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Decline and Fall: The Faustian Compact

Being an atheist, I do not think we have souls. However, for the sake of the Faustian analogy, let me take the position that Philip Ruddock once had a soul. One interesting question is, to whom did he sell it?

Ruddock was a founder of the parliamentary branch of Amnesty International. He was an advocate of Australia’s increasing its foreign aid budget, and he took part in several peace missions to Cambodia when that country was enduring its civil war. He was also a member (one of the few Liberals) of the Parliamentarians Against Apartheid group. With such principles, it did not surprise me when, in 1988, he and a few other Liberal MPs defied their then leader, John Howard, and crossed the floor to support Bob Hawke's resolution opposing any immigration policy based on racial discrimination.

In 1996, the Howard government was elected, and Ruddock was made Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He was elevated to the Cabinet after the 1998 election, having decided to become, in Andrew West’s words:

... that ultimate political novelty: a surprise. He would be no wuss ... [he] became the proud spruiker for locking children and their families behind the razor wire. He referred to a refugee child as "it" and spoke of asylum-seekers fleeing tyranny ... as 'people seeking a different resettlement outcome'.

It was after the 1998 election that I began to think that Philip Ruddock looked like a man who had sold his soul. Soon after that Crikey (thank you, Christian Kerr, for the confirmation) began referring to him as the Cadaver. Then came the Tampa, and the 2001 election: the resemblance to a greenish-skinned corpse grew stronger. His old friend Phillip Adams wrote of him in on 28 June 2003 (sorry, the link to the Oz doesn’t work):

In recent weeks we’ve seen Ruddock’s hands shaking as he stands in the Reps to answer questions about an international criminal and illegal who jumped queues to gain Australian citizenship, having made generous donations to Ruddock’s election fund. But even before getting the tremors at the despatch box, Ruddock was showing symptoms of a deepening crisis. We’re used to seeing the upper echelons of Australia’s political leadership ageing dramatically in office. One day they’re young and feisty, the next haggard and exhausted.

Yet while Howard remains sprightly, sustained by the aphrodisiac of power, Ruddock recalls The Picture of Dorian Gray. …

Why? Because his policies of mandatory detention, involving the imprisonment of hundreds of children, his ruthless and inflexible imposition of unprecedented cruelties on innocent human beings, have subjected him to more criticism than the rest of the Howard ministry combined.

It's clearly taken its toll yet Howard has shown no pity, no inclination to reshuffle, no sign of rewarding Ruddock for doing a dirty job by promoting him to a more comfortable portfolio. Worse, in a gesture of staggering cynicism Howard gave him the added responsibility of Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Ruddock, who once would have supported reconciliations ideals, has been forced to participate in a slow, cynical process of destruction.

Ruddock knows the Bible far better than I do. But isn’t there a warning against Mephistopheles contracts? What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his immortal soul?

That article resonated with me, and helped answer my first question: Ruddock sold his soul to Howard. A Faustian bargain par excellence. And his master has been making him pay ever since. Witness Wayne Errington in Crikey earlier this week:

After a decade of Howard’s dominance, the right is in the ascendant. Working out exactly who is liberal or conservative after a decade in power, though, is difficult. Nothing has given Howard greater pleasure than watching wets such as Ruddock and Vanstone implement his authoritarian refugee policies. Brendan Nelson, Helen Coonan and Julie Bishop have toed Howard’s line against their ideological instincts.

This raises a second question: why did Ruddock sell his soul? For that matter, why did Vanstone, Nelson, Coonan, and Julie Bishop?

This question is easily answered in Ruddock’s case. He said to Adams: “I’ve been waiting to be a minister for 20 years.” One might expect similar responses from his formerly small-l Liberal colleagues.

Does it all come down to ambition, to power? After all, the effect of power on the character is well-known. Why, then, haven’t people like Georgiou, Moylan, and Payne [and - late amendment with apologies - Troeth] also crossed over? Their political careers would have been easier, and far more successful, had they too acquiesced. Could it have something to do with integrity?

And that raises a third, and to me fascinating question: what happens to people who so compromise their integrity, their ethics, their principles? In its extreme form it involves what the eminent psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton called socialization to evil through a process of “doubling”. Are they so corrupted by their bargain that they disintegrate – or is redemption possible?

Ruddock is the Member for Berowra, and at the last election received 56% of first preferences (2PP 62%). Almost certainly he will be re-elected. Even if the Coalition is annihilated on 24 November 2007, he will be one of the survivors. And if the Coalition does lose, will Ruddock be able to help rebuild the Liberal Party as a genuinely conservative force, a party that once again reflects the vision and ideals of people like Peter Baume, Ian MacPhee, Fred Chaney, Dick Hamer, Malcolm Fraser, and even Bob Menzies? Will he achieve disintegration, or redemption?

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Soul, what soul?

I watched Brendan Nelson on Insiders this morning, and yesterday was reminded by Alan Ramsey of John Stone's wondrous comment:

He reminds me of Andrew Peacock without the substance.

Now, last century I was for a few short years a member of the Liberal Party. (It's alright - put your silver bullets, crucifixes, and garlic away - I shall tell you the story of my political life some other time.) What's more, I was a member of the Kooyong branch of the party, back in Andrew Peacock's glory days, and vividly remember being introduced to him at some meeting or other. It was a strange experience - the first time I have ever encountered someone who was two-dimensional.

So what does that make Mr Nelson? A line (if one is charitable), or perhaps merely a dot. Certainly nowhere to fit a soul, even if I believed in such entities.

Liberals have sold their soul. Nothing left of value.

Fiona: "This raises a second question: why did Ruddock sell his soul? For that matter, why did Vanstone, Nelson, Coonan, and Julie Bishop? This question is easily answered in Ruddock’s case. He said to Adams: “I’ve been waiting to be a minister for 20 years.” One might expect similar responses from his formerly small-l Liberal colleagues."

The Western Australian Liberals remain in turmoil, with key MPs refusing today to back current Opposition Leader Paul Omodei to lead them to the next election.

The Queensland Liberal leadership fight has gone from bizarre to ridiculous.

In NSW, you have the takeover by the extreme right faction who are determined not just to stack NSW Liberal Party Branches, but now also stack the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Canberra to thwart Peter Costello’s future leadership ambitions.

