I didn’t like Florence as much as Venice or Rome; it seemed over-hyped. That said, it is a fascinating place.
The Fairfax Press has just released the BRW Australian Rich 200 list. Gina Rinehart leads at a tad over $A20 billion. Then there is blue sky until the Pratt family kicks in at $A7.6 billion. I felt a little sad for Frank Lowy. He came in at fourth with just $A7.2 billion. Perhaps the new restructuring of Westfield fought through against strong opposition will help.
That was a magnificent segue because it allows me to go in so many directions. I must be disciplined! In a way, Florence was developed by the then equivalent of the BRW top 200. I have always liked the battles between the rival Strozzi and Medici families. Both made their initial money out of banking – Florence was at the centre of the invention of modern banking. Both used their money to gain political power. Both then built things.
The only Australian equivalent that I can think of is Clive Palmer. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Still, its the base for another segue.
Views vary on Clive Palmer. Personally, I have fluctuated between thinking him a complete buffoon and then laughing out-right at something he said. He is, in fact, a very experienced political operator as well as a consummate showman. You will get a feel for this from Neil Whitfield’s post Shock and Gore and the weather in West Wollongong this morning. I would hardly have thought of Neil as a natural Palmer supporter, I am not saying he is, but he is clearly drawn in by the theatre of it all.
The Al and Clive show in Parliament House was one of the most effective pieces of political theatre that you will find. There was the suspense, the secrecy, drawing the media like flies. Then to find Clive and Al Gore standing together was so far from left field that it blew the media apart. It actually changed the political landscape.
However, beyond the theatrics there were two things that I found interesting.
One was the role played by veteran conservation campaigner Don Henry in stitching the whole thing together. This was quite clever, because it shifted the debate away from the messages that the Abbott Government had been trying to deliver.
The second was the apparent reaction of the new Palmer United Party party room. If the reporting is correct, they would not agree with their boss on the deal, throwing the whole plan into a degree of disarray; changes had to be made to allow the show to proceed. This is quite important, for it suggests that the new parliamentarians, and they are all new, are not mere ciphers. They never would be of course, Parliament doesn’t work that way. Still, now they face the challenge of developing coherence as a group.
Well, the day has dawned. I had other things that I wanted to say, but it is time to move on.
Cousin Sophie’s take on the Palmer matter in The Saturday Paper.
This second postscript has nothing to do with the main theme in this post. I record it simply as remarkably bad example of “popular” history. Archduke Franz Ferdinand: The man whose assassination is blamed for triggering World War I.