Daniel Andrews and the moral deficit
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
Illustration by Sturt Krygsman
Religious liberty is all very well and all that, but it has its limits in Victoria’s state schools where principals are bound by Ministerial Direction 145.
The determination allows faith-based religious instruction at the principal’s discretion providing no child attends for more than 30 minutes a week, and then only in the lunch break or in the hour before or after school. Parents must complete form CD145 — available in 15 languages — to give consent.
Instructors must be referred to as instructors or special instructors, never as teachers. Teaching material cannot be described as “curriculum” and may only be referred to as “materials” or “program materials”.
The Safe Schools program is different. There is no parental red tape to navigate since Safe School classes are compulsory and will be conducted in every state school by next year.
In summary, parents must apply to have kids study the biblical canon, but they don’t get asked if they’d like their kids to study OMG I’m Queer, OMG I’m Trans, Gayby Baby, or anything else included in the School Action Toolkit “that explores family diversity in a fun & insightful way”. Principals don’t ask parents, they consult an amorphous entity that the Department of Education calls “the broader school community”. OMG indeed.
For a glimpse of what a Bill Shorten prime ministership may entail, head to his home state of Victoria where Daniel Andrews’s track record reads like “a wish list for progressives”, according to one fan writing in the Huffington Post, an online journal for readers who find The Age too conservative.
“Australian-first program of medical cannabis? Check,” writes the fan. “A $572 million package for domestic violence, more money even than the federal government spends nationwide? Check. An Australia-first LGBTI ‘pride centre’ and specific gender-diverse health services? Check.”
The OMG list gets worse. “Directly defying Canberra and standing in opposition to cutting funding for LGBTI education program, the Safe Schools Coalition? Check. A huge increase to legal services for asylum-seekers? Check.”
As Paul Kelly reminded us last weekend, the Andrews government now wants to legalise what it delicately calls “voluntary assisted dying”. Putting poor old Grandpa out of his misery? Check.
Andrews is undoubtedly the most hardline, ideological, left-wing premier to assume office in this or any other state. As Liberal MP Bernie Finn said recently: “This bloke makes Joan Kirner look like a softie.”
A half-century ago Gough Whitlam flew to Melbourne to tell the state’s left faction they were behaving like a bunch of losers.
“We construct a philosophy of failure, which finds in defeat a form of justification and a proof of the purity of our principles,” he told them, raising his voice above the jeers and catcalls. “Certainly the impotent are pure.”
Whitlam was Labor’s first leader to hold a university degree, a handicap many assumed disqualified him from the job. Today the party is full of them, but sadly few have the learning of Whitlam, who graduated long before the education was dumbed down.
Today Whitlam would probably be scratching his head and wondering how it came to pass that a morally vain extremist such as Andrews, armed with the soft-headed philosophy of cultural inclusion, could ever have been elected in the first place, let alone be seen as a serious contender in the polls next year.
Andrews has achieved the seemingly impossible in reconciling the sensitivities of the sophisticates with the day-to-day anxieties of the masses.
He has an army of media minders to run a virtual newsroom, turning out dozens of asinine press releases weekly, whistling to both audiences.
On one hand they are steeped in symbolic concern about the vulnerable, pledged to give a voice to the voiceless, dedicated to restoring fairness and promise to make Victoria a safe place.
On the other hand they boast of jobs precincts, better kindergartens, new school buildings, level-crossing and road improvements, addressing the practical concerns in the regions and outer suburbs.
Meanwhile his government panders to activism by handing out thousands of grants, large and small, to community organisers of every stripe. It pays for the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council’s Multicultural Dinner, hands over a lazy half-mill to LGBTI support groups to counsel LGBTI Victorians disturbed by a plebiscite, and chucks money at the Feminist Writers Festival in recognition of its “important role in challenging sexism and gender stereotypes, and fostering cultural change”.
It embarks on “a creative new approach to reduce homophobia” by subsidising the development of “an engaging digital app that will give players of all ages insights into the experiences of LGBTI people and the prejudices and discriminations they can face”.
The government funds Literacy Leader Induction Workshops to provide every government primary school with “a trained literacy leader”. Just one, apparently, but it’s a start.
And so in countless feel-good ways, announced in countless fawning press releases, the Andrews government funds a growing bullshit industry, employing countless professional do-gooders in meaningless bullshit jobs.
When Andrews boasts of the jobs he has created, he neglects to mention that the taxpayer is paying for most of them. The growth in education, health, welfare and much heavy construction is funded by the state. But when your only work experience is in politics, that probably doesn’t matter.
At best the bullshit industry is merely ineffective, but we suspect the moral harm is worse. The application of identity politics, the constant affirmation of diversity and the pleas on behalf of the vulnerable feed a culture of complaint and entitlement. It erodes the personal virtues of prudence, fortitude and courage by outsourcing responsibility for individual destiny to the machinery of state.
It is customary for outgoing Labor governments to leave a fiscal deficit on the doormat. The moral deficit Andrews is likely to leave behind will be altogether harder to clean up.