Tag Archives: Prime Minister

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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PM’s Prize for Science for revealing nature’s solar power

The Conversation

Tim Dean, The Conversation

Humans have only just begun dabbling with solar power, but other organisms have been converting sunlight into energy for more than three billion years. In fact, we’re only just beginning to understand how they do it.

So it is for his groundbreaking work in helping us humans understand the process of photosynthesis that Graham Farquhar has today received this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Graham Farquhar in his lab.
Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

Graham is Distinguished Professor of the Australian National University’s Research School of Biology and Chief Investigator of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

When he started out studying photosynthesis, Graham found that researchers from disparate fields within biology and biochemistry all had their own narrow views on how photosynthesis worked. But few were able to link together all the pieces of this complex puzzle.

So Graham brought his experience as a biophysicist to the problem and worked to describe how the components of photosynthesis connect in a mathematical way. He was particularly interested in how the process operates under different environmental conditions, such as when water is scarce. This is useful, because if we can understand this, then we can breed plants that can better withstand drought.

“All these things start with equations,” he says. “They’re just a rough approximation of reality, but in this case they were good enough to be able to point us in the right direction to select plants for water use efficiency.”

Graham’s models have also revealed some very interesting things about how plants function, such as how they carefully balance the trade-off between growing more and losing more water.

He also found that plants can actually affect the weather itself.

“About 70% of water that falls on land is evaporated, most of that through vegetation,“ he says. “That evaporation cools the leaves, and over a sufficient area, that affects the local weather and climate.”

He is also interested in how plants are responding to climate change. In fact, he suggests that our carbon emissions have already changed agriculture.

“My reckoning is that if we could get rid of all the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted since the industrial revolution, then agricultural productivity would drop by 15%,” he says.

However, climate change also poses new challenges for plants and for agriculture, such as how the plants cope with higher temperatures and different rainfall patterns, which is also an area Graham is researching.

As for receiving the award, Graham says is was something of a shock, for more than one reason.

“I was actually in Glasgow when the Chief Scientist Ian Chubb rang me at what should have a nice time of day, but it turned out to be half past three in the morning,” he says.

However, he’s honoured to receive the prize, but hastens to acknowledge the input from all his colleagues and other researches in his field.

“The system tends to make individuals heroes by minimising the recognition of what their colleagues have done and exaggerating the success they’ve had. That’s happened to me too,“ he says.

“Part of me is thrilled, but also cautious of accepting recognition of something I’ve shared. It’s a team effort and we all build on each others’ work.”

The 2015 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were awarded today in Canberra. The full list of prize recipients is below:

Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
Graham Farquhar
ANU, Canberra

Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
Graeme Jameson
University of Newcastle

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
Cyrille Boyer
University of New South Wales

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
Jane Elith
University of Melbourne

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
Ken Silburn
Casula High School, NSW

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
Rebecca Johnson
Windaroo State School, Qld

The ConversationTim Dean, Editor, The Conversation

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


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Malcolm Fraser on Aboriginal Reconciliation

John Malcolm Fraser ACCHGCL  (21 May 1930 – 20 March 2015) was an Australian politician who was the 22nd Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Liberal Party from 1975 to 1983.



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Paul Keating’s Redfern speech

Paul John Keating (born 18 January 1944) is a former Australian politician who was the 24th Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Labor Party from 1991 to 1996. Keating was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1969 as the MP for Blaxland, New South Wales. He was later appointed Treasurer of Australia in the Hawke Government, which came to power in 1983.

On 10 December 1992, Keating delivered the Redfern Speech on Aboriginal reconciliation, a speech which has regularly been cited as among the greatest in Australian political history.

Marked up excerpt from Prime Minister Paul Keatings' Redfern Park speech, December 1992

Marked up excerpt from Prime Minister Paul Keatings’ Redfern Park speech, December 1992

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Explainer: how are Australia’s knights and dames appointed?

