in the ranks
don't call them 'the Incomprehensible Right' for nothing. Try to understand
the Quadrant crowd and you'll get hopelessly confused yourself.
It's a trap I've fallen into too many times, but this week I swore off
problem began with a long-winded justification of the Balmain Burghers
Rebellion by Paddy McGuinness in his Sydney Morning Herald column.
The Great Fulminator announced that his adviser on the structure and
financial operations of the longed-for market fundamentalist mini-state
was none other than John Mant.
described Mant as a former acting ombudsman and a town planning expert.
I knew he'd also been a fringe member of the Sydney Push, a libertarian
talk shop and drinking club which faded away in the early 70s, so he
and Paddy went back a long way.
at first glance the story made no sense. John Mant is the sort of bloke
Bob Carr employs to head up New Age think-ins really big picture,
very long range conceptual stuff like the recent Urban Strategy Task
Force, which recommended two NSW Government super ministries: a Ministry
for Place and a Ministry for Access. Nothing much has been heard about
this concept since, and Mant was last sighted at a protest meeting called
by Clover Moore, where he was arguing Sydney needed more tollways like
the Eastern Distributor.
the Carr Government seems hell-bent on even bigger councils, not miniscule
ones, so I doubted whether Mant would be found that far away from Bob's
agenda, into which, presumably, he had had what Carr's secretive inner
clique call "input".
must be a mistake, I thought and Paddy often gets names wrong. A few
months ago he spread confusion in planning circles when he announced
that the new Sydney Harbour foreshores supremo was Jeremy Watkins, when
everyone was sure Jeremy Dawkins -- the brother of the former Keating
Government minister John Dawkins, and a former UTS lecturer -- had been
appointed. In June Paddy assailed the Menzies Foundation, a worthy trust
which funds scholarships for young Australians to study in 'the Mother
Country', mistaking it for the Menzies Research Centre, a right-wing
think-tank headed by his old friend Dr Marlene Goldsmith.
was still uneasy about the Mant story when I flicked through the Balmain
Village Voice and the plot suddenly took a weird twist. According
to the Voice, Paddy's adviser was one John Mack. I had never heard of
Mack, but surely the Voice couldn't be wrong. It was, after all, the
journal of the revolt, a monthly mag owned and edited by one Kylie Davis
(whom Paddy reckons is a potential Rupert Murdoch, but perhaps he means
Anna Murdoch or Rupert Bear. Who knows?).
the next day, on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald,
beneath a photo of ranks of statuesque nude and near-nude women teetering
on 4 inch stilletos, "Professor John Mack" leapt off the page.
It seemed that Mack and Michael Easson (board member of the Macquarie
Bank's Infrastructure Trust of Australia and another identity closely
associated with the Carr Government) were both board members of the
terminally doomed 'Museum of Contemporary Art' which had brought Vanessa
Beecroft's 'VB40' tits and bums installation to Sydney in what looked
like a last-ditch attempt to stave off bankruptcy.
phoned a few contacts and found that Mack was a professor of maths and
statistics at Sydney University.
Nude bimbos. Statistics. Vital statistics. Macquarie Bank. Market forces.
The connections were tenuous but it seemed to add up.
couldn't be right", said my friend John the Engineer, when I phoned
him at the Greens parliamentary office. "John Mack is a really
nice bloke. One of the good guys. It must be a typo in the Village
Voice. Journalists always get these things wrong."
was probably right, which is a pity. The Balmain Rebellion is a ripping
yarn: mad ideology, intrigue, power, ambition, greed, fat men in black.
It would make a great Connolly-Anderson doco. Add a few naked women
and it could be a transit lounge novel or even a musical.