A decade ago we had a significant succession of truly inspirational governors-general; we looked to the ABC for excellence in broadcasting, to the universities to foster critical minds and to the CSIRO for scientific research of high integrity. If John Howard were a true conservative, he would have sustained those traditions. Instead, he has debauched them. Today we have an invisible governor-general, universities corrupted by their scrabbling for money, an underfunded ABC and a CSIRO where those who are genuinely concerned about global warming are expected to bite their tongues.
According to the latest polling, a majority of Australians accept that they are being governed by a divisive and mean-spirited leader, but apparently they no longer care. It's a "Whatever it takes" world we live in now. If it takes lies to stay in power or bribes to sell our wheat, no matter.
Packer in his lifetime was an icon for those who espoused the philosophy of whatever it takes. There was much to admire in his force of personality and in his exploits, but under no account should he be mistaken for a model citizen. He had utter contempt for politicians, for the arts, for idealism of any kind, for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and for those who did not share his world view. His ethics were defined simply as whatever the law allows.
It is truly appalling that our residual sense of sadness for his family should be channelled by the Packer interests and its claqueurs to raise him to the kind of heroic stature that his life doesn't justify. In some ways he unfortunately represents all that is wrong with contemporary Australia.
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