THE split in the Victorian Liberals widened yesterday when a party meeting descended into uproar and leader Ted Baillieu publicly slapped down state president Russell Hannan and powerbroker Michael Kroger.

Once more there's turmoil and consternation in the South Australian Liberal Party today as a senior MP comes out publicly threatening to quit the Party because of plunging public opinion polls


Just how impotent the Liberals are outside the federal scene will be demonstrated in March when the most incompetent and accident-prone Government in the country, Morris Iemma's Labor Government in NSW, will be returned, albeit with a majority somewhat less than its present 17 seats. Government appears not to be in the sights of the NSW Liberals, now controlled by a hard right-wing element whose main concern appears to be a moral crusade against anyone and anything remotely liberal.

Elsewhere, the Liberals in Western Australia, where another incompetent and possibly corrupt Labor Government rules, are a divided and squabbling rabble; in Victoria they are still licking their wounds from last year's thumping defeat; in South Australia and Tasmania they are irrelevant, and in Queensland, invisible as well as irrelevant.


Malcolm Fraser: Australians should make a judgement about which set of policies will do best for the future, will build a stronger nation and invest in the basic fabric that will enable Australia to compete throughout the world. Above all, we need to return to our traditional sense of fairness, justice and again guarantee the rule of law and due process for all people. We need a vision for the future based on these values.

Malcolm Fraser has asked all Australians to make a judgement about which set of policies will do best for the future. With the Liberal Party in a total mess across the country, may I suggest that all members of the Liberal Party resign their membership immediately and join the Labor Party? Then the best political brains in the country would all be on the same team. We now know that their policies are not so different from the ALP and in fact their new leader is a former ALP and union member. I am sure the Labor party could find a position for him somewhere. With the Labor party now covering the political spectrum from far right to left of centre, this would leave the Greens with the far left, making the Greens the real alternative and a true opposition.

What difference would this make? We could get on with discussing policy direction and forget about petty party politics. This would be a real "Me Too".

A photograph of young Frau Blomberg

Roger Fedyk says:

Personally, I am influenced most by William Shirer having read his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich numerous times and Trevor-Roper's Last Days Of Hitler. Recently I read Traudl Junge's Until The Final Hour which provides such an intimate glimpse of Hitler that it is hard to see any deep Machiavellian impulse coursing through Hitler's veins.

You might want to mention that to the Stressor Brothers and Ernst Röhm amongst others.

Brigitte Haman in her astounding good book 'Hitler's Vienna: a dictator's apprenticeship' demonstrates a startling degree of self awareness in the young, aspiring Austrian meglomaniac.

Right from the outset Hitler stated his intention to employ the anti-Semitic demogoguery of movements such as Georg Schonnerer's Pan Deutsch party and Karl Leuger's Jew-baiting Christian Social Party for practical purposes, but to more intensively focus the former party's racist antipathy on the Jews (and less on Slavs and Catholics) for the purposes of rousing nationalistic fervour in Germans (and so as not to divide their energies); and Hitler expressly stated his intention to distance his own political stance from the "mistake" of Leuger's currying favour with the Catholic Church because greater Germany was mostly Protestant.

Otherwise, he admired Leuger greatly.

And if that wasn't all Machiavellian enough for you, perhaps re-read Shirer's account of the Night of the Long Knives or Lord Dacre's various accounts of the intrigues around Hitler's nominating his successor and the other to-ing and fro-ing in the bunker.

Ron Rosembaum looks at Hitler's deft hand at political sexual blackmail and it's role in the NSDAP more broadly.

The police interview with Hitler after Geli Rabaul's suicide is a virtual masterclass in subtle disingenuousness as Hitler frames up his dead niece as an hysteric.

Lovely guy, that.

Tis a Doggy-Dog World

Daniel, Ruddock is Orthrus, two-faced brother of Cerberus, who guarded the gates of hades, letting people in, but never letting anyone out.

Fiona, Attack Spaniel is perfect for Downer. It's true he looks a bit like a poodle, but he lacks poodle personality. They are a noble breed. John Steinbeck's Charley tried to monster grizzly bears whenever he saw one. Which doesn't say much for that breed's intelligence…

Intelligence of dogs—ranking by breed is based on one Stanley Coren's study. A useful thing, but based on too small a sample to be conclusive; and limited to the sort of intelligence demonstrated by obedience. It fails to take into account reasoning powers.

I think the best measure of canine intelligence is vocabulary. An intelligent dog can easily learn 200 words. That is the recognised benchmark. According to my observations, a really smart one can learn 300. Nouns, verbs and, what impresses me most, adjectives. (Jump up on the big rock / jump up on the little rock.)

My vote for most intelligent goes to the Lurcher. Not a breed, strictly speaking, but rather a type. Sitting beside one on the back of a truck, I taught him the names of his body parts, the way you do a little kid: "This is your nose; this is your ear; this is your eye; this is your foot," taking hold of those things and giving it a bit of a shake as I said it. Then I said "Where is your ear?" The dog reached out and grabbed me by the ear with his teeth, and gave it a gentle shake.

Richard:   Is this what they call Pre Election His Terrier?

Ignorant humans

I don't know what all this talk about dogs being intelligent is about.    Now, cats are intelligent you just have to look at the way we train our humans.   I just got Fat and Rude to fill my water bowl up and now I'm going back to sleep.    Dogs.   Really.

No relevance, Daniel?

You must be forgetting "The drover's dog could have won this election".

But I am refraining from any such confident statements, having been very wrong about the Australian people last time.


The Maltese Cross (as in 'to bear')

Roger: No flak, just hearty agreement. But allow me to do a bit of fine tuning. Jenny had a Maltese-Shitsu cross (yes Shitsu, pronounced 'shit-soo', as in 'I'll sue the shit who bred him') called Normie, whom our friends generally agreed had not a single redeeming feature. She has scars on her arms to this day inflicted by the dear-little-pet-and-I-won't-hear-a-word-against-him, except that after one nasty encounter she gave herself the usual dettol and bandaid treatment and went off on the four-wheeler motorbike to check on some cattle.

"What do you want me to do with Normie?" I said as she departed.

"Shoot him," came her reply.

When she got back she had changed her mind, as I had feared she would. By that time I was exhausted, having been searching in a frenzy for the shotgun cartridges, to no avail. We were clean out of all ammunition.

