In the Weekend Australian, Bill Hayden expressed outrage at the exuberant critique of the late c in the pages of the Fin Review last week by former prime minister Paul Keating.

In a typically eccentric piece, Oz journalist Imre Salusinszky referred to Hayden as “a Labor icon” (among The Quadrant crowd and the monarchists, maybe) and quoted the Labor turncoat and former Queenslander copper as saying McGuinness was endowed with “enormous intellectual ability”.

That being the case, Hayden should explain why he sacked McGuinness from his staff in 1974. Chroniclers of the Whitlam era vividly recalled the summary termination of McGuinness’s career as a ministerial adviser and Commonwealth public servant.

“Hayden decided that McGuinness and Megan Stoyles (another staffer) had to go,” Crikey has been told. “But he didn’t know how to get rid of them without creating a monumental fuss. In the end, he told Paddy to explain his departure to the media in any way he liked so long as it didn’t reflect badly on him (Hayden) or the government.”

If Paddy went quietly and played along with this plan, Hayden agreed not to embarrass the self-proclaimed anarchist who worked for the London branch of the Moscow Norodny Bank, the state counting house of the blood-drenched Stalinist regime, and later became editor of The Australian Financial Review by giving the real reason why he had been axed from the ministerial staff. The deal stuck because McGuinness ingenuously told friends he had simply decided to “move on” and return to journalism when, in reality, he had been fired.

Subsequently, Hayden and McGuinness made up, and the Buffoon in Black became a regular visitor to Yarralumla where he helped consume litres of taxpayer-supplied Grange as guest of the G-G.

What a spectacular career: an exclusive Jesuit education at Sydney’s Riverview, into the bohemia of The Push and anarchism, later into the bosom of the ALP, then along a conveyor belt of loopy right-wing columns to Quadrant, the undergraduate magazine for grumpy old men, and climaxing with last week’s mourning party that included Frank and Miranda Devine, Piers Akerman, Bettina Arndt and John Howard – a ghastly epitaph to a life that held such earlier promise of unconventionality, idiosyncrasy, iconoclasm and rebellion.

Peter Fray

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