Kerry Packer & Australian conservatism

Read Paul Barry’s Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer Uncut. It sheds much light on Australian conservatism and Australian capitalism:

  1. Purveyors of Keating romanticism should consider the close linkage between Keating and Hawke and the Packers;
  2. The linkage between the Packers and the ALP right goes back to Ted Theodore shafting his mates in the AWU in the demise of The World;
  3. Much of the Packers’ wealth was based on government favoritism, property rights were frequently; created and modified by governments to advantage them (relevant to current debates about intellectual property and copyright);
  4. Did Packer add value? Perhaps World Series Cricket and Sixty Minutes were genuine innovations
  5. The Costigan Royal Commission and its journalist supporters doesn’t come out well either, the entirely unsubstantiated  theory of Kerry Packer’s involvement in the drug trade (for which the fact of him having an extravagant lifestyle was seriously cited as evidence) and being linked to a murder diverted attention from his massive tax evasion. It confirms my skepticism about investigative commissions as democratic agents (a project that John Keane calls monitory democracy);
  6. To say that the management style of Kerry and his father were based on bullying would be an understatement. Despite this received the frequent sympathy and loyalty of politicians, including many from the ALP. Packer was a classically charismatic figure in the Weberian sense, but this style challenged Schumpeterian predictions that capitalist enterprises would evolve into routinised bureaucracies. Did some of the Labor sympathy for Packer reflect this?

Hawke-Keating Labor anticipated Blair’s ‘third way’. The alliances between Labor and Packer resemble those between Blair and Rupert Murdoch. A consistent economic liberal might distinguish between supporting a market and supporting individual businesspeople, but the relation between Australian new Labor and the Packers demonstrates that this is not the case in practice. Gordon Brown declared that:

Every day we are facing the business choice – to support our companies from car manufacturers to the self-employed or simply let great British businesses go to the wall. And we are making our choice. Labour believes in the businesses and enterprise of Britain. More than 200,000 agreements signed to give direct support to small businesses.

Kerry Packer’s life represented Australian conservatism in practice. It was a more significant ideological statement than all of the files of Quadrant magazine or the musings of every Australian op-ed writer. Did Packer’s combination of charisma and violence incarnate conservative values? Corey Robin argues:

Violence, the conservative intellectual has maintained, is one of the experiences in life that makes us feel the most alive, and violence is an activity that makes life, well, lively.

 

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