Review | Monday 01 October 2012
Lindsay Tanner has followed up his first book, Sideshow, with a collection of essays and speeches penned while a federal MP and Minister for Finance and Deregulation, brought together in Politics with Purpose.
The breadth of Tanner’s engagement and knowledge is astounding. He moves effortlessly from commentary on Dostoyevsky and Rushdie to the difficulties facing divorcees to ‘soft-power’ and government regulation. All the while he sounds like a normal person just talking common sense.
Perhaps what is most striking about Lindsay Tanner is his absolute fearlessness and commitment to principle, hitting the high notes on his criticism of former Prime Minister John Howard’s asylum seeker policies. Tanner, in the Herald Sun no less, openly discusses the prevalence of racial discrimination and xenophobia that mostly goes unsaid. And mired as we are in the debate on asylum seekers, his words could hardly be more relevant or important today.
Tanner is also highly attuned to the effects of a changing economy, not only in terms of usual statistics of employment and GDP growth, but in the way we interact and form relationships. Where it seems most are able only to focus on the big picture or the minutiae, Tanner’s view is multi-focal and has a certain wisdom to it.
There is a real sense of honesty in these essays, with plenty of thought behind the words. And that honesty makes his views compelling and often very funny.
This presentation of his works is at once saddening and encouraging. Saddening because I wish we had actually listened more carefully to him while he held public office. It is encouraging because if our current crop is anything remotely like him, the store of talent in Australia’s political circles in all parties is richer and deeper than we give it credit for.
And I think I have found my epitaph: ‘Any sentence with 22 punctuation marks deserves to die.’
Andrew Carter works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.