Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution sample

Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution


ON THE MORNING of 23 June 2010, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) began tearing itself apart. Julia Gillard had awoken to some disagreeable news and decided she had had enough of her prime minister. Later in the day, she told Prime Minister Kevin Rudd he was up for a challenge. Our television viewing was disrupted that evening, and we were taken to Canberra, where a hand-wringing Rudd faced the cameras in a darkened forecourt. Camera flashes exposed the solemn faces behind him. Baffled by the unexpected cross, I could not help fixing on Rudd’s twisted expression. The short address was something about remaining prime minister no matter who said what. It didn’t take long to understand. ‘You idiots! You can’t be serious!’ I shouted. During the rest of the evening, I kept muttering, ‘morons’, ‘idiots’, ‘you’re out of your minds’ whenever developments flashed across the screen. The following morning the Labor Party elected Julia Gillard leader. Her torment had begun.[i]

Gillard’s clinical removal of Kevin Rudd may have impressed her socialist left colleagues, but for many Australians ignorant of the machinations behind the scenes, the feeling reigned that the rules of the game had been subverted. That game was our brittle system of democracy. Backstabbing a prime minister is an act of treachery nearly impossible to justify for ordinary people, no matter how strenuously the assassins work at it – as Julia Gillard does in her book My Story. The first blows within days of her ascendancy proved perhaps the most fatal. Typically, they came from veteran Canberra reporter Laurie Oakes who repackaged two leaks that could have come from only one source. They cut Prime Minister Gillard’s feet from under her. What might have been had she not let that rush of emotion overcome her that morning and followed the accepted route to party leader?

In a move which surprised everyone – shocked many – the Liberal Party opposition had elected Tony Abbott leader in 2009.[ii] An open dispute about climate change precipitated a spill during which a flukish set of circumstances gifted him the leadership. Some appalled colleagues whispered their despair to their favourite gallery hack. The media was full of mockery and forecasts of disaster. ‘Captain Catholic’ and the ‘Mad Monk’ were the common coin in the currency of abuse. But, undaunted, Abbott set to work. Despite the forecasts and the unrelenting attempts to destroy him, inside and outside the Liberal Party, Abbott proved an extremely effective opposition leader. He was tough, verbally brutal without resorting to abuse, and determined. He was the torment Gillard’s treachery had earned.

Two seats deprived him of securing minority government in 2010. Labor lost eleven seats, and the Coalition gained seven. Two independents betraying their conservative rural constituencies kept the Coalition from government. It would not be close in the 2013 federal election. The Coalition swept to government with a gain of eighteen seats. Labor under a second Rudd leadership lost eleven seats. In the meantime, Rudd had returned the favour and booted Gillard, restoring party equilibrium for many Labor people. Despite the handsome win, Abbott faced mountainous obstacles. He was saddled with the most incompetent Senate in Australia’s history. An ignorant amateurish minority in the Senate blocked every attempt to pass vital budgetary legislation. The Senate was no longer a house of review, acknowledging the mandate given by the electorate. That the Labor Party and the Greens would frustrate Abbott at every turn was to be expected. The ignorance, perversity, self-aggrandisement, and in one case, vulgarity of the backbench amateurs were not. It was constitutional sabotage.

Amid the cussedness and abandonment of principle in the Senate, Abbott’s army of enemies on the left, in and outside the mainstream media, was pitiless. They jumped on him for every stumble, whether trivial or significant. High-profile ‘respectable’ journalists abandoned their duty as journalists and behaved as partisan political operators. A few media commentators who describe themselves as conservative joined the battering, occasionally displaying an ignorance of conservatism as a political philosophy and the reasoning flowing from conservatism’s philosophical presuppositions. Some Liberal MPs openly criticised Abbott and backgrounded the media. Talk of a leadership challenge grew, promoted by the media who smelt blood. Abbott survived one leadership challenge, but it did not take long for the backroom campaign to bear fruit. Despite warnings from the Liberal Party base, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull mounted a successful coup. The extent of the conspiracy and treachery unfolded over the following months.

The dyed-in-the-wool, the rusted-on, the salt of the conservative earth, the people who had sought their political security in Robert Menzies’ party were appalled. How could it have happened? How could Liberal MPs get it into their heads to backstab a first-term prime minister elected to government with a handsome majority? Were they suffering from amnesia? Did they not see what Julia Gillard had done to the Labor Party? It was delusional. It was insane. The Liberal Party was in tear-apart mode until Menzian conservatives restored order by booting interloper Turnbull in September 2018 and sending him to sulk in his million-dollar apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park.

 Abbott’s critics may think his defeat in the 2019 federal election was just retribution for his alleged role in Turnbull’s expulsion and a sign Australians want none of his type. Scott Morrison’s victory contradicted this claim. Prime Minister Morrison was a conservative Pentecostal Christian, hardly an improvement on Abbott’s religious deficits. The real message in Abbott’s defeat in 2019 is the ascendance of the college-educated and what Abbott calls ‘millionaire lefties’ who are an increasing part of the Labor Party’s constituency. But that is an issue outside my purpose.


FOUR BOOKS appeared on the Abbott Government. The authors were on the leftist spectrum, keen to feed their political class. And it was just the ideological aspect that has always drawn my attention. Central was a clash of worldviews Abbott’s enemies wanted to subsume under the guise of a battle for a ‘compassionate, diverse, inclusive, democratic’ government. Tony Abbott, they said, was a throwback to the 1950s, a time in Australia’s history when racism, exclusion, and all manner of prejudice reigned. Abbott could never be a legitimate leader of the country, no matter how many people voted for him. There was a broader warning. Nobody of Abbott’s conservative views and makeup could be a legitimate leader.

Fearful that Abbott was heading for the prime ministership in the 2013 federal election, prominent feminist Susan Mitchell and author and gay activist David Marr argued a desperate case for his disqualification. In her book Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man (2011),[iii] Mitchell strove in the obsessive prose of the extreme left to persuade women Abbott personified the male’s inherent toxicity, hated women, and, above all, was a slave to an irrational sexist religion. In a word, Abbott was ‘dangerous’. In far more accomplished prose, David Marr entertained us with a postmodernist fantasy about Abbott that won him the 2013 John Button prize for writing on public policy and politics. In his Quarterly Essay Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott, Marr gave free rein to his imagination to conjure a schizophrenic conflict between ‘values’ Abbott and ‘political’ Abbott. In the end, Abbott would surrender to the brutish side of his psychopathology. Marr showed he had no idea of conservatism as a political philosophy. Nor did he show any acquaintance with the schools of political thought that are the background to the discourse about political principles and policy. These philosophical aspects so often mark Abbott’s formal writing and speeches. Marr’s and Mitchell’s manic efforts were crying out for a response.

I had long considered writing an analysis of Tony Abbott’s philosophical ideas and motivations to correct the misrepresentations of his enemies and the misapprehensions of ordinary Australians. In explaining his ideas, I would be deploying mine. Many of his critics blame Catholicism for his beliefs and actions. The criticism often degenerates into crude anti-Catholic sectarianism, as in the cases of Mitchell and Marr. What they miss is the natural law component in Tony Abbott’s thinking. Among his strongest intellectual influences are conservative philosophers Edmund Burke, Roger Scruton, and Michael Oakeshott.[iv] I will argue that the natural law interpretation of Edmund Burke’s political philosophy is the primary driver in Abbott’s political action. Mitchell’s and Marr’s books consolidated the plan, and the books about the Abbott Government gave me the impetus. So I began planning a book about the Abbott prime ministership.

Because my core theme would be the ideological clash, I had to go back to the beginning to trace Abbott’s intellectual influences, including the revolutionary 1960s and his years at Sydney University. Marr and Mitchell covered his time at school and university. As my research passed from school to student politics, I discovered a fascinating story of right-left political warfare in the pages of Sydney University’s student newspaper Honi Soit. It was illuminating. Here was a separate story that paralleled Abbott’s time as opposition leader and prime minister and exemplified the misrepresentations. With the same purpose, I decided to concentrate on Tony Abbott’s actions in the vicious, uncompromising warfare at Sydney University and leave his prime ministership for a second book.

In David Marr’s 2012 Quarterly Essay, one comes across the incendiary passage below. It was July 1977. Barbara Ramjan had just been elected President of Sydney University’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC), beating Tony Abbott.

[Tony Abbott] approached Ramjan. She thought he was coming over to congratulate her. ‘But no, that’s not what he wanted’, she recalls. ‘He came up to within an inch of my nose and punched the wall on either side of my head’. Thirty-five years later, she recalls with cold disdain what he did. ‘It was done to intimidate’. Abbott tells me he has no recollection of the incident: ‘It would be profoundly out of character had it occurred’.[v]

The uproar this passage provoked went on for weeks. The media piled in, ecstatic to have such unassailable evidence to confirm their worst opinions of Abbott. Michelle Grattan, the doyenne of political commentators with The Age, deliriously churned out a batch of pieces all flailing Abbott without mercy. Ramjan received support from David Patch, ‘a barrister and a former Judicial Registrar of the Industrial Relations Court and of the Federal Court of Australia’ and ‘Ms Ramjan’s [student] campaign manager in 1977’.

In my journey through student politics at Sydney University from 1973 to 1980, I discovered that close colleagues David Patch and Barbara Ramjan played starring roles as members of the far left. They were bitter implacable adversaries of Tony Abbott’s, seeking to destroy him at every turn. Ramjan’s feeding her story of the alleged punches to Marr merged Abbott of the 1970s with contemporary Abbott. Ramjan and Patch have extended the political arena of their unrelenting hatred for him from the present to the 1970s. They burn as much as they did then with the purpose of political liquidation. I undertake a detailed analysis of Ramjan’s accusations in chapter fourteen and find holes through which a herd of elephants could be driven.

I draw on many sources, the main ones being the pages of Sydney University’s student newspaper Honi Soit and Alan Barcan’s excellent From New Left to Factional Left: Fifty Years of Student Activism at Sydney University.[vi] Critical findings in Gerard Henderson’s ‘Media Watch Dog’ about David Marr’s punch allegations appear in chapters 2, 8 and 14. But I also draw deeply on my memories and experiences of the times. Indeed, this book is as much about me and the revolutionary upheaval I lived through as about Tony Abbott. While reading and responding to the radicals’ writings in Honi Soit, I had the unnerving feeling that I was back in those turbulent times. Tony Abbott became a vehicle through which I could express my criticisms of leftist thought and the student rebellion of the 1960s and 1970s. Three themes are intertwined: The character of Tony Abbott as displayed in his clash with Sydney University’s radicals, what it means to be a conservative in a leftist world, and my critique of the student and sexual revolution.


Part One – The ideological Prelude

Chapter 1

The School Years

TONY ABBOTT WAS born in London on 4 November 1957. His father, Dick Abbott, born in England in 1924, came to Australia with his parents at sixteen. At the end of the Second World War, he studied dentistry at Sydney University. After graduation, he returned to England to gain specialist qualifications. There he met Fay Peters, a dietitian and science graduate of Sydney University, on a working holiday. She had grown up in the southern beach suburb of Bronte. They married in 1957 and returned to Australia in 1960. Tony Abbott was two years and ten months when they arrived back in Sydney. They lived a year at Bronte with Fay Abbott’s parents and then moved to Chatswood, where Dick Abbott established a successful orthodontic practice.

In 1971, the family, now with three girls, moved to Killara, a smart suburb further up the North Shore (train) line. Tony attended Holy Family convent at Lindfield until second class (1965). He completed his primary education at St. Aloysius Milsons Point (1966-1969). For his secondary education, he moved to St Ignatius Riverview (1970-1975). He excelled at sport and study, often topping his year. He was first in the external exam in his final year. He pursued tertiary studies in economics and law at Sydney University. He was a voracious reader having a liking for books on history. From his extensive reading, he said, ‘I became an admirer of parliamentary democracy, freedom under the law, and liberal institutions. As these were largely made in England (although often improved elsewhere), I also became an incorrigible Anglophile’. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to attend Oxford University in 1980.[vii] He described his feelings on returning to the place of his birth:

When I eventually went back to England as a student, I didn’t feel that I was visiting a foreign country, despite the passport queues at Heathrow airport. As I flew over the city of London, it felt like more than a homecoming. The metropolis was not just the inspiration for a Monopoly board but the chief source of the language I spoke, the centre of the system of law I lived under and the fountain of the democracy I cherished. It belonged to me as much as to any Briton. ‘Beating the Poms’ is as important to me as to any other Australian, but it’s like wanting New South Wales to beat Queensland in the rugby league state of origin series. Only on the sports field are the British an alien tribe. Indeed, it would be a very rare Australian, I suspect, who feels like a stranger in any English-speaking country regardless of disagreements that might exist between governments or about policy.[viii]

Abbott’s extensive reading had given his contemplative mind a keen sense of culture and national identity. For him, one cannot be complete without a deep understanding and an unbroken consciousness of one’s cultural antecedents. Without this knowledge, one cannot understand Tony Abbott, the real person. Many Australians share this sense of cultural identity and understand the significance of the historical links to the British Isles.

‘Apart from my parents,’ Abbott wrote in Battlelines, ‘the church was the biggest influence on my early life’. As with most Catholics in those years, his religious education was centred on the family and the Catholic school. The parental commitment to religious education may have differed from family to family, but the school commitment was extensive and uniform. Because the media class entertains fantastic views about that education, it is necessary to what follows to review what young Tony and his Catholic contemporaries like me experienced at school. 

