Neville Wran’s Last Great Rally: Former NSW Labor Premier Eulogised In Moving State Funeral

On the 38th anniversary of his election as Labor Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran was farewelled at a State Funeral at the Sydney Town Hall today.

The moving May Day service was addressed by former Prime Minister Paul Keating, former Wran minister Rodney Cavalier, former High Court Justice Michael Kirby and former NSW Premier Bob Carr. Tributes were also paid by Wran’s wife, Jill, and three of his children.

Kirby’s address was the highlight of the day, a perceptive and thoughtful insight into an “enigma”.

Keating described a man who understood power and who had “a PhD in poetic profanity”. Speaking of Wran’s unmatched ability to discern the mood of the electorate, Keating said: “He could hear the ants change step.” [Read more...]

Paul Keating Turns 70

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating turns 70 today.

Keating was 25 when he entered the House of Representatives as the Labor member for Blaxland in October 1969. He was 47 when he became Australia’s 24th prime minister in December 1991. He remained PM until March 1996 when he was defeated by John Howard’s coalition.


Keating’s first ministerial appointment came in the dying days of the Whitlam government. Following the sacking of Minerals and Energy minister Rex Connor, Keating became Minister for Northern Australia on October 21, 1975, serving for three weeks until the government was dismissed by the Governor-General on November 11. He is the youngest of the eleven surviving ministers of the Whitlam governments. [Read more...]

Keating: Rudd Preserved Labor As A Fighting Force

Paul Keating has paid tribute to Kevin Rudd for preserving the ALP as a “fighting force” and praised the former prime minister’s policies during the global financial crisis as “an instance of international exceptionalism”.

KeatingKeating, prime minister from 1991 until 1996, said Rudd had given “profound service” to the Labor Party. Without Rudd’s “energy and leadership”, the party may not have been able to defeat John Howard, Keating said.

On Rudd’s toppling of Julia Gillard, Keating said: “Without traversing the hills and hollows along the policy trail in office, he returned to the prime ministership to re-base the party’s electoral standing and its parliamentary numbers, preserving it as a fighting force.”

Keating’s fulsome statement contains one factual error. Not all of Rudd’s front bench members were returned at the election. Whilst all members of the Cabinet held their seats, the Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, was defeated in Lindsay, and the Minister for Sport, Senator Don Farrell, failed to be re-elected in South Australia.

Statement from Paul Keating.

Remarks by PJ Keating

I should like to acknowledge the profound service which Kevin Rudd has given the Labor Party.

Notwithstanding the 11 years which the Howard government had had in office, without the energy and leadership provided by Kevin Rudd, Labor may not have been able to have turned the opportunity into victory.

As a consequence, Labor had another six years in government. An important six years. Added to the 13 years of Labor between 1983 and 1996, this has meant in the 30 years since 1983, Labor has had 19 of them in office.

Kevin Rudd opened his period of office with his now famous ‘apology’ and not long thereafter, saved Australia from the fate of every other industrial economy – a deep and prolonged recession. If his government had been elected for no other reason but to have achieved this, it would have achieved much: an instance of international exceptionalism.

And without traversing the hills and hollows along the policy trail in office, he returned to the prime ministership to re-base the party’s electoral standing and its parliamentary numbers, preserving it as a fighting force.

And I know, notwithstanding the defeat at the last election, Kevin Rudd is comforted by the fact that all of his front bench members were returned to make the continuing case for Labor.

Kevin Rudd has much to be proud of. The Labor Party stands in his debt.

14 November 2013

Paul Keating’s Remembrance Day Address

This is the text and audio of former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Remembrance Day Address at the Australian War Memorial.


The Address was delivered on the 20th anniversary of Keating’s speech at the Funeral Service of the Unknown Soldier.

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Text of Paul Keating’s 2013 Remembrance Day Address.

War Memorial

Nine months from now, 100 years ago, the horror of all ages came together to open the curtain on mankind’s greatest century of violence – the 20th century.

What distinguished the First World War from all wars before it was the massive power of the antagonists.

