Friday, June 17, 2011

Question on Gerard Henderson

Gerard has the most extraordinary exchange with Robert Manne in his Media Watch Dog today. The substance of it is itself laughable - from the outside it just looks like two old codgers squabbling over who was the better *something-or-other* in their youth. The reality is its about whether one did or did not say something about the other at some undefined point in the past - somewhere between 1993 and 1999.

It really is quite pathetic from both of them.

But Gerard has recently got a real bee in his bonnet about what people do in their taxpayer funded jobs - be that the ABC, the bureaucracy, a parliamentary pension or academe. At the same time he thinks a different standard applies to him because he "works in the private sector."

I have news for him, he actually works in the community or not-for-profit sector - the Sydney Institute website says it is "a privately funded not-for-profit current affairs forum encouraging debate and discussion." Gerard's life is funded by donations, and what he can generate through memberships.

Now I know that what he is getting at is that his ongoing future is determined by how well he pursues his craft, it is not enough to hold the position, he has to do it well.

But the same is true of all those people funded by the taxpayer, except perhaps the retiree in Mark Latham. But he had to do the far more challenging thing of winning a few elections (yes I know it was a safe Labor seat, but that means the task of winning pre-selection is not exactly simple).

Most academics are no longer tenured, and even if they are they are still measured on their research output or the fee income their courses produce. The ABC hires and fires presenters on much the same criteria as the commercials - does anyone listen to them?

I like Gerard, I like what he has done with the Institute, I generally like the intellectual rigour he applies to the topics he addresses. But I'm getting very tired of his false dichotomy between himself as "private sector" and all he likes to oppose as "taxpayer funded".

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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