When Abbott began attending the Holy Family convent school in 1963, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was already four months underway. There would be no wholesale changes in the Church until 1969, when the Novus Ordo Mass (the New Mass) was promulgated. The dark forces unleashed by the Council would not manifest themselves until some years later, around the time he finished school. Therefore, the school regime and ethos during Abbott’s school years were, pre-Vatican II, little changed from the previous fifty years.

The pre-Vatican II school was not a school with religious lessons tacked on, as it often seems to be today. The spirit of the Gospels and Church teaching pervaded all aspects of the school. In addition to the classes devoted to religion, there were prayers before and after classes. At midday, there was the Angelus, the prayer celebrating the Incarnation, and there were visits to the church nearby for Confession, Mass, and prayer. Classes on religion were about the Bible (Old and New Testaments), Church teaching, the heroic lives of the saints, and devotions students could follow, the rosary, for example. The spirit of the Gospels was to motivate students. Nuns, brothers or priests oversaw the student’s behaviour in class and at play and meted out punishment for failures to live up to the mark.

Such a school regime is likely to confirm the view of the Church’s critics that it subjected its pupils to a process of indoctrination. If they were right, what were the content and orientation of the alleged indoctrination which young Tony Abbott enjoyed at such an impressionable age? And what would make the Catholic educational regime indoctrination and the secular school system doctrine free? After all, the Catholic school followed the same curriculum and sat the same external examinations as the state schools. The short answer is, of course, the religious content, which for my purposes, needs explanation. I will leave aside the unexamined ideological content permeating the state school system.

The study of the Old Testament began with the Fall, the expulsion of the human race’s first parents, Adam and Eve, from the Garden of Eden for a fundamental act of disobedience. They wanted to be like God – an ambition that found fertile ground in the 20th century. Original Sin is the name of that act whose effects have marked Adam and Eve’s descendants. The idea of Original Sin is a vital concept in modern political philosophy, although it is called something else, depending on the context. That man is a flawed and fallible being capable of great virtue and great vice is argued against those convinced man is perfectible and can reason himself to a utopian condition.

The pupils heard the stories of the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Noah’s Ark that told of the disasters precipitated by turning away from God’s law. The stories of Job, Abraham and Isaac, Daniel in the Lions’ den exemplified God’s protection and rewards to those faithful to Him and his ordinances. There was the great epic of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egyptian oppression to their promised land. Once again, despite rescue and redemption, man continually murmured and turned away from God, calling down severe punishment. During the journey to the Promised Land, Moses received the tablets etched with the Ten Commandments. God made clear what reason could have recognised. If these stories are not always factual, they form instructive allegories for life in the 21st century. In all this, the school pupil learned about God’s omnipotence, man’s utter dependence on God, man’s propensity to sin and the punishments earned for transgressing God’s laws, and the rewards and protection for remaining faithful. Above all this was the promise of redemption.

The New Testament ushered in a new dispensation. In the person of Jesus Christ, God became man to redeem his people from their sins. There is no change to God’s laws in the Old Testament. Indeed, Jesus said himself that he did not ‘come to destroy the law and the prophets … but to fulfil’ them (Matt. 5:17). But there was a dramatic change of emphasis, and it is explicit in a few core verses of Matthew’s Gospel. When one of the Pharisees, always keen to trap Jesus in his words, asked what ‘the great commandment in the law’ was, Jesus answered:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

This is the greatest and the first commandment.

And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

The New Testament several times repeats the commandment that you treat others as you treat yourself, stressing its centrality in the message of the Gospels (e.g. Luke 6:31, Matt: 7.12). It also accords with unaided reason. A key feature of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy that one must never treat people as a means to an end but always as an end in themselves echoes what other cultures call the Golden Rule. Finally, one can express the dependence of ‘the whole law and the prophets’ on the two supreme laws in a valid conditional argument: if you love your neighbour as yourself, then you won’t harm your neighbour. In all this, Revelation complements reason.

If the question now arose about who one’s neighbour was, the Pharisees and teachers of the law, never giving up, made another attempt to trap Jesus. They asked who one’s neighbour was. Jesus responded with a parable in twelve masterly verses paradigmatic of Christian ethics and at the heart of Western Civilization in its laws, government and art. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is one of the few Biblical stories still widely known in our de-Christianized society. Those few verses are about a Samaritan, a foe of the Jews, who stopped to help a man lying injured by the side of the road after being robbed. A priest and a Levite had passed the injured man before the Samaritan, taking pity on him, took him up and organised his care. When Jesus asked which of the three was a neighbour to the distressed man, the teacher of the law had no choice but to say the Samaritan. But the law of charity, love for one’s fellow man, went beyond this.

Jesus’s instruction to his disciples was not only to love your friends. That was easy. No, one was to love one’s enemies and to do good to those who harmed you. In answer to the question about how many times one must forgive those who harm you, Jesus answered, times without end. Forgive and no grudges. There is one more crucial instruction in the New Testament related to Tony Abbott’s religious ‘indoctrination’ and the influence it exerted on his adult life – as much influence as the law of charity did. It is about authority. In brief, those with authority, said Jesus, were servants to those over whom they exercised authority (Matt. 20:25-27). The supreme example in the Church is that one of the pope’s titles is ‘Servant of Servants of God’ (Servus Servorum Dei).

The lessons of the New Testament were at the core of the lessons in religion and the whole Catholic school ethos. The New Testament was the hinge on which all other aspects of the Catholic faith hung. The doctrine became progressively more demanding as the student rose through secondary school and was always linked to the Scriptures. The heroic lives of the saints, which inspired so many young Catholics of Abbott’s and my generation, were about the uncompromised practice of the Gospel’s law of charity. One of the more inspiring saints was St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order of priests who exercised such a decisive influence on schoolboy Tony. The law of charity was eminently reasonable. It motivated an extensive complex of hospitals, schools, and charitable institutions the atheist will find listed in the pages of the telephone directory. The ethos of the Catholic school, based on the law of charity, was, and is, a potent preparation for a career serving one’s fellow man, not only in politics. It explains why so many Catholics, practising or lapsed, work in the service professions. Tony Abbott is one among many. It is curious that some sections of the media have singled him out for their obsessive anti-Catholic abuse.

Turning now to the other influence on Tony Abbott’s formation, we read in Battlelines that his ‘parents had two messages for their children: first, “be as good as you can be at whatever you do”, and second, “we love you whatever happens”’. This was pretty much the attitude of my devout Catholic parents. Being a good person is more important than being successful. Abbott confessed he sometimes failed the lessons, but in doing so, he ‘never had the impression that my parents were mad at me rather than about my (fairly frequent) misdeeds’. Again, that is my experience. My parents distinguished between the sin and the sinner, reflecting the key Christian doctrine of original sin and a sympathetic non-ideological view of human nature. When Tony Abbott began the daily trip to St Aloysius’ College in 1966, he experienced an intimacy with his father that reinforced his parental instruction.

For several years of my childhood, every weekday, I walked the couple of kilometres or so from home to Chatswood railway station with my dad before the train ride to school. I can only remember the odd snatch of conversation, which, I’m sure, would have been about trivia as well as the things that were going on in my life. I do very clearly recall, though, Dad’s insistence that it was better to be a good man than a successful one.[ix]

He finishes by paying tribute to the influence of both parents:

Both my parents taught by example. From Mum, I learned that the ideal home welcomes people and makes them feel part of the family. From Dad, I learned that you should always look for the best in others and try to be for them what you would have them be for you … I could not have asked for a better start and for more ongoing encouragement. Mum and Dad were the best type of parents, nearly always thinking well of their children, sometimes to the point of imagining that we’re better than we really are.[x]

It is no fluke or coincidence I could say the same about my parents. The moral and religious education my parents gave me contradicts the image of the bible-bashing, heartless, finger-wagging Catholic parents of the sectarian fantasies. Like Abbott’s parents, they taught by example. That train ride from Chatswood to Milsons Point not only furthered Abbott’s general religious education but it heralded the start of a particular Catholic education. From 1966 to 1969 (school years 4-6), he attended St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, whose motto was ‘born for higher things’. From 1970 to 1975 (school years 7-12), he attended St Ignatius, Riverview, whose motto was ‘(roughly translated) “do as much as you can”’. The two mottos, he says, ‘give a good idea of the Jesuit ethos at that time, which I thoroughly assimilated, sometimes to my masters’ annoyance’. What, indeed, did student Tony assimilate between 1966 and 1975?

During my childhood and youth, the Jesuit schools were renowned for the rigour, extent and depth of their education, an education applauded or execrated depending on one’s religious and political outlook. My father, who came from a poor but genteel Catholic background of tradesmen, was in awe of the Jesuits. He always regretted his parents, who had lost everything in the Great Depression, never had the means to send him to a Jesuit school. They considered the Jesuits the great bulwark of the faith. It was his pride and joy that he could send me to St Ignatius Riverview for the last year of my schooling in 1963. Riverview was the Jesuit school he idealised. By the time Abbott attended Riverview, the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ had made deep inroads into the Jesuit order. In other words, they were ‘liberalising’.

In Battlelines, Abbott shows he is aware of the charge of liberalism, even of heresy, by some orthodox Catholics. In defending the Jesuits and the education they gave him, he is defending the Jesuits as he knew them during those years under their tutelage. Perhaps it’s truer to say he defends those Jesuits he admired and was close to. That defence is crucial to understanding the cast of mind that would forever determine his behaviour.

The Jesuits who taught me wanted to bring out the very best in their students but didn’t expect them to be saints. They weren’t disloyal to the Pope or subversive of the church but often seemed impatient with the ‘scold’ side to religious teaching. ‘Don’t bother giving up chocolates for Lent’, Father Emmet Costello used to advise, ‘but do something positive like going to Mass more often’. ‘We are all the products of those who have loved us or failed to love us’, he often observed … For me, the message was that God preferred big-hearted people who might sometimes make mistakes rather than robotic rule worshippers.[xi]

These are the words not of the dogmatist who has no regard for human frailty but of the person who understands the father’s love and forgiveness in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, the best-known parable after the parable of the Good Samaritan. They reflect the love and forgiveness Jesus displayed in absolving the woman caught in adultery whom the Pharisees wanted to stone. Abbott draws out the central role of the law of charity in his faith by referring to those scriptural verses I have already discussed.

Even though the Jesuits weren’t much fussed about rote learning the catechism, at least in those days, their charges mostly seemed to assimilate the greatest Christian truths: to love God with your whole heart and to love your neighbour as you love yourself. This second commandment is rightly the whole basis of human ethics. ‘What would you want if the boot was on the other foot?’ provides the best answer to so many moral dilemmas. The social teaching stemming from this reflected, it has always seemed to me, not some Vatican diktat but the best human instinct.[xii]

It may pass notice, but the contrast Abbott makes between an imagined ‘Vatican Diktat’ and ‘the best human instinct’ is the same contrast that Edmund Burke made between prescription based on rigid abstract theory and decisions determined by natural moral feeling. I make this point because Tony Abbott is a Burkean conservative. Edmund Burke (1730-1797) is considered the father of modern conservatism. I mean conservatism considered as a political philosophy. Abbott’s Burkean conservatism governs his political decisions far more than Catholic dogma. His religious education and repeated views of how he sees his Catholic faith do not support the image of him as a drooling, breast-beating dogmatist that many frontline media celebrities energetically propagate.

  Michael Duffy attributes to Abbott a sense of entitlement.[xiii] I rather think the evidence suggests a sense of destiny. That sense of destiny, a call to leadership, was integral to his character from the earliest age. He said of himself in Battlelines:

As best I can remember, my interest in public life first stirred as a child reading the Ladybird books that my Mum brought home. These usually turned out to be about great figures in history: Julius Caesar, Francis Drake and Henry V are three that I seem to recall. The lesson, invariably, was that duty and honour carried the day. They were caricatures, of course, as I was to discover over time, but uplifting ones. In the real world, good doesn’t always triumph, and justice doesn’t always prevail. Even the best turn out to have their flaws. Despite that, ideals don’t cease to matter because they’re never perfectly achieved or because their adherents are compromised.[xiv]

It was not an ambitious warrior’s military and political success that impressed him. The leader whose talents, sense of duty, and honour prevailed in the frequent struggle of life was young Tony’s model of righteous action. The honour and justice of the cause called out those qualities in the awe-inspiring leader. Later, the lessons of human frailty tempered his concept of moral heroism. Enduring ideals and principles, whatever the failures of circumstances and character, were to govern the concrete action. This is a profoundly conservative outlook. Abbott’s character and sense of destiny made it inevitable that someone would notice more than his cleverness, outspokenness and energy.

Father Emmett Costello, Riverview’s chaplain with extensive contacts in politics and high society, was ‘struck by [the schoolboy’s] combination of intelligence, ability to talk, arrogance, and a sense of entitlement’.[xv] In 1973, he took Tony under his wing. He prompted him to ponder the nature of leadership, encouraged his sense of duty, and broadened his understanding of the political world, but endeavoured at the same time to moderate what some saw as arrogance and brashness.

