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Taking us back 50 years?

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How far does Tony Abbott want to take us back? Ten years? Twenty years? Some people say 50 years. Warwick O’Neill suggests it might be even further.

By now we’ve all heard the arguments against Tony and Joe’s budget; claims that it favours the rich, creates a two class society and it’s taking Australia back fifty years. Although I agree with most of these claims, I can’t support the theory that Australian society will regress 50 years with the impact of this budget. That is way too short sighted. Any student of military history will see that this budget is indeed taking us back nearly 200 years to a politically endorsed situation designed to ensure the status quo so only the wealthy (ie upper class) can prosper.

For those who don’t understand military hierarchy, a commissioned officer is a soldier who essentially starts their career half way up the rank structure. In this day and age in Australia, young men and women apply to Duntroon or ADFA, and on successful completion of their training, enter the army with the rank of Lieutenant. They then progress through the ranks and after 25-30 years they become Generals and run the whole show. The rest of the soldiery join up, complete their training, and enter the army with the less than impressive collective name of OR’s (Other Ranks). An OR can rise through the ranks and become an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer), and after 25-30 achieve the dizzy heights of Warrant Officer . . . and still be out ranked by the freshly hatched Lieutenant. Sounds strange, I know, but it does work.

Now, back in the late 1700’s and through to the mid-late 1800s in England, Commissioned and Non Commissioned ranks existed but unlike today when anyone, regardless of background can become a Commissioned Officer, in those days only the wealthy upper class , regardless of their ability, could obtain a Commission. The lower classes could only join the army as ORs.

Why? Surely even people of humble birth can be talented leaders?

To put it simply, this was put in place to ensure that only the rich could maintain control of the British Army. “You see Old Bean, those chaps across the channel, the Froggies, they promoted people based on merit. On how well they did their job, of all things! So some of those dashed peasants rose in rank to a point where they actually controlled the army. That’s when their damnable common blood compelled them to use the army to over throw the French aristocracy, and found a society based on liberty and freedom for all, regardless of their birth. Can you imagine such a ghastly thing, Curruthers?”

So, to ensure no such state of affairs could occur in England a system of purchasing rank was introduced. Essentially, a young chap uses part of his family’s fortune to purchase a Commission in the best unit that he can afford. So maybe he starts as a Cornet in the 12th Hussars. He bides his time until and Lieutenancy becomes available, and he purchases that, recouping some of the money by selling his former rank. If, inconveniently, the Hussars are sent overseas to do some actual soldiering, you simply take leave on half pay and stay home. This way a man could rise through the ranks, but because each higher rank was more expensive than the last, only the disgustingly wealthy could rise to the top, usually without seeing any real warfare.

This situation is what led to the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. The three men who were mostly responsible for the Charge had all risen through the ranks through the purchasing system, and at the time of the Crimean War were in positions of Command. None of these men had any experience in leading a campaign and the end result was the heavy losses of experienced, but less wealthy officers, and men.

So how is this relevant to the 2014 Budget in Australia? Let’s examine the parallels.

What would happen to the increasingly wealthy rich classes of Australia if too many of us “common people” received the best possible education, regardless of our limited means. Why, we might flood parliament with representatives from the lower socio-economic backgrounds. If that were to happen, we might even take control and introduce policies which might spread the wealth on a slightly fairer basis. Oh the horror.

They then put their wealthy, educated minds together to figure out how to stop this. “Let’s make it difficult for the peasants to obtain a full education. Let’s make them pay for a visit to a GP, even though they’ve already paid their Medicare Levy. Let’s jack up the fuel excise a couple of times a year. Let’s make the pension age higher, so that young people will have to spend money on taking care of their elderly parents who can no longer work but can’t get Government assistance. Let’s deregulate University fees. Let’s cut funding to Government schools while protecting Government funding of Private schools. Let’s cut support from the unemployed, so they’ll have to resort to crime to support themselves and we can then lock them away. We’ll add a couple of token measures which only us wealthy types have to pay, but will hardly notice, to make it all seem fair (they’ll never catch on – they’re peasants). Surely all this will keep them in such a poor financial position, that they will be unable to afford an education, then can’t make it into parliament thereby maintaining the status-quo for the wealthy ruling class.”

“Well done chaps, pass the Chardonnay. Now, how do we get the women back into the kitchen, and force all non-Christians back to the one true faith?”

I don’t know about you, but I can see some dangerous parallels here. The British Aristocracy actively prevented talented working class people from threatening their rule by imposing financial obstacles. Obstacles that only the rich could overcome. Is the Abbot Government not doing the same thing here, today? Is Australia heading for our own Charge of the Light Brigade, metaphorically speaking?

Isn’t he who forgets the past, condemned to repeat it?


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  1. ryan

    spot on, you forgot about the eugenics aspect but , cut to the quick of it better then most articals ive seen

  2. John921Fraser

    It should be noted that "Major" is usually a dead end position on the armed forces ladder … if one hasn't progressed from "Major" fairly quickly they are destined to stay there forever.

