Guy Rundle on Howard

Guy Rundle’s op edlets in Crikey! often annoy me – they’re too bombastic and self assured for my taste, though perhaps the extreme limitations of the genre – the shortness of the articles – is part of the explanation.  In any event, I thought this essay from Arena was terrific and I recommend it to Troppodillians everywhere.

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16 Responses to Guy Rundle on Howard

  1. Niall says:

    I made it half-way through and realised it was repeating a theme. The long & short…..what goes around comes around. I still prefer Marr over Bolt anyday.

  2. pablo says:

    I think Guy Rundle is one of our best op-ed writers and I will follow him from Arena to Crikey wherever .. as a way of my understanding 21st century urban culture in Australia for someone who forsake the same two decades ago. In fact as one who was instrumental in getting the local country public library to subscribe to Arena, along with Quadrant (for balance), I was not surprised when copies of both magazine failed to appear after a couple of years. In arguing my case for a subscription to both I had to counter the library boss who pointed out that the Economist was regularly available!

  3. Marks says:

    Like Niall, I made it only half way through.

    You were right about the bombast and self assurance, and might I even say self righteousness?

    However, unlike Niall, I (just) prefer Bolt to Marr most days. Marr is good when his humour shines through. He shares the bombast and self righteousness of Rundle unfortunately.

    Even though I know what Howard was getting at when he took aim at ‘the elites’, I cringed when I thought that perhaps some people overseas might really believe that the people he was targetting were actually our elites. That would be depressing. Howard really should have termed them: “People who see themselves as elite.” Too wordy I know, but much more aligned with how we thought of them.

  4. Marks says:


    Just read my post and it sounded a little snarkier than I intended. Pray accept my apologies.

    I guess I should clarify by saying that in my humble, elite is a word that should be reserved for the likes of; Bradfield, Monash, Curtin, Chifley, Whitlam, Hawke (if you want pollies), olympic athletes, Norman Lindsay, Dame Joan Sutherland etc etc. They the sort of person whose achievements and talents should warrant the adjective ‘elite’.

    Howard was using it to refer to people, who while no doubt educated and talented (in their view at least), certainly are not on the level of those examples I named. It came across to me in the same way as if he tried to tell me that the local cricket team was the Australian Eleven. Pshaw.

  5. It’s a good piece, though it was published a long time ago in Arena. I think I read it back in about September or October. Guy R used to denounce the intertubes and the blogosphere from time to time and unfortunately I suspect that particular attitude is common in Arena circles. I’m sure if they went wholly online they’d reach a much wider audience.

    I don’t think it’s a single note song – it’s quite a detailed refutation of Kelly’s tripe (which really was over long and far too bombastic.

  6. Yes, it was a bit long winded, but like Mark, I thought the unpacking of Kelly was very high quality – and even, I must admit to my surprise, quite fair.

  7. Yes, a lot fairer than Kelly was himself to those on whom he trained his sites.

  8. Ag says:

    Kelly is in need of deflating – especially after his Australian Literary Review essay attacking Marr, Burnside and Gaita. How disingenuous to claim that these three are public intellectuals, but Kelly is not.

    But Rundle is too easy on Kelly’s magnum opus: End of certainty. Kelly’s analysis of the Hawke Period, is also something like an application of Fukyama’s End of history thesis to Australia – in the case of this text, it is the end of the Australian Settlement that substitutes for the Fukyama’s post-ideological time (as James Walter argues in ‘Tunnel Vision’).

    Does anyone here refute the notion that Kelly himself coins the term, and concept of, the Australian Settlement? I’ve looked in the archives and have found only Paul Kelly! Astonishing, really, and support for the notion that Kelly is a, if not the, dominant intellectual in post 1989 Australian letters.

    That said my problem with End of Certainty is not with its journalism, but with the relationship between the putative Australian (Deakinite) Settlement and the putative undoing of it post-1983. This relationship is cast by Kelly as Modernisation: in literary terms it is portrayed by him as a coming-of-age narrative, or Bildungsroman.

    Rundle doesn’t enter into this area of narrative analysis, and I wonder if he too, along with Kelly, believes that the economic rationalisation of Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s, was necessary, modernising and maturing?

  9. Kelly’s hegemony is remarkable. In the recent Gare/Ritter Making Australian History (the newest standard overall text) Kelly is the economy.

  10. observa says:

    Just pendulumns swinging in response to new challenges. Tampa offended Australians(particularly legal immigrants) sense of fair play and that will be easily rediscovered if economic refugees come halfway around the world and start hijacking ships to Oz again. The Rudd govt will discover that if they relax offshoring once the monsoon season is over.

    As for David Hicks, it was his father’s ‘my son right or wrong’ that eventually swayed public opinion, but that ongoing support has evaporated somewhat (noticeably in Adelaide close to the end game), with the anticipation of Hicks saying sorry to a nation. His father led them to believe that would be the case upon his release, but standing in front of Yatala as his son drove off, saying his son had nothing to apologise for, ruffled the sense of fair play quickly, if you listened to the static. Terry could have gone with his son and left David’s lawyer alone to handle the media scrum, but he didn’t. My take is it’s all about Terry now and what he can get out of it and he’s become quite a media slut. I’ve noticed his previous cheer squad have quietly distanced themselves as a result and there’s a distinct likelihood that Terry and David will go the way of Habib and his Muslim convert lawyer. Watch for that and the howls of protest if any in the Hicks family attempt to make money out of the saga.

    Issues come and go, or wax and wane as the case may be, but govts may stand or fall on simple things like interest rates. I noticed Rudd and Swan in strictly confidential talks with the Reserve, presumably on that score.

  11. I might add, I put Kelly into that category of journalists whose understanding of economics is pre-Ricardian. As Paul Krugman puts it:

    My advice is to consider a proper understanding of the real relationship between productivity and competitiveness as a kind of test of the reliability of supposed experts, in and out of government. The issues involved are not hard to sort out were not talking quantum mechanics here. So if you hear someone say something along the lines of America needs higher productivity so that it can compete in todays global economy,’ never mind who he is, or how plausible he sounds. He might as well be wearing a flashing neon sign that reads I DONT KNOW WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT.

  12. Philly says:

    We are such a goddam boring provincial people. ORSTRAYlANS.

    Guy Rundle’s piece in the Australian Literary Review supplement in Nov-Dec was by far the most interesting and challenging piece he or anyone in Oz has written recently. Is anyone discussing it? Nup. Total silence.

    Anyway, on the basis of it I bought all three books he hung his thought-provoking, very important piece upon.

  13. Niall says:

    well then, Philly. A review if we may. Preferably balanced and fair ;)

  14. Alphonse says:

    Yes, I always thought that elites complaining about “elites” was more than a bit of a crock, that Kelly’s eschewing of merits for praxis and elevation of praxis to virtue is abysmally sterile, that Howard represented a quantum leap in dirty pool, that culture wars are a minority spectator sport, that job security is important within Murdoch media, that the seduction of proximity to power leads to mind rot in the media and commentariat, that side-stepping the obvious for a new slant is more likely to be wrong than clever, and that dead-tree and free-to-air are losing their (still not inconsiderable) grip.

  15. John Greenfield says:

    Paul Kelly’s status says something extremely unflattering about the level of debate in this country and the quality of its public intellectuals.

  16. Pingback: Club Troppo » Another good Rundle essay

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