The spark of Tony Abbott’s interest in the duties of public life would grow into a flame. In 1972, aged fifteen and in Year 9, he experienced ‘the first stirring of a political commitment’. His history teacher set the class the task of examining the policies of the political parties in that year’s election – and unwittingly steered young Tony into a political course that has lasted until this day. It was the epoch-making election that brought the Labor Party into government under the erratic leadership of the suave Gough Whitlam who had his seat among the battlers of Western Sydney. Tony watched the campaign launch of the major parties, but it was the launch of the conservative Democratic Labor Party (DLP) that grabbed his attention. Fifteen-year-old Tony ‘liked [its] support for traditional values and support for workers in a market economy.’[xvi] His reaction was purely conservative. There were school principals in those days, Abbott wrote, who

still sympathised with the work of [well-known political and religious conservative] B.A. Santamaria. Some used to suggest the names of school leavers to be invited to conferences about university life. When a school friend received an invitation, I was only too happy to provide him with company. That conference helped to channel my Jesuit-inculcated desire to be ‘a man for others’ into an immediate political outlet. It was a thrill to meet people of influence and authority in public life. Most of all, it was good to learn that there was a way to get involved immediately through joining the Sydney University Democratic Club. This was the successor to the former DLP club and was supported and sustained by Santamaria’s National Civic Council.[xvii]

In December 1975, at the end of his school days, the political ideas of 18-year-old Tony Abbott were settled. He had completed the full course of the indoctrination to which the Catholic school subjects its captive students. When his critics refer to his Catholic beliefs and upbringing, they use a shorthand way of dismissing him and his beliefs as having no basis in reason. But, apart from the elementary fallacy in the argument that someone’s views are irrational because they are Catholic, are there any grounds for the claim that Catholic teaching is based on unreason? Susan Mitchell’s book Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man is a tedious, repetitive catalogue of Abbott’s alleged ‘dangerous’ views, indictable influences, and character traits. Her project of destroying Abbott relies heavily on the claim that his thinking is irrational because Catholic belief is irrational. The question seems mad and unnecessary given both St Aloysius and St Ignatius’s colleges are schools of high repute to which professional parents and leading members of the business community have sent their sons for over a century – and paid heaps of money for doing so.

As I have described it, the law of charity hardly qualifies as irrational – forget about its Scriptural context. The injunction to love one’s fellow man as one loves oneself is eminently reasonable. Unaided reason, reason independent of Revelation, discovers this central teaching of Christianity. You don’t have to be an orthodox Christian to judge it true as a moral injunction. Moreover, you don’t have to be a Christian to accept that if you love your fellow man, you would not kill him, lie to him, steal from him, commit adultery with his wife and turn a covetous eye on his property. These deductions hang on the law of charity. The law of charity has both a biblical basis and a basis in unaided reasoning. This is essential Catholic teaching which distinguishes between faith and reason. The teachings that draw attention in politics are usually about moral issues. With many moral questions that arise in contemporary politics, one can reason without reference to Scripture and stay consistent with Catholic teaching.

When I deduced objective moral positions above from the law of charity, I took for granted love constitutes the human person. The human person’s nature is to love his own and, by extension, his fellow man, despite the depths of vice to which he can descend. To talk about the nature of the human person is to talk about an ordered world of which that nature is a part. And here, we lead into the secular moral philosophy the Catholic Church developed and applied. It is the natural law. Natural law philosophy has been the most enduring moral philosophy in Western Civilization. It informed all moral, legal, and political discourse until the period of the ‘Enlightenment’ and is still the moral philosophy that makes the most sense for many people, quite apart from those in the Catholic Church.

Edmund Burke’s political philosophy presupposes an idea of natural law that developed from Plato (424-348 BC) and Aristotle (384-323 BC) through the Roman Stoics to its fullest expression in the writings of St Thomas Aquinas. It is the form of natural law Tony Abbott’s moral and political discourse presupposes. Abbott never invokes Catholic dogma to argue his moral and political views. It is always a natural law argument incorporating Edmund Burke’s ideas about the operation of prudence. Abbott’s adherence to natural law moral philosophy reflects his deep consciousness of Western civilisation’s history and Australia’s place in it through our Anglo-Celtic heritage. There are thus two essential parts of the education Tony Abbott – indeed, all students at Catholic schools – underwent. The first is Scripture’s law of charity and what it means. The second is the objective nature of moral truth argued through the natural law. Parents and teachers thought their children and students were well-armed with this education to go into the wider community. Abbott took this moral armament onto the campus of Sydney University in 1976.

Susan Mitchell had quite another view of the dimensions of Abbott’s mind in 1976, and she strains in her book to conjure a picture of him, the opposite of the one I have sketched. At the time of her writing (2011), she said, there was no ‘full-length political and personal analysis of Tony Abbott’. There was only Abbott’s brief account of his school and university time in Battlelines and Duffy’s limited Latham and Abbott. Mitchell thought it urgent to correct this dangerous lack in the marketplace of ideas. She follows Abbott’s life and deeds up to around the halfway point of Julia Gillard’s term as prime minister (2010-2013), leaving it to the media to propagate and expand her findings. She does not mince words about Abbott and the goal of her book. Her judgment is heralded in the title and detailed in the introduction. The conclusion is first, and the evidence and argument follow for what they’re worth. Talk about Abbott as a ‘man’s man’ suggests she thinks there is something bad about being a man. The first page of the book makes the thought explicit.

Of all the men who have held or sought to hold the office of prime minister, I believe he is the most dangerous. This is not just because of his retrogressive attitudes and beliefs regarding women and their role in the world, but more generally because his ideological framework is so narrow. The man, his values, and his beliefs have been created and nurtured by men from another era — men whose ideas are rooted in the past.

Narrowness of thought and proposing different (retrogressive) ideas about women makes Abbott dangerous as a prime minister – dangerous presumably to Australia and Australians, not only women. This is an extravagant claim, one warranting clinching evidence and overpowering argument – you would think. Unfortunately, this passage’s two points of evidence do not bode well. The first claim, in line with the book’s title, is that men created dangerous Abbott. That what men do is bad because men as men are bad is unadulterated prejudice. She develops this unabashed prejudice throughout the book into full fly-blown misandry.

The second is that ideas of the past are necessarily dangerous because they are ideas of the past. That does not follow, of course. The naked claim ideas are wrong or harmful because they are of the past is intellectually crude, hardly worthy of a daydreaming schoolgirl. Apart from the question of logical coherence, whether past ideas are good or bad rests on the empirical evidence of their effects. Mitchell adds ‘age’ to her prejudice against men. Abbott has been ‘educated and mentored by older men’. She repeats this claim ad nauseam. We have pure prejudice again, now about age. All governments and local state authorities make it a priority to take measures against discrimination based on age. For Mitchell, one can jettison those measures with Catholic Abbott.

Abbott, Mitchell continues, has ‘rarely worked outside institutions created and run by men’, which she describes as a ‘narrow world’. On the same argument, girls educated in an all-girl environment would be similarly narrow in their thinking. Not only is the assertion fallacious in both cases, but those feminists who think girls do better in an all-female environment have to reassess their views. If Mitchell’s argument is consistently applied, then some highly respected girls’ schools, jealously protected by their female guardians, would have to be shut down. But that won’t happen because Mitchell’s claim about Abbott’s narrowness is just as silly as her other claims. Because of these deficiencies, she claims, Abbott cannot understand women. Now Abbott may or may not understand women, but one must investigate the reasons for either case. The empirical evidence reveals that women are far from disliking Tony Abbott, let alone seeing him as a danger to them and society. Only a rigid, unthinking ideologue would hold onto such ill-considered fallacious views.

Added to Abbott’s severe handicaps in coming under the tutelage of older males in an all-male environment is something a good deal worse. The mentors, tutors, and clergy right up to the pope are all Catholic! The Catholic badness is something that Mitchell hammers to death, especially in the school period I have already covered. I have already offered a response to the charge of unreason levelled at people of faith, not only Catholics. So I need not repeat it except to say in convicting and disqualifying Abbott from political life in Australia, Mitchell also disqualifies a significant section of the Australian community. But that’s of no account for Mitchell who certifies for citizenship only those that fall in line with her Marxist feminism. The rest are outsiders who suffer a ‘benign’ disenfranchisement. So doing, she is carrying on the heritage of the Orangemen of the Protestant Ascendancy who doggedly worked to keep Catholics in their outsider place in Australia’s colonial society.

Mitchell’s coverage of Abbott and his school years is all condemnation. She is unrelenting in her effort to find bad in everything about him and his background, right down to his parents and their boasting of his objectionable qualities. He lacks empathy, is dominated by a snooty ‘North Shore upbringing’, has a woman problem, has no ‘genuine belief in separation of Church and state’, sees ‘no room any more for a reasoned discussion of policy differences’, ‘treats complex problems in a manner that frightens people’, sees governing as ‘giving glory to God’, he dumbs down democracy, ‘adores’ John Wayne movies, and so on it goes to extreme tedium.

These accusations are without evidence or sustained argument and are clearly meant to draw their force from the not-too-subtle associations her constituency will mindlessly make. In the long run, Mitchell argues two contradictory interpretations of Abbott. He is either slavishly under the influence of older male mentors and their evil ideas, or as an exemplary male, he has, from the beginning, cunningly manipulated them for his nefarious designs. Either way, Tony Abbott can’t win. Mitchell’s arguments against Abbott can be reduced to the existential badness of maleness and the badness of the Catholic religion. In both these elements of badness, Tony Abbott excels. The irony is that Mitchell’s obsessive hatred of Tony Abbott causes her book to degenerate into unreason. Later, however, when I came to revise this chapter, I realised it was likely Mitchell was not at all concerned with problems of logic and evidence in her attack on Abbott. Her object was not the truth but the destruction of Abbott as a political force. In recent years, high-profile feminists, inside and outside the media, have used the same tactic to destroy other men of conservative values. In some cases, they have been stunningly successful, leaving the object of their attack utterly destroyed, in one case, fearful of appearing in public.


Chapter 2

The cancerous counterculture

WHEN 18-YEAR-OLD Tony Abbott began his first day of lectures in 1976, Sydney University, one of Sydney’s most prestigious educational institutions, was tapering off from a period of wild revolutionary unrest. Student activism had shaken the university to its foundations. The action had been part of a worldwide social and political upheaval. I turned thirty in 1976. I witnessed that turmoil, sometimes close-up, in Australia and later in Holland. The phase of activism that led to the explosion of the student rebellion at Sydney University roughly between 1967 and 1974 had its seed in the early 1960s. I was never a part of it and far less of a supporter. I was like most of my contemporaries who began at Sydney University in 1964 – an innocent 17-year-old from a sheltered middle-class background and in awe of my surroundings, including the relatively small, sophisticated group I came to know as the ‘student radicals’. I was present at probably the first major anti-American demonstration in Australia. It was outside the American Consulate in Sydney on 6 May 1964. I had gone there with friends in all innocence, not knowing what it was about or what to expect. Until then, the political activities of the small group of leftist agitators were at a distance. I had more than enough to do, trying to order myself and adjust to my new circumstances.

When we arrived in Wynard Place, opposite Wynard Park, where the American Consulate was, a vast crowd was already there, surging this way and that amid a tumult of shouting. A haze of smoke hung over the area from a burning cross placed in a drum emblazoned with KKK. Smouldering strips of blackened rag hung from the cross or lay around on the ground. The police, some on horseback, tried to contain the crowd surging to and fro as if possessed by some spirit. Brawls erupted, bringing a rush of police with more shouting. The whole happening unnerved me, especially the recklessness of the small number taunting those we had always taken as symbols of authority. The demonstration was over civil rights and the American presence in Vietnam. Fourteen activists were arrested for brawling. As young and green as I was and thoroughly unnerved by the time we hurried away from the tumult, I experienced a political awakening that day. My background and temperament later came into play, and I formed a view that strengthened as I grew older and understood the concrete issues.

What stands out in my memory from when I first set foot on the grounds of Sydney University in 1964 were two connected campaigns: the overthrow of ‘illegitimate’ authority and the Vietnam War. A bunch of youths were out to defy and destroy all authority they considered illegitimate. These youths fresh from the school classroom judged no authority legitimate unless the tribunal of their considerable reasoning powers gave it their passport. They scorned the authority of custom, convention, and Church as having no ‘rational’ basis. Custom, convention, and the Church were thus in the front row for overthrow.

The student newspaper was one of the chief instruments for propagating radical student views. The Sydney University student newspaper was (and still is) Honi Soit, the editors of which were predominately libertarian in the early stages of the New Left activism. The Marxists would come not long after. Some well-known names were editors of Honi Soit around this time, including Richard Walsh, Laurie Oakes, Bob Ellis, and Clive James, all of whom could be described as libertarian. But Richard Neville, the 1962 editor of Tharunka, the student newspaper of the University of New South Wales, was the real star and force behind the radical movement to bring obscenity in all its forms into the family lounge room. Neville, later euphemistically describing himself as ‘counterculture’, joined with Richard Walsh and artist Martin Sharp to produce Oz, a ‘magazine of dissent’ – again a nice euphemism. Neville waged a cultural war against his (bourgeois) society and ‘the weapons of revolution [were] obscenity, blasphemy and drugs’.[xviii] Their efforts brought them twice before the courts on the charge of producing an obscene publication. They were convicted but later acquitted on appeal.

