Which state was leading to the way towards Australia’s bold, inventive technocratic future in 1964?
Here’s what Donald Horne wrote in The Lucky Country:
Brisbane falls backwards, Sydney falls apart, Melbourne moves forward to stay where it is, Adelaide moves ahead… Adelaide has moved into the technological age.
Albert Tucker’s work on the cover of the first edition of Penguin’s ‘The Lucky Country’ -
In The Spectator this week I write that if South Australia was the test bed for the new technocracy, as Horne believed, we must assume the experiment has failed.
The technocrats and intellectuals Horne admired, a group that ‘understands the demands of the age better and sees life in more complicated terms,’ now dominate public life. Their triumph was a watershed in post-war history that changed sections of Australia beyond recognition. It explains why the ABC now broadcasts from a parallel universe, why our universities teach what they teach and why Labor is no longer the party of the workers. It explains why government grew so large, how the bureaucracy was allowed to take charge and why debt and deficit may become Australia’s permanent condition. [FULL COLUMN]
Also in The Spectator is Peter Coleman’s insightful consideration of Horne and his legacy. Coleman quotes from the review he wrote of The Lucky Country in The Bulletin in 1964:
‘There are many Donald Hornes in this engrossing new book. There is Horne the Prophet of Doom and Horne the Man of Confidence, Horne the Puritanical Censor and Horne the Hedonistic Pagan, Horne the Tub-Thumper and Horne the Poet of the People.”
What holds them together, I wrote, is Horne’s sense of an impending national catastrophe, of the growing threat to our survival as an independent country – and our rooted indifference to this or any other threat. This was the time when other prophets such as Malcolm Muggeridge were giving Australia another fifteen years at the most before it disappeared from history, blown away by some mighty emerging power such as Red China. What Australians desperately need, Horne said, are some ‘sudden shocks of reorientation’. For a start we must scrap White Australia and abolish the Monarchy. Then we must toss out all the second-raters – ‘the racketeers of the mediocre’- who still run the country.
Many of Horne’s critics believed that in getting stuck into Australia’s dominant second-raters he was basically expressing rage at his rivals who had master-minded his humiliating dismissal as editor of the Bulletin and the decision that he concentrate in future on editing a trashy entertainment weekly. (In those days he sometimes seemed to have more enemies than admirers. That is the price, he would say, which independent spirits must pay for rejecting the national mediocrity.) But there was far more to it than simple pique. Hurt and exhausted in the service of the Packer press, he now resigned, joined an advertising agency (or went into exile, as he put it), and began to write his apologia, his reflections on his life and times. Born of this complex and life-changing disenchantment, The Lucky Country is by far his best book.