Saturday, January 17, 2009

Paul Keating

Paul Keating was a Prime Minister.  He was part of the Labor party.

Last night I was thinking about who I was scheduled to research the next day. For some reason, I had the idea that Paul Keating was the first time I'd be researching a Prime Minister. I felt really intimidated by the whole thing. I then remembered that I had researched Harold Holt, John McEwen, and William McMahon.

I'm not sure where my brain has gone lately. It kind of seems like it has turned to mush.

What do I know about Keating?  He has his own musical. That's quite an accomplishment. I think he was the Prime Minister before Howard. Maybe? I think recently he has been in the news regarding Anzac Day....something controversial.

Now I shall learn more.

Yeah. My brain IS mush. I just googled John Keating instead of Paul. I have no idea why I did that.

Paul Keating was born on 18 January 1944. That's pretty awesome. I'll post this tomorrow and that will be Keating's birthday! I have good timing here. I swear I didn't plan that on purpose.

Birthday Website time!

He is a Capricorn and a 1. The Capricorn is the one that's hard-working and career-oriented...traditional. The 1 is is about freedom and leadership. Therefore, I picture the 1 Capricorn as being a workaholic. He works and works and works. It would fit a Prime Minister quite well, although I have no idea if Paul Keating is like this.

Keating was born in a suburb in Sydney called Bankstown. It's about twenty minutes west of Sydney's airport. Today, it's a very multicultural neighborhood.  There's a lot of Lebanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese people.

Keatings father was an Irish-Catholic boilermaker. Lord Wiki says this is someone who works with steel. They sometimes actually make boilers, but not necessarily. They also work with bridges, furnaces, mining equipment, etc.

Keating went to LaSalle Catholic College. Their website doesn't seem to be working so I'll just have to see what Lord Wiki has to say about it.

The school is in Bankstown. Basically it's a Catholic high school/secondary school. Keating stopped going there when he was fifteen. Does this mean he's a drop out? Was it common for people to leave school at that time? I guess that would be 1960. What motivated him to drop out? Lord Wiki says he started working as a clerk and research assistant. Did he drop out for financial reasons? Or did he realize he'd get a better education outside of the classroom?

At the age 0f 22, Keating became the president of the ALP's youth council. Now this group is called Young Labor. It's for people between the ages of 14 and 26.

It seems Keating understood the idea that it's not just about what you know, it's also about who you know. He started developing connections with people in the Labor Party. He developed a friendship with Jack Lang, the former Premier of New South Wales. The two met every week to discuss politics. Lang had been expelled from the Labor Party in 1942 and Keating brought him back in 1971.

It's interesting. Lord Wiki says that Lang supported the White Australia Policy. Since Keating supported Lang, does this mean Lang supported the White Australia Policy as well? Or was it a matter of him feeling that it doesn't matter what Lang believed; he should still be welcomed into the Labor Party?

In 1969, Keating joined the House of Representatives via the Blaxland seat.

During Whitlam's Ministry, Keating was usually a backbencher. Lord Wiki says this is basically a Member of Parliament who doesn't have a high position or much power.

After Whitlam lost in 1975, Keating moved up a bit in politics. Well, I should say he moved up front and was less in the back. He was now a frontbencher instead of a backbencher.

In 1975, he became president of the New South Wales Labor Party. Lord Wiki says he was part of the right-wing faction of the Labor Party.

Another thing that happened in 1975 is Keating got married to a Dutch flight attendant. Did he meet her on a plane?

Anyway, that relationship didn't work out. They separated after twenty-three years. They had four kids between them.

In 1983, the Labor party came back in power with Bob Hawke as Prime Minister. Keating became treasurer and had that job until 1991. He was involved with a tactic called Floating the Australian Dollar. For some reason, when I read that I thought of a piece of poop floating in a pool. Oh! You know what else? It reminds me of my dad's old personal assistant's euphemism for a fart. She called it floating a biscuit. Remember, in America a biscuit is usually a savory type food. It makes less sense in Australian language, because farts don't usually smell sweet.

What is floating the Australian dollar? I don't know. I have to ask Lord Wiki.

Oh crap. This is complicated. I'm horrible at economics. Lord Wiki says it means the currency's value is allowed to fluctuate based on what's going on in the foreign exchange market.

I tried to understand this, but I give up.

I'll move onto other economic stuff he did. I probably won't understand any of it.

He reduced Tariffs on imports. I guess that would make him more in line with free trade. Ah! I understand something related to economics. A miracle!

He supported Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. I have no idea what that is.

I just read Lord Wiki and I STILL don't know what it is. I am getting that it's something between an employer and the trade union.

Wait. I think I might understand.

 Or not.

