Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has visited the ANU to launch a new book by Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans, AC QC, about the early years of the Hawke-Keating Labor government.
Professor Evans served in several portfolios in the Hawke and Keating Cabinets from 1983 to 1996, as Attorney-General, Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for Transport and Communications, and as Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1996.
His book, Inside the Hawke-Keating Government: A Cabinet Diary, is based on his diaries from the first two years of Bob Hawke’s Prime Ministership, when Mr Keating was Treasurer.
Mr Keating said the book was an important snapshot of a busy period of reform in Australia.
“It is a really important piece of history, and I think we have to thank him for doing it,” Mr Keating said.
Mr Keating used his speech to fire fresh barbs at his prime ministerial rival Mr Hawke. Mr Keating toppled Mr Hawke and took over as prime minister in December 1991 after years of leadership tension.
Mr Keating said by 1986, Mr Hawke’s prime ministership had run out of energy and vision.
“The truth was Bob was a lucky mug. He had stopped nourishing the show,” Mr Keating said.
“As a consequence of that, we all sort of kept the show together.
“To be Prime Minister of Australia and have five years down time, you’ve got to be more than lucky. And history deserves to know that that’s the way it was.”
Professor Evans said the underlying story of his book was not so much the leadership tensions and Cabinet arguments, but how they were managed.
“The storyline is that they were so successfully managed, and that this government sustained such a strong reformist momentum for as long as it did, delivered as much as it did with as much discipline and coherence as it did, to the extent that this is now generally regarded as the gold standard of Australian government,” Professor Evans said.