After the thud of The Latham Diaries
and the resulting media feeding frenzy, another, more measured
Australian retrospective hits the shelves today, as former Melbourne
University Chancellor and former head of ASIO, Sir Edward Woodward
prepares to release his detailed memoirs, One Brief Interval.

“You
won’t see sewer rats or scumbags in the index,” Woodward has told
Crikey. But Woodward did defend his decision to include details of ASIO
reports between the then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and the spy
agency after last week Fraser hit out at the revelation that an ASIO
terrorist report had its language beefed up at the request of the Prime
Minister.

Fraser told reporters last week that ASIO
correspondence between the PM or Attorney General should be
confidential and that he didn’t know how they made it into Woodward
biography, but wouldn’t be drawn to comment about any more of
Woodward’s reflections.

Responding to Fraser’s brief attack,
Woodward told Crikey that he thought it was a very small issue and was
surprised Fraser even reacted to the reports. “I think that that’s a
bit precious given that Cabinet papers are released 30 years later,”
said Woodward.

Woodward told Crikey that his time as head of
ASIO and any other politically salacious titbits only formed a fraction
of the book, with his professional focus being on his investigation
into Aboriginal land rights and other Royal Commissions during his long
legal career.

On Latham’s book, Woodward said “that it was all
rather sad,” but said that after wading through the muck and vitriol,
Latham probably had some important points to make about our political
process.

But anyone expecting a Latham-style smear-fest will
probably have to wait for the Costello diaries to hit the shelves – you only need to skim through the
book to see that this is the biography of an Australian public figure
content with his influential life and proud to have it down on paper.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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