Keating and the Australian narrative

by abirdinthebanksia

Yesterday Margaret Throsby’s interview with ex-Prime Minister Paul Keating’s was replayed. Fortunately, I took notes otherwise I would find it difficult to recall the substance of his arguments. Considering I started with a piece on writing I mentally noted Keating’s remarks on writing which were to jot ideas down on a piece of paper which I mostly habitually do, after about a page of messy notes along with a a list of things-to-do and instructions for using WordPress and a doodle I returned to my notes in the afternoon to re-read and re-write them and they still were not that clear.

However, Keating’s interview was long enough to be an article all by itself and once again I had about an hour at my disposal which wasn’t long to delve into the territory of Australian history and world politics. Perhaps not surprisingly since the interview takes place on an arts programme with the guests own selection of music the relationship between art and politics was discussed which Keating described as a food for life except not in those words. Their discussion also included Keating’s preference for neo-classicism in French art and architecture and the age of Enlightenment as opposed to the Renaissance. Although, the idea of magnificence is firmly established by the civic humanists of the quattrocento in the Italian city-states, particularly the Medici’s. However, it is more the ideas of independent democratic political thought in the enlightenment that Keating is absorbed by through Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Montesqiueu. He also referred to republican values of ancient Greece and Rome, which were heavily a focus of the Renaissance such as the Republics of Florence and Venice. He did mention the monarchy as a thing of the past in relation to a remark.

  Which draws us back to the Howard years and Keating’s comment in relation to his 1996 election speech that ‘you should speak to the author and not the photocopier.’ Besides political structure there are two domestic issues at hand being asylum seekers and aboriginal people that distinguished the leadership of Keating and Howard. Keating’s achievements included the Native Title Act 1993 following on from the High Court decision of Mabo no.2 ,  he acknowledged aboriginal dispossession and need for self determination. In relation to immigration he referred to the 1994 Migration Reform Act and the UN Refugee Convention. Keating also portrayed  Howard as a ‘sticky fly’ promoting prejudice and racism.

Keating’s other remarks addressed foreign policy in response to the Cold War, American hegemony and the Asia-Pacific with emphasis on relations between China and Australia. Also, he notes that racism is inconsistent and objectionable as Australia fits iself into the picture of the Asian region.

He remarks upon America’s rejection of liberal internationalism during the George Bush era and comments on Iraq as a base in the Middle-East and the unipolar moment. Further, he notes that it is a multipolar not a unipolar world that is influenced by international rule of law. Finally, he observes the necessity for Australia to have a ‘human narrative over-arching the Cold War and  the 2008 Financial crisis in the modern political age.’