I'm probably getting this all wrong. But if by miracle I'm getting this right...what it means is instead of there being a general wide all-encompassing rule for everyone in a particular industry, the EBA thing is more limited. It's kind of like saying instead of all candy companies providing this for all candy company employees, this particular candy company will have an agreement with it's own workers.

If I have that wrong and you know I have it wrong, please correct me.

Lord Wiki says it was Keating who proposed the idea of the GST. I had no idea. I figured it came from someone in the Liberal Party.

Keating was blamed for the 1990's recession. This made the Liberal Party more popular. Yet, Keating still managed to win the election in 1991. Hawke resigned as leader and Keating got to take over. But that seems a bit crazy to me. If the Labor party lost popularity because of economic issues, why would people want the treasurer as their Prime Minister?

I'm liking Keating much less than I imagined I would.

I guess I assumed he would be more progressive. He sounds like a Liberal Politician to me. And he seems a bit power hungry.

Maybe I just need to get to know the guy a little better.

Lord Wiki says he introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers. In this program, people seeking refuge are pretty much imprisoned if they don't have a visa. I know it has become very controversial in Australia and is not supported by people on the left of politics. I'm very surprised that it was someone in Labor who started the whole thing.

At first there was a 273 day limit to the detention period. That's a pretty long time....nine months.

If that wasn't bad enough, in 1974, Keating removed the limit!

What the hell was this guy thinking?

I thought he was better than Howard, but it seems he was cut from the same damn cloth.

The good news is Rudd does seem better. It was announced in July that the policy of automatic detention will be lifted. Good! I don't think this means they'll be opening their arms to any person who wants to come in. But I think things are going to be better for asylum seekers than they were under Keating and Howard.

In 1993, Keating was expected to lose the election, but he ended up winning. Lord Wiki says his victory speech is known as one of Australia's best speeches. He provides a copy of the speech. I'm going to read it.

I'm not impressed with it. I guess maybe that's because I'm not liking Keating very much. I think I'm prejudiced by now. But I think the speech is a bunch off fluff.

Well, this is the sweetest victory of all. This is a victory for the true believers: the people who, in difficult times, have kept the faith. And to the Australian people, through hard times, it makes their act of faith all that much greater.

If I liked the guy, I'd probably see his speech as being inspirational. It's funny how perception can change our viewpoints on things.

Keating had some kind of issue with Malaysia. He called their Prime Minister recalcitrant. I have no idea what that means.

The online dictionary says it means someone who is defiant of authority. It sounds just like Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That's the book I've been reading to Jack lately.

Anyway, the Malaysian Prime Minister was insulted, and there were talks of cutting ties with Australia. But later Keating apologized.

Okay. Well, finally. Here's something positive. Keating did support reconciliation with Indigenous Australians. That's good.

He wanted to strengthen ties with Asia. That sounds good too. Although some of it was controversial. Keating became friends with Suharto, Indonesia's president. Human Rights Activists didn't like this. It has something to do with East Timor. It was occupied by Indonesia from 1975-2002 and it wasn't a very peaceful occupation. Estimates put the death rates from occupation at over 100,000.

Keating's party lost leadership to the Liberal Party in 1996. He resigned as Labor Party leader and then soon after resigned from Parliament all together.

Lord Wiki talks about what Keating has been doing the last twelve years.

At one point, he was the chairman of an investment bank in Sydney.

In 2000, he published a book called Engagement: Australia Faces the Asia-Pacific. Two years later, Don Watson published a biography about Keating called Recollections of a Bleeding Heart. The book was fairly popular and won awards.

Keating spent a lot of time and energy criticizing John Howard and certain members of the Labor Party.

Keating's current job is visiting professor of Public Policy at the University of New South Wales.

In 2007, he made a suggestion that Sydney rather than Canberra should be the capital of Australia. I'm not sure if he was serious about this or if it was just a casual joking type suggestion.

I'm done with Lord Wiki and am leaving with a dislike for this Keating man. I wonder if further reading will make me change my mind. He seems like the type of person who has clever negative insults to pass around. At our wedding, there was an individual who sat there insulting our long-time friends and family under his breath. He thought he was funny. I found him annoying. Keating reminds me of him.

Okay. Let me move onto new things.

Keating has a MySpace page! He's not really doing a good job at keeping up with the thing. His last log in date was September 6. There's a photo of him. He looks very young for 64. He looks like he could be in his 30's or 40's. Does he have the Dick Clark syndrome?

There's a list of his interests. He likes antiques--specifically second empire clocks. I wonder how and why he got interested in that.

His heroes are Winston Churchill and Jack Lang.

He seems to favor classical music, but he does like Aretha Franklin.

He has 1482 friends. He's less popular then Gabriella Cilmi.

