No Big Deal

Ed Husic becomes Australia's first Muslim frontbencher as he is sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce

Ed Husic becomes Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher as he is sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce

Much has been made over the last day or so about the fact that the Member for Chifley, Ed Husic, was today sworn in as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband. Husic, 43, born and raised in Blacktown in Western Sydney, of Bosnian immigrant parents, becomes the first Islamic federal frontbencher in Australia’s history.

Most people wouldn’t have raised much of a fuss. but it’s this picture, of the copy of the Koran used by Husic in his swearing-in ceremony, that appears to have set off the alarm bells for many people.

Ed Husic holding KoranLook: I don’t care too much for Husic’s politics. But Australia is a formally secular nation. We’ve had two Jewish Governors-General (Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Zelman Cowan); we currently have two Jews in the federal House of Representatives and have had many Jews in state politics; all of them took their oath (presumably) on the Torah. They would have looked pretty hypocritical swearing an oath on the Bible!

Over in Britain, there are already Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Catholic Members of both the Commons and the House of Lords, so from a viewpoint of the Westminster system of government, the precedent is well and truly set. The Queen is the head of state. As it happens, Britain is not entirely a secular nation, having an established Church (of which the Queen is the titular head) with representation in parliament. Australia is a secular nation. We have no established Church. So if it’s good enough for Britain, why isn’t it good enough for Australia?

What’s the big deal here? Husic describes himself as a moderate, non-observant Muslim. There is absolutely no reason to doubt this, and all accounts I have heard of him confirm it. There really is no reason to suspect that he’s some kind of sleeper agent for jihadism or seeking to impose Sharia law on Australia. None whatsoever.

For that matter, I’d welcome a devout Muslim or two into the parliament, if it gave them a platform to denounce terrorism as magnificently as did this British imam recently:

Husic, along with the entire doomed government he serves, will be gone soon enough in any case; his appointment, brief as it is going to be, is little more than a storm in a teacup. Though no doubt many will disagree.

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21 Responses to No Big Deal

  1. Swanky says:

    I’d prefer a copy of Philip Larkin’s collected poems, or — if I had the learning — the works of Al-Farabi, Averroes, Avicenna, Ibn Tufayl, or the recently late Muhsin Mahdi. Much more rewarding and good for the soul, I should think.

  2. izen says:

    Its the zero sum assumption.

    When the white patriarchal christians see others gaining some of the power and authority in society they assume that the gain by others is at their expense.
    So anybody in power who fails to share the dominant culture is seen as a threat to that culture because of this zero sum assumption.

    Of course those outside the mainstream power elite can be subject to the same delusion. That they can only gain power at the expense of the WASPs who hold most of it.
    As if it was a fixed material commodity rather than a virtual, imaginary shared meme.
    LiKe money.

    Not your best analogy, Izen!

    No-one (that I’ve ever read, anyway) believes the stock of money is fixed. Gold can be mined, after all. And in any case, money is representative of wealth, and wealth can be created. The total amount of wealth in society should always tend to increase, notwithstanding natural disasters and war.

    Those who embrace the cornucopian theory of money (that it can simply be created without a corresponding increase in the amount of wealth it represents) are on a collision course with the brick wall of simple arithmetic. How many historical examples of this do we need?

    State power over the individual is also, unfortunately, a stock that in social democracies always trends upwards. It will continue to asymptotically approach the physical limit (described in Orwell’s 1984). Followed, if Tytler (or de Tocqueville) is to be believed, by an absolute but beneficient monarchy.

    But state power cannot be arbitrarily increased, save by creating new laws. And in this aspect, it does resemble a zero-sum game. Small wonder, then, that even those who are not (initially, at least) totalitarian-minded are keen to get a slice of it – if only to regain some measure of power over themselves – Oz

  3. Ozboy says:

    Listen here to Andrew Bolt’s take on this issue last night (pretty much the same as mine, only better expressed). Insightful comments on trolls as well, from the proprietor of Australia’s first political blog.