The pieces of obscenity for which Walsh, Neville and Sharp were charged were rather trifling attempts to bring down the censorship laws, though a step in that direction. Behind these attempts was Neville’s political program to indiscriminately ‘root’ as many ‘birds’ as possible, including his mates’ girlfriends. He dressed up his anarchic sexual drive in the tatty, rat-gnawed clothes of a ‘non-ideological’ ideology he called ‘Play Power’. Clive James somewhere makes the wry comment that his libertarian friends were keen to swap their girlfriends. With this sort of libertarian trade in female flesh, it is no wonder the feminist movement took hold among Neville’s female counterculture companions within a few years. In 1966, having led the charge to collapse bourgeois morality, Neville moved to the UK, where he, Sharp, and Jim Anderson, another similarly committed Australian, produced a London version of Oz. Their Oz No.28, ‘The Oz School Kids Issue’ brought Neville, Anderson and ‘working class’ Brit Felix Dennis before the English courts charged with obscenity and ‘a conspiracy to corrupt public morals’.

Schoolkids Oz featured a cartoon of a favourite children’s comic strip character, Rupert, the Bear, ‘in an explicitly sexual situation’.[xix] Anderson, one of the editors of the School Kids edition, proudly described the cartoon thus: ‘Basically, it had Rupert with a whopping big dick getting it on with an old granny’.[xx] The Rupert Bear Annual was one of my favourite children’s books when I, as an innocent 8-year-old, was in Second Class at the local convent school. Wikipedia has a rather anodyne entry for Neville, except for one sentence about Neville’s boast of ‘fucking’ a 14-year-old from a London comprehensive school.[xxi] The Oz School Kids Issue was an expression of Neville’s anti-authoritarian political outlook and unsated sexual ambitions. Indeed, Neville’s ‘fucking’ an underage schoolgirl should be seen in his libertarian/power play crusade as a brave revolutionary act on behalf of everyman’s freedom – the tearing away of the shackles of the middle class’s repressive sexual morality.

The London Oz trial (1971) was one of the longest obscenity trials in English history. Well-known lawyer John Mortimer QC, assisted by junior counsel Geoffrey Robertson, defended Neville, Anderson, and Dennis. Ubiquitous Robertson has become a sparkling expatriate celebrity with a constant flow of human rights guff. A star graduate of Sydney University, Robertson grew up in Sydney in middle-class Eastwood and attended Epping High School, both a few miles from where I grew up in Lane Cove. He was active in left-wing student politics while at Sydney University. After a stint on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, he settled in the UK, where he acquired a dual passport and honed an already pompous accent into upper-class acceptability. He has mastered the rhetoric of his political class. Since that class is our Western Society’s dominant class, his intellectual windbaggery is seldom challenged in the media – or anywhere else, for that matter.

In a curious coincidence, the news of Neville’s death resulting from Alzheimer’s disease came through just as I finished writing the above. Here was the great courageous knight of the counterculture striking down Christian Civilization with the revolutionary weapons of ‘obscenity, blasphemy and drugs’ reduced to drooling mental and physical impotence. His wife wrote on Facebook that ‘our wonderful Richard has gone on to his next adventure’.[xxii] Mrs Neville must fervently hope the Marxists were right about Christianity being part of the phantom superstructure of the capitalist oppressors and the opiate of the working class. Otherwise, that new adventure may not be all that comfortable – though Catholic teaching tells us a chance of repentance exists to the last instant of life.

Nobody should have been surprised to find Neville’s friends flying to his defence across the media with gorgeous speeches about his charm, his revolutionary courage, and his sticking it to the hypocritical conservative society of Australia’s first one hundred and seventy-four years. His mate and collaborator on the Australian Oz, Richard Walsh, dreamily reminisced in a piece titled, ‘Richard Neville, an ebullient, mischievous charmer’.

[He] was the most charming man I ever met … When I first met him, his charm and his raw, visceral appeal combined to make him a legendary babe-magnet … He sat at the epicentre of a vast network of male and female friends, many of whom remained close to him all his life … Both Richard and Martin reigned as rock stars in a world of drugs, free love, and psychedelic art.[xxiii]

Similar syrupy declarations came from past associates like Germaine Greer and Marsha Rowe, the latter co-founder of Spare Rib, a second-wave feminist magazine, but it was left to lawyer Geoffrey Robertson to go right over the top. In a choice of media instruments appropriate to his celebrity, Robertson cast Neville in the royal robes of a noble warrior for truth and justice and the Oz as a ‘work of morality’ unrobing the moral hypocrisy of middle-class society, both in Australia and Britain. In the Guardian, he gushed that Neville’s and his entourage’s activities, especially in the Oz, demonstrated a ‘commitment to sexual equality, rock ‘n’ roll and human rights’, that he argued ‘for the rights of oppressed groups – women, black people, gay people and school-children’, and that in the kids edition of Oz, ‘they railed against paedophile teachers’. Neville and his team did this while the Oz School Kids edition ‘mischievously depicted Rupert Bear with a truly bear-sized erection’ rooting ‘an old granny’.[xxiv]

Robertson could not let an opportunity go by where he could demonstrate his erudition to those overcome by his brilliance. So, what the ordinary untutored person in Australia and Britain regarded as a nasty grubby rag tossed together by a bunch of spoilt middle-class snotnoses unable to break free from their self-centred adolescent fantasies, Robertson depicted as an unsullied instrument of justice – an instrument to change and improve.

The trial was a chance to challenge the whole censorship apparatus in Britain, which was based on the notion that there was only one moral standard – what Bernard Shaw derided as ‘middle-class morality …’

But it also carried an opportunity to demonstrate that hypocritical English morality could not be enforced by criminal law.

The strategy we’d devised was to bring the modern science of the mind to bear on the traditional assumptions of the law. We called psychiatrists and psychologists as well as artists, entertainers, and prominent media critics to give evidence. We even recruited Ronald Dworkin and Richard Wollheim, two leading moral philosophers, to testify that Oz was a moral work.[xxv]

Robertson breezes over the hard-fought and far-from-decided issues of moral relativism and goes for a favourite target of the left – the middle-class morality of Marxism’s bourgeoisie. The phrase slips off his tongue without a hint of what, for the contemplative conservative, stands behind it: the complementarity of natural law and Christianity, the prescriptive customs, manners and conventions formed over centuries, and indeed the English Common Law. He invokes the contentious ‘modern science of the mind’ to beat down ‘the traditional assumptions of the law’ – whatever he means precisely by that woolly expression. He has no taste to commit to the wearisome task of explaining his references, whose mention anyhow is just to show what a brilliant fellow he is. We can safely assume the posse of entertainers, artists etc. are all purveyors of the same sort of libertarianism that drives Robertson. Finally, he goes in for the big hit with Wollheim and Dworkin, safe in the knowledge that few of those reading the ‘Story of Oz’ would have heard of them, let alone have any idea of what they believed as ‘leading moral philosophers’.

Wollheim, for many years the Grote Professor of Mind and Logic at University College London (1963-1982), was known for his work on the mind and emotions and the philosophy of art. His best-known work was Art and its Objects. It is difficult to see how Robertson derives ‘moral philosopher’ from the work that qualifies Wollheim rather as a philosopher of aesthetics. On the other hand, the appeal to Ronald Dworkin’s authority would seem appropriate, but not as a moral philosopher, which is odd. Odd because Dworkin was a celebrated professor of Jurisprudence known for his academic work on the philosophy of law. His best-known work, a legal bible for many human rights lawyers, is Taking Rights Seriously. Indications are that human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and his colleagues at Doughty Street Chambers would be slavish disciples of Dworkin, who at times was Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London and Oxford University. So where does Robertson get Dworkin as a moral philosopher from? Perhaps it is just the citing of an illustrious intellectual that is his purpose – to set his narrative ablaze with the glow of intellectual profundity.

It is curious he should cite Dworkin in 2016 for the defence of the school kids’ edition of Oz. In 2015, Roger Scruton, the world’s leading conservative philosopher, released his book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. One of the fools, frauds and firebrands Scruton hammers is Ronald Dworkin.[xxvi] If one reads a few chapters of Scruton’s devastation of the New Left to understand his categories, one would slot Dworkin into the category of the fraud. Rehearsing Scruton’s analysis of Dworkin’s work in a few sentences is not possible, but the conclusions of Scruton’s analysis will clarify where Robertson was coming from in citing the support of Dworkin.

Among the causes Dworkin staunchly defended and promoted, writes Scruton, were civil disobedience, reverse discrimination, sexual liberation, feminism, ‘abortion rights’, and pornography. In a nutshell, ‘if conservatives were against it, he was for it’. In defending the liberal causes and thrashing conservatives over their defence of traditional society, he ‘provided intellectual fireworks, patrician disdain, and cosmopolitan mockery in prolonged flourish’.[xxvii] Dworkin claimed he argued from principle but, says Scruton, ‘when the discussion enters the higher realm of philosophy, we need to know how those principles are justified. And this is a question from which he flees’.[xxviii] Scruton’s refrain is that the New Left theorists evade a sustained philosophical defence of their views. His conclusion at the end of his analysis of Dworkin’s influential work on jurisprudence is: ‘And here, I think, is where we see the profound weakness of Dworkin’s way of arguing. It is the way of the barrister, snatching whatever useful trick is to hand, but not the way of the philosopher, with an eye for universal truth’.[xxix]

Dworkin’s promotion of the causes of sexual liberation and pornography shows Robertson’s attraction to Dworkin’s work. Dworkin is right in there with Robertson’s and Neville’s right to obscenity, blasphemy, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and free love, as expressed in the Oz. Free love means the right to treat all females as sexual objects or, in the vernacular of the 1960s, to root any bird that takes your fancy. The retelling of the fun of Neville’s libertarian agenda may bring a warm glow and misty eyes to the ageing libertarian of the Sixties now paying for his excesses. But neither they nor the younger defenders of Neville and his activities have mentioned two incidents that resulted from the logic of Neville’s social and political dogma. Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute spoiled the fun by having the nerve to bring them up in an article in the Australian,[xxx] clearly as a counter to the effusions of Robertson and Co. First, Henderson wrote of Neville’s having sex with a ‘cherubic’ 14-year-old:

The fact is that Neville, for all his charm, was a self-confessed pedophile. I became aware of this when I read his book Play Power in 1970 … In Play Power, Neville boasted of having a ‘hurricane f..k’ with a ‘moderately attractive, intelligent, cherubic, 14-year-old girl from a nearby London comprehensive school’.

Henderson points out that at the time of this hurricane root, Neville was ‘about twice the age of the girl’, thus in a power position over the girl. If it were not Neville, a guru of the counterculture Movement, but a member of the Catholic clergy abusing that girl, then we know that the frenzied indignation of the left and the call for punitive measures would have been uncontainable. If the exploitation of his power over the minor is not enough, Neville plays up the delight of enjoying the girl’s innocence while displaying upper-class contempt for a dispensable person. Neville’s act is the playing out of the logic of his counterculture philosophy, and it is this logic that Geoffrey Robertson defends. That Robertson does not mention the abuse of the 14-year-old in his many articles and interviews about Neville’s death raises serious questions. The full passage, which Henderson abbreviated, appears in the chapter ‘Group Grope’ of Play Power in which Neville describes the driving principles of the Sexual Revolution.

I meet a moderately attractive, intelligent, cherubic 14-year-old girl from a nearby London comprehensive school. I ask her home, she rolls a joint and we begin to watch the midday TV movie. It is The Woman of the Year, and Spencer Tracy, almost against his will, finds himself in Katharine Hepburn’s apartment. (He kisses her, flashes his look of ‘there’s a volcano bubbling inside me’ and hurriedly leaves.) Comes the Heinz Souperday commercial, a hurricane fuck, another joint. No feigned love or hollow promises. (Tracy, at work the next morning, reads a note from Katherine: ‘You left your hat. What’s the hurry? He smiles, and the wheels of matrimony grind into operation.) A farewell kiss, and the girl rushes off to finish her homework.[xxxi]

Neville contrasts the repressive middle-class culture of Western society with an attitude to sexual activity as an appetite that one satisfies when one is so inclined – like eating when one is hungry. No need for all the bullshit about courting and false respect for the other, the other being the female. There’s no power position involved. Age has nothing to do with it, as Neville makes clear in the core chapter of the book, ‘The Politics of Play’. Underground sexual morality is direct, he says, ‘if a couple like each other, they make love’.[xxxii] He mocks magazines like Hugh Hefner’s Playboy as a flagship of the sexual revolution. I’ll show you a real sexual revolution, says Neville. The terms ‘seduction’ and ‘surrender’ (again referring to the female) are ‘obsolete’. Feel like it, do it.

At a point in the same chapter, Neville declares in a flight of profound enlightenment, ‘It could be just possible that the sexual candour of the radical generation is indicative of a healthier, more honest overall relationship …  It’s groovy to be carnal. And there’s nothing more carnal than the Underground …’ Buoyed by this soaring enlightenment, he continues to give examples of unashamed rooting in all manner of public places where no one who has experienced the enlightenment of the counterculture turns a hair. Then in the transport of his numinous meditation, Neville talks of ‘the occasional gang bang’, citing a newspaper account of a naked ‘young long-haired girl’ dancing in the rain in Central Park. A ‘dozen young men’ seized and gangbanged her while ‘her friends stood by’ and ‘no one helped her, no one cared’.[xxxiii] Why should anyone care about such a natural expression of sexual freedom? He follows a few paragraphs further on with, ‘While everyone has his own idea of what constitutes sexual fitness, many believe that the Underground freedom from inhibition is the first step en route to a new freer and happier civilisation’.