He says on is page, I've always done my best to go that extra mile, to do the hard yards and bring the fight to the enemy where they least expect it. I'm not a vain man, but I'm not afraid to take credit where it's due, because let me tell you, there's never any shortage of people trying to take it away from you. One thing about this banana monarchy of ours, as soon as you put your head above the ramparts there'll be an army of anklebiters trying to drag you down, little minds that can't see further than next week and have no idea how it all fits together.

He sounds like a man who really loves himself....perhaps a little too much. He reminds me of the type of person who thinks the world would be much better if there were no idiots. And his definition of idiot would be any person who disagrees with him or doesn't properly worship him. I think most of us are like that at certain points in our life. We all have moments of real or illusioned superiority. It just seems to me that Keating has too many of those moments.

Okay. Maybe this will get me to like him. Here's his 1992 speech at Redfern.

He says,
We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not. There should be no mistake about this - our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world.

I think that's very good point. If a country believes they are doing the right thing, then I don't think they should stop just because it might make them unpopular with the rest of the world. However, if many countries are criticizing that one country, they might want to sit there and think Well uh are there any merits to that criticism? Should we treat our citizens better? Should we vote in a new president? Should we stop bombing innocent people?

Now I'm going to look at Keating's official website. It has a lot of his speeches. I'll read a few.

In February 2008, he talked about the death of Indonesia's President Soeharto. It seems he did admire this guy, saying Soeharto took a nation of 120 million people, racked by political turmoil and poverty from near disintegration to the orderly, ordered and prosperous state that it is today.

It fascinates me how a single person in history can be interpreted in different ways. From Lord Wiki, I got the sense that Soeharto led a horrible occupation against East Timor. Here, Keating makes him sound quite decent.

Keating blames the press for giving Australians the wrong idea about the East Timor affair. Five Australian journalists were killed in East Timor by Indonesians. This gave the media the idea that the Indonesians were bad people. He says, From that moment, in their eyes, Soeharto became a cruel and intolerant repressor whose life's work in saving Indonesia from destruction was to be viewed, and only viewed, through the prism of Timor.

Keating's view is that East Timor was not a happy successful country, and Indonesia came to fix things. He blames it all on a guy named Fretilin. No wait. It's not a guy. It's a left-wing political group. Keating says, When Fretilin overran the colony by force, Soeharto's government became alarmed. This happened at the height of the Cold War. Saigon had fallen in April of that year. Fretilin then appealed to China and Vietnam for help. Fearing a 'Cuba on his doorstep', Soeharto reluctantly decided on military intervention.

I never can fully comprehend these issues. Are these countries really a danger, or is it a matter of a dominating country disagreeing with their political views? We don't like your politics. We're going to invade!

Keating's speech has a lot of anti-Islam stuff. It's has the usual slant of I'm not anti-Muslim....just anti-Islamic Fundamentalism. He brings up Bali. Look what happened to us in Bali at the hands of a handful, literally a handful, of Islamic fundamentalists. Imagine the turmoil for Australia if the whole 230 million of Indonesia had a fundamentalist objection to us.

I don't know. I'm not a big fan of Islamic-Fundamentalism. I don't think I'm a fan of any religious Fundamentalism. It's personally not my thing. But I don't think it's right to equate a religious country with terrorism. Is it not possible to have an Islamic country that's peaceful?

It reminds me a lot of Israel. People say we're not against Jews. We're just against Zionism. But what they're saying is they're against a country that's officially Jewish. Is it so horrible to have a Jewish country? Is it so horrible to have a Muslim country? Okay, personally I'm not a big fan of religion. I prefer secular countries. But I don't think it's right to assume an Islamic country is going to be a violent one....or that a Jewish country is going to have a secret agenda of taking over the world.

Maybe I'm naive. His speech just reminds me too much of the Bush administration; playing on people's fears of Islam.

I don't know though. I mean I don't know if Soeharto was good, bad, or somewhere in-between. I'm tempted to dive into that subject, but then I'll never be finished with this entry. I am curious though to know how people view him. Villain or hero?

It reminds me of Iraq. Most of us in the world believe that the United States wrongfully invaded Iraq. But there are still a few people out there who believe Iraq needed to be invaded; that the United States did the right thing.

In the speech, Keating says In January 1998, nearly two years after I had left the Prime Ministership of Australia, at my own initiative and my own expense, I flew to Jakarta to see him the day he signed the IMF agreement with the IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. He really sounds incredibly vain to me; making sure that people know he CHOSE to leave the Prime Minister job. Really! Does have need to bring that up? And didn't he get voted out of the position? I thought once the Labor Party lost the election, he then left the Labor party. But maybe Lord Wiki had it wrong.