    Some notable "Majors" …. Major Major (Catch 22), Major newman (Qld.) and Major Burns (M.A.S.H.).

  3. SunLight

    I reckon it’s more like a slow form of genocide
    They have lost the plot, these rancid lot
    “Off with their heads” as they used to say
    And life will come back to the present
    We might even be able to progress into the future safely then,
    like we used too in this great, smart country, before the rabble got into power

  4. ShaunJ

    G’day All,

    You’re on to it there John921, all of those majors exhibit remarkable similar personalities!

  5. SunLight

    There is also ” Major” Mould from the Salvos John 921 😉

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    Abbott appears to have slept since the days of Thatcher. Wants to taken up, where she left off. By the way, even that lady believed in man made climate change.

  7. R Falkiner

    A good analogy. I have been struggling to understand why they are trying to pull off this appalling budget & this article has bought me a tad closer. One of the good things about the first world war was that it got rid of a huge number of these in bred upper class twit Officers as they were usually first over the top into a hail of jerry bullets. Unfortunately we wont see the same stupid bravery from this lot. They don’t even have the guts to face a handful of Uni students.

  8. corvus boreus

    IPA bright idea number 77; allow ministers to be appointed from outside parliament.
    Direct commissioning of the “right” people to rule without that inconvenient soldiers’ ballot/democratic election thing.
    I suspect it will be snuck in during the (dog forbid) second term, after we lose all media diversity, including our public broadcasters, in this term.
    Vale democracy.

  9. Hotspringer

    I didn’t quite think of the military simile, but the LNP seemed to take us to the world as described by Dickens. Just substitute
    A bott’s Green Army (on half pay, no safety, no security) for the poorhouses of the 19th century. The undeserving poor locked up in privatised prisons can compete with Chinese slave labour as free workers never could. And the 1% in their gated compounds or tax havens will get richer and richer. If we can’t stop them now, pity our poor descendants.

  10. Geoff Andrews

    One wonders where this pack of sharp elbowed class warriors get their ideas from.


    R Faulker:
    My first boss went through 3 years of WW1. He asserted that many of your in-bred upper class twits died by English bullets because their troops knew that, sooner or later, the incompetence would mean their own deaths.

  11. corvus boreus

    Quote QLD Premier Campbell Newman(ex-army officer);”I’m not really into plans and studies”.
    There, sir, are your guns.
    There, sir, is your enemy.

  12. guest

    Hotspringer raises a good point about the return to the C19th and Dickens, whose writing discusses so much which is relevant today (the notion of Self Help) for example.

    The novel “Oliver Twist’ discusses the role of the workhouse (think Direct Action’s Green Army and working for the dole or half the minimum wage}.

    In Chapter 2 Dickens describes the workhouse to which Oliver is sent, ‘where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing…Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable…’

    He goes on to explain how the supervisor of the workhouse ‘appropriated a good part of the stipend to her own use’.

    We see here the idea of the poor being against the ‘law’, indolent and unworthy of too much in the way of ‘entitlements’. Think unemployed, aged pensioners, single parents, the disabled…

    He goes further to debunk the Self Help idea: “Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would have unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air.’

    So much for the great economic and social philosophers schooled in the tenets of the Enlightenment.

    Read also ‘Hard Times’ for a description of education which might have been the formula for current trends in education under the Coalition.

  13. John921Fraser


    "I am a conservationist: Tony Abbott"

    Now Abbott comes out with an International lie.

  14. Geoff Andrews

    Also read “Bleak House” in which Dickens writes directly to the upper classes as one of the characters, a young street kid, dies.

    “Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day.”

  15. Stephen Bowler

    I think Tony Abbott and the devotees of capitalism want to return us to the early 1900s – they do not know what is was like to live in those times but they do not want welfare, universal health, nor free education only because they believe they actually pay for these things in the tax that is taken from them each year and which they use every ruse to minimise to the extent of hiding their true income in perks and schemes to minimise their tax liability.
    they resent these taxes even though they enjoy the benefits of taxation in every aspect of their lives.
    Their view is that tax they pay should not be used to help those less fortunate than themselves because they (the less fortunate) don’t work hard like them and so do do not deserve a helping hand.
    The fortunate in life are, to almost 99%, due to an accident of birth. But they can’t see this, not because they are ignorant of the fact but because it is an inconvenient truth.

  16. Winifred Jeavons

    I too see the current government as trying to take us back far more than 50 years. 50 years ago working men could own a home , support a family, have job security and send their brighter children to uni on a scholarship with no debt on graduation . It was a far from perfect era, but we had HOPE then for abetter future . and for some time life got better for all. Moaning Tony and Whining Joe want to destroy all the gains of over 100 years , just to grab more for the “elite” who retain every possible entitlement .

  17. Royce Arriso

    Amongst my Top Ten reads are Cecil Woodham-Smith’s ‘The reason why’. An examination of the disaster that was the Charge of the Light Brigade, it dissects 19th century Eng. Hist—-class issues, purchasing of rank in the Army and how this system was productive of military stuff-ups. Not least, British behaviour in Ireland. A book which changes long-held perceptions. Recommended

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