Julia Gillard’s speech to the ALP national conference has been widely panned as a flop — not only for her use of the phrase “we are us”, but also for the pointed omission of any reference to Kevin Rudd’s achievements as prime minister.

It’s not the first time Gillard’s rhetoric has been ridiculed, of course. Her constant use of “moving forward” during last year’s election campaign was the source of much amusement and frustration in lounge rooms across Australia. Yet Gillard’s office insists there are no plans afoot to hire someone to polish the PM’s lumpy prose.

So is a good speech-writer really so hard to find? Here we present two Aussies, two yanks and a Brit who understand the power of a good speech to engage, inform and inspire.

Don Watson

The Recollections of a Bleeding Heart author was Paul Keating’s chief speech writer from 1992 until Labor’s defeat in 1996. Keating attacked Watson last year for claiming ownership of his much-loved Year of Indigenous People address at Redfern Park. “Watson had an important facilitatory role in my period as prime minister; on occasions he also had a role in policy,” the former PM wrote. “But in the end, the vector force of the power and what to do with it could only come from me.”

The speech in question contained the oft-repeated passage: “It was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.”

Graham Freudenberg

The man Mark Latham calls “the Don Bradman of Australian speechwriting” has written over a thousand speeches for Labor Party luminaries including Arthur Caldwell, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth, Bob Carr, Simon Crean and Mark Latham. Whitlam’s 1972 “It’s Time” campaign speech remains his most famous, while Carr describes his 1992 speech of censure against premier Nick Greiner as a “beautiful Freudenberg effort”.

“Well may he say ‘God Save the Queen’,” Freudenberg wrote, “because nothing can save the premier.”

Jon Favreau

Barack Obama says Jon Favreau isn’t just his speech writer — he’s his mind reader. Favs, as he’s widely known, has memorised Obama’s famous speech to the 2003 Democratic Convention and always carries a copy of the President’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, with him for inspiration.

The hunky 30-year old has been involved in writing and editing some of Obama’s most memorable speeches including his 2008 speech on race relations in America and his 2009 inaugural address.

He was hired by Obama, then a US Senator, in 2005 after working on John Kerry’s 2004 failed presidential bid. In his job interview, Obama asked Favreau what his theory of speechwriting was. He replied: “A speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this stuff. How do you say to the average person that’s been hurting: ‘I hear you, I’m there?’ Even though you’ve been so disappointed and cynical about politics in the past, and with good reason, we can move in the right direction. Just give me a chance.”

*Read the full story at The Power Index

Peter Fray

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