Although the goal of throwing off all the restrictions of Western bourgeois society on sexual activity was central to the Underground movement, there was more to it. Neville declared the Underground or counterculture was non-ideological, but he made his non-ideology into a distinct ideology, and his Play Power was its manifesto. The ‘Movement’ incorporated three ‘divisions’ that were ‘broadly consistent’. Neville names them as the New Left, the Underground, and the militant poor. The Underground ‘embraces hippies, beats, mystics, mad-men, freaks, yippies, crazies, crackpots, communards and anyone who rejects rigid political ideology (it’s a brain disease)’. Those with the brain disease of ideology were the Marxists and New Left student associations. He describes how these divisions cooperated, and according to my observations at the time, he was right. Sometimes they overlapped in their actions, and sometimes they were in conflict. But more often, there was a different mixture of the protest ingredients. That the Underground and the New Left were not as separate or distinct as Neville claims or that one was not much more ideological than the other is suggested in his grand statement of the essential political thrust of the ‘Movement’ – and the point of his book.

There is one quality which enlivens both the political and cultural dominations of youth protest; which provides its most important innovation; which has the greatest relevance for the future; which is the funniest, freakiest, and the most effective. This is the element of play, and it will be examined more specifically in the final chapter.[xxxiv]

The intervening chapters are a tedious account of the actions to ‘fuck the system’ and revolt ‘against the assumed conformities, bland hypocrisies and comfortable conceits of modern [bourgeois] society’. The imperative was to build an

alien culture – a culture that is destined to create a new kind of man … outwardly by their appearance, inwardly by blasting their minds with drugs, rock and roll and communal sex; by abolishing families, nationalities, money and status, those of the new generation are disqualifying themselves from becoming somnambulating flunkeys of the power structure’.[xxxv]

No respectable Marxists could take exception to this aim, as will be seen in the following chapter. Pursuing these aims unleashed ‘uncontrolled student demonstrations’, occupation of empty properties and sit-ins in university buildings, ‘massive pop-music freak-outs [and] freak shows of anarchists’. The following evidence will show that Neville was right, but the Marxists carried them out at Sydney University, not the counterculture freaks who rarely featured in Honi Soit.

During this time, that glorious highpoint of the counterculture, Woodstock, happened on a dairy farm in New York State over three days from 15 to 17 August 1969. Around 400,000 semi-naked girls and boys experienced an ecstatic outbreak of love, peace, and flower power. In Neville’s terms, this meant a great deal of spontaneous rooting. On the other side of the continent, on the West Coast in Benedict Canyon near Hollywood, hardly a week before Woodstock, there was another memorable freak-out enjoyed by a gang of dropouts: the Manson Family. The Manson gang, too, enjoyed themselves over three days from 8 to 10 August 1969. Neville’s final chapter presents the denouement of his laboured narrative. The ideological-laden title is ‘The Politics of Play’.

Neville provides a long list of the many wacky characters of the Underground that fill the preceding chapters. Significant is the ‘Hitch-hiking Honeybunch Kaminskis (“aged thirteen – what a little yummy”)’. Honey Bunch Kaminski was a comic character created by underground artist Robert Crumb. There is a famous (and now expensive) poster of the character made from an illustration in one of Crumb’s comics (Snatch Comics #1). The poster was an insert in OZ Magazine 24. It depicts Honey Bunch Kaminski as a buxom underage girl naked from the waist up, sporting large breasts with large erect nipples. The tag at the top says, ‘Jail bait of the month’. Underneath is the caption ‘“Honey Bunch” Kaminski, 13 of LA What a little yummy!’ In another illustration, she is ‘America’s favourite teenybopper’. There can be no doubt that Honey Bunch Kaminski is a paedophile character. It is no accident she appears in Neville’s list with her title of ‘little yummy’.

After providing the list, Neville asks what all these people have in common. His answer is ‘their attitude to work. They don’t’. The movement’s ethic is ‘anti-work, pro-play’. This is its essence. He contrasts the movement’s ‘laughing, loving, lazy, fun-powder plotters’ with ‘the sober, violent, puritan, Left extremists’.[xxxvi] Neville’s concept of ‘play-power’ is where the overlap with the left finishes. It won’t be the agitation of the left with their ‘grubby’ leaflets and tired rhetoric that will defeat the capitalist bourgeois class. ‘It will be an irresistible, fun-possessed, playpower counterculture’ with its pop groups, dancing, rooting, and drugs that will ‘put an end to toil’.[xxxvii]

According to the core principles of his play power manifesto, members of the Underground will: ‘1. Transform Work (i.e. Work = Play); 2. Sow their own wild oats; 3. Fuck the system’. The formula for turning work into fun is simple. You take a healthy, well-run organisation and apply strategies the very opposite of those that made the organisation successful.[xxxviii] This transformation of work is linked to the third article of ‘fucking the system’. Once you have caused the collapse of the organisation that enables you to pay your way in society, you plan strategies for getting whatever can be got free. Collapsing the system is further linked to ‘Sowing Wild Oats – and other goodies’.[xxxix]

Neville tells us that the ‘protest generation not only changed politics but altered their relationship to one another’. The pursuit of fun results, he says, in the tying of relationships that create communes. This is how it works. In pursuing the fun activities of sit-ins, occupations, protests, producing porn, and so on, one spends time with others of the same spirit. Delighting in this new camaraderie, one naturally likes to ‘extend it in time’ and ‘consolidate it in space’. In such a way, communes are created with the result that ‘the commune movement has spread across the world’.[xl] These communes manifest a new political organisation replacing corrupt bourgeois society that rests on an ‘outmoded family structure’. In the communes, the people live together, sharing everything, including the children. The children belong to all in the commune. This structure, says Neville, is ‘a true sense of the people’. In a manner reminiscent of a faithful Marxist, he continues in his peculiar idiom:

The new communalism reacts against Western style family ‘units’ and their seedy inventions of old people’s homes, mother-in-law hatred, baby sitters and baby bashers. The bank manager’s ideal family isolates one from another, ill-preparing its offspring for relating to the outside world. Love they neighbour – so long as he is safely ensconced within his capsule. The primary importance of the commune movement lies in these efforts to reinterpret the family role as well as the determination to minimise the significance of money, if not of chocolate biscuits.[xli]

The communal system eases the discomfort of dropping out. In a group, one has more success in stealing or cadging the necessities of life and sharing them. For the particularly slothful dropout, there is access to ‘free clothes … free accommodation, free dope, free love, and free money’. Pursuing the theme of sponging on the part of society that is productive, Neville looks into the future and concludes that technology will take over the labour of the ordinary worker. The state, presumably the working and productive part, will then have to sustain those in pursuit of fun, that is, in pursuit of drugs, pornography, freak-outs, rooting, dancing, music and so on. Satisfied he had turned bourgeois ideas about the family on their head, Neville returns to his favourite topic of sex, that is, sex and having plenty of it. Infants, he asserts for our edification, are fully operative sexual beings whose drive is to be admired, copied, and partaken of. There can be no other reading of the following introduced under the heading ‘Sex is Pure When it’s Playful’.

Infants get the most out of their sex life. They play with themselves unashamedly, anarchistically, freely, and solely for the purpose of gratification. As they grow up, their sexuality becomes repressed, neurotic, perverted. In his Life against Death Norman O. Brown stresses that ‘Freud’s definition of sexuality entails the proposition that infants have a richer sexual life than adults…Children explore in indiscriminate and anarchistic fashion all the erotic potentialities of the human body’. Sounds like the Underground, which is still, like children, narcissistic and guiltless.[xlii]

If children explore their erotic potentialities in an indiscriminate and anarchistic fashion, then what is to stop someone with a perverted bourgeois attitude to sexual activity from joining them to purify themselves of their perversion? Indeed, it is a moral prescription. Neville lectures the left that bourgeois sexual inhibition ‘paralyses the instinct to rebel… again the instrument of repression is the family, a mini-government’. Presumably, submitting themselves to the sexual tuition of infants will obliterate the bourgeois family and cure them of the neurosis suffered.

Neville wraps up his manifesto under the heading ‘Play Culture is Coming Back’. He bases this claim on the spreading activities of the Underground and the example they are setting for the rest of the dull populace. He repeats the examples already repeated ad nauseam with much optimism but deflates that optimism by admitting that ‘for every Woodstock, there’s a private Altamont’. Few people today would know what he is referring to. The Altamont counterculture rock concert (6 December 1969) was a Woodstock-style happening that went wrong. It was anything but a breakout of love, peace, harmony and understanding. Among much violence was a murder close by the stage while the Rolling Stones were performing. There is dramatic vision of a gun drawn and the stabbing in response. Mick Jagger is lucky a crazed, drugged maniac rushing the stage with a drawn revolver did not shoot him dead. An internet search will uncover all the details I need not dwell on to make the point. The point is the social disintegration Neville’s counterculture unleashed.

The Manson murders, a series of hippie dropout murders that shocked the world, was an even more graphic illustration. Play Power was published in 1970. The grisly Manson murders were committed in August 1969. By December, the world knew about the heartless cruelty and diabolical violence to which the members of the Manson family subjected their victims. Neville knew about them but, it seems, ignored the obvious link between the Manson Family and the counterculture he so fervently promoted. For all his preaching about new and healthy ways of living, overlooking the Manson murders was a gigantic cop-out. But there is more to the Manson murders than the diabolical violence, and I will return to it in the next chapter.

The second incident to which Gerard Henderson referred occurred in 1975 when Neville was back in Australia. Neville now felt confident enough to spread the wings of his brand of libertarianism to sell his idea of an enlightened future to the masses – at least to those who listen to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Now working as a reporter on ABC radio, Neville slotted in well. On 14 July 1975, six months before Tony Abbott arrived on campus, Neville entertained his audience on ‘Lateline’ with a program titled ‘Pederasty’. Henderson:

ABC publicity described the program in the following terms: ‘Pederasty, as defined by the Penguin English Dictionary, is the homosexual relationship of a man with a boy. The subject usually creates feelings of revulsion and disgust with most people. The issues raised by such relationships are discussed by three pederasts’.

Neville invited the men — two of whom were friends — into the ABC Sydney studio to discuss their sex lives. As The National Times reported on 21 July, 1975: ‘During an episode of Lateline … three men described with relish their sexual relationships with teenage boys and a teenage boy described his relations with an older man’. According to contemporary reports, when the boy detailed his first experience with a man, one of the pederasts was heard to moan with delight.

Given the preaching in Play Power, it is no surprise that Neville’s circle of friends included pederasts. The program caused disgust and consternation outside, but the defence of Neville and his program came from the highest level of the ABC. The then chairman of the ABC Richard Downing ‘told the Herald that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”’. He also wrote a letter to the newspaper on 19 July 1975, calling on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts’. Neville’s special program and its defence by the ABC Chairman were not isolated occasions of the apparent condoning of paedophilia. Neville had a nose for where society was going, the direction of which he had a lot to do with, and media organisations paid him for his prognostications. It was difficult to tell whether they were prognostications or barefaced promotions. Whatever the case, he gave voice to efforts to radically extend the traditional boundaries of sexual activity – and who was fair game in that activity. Henderson wrote in the article of 15 March 2014:

In an article in the September 1984 issue of Quadrant magazine entitled ‘Paedophile Liberation and the Radical Homosexuals’, writer Andrew Lansdown documented how pederasty had become fashionable within sections of the Australian Left in the 1970s and 80s. He quoted an article in OutRage magazine [‘for lesbians and gay men’] which declared its ‘defence of the civil liberties of paedophiles’… Lansdown documented the existence in Australia at the time of a Paedophile Support Group.

I have said enough to make my case about the destructive influence Richard Neville’s ideological activities had on his 1960s generation and their success in collapsing vital features of Western civilisation, and how well Nevillism went hand-in-hand with the Marxist agenda. It was a prelude to Abbott’s political responses at Sydney University. But I must briefly mention another Australian who was just as eccentric with her own unique brand of libertarianism. Her influence was worldwide. I could be speaking of no one else but of ‘our’ Germaine Greer, a close mate of Neville’s and a leader in the sexual revolution.

After graduating from Melbourne University in 1959, Greer moved north to pursue her studies at Sydney University, where she became a senior tutor. She joined the Libertarian movement known as the Sydney ‘Push’. In the 1950s, the Push grew out of ‘the radical but anti-authoritarian Freethought Society, acolytes of the former communist, former Trotskyist, now libertarian philosophy professor [of Sydney University], John Anderson’.[xliii] The libertarians were active on campus and at pubs in the city centre, attracting a motley bunch of students, bohemians, and sundry hangers-on. So profoundly did she absorb the Push ethos that she would spectacularly ‘out-libertarian’ her fellow members. She graduated from Sydney University in 1963 with a first-class Master of Arts degree. She then took off to Cambridge University, where she delighted in spraying (and appalling) all and sundry in her ‘strong Australian accent’. Of less importance, she tossed together a brilliant thesis and received her doctorate in 1969. By this time, she was deep into the counterculture. More than this, she was its outstanding example and tenacious promoter. She contributed to Neville’s Oz, among other counterculture instruments.

