The Changing Paradigm: Freedom, Jobs, Prosperity
Reflections on the Outworkers
It's not completely new for our moral guardians to decide that
some jobs are too sinful for a good Australian worker to endure.
Once, for instance, our churches worked among prostitutes,
trying to entice them into and prepare them for more honourable
callings. For marriage, even.
Now, of course, it is no real sin to be a prostitute. Indeed,
we now have more prostitutes than ever before, and some go on
to be elected as mayors or as State politicians by voters fully
aware of their past.
Moreover, the mainstream churches no longer actively try to
rescue women from what more enlightened churchmen would today
hesitate to demonise as a sordid, disgraceful or sinful line of
Instead, we now see these churches trying instead to rescue
women from what is evidently far more degrading and evil work---from
Yes, the churches---the Uniting Church in particular, and some
Catholic groups---have joined or supported Fairwear, the union-dominated
activist group which has pledged itself to wipe out the so-called
"sweat-shops'', the garages and homes in which outworkers
sew up clothes at piece rates.
It is a campaign that unashamedly aims to put people out of
work. In Victoria alone, the Trades Hall Council has estimated
that "only" 1,900 jobs would have been destroyed by
the State Government's plans last year to "save" outworkers
from wicked exploitation.
Far better, it seems, that these men and---mainly---women be
on the dole than be free to choose to be outworkers. Far better
that they be shown the light and saved from sinning.
Which goes to help prove the truth of Karl Popper's axiom,
stated in The Open Society and Its Enemies: "Even
our great troubles spring from something that is as admirable
and sound as it is dangerous---from our impatience to better the
lot of our fellows.''
But the churches' involvement in Fairwear---a far-Left organisation
that helped to organise, for instance, the May 1 demonstration
in Melbourne last year which saw Trotskyists and anarchists close
down the stock exchange in a protest against capitalism---is just
one incidental manifestation of a religious change that now threatens
thousands of Australian jobs, particularly those of low-skilled
and rural workers.
And it is this change that I want to talk about tonight, this
religious change that has crept up on us, largely unnoticed and
unresisted, although it already endangers our freedoms, our jobs
and our prosperity.
But let me first reassure those of you who get antsy at the
mention of religion. I am not a Christian, so don't fret that
you're about to hear a sermon. What follows is based on observation,
not faith---except, of course, a faith in reason, and a faith
that our happiness and dignity are best realised when we are free
to shape our lives for ourselves, provided we don't get in the
way too much of others.
But that said, I have to acknowledge some of the gifts we've
received from our Christian culture. One is the hard-won belief
that rationality need not be incompatible with Christianity. Another
is that the Earth was given to Man to use, albeit use wisely.
Man, in the traditional Christian view of things, was the pinnacle
This has proved quite handy in making us rich. For instance,
we could build the Snowy River Hydro Electric Scheme without worrying
whether we were sinning against the earth by changing the flow
of a river, or were evil to deny fish their equal right to the
We could freely complain, as did the Commonwealth and State's
Snowy River Committee in 1950 in recommending the damming of the
river, that "little use is being made of the Snowy'', and
deplore how its water "flows to waste in the sea''.
Today, however, such a human-centric assessment of a river's
usefulness is widely held to be sinful.
In case you think I'm exaggerating, let me quote to you remarks
made in the NSW Parliament in May 2000, by John Della Bosca, the
minister who has had responsibility for the Snowy scheme.
In paying tribute to this great project which provided so much
work, so much pride, so much clean power and so much water for
irrigation, he said this vision "to turn an entire catchment
around in another direction'' was nevertheless something "which
people today would not necessarily pursue because we live in a
more environmentally conscious age''.
Indeed, the States of NSW and Victoria are now spending more
than $300 million to drain the Snowy scheme of some of its water
and once again let it "flow to waste in the sea'', so that
the allegedly "dying'' Snowy may be restored to life---a
truly pagan concept of a river, investing something inanimate
with life and, I'm sure, a spirit .
This is not water which the world's driest continent can easily
spare, and certainly not if the population boosters behind cardboard
billionaire Dick Pratt achieve their dream of at least doubling
the number of Australians over the next 50 years.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Australian Bureau
for Agriculture and Resource Economics warned that our rice crop
this year will be down 40 per cent, partly thanks to a cool summer,
but also because farmers had had their water allocations---much
of it from the Snowy scheme---cut.
Entire towns, like Coleambally, now face ruin as their access
to water is strangled by the new environmental puritans. These
are towns built by farmers who have made Australia the most efficient
producer of rice in the world.
These are towns built by farmers who in many cases have learned
to conquer their salinity problems, by farmers who have turned
once barren scrub into waving fields of green, a home to countless
fish, reptiles and flocks of birds, some once rare in these areas.
