Joel Deane reviews 'Machine Rules' by Stephen Loosley

Joel Deane reviews 'Machine Rules' by Stephen Loosley

Machine Rules: A Political Primer

by Stephen Loosley

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.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379
Joel Deane

Joel Deane

Joel Deane is a speechwriter, novelist, and poet. He has worked in Australia and the United States as a journalist and political staffer – covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention, serving as principal speechwriter to Labor Premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby, and lecturing widely on politics and public language. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award. His new non-fiction book, Catch and Kill: The Politics of Power, will be published by the University of Queensland Press in July 2015.

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