The Conversation

By Adam Webster and John Williams

Prime Minister Tony Abbott caused quite a stir when he re-established the appointment of knights and dames under the Order of Australia early in 2014. For this to occur, no law needed to be passed. Instead, Her Majesty The Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, amended the Letters Patent for the Order of Australia awards.

In 2015, it was the knighthood given to the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, that proved for many to be the Australia Day barbecue stopper. But how is it that Prince Philip – someone who is not an Australian citizen – is awarded a knighthood? Can foreigners even be awarded honours under the Order of Australia?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to delve into the language of the Letters Patent.

What are Letters Patent?

Letters Patent are a legal document signed by the Monarch (or the Governor-General) that grants some sort of right, status or title.

When a royal commission is established, the appointment of the royal commissioner is done so by Letters Patent. One recent example is the appointment of former High Court judge Dyson Heydon as the royal commissioner to investigate alleged corruption within trade unions. Some not-so-recent examples are the letters patent signed by the monarch establishing each of the Australian colonies during the 1800s.

The Order of Australia – our system for recognising the achievements of outstanding Australians – was established by Letters Patent in 1975. Letters Patent are unique in that the document is approved without reference to parliament. This is how knighthoods and damehoods were re-established without the involvement of parliament. Abbott simply instructed the Queen to amend the letters patent.

How are knights and dames appointed?

Knights and dames are essentially “captain’s picks” of the prime minister. Abbott said he “consulted with the chairman of the [Australia Day] Council for the Order of Australia and … with the Governor-General”.

Appointments are made:

… with the approval of the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, by Instrument signed by the Governor-General.

To understand the appointment process it is necessary to have a close look at the clauses in the current Letters Patent.

Clause 11 of the Letters Patent states that:

Australian citizens … are eligible to be appointed to the Order.

It also allows non-citizens to be “appointed to the Order as honorary members”. In short, it establishes two categories of eligibility.

There are also important clauses that relate specifically to appointing knights and dames. Clause 11A(1) states that:

Appointments as Knights or Dames, or honorary Knights or Dames, in the General Division shall be made for extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit in service to Australia or to humanity at large.

The other important clause is 11A(2), which deals with non-citizens. It qualifies the previous clause by stating that:

Notwithstanding subsection (1), a distinguished person who is not an Australian citizen may be appointed as an honorary Knight or Dame … where it is desirable that the person be honoured by Australia.

What is unclear from the wording of these clauses is whether non-Australian citizens can only be given honorary knighthoods. On one reading of the clauses, non-citizens can only be given honorary knighthoods. An alternative view is that while this may be the sense of the clause, it is not mandatory: that is, non-citizens may also be awarded the “ordinary” knighthood or damehood.

There is no mention that Prince Philip’s award is an honorary appointment. This raises the question of whether Prince Philip’s award should be viewed solely as “honorary”. However, the distinction is important.

The distinction of “honorary” knights and dames

Why does it matter whether Prince Philip’s award was “honorary” or not? Only four knights and dames can be appointed each year. However, this limitation of four per year does not include “honorary” knights and dames.

If Prince Philip’s award was not an honorary appointment, it has taken the award away from an Australian. If Prince Philip’s was an honorary appointment – and this fact was omitted from the list released on Australia Day – it highlights that while only four Australians can receive knighthoods or damehoods, there is no limit on the number of appointments that the prime minister could make to people who are not Australian citizens. The prime minister could start handing out honorary knighthoods or damehoods to foreign leaders left, right and centre.

The 2015 Australia Day honours may be remembered for many reasons. However, the show-stopper was the decision to add a knighthood to Prince Philip’s long list of titles. We can hardly wait for the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged with permission). Read the original article.

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Noel Pearson’s eulogy for Gough Whitlam

I found Noel Pearson’s eulogy for former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam very moving in both its eloquence and its powerful delivery. It has been hailed as one for the ages and one of the best political speeches of our time. I agree. Here is a video and transcript of the full speech. A witty excerpt from the eulogy, inspired by Monty Python, is shown below:

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November 5, 2014 · 6:51 pm