February 16th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Battle lines drawn for US Presidential race

EDITORIAL: Mitsubishi closure a blow to our manufacturing

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Will Rudd summit achieve anything?

BIOFUELS: Sugar industry - execution by policy madness

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: EI inquiry hears of more quarantine failures

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: The lessons of the past we so quickly forget

STRAWS IN THE WIND: A new Bunyip intelligentsia? / Paddy McGuinness dies / The homeless

ASIA: Re-shaping Asia: The Great Game Mark II

INDONESIA: More good than bad: Suharto (1921-2008)

FATHERHOOD: Making men redundant (and harming our children)

FAMILY POLICY: Family-friendly policies at risk

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Melbourne doctor's bid to decriminalise abortion

UNITED STATES: America's wrong course

LEADERSHIP: Five keys to democratic statesmanship

Demise of The Bulletin (letter)

Re-opening of South Gippsland rail? (letter)

Foreign intervention (letter)

The "more committees" fetish (letter)


BOOKS: CLASSICS: 62 Great Books from the Iliad to Midnight's Children, by Jane Gleeson-White

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A new Bunyip intelligentsia? / Paddy McGuinness dies / The homeless

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, February 16, 2008
A new Bunyip intelligentsia?

Kevin Rudd doesn't appear to be short of advisors or new ideas for spin politics. There is now to be a conference to discuss affairs of national importance - the Australia 2020 summit, as it is called, to be held in Canberra over the weekend of April 19-20.

It seems like a revamp of Bob Hawke's Accord conferences in the early 1980s - of interest to the media and the beneficiaries, but who else?

We can expect a great many of these high-level conferences over the next few years, for they have become an integral part of political show-business.

It really is money for old rope for governments. Each of the thousand invitees will be told that he has one of the finest minds in Australia, and must help the government to run the country - at least for two days.

Apart from enjoying the perks, who wouldn't think that Kevin wasn't a great guy, or recognise his true worth?

Of course, Whitlam did it. Hawke did it. For all I know, Mae West might have done it. But it will create a Brotherhood of Fine Minds.

But if all those angry old lefties who have been kept out of power and the public eye for the last 12 years - by the decision of the voters - are brought in to stack the Brotherhood, it will be like Walpurgis Night* - only longer. Much longer.

The graves will open, the unhappy spirits will turn up, and the pubs will be emptied of all the old left malcontents. They'll probably rush through a republic, and boost immigration to 300,000 a year - first preference, Africa, for they need maximum care, with staff numbers to match.

Someone can pay for it. We may need further articles on this new Bunyip intelligentsia, but it looks as though Rudd will do anything but govern.

But govern he must, for we are now moving into an era of considerable economic confusion, due to inflationary pressures. We face at least two interest rate rises. Our Government not only wants to isolate itself from the consequences, it and its cronies (the builders and estate agents, the ABC, and the commercial networks) have been trying to force the Reserve Bank to hold off against its better judgment, presumably so as to buy time. For what? This is political interference.

The pressure is coming via a campaign informing us that 450,000 - or is it 350,000? - Australians could lose their homes if interest rates go up. Who says so? The ABC, the commercial networks and finance companies who lent unwisely and excessively. But damaging the reputation of the Reserve Bank is not the way to govern a country.

Rudd and his friends are going to have to face the music, as do the other Western and Asian leaders. But, locally, beating up the Say Sorry to the Stolen Generation business - and unearthing a new milch-cow for distinguished new-class deadheads - is simply to change the subject.

Labor are fortunate in having Malcolm Turnbull as shadow treasurer, as he's said nothing of interest, nor will he. Turnbull's entire attention is focused upon becoming leader. His performance on the environment has only looked good because of Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett.

One almost wishes that Peter Costello would come in from the cold to be Opposition treasury spokesman for a time, for these are crucial times for the Liberals.

* Walpurgis Night, according to German folklore, is the night from April 30 to May 1, when witches allegedly hold a large celebration on the Brocken Mountain, hold revels with their gods and await the arrival of Spring.


Paddy McGuinness dies

The Bulletin has closed its doors after 130 years, and former Quadrant editor Paddy McGuinness has just died. Most people would have already forgotten The Bulletin, so I'll concentrate on Paddy.

