He’s feisty, he’s a pugilist, a former Labor leader and he lives, mainly, in his own political past.
No, we’re not talking about Mark Latham. The most exciting ex-leader in Australia is Paul Keating, and he’s at it again today, defending himself against, of all people, his former speechwriter.
Keating’s subject de jour is his famous 1992 Redfern speech about the misdeeds perpetrated against aboriginals. He has written an entire op-ed in The Age to “make clear Watson was not the author of the speech”, accusing him of attempting to take credit for the oration.
In July, the target of Keating’s elegant vitriol was Bob Hawke, about whom he wrote:
“The fact is, Bob, I was exceedingly kind to you for a very long time. I knew the state you were in in 1984 and notwithstanding a lot of unhelpful advice from Garnaut and other obsequious members of your staff, I carried you through the whole 1984-1987 parliament, insisting you look like the prime minister, even if your staff, the Manchu Court I called them, were otherwise prepared to leave you in your emotional hole. No other prime minister would have survived going missing for that long. But with my help, you were able to.”
So much talent, so much anger, so many recriminations.
When he presses the button to vaudeville, there’s no-one on the political stage quite like Keating. If only he could devote even a small portion of that intellectual prowess to current or important issues, rather than spending his time slagging off at his former colleagues.