I seem to be tainted with cynicism and moral relativism in this company where everyone has such concern about the issues. Barry Spurr is a political player not some dear little thing with wide eyes cruelly hunted down. He was engaged in the political game at the big end of town and in this country that is a brutally combative polar dialectic without nuance. I find it hard to believe someone could get the job he had without knowing the score. The past thirty years in this country one or the other side of cultural politics has used its time in power to end the careers of the other side. Neither has the moral call on track record. He had a government role which will deprive others of their careers perhaps for good. I am not particularly partisan in this (probably I was on his side in much of it )but my point is that this is not the story of an ingenue butterfly crushed on the wheel. I think it does matter that he has said these things. I don’t think the public interest argument is a strong justification for disseminating these private conversations although someone who deeply cared for the national curriculum and was opposed to his position would see it more substantial as a justification for publishing.
For the record in terms of him being hounded I have not noticed that anyone much cares, there’s been a tiny hue and no cry really. He resigned and was not dismissed. I suppose he has been pushed but the public fact is that he jumped and his University has chosen not to say much at all. His political masters have said next to nothing but they did not back him up. Part of what he was reported to have said had a tilt at them so he may be a bit friendless. The racist comments were not particularly vile the misogynist ones were. Reading between the lines he has accepted a pretty lame settlement with the publishers on the proviso they publish no more so there must be more - and worse. It doesn’t matter that these were private, nor that he should have known about the porous cyber conduit he was using. What is is. He chose at a good age with a life of professional experience to join the fray.
I was taught by a terrific chap. a professor of Pathology. Erudite, astute, lovely educational technique, approachable and charming. There was a prize for the top of the year in Pathology. This prize was more than itself because it opened doors in your career path. A friend of mine worked in the next room to that in which the prize was being discussed by the professors one year and heard my hero professor say “Clearly the top student on performance is this young woman, but she is a young woman and it will be wasted on her.” I still recall some of his lectures and broader moral stands on issues as very worthy. I do wish I could have them untainted by the knowledge of what is.
On another occasion I was talking to a lecturer in the English Department where I studied in the 1970s and said I very much admired the emeritus professor who could recite great mountains of Njal’s saga or Morte D’Arthur from heart and sometimes he became teary during these performances and what a terrific person he was and so on. She said to me “Mmm yes I guess he does have some engaging features but during the 50s he disposed of one academic who was giving trouble by recording a conversation in which the man admitted to being homosexual." I wish I didn’t know that bit too.
By the way Jim you mentioned that you hoped this wouldn’t tarnish Australia. Mate the way we are treating refugees on the high seas to our North and our International non contribution to battling climate change are hard acts to follow in the tarnishing department.