June 2013

Arts & Letters

‘The Lucky Culture’ by Nick Cater

By Mark Latham
HarperCollins; $29.99

For as long as I can remember in Australian politics, right-wing commentators have been complaining about the rise of a new class of left-wing intellectuals. This cohort has carried many labels over the years, such as chardonnay socialists and the cafe latte set. Now Nick Cater, in his book The Lucky Culture and the Rise of an Australian Ruling Class, has devised three further descriptors: cosmopolitan sophisticates, the graduate class and bunyip alumni.

In a 361-page work, one would have expected these people to be identified and dissected – outed for their unsavoury contribution to left-wing aloofism. There is, after all, little point in throwing around labels unless they can be supported by detailed research, giving examples of the offending elites and the things they have been elitist about.

I had great expectations for the intellectual firepower mustered in The Lucky Culture. In the book’s acknowledgements, it is clear Cater has collaborated closely with the best and brightest of Australian conservatism, most notably his News Ltd colleagues Paul Kelly, Christopher Pearson, Henry Ergas and Rebecca Weisser, plus fellow travellers Peter Coleman and Gerard Henderson. This was to be their magnum opus.

But the results are feeble. I have read the book thoroughly and compiled a list of the “lefties” supposedly in control of Australia. They are, in order of appearance: John Faulkner, Deborah Cameron, Peter Garrett, David Marr, Kevin Rudd, Barry Humphries, Liz Jackson, Catherine Manning, Fran Kelly, Marieke Hardy, Bernard Keane, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Christine Milne, Kerry O’Brien and Denise Bradley.

For a class grouping, this one lacks cohesion, given the time and intensity with which its members squabble among themselves. Its influence is highly fragmented and easily diluted. For the ABC presenters named, a democratic discipline applies. If the public does not like what is being said, they can switch to another channel.

Most of the other names on Cater’s list are left-of-centre politicians who have struggled to control their own parties, let alone the nation. None has exercised power with the same consistency as right-wing icons such as the Murdoch and Packer families and John Howard. For most Australians, these so-called elites are relatively obscure, with only Gillard, Rudd and Swan qualifying as “household names”. If this is a new ruling class, someone needs to tell the people they are ruling.

Cater makes his case by assertion, not evidence. Most of his arguments are imported from neo-con journals in the US and applied crudely to Australian circumstances. Thus his book becomes an exercise in right-wing political correctness, positioning activists like Gina Rinehart as above criticism because, in Cater’s world view, “wealth carries virtue”.

Mark Latham
Mark Latham is an author and former leader of the ALP. His books include The Latham Diaries, Civilising Global Capital and From the Suburbs.

June 2013

From the front page

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller

The prevention state: Part four

In the face of widespread criticism of strip-searches, NSW Police offers a candid defence of preventative policing: You are meant to fear us.

Image of Scott Morrison

A national disaster

On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

Image of Scott Morrison

A Pentecostal PM and climate change

Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis?

Police NSW festival

The prevention state: Part three

As authorities try to prevent crimes that haven’t happened, legislation is increasingly targeting people for whom it was not intended.


In This Issue

Man united

Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party

© David Moore / AAP

The cost of coal

The great Australian export is causing global damage

Dealing with online drug shopping

Travels on the internet’s Silk Road

Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, December 2012 © Luke MacGregor / Reuters

Senator Assange?

How the WikiLeaks founder’s Senate bid would change Australian politics


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Photo of Liam Gallagher

Don’t look back in anger: Liam and Noel Gallagher

As interest in Oasis resurges, talking to the combative brothers recalls their glory years as ‘dirty chancers, stealing riffs instead of Ford Fiestas’

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle

Cover of Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ [detail]

Agents of chaos: Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’

The Russian expat journalist wonders if democracy can survive the internet, as social media is used to promote feelings over facts


More in Noted

Utagawa Yoshimori, The Tongue-cut Sparrow [detail]

‘Japan supernatural’

The Art Gallery of NSW’s examination of Japan’s centuries-long artistic traditions depicting the spirit world and the macabre

Cover of ‘The Topeka School’

‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner

The American author’s latest novel canvasses the seething hate speech of the burgeoning alt-right and white-boy rap battles in the Midwest

Image of ‘Wild River, Florida’

‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique

Cover of ‘The Testaments’

‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”


Read on

Image of Scott Morrison

A Pentecostal PM and climate change

Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis?

Image of Scott Morrison

A national disaster

On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

Image from ‘The Truth’

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘The Truth’

The Palme D’Or winner on working with the iconic Catherine Deneuve in his first film set outside Japan

Image from ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

Four seasons in 11 days: ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

Céline Sciamma’s impeccable study of desire and freedom is a slow burn


×
×