On another occasion, Normie wanted to get into bed with her, but she kept putting him down on the floor. So he came back on the quiet later, got up on the bed, and piddled all over her pillow. His full name to that point had been 'Normanton', but I changed it to 'Piddleton.'

Piddleton is no longer with us, having sadly departed this life. On reflection, I would rather have a pet rattlesnake than a Maltese-Shitsu cross. Their behaviour is much more predictable, and they have a far more affectionate disposition.

The little heart

OK Macdougall. Not another word against the little heart. He only bit me when he was jealous of that Westie who walked in off the street, covered in fleas and demanding a home, with a look that one could not refuse. Jealous, that is for ten years till Westie died, and then his heart started to give out with grief.

Roger: He lived for 17 years (as did the Westie) and brought joy to my life when it needed it most. He feared nothing, except the vet when he turned into something resembling the proverbial bowl of jelly. He was intelligent enough to know which vehicles went on the road, and therefore potentially to the vet, and which were off road vehicles and did not. We roamed the western plains on the quad bike together for years, with him in front and prime position on the petrol tank, and the Westie on my lap.  

But to get him into the car required flicking a big towel at him in his hiding place till he grabbed it in a rage, then to wind him out whilst hooked by his fangs, drop it over his head and then grab him. It worked every time. Or start up the quad bike and fool him into thinking I was going out on the farm, at which point he would emerge to leap into my arms to be taken on board.  But being smart, that only worked once. He thereafter checked whether the car was anywhere in sight.

I agree totally. I've known some dogs in my time, but they, along with the Westies are the most intelligent of the whole darned lot. But I have to concede, some can be a bit unfriendly.

I nominate Wilson Tuckey for Pit Bull Terrier. Just plain nasty.



This Thread Has Gone To The Dogs!

Here we are involved in the most important election for 100 years while some folk are heavily into discussing the merits or otherwise of certain canines.

I don't want to hound anyone but is there a subliminal connection here that I've missed? Are you trying to tell me that Ruddock is man's best friend or perhaps that he's a son of a bitch?  

Vote poodle!

I would agree, Fiona. Our dog is half poodle. Although his hair has a similar texture to Alexander's, he has little respect for Australia's current foreign affairs policies. He prefers quite the opposite of a tough stance on border control, welcoming all and sundry enthusiastically with much tail-wagging, affectionate leaping and tongue-lolling grins. But then, again, the spaniels next door aren't all that different - perhaps a little more reserved.

Try This One

Hi Robyn, long time no hear.

Actually I would nominate Maltese Terrier. Friendly-faced bastards with a nasty disposition, more bite than growl as many a postie would atest.

Actually in the postie-biting tables the MT's came out a mile ahead of any other dog. Cowardly beasties who like to get you from behind.

I know I'm going to get flak over this.

Naming names

While in the territory of characterisation, some nicknames - like the Cadaver, and the Rodent - are superb because they capture the persona of the bearer with devastating accuracy.

Another nickname, again from Christian Kerr, that has brought me to tears (of laughter) recently is Attack Spaniel for Alexander Downer. However, I was shocked to find an amendment in today's main issue of Crikey: attack poodle? I think not: according to an interesting little site called Intelligence of Dogs - the ranking by breed, poodles are rated as the second most intelligent of dogs, with the first variety of spaniel only coming in at number 13.

And (as I had always suspected) the Afghan Hound is last, at 79. Any suggestions for a likely pollie for that particular moniker?

Hound of the Bastardvilles

Ordinarily, Dr Reynolds, one would expect it to be a National but I think Kevin Andrews might just be in with a chance.

Black and brindle

I had been thinking about Mark Vaile, Dr Duncan, as he has the standard beige/blond colouring. However, his configuration is too stocky. Kevin Andrews would be ahead on points here, while black and brindle is an acceptable colouring for the breed.


Roger: "However such is the ingrained, institutionalised hatred of all things Jewish among the Eastern (and Western) European that suffering alongside them has not been enough to overcome centuries of poisoned attitudes. Anti-semitism is endemic in Europe and though not as open today exists unabated in the older generation."

It seems to me that what you are describing here is a self-sustaining process or the product of a positive feedback loop. The worse anti-semitism is, the worse it gets; leading to the enormous tragedy of the Holocaust. Why this occurred or anti-semitism has taken the forms it has is a major question, but in my experience and reading has not been very earnestly addressed by Jewish writers and historians. They mostly are concerned with what happened rather than why.

As 'rootless cosmopolitans' the Jews did not fit well with Hitler's concept of Germanic nationalism. They were spread all over Europe, but always in self-supporting and fairly closed (eg the religion is non-proselytising) communities of their own, easily perceived by the odd lapsed Catholic failed artist picking through the garbage bins of Vienna as the result of a huge conspiracy against the pure Nordic race. Against the established background of European anti-semitism add the indicators that Hitler had picked up syphilis from a Jewish prostitute, and no other target really needs to be considered. Not just for him, but for the political movement he creates, and essential for its growth.

Hitler herded the Gypsies and others into the gas chambers as well. But the common perception of Gypsies was markedly different from that of the Jews, being seen seen as vagrant fortune-tellers and petty thieves, with no capital behind them. Jewish capital was seen to continue seamlessly from the pawnshop on the corner to the House of Rothschild and beyond.

Sub-plots and extensions grow like Hydra's heads. A beauty is available at http://www.redicecreations.com/specialreports/2006/01jan/hitlerbritagent.html


Spitting Chips

Ian, that is an interesting theory. Personally, I am influenced most by William Shirer having read his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich numerous times and Trevor-Roper's Last Days Of Hitler. Recently I read Traudl Junge's Until The Final Hour which provides such an intimate glimpse of Hitler that it is hard to see any deep Machiavellian impulse coursing through Hitler's veins. His villainy was actually plain to see if you looked.

Shirer observed that Hitler's course was transparent to all if only Mein Kampf was viewed as the faithful map of his coming life as well as the torpid doxology to his god, himself.

As an aside, I have come to view Howard more and more as the chicken farmer.


Bill: I apologise, I tend to 'disappear' and often enough do not get back to read subsequent posts.

