burden? Taxes are only a burden if you don’t want roads or schools or hospitals. Spare us your second-hand Tea Party evangelism about burdens, ScoMo. The Treasurer runs into a spot of bother when reporters ask him to comment on how women will do three times worse out his proposed personal tax cuts than men. With a well-practised display of confected anger, he trivialises the issue and patronises all with a quip about tax forms not being in pink and blue.

Job done. Journos are silenced. GDP’s making whoopee and we’ll all be on easy (Ramsay?) street on the back of mining exports; a random figure plucked out for show which looks good only because of government spending on health and its NDIS cock-up. GDP is there to remind us that what matters often doesn’t count and what counts often doesn’t matter.

In other fabulous news, a quixotic Craig Kelly jumps on his high horse and rides off in all directions in search of traitors.

‘Leftist academics’ not only hate ‘Western civilisation’, but they ‘have a dislike of our nation, that is simply why they do not want this course’ blue tie Liberal MP Craig Kelly rants. A grateful nation gives thanks for our heroic monocultural warrior’s wake-up call. Fifth columnists infest our universities. Gays. Feminists. Environmentalists. Cultural Marxists.

Our way of life is at risk. Luckily the anti-government Jihadists at the ABC has been fixed. Mitch Fifield, who sees no conflict between his membership of an IPA dedicated to closing down our public broadcaster and his role as Minister for Communications, has helped his Coalition cut $254 million in funds and cull 600 staff members since 2013.

Complaints have been stepped up in the meantime as resources have been denied in a bastardisation strategy. Fifield slams Barrie Cassidy, ABC Insiders’, genial host with the gentle question technique for allowing Andrew Probyn together with ring-ins Phil Coorey and Mark Kenny, who work for other media, to repeat the “Labor lie” that the Super Saturday by elections date was chosen in an act of political bastardry to conflict with Labor’s National Conference.

Laura Tingle opines that the ABC has morphed from being a perennial political whipping-boy to an election issue in its own right. Some tip an early election to be timed to start with disgraced former HSU head and Coalition model unionist Kathy Jackson’s trial but she may not go before a jury until 2019 given the backlog of trials before the County Court.

Cutting the funding and staffing the ABC needs to do its job while complaining about its performance, is a great way to bully our public broadcaster into submission. But even a government cheerleader can’t get out all the good news.

Christian Porter, the poor man’s George Brandis, urges the nation to get behind the government’s latest attempt to turn the nation into a police state, in its Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill which has nothing to do with foreigners interfering and everything to do with the Turnbull government’s obsession with secrecy.

While Porter screams urgency, it should be remembered that in 2009 it was the Coalition which blocked Labor’s attempts to ban the most direct form of foreign interference, foreign political donations.

It’s an “egregious, blatant breach of the democratic rights and civil liberties of Australia” says GetUp!’s legal director, Alice Drury. Porter’s bill is not about foreign influence it’s about increasing government secrecy laws.

Some of the excesses of George Brandis’ original gonzo legislation remain in the proposed new legislation. Bernard Keane sums up. Whistle-blowers remain unprotected but must go through the labyrinthine APS processes laid down by internal whistle-blower laws.

Worse, you can still be prosecuted for viewing, sharing and republishing Wikileaks-style leaked governments documents unless you can prove you believed the information would not “cause harm to Australia’s interests” and non-journalists who receive or use information can still be prosecuted.

Above all it is a move to silence dissent. GetUp! believes it will be forced to declare it is not independent when its grassroots effectiveness is entirely based on “people power” through the digital and social media revolution with crowdfunding campaigns like marriage equality and opposition to the Adani Carmichael export coal mine in Queensland.

The Turnbull government may say it wants a Ramsay Centre to perpetuate Western Civilisation yet beneath the rhetoric is the desire to promulgate propaganda to support the conservative cause and perpetuate the blue tie ruling elite.

In other ways, also its actions betray a police state agenda. Anyone may soon expect to be asked for their “papers please” at an airport. Your private information can be leaked to damage your credibility if you dare to criticise a government department such as the DHS.

Add growing draconian surveillance laws and factor in the ongoing mistreatment of Witness K a former ASIS agent who revealed ASIS’ illegal bugging of the East Timorese government in 2004 for the benefit of Australian resources companies and you have a brave new Australia that a visitor from 2013 would barely recognise.

