Mark Higgie

Mark Higgie


Who could have predicted that the gulf between Europe’s west and east would still be there thirty years after the end of the Cold War – but now taking the form of a radically woke EU establishment trying to bludgeon Hungarians, Czechs and Poles into accepting that there are more than two genders?


In his two years as prime minister, Tony Abbott achieved more to help Australia’s exporters than any other leader in our history – and more than all Labor’s prime ministers put together.


In August 2011 the Australian American Leadership Dialogue talkfest convened in Perth and one of its sessions was a panel discussion on China’s regional ambitions. Malcolm Turnbull, then the Opposition’s communications spokesman, gave a presentation in which he argued that because the Chinese regime hadn’t contested its borders with Russia, fears were misplaced.


One of the things I used to look forward to on London visits was the theatre; but too often now the experience feels like subsidising an experiment in diversity engineering.


Before German Chancellor Angela Merkel picked a fight with her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán in 2015 by opening the floodgates to a torrent of Third World migrants who had reached Hungary, she should have remembered the old line that a Hungarian is someone who enters a revolving door behind you and emerges in front of you.


One of the great pleasures of spending time in Budapest is admiring the city’s restoration. Despite war, communism and 1956, the architecture of the city is overwhelmingly pre-World War I, and the repair of the magnificent buildings proceeds energetically to correct the neglect of the communist period.


The problem with our foreign affairs bureaucracy isn’t just the consistent political correctness and suspicion of the Coalition. Much time and effort are devoted to activity often at best marginal to the advancement of Australia’s international interests.


In republican Canberra, admiration for British tradition is thin. But in one respect it’s alive and well. Our career mandarins are deeply attached to the Westminster belief in a non-partisan bureaucracy which in theory faithfully serves either side of politics.


Having won a thumping majority a year ago, Boris Johnson keeps squandering the early, widespread good will towards him.


While Australia has spent much of 2020 establishing Iron Curtain border regimes, Europe’s bewildering and ever-changing internal travel rules have conjured up more the spirit of Franz Kafka.


Spare a thought for the UK’s embattled lamb producers. How long will it be, they are wondering, until they’re forced to wear facemasks, as insisted on by the British Medical Association, no matter how lonely or isolated their properties in the Welsh hills or Yorkshire Dales? And what will happen, they fret, with the third of their production currently exported to the ferociously protectionist EU if Britain finally leaves on 1 January without a trade deal, as is still possible? And, to add further to their woes, how much damage will the royal family’s sudden endorsement of evangelical vegetarianism do to what remains of their markets?


A Soviet-era joke had someone visiting the part of the commu- nist bureaucracy which issued permission to move your place of res- idence. The official barked: ‘place of birth’? ‘St Petersburg’. ‘Current place of residence?’ ‘Leningrad’. ‘Proposed new place of residence’? ‘St Peters- burg’.


After Alex Salmond, Scotland’s former first minister, claimed his successor Nicola Sturgeon had misled parliament and orchestrated a vendetta against him, for a moment it looked as if Sturgeon – aka Lady MacStalin – might be forced to resign, derailing the Scottish National Party’s expected victory at the 6 May elections – its planned curtain-raiser to demanding a second independence referendum.


The first anniversary of Boris Johnson’s prime ministership didn’t bring him good news. Firstly, having already clocked up Europe’s worst coronavirus death toll (46,526 at the time of writing), it emerged that the UK has had Europe’s highest ‘excess deaths’, the measure the British government says is the most reliable. Johnson can expect poor marks from voters on competence.


Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s robust initiative in leading the call for an independent enquiry into the origins of the coronavirus – and suggesting that putting the World Health Organisation in charge of that would be a case of poacher and game-keeper – will have caused much dismay in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


In late 1970, British prime minister Ted Heath learnt that his Australian counterpart John Gorton planned to change the name of the Department of External Affairs to the Department of Foreign Affairs. It became a big issue – Britain’s view was how could Her Majesty’s Australian Diplomatic Service, as our diplomats were then grandly styled, possibly handle relations with the UK from a ‘Foreign Affairs’ department when the UK plainly wasn’t a foreign country?


The coronavirus pandemic is proving a tough time for the Left. The all-consuming focus on a real threat to our lives and way of life has suddenly reduced the world’s patience with woke causes. Greta Thunberg’s calls for continued climate change school strikes – now largely of children being home-schooled – are met with a groan. As the peerless Twitter phenomenon Titania McGrath laments, ‘my greatest concern about the coronavirus is that it is a distraction from the far more serious problem of people being misgendered’.