From May 1971 to December 1973, I lived in Holland with my Dutch wife. I worked at a Dutch bank in the middle of Amsterdam. Often at lunchtime, I would take a walk from where the bank was on Rembrandtplein along the busy Kalverstraat to Damplein and back again. One day in 1972, on my way back to the office, I stopped at a little kiosk that sold newspapers, books and magazines, including all manner of pornography. By 1972, pornography was everywhere in Holland. I picked up a newspaper called Suck. The title and page design called up associations. It turned out that Suck was a collaboration between Greer and three entrepreneurs of pornography, among whom was Heathcote Williams, supermodel Jean Shrimpton’s lover. I opened its pages to be confronted by a full-page photo of Germaine Greer displaying her private parts in grisly close-up. Christine Wallace, in her unauthorised biography of Greer, describes Greer’s pose:

[It] was a shot taken in a pose worthy of an advanced yoga practitioner or circus contortionist. Greer’s buttocks and vagina loom graphically as, legs in the air and head sticking out between them, she grins cheerfully at the camera.[xliv]

This wasn’t a photo to arouse the animal. On the contrary, as one of the paper’s writers remarked in admiration, it was a revolutionary act. Suck and Greer were ‘all about the sexual revolution and through it spiritual revolution’.[xlv] Greer was journeying to the spiritual through unrestrained copulating. I would not describe Greer’s grin as cheerful. It was instead a mixture of defiance, contempt and sneer expressing Greer’s utter rejection of bourgeois morality.

She and Neville were among the standard-bearers of the worldwide youth rebellion. But we can clearly distinguish between the two. While Greer’s sexual preaching and example aimed to make women more assertive, independent, and free from male domination, Neville sought to collapse masculinity, destroy what it meant in the culture to be male, and enslave men to their basest inclinations. For a thousand years up to the second half of the 1960s, the Code of Chivalry influenced men to a greater or a lesser extent. At its lowest level of operation, one could summarise it thus: protect the weak, pay your debts and keep your promises. The Code was all about self-control, self-discipline, fairness, honesty, and courage in the face of evil. Neville’s code for men was drugs, alcohol, and pornography – and plenty of it. His prescription was to turn their spine into jelly and indulge their appetites, whatever the cost to others, particularly to females. Neville’s bequest to society is the destruction of maleness and masculinity.


Chapter 3

The Marxist maggot

THE STUDENT ACTIVISTS’ political agitation and violent demonstrations from the mid-1960s were the vehicles on which an enormous social and political change was rammed through western society. By 1970, a social fissure had opened, and Australian society underwent a rejigging during which many of its beliefs and rules were upended and its history revised. But, if my judgment sounds a little exaggerated, Alan Barcan, in his From New Left to Factional Left: Fifty Years of Student Activism at Sydney University, goes well beyond it.

The transformation of western society in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a major turning point in the history of civilisation. The cultural revolution or the cultural collapse were comparable, for instance, with the transition in ancient Greece of the fourth century BC from the Classical to the Hellenistic age. The student revolt was an initial element in the transformation of modern civilisation.[xlvi]

Barcan, a communist in his student days, provides an enthralling account of the New Left’s leading role in the explosive political action that gripped Sydney University between 1967 and 1974. He divides the Left’s influence in Australia to the 1970s into three phases. There was the Old Left from 1921 to 1970, followed by the first phase of the New Left from 1956 to 1967, which was consolidated by the second phase of the New Left from 1967 to 1974. The Old Left and the first New Left (1956-67) would save civilisation from capitalism. ‘The second New Left of the 1970s’, he writes, ‘sought to destroy traditional western culture and the capitalist ethos’.[xlvii] He goes into much detail about the New Left’s activities at Sydney University during those years. For my purpose, I will highlight a few aspects of his story, at the same time, drawing on my own experience.

The catalyst for the rise of the New Left was the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. The Soviet invasion of a communist client state caused an intellectual and ideological crisis that precipitated an exodus of intellectuals and students from the old communist parties in the West. New communist parties formed. Some maintained an adherence to the Soviet model. Others, calling themselves Trotskyists, followed Leon Trotsky and formed a Trotskyist party. Still others created a grouping based on Maoism, the teaching of the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. In addition to the split of communist parties into a revised form of Marxism, New Left theorists and movements proliferated around the West in a broad political movement. The neo-Marxist theorists became a crucial and enduring influence in the New Left. They included the Frankfurt School, Antonio Gramsci, Georg Lukacs, and Louis Althusser, the last exercising influence at Sydney University.

The appearance of Trotskyists and Maoists in student activity heralded the first consolidation of the New Left at Sydney University. A pro-Chinese faction within the CPA had broken away and established the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in March 1964. In the same year, a Trotskyist faction formed. Because Trotskyists manoeuvred to take a leading role in student activism after 1967, a basic understanding of Marxism is necessary to follow the events. Without that understanding, it will be difficult to comprehend what motivated Tony Abbott and other conservative students in their fight with the radicals. It is a sad irony that those most critical of Marxism, those for whom most is at stake, often have a poor understanding of Marxism as a theory.[xlviii] As some readers may already have a basic understanding, I have provided a brief explanation in Appendix I for those who have not.

The essential points are that Marx turned Georg Hegel’s idealist dialectic into a materialist dialectic. Whereas Hegel spoke of the clash of ideas resulting in a higher understanding, Marx spoke of the clash of (economic) classes, of the oppressor and oppressed. The clash of classes would proceed in the form of thesis-anthesis-thesis until the end stage of the socialist state. Key concepts in the unfolding of the materialist dialectic were the ‘means of production’ which determined the ‘production relationships’ and ‘superstructure’ (of laws, government, morality art and so on). The hand mill (the means of production) gave rise to feudalism and its superstructure; the steam engine gave rise to capitalism (ownership of the means of production) and its supporting superstructure. The capitalist class is in an oppressive struggle with the workers (the proletariat). That struggle will inevitably lead to a socialist society of the free and equal. So far, communism (the implementation of Marxist theory) has not turned out that way. Indeed, it has been a cruel and inhuman system in all cases.

No one represented the radical leftist student more than the ridiculous Trotskyist Hall Greenland at Sydney University. Greenland was primed for his life’s vocation before he arrived at Sydney University to develop the well-tutored political orientation of his thought. His mother worked for a ‘Stalinist-led trade union, was secretary of the Vietnam Action Campaign, assisted Bob Gould, and was also in the Labor Party’.[xlix] He burst onto campus in 1962 at the tender age of seventeen ‘in pursuit of existentialism and Marxism – and girls’.[l] I suggest Nevillism was a strong motivation. And no doubt he connected Sartre’s support for the French communists with the Trotskyist doctrine spooned into him from an early age.

Bob Gould was a leading Trotskyist and bookseller who entertained the full range of demented leftists at his various bookselling establishments. Greenland and Gould were members of a small group of hyperactive Marxists who strove to wreck Australian society. It was a glorious work that has left Australian society, the society our self-sacrificing colonial ancestors built, almost fatally broken. It is a measure of his undisguised war against Australian society and its people that he has never taken much trouble to hide his support for Trotskyist Marxism and its totalitarian aims. Tracking Greenland’s representative career will convey the rich flavour of the chaos and wreckage those middle-class Marxists wrought during those years.

By 1966, Greenland had ascended to a position where he could unleash his Trotskyist urge to promote permanent worldwide revolution. He was president of Sydney University’s ALP Club and, in the second half of the year, appointed the editor of the university’s student newspaper Honi Soit. If the general population in Australia were solidly behind Prime Minister Menzies and his support of the United States to counter the progress of the worldwide Marxist revolution on the Vietnamese front, Greenland and his Trotskyist companions were feverishly planning to change and defeat the wishes of the people. In October of that year, President Lyndon Johnson scheduled a visit to Australia to thank Prime Minister Menzies and the Australian people for their much-appreciated support. The planned visit must have caused orgiastic anticipation in the now 21-year-old postgraduate history student. Greenland put his head down and produced a bumper issue of Honi Soit on the Vietnam War. He incited his teenage readership with ‘a front-page article by Jean-Paul Sartre calling for Russian counter-escalation in Vietnam and a back-page collage of Vietnam atrocity photographs’.[li]

While he produced his bumper issue of Honi Soit, he and a motley bunch of radicals were planning a demonstration to make President Johnson’s visit unforgettably painful. In Greenland’s words: ‘The three main protest organisers in Sydney at that time were Bob Gould’s Vietnam Action Campaign, the Communist Party, and the Youth Campaign Against Conscription’. He describes Bob Gould as ‘a Trotskyist activist who had almost single-handedly launched the anti-war movement in Australia’. These quotations were not from Greenland the student of fifty years ago but from Greenland the white-haired 72-year-old unreformed, unreconstructed Trotskyist in October 2016. Yes, Greenland, preserving his malignant 17-year-old Trotskyist fantasies, is still at it.

He maintains a blog called ‘Watermelon Papers’.[lii] The ‘Watermelon’ references are unmistakable. He boasts, ‘in the 1980s I was among the founders of The Greens … For the past two years, I have been the convenor of the Greens in New South Wales’. He took the title from the blog of a fellow Green fanatic who explained that ‘Watermelon is a political blog: an assertion of a leftist perspective within and alongside Green politics. And the colours are not just red and green, but also black – the seeds of libertarianism throughout’. A nod to Nevillism.

In October 2016, Greenland celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the triumphant 1966 Sydney demonstration. His misty-eyed, almost artless account of the happening supports my claims about who was driving the student rebellion. I have lucid memories of the event as reported in the media, particularly of New South Wales Premier Bob Askin’s reaction to Greenland and his fellow demonstrators’ lying on the road and preventing the passage of President Johnson’s motorcade. ‘Run over the bastards!’ Premier Askin is reported to have shouted. It was an instinctive outburst most Australians cheered.

President Johnson’s visit to Australia in October 1966 was the first by an American President. Most Australians greeted the visit with pleasure and pride. The organisers put together a program that enabled them to give the president a hearty welcome. In Sydney, a motorcade would take him from Mascot airport through the city to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where a luncheon reception awaited him. A million people waving flags and throwing streamers lined the streets on 22 October to cheer the president. It was a festive affair – or was meant to be. Among the million people, a group of hard-bitten, far-left protesters gathered. Greenland continues with his adolescent enthusiasm:

The anti-war protesters, a few hundred strong and most of them students and activists like me, were waiting further down [from Oxford Street], opposite Hyde Park, and as the cavalcade approached, the booing began, and the stop-the-war placards shot up. A dozen or so of us readied ourselves for a more direct action …

As the thin blue line opened up, the rest of us saw our opportunity. We ducked under the barriers and sat down in the middle of the road …

The crowd’s chanting of ‘Stop the War’ throttled up. The motorcade stopped dead. The NSW Premier Sir Robin Askin, riding with LBJ and the First Lady (Ladybird Johnson), put his head out the car window to find out what the trouble was. Seeing a tangle of protesters lying down in the presidential pathway he lost it, yelling ‘drive over the bastards’ to the cars in front.

Jean Curthoys, now a retired academic but then a rebellious 18-year-old from a well-known communist party family, recalls determinedly pitching herself onto the road three or four times. ‘Police picked me up and dumped me by the side of the road, so I just jumped up and ran back.’

I took my place in the middle of the road next to my ALP comrade Aiden Foy, but I wasn’t there for long. Seeing the stationary press bus 10 metres away, I made a dash for it. I’d like to say it was a reasoned move because I was editor of Honi Soit, the student newspaper at Sydney Uni, but in truth, it was just an impulse to jump on board. Fronting a bus full of what appeared to be startled American reporters – judging by their crew-cuts, sports jackets and the button-downed collars of their striped shirts – I announced the bleeding obvious, that this was an anti-war protest. The longer speech I would have liked to deliver to this captive audience was cut short as the bus began to move. I threw in a couple of chants and jumped off.

So, there you have it. ‘A dozen or so’ far-left fanatics stole the show with their carefully planned action. Not surprisingly, the newspapers had space only for sensationalised reports of the sit-down and photos of what looked like wild brawling between police, officials, and the demonstrators on the road. Greenland gleefully notes that ‘Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald was not pleased, editorialising: “The point is not that the demonstrators won a victory – as they undoubtedly did … it is that they were allowed to win it [sic]. Those who deserve to have the vials of wrath emptied on them are those in charge of security arrangements”’. The Sydney Morning Herald, a very different newspaper in 1966, was spot on. The demonstration and sit-down were not just a failure of the security people. It was more a failure of the authority where the buck could not be passed. Greenland was all smugness.

The real plotters behind the sit-down [sic] were only revealed weeks later when the Commonwealth Police named me as the chief culprit. In their version, I had ‘apparently’ convened the meeting at the University of Sydney of radical students and the Sydney Libertarians which had planned the sit-down. The crucial meeting in fact had taken place in a downtown pub which was logical enough as the Sydney Libertarians were a group of anarchist punters who met regularly in pubs and were in the process of turning their attention from the races at Randwick to the war in Vietnam.

