real canada goose citadel parka tan

Abetz still in the woods, fighting a lost war
As Tasmania lags behind Australia, Eric Abetz is reigniting old battles.

It was a strange choice of words. In June last year, the Liberal senator from Tasmania, now minister for employment, Eric Abetz, addressed a conservative forum in Sydney. In his speech, Abetz quoted one of the most radically despairing philosophers of the 19th century. “It was Friedrich Nietzsche,” he told the faithful audience, “that said, ‘There are no such real canada goose citadel parka tan as facts, only interpretations.’”

Abetz made the unusual citation in a speech attacking the bias of the ABC – specifically, its new Fact Check exercise, formed to “determine the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate”.

Abetz followed the quote with his strong belief that “anyone who asserts a capacity to determine and divine the truth and facts in all matters should by definition be treated sceptically –
especially when real canada goose citadel parka tan impacts on our democratic processes”. Which, logically extended, would seem to not only serve as a rejection of ABC’s Fact Check, but the whole project of journalism itself – and much of politics.

Abetz’s epistemological riff, had it been shorn from his specific and petty gripe with Aunty, might have been a rich reflection on the individual, government and truth. Instead, it presented fascinating contradictions. The senator, born in Stuttgart in 1958, is a Christian Calvinist, and was citing the very moral relativism that the social conservatives of his party – who have ascended dramatically under Abbott’s prime ministership – consider repugnantly destructive.

For the Liberals’ social conservatives, the imagined tapestry of Australian society is always threatened by the absence of fixed meaning – the universality of God’s wisdom, the primacy of the “traditional” family, and inflexibly optimistic narratives of Australian history are the divine glue that binds us together. Determining our own meaning is anathema. Nietzsche’s relativism is precisely the sort of intellectual slovenliness that imperils us.

Abetz’s citation of Nietzsche was also interesting, for he was summoning one of history’s most fierce atheists. Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality” and argued that ethics sprung from a “will to power” – an affirming belief to the classical liberals but abhorrent to the dominant philosophy in Tony Abbott’s cabinet. To consider the speaker of the Nietzsche quote is to marvel at the chasm between the line and the moral certitude that defines Abetz and his colleagues.

On August 7 this year, unemployment figures showed a rise to 6.4 per cent, the highest in more than a decade. Abetz’s home state, which lags behind the mainland in most socioeconomic indicators, recorded 7.6 per cent. The minister for employment appeared on the televised panel program The Project that evening. Instead of reckoning with the figures, Abetz was on the show to defend the World Congress of Families, a fundamentalist Christian forum being held in Melbourne. During the interview, Abetz expressed faith in the discredited link between abortion and breast cancer. Abbott quickly censured him. Presumably, the minister for employment was merely evoking Nietzsche again – there’s no such real canada goose citadel parka tan as facts.

But unfortunately for Abetz, there are, and those facts augur poorly for the Apple Isle – the place where he has exercised enormous influence within the Liberal Party for some time. “He’s been the string-puller in Tasmania for years,” former Tasmanian Labor minister for the environment Andrew Lohrey told me. “Abetz plays a very big role in party policy. He’s pro-forestry of the kind that was happening 20 years ago. He hasn’t expressed a vision for what the next 20 years might look like, though.”

For decades, Tasmania was roiled with conflict between loggers and conservationists. It is difficult to exaggerate the enmity, or how much it consumed state politics. There were extremists on both sides – saboteurs and the violently confrontational. As Nietzsche might have it, the conflict was variously interpreted as: the working class versus the middle; progress versus conservation; citizen versus corporate malfeasance. For loggers from remote hamlets, handed their skills by their fathers and sceptical of the possibility of alternative work, the green protesters offensively preferred philosophy over humans. Conversely, many protesters thought the loggers ignorant lackeys of increasingly rapacious companies – notably Gunns. Like most caricatures arising from conflict, they were both accurate and woefully inadequate.

In 2013 the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement was passed in state parliament. It would come to be informally known as the “peace deal”. It consigned half a million hectares of forest to conservation, while guaranteeing logging companies access to a set number of sawlogs from plantations. Meanwhile, state and federal governments would provide compensation to companies and communities affected by the downsizing, while industry agreed to internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

The deal had taken years, and involved industry, conservation groups, unions and government. It was eventually endorsed by the Gillard government before passing the Tasmanian house. In reality, the deal was assisted more by market forces than protesters. “Industry didn’t stop because of greenies,” Lohrey tells me. “It stopped because of the market. It was an inefficient industry and inflexible, and had been subsidised for a long, long time. Gunns went broke because CEO John Gay overextended them. Their debt went way up, and their equity right down, and then the bottom of the market fel

Comments are closed.