ADELAIDE – The story of Brian Leonard Cooper is a very sad story indeed.
The early sixties in Australia were a period in which there was developing a simmering pent up desire for significant socio-economic change.
This would explode in the 1970's with the election of the Whitlam Labor government which introduced many long overdue reforms, notably a universal health insurance system.
In my own state of South Australia, the election of Don Dunstan's Labor government saw sweeping social reforms introduced that changed the state for the better and forever.
Sadly, it seems that Mr Cooper became the hapless victim of the anti-communist paranoia of that era, as well as the cynical political manoeuvering of a Menzies-led Tory government.
By 1960, the Coalition was in deep trouble and needed to distract, deflect and otherwise camouflage its failings from a still deeply conservative electorate.
It is still the case that those who choose to dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy will be variously ridiculed, marginalised and ignored.
A lesson of history is that it pays to listen to the dissenting voices.
Of course, many of those voices will be saying nothing useful but a few will be revealing truths that the powerful fervently wish to deny and hide.
It is a question of discerning the truth from the mad ravings of the usual crowd of nutters whose voices these days have been so magnified by social media.
Mr Cooper was, in his way, pointing to the blindingly obvious about the political future of Papua New Guinea as an independent state, but it did not suit the great and the good to acknowledge this.
His reward was to be labelled seditious and treated as a criminal.
The authorities resorted to the usual tactics of oppression and suppression, cloaking their activities in the sanctimonious rhetoric and illiberal laws of the time.
The situation today is not dissimilar, with the defenders of the socio-economic status quo being quite willing to resort to the same tactics.
These, they hope, will avoid confronting the grim reality that the neo-liberal orthodoxy is deeply flawed and producing perverse outcomes that, ultimately, will force either neo-liberalism’s complete repudiation or, failing that, major reform to redress the injustice and inequity it generates.
Of course, as a dissenter from this orthodoxy, I would say this, but I seem much more likely to be merely ridiculed and ignored than banged up for two months as happened to the hapless Mr Cooper.
If you want to read more about the Cooper sedition story, you can link here to WR Stent’s paper of 1978, ‘A Brief Biographical Account of Brian Leonard Cooper’