Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, July 25, 2004
FOR THE TRAVELLER, time travels more slowly than it does for those who stay behind, according to Albert Einstein.
So when he or she arrives back home the world left behind may have changed completely, with babies suddenly old, friends and spouses in their graves, and South Sydney at the head of the Rugby League table.
I doubt that my travelling speed was high enough to test Einstein's theory accurately, but in my isolation from Auntie's repetitive, world-creating commentary, strange premonitions of a new world began to occupy my mind.
For example, in the desolation of one sleepless desert night I was gripped by the conviction that the next Federal election was already a year in the past, Prime Minister Mark Latham strode the world stage and Phillip Adams was our Governor-General.
Latham's ascent to power had depended, of course, on Green preferences, negotiated through the good offices of Parachute  Peter Garrett, and the price of that support had been sinking the US-Australia free trade agreement. That, and some residue of rhetorical anti-Yankism to shore up left support in Caucus, had led to frosty relations between Canberra and Washington.

Comrade Doug Campbell of the CFMEU was the new President of an empowered national Industrial Relations Commission, and relations between the Latham government and business generally were bitter, and interest rates rising.

Latham himself was still undecided whether his posture should mirror that of Joseph Lyons or Jack Lang.
Fortunately, the only foreign leader Latham had assaulted, by the time I recovered my senses, was Xanana Gusmao, who responded by ratcheting up his Konfrontasi with Australia. As soon as Australia had finished training his army, Gusmao declared, he would take revenge.

This much about the new order was favourable. The ABC had been made an honest organisation by restructuring it as a workers' collective. Entry to Harris Street was by presentation of union membership card and an ALP ticket. Programming was unchanged.
Auntie's funds were derived from a license fee, but those who declared the never listened to ABC radio national were excused paying the fee.
What a pleasure to wake from reveries like that.