In well off, easy going, 'she'll be right' Australia the idea of a ruling class is seldom taken too seriously. Nor should it. Any resemblance to a ruling class down under in the mould of the institutionalised blue-bloods of Europe or the monied elites in the U.S is but a pale imitation. Not for want of trying though. The Bunyip Aristocracy as it's coloquially known in Oz has always had pretensions of grandeur as a born-to-rule overclass that knows what's best for the nation by virtue of its pedigree - you can usually find these privately educated, diction-conscious individuals ensconced in the leafy suburbs of blue ribbon conservative electorates. Money and breeding aside, they are pretenders to a non-existent throne.
What we have instead is a small class of wealthy employers, a huge middle class, and a shrinking working class, all protected by the safety net of a comprehensive welfare system. Class in Australia is real to an extent but it is basically economic in nature within a system that regulates against capitalist or socialist extremes. The national ethos of an egalitarian Oz, though mythic in practise, is embedded in the collective psyche as aspirational. In effect this mindset creates a set of moral parameters that only a nation descended from convicts could keep in place. For example: the loose regulations of the finance sector and the lack of government welfare found in the United States would never be tolerated here.
So it's quite amusing to note that News Ltd hack, Nick Cater, has penned a book on the ascension of the chattering class - academics/intellectuals and associated do-gooders - to the mantle of the new ruling class. Called The Lucky Culture, Cater's thesis amounts to an attempt at role reversal. He asserts that these university educated elites, supported by the left-wing media (more ABC bashing) consider themselves superior to the average punter and therefore believe their opinions should carry more weight. The fact that the so-called chattering class is neither rich or heirarchical, nor advocates anything but egalitarian values and equality across the board hasn't dented Cater's enthusiasm for contributing to the new politically correct propaganda emanating from right-wing think tanks.
This ongoing attack on left wing values has been gaining in intensity over the past ten years with the aim of conditioning the population to accept conservative political and moral values as the standard. It also serves as a smokescreen to hide their own predilection for class warfare, so anything Cater is putting forward is yesterday's news. Former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the seriously diction-conscious David Flint, wrote a similar tome called Twighlight of the Elites ten years ago. Then there was this statement by current opposition leader Tony Abbott back in 2003 when he was Health Minister in the Howard government:
The problem is that too many people in the commanding intellectual heights of our society have in recent times thought that because they were better educated and arguably better informed than the general public that they were therefore better people, and when it comes to basic value judgments there’s no reason why a professor is going to be intrinsically better than a shopkeeper and I think that is the mistake the ‘elites’ in inverted commas have tended to make.
As a protege of the old DLP warhorse, Bob Santamaria, Mr Abbott is quite familiar with the intrigues of class warfare, whether used as a political weapon or as a plank of his party's platform. Not to say that Abbott himself is overtly class conscious, but he is a pure right-wing ideologue with a quasi-Catholic belief in the value of naturally forming hierarchical structures being allowed to form in a free market environment. The catch cry is nearly always choice. Choice along with the individual are mantras when it comes to conservative thinking. They sound good until applied to policies that are meant to benefit everyone. This is where that last mile of copper comes in.
The Coalition released it's alternative National Broadband Network plan recently in the lead up to the election. Knowing that the government's NBN plan was popular and far superior in delivering download/transfer speeds, they have chosen to work on the cost saving angle. Their plan will mean rolling out fibre cable only to the node, not directly to the home. Instead they will use the existing copper network unless users are willing to fork out the money to connect with fibre all the way. Choice!
Their scheme they say will save billions of dollars in infrastructure costs even though the aging copper network they rely on is degrading and will have to be replaced in around 15 years time. In the meantime the ordinary punter gets an inferior connection while those who can afford the fibre extension (upwards of $5,000) will get what the government planned for everyone. Choice! What choice does the battler have in this? None. The wealthy get the best while the less well off get second best. Class? When it comes to matters of class consciousness and elitisim it is always the conservative forces in any nation that best fits the bill.