‘The rattle of their chains’.   No, I don’t think it is either a ‘throw away line’, nor an equivalent to the monotonous ‘sheep jokes’.

 It is also possible that is not so apparent among, or between the youngsters of today.

While it is often said that ‘ Australians and New Zealanders are the same’, this is not so in my view. If you said that Pommies and NZers were the same, then I would be much more inclined to agree.

Their humour is much the same. In NZ parlance you will send yourself up gutless, just so as you bring your ‘opponent’ down with you.

Australian humour tends to be crude, obvious, juvenile.  Or perhaps it is just that it centres around sex, and things sexual.  At least amongst those I grew up with, you had grown out of this sort of humour while still in your teens.

NZ humour tends to be subtle, or cutting. If you take yourself at all seriously then you are in real trouble. Fiona doesn’t believe me when I tell her that I have no ego.  But get in a group on NZers when they are having a real session and if you have an ego, then you had better lock it away out of sight.

Evan: you list; The disrespect for and obedience to authority, in your Australian characteristics.

There is no doubt that Australians see themselves in this light. Just as years back Australians saw themselves as talented conmen.

I do not think that it is as real as you imagine. In fact Australians remind me very much of frill necked lizards. A noisy and impressive display, with more or less nothing behind it.

An example: long ago I worked for a time on Brampton Island.  For those who do not know, off Mackay, somewhere around halfway between Brisbane and Cairns. 

On Wednesday nights the evening meal was a BBQ on the beach. The guest invariably ‘dressed’ for dinner! On dance nights, they also dressed.

New Zealand, ten years earlier, summer dances at New Plymouth, Half way up the East Coast of the North Island, most danced in swim suits, many of the girls in bikinis. Certainly if you were going to have a hope of winning any of the prizes the guy had to be in a Speedo type swimsuit and the girl in a bikini.

We, and New Zealand friends and I have discussed this often enough though more in the past, see you as much more aware of, and responsive too, authority figures than we are. Australians tend to carry on in the manner of kids, seeing how much you can get away with.  We simply ignore them.

No, that is not quite right. It is more that we do not even notice that they are there.

Malcolm: ...destroyed the strip from Kings Cross Road to the Fountain but Macleay Street is booming.

This is just a little disingenuous don’t you think?

For those who do not know the Cross, Macleay Street is ‘just, that is one step around the corner’ from the Cross, and is in fact Potts Point.   Now Potts Point has always been of somewhat higher status than is the Cross. An area of much, much higher tone, although I guess having a retired politician living there has lowered the tone somewhat!

As for my ‘disaster area comment’ I was paraphrasing a friend of mine who has had a business in the Cross since the late sixties, at least, and I am quite sure that had I used his words the comment would not have seen print!

Alan: a little harsh, but there is a lot of truth in what you say. 
From the late sixties or early seventies council made everybody developing property down the Northern footpath of Ebley St cede the width of a footpath. This from Hollywood Ave, down over Bronte Road to the next block.  

Not so many years ago the developers of  last building, on the corner of Bronte Road and Ebely St, paid the council one million dollars so as to escape this requirement.

The result is that the planned extra lane, the reason behind the whole process, can never be built.

No, we don’t know how much didn’t go on the books, and no, I don’t know why the property owners who had complied with the order did not demand compensation.

That the council sold out to Westfield is obvious to every body who visits Bondi Junction.

Fiona: I wouldn’t dare suggest that you were showing off!

I was expressing just how impressed I was with the diligence of such an endeavour. I admit that back in the old days before political correctness took hold this was the kind of thing which we said was ‘work for wimin and blacks’, but one wouldn’t dare to make such a comment today!

Not a bit of it

Peter Hindrup: "Malcolm: ...destroyed the strip from Kings Cross Road to the Fountain but Macleay Street is booming.  This is just a little disingenuous don’t you think?"

While these facilities are not the only thing slowing the improvment of that part of the area (the downturn in tourism after the big hotels converted to apartments which only Merchant Wankers can afford, and the sheer greed of the local landlords has an effect as well), there have been heaps of new businesses opening in Macleay Street from flower shops to bookshops.   Some survive, some don't. The florist that was in Darlinghurst Road for all my life and where, the morning after my wedding, I bought my wife a beautiful long-stemmed yellow rose (which then got decapitated in the Gazebo lift) closed after the MSIC opened. Andrew Strauss' Blinky's is shut, heaps of businesses have gone bust. I love this area and I am passionate about making it better. That's one of the reasons that I have the shits with most of the candidates for Wentworth (although Dixie is an exception because she lives here) who have barely been seen around the place, let alone opined any plan for improvement.

For a good laugh Peter?

Peter Hindrup: Australian humour tends to be crude, obvious, juvenile.  Or perhaps it is just that it centres around sex, and things sexual.  At least amongst those I grew up with, you had grown out of this sort of humour while still in your teens. 

Not where I mostly live, out in the bush. To sit and listen to a group of farmers musing about this and that can be the most entertaining experience of one's life. It never ceases to amaze me how they can be so creatively funny, often in the face of so much adversity, but it seems to be second nature to them. There are the exceptions of course; those who could not raise a smile as the heavens open above them in a drought.

Mabye city life is the problem if dirty jokes are all the blokes there can come up with.

BTW: Anyone wanting a good laugh at the moment should go and see Death at a Funeral. And to see music made fun get a copy of Andre Riou's concert at Maastricht; Songs of the Heart album.

And give me Brit's humour over that of the Yanks any day.


Hi Peter. To put my point more clearly, Australians express disrespect for authority and then conform.

They do have a dislike being vocal against group norms also - these people are called 'stirrers' and are dis-esteemed but also with a kind of sneaking affection I suspect (envy?).

Hitler the Hippie

Roger, the period I was talking about was well before your time. Before WWI, in fact. Evidence of Hitler's association with and respect for Jewish people in general, and certain ones in particular, is well documented. Look at the letters he wrote to and about his much-admired (Jewish) family physician, for a start.

As a young man he was in partnership with a Jewish contemporary. Hitler made hand-painted postcards; the other guy marketed them to Jewish retailers of such stuff. According to the US psych. study I mentioned, Hitler during this period made overtures to the Jewish family  for whom his grandmother had worked as a servant. The head of that family is thought by some to have been responsible for her becoming pregnant while she worked there. The youthful dissolute Hitler approached that family seeking financial support. Little was forthcoming, and Hitler  is known soon after that to have become involved with the anti-Semitic movement.

