Tag Archives: Paul Keating

Paul Keating on Australia’s relationship with the UK

‘I was told that I did not learn respect at school. I learned one thing: I learned about self-respect and self-regard for Australia—not about some cultural cringe to a country which decided not to defend the Malayan peninsula, not to worry about Singapore and not to give us our troops back to keep ourselves free from Japanese domination. This was the country that you people wedded yourself to, and even as it walked out on you and joined the Common Market, you were still looking for your MBEs and your knighthoods, and all the rest of the regalia that comes with it. You would take Australia right back down the time tunnel to the cultural cringe where you have always come from.’

– Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, Hansard transcript of extract of Question Time in the House of Representatives on February 27, 1992. See his full answer here.

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In an age of rhetoric, Australian politics is missing the American flair

The Conversation

Chris Mackie, La Trobe University

The busy schedule of elections and plebiscites in the Anglophone world has brought with it an increased interest in rhetoric – the art of public speaking. In particular, the recent Democratic convention in Philadelphia saw some major speeches, not the least by Barack and Michelle Obama, and others including Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg.

The notable speeches at the convention, including Hillary Clinton’s own serviceable contribution, helped to get her a bump in the polls at the right moment. The stakes were high, following on from the Republican Convention, where Trump’s long speech had a mixed response, but the controversial speeches of Melania Trump and Ted Cruz, in particular, held the nation’s attention. Trump himself is no mean orator, with a kind of aphoristic, syntax-free style, and an unrivalled capacity for getting his message and profile across.

The Australian political scene of 2016 could scarcely be more different. Campaign launches used to provide an important opportunity for a flurry of rhetoric on a political leader’s part, as Gough Whitlam’s did in 1972. But these events have lost much of their prominence now because election campaigns are constructed differently.

Party launches now occur nearer to the end of campaigning than the beginning, because the parties have to fund themselves after their launches. In the 2016 election the two main political parties launched their formal campaigns with only two weeks (ALP) and one week (Liberal Party) to go before the vote. After six weeks of three-word slogans about policies which had already been announced, interest was minimal in the speeches at the official campaign launches.

Indeed, as far as the speeches were concerned, the main interest was election night itself – that is, after the voting, not before it. Malcolm Turnbull offered up a rather graceless speech on the night of July 2, one which he probably regretted. Bill Shorten did somewhat better on the night, and in the campaign generally, although that was partly because expectations were so low.

It is worth reflecting on the ancient origins of “rhetoric”, which is a Greek word for the art of speaking in public. It developed in a very significant way in Greek antiquity with the rise of democracy.

Political power was a great stimulus for learning how to craft an impressive speech. Pericles, for instance, most famously, held the reins of power in democratic Athens by virtue of his great powers of persuasion. His prominence was such that, according to Thucidydes:

in what was nominally a democracy, power was really in the hands of the first citizen.

Pericles’ own speeches have not survived but we get a sense of them in the pages of Thucydides, notably his Funeral Oration, for fallen Athenian soldiers. His actual speeches must have been magnificent, given their impact within a city-state that was so focused on political rhetoric.


Pericles’ Funeral Oration (Perikles hält die Leichenrede) by Philipp Foltz, 1852.

But it is important to stress that, even before the advent of democracy, speaking well in public was an important ancient Greek virtue. For instance, the main Greek princes in Homer’s Iliad, our earliest European text, were expected to fight well, but also to speak well in the various assemblies.

And there were significant competitive elements to both activities. Some heroes in the Iliad are good speakers, but others are not. Achilles is a wonderful fighter, but he is ill-at-ease in the gatherings of the princes; whereas Odysseus, the wily craftsmen of words, is much more at home in the assemblies.

The greater level of interest in rhetoric in modern American political life is paralleled by its profile in the tertiary sector there. For instance, The University of California, Berkeley, has a Department of Rhetoric offering a full undergraduate program and graduate program. It describes itself as “committed to the study of rhetorical traditions from the classical to the contemporary eras”.

The University of Texas has a Department of Rhetoric and Writing offering a diverse range of courses focused on rhetoric and rhetorical traditions. Harvard has an endowed chair, the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory, once held by John Quincy Adams, although it has a poetic focus these days (and was duly held by Robert Fitzgerald and Seamus Heaney).

Many other American universities offer rhetoric within other disciplines, like English, Composition, or Communication Studies. There is some interest in the study of rhetoric in Australian universities too, although not usually as a discreet area of study.

On the whole, Australian political culture is far less concerned with rhetoric than ancient Athens, or the contemporary United States (which is not to say that we haven’t had some fine political speeches). There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Indeed, some people would see it as a positive virtue, given the extended history of good speeches leading to bad policy.