  4. Luton Ian says:

    Politics is a zero sum game – it doesn’t produce – it just takes, or at best takes from one to give to another.

  5. izen says:

    The idea that politics is a zero sum system is refuted by history.

    Political systems arose when agrarian tribal societies developed central planning of intensive agriculture, usually based on large scale communal irrigation schemes.

    That certainly involved taking from some {the farmers who now had surplus food} to give to others, such as the slaves digging the irrigation canals and the Kings, Priests and Scribes who managed the whole thing.
    The King got more than the slaves of course.

    The political systems that emerged from city states also enabled trade with neighbours rather than tribal warfare. As Adam Smith observed capitalist enterprise requires legal regulation of private property and contracts. As well as market regulation to prevent cartel and monopolies developing and taking from the many for the benefit of the few.
    In fact because capitalism is inherently redistributive from the many to the few one key role of government is to offset that transfer by redistribution from the few to the many to maintain social stability.

    OK, I think I’ve stopped laughing now.

    Given that neither you, nor anyone in your family, invented and/or discovered the steam engine, electricity, radio, steel-making, transistors or a thousand other things, you have capitalism to thank for the fact that your standard of living is not stuck somewhere in the feudal age. Or for that matter, that you’re able to denounce capitalism on this forum.

    “capitalism is inherently redistributive from the many to the few”??? Yeah, right – Oz

  6. Luton Ian says:

    productive individuals are well able to cooperate and in their peaceful exchanges – each
    subjectivly gains in satisfaction, or expects to.

    In politics, the exchange is coerced
    that coercion is needed implies that one feels they are loosing

    had each expected to gain, then they would have traded volountarily.

    the social stability of politics is that of threatening and intimidating those from which produce is taken, sufficiently for them to actively resist the theft.

    even huge scale projects can take place without coercion, for example: the El Paso Natural Gas Company constructed a network of distribution pipelines all over the united state – without using eminent domain (compulsory purchase). they selected two or three possible routes for the line, publicized them and promised to deal with the people along the route who came to them with the best deal.

    coming back to the moslem guy

    arguably a belief in politics gives its followers a greater sense of entitlement than the moslem’s book does

    both suggest that it is ok ( or even desirable) to coerce others and aggressively take their property and freedom, both have endless victimless activities which they seek to punish with violence. the creed of politics more so.

  7. Kitler says:

    Your doomed it just takes a few of them and they breed worse than rabbits, say goodbye to OZ in 20 years.
    New post…..

  8. Kitler says:

    If Oz is so secular why are people swearing on holy books?

    Because we have freedom of worship. No doubt you would use the sacred texts of Cthulhu – Oz

  9. myrightpenguin says:

    What do atheists use by the way Oz?

    They can give an “affirmation” instead of an oath. No holy book is necessary; though I do not understand clearly what an affirmation actually means, or what force backs it.

    I understand this is also the case in the USA; affirmations are often used in place of oaths in courts, to swear in witnesses and so forth. Have you not heard of them? Oz

  10. Ozboy says:

    On that subject, happy Fourth of July to all LibertyGibbert’s American readers.

  11. myrightpenguin says:

    Thanks Oz, it really is so alien to me seeing anything other than the bible being used that it was never given any thought (or curiosity) previously. Happy Fourth all!

  12. Luton Ian says:

    Affirmations aren’t just for athiests.

    Quakers, and some others follow the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and point out that swearing an oath cannot make the truth any more true.

    Prior to the acceptance of affirmation, it was the standard way to stitch a quaker up – demand that they swore either an oath of allegiance (early quakers -unlike todays all too common hive dwelling collectivist sort, accepted only G-d’s authority – and so would refuse on both grounds)

    or to swear an oath of truth in court – which they’d refuse and promptly be imprisoned for contempt.

    Early quakers expected to spend a significant part of their lives in prison.