Who would have thought until a few weeks ago that Boris Johnson’s success over the coming year would be judged on anything other than his management of the final stage of Brexit? That issue – together with whether he’ll turn out overall to be just the latest in a long line of soft-left Tory prime ministers – will return.


What a difference five years makes. In the European summer of 2015, a huge wave of illegal immigrants overwhelmed Greece and angrily resisted any efforts to impede their onward journey to what they believed were the gold-paved streets of Germany – spurning the countries on the way which could have offered sanctuary.


A visit to London to watch the end of Britain’s 47-year membership of the European project reveals a muted occasion. Union flags line the Mall, government buildings are lit up in red, white and blue, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson drink English ‘champagne’ and a commemorative 50p coin, with the corporate-bland inscription ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations’, is issued.


In two recent visits to England, the ostensibly Conservative government has allowed the Extinction Rebellion extremists to shut down central London. The last time, in April, the police signaled how cool and climate-aware they were by doing nothing to prevent the gridlock and by dancing and skateboarding with the activists.


If only the voters of Warringah had been Hungarian. The land of goulash and paprika, whose people famously enter a revolving door behind you to emerge in front, greatly admires Tony Abbott for showing that, like their own prime minister Viktor Orbán, a Western democracy can secure its borders despite determined illegal immigration and Leftist fury.


Yesterday’s 80th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the curtain-raiser for Hitler’s invasion of Poland a week later, is a milestone Vladimir Putin would prefer that the world hadn’t noticed.


If there is an Englishman more hated by the European establishment than Boris Johnson, it’s Nigel Farage. So who would have thought Brussels would scrupulously follow the Farage EU leadership recruitment manual? Farage not only once observed that the EU instititutions are a knacker’s yard of failed politicians, but that it’s actually a requirement for senior appointees that they’ve been failed politicians.


How is it that the likeable Boris Johnson has become such a hate-figure? The British Left of course reserves a special fury for Tories who went to Eton and Oxford; it caricatures him, on flimsy evidence, as a reactionary, a racist and homophobe.


Why should we care about the European Union’s elections? The most famous thing about the European parliament is its epic extravagance.


One of the glories of London is its vast Hyde Park and adjoining Kensington Gardens. On a visit, I do my usual run around the two parks to earn one of Blighty’s other glories – the Full English.


A visit to Britain reveals growing anxiety that we’re witnessing the Great Brexit Betrayal. One of Twitter’s funniest and most brilliant contributors, social justice warrior Titania McGrath – outed recently as Dr Andrew Doyle (Oxon) – notes presciently that ‘one of the unwritten rules of democracy is that referendums can be overturned if a sufficient number of rich celebrities demand it’.


Brexit will be the defining event for Europe in 2019. But another big story will also hog the headlines: the continued political aftershocks from German Chancellor Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome between one and two million Third World migrants, who were mostly not refugees according to European Union Council President Tusk.


Arriving in London for a posting at Australia House during the dying days of the Blair government, I was told by our astute High Commissioner at the time that a thing to bear in mind was that Britain was much more left-wing than Australia.


On arriving for the first time in decades on Spanish soil I realise that the last time I visited – as a child – General Franco was still in power. The memory of arriving at Spain’s border with France in 1963, the dusty crossing point with more donkeys than cars and the Spanish border guards with their exotic three-pointed Napoleonic Wars-era hats, is still strong.


The start of restoration work on Budapest’s once elegant, neo-classical first department store, the 1926 Corvin Áruház, is the latest piece of good news for the inner part of the Józsefváros, christened about twenty years ago the Palotanegyed, or Palace District, reports Mark Higgie for


A good Tony Abbott story is that early during his time as an MP, he did a study trip to Washington. Clearly the embassy official responsible for arranging his programme was American. He tailored it on the basis of his understanding that Abbott was a Liberal and staunch anti-Republican. Abbott spent his week in Washington meeting communists.


The results of Scotland’s elections next week will dominate British politics for the foreseeable future. And yet, while a united Britain may with luck survive, it’s hard to be as confident beyond the short term about Boris Johnson’s prime ministership.


Two unorthodox senior advisors to Number 10 deserve attention. The first and most prominent is effectively Boris Johnson’s chief of staff as well as his senior advisor on the environment (and on interior decoration).


It often feels as if the woke Left is omnipotent, razing all before it as it marches relentlessly through Western institutions and culture. Its encounter with the occasional obstacle, no matter how temporary it might prove, offers hope that all is not lost.