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The 2008 Boyer Lectures: Lecture 1 - Aussie rules: bring back the pioneer
This is the first of the 2008 Boyer Lectures, given by Rupert Murdoch, and first broadcast on Big Ideas on Radio National, Sunday 2 November 2008:
Good afternoon, my name is Rupert Murdoch, and I'm honoured to have been asked to deliver the 49th annual Boyer Lectures.
On the wall of my office at The Wall Street Journal, with its view across southern
For those of you tragically unaware of the artistry of Drysdale, I suggest that you Google him. Drysdale was among the early modernists. In his day, he became
Though he was slightly before my time, Drysdale and I attended the same boarding school outside
The painting in my office is called The Stockman and His Family. It depicts a family using Drysdale's trademark red hues, and it captures the empathy of shared solitude. That solitude is a characteristic of our vast continent. In its midst, we are inevitably conscious of our individual smallness. I have vivid memories of long and dusty drives into the Never Never—whose sparseness inevitably prompts even the most thoughtless among us to contemplate.
When Drysdale's canvas catches my eye, it of course reminds me of home and of
But the stockman scene also points to the future. His family have clearly endured much hardship. They've been confronted by the heat and ochre dust in a way that few of us city slickers really experience. And yet there is a steeliness and closeness that suggest that this family is ready for the future. Our national character should never lose that steeliness.
We are all less innocent than we were 100 years ago. One of the most touching scenes in any small Australian town is the local war memorial, whether in the Mallee, out west, or up north. I suggest that every young Australian take a few moments to look at the names of those who left these towns and fought in distant wars. Can you possibly imagine what it was like for a lad to have left the wheat farm and found himself months later confronting a cliff and a machine-gun in the
My father, then a young war correspondent, was outraged by the mismatch between Australian enthusiasm and British logistical incompetence at Gallipoli. He was outraged too by the censorship that allowed that incompetence to continue to go unpunished. We were all certainly less innocent after the Great War. But we must do more than just celebrate past heroism if we are to confront the future with confidence.
The First World War was the beginning of the end of our splendid isolation, and we have never been less isolated than we are now, 90 years later.
Our leading trade partners are the great nations of Asia, not mother
My theme for these lectures is the great transformation we've seen in the past few decades... the unleashing of human talent and ability across our world ... and the golden age for human kind that I see just around the corner. Over the course of six lectures, I will go into more detail about this golden age. I will talk about how the opening of new markets is leading to the rise of new nations, and adding hundreds of millions of people to a new global middle class. I will address technology, education and the importance of cultivating human capital. I also hope to discuss what the information revolution means for the future of my own industry, especially newspapers. Most of all, I will speak to the challenges that all these developments pose for the land of my birth.
I appreciate that many Australians will debate whether I still have the right to call myself one of you. I was born in
As I speak, the Australian economy is coming up against one of these challenges: a financial crisis whose origins are overseas. In recent weeks, the Australian dollar has fluctuated as wildly as a whirling Dervish, and the impact is beginning to be felt in the real economy. There is no use bemoaning the problem. In this new century,
By most measures—the rule of law, economic performance, and the quality of life—Australians today live in one of the most ideal societies on earth. Indeed, when The Economist listed the world's ten most liveable cities,
Here's my worry. While
If you travel around
Internationalisation means both opportunity and competition. It also means being clearer about the nature of
A few months back I spent some time in both
In sheer numbers, the emergence of
The alarmists will tell you that
I want to start today by talking about some of these areas at home. By this I mean a need to reduce dependency on government ... to reform our education system ... to reconcile with
Let me start with dependency on government. At a time when the world's most competitive nations are moving their people off government subsidy, Australians seem to be headed in the wrong direction. In a recent paper, Des Moore pointed out that while real incomes increased since the end of the 1980s, about 20% of the working aged population today receives income support, compared with only 15% two decades ago. While a safety net is warranted for those in genuine need, we must avoid institutionalising idleness. The bludger should not be our national icon.