    I’m just trying to work out if any of the Quakers whom I know are freemasons. the refusal to swear oaths would be a major problem. I know several Sikhs, Jews, Moslems, a couple of Bhudists who as masons and at least one Hindu freemason.

    most freemasons will not accept athiests into their fraternity, as, lacking a belief in any form of divine judgement, it is assumed that their word cannot be relied upon – The French free masons were infiltrated by the illuminati (they do exist) and their acceptance of athiests is one of several reasons why most masonic grand lodges refuse to recognize those under the French grand lodge as masons

  13. Kitler says:

    Luton Ian it has been my observation that those people whom have found a deity in their lives are generally those that can be trusted least as the most despicable behaviour is carried out then they hide behind said deity as an excuse for anything they do.
    Most atheists tend to be more moral people oddly enough.

  14. Luton Ian says:

    The rejection of athiests is the masonic hieracrchy’s institutional view, not mine. I tend to be agnostic about my agnosticism,

    We have indeed got the various religious moralizing busybodies in the likes of the progressive and fabien movements, to thank for the current boot stamping on our faces – and for the (now hopefully subsiding) fashion of skinning little boy’s willies

    ‘cos we all know that little boys playing with themselves is what’s stopping baby jesus coming back and rewarding the busybodies for their behaviour.

    There is something quasi religious about a belief in politics…

    As I suggested back here, the fundamental problem of societies ditching religion, isn’t so much that they end up believing in nothing; rather, they end up believing anything – Oz

  15. izen says:

    @- OK, I think I’ve stopped laughing now.
    “capitalism is inherently redistributive from the many to the few”??? Yeah, right – Oz

    So having recovered from your hilarity can you, or anyone else give a real world example of capitalism NOT being redistributive and operating without a government which offsets that inherent tendency by imposing a complimentary redistribution?

    It is all very well having an economically based purist theology, i do recognise the attractions of such utopian ideology, but empirical evidence is that such utopianism just results in authoritarian monocultures. Whether religiously inspired or ideologically driven. Historical examples abound.

    It seems to take just under half of the GDP for any society to run a system that a sane person would be willing to live in. How that ~40% is transferred from the general population and redistributed by whatever system of governance is in place can vary widely, but progressive income tax on a regulated capitalist system seems to be the most stable, and most effective at nuturing cultural diversity.

    Coercion is an inevitable aspect of any human society. I suppose it is possible to argue that it is at a minimum in hunter/gatherer tribal systems, but then the choices open to members of such societies are also limited. Literature, science and philosophical diversity are not options for hunter/gatherers, or even the early pastoralists. They only appear with city society, intensive agriculture and slave labour.
    The machine age has displaced slavery, and that could be taken as an example of how the increasing complexity and progress in large modern societies has reduced the degree and span of coercion required for an advanced society to function.

    Utopian monocultures based on shared religious belief, or an economic philosophy can function but historically have degenerated into authoritarian hegemonies that collapse when faced with outside diversity. One classic example of that would be the pyramid people of the Lambayeque valley, it did not even need the Europeans to even get to their region for the very existence of another cultural system to destabilise them.
    The economic monocultural experiment of the USSR is another example.
    I know of no society based on the pure theology of free market capitalism that worked any better. Certainly the attempt at minimum regulation and open markets in Russia after the fall of communism was rather more short-lived than the ideological experiment that preceded it.

    Certainly the attempt at minimum regulation and open markets in Russia after the fall of communism was rather more short-lived than the ideological experiment that preceded it.

    Perhaps you might wish to take that up with M. Gérard Depardieu. In any case, holding up the relative longevity of perhaps the bloodiest and most barbarous dictatorship in history, as evidence of its superiority to free-market capitalism, is skating on rather thin ice, I’d suggest.

    As it turned out, not only was the Soviet Union outspent in an arms race, by a capitalist economy against which they could ultimately not compete, but the inherent inefficiencies of its command economy ultimately led to its downfall.

