Crikey reporter Jane Nethercote writes:
With the honour of a state memorial service, offered by the Prime Minister,
the late Kerry Packer joins the ranks of RM Williams, Sir Donald
Bradman, Slim Dusty, Johnny Warren and William Allan (Australia’s last
World War I veteran) as non-politicians who have been accorded state
services over recent years.
So how do you join this exclusive club? Well, says Philip Adams in The Australian, senior
members of the political class get one, and they seem to be a part of
the salary package of your High Court judge. “But below this level,
beneath the pantheon,” says Adams, “things get murky. Who gets the nod?
Who doesn’t? Why not?”
The federal government’s policy is to
offer a state memorial service or state funeral to anyone in Australia
“who has achieved to a significant level in their particular field,”
according to a prime ministerial spokesman recently.
of the political and judicial spheres, NSW government policy (in place
since 1966) allows for state funerals to be granted to a “deceased
distinguished NSW citizen,” noting that there have been “relatively few
of these” (11 since 1922, not including Packer but including Henry
Lawson, Mary Gilmore and Slim Dusty).
But when it comes to state
funerals, it seems that some people are more equal than others.
Distinguished and influential talents like Donald Horne and Graham
Kennedy also died in 2005, but were apparently not offered state
So who decides, asks Adams? “Is it the PM? His
department? A protocol office? Are contenders discussed in cabinet? Do
the premiers have a say? Are they planned years ahead like the obits in
this newspaper? Are there boxes to be ticked? Is there a brownie points
register? A celebrity ranking? A salon des refuses? We deserve, indeed,
demand to know.”
But state funerals are mainly about symbolism,
which makes it even more ironic to deploy taxpayer funds to pay tribute
to someone who did his best throughout his life to avoid paying tax.