Traditionally the Liberals have been more free market in their outlook than their opponents. But the Labor Party has also recognised that central planning does not work. The larger the government, the less room for Australians to exercise their talents and initiative. That is why earlier this year we heard a Labor prime minster, Kevin Rudd, declaring that his government is unashamedly pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation. That's a good start. But being pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation means working for a society where citizens are not dependent on the government. That means ending subsidies for people who do well.
It also means sensible targeting and persistence—so that when subsidies are given, they help those passing through a rough patch or born into abject poverty build themselves up to a point where they can provide for themselves. And it means smaller government and an end to the paternalism that nourishes political correctness, promotes government interference and undermines freedom and personal responsibility. Remember, it's not the Australian government that competes in the global market, it's Australian businesses and workers. With the relatively small domestic market, Australian workers and Australian businesses must be able to beat the best of them.
Second, we need to reform our education system. In a forthcoming talk I will go into more detail, but the bottom line is this: it is an absolute scandal that we are spending more and more and getting less and less in return. For those still in school or just entering the workforce, the opportunities a global economy offers are greater than at any time in our history—provided you have the right skills.
Australians have always been a people who stress equality, who believe that what you make of yourself is more important than where you came from. That's still a good philosophy for a frontier society. But let's be honest: Tens of thousands of people are going to be deprived of these opportunities if we continue to tolerate a public education system that effectively writes off whole segments of Australian society.
In short, we have a 21st century economy with a 19th century education system, and it is leaving too many children behind. That is an injustice to these citizens, and it puts a future burden on Australian society.
School reform leads me to the next domestic priority: full reconciliation among all Australians. We are now beyond the day when Australian governments would take Aboriginal babies from their mothers' arms and hand them over to be raised by white Australians. Even that action was inspired as much by ignorance as arrogance. Many of the missionaries of the past were full of good intent, but simply did not understand or respect Aboriginal culture.
Members of both major parties have each made eloquent and clear-headed statements expressing regret for the historic injustices visited on our Aboriginal Australians. That there were victims, and many of them, is beyond dispute. But apologies alone will not achieve true reconciliation, and neither will allowing victimhood to remain dominant in our national psyche. Far from liberating our Aboriginal brothers and sisters from the colonial yoke, we have cultivated a well intentioned but stultifying dependency.
The best way to redress the past and advance true equality for all Australians is to ensure that the next generation of Aboriginal children have access to top quality schools and teachers, which they do not now have.
At the same time, we cannot avert our eyes to the abuse of women and children within Aboriginal communities. These are not simple problems. And they will remain serious problems until our response is informed more by true compassion and less by remorse.
This does not mean we are neutral or valueless. We must expect immigrants to learn our language and embrace the principles that make
In my view, Australians should not worry because other people want to come to our country. The day to worry is when immigrants are no longer attracted to our shores. We should be a beacon to all. To our region in particular, we should be a living, happy, civil and contesting democracy that is a model for the emerging democracies around us.
Those are priorities for
Climate change is another area where
Our emphasis should be on practical solutions. We cannot address climate change merely with emotion. The ultimate solution is not to punish the Australian economy by imposing standards that the rest of the world will never meet. It's to take the lead in developing real alternatives to solve the problem by offering clean, cheap energy to meet the growing demand. The world desperately needs these cleaner and more abundant sources of energy. That will require huge investments in new technology. But the upside is huge. If we can develop cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, we will grow our economy while leaving a greener, cleaner world for our children and grandchildren.
Our world remains a dangerous place. In this promising new century we are still seeing naked, heartless aggression—whether it comes from a terrorist bombing in
But we need to be more than a reliable partner that the
The only path to reform NATO is to expand it to include nations like
Finally, there is an even more fundamental constitutional question about our identity. Should
In this young century we should assert our personality. We alone must define our future. An independent
Let me leave you today with words I have borrowed from Dorothea McKellar. They are hidden away in her best known poem, but they mean much to me. She describes the land of my birth as: 'An opal-hearted country, a wilful, lavish land. All you who have not loved her, you will not understand.'