A fitting 'dis-memorial'

Issue 

Peter McGregor

If John Howard, Kim Beazley and co. are to give Kerry Packer a send-off, why shouldn't we hold our own anti-state, anti-capitalist "dis-memorial" at the same time? After all, it's us, the taxpayers, who are paying for Packer's send-off, not Howard. And state memorial services are supposed to be for people who have made an outstanding contribution to Australia.

Packer, when he wasn't gambling or commodifing sport, spent most of his time avoiding paying tax, despite his huge income. After his death, his own sycophantic media, along with most of the mainstream media, praised his generosity, citing his payment for the installation of respirators in some ambulances. That little gesture cost Packer less than he lost gambling, and much less than he avoided in tax.

Packer's obsession with greed represents so much of what is wrong in our society. So why does Howard want to honour him?

Packer used his media empire to help Howard become prime minister, and to keep him there. The Packer and Murdoch media duopoly continually put a positive spin on Howard's economic policies — policies that have done so much to make the rich richer while the rest of us find our working conditions deteriorating and our rent or mortgage increasing.

Howard repaid the favour by amending the media cross-ownership laws to allow Packer and Murdoch to gobble up smaller media, concentrating almost all of the commercial media in their hands. At the same time, the government cut funding for public media (ABC and SBS). And Howard — like Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Bob Carr and Kim Beazley — actually admire capitalist bullies like Packer, since they have so much in common.

The poster for our "dis-memorial" action is an homage to Chips Mackinolty's poster when Liberal PM Robert Menzies died in 1978 — an image of Menzies with the main text "Pig Iron Bob, dead at last". The background words on the poster come from letters to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald: "No need for an elaborate state memorial service for Kerry, when so many politicians could simply gather, as usual, in one of the great man's back pockets". And the photo? "Nick! Gimme your kidney, Nick!"

While the mainstream media speculates about whether Kerry's son James' ex-wife, Jodhi Meares, and Kerry's "friend", Julie Trethowan, will attend the memorial service, consider whether Kerry achieved the kind of successful euthanasia that is not available to ordinary Australians?

Just as Hawke declared a public holiday when Australia won the America's Cup, the least Howard can do is make his Packer-dead-day the equal of the Queen's birthday, Australia day, Xmess day and the like. If Howard is to be consistent about Packer's send off being taxpayer funded, and hence open to the public, he must declare February 17 a public holiday. He could include this in his Work Choices legislation!

Only the ruling class mourns its dead heroes. So what can we do? Stop buying Murdoch or Packer newspapers. Stop watching their TV channels. Stop voting for political parties that provide alibis for corporate domination of our lives.

And why not join us outside Howard's obscene event? Come along at 11am on Friday, February 17, to the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay. Alternatively, you could attend the event and protest from within. Phone (02) 6285 3000 and someone will take your name, claiming that "no member of the public with be turned away ... Get there by 11.15am and the service, in the Concert Hall, begins at 12.30pm and ends at 1.30pm". See you there!

From Green Left Weekly, February 8, 2006.
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