April 5, 2012

Editor’s Note

April 2012 Editor's Note

By John van Tiggelen

In a typically clear-eyed blog post for the Monthly’s website, Robert Manne spells out what needs to be spelt out: Tony Abbott will be Australia’s next elected Prime Minister.

There is nothing quite to describe the rictus that this realisation evokes. It’s not quite one of fear, though it is partly that. It’s not a sneer – that one left our faces back when Gillard lost her flirty mojo. And it’s not intellectual snobbery, which was pretty much spent on John Howard. Let’s just call it Australia’s looming ‘laugh or cry’ moment. We’ve been traipsing through the long grass, wary of slithery rustles, when suddenly, right in front, there he is: head erect, mouth agape, blaring, “Great big new tax!” and “Turn back the boats!” Our new leader.

And so it is with a pang of regret, of what could have been, that Malcolm Turnbull graces our cover. Turnbull reminds us of another era. A time when leading conservatives could still be ‘wet’ and intellectually dapper – think Fred Chaney, Ian Macphee, Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou, Bruce Baird, Colin Firth … sorry, I got carried away there, but you get the picture, unless you’re under 30, in which case a wet Liberal will conjure up a hairy-chested slogan-shouter emerging from the surf in red Speedos.

Our other key April feature presents José Ramos-Horta, the East Timorese freedom fighter turned exiled independence leader turned inaugural Foreign Minister turned Prime Minister turned President. More than anyone else, and very nearly at the cost of his life, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient has guided East Timor’s tumultuous democracy into its teens. Peter Robb’s magnificent essay traverses that cusp between worry and pride when the father grows old and the teenager grows up.

Finally, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Richard Guilliatt, who will indulge his passion for music by alternating with Robert Forster’s award-winning bi-monthly column. Richard’s debut unearths Aztec Music’s crazy brave attempt to resurrect the country’s pioneers of beer-barn boogie. Although Richard’s powers as a fine practitioner of long-form journalism are well known, it seems he has kiss-of-death talents, too – the day after we went to press, Aztec Music folded.

John van Tiggelen, Editor

John van Tiggelen

John van Tiggelen is a freelance writer and the author of Mango Country.

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