According to the psych. study the ineffectual, scruffily effete young Hitler identified with his much-loved mother, and cultivated his own feminine side. Then his personality dramatically changed, leading to his joining the German army. Henceforth he held all notions of compassion in contempt, identifying with his father, who was a brutal, wife-beating, uniform-wearing petty bureaucrat. This is the Hitler we all know and don't love.

Ruddock and Amnesty

Ruddock wore his Amnesty International badge with apparent pride for years after he became Minister for Immigration (does he still?).  Is there a better definition of cognitive dissonance?  Or was he really able to rationalise it all?  Fascinating. 

Ruddock's proudest moment must have been when he appeared on SBS's Dateline and dodged all Australian Government complicity in the rendition and torture of Mamdouh Habib, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  And selling Hicks down the river.  Oh, there are so many shining moments! 

But it's funny, I have a friend in Darwin who met Ruddock and found him quite personable.  Apparently he's quite friendly to journalists, too. 

For some reason this made me think of Hitler in that amazing movie Downfall.  He had no problem letting every German die for their 'weakness', but was heartbroken when he had to poison his dogs.  

I was also reminded of a line in the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil: "I shouted out 'Who killed the Kennedys?' when after all it was you and me."   

Disintegration or Redemption?

I found your post interesting, Fiona.

Ruddock is the Lurch of Politics. Of course, I do not refer to his physical appearance. In the street he would draw no glances though his silver hair might. Then silver is not gold, is it?

Probably his mouth is his most notable feature. It is a highly pursed organ, one used to twist words into incredible, almost unbelievable shapes of meaning.

While his mouth does its Master's Work, Ruddock manages to massage his face into a mask. His eyes are lifeless. He betrays no emotion. A wooden Indian has far more personality.

After an interview no one could possibly remember anything of note that he said which demonstrates his cunning, his value to JWH. Ruddock must drive journalists to distraction.

You pose the question whether he, after Howard, could be resurrected?

Answer: Ruddoch sold his soul to the Liberal Party and John Howard.  There is nothing left to redeem.

Australian Psyche and the Ball and Chain

Anthony, I too am fascinated. The psychological take on politicians and politics in general is interesting, and neglected.

SBS recently aired a thing about Hitler's mental state. I didn't watch it, having read the book on which it was based only weeks before. An interesting book, I thought; though full of somewhat wild speculation. Those psychologists do draw pretty long bows sometimes.

The author was commissioned by the US government to compile a psychological profile of der Fuehrer from a distance, before the war, in case it might prove useful. I came away from the read with the impression — not quite in line with the author's — that Hitler's hatred of Jewry must have stemmed from his rejection by Jews during his dissipation period, when he sought to identify with them. (If you can't join them, kill them).

On Ruddock, though, less said about him the better, I reckon. As Freud is reported to have said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Perhaps sometimes a scumbag is just a scumbag.

Now to what motivated me to post here. I would like to hear more from you and Fiona and Peter on this "rattle of their chains" and "foul nation of convict souls", etc. This is something we hear from time to time, but only ever as a throw-away line, as has occurred here. Is it just a snide aside, like the Australian reference to New Zealanders as a nation of relationship-havers with sheep, or is it based on something more tangible than that? A bit of elaboration, if you please.

Psyche and Stereotype

Bill, the attribution of specific characteristics to particular national groups has a long and (dis)honourable history – think of all the nasty things Julius Caesar said about the Gauls and the Germanic tribes (Commentries on the Gallic War), not to mention the nasty things that Juvenal said about practically every group, both Roman and immigrant, outside his own elite circle (Satires). Such stereotypes are of necessity generalisations, and even those who utter them are often prepared to concede that they do not apply to all members of the group e.g., “The Zedians are a boorish, ill-educated lot, but Ms ABC, who is a Zedian, isn’t like that at all – a charming gel.”

Nevertheless, those national stereotypes may contain, somewhere, a kernel of truth which may have deep historical roots. It is at least possible that that kernel may provide the essence whereby we claim to be able to differentiate amongst nationalities – to distinguish, for example, among forms of humour, and attitudes to authority – something that may amount, indeed, to what might be called a national psyche.

I am a mere amateur of the subject, but would be happy to explore it further with more knowledgeable Webdiarists. Not this week, however: data collection by day and Webdiary by night are likely to be full-time activities. Who needs sleep?

Elias Canetti on National Psyche

Fiona, I'll lend you my copy of Canetti's Crowds and Power sometime if you like.

His chapter on "National Crowd Symbols" covers: The English. The Dutch. The Germans. The French. The Swiss. The Spaniards. The Italians. The Jews.

All in 10 pages would you believe. 

I'll try to cover it in a couple of lines and a short list.

Nations turn into something resembling religions when they go to war.

There is a continuity of national feeling centred on a commonality in self perception and perception of a National Crowd Symbol.

The National Crowd Symbols identified by Canetti are as follows:

  • The English: The Sea
  • The Dutch: Their Dykes
  • The Germans: The Army, as a marching forest.
  • The French: Their Revolution
  • The Swiss: Their Mountains
  • The Spaniards: The Matador
  • The Italians: Rome
  • The Jews: The Exodus from Egypt.

Fiona: Thank you, Craig, I'd like to borrow it. Christmas reading, perhaps?


Nah, the dykes are in Tilley's, Bronte, and Newtown. Oh, and in Gilmour.


The unfortunately named Johanna Gash, Dr Reynolds.

Pure Gold

The Psyche to whom I refer, Dr Duncan, is the lass of whom Apuleius wrote. Now, what's the goss about Gilmore?

Hatred Of European Jewry

Bill, as one who was born in a German slave-labour camp from Polish and White Russian non-Jewish stock, it may be reasonable to assume that I would have experienced, in my childhood, comments that exhibited some sympathetic understanding of the plight of the Jews.

However such is the ingrained, institutionalised hatred of all things Jewish among the Eastern (and Western) European that suffering alongside them has not been enough to overcome centuries of poisoned attitudes. Anti-semitism is endemic in Europe and though not as open today exists unabated in the older generation.

