Troy Bramston

Curators at old Parliament House – now known as the Museum for Australian Democracy – have for many years maintained the prime minister’s suite much as it was when Bob Hawke vacated it in 1988. Visitors can gaze at a reproduction of the Arthur Boyd painting that hung opposite Hawke’s desk, gawk at the enormous, faux-timber panelled telephone Hawke used, and cast a wry eye over the prime ministerial bathroom, where curators have laid on the vanity toiletries and accoutrements belonging to the office’s last occupant: a box of contact lenses, a pair of black shoelaces, and a tube of hair dye.

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Troy Bramston has been a senior writer and columnist with The Australian newspaper since 2011. He was previously a columnist with the Sunday Telegraph. He is the author or editor of eleven books, including Robert Menzies: The art of politics (2019) and Paul Keating: The big-picture leader (2016), and he co-authored The Truth of the Palace Letters (2020) and The Dismissal (2015) with Paul Kelly. His most recent book is Bob Hawke: Demons and destiny (2022).

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The Truth of the Palace Letters by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston & The Palace Letters by Jenny Hocking

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January–February 2021, no. 428

In April 2011, the landmark High Court victory of four elderly Kenyans revealed a dark episode in British colonial history. Between 1952 and 1960, barbaric practices, including forced removal and torture, were widely employed against ‘Mau Mau’ rebels, real or imagined. Upon the granting of independence in 1963, thousands of files documenting such atrocities were ‘retained’ by the British authorities, eventually coming to rest in the vast, secret Foreign and Commonwealth Office archives at Hanslope Park. Now a small portion of that archive was opened to scrutiny, and a tiny ray of light shone on one of history’s greatest cover-ups.

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There have been at least half a dozen previous biographies of Robert Menzies, but Troy Bramston’s new life of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister is arguably the most attractive combination of research and readability ... ... (read more)

Paul Keating has been much written about; his trajectory is familiar. His is a story of leadership and the exercise of power, about a man who led from the front and – like Gough Whitlam – was willing to ‘crash through or crash’ when following his convictions. No prime minister since has displayed a similar propensity. Troy Bramston’s biography conforms to ...

Gravity by Mary Delahunty & Rudd, Gillard and Beyond by Troy Bramston

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September 2014, no. 364

Gough Whitlam may not have been one of the Australian Labor Party’s greatest prime ministers, but, since his defenestration by Governor-General John Kerr in 1975, he has been embraced as one of the ALP’s great martyrs. Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam Government galvanised the Labor movement. To Labor eyes, Kerr was Pontius Pilate and Whitlam the slain Messiah. New followers – many of them, like Whitlam, university-educated progressives – joined the ALP. New ideas were aired through policy think-tanks such as the Labor Resource Centre, headed by Jenny Macklin, a future federal deputy leader. Out of that angst and rage, a new ALP was forged. Labor was no longer a troglodyte party ruled by factional warlords and sectarian hatreds. It was a modern progressive movement hell-bent on winning and wielding power. After all, as Whitlam famously said to an ALP State Conference in Melbourne in 1967, ‘Only the impotent are pure.’

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Gough Whitlam’s famous words during his impromptu speech after the Dismissal in 1975 remain a potent symbol of the excitements and turbulence of the Whitlam era. As Troy Bramston’s collection of ALP speeches since 1891 reminds us, political speeches can capture a national mood or sentiment at a particular time in history. Indeed, a carefully crafted set of words can become a treasured part of our national self-image. They can also boost or destroy a politician’s reputation. In an age when the media has become uncritically obsessed with gaffes, Twitter banalities, polls, and sound bites, it is worth remembering that a good speech can elevate the national conversation and appeal to our better instincts.

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The Wran Era edited by Troy Bramston

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April 2007, no. 290

Neville Wran was nothing if not sartorial. He represented the new generation of politicians – dapper, immaculately tailored, effortlessly elegant – and stood out from his Labor colleagues in their crumpled suits and gaudy ties. His dress sense was not merely a matter of personal taste but also a political statement. He once appeared on the podium of a Labor party conference perspiring uncomfortably in the glare of the arc lights. A colleague leaned over and urged him to take off his jacket. Wran retorted, ‘What! And look like a Labor politician.’ It was classic Nev.

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