The fallout from the breakup of the old Soviet Union and the Great Recession will impact more on the current generation than Al Qaeda’s terrorism – which will be relegated to a footnote in history, according to Dr Neal Blewett.
The former Professor of Political Theory and Institutions at Flinders University and Federal Minister in the Hawke and Keating Governments told a University graduation ceremony that two formative and evolving events – “the implosion of the Soviet empire and the Great Recession” – will shape the world in the years ahead.
“You will note that I have not included Jihadi terrorism as a crucial event here.A few years ago I might have been inclined to dub you the ‘Twin Towers generation’, so epoch shaping did the horrific events of 11 September appear at the time,” Dr Blewett said.
“Now, in retrospect and despite the massive if understandable overreaction of the United States and its allies – the invasion of two Islamic nations in response to the actions of a small band of Islamic fanatics – I suspect that the Twin Towers will be but a footnote in the history of the 21st century,” he said.
“This is because while the perpetrators could create great shock and horror, they are essentially weak and lack the follow-up resources to change the world.
“Al Qaeda is comparable in this respect with two other footnotes to world history – the Hashshashin of Alamut in the 11th to 13th centuries in the Middle East and the Anarchist propagandists of the deed in late 19th and early 20th century Europe.The Hashshashin – from which we get the word assassin – went round publicly murdering various Middle Eastern rulers – atbegs, viziers, Crusader princes and for good measure a Patriarch of Jerusalem.The Anarchist propagandists of the deed made headlines comparable with those of the Twin Towers by despatching a Russian Tsar, the Empress of Austria, a President of France, a King of Italy, a King of Greece and two Spanish Prime Ministers all in the space of roughly thirty years.
“Yet despite the personal tragedies they caused, both groups had little impact on the overall course of history.Indeed, I suspect most of you here have not heard of either group.”
Dr Blewett returned to Flinders to accept an honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Health which was presented by the Chancellor, Sir Eric Neal.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Barber said Dr Blewett had been “responsible for a number of significant policy reforms and initiatives in health” during his ministerial career.
“Dr Blewett was the political architect of Medicare, a major social reform that delivered universal, publicly funded and administered national health insurance cover for all Australians.Since its introduction, Medicare has been a cornerstone of fairness and equity in the delivery of health services in Australia,” Professor Barber said.
He added: “Dr Blewett can also be credited with providing the political leadership that enabled the adoption of national policies and strategies that have minimized the rate of HIV infection in Australia”.