Hitler was initially kindly disposed to Jews particularly his WWI commanding officer and his development in later life of a raging anti-Semitism is atypical for many. Amongst Slavic people the Jew was always considered badly and indoctrination started in childhood.

Your comments...

Fiona, thanks for your kind comments. My intention on a board like this is always to attempt to contribute to a conversation that improves and sharpens our understanding.  I am fascinated by the discipline of historical psychology because it attempts to integrate into history some notion of individual agency and subjectivity.  It is a necessary corrective to Marxisant structuralism and the nihilism of the post-structuralists.


Australian Psyche, and of Trees and Man

Anthony Nolan, I rather like Stan Parker – at least he was a truly humble man.

Otherwise, your analysis of Howard is interesting, and your comparison of his relationship with the Australia people and Hitler's relationship with the Germans even more so. I must reread Alice Miller.

Jenny Hume, I won't repeat the old joke about diplomats. As to politics and ageing, my observation is that politicians who (once) had principles show the signs of rapid ageing more than others. Look at Malcolm Fraser in 1983; look at Bill Clinton. By way of contrast, see Mr Howard and George W Bush Jr.

Evan Hadkins, yes, in the end it all comes down to power. But I disagree with you about Reith: I doubt if his principles (drawing a long bow here, I know) were ever subverted.

Peter Hindrup, are you suggesting that I was showing off? Certainly not. That said, I agree with you about strictly limited terms, and find your notion of when to serve intriguing. Were it possible to attain Plato’s ideal:

[H]e who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help --not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.

Plato, The Republic, Book 1 (trans. Benjamin Jowett)

As to your observation about the clanking of the ball-and-chain, and Anthony’s characterisation of Australia as a foul nation of convict souls, I couldn’t agree more.

A Green ACT Senator?

Fiona: Yes, I agree, Anthony Green has really got his act together.

However, I notice that he does not give Kerrie Tucker much of a chance in the ACT Senate seat.

This in contrast to the WIN network the other night (source Laurie Oakes?) which said she was definitely in with a credible chance. Unfortunately, that story did not make it onto their website.

But Margo should be pleased.

Margo: Hmmm, I fear that unhappy Liberal voters might return home if they think Kerrie has a real chance. By the way, the Liberal Senator, Gary Humphries, yesterday went dirty, so he's worried.

Fear and loathing of the Greens has never made it to Canberra before, but disguised Liberal Party hate sheets have now dropped into letterboxes. Disguised, because there was no Liberal logo, just an authorisiation by the Liberal authoriser. False, because it claimed the Greens want to legalise drugs. The Greens simply want to decriminalise laws which send users to jail, and instead, have laws sending them into rehab. Just like Labor and the Liberals, in essence. Just as Howard suggested for Ben Cousins when he was first nicked.

Humphries promised a clean, upfront campaign. What to do?

Well, you can either sink to his level, or try to bring him up to a civil and civilised level again. I hope Kerrie challenges him to put his allegations to her direct at a public forum she will organise. Surely a gentleman would agree? Surely he would agree that a fully informed vote is a must?

Like Kerrie, Gary is a member of the parliamentary drug law reform group. He well knows he is lying about the Greens drugs policy.

I'll keep you informed.


MK Surely he [Senator Gary Hate mail] would agree that a fully informed vote is a must?

You must have noted the full splash of Humphrie's lying hate mail pamphlets in todays Canberra Courier Mail.

Further up the book was a good run for a flash flood which killed a mob of sheep out Collector way. Greens probably drugged them just before the water hit.

Humphries was part of the whacky and destructive Kate Carnell mob. To paraphrase the late Hunter S., that crowd would go underwater and fuck fish if they thought there was vote in it. Or a developer's dollar.

Dr Woodforde, OAM, scuba psephologist to BIG PHARMA

Margo: I LOVED the Gunns ad in the Canberra Times this morning under the Humphries drugs scam. You know, where Humphries, lawyer, supporter the long-time decriminalisation of cannabis in the ACT - since 1992 - . now reckons there was only a 'fine distinction' between decriminalisatin and legalisation. That was his defence to putting out brochures falsely claiming the Greens would legalise drugs.

Gunns funds a front 'grassroots' organisation called 'Timber Communities Australia', which is now running half page print and prime time TV ad campaign in the ACT since Kerrie Tucker became favourite to knock out Gunn's Liberal boys. Text:


Thye Greens radicalo policies will turn off the Australian economy

No Roads - No Cars

No Farms - No Food

No mines, No Dams - No electrcity

No Forestry - No Jobs

No Life - Goodnight


(memo to Gunns - there are no Greens IN in the ACT)

Nicely timed to coincide with Howard's new extreme fear campaign against the Greens - the end of the world as we know it. Does he remember that the gereens held the BOP under the last Labor Governmnet for a few years? And might it be a better world if we did make a move on climate change?

Congratulations, Canberra! You've got the very nasty, very corrupt,  very polluting, very clear fell Gunns worried. Let's finish the job...


MK:  memo to Gunns - there are no Greens IN in the ACT


Them k'n Greens - they is all doctors.  Rip their Provider numbers from their hides.  As the Scribes and the Pharisees did unto the False Messiah for Healing on the Sabbath.

He who put on free piss for his hejab-wearing Mum at a wedding at Qana.

His rapscallion fisherfolk mates were obviously trade union thugs, and rightly put out of town by the authorities. Gunns would have done no different. Nor would Mad Mack the Poster Ripper. Give all you haver to the poor and follow me indeed!

Dr Woodforde, OAM

Consumed by the Ring?

Huh, Ms Reynolds, this is definitely what I call a ‘let's show my skills’ exhibition!

I am suitably impressed.

A Liberal friend of mine once asked me ‘who else’ in relation to Howard and Liberal leadership. My answer was ‘Ruddock’.

Anthony: "Howard is the creature of cowardly Australia. He is the antithesis of every decent and compassionate democratic impulse in Australian history.  His public and private bullying have exposed us to ourselves as a foul nation of convict souls. Ruddock is merely one more victim."

I couldn’t agree more, but then all New Zealanders know that you can always identify Australians by the rattle of their chains.

Australians may not like it, and probably do not believe it, but your heritage is entwined within your beings and it does show in frequent flashes.

