The biographer and the biographee

22 Jun 2010

The prime minister was angry. So what did he say? asks Jock Given in Inside Story


DAVID MARR would not have been Kevin Rudd’s first choice for a biographer when he turned up early in 2010 with a Quarterly Essay to write.

If the PM had read Marr’s The High Price of Heaven, published a decade ago, he’d have found out exactly what Marr thought of the God-bothering prime minister at the time, John Howard. Marr describes his own teenage years, spent between taking Christ into his life “on a dark night on the shores of Port Hacking in the summer of 1960” and ditching his faith during an exam at Sydney University half a decade later, while trying to answer the question, “Reconcile the propositions that God is both all powerful and all good.”

He says he “got out the other side with most of myself intact. But it’s left me unable to forgive those Christians who are still at work, inflicting misery on kids… The enemies of films and books and magazines, of sex and music and drugs and television, of drink and dancing are Christians.” Discovering politics by the age of eighteen, Marr found the world “full of disasters God couldn’t fix.”

Or he could have read The Henson Case, published in 2008, and found out what Marr thought of the Kevin Rudd who had been prime minister for just six months when police raided an exhibition of Bill Henson’s photographs in Sydney. “I have a very deep view of this,” Rudd told Karl Stefanovic on Channel Nine’s Today. “For God’s sake, let’s just allow kids to be kids.” Henson’s images, he said, were “absolutely revolting.” With these words, Marr says, the new prime minister “killed Camelot.”

Jock Given is the author of Turning Off the Television: Broadcasting’s Uncertain Future and professor of media and communications at Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research.

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