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Barry Jones: TV Star, Academic, Politician and Writer
A citizen reporter shares his memories of an Australian national treasure
Eric Shackle (shack)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-12 16:22 (KST)   
This story will be featured in the next edition of The World's First Multi-National e-Book.
  <Editor's Note>
"Barry argues that the great objectives of the French revolution -- liberty, equality, fraternity -- have been replaced by materialism, self interest, exclusion. I fear he is correct." -- Australia's former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, launching Barry Jones's autobiography, A Thinking Reed, in Sydney earlier this month.

I've known and greatly admired Barry Jones, now a septuagenarian Australian "National Treasure," for half a century. (He was 74 on Oct. 11).

He rocketed to fame when, as a young Melbourne school teacher, he won the title of national quiz king in Bob Dyer's "BP Pick-a-Box" show on Sydney's Channel 7 in the days of black-and-white television.

As public relations officer for the sponsor, I often drove him from his Sydney hotel to and from the TV studio in Epping, about 16km (10 miles) from the central business district. He was a friendly, intense young man who never stopped talking. We discussed politics, education, media and showbiz, any subject you might name.

Young school teacher Barry Jones (center) relaxes at the end of a BP party in Sydney in the 1950s. With him are Eric Shackle (left), BP's public relations officer, and photographer Jack Dabinett.
©2006 Eric Shackle

Barry was a great TV performer for several years, becoming a national celebrity when he beat challenges from quiz champions from the U.S., U.K., Finland, South Africa, and elsewhere. A few years later he gained degrees in arts and law, and doctorates in science and literature.

Turning to politics, he entered Victoria's State parliament as a Labor member in 1972, and graduated to become a Federal parliamentarian from 1977 until 1998. He was Minister for Science from 1983 to 1990 and national president of the Australian Labor Party from 1992 to 2000.

In Jan. 1998, he was deputy chair of the Constitutional Convention and in Feb. 1998 became a "national treasure," one of 100 people the National Trust named as Australian icons. Barry Jones Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory, and Yalkaparidon jonesi, a rare extinct family of marsupials, were named for him.

With all those impressive achievements behind him, his new book, A Thinking Reed which took him several years to complete, has attracted media attention throughout Australia.

FOOTNOTE: The title of Barry's book, The Thinking Reed, is NOT a typo. It refers to a lecture by the French philosopher, mathematician, theologian, physicist and man-of-letters, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) who said:
Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.
Further information about Barry Jones and his autobiography are available here.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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