Yet with the nobbling of the ABC’s independence and culture warriors such as Abbott and Howard actively undermining the foundations of a free, open and democratic it looks like nothing but blue ties from now on.

Unless, of course, the blue ties have already overplayed their hand and gravely underestimate the power of grass-roots opposition and the average Australian’s capacity to see right through the blue ties’ lies, the spin, the evasions and diversions.



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  1. Jaquix

    David Tyler deserves a medal. His writing is brilliant, and this one is exceptional. He cuts through all the crap we are bombarded with from this awful govt and the cheerleading media day after day. I cannot say how much I appreciate his take on the way we’re heading in this country.

  2. Jaquix

    Example of “police state” already in action. Last week a Brisbane man sent a tweet. His handle is Political Spinner. Next day 2 policemen knocked on his door to report they’ve had a complaint about it !!! Who from? “The LNP candidate in Longman”. Can you believe it?
    The party of free speech strikes again.
    Said LNP candidate is Trevor Ruthenberg, apparently a member of the Campbell Newman LNP govt which was the dodgy, police state mob that Queenslanders tossed out decisively at end of their first term.

  3. Terence Mills

    ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt has shown dignity and quite rightly points out that a gift or bequest cannot come with strings attached and for Howard and Abbott to consider that their warped ideology should influence the integrity and autonomy of the ANU is abhorrent to most Australians [I hope].

    A gift is a gift, you cannot leave a bequest to somebody and then try to bind them on how they spend it.

    Paul Ramsay was the recipient of much Liberal Party bounty under the Howard government’s massive and ongoing subsidies to private health insurance companies, a large proportion of which flowed through to people like Ramsay in the private sector, to the detriment of public healthcare and Medicare.

    I’m with you Brian Schmidt , don’t let them try to turn this into a Left and Right thing, clearly it is about the integrity and autonomy of the university.

  4. Wun Farlung

    While watching Christian Porter yesterday morning , I was amazed at his pitiful and hypocritical explanations for the need of Legislation to silence anyone opposing consevatives.

    “You weaken a democracy by creating a sense of division or dysfunction and you can very easily do that by placing opinions and trying to affect opinions and just causing general chaos in the context of elections.”

    I doubt very much that he means the end of ‘debt and deficet disaster’ and the like bullshit regurgitated by MSM


  5. Ricardo29

    Agree, another excellent summation from David.

    ReWestern Civilisation, I’m surprised no-one has yet seen fit to mention the, probably apocryphal, quote attributed to Gandhi who, when asked what he thought of Western Civilisatiin, is said to have replied that he thought it would be a good idea. If he didn’t say it he certainly should have.

    Also, time to change a few of the survey questions at the end of AIMN articles, can I suggest:

    Evangelical Christian anti marriage equality campaigner, Lyle Shelton, plans to stand for parliament. Do you think he will be elected? Yes, No or Couldn’t give a f#ck but hope he crashes and burns.

  6. Egalitarian

    We still have the insulting Religious Chaplin’s in Schools put there by “Honest John Howard”. They want our society to become like the USA in every way.

  7. helvityni

    There’s a lot of talk about Western Civilisation and Culture wars lately…

    Let’s invite the Culture in before we start warring with it….

    Do the Right-wingers equate money with culture, and blue ties with being civilized…

  8. Kaye Lee

    Remember when Tony Abbott and a simpering Julie Bishop wanted to give UWA $4 million for Bjorn Lomberg to set up the “Australian Consensus Centre”? UWA cancelled the contract as “the proposed centre was untenable and lacked academic support”. Then Flinders University followed suit. Flinders staff and students vowed to fight against the establishment of any Centre or any partnership with Lomborg, citing his lack of scientific credibility, his lack of academic legitimacy and the political nature of the process of establishing the Centre with the Abbott federal government.

    This interview with Abbott from 1979 is revealing as he complains about feminists, homosexuals, student unions and the “Marxist infiltration of the uni curriculum”.

    Nothing has changed.

  9. wam

    What a beaut heading for a great read.
    Vice chancellors have had the cash from HECS and a bums on seats mentality which blunts the sharpness of government threats.
    Who could not giggle at this government’s constant attempts to ram their say down our throats and cry at their success, with those who have least to gain, by convincing them they have most to lose.
    Still who cares about manana, especially if we REMEMBER: “Life is too short to drink bad wine or warm beer”?
    Ergo, unless bill can find a natalem libum moment, status quo??