Paul Keating’s 1992 speech on Aboriginal reconciliation is widely admired as a great speech.

But one wonders whether some great political opportunities are currently being missed more than they were in the recent past. Gough Whitlam, a scholar of Greek as it happens, and an admirer of Pericles, set his campaign on track for victory with a memorable speech at Blacktown in November 1972. It ended,

I do not for a moment believe that we should set limits on what we can achieve, together, for our country, our people, our future.

It was uttered by Whitlam, but it could easily be Pericles.

There is no reason why our political leaders couldn’t have benefited from major speeches in the recent election, in the mould of Whitlam or Pericles or Obama. They might indeed have captured the imagination of the voters. But this would have required far more attention to speechcraft, and laying out an imaginative vision for the future, and far less to the costs of running a campaign.

The ConversationChris Mackie, Professor of Greek Studies, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Paul Keating on Pauline Hanson

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The vaudeville, impact and substance of political name-calling

The Conversation

Howard Manns, Monash University

Scott Morrison would have us think politics is more war than performance whereas names like ScoMo tell us quite the opposite. When pollies, in the words of Paul Keating, “turn the switch to vaudeville”, we like nothing more than to slap names on our political heroes and villains, and to sit bemused and amused at the names they give one another.

Moreover, political nicknames hint at the overlap between politics and performance. Lady Macbeth has been applied to ambitious female politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard. As an aside, it’s worth noting that that the word ambitious has links to the Latin ambitiō meaning “to go around soliciting votes”.

Gillard and Rudd as a pair garnered the moniker Kath and Kev (a cheeky reference to Kath and Kim) and Belgian-born Mathias Cormann has been called The Cormanator (a tongue-in-cheek reference to another accented politician, The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger). Cormann’s reference to Bill Shorten as a Girly Man only served to strengthen these links.

In sum, it’s difficult to take the war metaphor seriously when the supposed warriors are desiccated coconuts (Keating on John Howard), half-baked crims (Keating on Wilson Tuckey), unrepresentative swill (Keating on the Senate) or a shiver looking for a spine to run up (Keating on John Hewson).

Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating

Election 2016’s monikers – e.g. Bill Shorten’s moobs,a blend of man boobs, Electricity Bill; Malcolm Turnbull’s out of touch; daddy – do nothing to dissuade us from this view.

But do names and nicknames matter?

The impact of political name-calling

Political inclinations aside, research says yes.

On a positive note, we Aussies are found of our shortenings, so it’s hardly surprising we say Albo, Bracksy and Plibbers for Anthony Albanese, Steve Bracks and Tonya Plibersek respectively.

On a negative note, research has shown we’re less apt to vote for someone named Dewey or Buchanan simply because their names have the same “disgusting” vowel sound as putrid.

Ethnic names have historically carried negative connotations for US voters but it’s worth noting this is changing. For instance, Republican pundits have gone to great lengths to highlight Barack Obama’s middle name Hussein. Research showed this was an effective strategy for right-leaning voters but actually backfired for left-leaning and moderate voters, who found it to be transparent dog-whistling.

This is why, while the media pundits kept using Hussein, sometimes even adding (a non-existent) Muhammad to Obama’s name, Republican pollies began to shy away from this practice.

Australian pollies generally avoid explicit race baiting (but it’s disgustingly present in other electoral domains). That said, the American-born senator Norm Sanders notably took umbrage to being told “Go home, Yank”, calling it an “ethnic slur”.

While explicit race-baiting is a no-no in modern politics, some pollies garner nicknames because of their dog whistling. For instance, Tony Abbott is known by some Indigenous people as The Gammon Man (“pretender”) and he is known by other groups simply as the number 5265617 (the arrival number of one boat not stopped by the Australian government, the one Abbott arrived on from the UK).

In Australia, we like our pollies not too larrikin but not too rich. Consequently, political name calling has often made reference to class or, lack thereof. For instance, former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu has varyingly been called the Toff from Toorak, Tanty Ted and Cottee’s (because he’s “thick and rich”). Notably, this isn’t the first time ‘thick and rich’ has come up in Australian politics, with Senator Shirley Walters being called creamy for the same reason.

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, Bob Hawke went too far at times but his silver bodgie label certainly wasn’t the worst insult to emerge over the course of Australian politics. Australia’s more “articulate” (or rather posher) pollies have often mocked their less “articulate” (or rather working class) colleagues.