Towns built by farmers who are now judged to be doing sinful
work and who may have to leave the land, victims of our new pagan
worship of the earth. Or, at least, of an earth uncontaminated
by human touch.
Let me now spend some time in explaining that pagan worship,
before I give you other examples of the human sacrifices it demands.
We live today in a time of religious turmoil and uncertainty.
Most of us now feel we're condemned to shop in religious supermarkets,
choosing a little bit of that religion, a little bit of that faith,
and a bit of feng shui for the house.
Church leaders admit that faith in the Christian God is at
an all-time low, and, as GK Chesterton warned, when man stops
believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing---he'll believe
That's why a book like How to Turn Your Ex-Boyfriend into
a Toad and other Spells, by our own white witch, Deborah Gray,
can now sell a phenomenal 250,000 copies.
That's why women's magazines run pages of ads from clairvoyants,
and psychics who can put you in touch with your dead dog.
That's why the then Chief Minister of the ACT, Kate Carnell,
quit two years ago only after first consulting her clairvoyant.
And there's New Age, Reiki, Falun Gong, spiritualism and even
the new world-wide Raelian cult, which claims to be on the verge
of cloning humans as part of its plan to enable us to live forever,
just like the aliens who created us.
But the new religion that worries me most is paganism---or
more particularly Earth worship. It is more sinister, more threatening,
and more challenging to our wellbeing and---in fact---to rationality
In the Aboriginal community, for instance, we've seen the renewal
of interest in---and professed belief in---a largely reconstructed
Earth-worshipping spiritualism, one which denies rationality and
in almost every way prohibits its believers from participating
fully in capitalism, the one proven means of creating wealth and
But by no means is the new paganism confined to Aborigines.
The Christians among you may have received an invitation a
month ago to participate in what was advertised as "A Liturgy
in the Forest'' near Victoria's Trentham Falls.
Sponsored by the Uniting Church, the Anglicans, the Baptists
and the Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace,
as well as the usual gaggle of green groups, it invited worshippers
to a service by the banks of the Coliban River for "anyone
who is moved by the grandeur of God, working for environmental
justice or who likes to worship in the forest''.
The invitation I saw even included an invocation: "Thou
ancient forest, deep and strong, from silent form, bring forth
Herbal teas were advertised for sale, and all proceeds were
pledged to environmental projects---in other words, to the Earth,
and not to the usual humans, such as poor people, starving people
and sick people.
This is not the only example I could cite to demonstrate how
the more "progressive'' elements of mainstream Christian
churches are plunging headfirst into Earth worship, with singing
trees and all.
Moreover, fully-fledged paganism is now rampant among many
non-Christian environmentalists, the questing young, sociology
lecturers and the spiritually rootless.
I'm not talking here necessarily of a formal pagan religion,
with a unified set of beliefs. And, in fact, some people tell
me that what I take to be paganism is in fact just an exaggerated
awareness among many of us that there is no God, and that our
survival on this planet relies very much on very imperfect humans
who are quite able to stuff things up---permanently.
But let me point out just a few of the many examples I've come
across that have helped to convince me that this is indeed a religious
phenomenon---as in people imputing spiritual values to things
with no real rational basis; as in a belief in the supernatural;
as in the reordering of man's place in creation---in fact, his
demotion in it---on spiritual lines.
Of course, we're all familiar now with the sight of young environmentalists
protesting against logging and crying at the thought of trees,
living trees, being killed. Trees, which have no consciousness
and are nature's ultimate renewable resource.
But such reverence for nature is not just a youthful and inchoate
passion. Freya Mathews, philosophy lecturer at La Trobe University,
wrote in The Age newspaper of a seven-day trek she'd undertaken
along the muddy banks of the Merri Creek, which winds past derelict
factories and alongside barbed-wire fences.
I would have found this expedition hell, but Mathews instead
wrote how she'd "found temples, goddesses, medieval churches,
sacred birds, sanctuaries and holy waters".
More examples. Another Australian academic, Professor David
Tacey, recently published a book, Reenchantment: The New Australian
Spirituality, in which he insists this land "is spirit
country'' and calling on us to tune in so "the Earth itself
is experienced as celestial''.
The Sydney Writer's Festival two years ago invited Roger Deakin,
a former Friends of the Earth campaigner who has become a merman,
to be its guest. One of Deakin's messages to us was: "If
a man meets a water sprite, he must not kiss her because he will
surely die within a few weeks. Water is something to be respected
and revered, not possessed and ravished.''
Meanwhile thousands of Ecstasy-bombed young ravers flock to
techno parties in the bush to celebrate "Gaia"---the
pagan Earth Goddess, reborn through green guru James Lovelock
as the living, breathing, interconnected Earth.
It's no wonder that a co-founder and former head of Greenpeace
International, Patrick Moore, now warns that the environmental
movement is falling into the hands of Earth-worshipping extremists
who share too many hallmarks of the "religious Right''.