  10. Rossleigh

    Perhaps, Jaquix, we could institute a medal for the blog of the month. You know, something like “The Ramsay Award For Cultural Superiority Because We Know That Our Culture Is Superior”. And it should be awarded to the blog whose position would most upset Tony Abbott!

  11. helvityni

    …Stutchbury was so busy taking over the talk on Insiders, Malcolm Farr and Annabel hardly got a word in, not very civilised…didn’t he learn about sharing in his Kindergarten year…..do some sharing/caring and nobody needs to ‘whinge’….

  12. Godwin

    Annabelle Crabb worries me more than Stutchbury.She is a pure careerist. She only yeilds to power, position, money and her self; of course.Though; I loved her red shoes and her matching glasses and little yellow cardy.I wonder what she will be wearing next week when Annabelle host’s The Insiders.It will something more demure i’m sure.Maybe that’s why Stutchbury was out of wack.He’d heard of Crabbs appointment.

  13. helvityni

    …I have whinged about sweet Annabelle often enough, it was Stutchbury’s turn; dear me, it will be a lot of hand-waving and giggles on Insiders next time…

  14. benway

    It strikes me that this is much like the basics card, they want any kind of ‘charity’ to be subject to their terms of use. In tandem with criminalising any dissent or criticism against them…. I fear for the future. Even more so after reading Jaquix’s comment.

  15. David Bruce

    What are these “blue ties” going to say when the rest of Australia finds out that the missing flight MH370 and the shot down MH 17 used the same plane? The Missing MH370 was a good excuse to complete the seismic survey of the Indian Ocean. The former prime minister, as I remember, entered into a contract with the other governments involved with MH17, not to release any details without approval from Kiev. When the wrongful death charges are heard, many more details will be released!

  16. Lauris Newbury

    I wonder if this course is going to tell ‘ herstory?’
    Missing from most history texts.

  17. johno

    Well done Brian Schmidt, and may the universe keep expanding (for a while anyway)

  18. Godwin

    Annabelle is very popular with the LNP.

  19. David Tyler

    Thank you for the Abbott tape link, Kaye Lee – it’s a revealing resource. Even in 1979, Tony was an articulate – albeit stilted in delivery – elitist prig with pretensions who is so filled to the brim with right-wing prejudices and platitudes you can listen right through without spotting an original idea. Greatly baffled by women even then, of course, “equal but different” and housework isn’t real work.

    You wish the interviewer had asked him about why he punched the wall twice on either side of Barbara Ramjam’s head in September 1977 because she beat him in the SRC selection. Thuggery must have worked – because here is – in 1979 as president.

    Even in ’79 he evinces no hint of charisma, depth of thought or compassion beyond the trite cliches – no hint of (dare I say it?) vision -or any other leadership quality that has led his followers and even David Marr to describe him as a force of nature. What comes through strongly is the narrow meanness – the quality of thought and mind which made him John Howard’s God-given disciple – (and spoilt favourite). As a Health Minister he would come to cabinet meetings without having bothered to read briefing papers. The habit continued, surely, even when he was PM.

  20. Kaye Lee

    I was at uni with him at the time. We crossed paths a lot. We all thought he was a wanker then. Pretentious prig, inconsequential bovver boy who travelled with a pack of sycophants repeating stuff he’d heard Bob Santamaria say. As I said before, nothing’s changed.

  21. David Stakes

    Can we expect a clandestine plot to remove Brian Schmidt from his position. Would not put it past this Gov.

  22. wam

    The rabbott: a womanising catholic/mormon-style homophobic misogynist, is nasty when crossed and vindictive. So religious that he will not read anything that may provoke thought on his faith. So certain in his faith, as opus dei, that, beyond a personal safety situation. he cannot lie because he does god’s work. There are dozens of catholic pollies whose faith is of ‘rabbott’ strength, including the jesuit trained, shorten and pyne(plus hockey and bullock), but few whose decisions cannot be made without faith. The ‘best’ of these being kevin monash group andrews, the nt right to die destroyer,
    It is soul destroying to think how these people were selected but when bullock(another jesuit friend of the rabbott)bounced over in the west it was clear that homophobia, misogyny and branch stacking was endemic. Still how the %%@%% do we explain hanson???

  23. Peter F

    @wam”So certain in his faith, as opus dei, that, beyond a personal safety situation. he cannot lie because he does god’s work”………………… Those who know that they know, don’t.

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