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(Image via @NoMoreBigWheels)

Conservatives are up in arms after the Australian National University (ANU) announced last Friday it would not proceed with a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation-sponsored degree.

ANU Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt told ABC 7.30 last week that the University broke off negotiations after six months because it was concerned the Ramsay Centre wanted too much control over the potential course:

…  the centre was asking for a level of influence in our staffing and curriculum unprecedented with any other donor we've ever dealt with.

And so, it is that that undermines the academic autonomy of the university, and it is that which caused us to decide to withdraw from negotiations.

Luckily, Professor Schmidt sensed, just in the nick of time, that extreme rightwing politicians were seeking to use his institution as a cat’s paw to seed an ugly and outmoded ideology into the minds of our young people.

THE IDEOLOGUES BEHIND THE RAMSAY CENTRE

The Ramsay Centre was established by a $3.3 billion 2014 bequest by the late health industry tycoon Paul Ramsay.

It is said to be the

‘… biggest philanthropic gift in the history of education in Australia.’

Paul Ramsay was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and also, in 2013, their biggest donor.

He was also a close confidante of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, both having attended the elite Catholic Riverview School, albeit decades apart.

Despite the record-making bequest, Abbott described Ramsay’s own education in less than flattering terms in an article in the conservative Quadrant magazine:

‘He wasn’t a systematic thinker; at school, he was an ordinary student; and he dropped out of Sydney University within two years to work in his father’s property business.’

In that article, Abbott boasted that it was he who had put the idea of a course in Western civilization into Ramsay’s unsystematic head as a means of promoting capitalism [IA emphasis]:

Paul’s gratitude extended far beyond the material blessings provided by a country such as ours, to the deeper cultural and spiritual heritage that’s necessary for a free market economy to work.

This was at the heart of the conversations that I started having with him from 2011.

Abbott stated that he and Ramsay had oft-lamented that the modern history curriculum no longer began

‘… with the cradle of civilisation … moving through Greece and Rome to the story of England and the birth of the modern world … but … every element of the curriculum was … pervaded by Asian, indigenous and sustainability perspectives. Almost entirely absent from the contemporary educational mindset was any sense that cultures might not all be equal…’

Paul Ramsay died in 2014.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was born in 2017, with former Prime Minister John Howard installed as chair. The same Prime Minister who supported apartheid in South Africa, falsely alleged refugees had thrown their children overboard, sent Australia to war in Iraq based on a lie, refused to apologise to the Stolen Generations and, in summary, started a series of damaging and still-enduring Culture Wars in this nation.

The Centre’s board also includes former Abbott staffer and now Federal MP Julian Leeser, who devised the course’s blueprint while still a manager at the Australian Catholic University.

According to Abbott, Leeser devised the Centre with a very specific organisational focus:

‘In preparing the Ramsay Centre report, Leeser was acutely conscious of “O’Sullivan’s law”, first formulated by the former editor (now international editor) of Quadrant, John O’Sullivan, namely that “every organisation that’s not explicitly right-wing, over time becomes left-wing”.’

True to Leeser’s design, there is no-one remotely progressive on the Ramsay Centre board. This includes its nominal Labor member, Joe de Bruyn — the controversial extreme rightwing president of the conservative Catholic-controlled Shopworkers Union (SDA).

Other board members comprise three Ramsay Health directors and a solitary female — Elizabeth Stone, the principal of Queenwood, an elite private Christian North Shore girls’ school.

Note: despite several inaccurate media reports to the contrary, former Labor leader Kim Beazley is not a Ramsay Centre board member, having resigned his directorship on 18 May 2018 — just in advance of the ANU’s decision and likely for quite the same reason.

This is only half the story! The full length version of this editorial, originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly subscribers' newsletter, may be read in the IA members only area. It takes less a minute to subscribe to IA and costs as little as $5 a month, or $50 a year — a tiny sum for such superb journalism and a host of other extras! 

IA subscribers can read the full editorial HERE.

Subscribe to Independent Australia HERE.

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter at @davrosz.

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