Monday, 18 November 2013

The Keating Interviews Episode 1: The Passion for Power.

I'll state my bias from the outset. I have long regarded Paul Keating as my favourite Australian Prime Minister. When I took a trip to Parliament House in 2010, the very first thing I bought was a Paul Keating Prime Ministerial Mug. Keating's vision is the reason I love politics, even though my political love affair began on the night of his defeat. His commitment to the Republic, to the Arts and to the less fortunate resonates with me. I also adore the fact that he shows contempt and bile to those who he dislikes, and doesn't really give a shit what anyone else thinks about it. So when it was announced that Australia's best political interviewer, Kerry O'Brien, was taking part in a four hour interview series with Keating I was understandably in raptures.

The first episode at least lives up to my extremely high expectations of wanting to find out what motivates Keating. He has always had a different kind of personality as opposed to other prominent Australian politicians. Less inclined to enjoy sports or farming, Keating is known instead for his passions for the fine arts and classical music. This week's episode went a long way in telling the viewer why Keating adores these pursuits. For him, like politics, it can be simply refined in one word: passion. His description of his love of certain classical music pieces are akin to his famous diatribes in parliament. They are filled with the aggressive knowledge of superiority. In his mind Keating is right to love these interests, and those who do not are missing out on something fundamental.

If there is one characteristic that defines his career it is this certainty, and the first episode tracks this wonderfully. Keating left school to enter the workforce at fourteen, immediately joining the ALP. When Keating describes his brief tenure at the Sydney County Council Transformer Handling Bay, he believes that this was his schooling in the ways of the working class, perhaps arrogantly so. Also during this time he actively sought out the infamous former New South Wales Premier, Jack Lang. Keating sat at his feet and quickly learned intricate the ways of the ALP.
"People will tell you that you have plenty of time, but the truth is you haven't got a second to waste."
The above quote came from Lang talking to the young Keating. This describes Keating's quest for power more than anything else. The highlight of the episode charts Keating's initial campaign for ALP preselection in 1969. At the age of just 25, he visited over 30 plus branch meetings per month in the electorate of Banks in New South Wales in order to obtain victory. At the last minute there was an electoral redistribution and Keating ended up running for the seat of Blaxland, having lost his base of his support, he had to begin the process of attending 30 more branch meetings a month, just squeaking through to victory against his factional rivals.

Having arrived in parliament during the middle of Whitlam's term as Labor Leader. Keating in his own words '…played the game, got to know people, got to judge them, see what they really thought and try to put coalitions of people together inside the place.' In other words he began the process of rising up through the ranks of the ALP like a modern political operative ahead of his time. By the dying days of the Whitlam Government in 1975, Keating obtained a portfolio at the age of just 31.

Keating's passion had become the process of obtaining and deploying of power within the ALP. The next challenge would be how to use those skills to his advantage. 
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Other great Keating Quotes in this episode

"Having enemies worries some people. For me it's a badge of honour.”

“The great things are always worth doing; they’re hard because they’re valuable."

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