For instance, in the 1890s, one member of the NSW legislature, Sir Henry Parkes, mocked a colleague for his (mis)pronunciation of “h” at the start of words, saying:

Ho, the honourable member for Balmain, who for once – and, of course, but haccident – has made a sensible hobservation.

This, too, conjures Robert Menzies’ famous response to a working-class constituent, who upon asking, “wotcha gunna do about ‘ousing?” received the answer, “Put an ‘h’ in front of it”.

The substance and victims of name-calling

So why name call in politics? It’s part and parcel of the political landscape and it goes back a long time.

For instance, essayist Amber A’Lee Frost points out that the Austrian-born Queen Marie Antoinette was “singled out for especially inventive and vicious taunting” via pamphlets known as libelles (with links to our modern libel). Authors of these libelles coined the word Austrichienne “Austrian bitch”, a word which resembled the French word for “ostrich”. The authors accentuated this pun with drawings of the queen committing sexual acts with ostriches.

Our modern pollies use name calling to demonise, weaken and create doubts about honesty or loyalty in their competitors. At times, political name-calling can seem quite petty. For example, physical traits often come up. Menzies was called Ming the Merciless (Flash Gordon’s nemesis) in part because of his oversized eyebrows. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been called shrek and lurch because of his size.

Rhyming and wordplay can lead to some positive and negative names. Kevin Rudd on the one hand built a campaign on a rhyme (Kevin07) but on the other hand found himself derisively labelled Keven 747, Heavy Kevvy, Kevin 24/7 and Rudd the Dudd.

Perceived and playful ways of speaking and presentation can also become targets for insults. For instance, Bob Carr was known by colleagues as Wottha, as in “what’s he saying this time?”, and Kelly O’Dwyer has been called Whytha as in “why the long face?”. Sometimes the name of the politician develops into an insult in its own right as did former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett’s name (e.g. a Jeff’d up economy, Jeffing awful)

And, of course, some of these insults can be downright mean. In recent decades, John Howard (e.g. the rodent, dead carcass, unflushable turd) and Julia Gillard (e.g. Juliar, witch, bitch, old cow) have perhaps copped it worse than most. As an aside in light of space, it’s worth also noting the kinds of words that get used to describe male and female politicians, as these words certainly reflect prejudices in the wider community.

So then, should our pollies avoid name calling? Essayist A’Lee Frost argues no, writing:

If we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.

Yet, in closing, we reckon it’s worth defending one creature hard done by political name calling. There is reputedly a brush turkey in Whale Beach, NSW, named Barnaby Joyce. No animal deserves to suffer this indignation.

The ConversationHoward Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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Book review: Keating, by Kerry O’Brien

The Conversation

Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

Expanding upon his ABC TV interview series, Kerry O’Brien’s newly published conversation with former prime minister Paul Keating provides a fascinating study in leadership. By using a conversational format, O’Brien is able to provide a greater degree of focus on controversial issues than a reader would find in a straight narrative-style biography or autobiography.

Throughout the book, Keating is given ample opportunity to set the scene, explain the position of the major players and outline his strategies. The book’s strength is that O’Brien then draws in alternative points of view to challenge Keating’s position.

The apprenticeship

Keating makes it clear that, from a young age, he was interested in power and the gaining of it. He sought out mentors, including former NSW premier Jack Lang, seeking to learn from political triumphs and setbacks:

What I particularly picked up from Lang was his use of language, the force of his language.

Keating’s apprenticeship in the use of power ranged from learning the history of the ALP to developing an understanding of human nature. It is clear that Keating made an effort to understand the drivers influencing the various players he was dealing with.

During his time in parliament, and particularly while a backbencher, Keating sought out “subject matter experts” from bureaucracy and industry. He would absorb the issues in a particular sector and use that knowledge to aid in the policies he developed.

I was essentially sucking experience from them. Experience that was central to building a composite picture of the economy and the power equation.

No man is an island

Within the discussion, Keating credits those he worked with to bring about reform. ACTU secretary Bill Kelty is portrayed as a partner without whom reforms such as the Accord would not have been possible.

Numerous Treasury officials and Keating’s own economic advisers, many of whom were recruited from the department, also garner significant praise. Cabinet ministers in the Hawke government – such as Peter Walsh, John Dawkins, Brian Howe and Gareth Evans – all receive high praise at different points.

Keating repeats on a number of occasions his respect for the cabinet process:

I always believed in the cabinet process and treated the cabinet with great seriousness. You can’t make changes on this scale without the cabinet and caucus coming with you. And despite how some of the cartoons may have depicted me, you can’t rule the Labor Party like some sort of emperor.

