As a primate of signal curiosity I often feel like some urban fringe dweller, guddling about in the detritus of the culture industry, feeling with my fingerless gloves for gleams of truth or loveliness amongst the dross.
I constantly remind myself, as I go, not to take umbrage that so much of it is junk – it is after all a midden – and to focus instead on the finds. These I tuck under my jacket to re-use or, better still, transform into some astonishing new implement of mind.
It was in such a spirit of enquiry that I popped down, the other day, to hear the former planning minister Frank Sartor at the Writers’ Festival.
The question in my mind – the bauble I was seeking in that particular midden – was why is planning so hard to come by, in NSW? What, if anything, can we learn from obvious mistakes? Surely it’s not that hard.
The book in question is The Fog on the Hill, one of those cute Labor tropes about train driver Chifley and the putative lumens emanating from Labor’s now very small bump in the landscape.
Sartor’s chat held moments of genuine entertainment, like his rendering of Michael Egan’s quip that ”Bob Carr’s not in charge – he’s just an effing journo we hired to win elections.” Or when he told us ”of course, Carr was a total hypochondriac” and twice mimicked his orotund baritone.