With justifiable pride, Greenland finishes his celebratory post with the comment ‘in retrospect, it was amazing that we were able to carry out the plan … I am astonished at our audacity in daring to sit down in front of the motorcade, in “disrespecting” the great United States president. In a small way, however, we were part of a historical turning point’.[liii] Indeed, they were. But it was more the playing of a treacherous subversive role in turning the Western World’s centuries-old moral and political make-up on its head, precipitating a steep moral, social and political decline. That is an astonishing boast for the socially and morally backward group that lay on the road in Liverpool Street in 1966. It might cause Greenland to beam. The ordinary Australian could not deplore it too much.

Few people at the time knew anything about Marxist theory, especially its prescription to manipulate and subvert the minds of ‘the people’. Most understood the malignancy of Marxism through the proven disaster of communism as an economic theory and the barbarism of the communist leadership class in its conquered territories. They were unaware that the Marxists’ public disrespect to the leader of the free world was a conscious and fundamental act to demoralise them and corrupt their attitude to authority. Most Australians born after 1970 would have little idea of the ordinary person’s respect for authority before the student rebellion and how much the prevailing cohesiveness of Australian society depended on the community’s respect for properly constituted authority and for the people of proven character who filled society’s most important offices of authority. Greenland and his Marxist mates’ deliberate disrespecting act shocked most Australians on 22 October 1966.

I remember the first time I witnessed a public act of student disrespecting. It happened during a meeting between several student leaders and the University of New South Wales authorities. The meeting was to conciliate student demands. Primetime news bulletins showed the event. But, unfortunately, conciliation was as far from the students’ minds as the prisoners of the Soviet Gulags. That little group of radicals began shouting abuse in the faces of the authorities, including the Vice-Chancellor, giving them no chance to answer. I was shocked and embarrassed to see the authorities cowering before the abusive onslaught. It was not too long before such unabashed disrespect that disobedience to a teacher might have earned you six cuts of the strap. This prescribed penalty punished a social transgression while asserting the properly constituted authority of the teacher. The unrestrained goal-driven ideological action of the student radicals showed how vulnerable a liberal-democratic society dependent on accepted rules, traditions and conventions developed over time was to people sworn to destroy that society. These people put no moral restraints on the means.

Barcan writes that the ‘The Bulletin blamed [Greenland’s] edition [of Honi Soit] for much of the protest against the Australian visit of US President Johnson and called for a public inquiry into universities. The Senate considered a censure against Greenland but dropped it as his first term of office had ended’.[liv] It would be the first of a series of spineless cop-outs granting the adolescent Marxists freedom of the city. Greenland’s editorship of Honi Soit may have ended but spurred on by his success and the caving in of the university authorities, he continued to throw himself into his work of subversion.

He and fellow radical Rowan Cahill, another leading activist, used the Student’s Handbook for the 1967 academic year to preach to the unsuspecting 17-year-olds arriving on campus. Greenland is introduced as ‘the controversial ex-editor of Honi Soit and one of the few campus radicals’. In his piece ‘Trainers and the Trained’, Greenland, always solicitous about the bourgeois indoctrination of his fellow students, criticised the prevailing hierarchical structure of the academic-student relationship. To insist that the teacher appointed to pass on knowledge and expertise to the pupil should stand above and direct the student in the teaching activity was similarly anathema. Such an oppressive bourgeois relationship, according to Greenland, sprang from ‘vocationalism’, the idea that the content of the curriculum should be governed by its occupational or industrial utility and marketability as human capital. Setting up a course in economics or psychology or engineering, for example, so that the successful student could lead a fruitful working life and earn a wage to support him and his family was undemocratic for Trotskyist Greenland. His solution to vocationalism: ‘students should share power and responsibility with academics in developing the university’. The departments of philosophy and economics would feel the white-hot rod of this Trotskyist madness.

Cahill’s piece supported a central contention in my account of the student rebellion. In ‘Student Life’, Cahill asserted that ‘the student body as a whole’ was not the author or instigator of any particular happening on campus. He wrote, ‘It is rather the work of “a minority”, the term the newspaper editorials use, or “elite”, which is the term I use. Left or right-wing, Catholic or Anglican religiously; atheist, free thinker, libertarian, etc., etc. – it all boils down to a fraction of the student population”’.[lv] Just so. It was always an unconscionable minority that drove the political action. It is ironic, considering the present worldwide political atmosphere, that Cahill preferred to describe himself and his fellow radicals as an ‘elite’. Of course, it is disingenuous of Cahill to name his opponents as if there were a touch-and-go struggle on campus.

The record shows that the radical Left took all before it, battering all opposition off campus. The ferrets and weasel took Toad Hall without much of a fight. Tony Abbott was among the few offering determined resistance. Cahill was also eager to instruct the fresh-faced first-year students, particularly those from private girls’ schools, that ‘sex is to the university student as water is to the duck’.[lvi] You were not part of the university community if you didn’t screw at random, in particular with dashing student leaders. Nevillism was entrenched.

Barcan marks April 1967 as the start of the radicalism that shook Sydney University. The first disruption occurred in response to an increase in library fines by Fisher Library. Max Humphreys had the good fortune to secure an appointment as a part-time tutor in psychology. To celebrate the honour of an academic appointment, he organised an after-hours sit-in in Fisher Library with a small group of like-minded radical students to protest the increased fines. No doubt, Humphreys was invigorated by his recent arrest for a one-man demonstration against the visit of President Ky of Vietnam. The University police kicked them out. Undaunted, Humphreys issued a pamphlet urging another sit-in, an action that brought him before the Vice-Chancellor to receive a warning.

A sit-in followed on 10 April, earning him a suspension from his Master of Science candidature for a year. This was the signal for the radicals to whip up a lunchtime meeting on the university’s front lawn. A protest committee was elected followed the next day by ‘a huge lunch-hour meeting of 1,000 students in the Quadrangle … addressed by the ubiquitous activist, Hall Greenland’.[lvii] To show how ubiquitous he could be, Greenland dashed to the airport to take the next plane to Paris on the break-out of the student revolution in Paris in 1968. No way would he miss out on that historic freak-out.

The rolling sit-ins and occupations proceeded through 1968 with some ‘moderation’. Roy Smee, a former communist and at this time Registrar for National Service, told Barcan that the early actions were ‘good-natured events under the rowdy surface’. The change came with the takeover of the demonstrations by the American import Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a loose organisation that claimed to be promoters of democracy of the participatory sort. When the Left use the word ‘participatory,’ they mean a system of direct democracy that tears apart established arrangements. After the SDS democratists took over, said Smee, ‘the protests were not only more violent, but threats were made to my family’.[lviii] ‘Yet after the SDS collapsed,’ adds Barcan, ‘the Far Left intensified the level of violence.’

Greenland, his revolutionary fervour undiminished, was back in Sydney by 1970 to take a leading role in the Victoria Lee ruckus. Lee was a Macquarie University student who wanted admission to Sydney University to study Anthropology. On refusal, ‘a group of students’ took up her cause. After much harassment by the students, Professor Taylor, Chairman of the Professorial Board, agreed to meet them in Wallace [lecture] Theatre, but when the group switched the meeting to the front lawn, he refused to go. If you ever attended a student meeting on the front lawn of Sydney University around this time, you would have understood why. Professor Taylor’s attendance at the proposed meeting would have been like submitting oneself to the stocks and having rotten vegetables and fruit thrown at you. The year before (1969), the State Governor, Sir Roden Cutler, was ‘spattered’ by two tomatoes thrown during a brawl outside the Great Hall. The brawl was linked to a front lawn meeting at which 2,500 students were present. Professor Taylor would not have any of that.

In response, Greenland, channelling the spirit of the 1968 Paris mobs, led a contingent of around 500 students from the front lawn and took over the administration offices.[lix] They set fire to parts of the offices, causing the closure of the University administration for a week. The university resorted to the sensible action of seeking an injunction in the Supreme Court against the ringleaders. With a poignant demonstration of where the law was in protecting our democratic society, Justice Street dismissed the case.[lx] About mid-year, the University authorities mustered the gumption and expelled Greenland. At the start of 1971, the Senate did the usual cave-in and readmitted him ‘after an examination of 15 minutes’. The nuttiest of the Sydney University far-left radicals triumphed once again over the battered authorities. During his suspension, Greenland applied for a position as ‘Administrative Trainee’ (you’ve got to laugh) with the Commonwealth government. The Public Service Board asked ASIO to check Greenland’s record. In a highly illegal action, someone sympathetic to Greenland hijacked ASIO’s report and handed it to Honi Soit for the scoop of the year. ASIO reported ‘Greenland is unfavourably known to ASIO’ and that ‘Mr Greenland is a self-confessed Marxist’.[lxi] You don’t say.

Enough has been said to create the scene of chaos, violence and decay engineered by Greenland and his juvenile but devastatingly effective Marxist mates. I will, however, suffice with one more spectacular Greenland action. The occasion was the ‘24 June 1971 demo in support of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front at SU’. In a rambling pamphlet (June 2000), Bob Gould fondly reminisced about Greenland’s impressive audacity.

The star speaker at this meeting was the First Secretary of the South Vietnamese Embassy. He was heckled rather vigorously by most of the audience and, after he had finished speaking, your then colleague, Hall Greenland, grabbed the microphone from the chairman, Professor David Armstrong, and started putting to the meeting the point of view opposed to the war, and got rapturous applause. Armstrong rushed forward and, after colliding awkwardly with Lyn Regan, took a spectacular swing in the direction of his student opponents with his fist, which they managed to evade. In the middle of this melee, Rowan Cahill climbed up on a desk and addressed the thousand students cramming the auditorium. [lxii]

A Sydney Morning Herald photographer snapped a sensational photo of Professor Armstrong trying to hang one or two on Greenland and Cahill. You’ve got to hand it to Greenland. Not a jot of respect for anyone who did not fall into line with his rigid Marxist ideology. As expected, the Left used the photo as a source of mockery, dubbing Armstrong henceforth as the ‘Beast’.

The application to join the public service was an aberration because Greenland left university to carry on as a committed Trotskyist determined to break bourgeois society. His work seems to have been in journalism and local council politics. He is still hammering away at the keyboard, never for one second giving up hope he will achieve his life’s aim of subjecting the Australian people to the proven nightmare of his Trotskyist delusions. In the meantime, he lives off its benefits. The question of pathological delusion is pertinent. A speech by Trotskyist figurehead Bob Gould at Greenland’s sixtieth birthday in 2004 shows how eternally deluded the far left is.[lxiii] There were eighty people present in Greenland’s backyard. This is how Gould describes the assembly.

The people at Hall’s 60th … were a rather more diverse group than those who attend Socialist Alliance events. They included Hall’s associates over many years in the leftist political agitations he has been involved with in the Leichhardt municipality, as well as a number of members of Hall’s family.

A lot of trade unionists were present, from the public service, teachers and health unions, among others. A fair proportion of those present would once have been in the Labor Party and/or revolutionary socialist groups, but are now in or around the Greens. There were also quite a few stubborn continuing Labor Party members such as myself… And veterans of the 1960s, such as Richard Neville, were there, as were several inner-city Greens councillors, and assorted other rebels and whistleblowers…

Speakers were called on to eulogise about Greenland and his stunning career. The first to speak was significant. It ‘was veteran Trotskyist Issy Wyner, long-time secretary of the Sydney branch of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union’. The Ship Painters and Dockers have their own special notoriety. Gould spoke last, giving a speech that Greenland thought one of his best. Gould reminisced about the glorious battles of the 1960s that he and Greenland had engaged in. He drew a startling comparison that did not work in his favour.

I said that Hall and most of us present were of the older generation that had — to borrow a thought from the English poet, Wordsworth, talking about the French Revolution — been lucky enough to be alive and politically active in the 1960s.

Gould is referring to the often-quoted verses from William Wordsworth’s poem ‘The Prelude’. Wordsworth was reflecting on his 19-year-old’s feelings when the French Revolution broke out, feelings he shared with many an idealistic youth.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 

But to be young was very heaven!

The trouble is that as the full horror of the Reign of Terror became known, Wordsworth became deeply disillusioned. Gould appears blissfully unaware that the comparison points to the delusion seizing him and his leftist agitators. They learned nothing from the barbarism and eventual collapse of the Revolution that cleared the way for a dictator to spread violence over Europe and Russia. Gould passed from reminiscing about a failed but destructive revolution to exhorting Greenland to keep the faith and push ahead with the necessary plans.

I said it was important that we should celebrate and defend the 1960s in the face of the counter-revolution taking place throughout the world to obliterate and/or roll back the political and social legacy of the 1960s. I said the 1960s, which had moulded so many of those present, was the greatest time in the 20th century to be alive, for all of us. That assertion got very considerable applause.

The key to a successful fightback is the preservation of an active united front in which progressive and leftist forces take the lead and try to avoid sectarianism towards the mass labour movement. In this situation, energy and initiative is also needed from the Left.

That exhortation was merely rhetorical. Greenland had, in no sense, dropped the ball. He and a small band of fanatical leftists – the Greens Party – would stop Australia’s democratically elected government from governing in 2013. They would engineer a situation that brought on internecine treachery and assassination. The scalp of Tony Abbott must have given them an orgiastic pleasure. Indeed, it was still bliss to be alive as their program of wreckage and decay reached new heights.