He adds: "In the name of speaking for the trees and other
species we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era
And he's right. How can you reason with someone who speaks
to trees, or for them, or hears them sing? Reason fails. So does
democracy. Only force is left, and we have seen only too clearly
how readily environmentalists now resort to force to get their
way. And, sadly, how tentative governments are in resisting that
Such violence is made to seem even more justifiable in the
eyes of the new pagans because their religious beliefs generally
demote humans several rungs on the ladder of creation. Humans
no longer rule the earth, but can be subservient to even a bat.
Or a mosquito.
If this, too, sounds a bit exaggerated, bear in mind that Paul
Watson, a co-founder of Greenpeace in America, famously called
humans the "AIDS of the Earth", and that Earth First!
co-founder Dave Foreman remarked that "the worst thing we
could do in Ethiopia is to give aid---the best thing would be
just to let nature seek its own balance, to let the people there
Such views, when expressed so frankly, no doubt would strike
the great majority of people as extreme.
But they rarely are. Although even our own Peter Singer, Australia's
most famous philosopher and the Godhead of Animal Liberation,
has warned that: "We who have an affinity with non-human
animals and nature ... are finding it increasingly difficult to
love our fellow man.''
Singer believes parents have the right to kill imperfect babies
in their first month of life, but wrote an angry letter to The
Age last year condemning the management of Melbourne's Royal
Botanic Gardens for being so evil as to kill the bats which were
destroying this great cultural treasure.
And how easily the rights of Nature are asserted now over the
rights of man.
Green groups and the German Government are campaigning for
a world-wide ban of DDT, despite clear evidence that withdrawal
of this effective mosquito-killer means that children die.
And Greenpeace last year vowed to destroy trial plantings of
Golden Rice as part of its campaign against genetically modified
food, even though this vitamin-A enriched rice---to be distributed
free to poor farmers---is intended to stop an estimated 50,000
children a month from going blind. That's despite the fact that
no credible health or environmental risks have been linked to
genetically modified crops.
But sometimes it's actually funny how hateful man and his works
can be to the new pagans.
In 1999, the Wilderness Society tried to raise funds by publishing
a calendar which showed nature at its most serene and holy. One
shot showed a lagoon in sacred Kakadu with an attractive jumble
of rocks behind.
Sadly for the Wilderness Society, the lagoon turned out to
be a tailings dam of the Ranger uranium mine. Instantly, the lagoon
which was beautiful became so ugly and contaminated by human hands
that the calendar had to be pulped.
These are the new values which threaten us. Reason is overturned.
Humans come second to Nature, and are vile. And some jobs suddenly
become sins against Creation.
Here are just some recent examples. Both the West Australian
and Victorian Governments in the past month have announced that
hundreds more forestry jobs must go to preserve forests which
in fact are in little danger of being wiped out and are easily
Environmentalists this month stepped up their attack on Basslink,
an undersea cable which promises to transfer relatively cheap
power between Tasmania and Victoria, but---grasping at straws
here---might conceivably scare some fish.
To examine the water needs of an increasingly thirsty Melbourne
over the next 20 years, the Victorian Government has chosen a
committee which includes no farmers or business representatives,
but does include a no-dams conservationist, the head of the feminist
Victorian Women's Trust and the head of the Victorian Council
of Social Service, who may not know much about water but apparently
knows people who drink it. Naturally, several of its members immediately
ruled out building more dams, because dams are evil, but all are
very keen instead on seeing whether Melburnians can be made to
drink the water used to flush their droppings down the toilet.
Then there's Pangea, which had hoped to build a $10 billion
nuclear waste facility in Australia, but was finally forced to
ditch its plans in January, after being treated like a leper by
State and federal governments too terrified by environmental groups
even to meet its representatives publicly.
The federal Labor Party went to the last election promising
to scrap plans to build a replacement nuclear reactor at Lucas
Heights for medical purposes, and also to ban the planned uranium
mine at Jabiluka, despite incontrovertible evidence that nuclear
power is the safest, cleanest and most greenhouse gas-friendly
source of baseload power.
The Tasmanian Government continues to oppose plantings of genetically
modified crops, despite overwhelming proof that they will benefit
the environment, help the hungry and create jobs.
And, of course, there's the Kyoto protocol---which Labor supports---looming
over us, threatening to destroy any energy-intensive industry
as a largely symbolic sacrifice to an Earth whose warming, if
any, has little or nothing to do with our impious human activity.
Think of all the industries and jobs now declared sinful by
the new pagans and their Earth-worshipping allies in the progressive
Christian churches. Think of all the workers who, like the outworkers,
must be hounded out of their jobs to please the new gods.
And worry as you wonder just how much human sacrifice it will
take to please the re-awoken Earth Mother, and which of her human
spokesmen you can trust to tell you when enough is enough.