Modern weaponry, mass conscription and indefatigable valour produced a cauldron of destruction the likes of which the world had never seen. [Read more...]

Why Has Gillard Picked September 14?

Four weeks ago, I published a post speculating on when the election might be held.

You can read the post here. In it, I speculated on the possibility that Gillard could announce the election date sometime around Australia Day.

In essence, I felt that the election date options were fairly limited. I never thought there was any possibility of an early election in the first half of the year. November was a bridge too far. Assuming an election in August, September or October, it seemed to me there were only a couple of real possibilities.

Whatever date Gillard had in mind, it seemed clear that the year would be dominated by election speculation at every turn.

What would really shake-up political thinking would be a surprise announcement of an election date at the beginning of 2013. There are few precedents for this, although New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, gave similar advance notice of his election in 2011, albeit for different reasons.

I explained some of my thinking in an interview with SBS this afternoon:

In the end, I felt that September 7 or 14 were the most likely election dates, although I opted for mid-October on the basis that the government faces almost certain defeat and you may as well eke out as much time as you can without choosing a date so late that you look utterly desperate.

The more I thought about it, the more I believed that a government on the ropes needs to do something to change the political mood. For months now, the Gillard government has stepped up its attack on Tony Abbott. Whether it was the misogyny speech last October, or the continual allegations of negativity and the demand for Abbott to produce detailed policies, it was obvious where the government’s campaign was heading.

Some see this anti-Abbott campaign as sound politics. It has more than a touch of the 1993 election about it. Twenty years ago, Paul Keating was regarded as an almost certain loser. The country was in the grip of recession, the government was ten years old and John Hewson appeared to be on his way to The Lodge.

In the end, the electorate baulked at change. Keating’s ferocious attack on the proposed 15% Goods and Services Tax undoubtedly changed votes. The Coalition’s Fightback! package contained other policies which aroused fears in the minds of the electorate, especially about Medicare and industrial relations. On election day, there was a swing to the government and it increased its majority. To this day, John Hewson makes wry jokes about Fightback! as the longest political suicide note in history. [Read more...]

More Anniversaries: Three Elections, A Floating Dollar And The Redfern Speech

Twenty-nine-years ago today, the Hawke government floated the dollar.

It was a move little understood at the time but now regarded as timely and crucial to Australia’s economic development. Whilst former prime ministers Hawke and Keating still differ over who had most influence on the decision, no-one questions its significance.

The decision was announced late on Friday December 9. On the following Monday, the lead article in the Sydney Morning Herald accurately pinpointed the introduction of foreign banks as another important decision in the pipeline:


Some other anniversaries:

  • December 9, 1961: The Menzies government faced its sixth election since taking office in 1949 and came within an ace of losing. It survived by one seat and led to a marvellous fib from the Liberal member for Moreton, Jim Killen. He claimed that when victory in his seat secured Menzies’s re-election, the Prime Minister told him, “Killen, you’re magnificent”. It wasn’t true. In his memoirs, Killen relates the more prosaic truth:
  • December 10, 1949: The Menzies coalition government swept to power, defeating Ben Chifley’s Labor government. It was the beginning of 23 years of continuous coalition government.
  • December 10, 1955: Menzies secured his fourth straight election victory, defeating Dr. H.V. Evatt’s ALP in an early election called to capitalise on the split in the ALP over communist influence in the trade unions. This was the election that saw the birth of the Democratic Labor Party as an important third force in policis.
  • December 10, 1977: Malcolm Fraser’s coalition government was returned to office for a second term in a massive landslide only marginally smaller than its historic 1975 Dismissal victory. Fraser’s election made December 10 the single most popular date for general elections at the federal level.
  • December 10, 1992: Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered his famous Redfern speech on indigenous issues. Watch, listen and read Keating’s speech here.

Top 10 Great Labor Speeches

Troy Bramston discusses ten great speeches from Australian Labor history.

Bramston is the author of a new book, The True Believers: Great Labor Speeches That Shaped History, published by The Federation Press.

The video appears on The Australian’s website today.