It was a terrible pity that Gould did not live to see this fabulous victory for the Greens. Already frail, he fell while sorting books at his Newtown bookshop on 22 May 2011, struck his head and died before the ambulance arrived, a demeaning death considering his heroic status in the wrecking-left and the gale of praise that followed. Gould was seventy-four. Eulogising obituaries appeared in all manner of media instruments, all warmly acknowledging his unfailing adherence to Trotskyism. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald (23 May) revealed that his daughter, Natalie, claimed ‘her father was first and last a Trotskyist, yet his hero was Lenin’. Greenland penned a somewhat restrained piece highlighting Gould’s Trotskyism and his role in the student radicalisation of the 1960s. A crowd of ‘over 500 people’ turned up at the funeral. Labor Party members in federal and state parliaments heaped praise on him.[lxiv] It seems the eulogies might have gone on until dark had the organisers not put a stop to the outpouring of grief and adulation.


AS INFORMATIVE, as Barcan’s book is about student activism, he does not come to a definitive assessment of the period and its actors. He appears to leave it to the reader. In their book Seizures of Youth: The Sixties and Australia, Robin Gerster and Jan Bassett do not hesitate to assert one outcome of the student rebellion at which I have hinted. ‘Many young Australians’, they wrote, ‘began to practise a brand of experiential, individualised politics which played with allied notions of revolutionary Marxism and uninhibited sexual expression’. Their attitude ‘had been given intellectual sanction by [neo-Marxist Herbert] Marcuse, who advocated a seductive combination of political and erotic protest, an unleashing of energies both social and sexual’.[lxv] They relate the famous incident of a naked youth wearing a gorilla mask gate-crashing a formal occasion in Sydney University’s Great Hall during Orientation week in 1969. The youth had ‘the words “The more I make love, the more I make revolution” emblazoned on his chest’.[lxvi]

This action was a more elaborate expression of the cry ‘Make Love, not War’ that rang throughout the halls and lecture theatres of the university right into the school playground. Gerster and Bassett relate an incident at Mordialloc High School in Melbourne in November 1970. The students went on strike, protesting the suspension of three boys for wearing their hair too long. They rallied at lunchtime under a National Liberation Front flag hoisted on the school’s flagpole and sang ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’. ‘The influences of the university-inspired anti-war movement’, Gerster and Bassett wrote, ‘could hardly be more patent’. ‘Spurious ideological credibility’ clothed typical teenage discontent and defiance of authority. A photo shows the three long-haired boys outside the school fence chucking a victory or peace sign (‘it did not matter’ which) to an ‘adoring audience’ among whom ‘some girls … look suitably impressed’.

With good reason, Gerster and Bassett suggest ‘male vanity, vainglory and the desire to defy authority’ were at the heart of the action.[lxvii] They might have added the influence of Nevillism. Where was this male vanity and vainglory leading? Were the girls following Neville’s prescriptions with the same enthusiasm as the boys? Neville gave the impression women could not possibly resist the power of his non-ideological ideology. Gerster and Bassett made the connection Barcan avoided – or at least downplayed. Former hippie Robin Morgan dismissed ‘male radicalism as “counterfeit” and male radicals as defenders of “cock privilege”’. She urged ‘women to seize control of the Left’. [lxviii] It turned out the sex revolution came at a cost for women. A fact of nature that men and women are different in critical ways asserted itself.

The radical feminist literature flew across the Pacific to be taken up by feminists like Anne Summers, who encouraged women ‘to leave the sexual merry-go-round’. In 1970, Morgan added that ‘the “theory” of “free sexuality” meant “sex on demand for males”’. There may be some exaggeration in Morgan’s claim, but the expectation did exist even if not always fulfilled. Richard Neville and Germaine Greer had succeeded in entrenching cock privilege without responsibility, and it was the female who was left with the baby, so to speak. Worse, Gerster and Bassett make a compelling case for connecting Nevillism with the Manson murders.

To women like Morgan, the grisly Tate-La Bianca murders that rocked California in 1969, orchestrated by a megalomaniac hippie … seemed to clarify the perniciously masculinist tendency of the entire counter-cultural experiment … Manson collected human refuse thrown up by the social upheavals of the decade. In particular, he gathered around him a harem of adoring hatchet-women, disaffected young refugees from the middle-class … women who, according to Morgan, fulfilled in extreme form ‘the normal American male’s fantasy’ by doing ‘all the shitwork, from raising babies and cooking and hustling to killing people on order’… The Tate-La Bianca slayings constitute a patently sixties ‘happening’, featuring a messianic male figurehead, hippies, Hollywood, sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And death. Death executed in order …‘to instil fear … into the Establishment’.[lxix]

Is this a suitable epitaph for the sixties sexual revolution that ‘fucked the system’ and the women who succumbed to cock privilege? Leaving aside the Nevillites, the Greer adulators, and the Marxists and their project to free us from bourgeois sexual morality, those conservative males who blame feminism for destroying the natural relationship between men and women should examine their conscience about first causes. Feminists may have wielded the sword, but men who succumbed to Nevillism gave them the weapon. How conscious was any male at the time that each heedless sexual act was also a heedless act against the system (our age-old system of customs, traditions and conventions) and that most males were complicit in creating a weapon that would deprive them of what feminists call male privilege? Whatever male privileges there were, males had a duty by nature. Increasingly men ignored this duty. Gerster and Bassett’s epitaph is no less damning about that other instrument of play power.

Drugs, one of the ‘weapons of revolution’ celebrated by Richard Neville, have ushered in unstoppable waves of crime and degradation. The dealer, once glamourised by Timothy Leary as a ‘spiritual guerrilla’ involved in ‘the noblest of all human professions’, is now widely despised as a merchant of death.[lxx]

By 1974, the flame of youthful rebellion had faded. At least, it seemed so. The mammoth anti-war demonstrations no longer flooded the inner-city streets of Australia’s capital cities. Victory was going to the Vietcong and North Vietnam government. The occupations and sit-ins, so devastatingly effective, were sporadic. The likes of Hall Greenland were forced off campus to con a living in bourgeois society. There was some peace on campus – at least to the casual observer. Gerster and Bassett end their book with the chapter ‘Revolution? What Revolution?’ In his final chapter, Barcan asks, ‘Was There a New Left?’ Alas, there was still an old and new left, fat from gorging on the entrails of Australian culture and society. Conservatives were premature in cheering the perceived collapse of the New Left and the restoration of Australian social and political society.

The Left gave up the idea of the violent overthrow of capitalist society. Instead, they integrated into mainstream society and politics, succumbing to one or other theory in the smorgasbord of New Left theories. They would work at subverting traditional Australian society from within to achieve their idea of a ‘just’ and ‘equal’ society. Barcan names many student radicals who went on to fill prominent positions in the media, government, the public service and education. They produced the progeny that kept the cause alive. Gerster and Bassett offer this sorry conclusion to their book.

That the phenomenon of sixties radicalism, so much the product of youthful hostility to the middle class, made its greatest impact when it itself became ‘embourgeoised’ is a paradoxical outcome from a decade of contradictions.[lxxi]

They make a convincing point by characterising the outcome of the radical’s political action as a self-serving, subversive, hypocritical alignment with the society they were determined to sweep away. The judgment is not severe enough. I prefer the image of the maggot feeding on the rotting flesh of a bloated, diseased body.


[i] Julia Gillard, My Story, Random House Australia Pty Ltd, North Sydney, p. 20.

[ii] The Liberal Party is the home for conservatives in Australia. The reasons are historical. In brief, the founder of the Liberal Party, the conservative Robert Gordon Menzies, wanted to establish a party that was anti-socialist but at the same time did not give an appearance of being reactionary. He wanted a non-Labour party that revered the country’s traditions but looked to the future. The Liberal Party is said to be a ‘broad church’ for small ‘l’ liberals and conservatives.

[iii] Susan Mitchell, Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man, Scribe Publications Pty Ltd., Brunswick, Australia, 2011.

[iv] See Chapter 4, ‘What is Right’, in Tony Abbott, Battlelines, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2009.

[v] David Marr. Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott, Quarterly Essay No.47, 2012, Black Inc., Collingwood, p. 16.

[vi] Alan Barcan, From New Left to Factional Left: Fifty Years of Student Activism at Sydney University, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, Australia, 2011.

[vii] Tony Abbott, Battlelines, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2009.

[viii] Abbott, ibid., pp. 7-8.

[ix] Abbott, ibid., p. 6

[x] Abbott, ibid., p. 7.

[xi] Abbott, ibid., p. 9.

[xii] Abbott, ibid., p.10.

[xiii] Michael Duffy, Latham and Abbott, Random House Australia Pty Ltd, Milsons Point NSW, 2004. Duffy’s book is the only biography of Abbott to date. It is useful for information about Abbott’s early life, which I have already drawn on, but is more interesting for the orientation it gives of the philosophical framework of Abbott’s thinking. Duffy does not discuss this philosophical framework in any depth.

[xiv] Abbott, op. cit., p. 7

[xv] Duffy, op. cit., pp. 26/27

[xvi] Abbott., op. cit., p. 10.

[xvii] Abbott., ibid., pp. 10/11

[xviii] Quoted in Robin Gerster & Jan Bassett, Seizures of Youth: The Sixties and Australia, Hyland House, Publishing Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1991, p. 166.

[xix] Wikipedia entry on Richard Neville.

[xx] Jim Anderson in Drew Warne-Smith, ‘The Story of Oz’, Weekend Australian Magazine, 18 March 2006.

[xxi] It is probable that the quotation came from Gerard Henderson’s 2014 article in the Australian, ‘Pro-pederasty past deserves an ABC apology’. Henderson drew the quotation from Neville’s book Play Power, Cape, London, 1970. See Henderson references below.

[xxii] ‘Richard Neville, founder of Oz magazine, dies aged 74,’ The Australian, 5 September 2016.

[xxiii] The Australian, 5 September 2016.

[xxiv] Richard Neville Obituary, The Guardian, Australian Edition, 5 September 2016.

[xxv] ‘The Story of Oz’, The Australian, 5 September 2016.

[xxvi] Scruton, op. cit. Chapter 3, ‘Disdain in America: Galbraith and Dworkin’.

[xxvii] Scruton, ibid. p. 58

[xxviii] Scruton, ibid. p. 63.

[xxix] Scruton, ibid. p. 66

[xxx] Gerard Henderson, ‘ABC cannot deny the reprehensible actions of Richard Neville’, The Australian, 10 September 2016. This articled followed and developed the content of a previously article: ‘Pro-pederasty past deserves an ABC apology’, The Australian, 15 March, 2014.

[xxxi]Richard Neville. Play Power, Granada Publishing Ltd., London, 1971. Originally published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1970, p. 60.

[xxxii] Neville, ibid., p. 58.

[xxxiii] Neville, ibid., p. 60.

[xxxiv] Neville, ibid., p. 14.

[xxxv] Neville, ibid., p. 56.

[xxxvi] Neville, ibid., p. 207.

[xxxvii] Neville, Ibid., p. 209.

[xxxviii] Neville, ibid., pp. 212-214.

[xxxix] Neville, ibid., pp. 214-216.

[xl] Neville, ibid., p. 215.

[xli] Neville, ibid., p. 216.

[xlii] Neville, ibid., pp. 223-224.

[xliii] Barcan, ibid. p. 13.

[xliv] Christine Wallace, Greer Untamed Shrew, Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd., Sydney, 1997, p. 249

[xlv] Wallace, ibid., p. 176.

[xlvi] Barcan, op. cit., p. viii.

[xlvii] Barcan, ibid. p. 2.

[xlviii] To explain the fundamental ideas of Marxism, I have drawn on the writings of Roger Scruton, Robert L. Heilbroner, and Ludwig von Mises: Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, Bloomsbury, London, 2015; Robert L. Heilbroner, Marx: For and Against, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1979; and Ludwig von Mises, Marxism Unmasked: From Delusion to Destruction, Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY, 2006. All three are highly regarded experts.

[xlix] Barcan, ibid., p. 49.

[l] Barcan, ibid., p.25.

[li] Barcan, ibid., p. 31.

[lii] Hall Greenland website:

[liii] Hall Greenland blog:

[liv] Barcan, op. cit. p. 31.

[lv] Barcan, ibid. p. 33.

[lvi] Barcan, ibid. p. 71.

[lvii] Barcan, ibid. p. 45.

[lviii] Barcan, ibid., p. 46.

[lix] Barcan, ibid., p. 58.

[lx] Barcan, ibid., pp. 80/81

[lxi] Barcan, ibid. p. 67.

[lxii] Bob Gould, Desconstructing the 1960s and 1970s: An Open Letter to Keith and Liz Windshuttle, A Self-Published Pamphlet, 30 June 2000.

[lxiii] Bob Gould, ‘Hall Greenland Turns Sixty’, Ozleft, 5 November 2004.

[lxiv] All this is easily found in an internet search.

[lxv] Robin Gerster & Jan Bassett, Seizures of Youth: The Sixties and Australia, Hyland House, Publishing Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1991, p. 54.

[lxvi] Gerster & Bassett, ibid., p. 54.

[lxvii] Gerster & Bassett, ibid., p. 102.

[lxviii] Gerster & Basset, op. cit., p. 183.

[lxix] Gerster & Bassett, ibid., pp. 185/186.

[lxx] Gerster & Bassett,ibid., p. 187.

[lxxi] Gerster & Bassett, p. cit., p. 189.

End sample chapters (3)

Return to non-fiction page

Issues of manliness