My column

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Wed Jan 24 16:04:45 MST 2001

Philosophy and kings in the bin.

Somewhere in the Bible it urges us not to put our faith in princes. Yet it
is the abiding sin of philosophers that they will try and influence men of
power. Thus Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great and Plato himself had
been adviser to King Dionysus II of Syracuse. In more recent times Martin
Heidegger, one of the great philosophical minds of the 20th century,
schemed in vain to become court philosopher for Hitler's Third Reich.

In none of these cases was any good achieved. Yet despite all the
historical evidence philosophers continue to try. Thus in our own little
corner of the world that decent man, Dr. Noel Preston, became Ethical
Adviser to Peter Beattie - the first philosopher ever to hold such a
position with any Australian Government - state or federal.

  How that has turned out can be seen clearly by the Rorting Affair.  Dr.
Preston has had no more luck than Plato or Aristotle. Yet Beattie was
always a poor candidate for a crash course in ethics.  By nature he is a
Machiavelli, a ruthless pragmatist and a schemer.  As one Socialist Left
matriarch used to say, Peter Beattie would be plotting on his way to the

Behind all the scheming there is as about as much spiritual depth as you
would find in your average teaspoon.  Take for example Beattie's great
scheme to crawl up to and kiss Joh Bjelke-Petersen's posterior.  Petersen
himself has told us that Beattie promised to do anything he could for
'Joh', because Petersen had done so much for Qld. Petsersen calls Beattie
his brother and says he loves him.

Many of my readers will not recall what Petersen was like and so their
impressions of him will have been informed by his 90th birthday
appearance.  On TV he looked a harmless old moron, sitting there babbling
on with his eyes closed. It was most distracting that throughout the
interviews and the news items his mouth hung open. Mind you if one had been
able to ignore the visuals and actually listen, one would have heard
Petersen attack multi-culturalism, reconciliation with Aborigines and of
course the Australian Labor Party. Beattie however, the leader of the ALP,
says that Petersen is a great man who did wonderful things for Qld.

What though was Petersen really like?  What was his reign all about? For
Left Liberals, especially from the South, Petersen was a bit of a joke.
There was it is true always the country bumpkin air. Thus he has not
finished a sentence in 60 years.  So George Negus introduced the ABC
segment on Petersen with a big grin.  Petersen was a great old character
according to Negus. It needs to be pointed out that by saying Petersen was
a bit of a laugh, left liberals provided themselves with an excuse for
doing nothing about his government.

But there was no joke about Petersen.  Criminals ran the Qld Police Force
during his term in office.  Corruption flourished on a grand scale.  Untold
amounts of money were handed over to Petersen in brown paper bags by
developers and other businessmen.

In 1971 he declared a State of emergency and used full police powers to
smash opposition to the racist rugby tour from South Africa. This was one
of the great things he did for Queensland. Later in the same decade 1970s
he closed down Fred Hollows' trachoma program for Aborigines, because some
members of the programme were enrolling aborigines to vote. This was one of
the great things he did for Qld.  When the AIDS epidemic was threatening he
had removed condom vending machines at university campuses.  This was one
of the great things he did for Queensland. In 1985 he sacked over a
thousand SEQEB (Energex) workers.  Many of their lives were ruined.  This
was one of the great things that he did for Queensland.

The absolute truth is that his government was brutal, vicious, corrupt and
racist, in a word -evil. Yet such is Peter Beattie's grasp of ethics that
he thinks it is a good thing to have breakfast with Petersen.  How many
sacked SEQEB workers has Beattie had to tea I wonder?

Some one, preferably not a philosopher, should try and point out to Beattie
that although he thinks it is clever to wine and dine Sir Joh, what he has
really done is to deprive the people of Queensland of the memory of what
Petersen's rule was like.  Moreover because Beattie is such a thorough
going pragmatist, he cannot assist the people in developing an ethical
standard by which to judge the behaviour of politicians. The electoral
rorting of the Labor Party is really quite insignificant compared to the
corruption that flourished under Petersen. But thanks to Beattie's
opportunistic prattling on about the great things "Joh" did, the electorate
has no idea what political corruption was really like in 1986. Smart one,

2. The Bin sends it heartiest congratulations to Chris Mitchell, editor of
the Courier Mail.  Until recently Chris' main claim to fame has been his
somewhat dotty campaign to prove that the liberal historian, Manning Clark,
was the chief spy for the KGB in Australia. But now there is something new
to celebrate.  He was convicted of drunk driving recently, but nothing of
this surfaced in the Media.  How, oh how, can one explain such an
absence?  Truly a puzzle for our times especially as we have a Free Press,
don't we?

2.      Come the state election I will be canvassing hard and working for
Sean Curley, the Green Candidate for Greenslopes.  Sean is a good friend of
mine and he is a most decent and honorable man.  His selection for
Greenslopes is to be particularly celebrated for it enables us to reject
the corruption and opportunism of the ALP while not giving a vote to the
crazy Right. For once we can have the best of both worlds.  Voting for Sean
also means that we support the move within the Greens to make it genuinely
a party of the Left rather than of the fashionably liberal.   Sean of
course needs as much help as he can get.  I urge all readers who want to
bring about the New, to contact the Greens on  3891 1572 and offer their
support for the Curley campaign.
3.       The internet is a wonderful place.  Just this morning I logged on
to Lou Proyect's marxism at and learned about the cholera
epidemic in South Africa.  It is it seems the worst ever in South African
history. True there was mention of it on SBS but very little detail.  What
was not mentioned was the cause of the epidemic.  It began in rural areas
last August.  Water was privatised in accordance to the neo-liberal
policies of the ANC government. Under the user pays principle what had been
free was now to cost money. The impoverished rural communities could not
afford the $7.00 per household connection free and so had to turn to unsafe
water.  The result has been death for thousands.  Another great triumph for
the former revolutionaries turned economic rationalists who run the ANC
Oh the banks are made of marble
With a Guard on every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the workers sweated for.

Emma's bookshop has relocated to the site of the former Commonwealth Bank
in Boundary Street, West End. The irony was not lost on those of us who
have longed for the day when the Left finally take over the banks. Alas the
vault, the first bank vault I have ever been inside, was very empty.  The
capitalists did not leave even a 5 cent piece behind.  I know. I looked.

Still the shop is in a great spot and we can make all sorts of jokes about
Emma's on the Left Bank.  The owner and my good friend, Brian Laver,
intends to expand the number of political books on sale.  These will be
both old and new books.  We wish him well and fully intend to continue to
be one of his best customers.

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