Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan, who won the Man Booker Prize for the year 2014 for his wartime novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, expressed astonishment and displeasure at the Prime Minister’s statement recently that ‘coal is good for humanity’. He was asked the question in a BBC interview to presumably extract a quote out of him – because what would a novelist know of politics, after all? – and Flanagan duly obliged.
Flanagan has always been vocal environmentalist, though, so some could argue that it was right up his alley. ‘I’m very saddened because Australia has the most extraordinary environment and I don’t understand why our government seems committed to destroying what we have that’s unique in the world,’ Flanagan said.
And then he added, ‘To be frank, I’m ashamed to be Australian when you bring this up.’
Former Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown (of course) supported Flanagan and called him ‘thoughtful, far-visioned, compassionate intellect that our Prime Minister isn’t’. He also used the opportunity to take a dig at the Prime Minister by saying, ‘Tony Abbott’s ‘shirtfronting’ approach to global diplomacy is a matter of shame for many, many Australians.’
For his part, the Prime Minister responded by saying that perhaps professional ought to stick to the professions they’re in. ‘I don’t spend my life commenting on literature,’ he said, referring to Flanagan, ‘and I will leave professionals to make comments on politics.’ But perhaps the Prime Minister forgets that politics is one field on which every citizen in the country is expected to have a point of view. That, after all, constitutes a democracy.

Ritesh Saxena

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