The Good Offices of Mr. John Stone
Australia is unfortunate in lacking a class of public-minded individuals of real ability who pursue the general good for high motives, and who are not actuated by ambition or financial gain. In general our commentators and analysts make a poor showing. Often they are mere mirrors of political correctness; often they proceed for the purpose of self-advancement; and almost always they are of mediocre intellectual attainments.
An exception to this depressing miscellany is Mr. John Stone, former Rhodes Scholar, former Secretary of the Treasury, former Senator and now an influential commentator on public affairs. The salient aspects of his commentaries are, first, his complete integrity and absence of self-advancement, and secondly, his exceptional intellectual powers of analysis and clarity of expression.
Some recent examples from Mr. Stone's commentaries are apposite.
Recently in The Australian Mr. Stone discussed a campaign to have Mr. John Howard replaced as Prime Minister by his deputy, Mr. Peter Costello.
Mr. Stone noted first that there are people among the Coalition's parliamentary ranks who are now, as always, ambitious for some place in the sun and who see little prospect of attaining that place unless Mr. Costello becomes Prime Minister. Mr. Stone pointed out that these people would care little about any damage that a Costello prime ministership would do to Australia's future.
Mr. Stone has noted that the second reason for the pro-Costello campaign is the extreme animus that so many of our journalists - particularly in the Parliamentary Press Committee in Canberra - harbour for Mr. Howard: "Patriotism, multicultural ideology, belief in the view that the Parliament (not the media) runs the country, support for our United States allies (the list goes on) - all these are issues on which Mr. Howard stubbornly refuses to bow his head to his media mentors."
Mr. Stone has noted of Mr. Costello that when Peter Reith was confronting the Maritime Union in 1998, Mr. Costello was nowhere to be seen. At one stage a declared constitutional monarchist, Mr. Costello subsequently "found it politic to become some kind of republican". And during the heyday of propaganda about the "stolen generations" Mr. Costello "felt it similarly politic to ‘march’ in Melbourne in support of that most meaningless of slogans, ‘reconciliation’":
"In short, on every cultural issue of the day during recent years, his views have been much more in keeping with the soft left than with the culturally conservative body of electors that, just more than a year ago, gave Mr. Howard his electoral triumph."
Further, Mr. Stone has rebutted Mr. Costello's claim to be a "great Treasurer", indicating that almost all of his budgets have been mediocre and that he, like Mr. William McMahon some decades ago, "happened to have the good fortune to preside over a period when, for reasons that had little to do with his performance as Treasurer, the Australian economy performed quite splendidly".
Mr. Stone has noted that under the Costello "leadership" we have the highest taxing government in the history of the Commonwealth - and one that, to make matters even worse, pretends that this is not so by "fudging" the budget figures so as to exclude from both sides of the accounts the revenue that the Commonwealth raises from the G.S.T.
Mr. Stone has commented frequently on the various campaigns that have been in favour of Aboriginals, often with much dishonesty. In The Adelaide Review he recently referred to the High Court decision in the Yorta Yorta case, where the relevant Aboriginal groups had more than a century beforehand moved away from the land in question and ceased to observe laws and customs in relation to it. The High Court correctly dismissed the Aboriginal plaintiff's appeals, and upheld the majority in the Federal Court (the dissentient having been Chief Justice Michael Black, more known for his strong left-liberal bias than for any judicial eminence).
Mr. Stone recalled that the Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Mr. Geoff Clark, accused the High Court Justices who had upheld the Federal Court decision as guilty of "genocide" and "terrorism" and had added that he "would not blame Aboriginal people if they began occupying traditional lands [following the] sorriest day in this country's history".
Most commentators in Australia ignored Clark's mischievous comments, being mindful that under political correctness Aboriginals cannot be criticised, however disgraceful their behaviour. But Mr. Stone fortunately commented that "the Geoff Clarks and other such toilers in the vineyard continue to enjoy their taxpayer-funded activities - attending their trumped-up ‘conferences’, collecting their (tax-free) per diem travelling allowances, presiding over the affairs of perhaps the most dysfunctional statutory authority in Australia (A.T.S.I.C.)".
In this and other such matters Australia owes Mr. Stone a large debt, for his preparedness to comment impartially and with integrity on important matters that touch Australia.
It should not be forgotten that Mr. Stone has also been responsible for the setting up and continuance of the Samuel Griffith Society, which holds annual conferences with eminent speakers and publishes the annual proceedings. The Samuel Griffith Society has as its over-riding objective the maintenance of the Australian Constitution. It has considered at length such matters as the Mabo case, in which a High Court which then included activists such as Justices Brennan, Deane and Gaudron, abused their positions so as to legislate judicially in favour of previously non-existent "native title", doing so indeed in a case which concerned only the Torres Strait Islands and not the Australian mainland.
We may hope that Mr. John Stone will continue for many years with the Samuel Griffith Society and with his important public commentaries. It is a matter for much gratitude that he has been prepared to make his time available for these purposes.
A valuable range of papers presented at the Society's Conferences may be accessed at 17 Fitzsimmons Avenue, Lane Cove 2066 (telephone 02 9428 1311) or at www.samuelgriffith.org.au.
National Observer No. 56 - Autumn 2003