On 7 November, Paul Keating appeared on ABC TV’s 7.30 to promote his new book of speeches, After Words. Keating’s response to Leigh Sales’s first question about political leadership was instructive:
Keating: Leadership’s always been about two main things – imagination and courage. Imagination to divine a bigger schematic, a bigger world and then having the political equipment to get the changes through. And sticking with them. And a conscientious public, and I think the Australian public is conscientious, pick up a storyline pretty quickly. And they know whether they’re getting value or not. And if they think they’re getting value, they’ll stick with you.
Sales: Well, at the moment, they seem to not think that they’re getting value from either side.
Keating: That’s what they think. I’m pretty sure of that. It gets back to where we are. I mean ... Australia’s a country in transition. The seminal event of our time is the return of China to a position of primacy in the international system, back to where it was before the Industrial Revolution. This is going to change the way the world works, but not just the world, our part of the world. And so, therefore, our economy, our society, our cultural attitudes, the psychology with which we approach the region, all this, I believe, is the overarching story of the modern Australia.
The Fog On The Hill: How NSW Labor lost its way
by Frank Sartor
Melbourne University Press, $34.99 pb, 378 pp, 9780522861068