Friday, June 14, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

“That, folks, is legacy”
Australia says farewell to a much-loved leader

Bob Hawke and granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price in 1989.

Bob Hawke’s granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price sat at the knee of Australia’s greatest peacetime prime minister, as in 1989 he gave Australians a televised address about the need to act to stop global warming. Thirty years later, Taylor-Price told today’s memorial service that Hawke died with “such great sadness that we have failed to do so”. Six of the seven prime ministers responsible for that epic failure were present at Hawke’s memorial, where Taylor-Price made her tribute count. We can be sure whose ears were closed: John Howard and Tony Abbott are deaf to the science; Paul Keating put action on greenhouse back in its box when he became PM; Kevin Rudd saw, then ducked, the greatest moral challenge of our time; and Malcolm Turnbull sold his soul. What of today’s leaders, Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese … Were they listening?

There were a few memorable moments today. Kim Beazley told a good yarn about organising a Hawke cabinet meeting on a navy ship that started rolling as it left Sydney Heads. “F--- this!” Hawke cursed, Beazley recounted, as the cabinet table literally slid back and forth, at one point pinning the prime minister to the wall. Was Hawke Australia’s greatest prime minister, or Australia’s greatest Labor prime minister? Beazley asked. Then he told us: Hawke thought Curtin was Australia’s greatest PM, rightly choosing to defend this country and turn to America as Japan advanced.

Albanese relayed a great Hawke line: “You know why I have credibility? Because I don’t exude morality.” Former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty told us that Lenin was right when he said this country was no place for revolutionaries; Kelty said that Hawke was a captain of consensus for whom Australia was “not a geography, but a belief”. Hawke did a power of good for this country, said Kelty – including putting the knife into the White Australia policy by accepting thousands of Chinese students stranded by the Tiananmen massacre – all the while subtly reminding us what a shadow of itself the union movement has become. Keating showed why he will always be divisive, suggesting that no post-war Australian government did anything significant before or since the years he shared power with Hawke. Hawke’s wife Blanche d’Alpuget warmly thanked Chinese dignitaries in Mandarin, pronounced carefully and respectfully.

Professor Ross Garnaut’s speech stood out. Once an economics adviser to Hawke, Garnaut called him “Australia’s greatest PM”, and asked why the ability to pursue reform in the national interest, over vested interests, appears “unattainable in 2019”. Drawing a stark contrast to the authoritarian leadership on display today, Garnaut told how he loved turning up to work under Hawke, who showed “how good democratic government can be”. Consultation, consensus, trust in his cabinet colleagues – these were Hawke traits that came up repeatedly today. No wonder Australians loved him.

The best speech, however, was that of Taylor-Price, a climate adviser at Ernst and Young. She told how as prime minister Hawke campaigned against minining in Antarctica with Jacques Cousteau – “That, folks, is legacy.” To that we could add stopping the Franklin Dam in 1983, or his work as ACTU president to save the Great Barrier Reef from mining, in a precedent for the Green Bans. Hawke gave a personal attention to resolution from the AEU, wrote Judith Wright in Coral Battleground, and the ACTU conference duly resolved: “That a total ban on all mining on the reef be immediately declared.” It was a world first. Truly honouring Hawke’s legacy, said Taylor-Price today, means applying his values. “We must stop delaying the cost of change now,” she said; “All we do is load our future generations with a debt they cannot repay.” It was a vital message in a fine tribute. Vale.

“It is a mistake … to equate Albanese’s push against Setka, the Victorian secretary of the CFMEU, as some sort of Rudd-like disdain for the labour movement.”

The AFR’s Phillip Coorey writes that CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka will be expelled from the Labor Party on July 5.

“He has assured us there will be as many local jobs as we can possibly have and, you know, you can’t set a figure [on it] … I haven’t got the figure – I could get the figure for you – I could ring Lucas [Dow] and get the figure. I haven’t had the total number of jobs … [but it is] considerable … I’ve never actually asked a specific number.”

Nationals MP Michelle Landry confirms on RN Breakfast that when it comes to the jobs created by Adani’s Carmichael coalmine she never thought to ask.

The number of people who, as of this afternoon, had sent a signed copy of an open letter to the prime minister, leader of the opposition and members of parliament to protect press freedom.

“In the lead-up to a 10-yearly review of the country’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Ley has also flagged that she wants approval times for major projects cut, has left the door open to lifting the country’s ban on nuclear power, and has questioned whether land clearing is responsible for species loss.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley gets off to a good start.

The list

“Julian Assange has a particular capacity to polarise those fervently for and those furiously against him. Much of the British and American mainstream media had a vested interest in demonising the Australian who out-scooped them in 2010 by getting the inside stories, defending free speech, publishing ‘all the news that’s fit to print’, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable: which the media were supposed to do, but often didn’t.”

“What a difference a few months make. In December, then opposition leader Bill Shorten addressed the media after the Morrison government had finally released the report of its expert panel’s review of religious freedom. ‘I’m worried if there is any plan by the conservative right of the Liberal Party to make religion an election issue,’ Shorten said. ‘I think Australians don’t want to see religion as an election issue.’ Then, the ‘miracle election’.”

“The underland has been a place of refuge for our species for countless millennia, but it is also a site of interment: of bodies, of treasure and of waste, the latter of which, in our technological narcissism, we have created in huge amounts without knowing how to dispose of it. For a writer who has for years written with beauty, intelligence and passion about the visible world, this new work is penumbral by contrast, lit by candlepower, by headtorch battery.”

The Morrison vacuum
As Scott Morrison searches for a path to legislate his tax cuts, concerns over press freedom continue to trouble his government. Paul Bongiorno on the prime minister’s maxim: journalists are not your friends.

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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