    You mentioned earlier that “coercion is an inevitable aspect of any human society”. Pretty close to the truth. Change it to “coercion is an inevitable aspect of human nature“, and you’re there. That’s why we should strive for a society where the conditions necessary for coercion – primarily, the ever-lengthening tentacles of the state – are removed, the state reduced to its minimal functions as I’ve outlined many times here. Though Luton Ian would doubtless go further still – Oz

  16. izen says:

    @- “Change it to “coercion is an inevitable aspect of human nature“, and you’re there. ”

    Human nature is inherently social. The ‘atomic’ individual is neither human or natural, normal human cognative development requires embedding in a social/cultural structure.

    @- “That’s why we should strive for a society where the conditions necessary for coercion – primarily, the ever-lengthening tentacles of the state – are removed, the state reduced to its minimal functions as I’ve outlined many times here.”

    And I would agree with that. It is what those minimal functions entail where I suspect disagreement could arise.
    The development of fossil fuel power first with steam then with internal combustion engines probably did more to remove coercion by making slavery obsolete than any ideological or political development.

    One myopic region of Libertarian theory seems to be the omission of the coercive and cultural limitations imposed by private enterprise. That operates both on the workers within those industries and the consumers of the products and services they produce. Often the ‘ever-lengthening tentacles’ you mention are the result of regulatory capture by big business of the state which is used to impose constrains on individuals to benefit the enterprise.

    A clarification, I do not mention the USSR as an example to be admired, but as an example of how utopian theory fails in the face of practical application and the comparison was with the SUCCEEDING, not preceding free {market?} for all that followed its collapse. Western regulated capitalism is certainly superior, and the best we have so far. Replacing that with an ideologically based utopianism or theological monoculture is not a recipe for increasing freedom or liberty from the inherent cultural or economic restraints of human social systems.
    At least I know of no practical examples that validate the theories that such theorist or spiritual purists.

    Agree completely about regulatory capture; you may recall I argued back here that with the monopoly sanction of limited liability, many large corporations have come to resemble the state that spawned them – and as such, are equally antithetical to the principles of Liberty. So I disagree that Libertarians (well, all of them anyway) have a blind spot in this area.

    I accept your clarification re admiration of the USSR; yet that remains the end-point of the slippery slope that state collectivism represents. I’d throw the argument back at you, that as it was the Bolsheviks who were the utopians, not Libertarians, a free-market solution hardly qualifies as such; Libertarians, at least (in fact capitalists more generally), understand the imperfections of human nature and account for them. And anyway, if striving for a utopia means improving the structure of society where generally agreed to, how can “utopian” be used as a slur? Oz

  17. Swanky says:

    Oz and Penguin: Thanks for the ‘Happy Fourth of July’! Ours was extremely rainy and very cool for the time of year — it’s all that Global Warming — talk about damp squibs. But a few in the mountains set their personal fireworks off. It was pretty deafening. They are very restrained in the mountains, though: just a few fireworks on the evening of the 4th, to mark the occasion. It’s not a week-long extravaganza to terrorize all life-forms other than vulgarians. One year there were no fireworks at all: not on the 4th. It was the Sabbath. We danced on our deck to Disco Inferno, quite irreligiously.

  18. izen says:

    I may be using ‘utopian’ as a euphemism for religiously dogmatic.
    While there are certainly radical differences between communism and libertarianism I would point out one similarity.
    Both claim a more ethical and morally just society will emerge from the ineluctable force of economic determinism.

    To make a strained attempt to drag this diversion back on topic from the overgrown fields of political philosophy, however much fun they are to play in, oath taking is based in utopian beliefs. Religious oaths are validated by a belief system in the inherent perfectibility of humans by following religious rules of behaviour. Including telling the truth.
    Evolutionary psychology {of which I am deeply suiscious} would claim that all paths are realyy a declaration that:-

    “i promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because to do otherwise would diminish or destroy my standing in society as a reliable individual who it is possible to engage with in cooperative interaction for mutual benefit.”