Keating notes the importance of leadership in cabinet, which he felt was missing in the later Hawke years, and which he tried to engender during his own prime ministership:

Without being bombastic or overbearing, if the leader provides the intellectual framework and the uplift, it’s contagious. Properly arraigning the arguments and the authority can get an updraft that lifts the whole cabinet, and all perform.

There can be only one

The relationship between Bob Hawke and Keating dominates the first two-thirds of the book. Keating stresses how productive the partnership was for most of the period in which he served as treasurer.

Keating insists that for much of the 1980s he considered Hawke both a colleague and a close friend:

We were on such a roll in that first year and the economic changes we wanted were coming through. Bob luxuriated in all that and so did I. It was a genuine friendship, not just one born out of pragmatism.

In any high-stress situation tempers fray. And while Keating recalls the details of arguments with Hawke, he notes the relationship quickly got back on track. For example, on Hawke not supporting Keating’s attempt to introduce a consumption tax, Keating says:

Bob should not have sold me down the drain overnight at some motel without telling me, but he did. Even so, I pretty well forgave him and kept working co-operatively with him.

Keating claims that by 1989 he thought Hawke would not abide by the terms of the Kirribilli agreement:

… Bob never accepted that there were two leaders in the one government and that, at some point, he had to make space for the other. His vanity led him to believe he was the one and only one. In the end he was prepared to deploy a lie, a deception, to stay on unchallenged for three years.

Following a loss in his first challenge to Hawke, Keating outlines how he was planning to leave parliament at the start of 1992 and enter the business world. But Hawke’s decision to recall parliament for one day sealed his fate and elevated Keating to the prime ministership.

I felt a big weight fall on me. For all the issues between us, I didn’t want to see Bob go on these terms. I was sad to see Bob go down like that. You might think that’s strange, but there was a point of affection between Bob and me. You’ve got to know this. That’s why I used to think, “Do the right thing by yourself, Bob, and stick to the agreement.” When he didn’t, he opted to fight it out and lost.

Paul Keating planned to leave parliament after his first, unsuccessful challenge to
Bob Hawke for the leadership. 
AAP/Paul Miller

The visionary

A great deal of the section devoted to the Keating prime ministership focuses on the big ideas he was pursuing.

As much he was a political animal – in terms of being attuned to the drivers behind the opposition, the factions within his own party, business, the unions and the electorate more generally – Keating was prepared to gamble to bring about reform he believed in:

I was the outsider to win the 1993 election but you’ve got to practise what you preach. I always believed that you should burn the capital as you run to the poll rather than conserving it, being Mr Safe Guy. A seminal issue like this (native title) and its remedy provide the uplift that any political personality needs, doing what is right and good.

More than any other reform, the Native Title Act highlights the triumph of policy over politics. Facing a scare campaign from the Liberals and Nationals, significant opposition from the states and business, as well as battling ingrained racism within the Australian public, Keating ran with the High Court’s decision on Mabo. This, despite the fact that resolving the issue of native title was never going to be a vote-winner.

With – among other policies – APEC’s evolution into a leaders forum, the move towards a republic, the Native Title Act, the introduction of Creative Nation, compulsory superannuation, and the focus on the importance of Kokoda, Keating worked to redefine Australia – both as a middle power on the global stage and within the psyche of the nation itself.

A true Australian leader

Keating’s wielding of power, both as treasurer and prime minister, brought about a breadth of change the nature of which Australia is unlikely to see again.

Keating’s view of leadership drove his behaviour. During his “Placido Domingo” speech at the National Press Club in 1990, he opined:

Leadership is not about being popular. It’s about being right and being strong. And it’s not about whether you go through some shopping centre tripping over the TV crews’ cords. It’s about doing what you think the nation requires, making profound judgements about profound issues.

Over the course of the book, O’Brien has provided the platform for Keating to define his political career, explain what drove his reform agenda and cement his position as one of Australia’s greatest leaders. Between them, they have provided a gripping account of one of the most important periods in Australia’s development.

The ConversationNatalie Mast, Associate Director, Performance Analytics, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.
 

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Paul Keating on Australian self-respect

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Paul Keating Attacks The Cultural Cringe

 

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Paul Keating on climate change

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Keating on Australia’s regional relationships

“By the year 2000 we should be able to say that we have learned to live securely, in peace and mutual prosperity among our Asian and Pacific neighbours. We will not be cut off from our British and European cultures and traditions or from those economies. On the contrary, the more engaged we are economically and politically with the region around us, the more value and relevance we bring to those old relationships. Far from putting our identity at risk, our relationships with the region will energise it.” – Paul Keating (1996)

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