To lighten up a little, a friend of mine and his brother own a small grocery down in Woolloomooloo, on the edge of Wentworth. They are solid — right wing — Liberal.

Over the years each election all candidates who have asked have had their posters displayed on the outside of the building.

Today I was down there and there are two posters: Rudd and Newhouse.

Perhaps it means nothing. Perhaps the other candidates are shy. Who knows?

Politics is in my view corrosive. This is part of the reason I believe politicians ought to be restricted to two or at most, three terms either early in life so that if they live a blameless life afterwards they might clean the stain from their soul, or late in life so that those who have lead a blameless life might have built up enough brownie points the be able to lose some and still get to the gates of heaven, or wherever it is we end up.

That ought to reassure those of you who doubted my compassion!

Of course this also has a pragmatic component. Restricted to six or nine years — I favour six — before being turfed out would ensure that the incoming representatives still had some contact with reality!

Ruddock is just showing the effects of the corrosion more than does Howard. However there are rumours that a team of makeup artists call upon Howard every morning to wax the hair from his pelt, file the tusks and shape the eyebrows.

Be that as it may, it seems to me that Gollum has simply been devoured by the influence of the Ring, and Ruddock having been too close for too long has simply been similarly consumed.

I live in Bondi Junction. The Mall is dismal; further down Oxford Street the situation is even worse. I know nobody here doing really well, and many doing less than well. Paddington/Darlinghurst I see less of, but there is no apparent evidence that they are thriving. Kings Cross, an area I have known since the late sixties, is a disaster area while Charing Cross is not exactly boom town.

It may be that I am reading it wrongly, it may be that business owners are stupid and will vote Liberal in spite of their balance sheets, or perhaps these areas are outvoted by the rest of electorate; whatever, it seems the me that Turnbull is in trouble.

Not so much the chains

I think the particular Australian slant is more to do with the children of the convicts. Their paternity probably did not bear close enquiry - in what other country is 'you old bastard' an endearment?

The defensive patriotism - if you don't like it leave.

The disrespect for and obedience to authority. 

The need to look after each other - we are quite a sibling society I think.  Hardly a recipe for romance.

The valuing of people by their abilities - 'let's see how good you are'.

I think it is the rattle of the chains at one remove that is distinctively Australian.

Cross about the Cross

I suppose I should disclose that I am a member of the Committee of 2011 Residents Association.   I am sick and tired of people running the Cross down. The Medically Supervised Injecting Room and the Needle exchanges have destroyed the strip from Kings Cross Road to the Fountain but Macleay Street is booming. This is one of the most glorious places in the world to live: leafy, green, noisy and vibrant - turn a corner and there is the harbour in all its glory. We’re even tolerant enough to have Keating here. If only we could manage the druggies and the homeless and get rid of Clover, it would be a veritable Eden (well, if we fixed the footpaths as well). It is not a "disaster" by any means, Peter Hindrup.

Now, back to the politics. TOM is in a hell of a lot of trouble but we won’t know exactly how much until the by-election.

The Mall

Peter Hindrup, the Mall in Bondi Junction has always been a dismal place. Newhouse and the Waverley Council have done nothing to help things. They have taken money from the developers over the years, and wasted it.

Fire sale - all stock must go

After reading D. Markham’s comment this morning, I decided to spend some time examining the (for the Coalition) worst-case scenario of electoral annihilation. With the assistance of the superb Antony Green’s electorates in alphabetical order, and the Federal Parliament’s list of members of the House of Representatives, I initially took a criterion of a margin of 8.5% and above. Then at lunchtime I read Possum Comitatus’s analysis of the two most recent opinion polls:

Using a 6.8% national swing and applying it to the national pendulum, we end up with the ALP winning 30 seats. Yet if we plug the State numbers into Antony Green's spiffy election calculator we end up with the ALP gaining 39 seats including the regional seats of Dawson and Forde in Qld, and the heartland Liberal seats of Kooyong and Higgins in Victoria – with Goldstein hanging on by 0.03% and becoming the most marginal seat in the country.

So, I decided to up the ante to 10%.

Yeah, yeah, I know that the swing – if it happens – is unlikely to be so large, or uniform. But, just for fun, looking only at Liberal-held seats where the sitting member is recontesting, and sorting on the basis of the candidate’s age, this is what I found:






Experience (in parentheses if no longer serving)


Wilson Tuckey





Alby Schulz





Bronwyn Bishop





Philip Ruddock





Judi Moylan





Mal Washer





Alex Somlyay





David Hawker





Peter Slipper



(Parl. Secretary)


Margaret May





Andrew Robb





Alexander Downer





Sharman Stone





Kevin Andrews





Ian Macfarlane





Julie Bishop





Patrick Secker





Tony Abbott





Brendan Nelson





Louise Markus





Pat Farmer



Parl. Secretary


Sussan Ley



Parl. Secretary


Dennis Jensen





Chris Pearce



Parl. Secretary


Greg Hunt



Parl. Secretary


Tony Smith



Parl. Secretary


Sophie Mirabella





Michael Johnson





Steven Ciobo





If we make the not unreasonable assumption that someone in their later fifties would not relish the prospect of two terms in opposition, not to mention the prospect of new and probably younger blood being preferred in the (Prime) Ministerial stakes on an eventual return to office, we could be looking at the early departure of everyone above Alexander Downer in the table. That assumption is reinforced by the fact that most of those MPs no longer hold, or have never held, ministerial or parliamentary secretary positions. We would then be in for a fascinating contest for the party leadership – and don’t make the mistake of ignoring some of the up-and-coming talent like Greg Hunt, Tony Smith, and Sophie Mirabella.

Next, let’s visit Liberal-held seats with retiring members. How do the wannabes shape up?







Wendy Creighton




Rowan Ramsey




Scott Morrison




Charlie McKillop




Stuart Robert




Nola Marino




Alex Hawke




Well, as we know, Leichhardt is very much in play, and Antony Green has identified it as a key seat.

Of Forde, Antony Green says:

Given the size of the Liberal majority, it would be a political earthquake for Labor to win this seat. However, the loss of Kay Elson's personal support, plus Labor's general rise in Queensland, both suggest this seat is in play at the 2007 election.

