(by Don Watson)
A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96). For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary.
Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko. The Prime Minister would never quote it back in the awkward form of the original. He would say, ‘John Hewson says if you reach back for them, they will drag you down.’ Six months later he had developed such a way with the line you could sense a surge of shock and anger in the audience. Just as remarkably, you could sense it in yourself.”