Kerry O’Brien is one of the most respected interviewers of our time, who specialised in national politics.
In Keating, he interviews Paul Keating and records reflections and insights from his long and distinguished political career. Whether you loved or hated Keating, he was a driving force of the Labor government during the years that brought about significant change in Australia.
Kerry first met Paul in 1975 when Paul was a backbencher in the Whitlam opposition, and observed his political ability develop from that point in time. This book is written in the style of an interview, after many hours of recorded conversations between the two men. Keating has declared that he will never write an autobiography and that this work is a better reflection of the times than anything he could have written personally.
Keating grew up in the working-class Sydney suburb of Bankstown. He grew up in a politically motivated family and joined the Labor party in his mid-teens. He left school early and worked at the Sydney Country Council at the age of fourteen. By the age of eighteen, he knew that he wanted to be a politician, and saw Labor as the natural party of government. At the same time, he fell in love with classical music and began his antique watch collection. He likens these interests to one another by saying that he was searching for perfection.
Understanding the factions and working the party machine was what had to happen to make one’s way up within the Labor party, and Keating made this his mission. He failed to get into Whitlam’s ministry by one vote at the age of 25 and just missed out on deputy leadership of the party at the age of 31. He was thrown into a sharp learning curve when Labor regained power in 1983, and he became treasurer under Bob Hawke’s prime ministership. He had only been in the role of shadow treasurer for a short period of time before that and disagreed with the fiscal policy that Labor had taken to the election.
Keating became prime minister at the age of 47. He had to climb over Hawke to take his turn at the helm, and this was upsetting for him. He reports being psychologically challenged at that point in time. The bottom line about the top job for Keating is whether the government of the day took the necessary decisions, not whether they won a certain number of elections.
The book is a great source of detail about the political history of Australia. Keating had a huge impact on Australian politics and demonstrated a strong commitment to improving Australia. He relates that he believes in talking up to the public, explaining and presenting ideas for public debate, and tried to do this throughout his career. He likened politics to conducting an orchestra and regrets that he didn’t pursue a musical career after his life in politics. He says that he would like to be remembered as having done his best.
Keating, by Kerry O’Brien, is available from Dymocks.
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