An old journalist and scoundrel, Ronnie the Wheel, once told me in Melbourne that if you were capable of rational thought you would lean to the left side of the world. Ronnie was correct yet still some people who can tie up their own shoelaces and wipe away dribble quickly can viciously cling to notions that are so unhinged and irrational it defies belief. Then again belief over rational thought is perhaps the issue here.
The idea that private enterprise could provide better and seamless delivery of services to the masses over a lumbering public sector has held true, for most, since the 1980s. Whether, in this country, it was an overreaction to the Whitlam policy juggernaut that swept aside the post-war torpor of conservative back to wall politics or just simply catch-up. It’s hard to know what motivated the accelerated attempt to sharpen the pencil without proper consideration.
But being a conservative in the 70s in Australia must have been like living on a diet of devon and dog shit. No one wanted hear you or to be near you. You allowed your hair to grow slightly over the collar but you stayed indoors after dark. You leaned towards Jesus Christ and loved John Denver. You were generally without deep thought and you never saw “Deep Throat”. It wasn’t your time. You had to stay in the shadows until it was.
At this time, if you were a bloke from the middle and upper class your feckless parents sent you to places such as St John’s College in Sydney or to Robb College in Armidale for a tertiary education. But it was only a holding pattern. Learning wasn’t your thing. It was purely a social experiment. There you skirted around the sidelines, played rugby, hated poofs and drank rum. You found you were not alone. At Sydney University Tony Abbott stalked the halls, threatening women and charging his conservative credentials. There were others here and at Bachelor and Spinsters Balls you could find equally gormless females to grope and fornicate with. You despised and dismissed any criticisms of your conservative cocoon. You looked after you own and bugger the rest. You carried this dislike for progressive ideas with you for the rest of your life. It meant you didn’t have to ever think again.
Conservative times really came to NSW in the late 80s and 1990s when that low ferret, Nic ‘Otine’ Greiner* got hold of power. This unprincipled weasel got rid of the public service graded bureaucrats. He then crudely inserted the Senior Executive Service system in its place. It was a contract system. You could be punted at the end of your contract. It sounded sensible to those who found the public service inflexible and unyielding to political nuance. They believed that a Departmental Head had to virtually expose his todger in Martin Place to get sacked. Unlike politicians who generally did it in their electoral offices and got promoted. The end result of this virtual privatisation of the public service was to neuter it. No longer did most departmental heads provide fearless advice. They knew to survive they now had to firmly tether the public interest against the rampant political good. The sell-off of public utilities soon followed.
In schooling, generous federal and state subsidies saw the growth of private sector schools. In NSW public sector school numbers dropped 20% in two decades. Conservative parents pushed their fruit of the loin into faith-based and elite private schools. This guaranteed that their offspring would not be challenged to consider different ideas nor have to confront different people. And by giving a smatter of scholarships to your odd pov but talented sportsperson and Indigenous kiddies private schools could assuage any semblance of christian guilt. Parents smugly bored everyone who would listen that they paid more than their share to send their Katies and Keirans to St Bede’s of the Busted Arses.
Little did they care that the role of the local school as a core of the community and its values would decline. Nor did they connect that the social dislocation they decried was part and parcel of the careless society that had partly created. They didn’t want their precious mixing with the spotty herberts from public housing. They wanted a safe, quality education that they had worked hard to provide – in fact they often mentioned the incredible sacrifice they had to make to send them “off to school”. They wanted gymnasiums, buckets of sporting fields, drama theatres and string quartets. They wanted to dress their kiddies up in stupid military outfits, tartan skirts and boater hats to show that they were very, very special children. But most of all they didn’t want them to be different from the ideal conservative nonces that they had become. A dose of safe Williamson at the Wharf and a bit of rugger was what everyone needed to become balance, conservative cunt.
Of course they got upset when they found clowns like the smug shit-head Timmy Hawkes and his kind allegedly failed their duty of care to their charges by reporting offences to the police. Surely, they thought, $40,000 a year guranteed a kiddy-fiddler free zone?
And so now in the era of Neo-Nazis, $Trumpet and Abbott, the white breads continue to flock together to breed and prosper – it is their time and be damned if you are one of the poor bastards who think.
*Nic Greiner was chairman of the board of WD&HO Wills and then British American Tobacco Australia for the period 1996 to 2004.