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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 424


Mr ABBOTT (4:30 PM) —This week the parliament has eulogised Bernie Banton, Matt Price, Sir Charles Court and Sir Edmund Hillary, and I rise this afternoon to praise a man equally worthy of parliamentary tribute, namely, the journalist and editor PP McGuinness, who died last month. For more than 35 years, Paddy helped to shape Australia’s public debate as a writer, an editor of the Financial Review, a columnist on the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald and, finally, as editor of Quadrant, Australia’s finest intellectual magazine. In this final role, he gave a forum for Keith Windschuttle to bring more academic rigour and less political correctness to the study of Indigenous history.

Paddy loved ideas. He had an unquenchable intellectual curiosity and he endowed the Centre for Independent Studies library with what is probably this country’s finest collection of Marxist documents. Paradoxically, Paddy was an early advocate of economic reform, the tariff cuts, the privatisations and the deregulation begun by the Hawke government and deepened by the Howard government, but unlike so many other economic rationalists he was not oblivious to the short-term pain of change and never lost his affinity with average wage earners.

The eclectic crowd at Paddy’s funeral ranged from John Howard, John Stone and Peter Coleman to Bill Hayden, Eva Cox and Bob Ellis, but it also included many otherwise unknown people whom Paddy had befriended in the pubs of Balmain. Although Paddy could be acidic in debate, he had a gentle heart. Clad all in black, taxi drivers would often mistake him for a priest. Paddy would patiently hear their confessions, but as befitted a pre-Vatican II atheist, as he called himself, he would never offer absolution. Paddy once advised me that to succeed I needed to look older and put on weight. That was advice he was happy to take himself.

In his last editorial in the current issue of Quadrant, Paddy asked ‘whether Rudd will have the strength to continue his essentially rationalist position’ and concluded:

At the very least Rudd is going to find himself dealing with a torrent of criticism from his supposed friends, especially the Greens (who have no sense) and the bourgeois Labor Left.

Paddy was frequently scornful of politicians but eventually joined their ranks as an elected member of Leichhardt Council. Notwithstanding this effort, I think his journalism will be his lasting legacy to public life—a legacy, I might add, which even the most senior cabinet minister would struggle to equal. God bless you, Paddy. Public life will long miss your good counsel.