    It goes back to the previous post on libel and reputation. Our standing as a moral agent with integrity is not our property, it resides as neurochemical dynamic processes in the brains of our social circle, but we have an influence on that reputation by our known behaviour and speech.
    Taking an oath on the bible in a nominally christian society is also a shortcut means of showing you subscribe to the local ‘tribal’ belief system and can therefore be {provisionally} treated trustworthy. But the underlying concept of public oaths based on religious authority is to signify a shared faith in the utopian fantasy of religion.
    That belief in an entity even MORE coercive than any state, no government I have heard of threatens ETERNAL torture, will ensure conformity to a set of rules that will perfect humans and the societies they live in.

  19. meltemian says:

    Hi Oz,
    Somewhat OT but this post from our old friend MemoryVault at JoNova’s makes interesting reading.

    July 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm · Reply

    It is impossible to predict what KRudd will do at the moment, because right now he doesn’t know himself. You can bet your last dollar that phone polling started in marginal seats as soon as the six o’clock news was over last night (Friday), and will continue until tomorrow night (Sunday). The results of that polling will decide what happens next.

    In just three weeks since he was re-instated as PM, KRudd has back-footed the Coalition on every single issue they could possibly have thrown at him in an election. All the Gillard lies and broken promises, the AWU – Wilson scandal, Slipper, the Craig Thomson affair, and more, all ancient history and nothing to do with Krudd, including Swan’s deficits.

    The Carbon Tax is “gone” and electricity prices will go down, the unions are going to be cleaned up, the “Faceless Men” have been stripped of their power, and unions, business and the government are going to enter into another Hawke style “accord” to improve productivity and stimulate manufacturing.

    And now the “piece de resistance”: the boats have been stopped. Dead in their tracks. Virtually overnight. Without risking antagonising Indonesia.

    Yes, before you all start in on me, I know full well it is all utter BS. But to the average mug punter who gets his “facts” from the SMH and the six o’clock news, that’s how it is. And the laughingly mis-named “opposition” have no one to blame but themselves.

    KRudd will be in Sydney right now, and his team will be furiously phone-polling. This time tomorrow night, KRudd will make a decision, based on that phone polling.

    If he thinks the PNG refugee “solution” has given him the edge in the polls, Monday morning he will phone Admiralty House and make an appointment with the GG for that evening. Then he will attend the ALP General Conference (which “just happens” to be on, on that day, in Sydney), armed with his poll results. He will point out he can win the election for them, or he can delay until November 30, and spend the time ensuring the ALP never wins another election in their lifetimes. He will demand his ALP reforms, stripping the unions of power, are passed without amendment. He will probably get it.

    He will go directly from the Conference to Admiralty House and request the GG dissolve Parliament, and issue writs for an August 24 election (Monday is the last day this can be done for that date). A well-oiled election campaign that has already been designed and set in place, will be fully underway by Wednesday.

    On the following Sunday (July 28) he will appear as a guest on Andrew Bolt and will give a vintage KRudd performance (already booked and announced – another amazing coincidence). Around the end of the first week of August, the Coalition will finally wake to the fact that they are in the middle of an election that they are probably going to lose.

    Or the weekend polling will not offer the results KRudd wants. In that case, he will span it out to November, and play it as the cards fall. KRudd is a sociopath torn between two overwhelming and almost mutually exclusive desires – to be re-elected as PM, and to destroy the party machine that knifed him the first place.

    The first scenario outlined above, allows him to do both. Otherwise, it’s an either/or situation that he gets to decide upon, further down the track, as suits him.

    Despise the guy all you like, he deserves it. But credit where credit is due – he has run rings around Abbott and the Coalition, he has split the Labor Caucus to his own advantage, he has the ALP and the Union movement by the short and curlies, and he has the media eating out of his hand

    G’day Mel,

    Always good to see MV out and about. I will have more (much more) to say about Rudd and the election, as soon as I get through a work bottleneck this week.

    MV is both right and wrong. He’s spot on in his analysis of Rudd’s character. He’s an unhinged sociopath, with a gift for charming the masses, and a telegenic façade of a persona. Like something out of a novel. He’s also right about the phone polling, which my wife copped while I was away last week (our seat of Lyons is now regarded as marginal).

