TWO WEEKS IN LILLIPUT
On the 29th of October, 1998 I sent the following letter to Steve
Vizard and Eddie McGuire. It was a response to Steve's book Two
Weeks in Lilliput, which dealt with the Constitutional Convention.
I'd travelled on the plane with Steve and had a great yarn. Unfortunately
the book was very partisan.
This an abridged version of the letter
A picture of Gulliverian splendour sitting at home in front of
the fire, rifle perched on the arm, hound at the feet and a Pro
Hart on the wall while the computer fired out clichés, alliterations
and quotable quotes......
So much of what you say is inaccurate and self indulgent and some
of it ever so nasty. To chastise me for having railed against the
ARM dream team is a joke. Apart from one light-hearted reference
to Eddie McGuire finding time to read The Constitution (he did,
after, all tell The Age he hadn't read it) in between a round
of golf at Portsea, and the general observation that some ARM people
"needed to think politically" (eg, address prior occupation,
etc, in The Constitution), I said nothing of a personal kind about
any of you.
Your old school mate, Tim Costello, was relentlessly sardonic
("It's more than a game, boys") in his attack on Eddie.
It wasn't a question of whether someone was well known, but whether
they wanted more than a flim-flam republic that mattered to me.
I could hardly argue that I wasn't a well known person.
Watching you fire the ARM campaign with a burst of jingoistic waffle
about eucalypts and vegemite, I just didn't think you were the man
for me. Two Weeks in Lilliput confirms that. It is an abjectly
partisan document. Although diced with humorous caricatures it sounds
like a calculated attempt to demean anyone who stands in the way
of what I called a "phoney republic".
As Mark Tredinnick from the University of Sydney bemoaned, "At
our convention, the scope of the possible was too narrowly imagined.
Politics of the conventional kind triumphed
now all the talk
of the kind of nation we are to become, and how else we might be
governed, has been contained, circumscribed, kept to the shallows
.." ..... propaganda masquerading
as satire is no substitute for intellectual rigor and imagination.
Nor is misrepresentation. To write that Eddie McGuire had me "just
about over the line" to the ARM position only to lose my "troubled
soul" to a lurching Paddy O'Brien, and that Eddie abused me
with insults such as "get up, Phil, you hypocrite
you goose, get on your feet
(and) weak as piss, Phil
," when I (described most sensitively as a "recalcitrant
dog") refused to vote with the ARM, is classic boys'-own piss-and-wind
bragging. The latter claim, as a host of eye witnesses will verify,
If Eddie had spoken to me in the manner you claim I wouldn't have
sat like the "recalcitrant dog" you describe in the book.
If I was anything like the grandstanding, fictitious character wearing
the Coburg colours in the 1986 VFA Grand Final, one suspects I'd
have asked young Eddie to step outside!
"Some people rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain
pen," wrote Woody Guthrie. Behind a veil of self-deprecation,
you've been up to no-good with your pen. It's a bourgeois trait
to engage in the use of violent words while simultaneously decorating
oneself with the medals of philanthropy.
......your utterances about my football background, my interest
in Ireland and my politics reveal that you have no real understanding
of the kind of person I am. I'm surprised that given Eddie was shown
segments of the book they didn't end up on the cutting room floor......