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'Interview' with Paul Kelly yet more free ABC advertising for Rupert Murdoch

The Murdoch press promotion of Paul Kelly's misnamed book The March of Patriots, chronicling the Prime Ministerships of Paul Keating and the early years of John Howard's, has been supplemented, at taxpayers' expense, by Brisbane ABC local radio stations Conversations program.

See also: "Review of Naomi Klein's 'The Shock Doctrine'" of 21 Nov 07

The Murdoch press promotion of Paul Kelly's misnamed book "The March of Patriots," which chronicles the Prime Ministership of Paul Keating and the early years of John Howard's, has been supplemented, at taxpayers' expense, by Brisbane ABC local radio station's "Conversations" program.

"Conversations" is hosted by former Doug Anthony All Star Richard Fidler, who is now a Radio Presenter in Brisbane.

Tired old platitudes

The tired old platitudes that Kelly and other pro-corporate journalists have long used to sell these two discredited leaders to the Australian public -- "what you see is what you get", "a Prime Minister of conviction", etc. -- were lapped up uncritically by Richard Fidler in an astonishingly dull interview lasting almost an hour. Fidler challenged none of the 'free market' premises that Paul Kelly has used to justify the economic, social and ecological carnage wreaked on this country by Keating and Howard.

The central, supposedly controversial, thesis of Paul Kelly's book, is that today's wonderful, modern, prosperous 'free market' economy was created from a tired, outmoded, overly-regulated, protected, public-sector-dominated economy, through a common 'struggle' by these two leaders at different times.

Until now, many of us had naively assumed that both these men had been working to counter eachother's political agendas.

In reality the supposed 'struggle' amounted to these two men imposing a neo-liberal free market agenda on the Australian public with full cooperation and support from Paul Kelly and others in the Murdoch Press.

Shock doctrine techniques

The techniques used by the ex-prime ministers resemble those Naomi Klein describes in her towering work of political analysis, The Shock Doctrine of 2007. The Shock Doctrine documents cases where the neo-liberal project was imposed through trickery and deceit in apparently democratic states, rather than through outright military dictatorship. Although The Shock Doctrine does not contain any chapter on Australia, readers are still likely to gain a vastly better understanding of what happened to Australia under Keating and Howard than they will from reading The March of Patriots.

Paradoxically, the initial stages of the economic neo-liberal project began during the Whitlam years. In spite of Whitlam's many other economic nationalist policies, some manufacturing tariff barriers were reduced. The Fraser Coalition Government which followed in the late seventies and early eighties allowed greater rights to foreign concerns to buy Australian mineral wealth and companies. These policies were given a boost with Keating's sudden embrace of financial deregulation and his floating of the Australian dollar when he was Federal Treasurer, shortly after Labor won office in 1983. During the 1985 election the then opposition leader, John Howard, announced a hit list of twelve publicly-owned enterprises that would be sold off by a Coalition government if it won.

Howard lost that election, but by the time he won government in 1996, of the twelve on Howard's hit list, only Telstra remained in public hands. The other eleven, including the Commonwealth Bank, QANTAS and the national satellite company Aussat, were all disposed of in a Labor Government frenzy of privatisation.

Similar agendas - Howard and Keating

The other key plank of economic neo-liberalism implemented by Keating was the privatisation of retirement income, otherwise known as 'superannuation reform'. This was first undertaken by the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Not even the corrupt, cravenly pro-corporate Bush regime dared try to put that one over the American public, but the Keating 'Labor' Government did so to Australians in the late 1980's and we are all reaping the terrible whirlwind this decade with the global financial meltdown.

Howard's policies since 1996, with the possible exceptions of his attempt to break the Maritime Union in 1998, and his imposition of his so-called "Work Choices" legislation in 2005, were merely continuations of Labor's policies.

Hardly 'news'

None of this would have been new to critical observers of these two leaders, so Kelly's 'revelation' that Howard and Keating had worked in office to achieve virtually the same economic and social goals is hardly news.

Even though a good many of both leaders' policies were deeply controversial and strongly opposed by many Australians - often a majority in the case of the privatisations of Government assets - Richard Fidler failed to put any of this to Kelly. Other awkward topics not raised in the inteview included:

  • The numerous lies peddled by both Howard and Paul Kelly's Australian newspaper to win public acceptance for the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and
  • The Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal in which AU$296million in bribes were paid to the very Saddam Hussein Government that John Howard would tell us in March 2003 posed such a mortal threat to world peace that we were left with no choice but to invade immediately.

Boat people

One incredible assertion from Paul Kelly that Fidler accepted uncritically was that Howard's motive for taking a strong stance against boat people in the Tampa and "Children Overboard" affairs of 2001 was not electoral advantage, but rather his strong desire to maintain the integrity of Australia's borders. In fact Howard later loosened entry requirements and ramped up immigration to record high levels as the Sydney Morning Herald's economics editor reported in the story "Back-scratching at a national level" of 13 Jul 07.

The program, far from being a probing interview that Australian taxpayers should rightly expect from their ABC struck me as little more than free advertising for Paul Kelly and the Murdoch media.

Sugaring dubious medicine

Another consequence of the publication of Kelly's new book and the attendant marketing, in which the ABC is now participating, could be a normalisation in retrospect of the Keating and Howard Governments' unpleasant and undemocratic policies. Such a representation of political history could then be used to deter citizens from questioning new asset-stripping, austerity and wealth transfer programs, whether under the current Rudd Labor Government or under a new Coalition one.

See also: "Review of Naomi Klein's 'The Shock Doctrine'" of 21 Nov 07

Appendix: E-mail sent to Richard Fidler

The following e-mail was sent at 11.30PM, which would have been approximately 25 minutes into an interview lasting roughly 55 minutes.

Date: Monday 21 Sep 2009, 11:30:21 am
From: James Sinnamon
To: Richard Fidler

Paul Kelly's 'revelation' that both Keating and Howard both helped to bring Australia to what it is today is hardly news.

The interview has, so far, proven to be even more dull than "Keating the Musical".

Have you read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Docrtine"?

Even though it doesn't have a chapter on Australia, it gives a much more accurate picture of what happened to this country than what Paul Kelly is giving.

A lot of us dispute that deregulation, privatisation, removal of trade union rights, etc, has been beneficial.

The GDP measures that economists use to prove that this has all been beneficial are flawed and capable of presenting massive declines in quality of life as increases. As an example, just ask yourself why at least two incomes are now necessary to buy even a modest dwelling when one was easily sufficient barely more than a generation ago.

Could you please consider questioning the economic neo-liberal premises of Kelly's glowing tribute to these two abysmal political misleaders?


James Sinnamon

This e-mail had no noticable impact on the remaining part of the interview. No reply has been received so far. If one is received it will be posted below.