the fax machine chattered into life a few months ago, I hoped it might
be the cops offering me some more meaningless but lucrative surveillance
work in The Great Terror Alert but the document turned out to be wrongly
was from a mob called the Honour our Prophets Committee and it was directed
to the Council for the Order of Australia and it bore some impressive
legal boilerplate to the effect that, were received in error, it should
be destroyed. Now that the cats out of the bag, however, I feel
free to divulge the contents:
the undersigned, nominate Padraic Pearse (Paddy) McGuinness, BEc (Hons),
MSc, tenured columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald, for Office
in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to journalism
by virtue of his work in encouraging and stimulating wide-ranging debate
and exchange of ideas within the community and by raising awareness
of economic, social policy and human rights issues.
McGuinness exemplifies the left-to-right political trajectory of many
Australian commentators of the post World War II period. He was a caftan-wearing
libertarian when caftans and free love were in vogue, a fair-weather
leftist when the leftism was fashionable, a Paris revolutionary in May-June
1968, an economist for the Moscow Narodny Bank under the Stalinist Soviet
regime and a Whitlam government staffer in the years of that unfortunate
years following Whitlams fall were difficult ones for our nominee.
An immediate rapprochment with the new Liberal government being hardly
possible, he turned to journalism and, showing admirable resourcefulness,
slid gracefully to the right as leader writer of the Financial Review
and later as columnist for The Australian.
the late 1970s, natural irrascability, combined with the knee-jerk conservatism
that comes naturally to some with age, happily opened new career paths.
Like a huge black windsock, Mr McGuinness turned, mouth open, towards
the refreshing winds of the new political conservatism, a tendency he
has since served faithfully as a public intellectual (a
term of which it has been said --most unfairly in our opinion -- that
it derives by analogy, from public woman, a euphemism of
genesis of Mr McGuinnesss original contribution to the craft of
journalism would at first glance seem unprepossessing. The Sydney Push
was a bohemian drinking circle, philosophical talk shop, flop-house
and pimp service for ambitious intellectuals bound for careers as controversialists
intellectual hallmark of this demimondaine clique was contrarianism,
a morally flexible and intellectually convenient stance that our nominee
developed from a drinking-circle game to a successful and distinguished
is Mr McGuinnesss special contribution that he focussed his efforts
in opposition to the working intelligentsia -- teachers, academics,
journalists, public servants, lawyers, judges, medical researchers,
artists, ecologists, trade union official and such like.
he deemed to be the average opinion held by this notoriously troublesome
social strata (of which he himself, ironically, was so patently a representative)
he subjected to strident, wordy and repetitous assaults, blanket condemnation
and sweeping allegation.
many years this body of work has stimulated wide-ranging public debate
by providing opportunity for carefully argued rebuttal and (most popularly)
satirical riposte, for which his characteristic bombast and many egregious
errors of fact provided ample scope.
McGuinnesss support for privatisation of public assets, the Suharto
regime, Japanese whaling, detention of asylum-seekers, General Pinochet,
Mal Colston, Louis Farrakhans proto-fascist Fruit of Islam militia
and the fraudulently-named Helen Demidenko, author of the anti-semitic
novel The Hand that Signed the Paper, not to mention his opposition
to the ABC, Amnesty International, Reconciliation, Aboriginal land rights,
labelling of GM foods and female columnists (about whom he wittily remarked
that they had great difficulty writing about anything other than
their pussy or their pussies) are widely recognised as a legendary
part of our journalistic heritage.
it is perhaps his dogged rearguard defence of the rights of tobacco
companies, in the face of the escalating exposure of the deleterious
effects of that substance which best characterises our nominees
contribution to raising awareness of economic, social policy and human
conclusion we wish to draw attention to Mr McGuinnesss long and
principled opposition to the debasement of this award system. As long
ago as 1996 he warned that dubious awards under the Order of Australia
are damaging and debasing the value of the awards given to the reputable.
It is indeed a matter of concern that awards have been handed out to
courtiers, bourgeois bohemians and simple careerists. The elevation
of Padraic Pearse McGuinness to the Order will be a widely applauded
as a stand against this lamentable tendancy.
Sincerely, etc, etc,