By Con George–Kotzabasis
The intellectual lightness of former premier Bob Carr’s critique of Paddy McGuinnes lies in the opening of his article published in The Australian, on January 30, 2008., ” ‘Don’t get too close to that crowd of Quadrant’, instructed Paddy McGuinnes…The year …is fixed in my memory as 1976 or 1977, when I was an employee of the Labor Council of NSW”. ( A period when the latter was employing standover goons from the Sydney underworld to bash and threaten the lives of left-wing members of the Labor Party, and which McGuinnes dubbed as the right-wing thuggish Labor Council of NSW.) As if this statement of McGuinnes in 1976-77, would be the ‘fixed’ Gospel truth about Quadrant from which McGuinnes would never deviate with the passing of time. Carr claims that “Quadrant’s anti-communism was too unfashionable for him.”[McGuinnes] As if the latter was picking his political “fashions” from the ‘cat walks’ and designs of other conservatives and was intellectually incapable of designing his own anti-communism, which he did, and during his journalistic career brilliantly articulated and exhibited.
Carr claims that “McGuinnes contribution was a different one” and “deliciously counterproductive”, which the Labor party relished. He was the Godfather of the three deadly sins that would cast the Howard government into the political abyss of Hades: Climate change denial, support for George W. Bush in Iraq, and loss of workers’ rights. “For ten years, whatever Howard did or said he would be supported by a group of columnists…none more bottled-up angry with Labor than McGuinnes”. This was Howard’s “Praetorian Guard”. And “when the electorate wanted Howard to ratify Kyoto and wind back the commitment in Iraq, the symbiotic link with Praetorians made it impossible for the emperor to shift”. It was this attachment of Howard to the orthodoxies of the Praetorians “that did him in”. Carr caps his argument by saying that “McGuinnes and his allies had won their man for their program, but their program had lost Australians”. And “McGuinnes was haunted by ghosts… Women from the Push days, his Labor Party buddies from the past, above all the imaginary leftists who seemed to occupy a large part of his mental space”.
Well let us deal with Carr’s argument about Paddy and Howard’s Praetorian Guard that “did him in”. The three issues that presumably ousted the Howard government, i.e., climate change, the war in Iraq, and WorkChoices were present during Kim Beazley’s tenure as opposition leader without in any way increasing his polls against Howard , So there must have been other factors that brought the Coalition government down that Carr hardly even attempts to probe. And all the pre-election polls had shown that at least the two issues of climate change and the war, scarcely made any ripples in the calm lake waters that the electorate was paddling its canoe. The issues that led to the defeat of the former government did not emanate from the “program” of McGuinnes and his allies, but from a number of tactical mistakes made by the Coalition prior and during their lackluster electoral campaign and its inability to cut Rudd’s populist wings that would make the pigeon land, in the guise of an eagle, on the Lodge.
On the two pivotal issues of security and economic management, on which the Coalition had no peers in the political spectrum and was politically unassailable, the Howard government failed to concentrate the mind of the electorate. Instead of making these two issues the axis upon which the safety and continued economic prosperity of the nation depended, it squandered this political capital it had in its hands by ‘hoarding’ the first, that is, by keeping silent about the great importance of the security of the country during the electoral campaign¬—and considering that the war in Iraq was being won by the Coalition of the willing with hardly any Australian casualties, which was vital to the security of the West, the reticence of this fact was politically astonishing—and by treating the second, i.e., economic management, as a ‘safe haven’ in the electorate’s mind and a safe protectorate that could not be ‘stolen’ by the me tooism economic conservatism of Kevin Rudd.
Rudd owes his victory to the humdrum desires–that had nothing to do with the war or climate change–of Howard’s battlers and to the self-employed tradesmen, both groups drenched with middle-class conservative values. Once Kevin 07 established in the minds of these two groups his economic conservatism coupling this with his promises of lower food and petrol prices as well as ending the ogre of Work Choices, which the unions’ advertising campaign successfully managed to depict, then Rudd was bound to win the race, as the unbreakable momentum of all the polls had shown during the long campaign, without steroids.
Howard’s campaign strategists committed the error of thinking that they could take the wind off the sails of Rudd first by a profligate and luxurious spending, and secondly, by tampering with the Work Choices legislation with the aim of making it more palatable to the electorate, and in the process bungling it, which instead of making it acceptable to the latter it created the strong impression of Howard’s guilt about Work Choices as being an anti-working class measure and hence generating a great distrust of Howard. From this point on whatever Howard was saying was falling on deaf ears and no monetary offers lining the pockets of the electorate would change the latter’s choice to have a go with Rudd. Indeed, “the electorate had moved”, to quote Carr, and ‘de-latched’, from Howard not because of Kyoto and the war in Iraq, as Carr claims, but to the failure and inability of the Coalition’s strategists to expose the falsity of Rudd’s so called “new leadership” and to take the wind off the sails of his bloated populism, as it’s written in Kevin Rudd’s stars that his “new leadership” will be led by the weathervane of populism.
Carr ends his tirade against McGuinnes by stating that the latter “was haunted with ghosts…above all the imaginary leftists who seemed to occupy a large part of his mental space”. As if he himself and the left in general, were free of their own ghosts planted in their dragons’ teeth by that great intellectual landlord absentee from history Karl Marx, class struggle, the proletariat, capitalist exploiters, the universal man, who would work during the day, play the harp in the afternoon, and write and “practice” poetry during the night. Not to mention its more modern up to date fads such as “make poverty history” in countries such as Africa where political corruption is rife and when one gets on the sleaze racket of a governmental position it becomes a way of life and where a free rein of insatiable cleptocracy reigns.
Just-in-time news, Bob Carr has drowned…It was never wise for lake swimmers to swim in the mountainous sea of Paddy McGuinnes.
I rest on my oars:Your turn now