My grandmother died at 61 and my Dad at 67. Both were smokers.  They both had choice though my Dad, who lost his leg at 11, probably had less than most after he fell under a Paddington  tram.  His schooling ended the same day. Travers Beynon has choice and he has chosen not to smoke but he is doing his bit to make sure others do.  He owns 300 cigarette vending machines and over 300 franchised FreeChoice outlets. There is even one in my little town.  This champion of free choice draws the comparison of his own love of racing cars and explains, “No-one trie­­­d to stop me when I started motor racing. If someone says that’s too dangerous, don’t do it. I’d be like…go to hell”.  So he is a protector of free will.

He tells us in this Financial Review article, that he’s tried electronic cigarettes but they obviously conflict with the very tight dietary regime he follows. This is essential if he is to maintain his frenetic lifestyle.   To charges of misogyny, evident in his Instagram images of women on dog leashes, he tells us his mother was his idol.  His grandmother was known as “The General” and typical of the dominant women who shaped his life.  It is obvious he cares deeply about the people within his orbit. Almost as much as he does for himself.  It is equally obvious that he couldn’t give a damn about anyone else. That’s a free choice.

I am not sure that Beethoven’s 9th and Ode to Joy were the ideal choice for Bob Hawke’s state funeral.  Some might argue Schiller’s call for brotherly love a touch inappropriate in light of the stripping back of union power under Bob’s stewardship.  A better choice might have been the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah with God on first violin. I am sure Bob would agree.

Anyone who knows the McGuinness family will be aware of Paddy’s shift from self -described anarchist to the far right critic of the left.  He worked as an economic adviser to Bill Hayden in the couple of years before the future GG Bill Hayden bumped Jim Cairns from the Treasurer’s job in 1975.  Paddy’s years working for the Australian Financial Review are certain to have promoted his estrangement from socialism.  Paul Keating didn’t like him.  Keating said Paddy had a “prejudiced, capricious and intellectually corrupt mind that was all over the shop depending on what suited his miserable purposes at the time”.  Lauded for his kind words to brother Bob on Friday, Keating was flayed in the press for these comments delivered the day before Paddy’s funeral.

Parnell Palme McGuinness, Paddy’s daughter, is a “Thought Broker”.  She runs a company by the same name. Her website tells us, “Our connections with commentators, researchers, think tanks, policymakers and the media help our clients to get their message out.” 

So isn’t it wonderful that the ABC gives her an opportunity to carry out this service on our public broadcaster.  We can reasonably assume that the young Parnell’s views were formed during the reactionary period of her Dad’s career.  The  opinions she’s helping to get out give little consideration to the disadvantaged or vulnerable members of society.  Think more in terms of the big and powerful.  The banks needed a little help last week and the unions needed a kicking so Parnell did some broking on behalf of each.

She explained that the unions’ iniquity was of “commission” whereas the banks’ behaviour, as reported through the recent Royal Commission was of omission.  In other words, unions’ errant behaviour was deliberate warranting the lash whereas the banks’ theft of millions was simply an oversight worthy of Christian forgiveness. An easy mistake if you’ve not heard of Bill Black and the term “Control Fraud”.  This is the notion of deliberate failure to police corruption and the passing this off as innocent oversight. 

Thankfully, the host of The Drum, Ellen Fanning, isn’t on Parnell’s payroll and was able to put the brakes on Ms P’s entrepreneurialism.  Ellen pointed out that corruption is exactly what the Royal Commission had found. At least Paddy’s progeny tried.  He would have been so proud.

As Labor renews its direction under a left faction, right leaning, market believing new leader, there are some essential actions it must take. The first is to lock Andrew Leigh in a Sussex St backroom with a calculator and tell him “We’ll call you when we want some numbers”.  The need for this drastic action is now apparent following his address to the “Second Annual History and the Hill Conference in Melbourne”. Leigh is on sound ground when he explains that the Labor Party: “was unable to unseat a government that lacked any discernible agenda, which had burned through three Prime Ministers in six years, led by a man who had been sacked by Fran Bailey as head of Tourism Australia.”

Yep, they lost to that. Through the smoke of this devastating defeat Leigh has found an opportunity and it is in something called social liberalism.  To explain this he borrows a phrase from that great social visionary George Megalogenis: “Labor needs a commitment to markets and multiculturalism”.   We’ve already given the market a large part of our education and health systems, our communications networks, our power and energy systems, toll roads, ferries, our privatised pension system in the form of superannuation, torn away union protections for workers and have abandoned any control over unemployment. All of this has been done in the name of the market. 

I think these people are mentally ill. Their frenzied love of the market seems to cloud any duty to humanity. In chasing the social liberals, Labor will be seek the Green vote that isn’t interested in the economics. This will free the party to move further right.  After all, no point fighting over the poor vote. They have nowhere to go.

ABC and Radio National’s Minefield is a program I have often enjoyed. The best of Aunty’s work is on RN.  On the most recent program hosts Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discussed what it means to have a free press.  Their special guest was Peter Greste who recently rose to fame after spending time in an Egyptian prison. Peter currently carries these impressive titles:  the UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland. He is also a founding director and spokesman for the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom.

Were it not for energetic action to free him by the Australian Government, he would still be there.  So it should have been surprising when after 45 minutes and 55 seconds of this program that Julian Assange’s plight let alone his name was not mentioned.  Yet, it didn’t surprise me because I had read Greste ‘s appalling Sydney Morning Herald article condemning Assange on April 12 this year­­­­­.  It is simply disgraceful that someone like this is able to set themselves up as a defender of the public interest. 

Warren Ross

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