Cook is the southern Sydney seat held by retiring MP Bruce Baird where the Liberals made a monumental stuff-up of the pre-selection. Remember the enigmatic Mr Towke? Backed by the right wing of the NSW Liberal Party, he was dumped by the party’s Executive following allegations of branch-stacking and a certain latitude with statements on his nomination form.

However, the NSW right wing pulled off a magnificent coup in Mitchell with its installation of Alex Hawke. Antony Green says of Hawke:

A former President of both the NSW and National Young Liberals, he is viewed as a spear carrier for the Right faction of the NSW Liberal Party, having re-captured the Young Liberals from the control of the party's left. He worked on the staff of right-wing Liberal MLC David Clarke, but has only a low profile outside of Liberal Party circles. Hawke was cited by former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden as the person who had spread the stories about Brogden's behaviour that eventually led to Brogden's resignation. Hawke defeated a much higher profile candidate in Deputy CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, David Elliott, in a pre-selection that again revealed the growing strength of Hawke's faction of the Liberal Party.

I smell sulphur again. But this time it’s not a candidate for an ill-fated compact. Rather, it may be the contender for Mephistopheles’ cloak.

Yes, it's about power

They are always telling us (excuse my scepticism) that they could earn more money elsewhere.  So why do they do it?  Yes, the answer is power.

John Howard, as pointed out by Mungo McCallum, is interested in power for its own sake.  This is hardly unusual in a politician.

What keeps some people straight.  Probably relations with others.  A sense of connection to the community made real through connection to family and friends.  Federal politics especially, tends to isolate which is a recipe for the development of a sub-culture: this one where 'doing whatever it takes' (to quote another psychopath) is regarded as a good thing.

I think, like Reith, Ruddock is too hopelessly compromised to ever have any worthwhile public profile.  Although he may try to do a Fraser, which, with the media helping by suffering amnesia, can be done.  Not once has Fraser been asked: Aren't you ashamed that you were the person to introduce the term 'dole bludger' into public life.  Instead there is praise for his opposition to apartheid (and what did he do when he - and Labor PM's as well - had the chance to address our own situation with regard to the original Australians). 


Fiona: Interesting insights. To me Ruddock has seemed soulless for a very long time. Even lifeless. The passion and compassion that he once clearly had for the oppressed certainly appears to have wilted and died under Howard.  Maybe that is the price of political survival.

Public life certainly seems to age politicians prematurely and there would be considerable stress in suppressing one's social conscience. Ruddock never looks happy that is for sure.

I think only diplomats have to suppress their consciences more, arguing in support of policies in which they may have no conviction whatsoever.

the traitor's mindstate...

This is a very interesting article and raises the issue of the psychological state of mind of those in public life: what motivates them and what is the nature of their inner dialogue?  Or, more to the point, with whom is that inner dialogue conducted?

There is a well established conversation in the US, where perhaps psychologically informed understanding is more accepted than in Australia, in which both Bill Clinton and George W. have been identified as suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The arguments made for this diagnosis are plausible in both cases.  The argument can be made that NPD is a dominant 'character type' among those who seek public office. In fact the personality disordered frequently seek out public office as a means by which to normalise their pathological tendencies and gratify (act out) their pathology.

In Howard's case it doesn't appear to me that any of the personality disorders (PD's) fit  his behaviour.  Elements of his behaviour certainly do appear to be pathological; lies, deceit, dishonesty are not 'normal' behaviours even for politicians.  It may be the case that the 'trauma' model fits better: Howard endlessly and neurotically repeats his own traumatic personal history (the school 'dork', the cricket 'tragic', the son of the petit bourgeois with no 'cultural capital') as a means to compensate for his sense of failure; he punishes others who challenge his fragile ego by the mere act of being different to him.  Howard, emotionally traumatised in childhood, repeats his experience by becoming the perpetrator. 

I think that a case can be made for a structural similarity in the relationship between Howard and the Australian public and Hitler and the German citizenry.  In the latter case, as has been thoroughly explored by Alice Miller, a long history of life denying and brutalising German pedagogical practices established the psychological pre-conditions among the German people in which a brutalising and traumatising leader would flourish.  In the Australian case it is arguable that Howard's intuitive understanding of particular elements of the Australian psyche has allowed him to manipulate the population by means of fear and intimidation.  He stalks our memories like a convict gaoler: ignorant, powerful, insidious, brutal and unforgiving. In other words our historical origins as a criminal colony set the stage for a re-enactment of betrayal, trauma and brutality.

Mr and Mrs Howard are such entirely typical Australian figures that Patrick White first dreamt them up in the form of Stan and Amy Parker. Traumatised and traumatising.

Now to Ruddock.  He has betrayed his ethics and, as Fiona writes, it shows.  His Ministership has been a long crisis of conscience.  Political explanations will not suffice to explain away his behaviour.  The most obvious argument would be along the lines that he stayed in office under Howard in order to soften or ameliorate the worst elements of Howard's brutality.  This explanation fails because it is obvious at this point that the actual policies couldn't have been much worse if he had, for instance, resigned his post in protest. 

 Psychological understanding is likely to be more fruitful.  Ruddock has been bullied by Howard.  As Fiona notes, one of Howard's little games is the public humiliation of the 'wets' within his own party.  Bullying, in ordinary language.  Howard is a bully and Ruddock lacked the interpersonal skills and courage to stand up to him.

Ruddock, of course, is not alone in this.  Many Australians are complicit through their failure to insist on decency and their willingness reap the economic benefits of a regime that has demonised and persecuted virtually the entire constituency of those in need or those who do not conform to a model of citizenship based on what Stan and Amy Parker think is 'proper'. 

Howard is the creature of cowardly Australia.  He is the antithesis of every decent and compassionate democratic impulse in Australian history.  His public and private bullying have exposed us to ourselves as a foul nation of convict souls.  Ruddock is merely one more victim.


Without commenting directly on Mephistophelean deals, the questions you raise in the last paragraph are interesting.  Ruddock is 64 years old; if Labor wins the election, there is little realistic chance of the Liberals being in government again for 6-8 years at least, so that his chances of ever being a Minister again would be about nil.  For a person who made any sort of mental or moral deal to become a Minister, there can be few attractions to being in opposition.

I suspect that even among those who hold their seats - assuming Labor wins - there will be a significant clearing out of Liberals over the next few years.  It will be interesting to see if any of them really can succeed in the private sector.

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