At Crikey, we love Paul Keating. We love him for floating the dollar. We love the way he and Hawke and Walshie bashed the economy into something fit for the 21st Century. We love the vaudeville. We love the vitriol. We love the Zegna. Not only are we prepared to forgive him for saying “This is the recession we had to have”, we’re even prepared to forgive him for publicly wearing a jumper under a double-breasted suit.
But we worry about old Paul. Hanging out with Jack Lang was pretty cool. Turning into Jack Lang isn’t.
We worry that he spends too much time rattling around that big old house down in Potts Point with Das Liede von der Erde playing on the B&O as he gnaws at the bones of the past. Paul Keating, the Phantom of the Opera.
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Phillip Adams was spot on when he complained this week that Labor has turned its back on a giant of Australian politics:
Over the years the ALP has been afraid to use the K word. The party cannot take credit for the boom years without acknowledging Keating. While any serious analyst of the era gives Keating the lion’s share of the credit, it’s Howard and Costello who take it.
Thus a truly creative and courageous party leader is dishonoured. In contrast the Whitlam years are seen through mists of sentiment generously provided by Gough himself.
Yet the bloke lets loose with stream of consciousness stuff like Lateline last night.
We love Paul but it’s time for some tough love. So we have this message. Paul, mate: shut up and listen and you might learn something. And Paul: get a job.
If you’re going to get a job, Paul, you have to show you’re fit to work. You’ll have to admit where you went wrong.
You were fantastic in 1992. We loved all the Acme Fightback and Morphy-Richards toaster and suburban solicitor stuff. We’ll never see political theatre like it. Sheer blo-dy genius.
You won 1993 – and then you f-cked it. That budget. It was so f-cking awful that your treasurer quit. You p-ssed all over the people who’d voted for you.
And you know it. That’s why you stopped doing the dockets and concentrated on your pet projects instead. And then you really f-cked it. You f-cked it absolutely right royally. You let the people who couldn’t keep up with you create the myth of Captain Whacky.
So admit it – then go and show us all what you can really do.
You don’t need to demonstrate your economic credentials again. You gave us compulsory super. That’s turned Australia into a true global financial centre with more than a trillion dollars of funds under management. We know how that’s added to our wealth.
Let’s go with the other great thing you did – that speech in Redfern Park . Paul, you and I know we can get a dozen decent lattes within 10 minutes of Redfern Park. It’s South Surry Hills.
Put the words into action. Do what Bill Clinton’s doing in Africa. Hit the ground. Put your way with words and your head for business to work to better the lot of Indigenous Australians. Go bush. Hit the town camps. Go to Wadeye. Don’t be a hater. Be a campaigner, a worker, a do-er.
Clinton had it much worse than you ever did. He got impeached by his political enemies — yet he was prepared to jump on a jet with Dubya’s dad to go and raise funds for humanitarian relief. He’s as bad as Bono. He’ll talk to anyone.
And so should you. You were right last night. Politics is full of grey men and faceless bureaucrats. You know that. So do the Libs. And they also give you credit – yes, it’s normally begrudging or off the record, but they still do it — for your accomplishments.
So rise above it. You’re a great man. Be greater.