Monday, March 5, 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

I’ve always been interested in our Living National Treasures; my distant cousin, poet Les Murray is a Living Treasure. This past weekend seven new Living National Treasures were announced, to replace the seven original treasures who have died since the list was last refreshed in 2004. One newly announced treasure – Clive Palmer - is causing a lot of comment. In fact, the National Trust has refused to endorse Mr Palmer’s inclusion as a Living National Treasure.
It sounded too strange: the body that chooses the National Treasures is refusing to endorse one of the people it chose? Yesterday’s fiasco made me realise that I had no idea who selects the National Treasures, or what criteria guides selection. So off to Google I went.
Selecting the National Living Treasures is the responsibility of the National Trust of Australia. The first 100 National Living Treasures were named in 1997: the only criteria I can find is that the nominated Aussie had to be living, and had to have made a significant contribution in any field. When new National Treasures are required to replace those who have died (or had their status revoked due to conduct unbecoming a National Treasure), the National Trust publicises it, and encourages members of the public to nominate people they consider worthy. Each nomination is counted as a single vote. Simple.
I have to wonder who voted for Clive Palmer to be on this list, and I’m not alone. After yesterday’s announcement, my twitter feed was rich with Palmer-derision, and not just from the left. No-one is doubting his wealth, but it seems that almost everyone is doubting whether he is the kind of person who should be on a list of National Treasures. His current, very public slanging match with Treasurer Wayne Swan is keeping the snark alive.
These tweets are just some of the tweets from this morning:
@theprojecttv: Clive Palmer is the worst National Treasure since that Nicholas Cage movie.
@rooney83: Now @nationaltrustau made Clive palmer a “national treasure” do u think we can sell him to China like the rest of our national treasures?
@tradrmum: Clive Palmer needs to either run for the LNP or GTFO of our faces. Hideous man, poisoning public discourse for personal gain.
@DebinMelbourne Listening to Clive Palmer on the radio. What a pompous paternalistic nong.
@cannibalkate Clive Palmer being a National Treasure diminishes the recognition on the other, far worthier nominees.
@liamthompson1 Clive Palmer a living treasure? I think a lot of people would prefer him to be a buried treasure at the moment.
The current list, including the new Treasures named yesterday, is:
1. Phillip Adams, humanist, social commentator
2. Faith Bandler, academic, activist and advocate for Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islander people
3. Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales, professor
4. John Bell, actor
5. Geoffrey Blainey, professor, historian
6. Raelene Boyle, Olympic runner, sports commentator
7. Sir Jack Brabham, world champion Formula One driver
8. Father Frank Brennan, social commentator
9. Senator Bob Brown, politician, Australian Greens activist
10. Julian Burnside, barrister, refugee rights advocate, author
11. Don Burrows, musician
12. Dr Harry Butler, naturalist and conservationist
13. The Reverend Tim Costello, social activist, commentator
14. The Reverend Bill Crews, social activist
15. Russell Crowe, actor
16. Bart Cummings, racehorse trainer
17. Betty Cuthbert, Olympic runner
18. Judy Davis, actress
19. Sir William Deane, former High Court judge and former Governor-General of Australia
20. Ernie Dingo, Indigenous Australian television personality
21. Mick Dodson, Indigenous Australian leader
22. Pat Dodson, Indigenous Australian activist/leader
23. Peter Doherty, immunologist, professor, Nobel Prize winner
24. Ted Egan, musician, activist, administrator
25. Herb Elliott, Olympic runner
26. John Farnham, entertainer
27. Dawn Fraser, Olympic swimmer, former politician
28. Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia
29. Professor Ian Frazer, scientist
30. Cathy Freeman, Indigenous Australian sportsperson, Olympic runner
31. Margaret Fulton, writer, food expert
32. Peter Garrett, politician, former singer and social activist
33. Jennie George, ACTU trade union leader, politician
34. Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Indigenous Australian tennis player
35. Shane Gould, Olympic swimmer
36. Germaine Greer, writer, social activist
37. Catherine Hamlin, physician
