With Friends Like These…

June 14, 2007 at 2:49 am (Uncategorized)

About a week ago, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating spoke out in a TV interview against the current deputy leader of his party, Julia Gillard, and the team behind Labor’s current leader and this country’s alternative PM, Kevin Rudd.

Ever since reading quotes from the interview in newspapers the following day (you’re bound to think this eccentric, as so many people do, but we don’t own a television), I’ve been wondering what the hell Paul Keating thought he was doing. I’ve been wondering what on earth he hoped to achieve. I’ve been wondering what compelled him to take aim at the best chance we’ve had for a change in government after a loooong decade under Howard. I just can’t figure it out.

Kevin Rudd has commented, and suggested it’s time for Keating to get over losing the 1996 election that brought Howard to power (on Keating’s watch, in other words, not that I’ve ever held it against him). And I suppose it’s a comment that ties in with what I’ve since said to my husband and friends: “I just hope people think that Keating’s suffering from a serious case of sour grapes. Or that he’s senile.”

I hope everyone dismisses what Keating said last week. I hope no one takes it seriously because doing so might damage the Labor party’s chances at this critical time. And the idea that the saboteur is from within Labor’s own ranks…well, I just don’t know what to make of it. Malcolm Fraser has spoken out against his party in ways that I applaud – he’s been a vocal critic of the Liberal party under Howard, and I’ve been glad, glad, glad, so I should explain my problem with Keating ostensibly doing the same. The difference is this: Rudd’s Labor party is not in power.

The current Labor party is trying to oust one of the longest political strangleholds this country has ever seen, and it is not going to be easy. Do I think Labor party elders have the right to eat their young? Again, I have to look to Malcolm Fraser’s example in the Liberal party, and say that former party leaders sometimes go on to make the best watchdogs of the government of the day. But Labor isn’t the government of the day. Labor is the Opposition party, and Labor has been in opposition since 1996. It’s a fundamentally different negotiation of power than criticising the party that holds it all. Most people love to cheer the underdog, especially when it’s their very own, but for some reason Paul Keating thought he’d get in there and give it a good, hard kick in the ribs.

Keating said Rudd’s team doesn’t know how to win an election. It’s a baseless assertion: they certainly haven’t lost one yet, although it’s awfully kind of Keating to point them in the right direction. Why, as a Labor party member and former Labor PM, would he say that??? Why would he say that when they’re just about to throw absolutely everything they’ve got into winning one later this year? If he’s got problems with the team, he should take it up with them during Labor party meetings. He should absolutely air his grievances and his concerns, and I have no doubt he’s learnt a thing or two during his own career. Today’s Labor party could benefit from Keating’s mind and experience. But taking those grievances public as your first port of call, by using a national TV broadcast as your platform, well, that’s just churlish. And disloyal. And reckless. I’ve always liked Keating. I don’t think a lot of Australians give him the credit I think he’s due, but I don’t like what he did last week. It was completely graceless, and uncharacteristic of a man who has always prided himself on his usually impeccable sense of style.

POSTSCRIPT: Warwick kindly forwarded me a link to a transcript of the Keating Lateline interview. If it doesn’t work, google ‘Lateline Keating’ and the ABC link should be the top result. Anyway, can I just say that having read the interview in full now, I am once again stunned and appalled by the degree to which the print media disregarded everything of value Keating said – they focused only on the criticisms he made of Gillard and Rudd’s team. In doing so, they ignored all the really interesting and intelligent stuff that Keating brought to the table. What cat amongst what pigeons indeed – no wonder he didn’t take the bait, he probably didn’t anticipate the fact that he was about to be tarred by that old brush again. God some of the reportage in this country is knee-jerk, sensationalist, and pathetic. There’s a much fuller picture available in the transcript for anyone interested in seeing it.


1 Comment

  1. doctordi said,

    Technical problems, so I am now trying to upload Warwick’s comment from yesterday (fingers crossed):

    Philip Adams had an article in The Australian, published just a day or two before the Keating interview, wherein he bemoaned Labour’s dogged refusal to acknowledge Keating’s existence, let alone his contribution to the party’s successes in the 80s and 90s. Watching the interview, it occurred to me this might go some way to explaining Keating’s outburst. The forgiving interpretation would be that because no one would on Rudd’s team would give him the time of day, PJK went public to make sure his message (that Labour, not the Liberal Party, is responsible for the strength of the Australian economy) got a public airing. Still, I can’t quite buy that reading, and I’m inclined to agree when you describe it as churlish.

    The complete interview can be seen here:


    Counter-productive though it may have been, it was a bit of a treat to see Captain Wacky back in action. ‘What cat? What pigeons?’


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