His death at 69 is a great loss, for he was a highly gifted man with an intellectual power found in very few journalists. A courageous man and a forthright man, he was immensely productive, writing four or five columns a week for several years on end. He appears to have been loathed by the Fairfax crowd and notably disliked by the people still occupying our ABC, so he must have been doing something right - and good.

Paddy took over Quadrant from Robert Manne, when the journal was at a low point in its fortunes. Intellectually speaking, and morale-wise, Paddy turned it into a first-class journal, which one felt it was an honour to write for. I did anyway.

I found Paddy, as an editor, kind, frank and encouraging. Locked into his beloved Sydney and its "Push" - a loose grouping of bohemian intellectuals - he rarely came to Melbourne. Meeting him here from time to time, I found him most agreeable, and, I suspect, basically a shy person.

Keith Windschuttle knows what a difficult act he has to follow as editor, and we should wish him well.

Two Labor senior zombies, Bob Carr and Paul Keating, rushed in with spiteful attacks upon McGuinness, even before there was time to bury the poor man.

Bill Hayden, who wrote a very sensitive obituary and a further contribution after Paddy's funeral, disposed of Captain Wacky who was now trying to play Sweeney Todd who's lost his razor. Carr is not worth discussing.

But Hayden's performance reminds us of what a catastrophe it was when he was removed from the federal Labor parliamentary leadership by an unusually dirty coup. When you look at Labor's leaders from Gough to Rudd, he is the only one who has retained his dignity and his reputation. His political friendships and past alliances have always been respectable, and in this matter he virtually stands alone.

But as to The Bulletin - whose closing-down we would have once considered a great tragedy - it seems quite uninteresting. I don't think anybody cares.

Clearly, it died a long time ago, thanks to managers, advertisers, slickers and journos trying to pass themselves off as Americans. No decent writing, few authentic investigations, and an almost total dependence upon pub talk.

I associate the magazine with names like Graham Richardson and Laurie Oakes. And then there are those extraordinary Gallup Polls. 'Nuff said.


The homeless

Amid all the celebrations for the boom that will not go away, facts as to how poorly many people are doing at the bottom level of society are just starting to surface.

Some of you would have seen the recent letter in The Australian by Mr Andrew Haslop, founder of Neighbour Day. He spoke at the Victorian Relief Committee's annual Winter Blanket Appeal in 2005, when they received a record number of 10,000 new blankets for state-wide distribution. But they estimated that 20,000 people were homeless and sleeping rough at night throughout Victoria at any one time. The organisers could have done with 100,000 blankets, and there still wouldn't have been enough.

Mr Heslop has now moved to Sydney, where he is "shocked at the number of homeless people of all ages, male and female, sleeping in doorways, at suburban railway stations and in parks." (Letter, The Australian, January 29, 2008).

Now this is all too reminiscent of Jack London's The People of the Abyss (1903), or Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) or his How the Poor Die (1946).

We are not even in a depression, so what would happen if we were to strike stormy water? Clearly, the six Labor states have done nothing, so Rudd has just earned brownie points by promising all the homeless a warm, dry home. I hope he can deliver, and that it's not just another Bob Hawke pledge that there'd be no child living in poverty by 1990.

There is a time-honoured relationship between an expanding materialistic city and its lower depths of hopeless and dejected poor. We see how China and Russia mistreat such unfortunates, and India always has (she even has a religious theory to justify it).

And American cities appear to have always accepted a large ghetto of the unfortunates, whom most Americans have regarded as undesirables. There are jobs out there, if you only try to look! But the latest alibi for homeless and nomadic people in a large city is Progress. It's all the price of Progress.

We in Australia have always had poor suburbs, slum suburbs and, more recently, ghetto areas; but we have not accepted, since early times, masses of homeless people, sleeping out, who don't want to sleep out. Nor would many Australians see this as the necessary price of progress or affluence.

Seeing that the states and the lord mayors' offices are ignoring all of this - the Grand Prix is much more important - Rudd and the Federal Government must nip this whole threatened culture change in the bud.

- Max Teichmann

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