    But MV has fallen into the same trap as a lot of political commentators (and me, in my last thread) of thinking of the coming election only in terms of talking heads, leadership scuffles and opinion polls (though he does get to the meat of it in other posts further down the page). This, as Izen has pointed out several times here, is the “froth and bubble” of politics, and of little historical consequence beyond the 24 hour news cycle.

    The fact is, most Australians who actually vote are concerned about bread-and-butter issues that impact on their everyday life. They know perfectly well that the government borrowing a nine-figure sum from overseas every single day ends up in higher mortgage repayments for themselves every month. They also are aware of (despite the media’s cowardice in covering it up) the frightening increase in violent crime in our largest cities, as a direct result of Labor’s failed border protection policies. They can see the impact of the Carbon Tax in every bill they pay – and not just electricity bills. No amount of Rudd smiling on camera, batting away Dorothy Dix questions from a fawning media, can cover up those basic facts.

    This is even before the public consider the ticking time-bombs Rudd has created since his re-elevation, none of which can be debated in Parliament, and all conveniently set to go off some time well after the election. The Carbon Tax is the big one – moving early from a fixed price of $23 per tonne to a floating price pegged to Europe’s. Electorally popular on the surface (the European price is currently $6), but potentially disastrous in the medium-term, as our Treasury’s own modelling suggests it will reach $38 if the European economy recovers as predicted.

    Then there is the PNG agreement on asylum seekers – a ridiculous, policy-on-the-run thought bubble that could have only have been cooked up by someone that has never had to actually live there, or consulted with someone who has. In fact, I may make that the subject of my next article. Given that it was Rudd himself that caused the problem in the first place, his “solution” is an act of unbridled chutzpah. Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone wrote this morning:

    So, for the guy who was PM of the government that trashed our border controls to now be talking about fixing the problem is extraordinary. He shows no embarrassment at all. Not a scintilla of pink enters his endlessly cheery face.

    He seems to me to be like the guy that pours petrol through your house, strikes a match at the back door, takes a quick walk around the block and then shows up on your front lawn manning the fire hose and assuring bystanders that he has the fire under control. If you watched it in a psycho thriller movie it would be unsettlingly spooky. There is something very sinister about the pyromaniac turned fireman.

    Exactly. I think that sometime before the election, Australians will remember just why it was that they turned on Rudd three years ago, just before the Gillard coup. That’s why, to answer MV’s other point, I believe Rudd will go to the Governor-General sooner rather than later. Unless he’s even more egomaniacal than I believe (not impossible), he must realise the electorate will see through his conjuring tricks, and so must get them to the polls before that occurs – Oz

    UPDATE: Even Fairfax Media seems to think so, or they wouldn’t have allowed through this piece by one of their token conservative writers.

  20. izen says:

    I don’t bother to follow the interstices of Australian politics, but the blogs I do see have been poking fun at Abbot{?} for his comment about the ETS being for an ‘invisible’ material. As though its invisibility somehow makes it a less real material in need of regulation.

    I do get the impression that this is another election in which there is a strong vote against the incumbents, but not any great enthusiasm for the opposition. In those circumstances independents can do well and a coalition or hung result can be the outcome.
    Is this possible in the coming plebiscite?

    No. Australians have had a rather bitter recent history with independents, as I’ve detailed here at great length. Having controlled the balance of power in the parliament these last three years, their moment in the sun is about to end; with the exception of Katter (rusted on in his outback electorate), and possibly Wilkie (depending on where the Liberals direct their presence), they were unlikely to be returned at the election, which is why they announced they were retiring ahead of time.

    That the Australian-related blogs you tend to read outside this one, are blogs whose political analysis consists of mocking Abbott (as opposed to, say, explaining why his policies will not work) does not surprise me greatly – Oz

  21. Ozboy says:

    And congratulations to all LibertyGibbert’s British readers on the arrival of the new royal baby. Heir to the heir to the heir. Though it’s unlikely he will ever become King of Australia.

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