THIS BLOG has had many things to say over the past year about the Fairfax press, few of them favourable and none cause for regret. The Silly and Phage remain as successive editors have reduced them, pustules of smugness waiting to be lanced and cleansed by adult supervision or new proprietors, whichever comes first. And it will happen, as the ongoing renovation of the Australian Financial Review demonstrates.
For long years the paper was in decline, a source of annoyance as much as of information, its pages colonised by the same sort of left-leaning groupthinkers who continue to make its broadsheet siblings so excruciating. But at the Fin, well, put it this way: if you have neither bought nor read it lately, invest three dollars in today’s edition and see what genuine leadership can do.
Under new editor Michael Stutchbury the paper is brimming with change and promise. News coverage has acquired a harder edge and the focus, while still very much on business, is expanding to take in the broader vista of the nation’s affairs. Its coverage of IR issues, for example, has been must-read stuff, and if it has over-reached with its recent assault on News Corporation, well Rupert Murdoch is a big boy and can look out for himself.
The most encouraging news came two days ago, when Opinion page bore John Quiggin was thanked for 20 years of lefty lockstep predictability and sent on his way. Some years ago, when the appalling Tina Brown took charge at the New Yorker, she was hailed as a genius for introducing the use of photographs, an innovation other publications had adopted quite some decades earlier. That move was a no-brainer, and Quiggins’ forced exit is in the same vein. One can only wonder why successive editors insisted for so long on presenting a doctrinaire leftist's insights, such as they are, to a readership consisting primarily of investors and believers in markets’ wisdom. Had Green Left Weekly showcased Gerard Henderson it would have been no less discordant.
Now that he is gone, one can only wonder why it took so long. Were former editors scared of his beard? Their immunity to nonsense was certainly high. Here is Quiggin, flushed with triumph, after Kevin Rudd’s victory in 2007:
For once, my electoral predictions haven’t turned out too badly, so I’ll offer one more before we get back to policy: The Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.
This isn’t a prediction of unending Labor rule, rather an observation that the Liberal and National parties are in such dire straits that they can’t continue as they are. They haven’t got enough support, parliamentary representation or ideas for one party, let alone two.
As Quiggin is now saying “the Liberal Party will never win a federal election” does not actually mean the Liberal Party will never win a federal election, it might also be interesting to hear his current thoughts on the so-called culture war, which he declared over and won in the ecstasy of Rudd’s romp in 2007. Here is how Quiggin saw the future not long after that glorious Saturday night:
… the best course is probably the one the Rudd government is taking. Get the big symbolic issues that have to be addressed (Kyoto, the Nauru camps, an apology to indigenous Australians) settled once and for all, and as soon as possible. Then try and move forward with substantive policies that will achieve better outcomes.
The Financial Review is so much better for Quiggin’s departure that only news of Laura Tingle’s exit could prompt a rosier glow.