38. Rolf Harris, entertainer
39. John Hatton, independent NSW politician
40. Hazel Hawke, social activist, ex-wife of Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister of Australia
41. Basil Hetzel, medical researcher, public health advocate
42.The Rt Revd Peter Hollingworth, former Governor-General of Australia
43. Gabi Hollows, social activist, philanthropist
44. Janet Holmes à Court, business leader, philanthropist
45. John Howard, politician, former Prime Minister of Australia
46. Robert Hughes, art critic, author
47. Barry Humphries, entertainer
48. Barry Jones, former politician, author, polymath
49. Caroline Jones, television personality, social commentator
50. Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia
51. Thomas Keneally, writer
52. Cheryl Kernot, former politician
53. Nicole Kidman, actress
54. Ian Kiernan, businessman, social activist
55. Justice Michael Kirby, lawyer, judge, social commentator
56. Dame Leonie Kramer, academic, businesswoman
57. Karl Kruszelnicki, scientist, author, media personality
58. John Landy, Olympic athlete, former Governor of Victoria
59. Rod Laver, tennis player, businessman
60. Michael Leunig, cartoonist, social commentator
61. Jimmy Little, Indigenous Australian singer
62. Ted Mack, politician, social commentator
63. David Malouf, novelist
64. Colleen McCullough, author, writer
65. Garry McDonald, actor
66. Walter Mikac, survivors' advocate
67. Kylie Minogue, singer, actress
68. Jack Mundey, trade union leader
69. Graeme Murphy, dancer, choreographer
70. Les A Murray, poet
71. John Newcombe, tennis player, television commentator
72. Olivia Newton-John, singer, actress
73. Greg Norman, golfer, businessman
74. Sir Gustav Nossal, scientist, administrator
75. Lowitja O'Donoghue, Indigenous Australian leader
76. Pat O'Shane, magistrate, Indigenous Australian leader
77. Clive Palmer, industrialist
78. Mary Paton, founder of the Nursing Mothers' Association
79. Noel Pearson, Indigenous Australian leader
80. Kieren Perkins, Olympic swimmer, television commentator
81. Pat Rafter, tennis player
82. Henry Reynolds, historian
83. Ken Rosewall, tennis player
84. Peter Sculthorpe, musician, composer
85. Dick Smith, businessman, social commentator
86. Fiona Stanley, physician
87. Richard Tognetti, violinist and conductor
88. Tom Uren, former politician
89. Anthony Warlow, singer
90. Gai Waterhouse, racehorse trainer
91. Steve Waugh, cricketer
92. Gough Whitlam, former Prime Minister of Australia
93. Margaret Whitlam, social activist, wife of Gough Whitlam
94. Robyn Williams, science broadcaster
95. David Williamson, playwright
96. Tim Winton, novelist
97. Fiona Wood, physician
98. Roger Woodward, pianist
99. John Yu, medical doctor
100. Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Indigenous Australian leader
Now that I’ve browsed the list, I can see it has its controversies. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that nominations were open earlier this year, but I don’t read Woman’s Day. Is a women’s magazine the best way to get the word out and the votes in? I seriously doubt it.
I’m definitely in the group that is mystified by Clive Palmer’s inclusion in the group, but I think he probably had his personal PR people working on improving his image. Since I started nosing around, I’ve even seen some Aussies actively campaigning via their websites and FaceBook pages for nominations
I’m wondering, is there anyone other than Clive Palmer who shouldn’t be there?
Is there anyone that you think should be an absolute no-brainer inclusion, that isn’t there?
I have a suggestion: Robert James Lee Hawke. Bob Hawke. Former Prime Minister, former ACTU leader, slightly reformed larrikin, Rhodes Scholar. Bizarrely, Mr Hawke’s former wife Hazel is a Living Treasure, but Bob is not. In fact, he’s the only former living PM who isn’t a Living Treasure. That can’t be right, surely?!
What about new inductees Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue. Does it matter than they no longer call Australia home?
I almost wish I hadn’t started looking around for information on these awards. I have so much respect for almost everyone on the list, yet now that I know how it’s done, it seems so damned unimpressive!
Perhaps we could just give everyone a Logie and be done with it.

1 comment:

  1. Woman's Day is an interesting choice of information dissemination. Perhaps we need a reality show where we can vote off the ones who do not impress us. My National Treasure Rules or possibly, the one Clive would win, "Big Brother"!