Machine Rules: A Political Primer
Melbourne University Press, $34.99 pb, 223 pp, 9780522867404
Mark Latham – former columnist for the Australian Financial Review, former 'special correspondent' for Sixty Minutes, former federal leader of the Australian Labor Party – wasn't the only politician to keep a diary. Writing in The Latham Diaries (2005) – a book most politicians and apparatchiks approach via the index – Latham revealed that we have Stephen Loosley, the ex-heavyweight of the New South Wales right, to thank for his scabrous farewell to politics. 'When I first went to Canberra,' Latham wrote, 'I noticed that Senator Stephen Loosley took notes and kept a diary at Caucus meetings. I decided to adopt a similar practice.'
Sadly, Machine Rules is a major disappointment. Loosley is a former senator, general secretary of the New South Wales branch, and national president of the ALP. He has also spent the past twenty years as a well-connected corporate lawyer and enjoyed a close relationship with the Murdoch empire. Loosley knows how politics and power work in Canberra and Sydney, political party rooms and boardrooms, public and private. Why, then, did he put his name to such a damp squib of a book? Few secrets are revealed, fewer insights proffered, and hardly a toe is trod upon. Instead, Loosley, who retired from political life twenty years ago, trots out a conga line of stale stories, bad jokes, and platitudinous references to mates both political and corporate.