There's a whole website dedicated to insults that have come out of Keating's mouth. Now I'm not going to say that I don't enjoy a clever insult now and then. In theory, I like the idea of if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. But in real life, people who have only kind words to say about others can be a bit unnerving. Infrequent humorous insults can be fun. But when it's done constantly, I find it distasteful. If someone was able to create a whole website based on Keating's insults, it tells me he might have done too much.

This other website talks about his insults as well. The webmaster calls Keating an equal opportunity insulter. I do think that's more admirable than a person who insults one side, but lets the other slide get away with everything. Personally though, I prefer people with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I like people who can make fun of themselves and would do that before making fun of others. It's my own personal preference. Other people might enjoy another type of humor.

Apparently, Keating did a no-no with the Queen of England. He put his hand on her shoulder. This led some people to give him the nickname of Lizard of Oz. Did he mean any offense by this? I don't know.

I'm on now. I'm going to read some reviews of Don Watson's Paul Keating biography. Oh! It's long. 756 Pages. Wow!

Andrew Desmond from New South Wales says, Paul Keating. From an Australian perspective, you either love him or hate him. My personal view is that he was instrumental in changing Australia for the better. He modernized the economy, removed the shackles of regulation and encouraged Australians to think about their place in the world. He was a man with a vision. His opponents were so often viewing the world through lenses crafted in the 1950s.

I like hearing another perspective. Why do some people love Keating and why do other people hate him? Do the people who hate him dislike him for the same reasons I do?

Watson actually knew Keating. This wasn't just some random writer doing a biography. He was Keating's speechwriter.

Desmond says he worries that people who hate Keating won't even consider reading the book. I'd love to read it. But I wouldn't say I hate Keating. I don't know enough about him yet. I just don't like what I've seen so far.

This article talks about how Keating went after Rudd's advisers during an interview on ABC's Lateline. Okay, honestly I tried reading the interview but it went way over my head. I think maybe I'll just read the summary here instead. Mr Keating didn't directly target Labor leader Kevin Rudd but sneered at Mr Rudd's closest circle of advisers, in his office and on the front bench.

In the interview, he took credit for the economic prosperity of Australia. I actually kind of understood that part. The interviewer had defended Howard pointing out that the economy was doing well. Keating took all the credit. It could be true. I can't say I have a lot of faith in Howard and Costello.

It reminds me of American politics. If a person on the left says they're going to vote for the Democrats, a Republican might warn them that the terrorists will kill us all. Then the Democrat reminds the Republican that September 11 happened with a Republican in power. The Republican will blame it all on what the Democrats had done prior to the Republicans getting into the White House. What if Obama does manage to turn America around for the better? Will Republicans stop and think Hey, we were wrong. He's done good! Or will they say, He was only able to accomplish that because of what Bush did before him. If Obama doesn't make any improvements.  If American becomes even worse, will the Democrats say I guess he wasn't as good as we imagined? Or will they say He was a great president. But there's no one who could have worked with the mess that Bush left us?

It seems Rudd handled the whole issue as best as he could. He excused Keating's comments as being from a colourful sort of guy. At the same time, he defended his Labor party coworkers that Keating attacked.

Here's an article on the Gallipoli issue.

It seems Keating doesn't believe Gallipoli created Australia's National Identity. I know enough about this to know that Gallipoli and Anzac Day is extremely important to Australia. As an outsider, I can say I don't think any one event or issue can completely create a national identity. But I do think certain events can play a huge part.

Isn't Gallipoli what started the whole mateship thing? I thought it was also what formed the idea of working together being more important than winning. In America, the ideal is coming up and out on top. In Australia, it's about sticking together. Of course, those are all generalizations.  But they might have some truth to them.

Keating says, Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there -- an utter and complete nonsense.

Keating thinks the fight against the Japanese in New Guinea was more important.

Rudd defends the importance of Gallipoli. That's part of our national consciousness, it's part of our national psyche, it's part of our national identity, and I, for one, as Prime Minister of the country, am absolutely proud of it.

I agree that it's part of the Australian Identity. Is it something to be proud of? Maybe? Does pride even belong in war? You can be proud for winning. But then you're celebrating in the midst of your enemy losing. And losing in war usually equals death. Can we truly rejoice when others have died?

Can you be proud for dying--for making huge sacrifices? I don't really think so. I don't think there should be shame in losing, but I think having PRIDE for losing is a bit misguided.

Can you be proud of bravery? Yes. I guess that's the one thing that's worth pride in my book. And Australians were brave in Gallipoli.

My sister was hit by a car and was severely injured. People label her as a hero. Was she a hero for getting hit? No, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's not heroic at all. Was she a hero for surviving? Not really. I think most of the credit goes to having good luck and good doctors. She IS a hero because of how she handled the situation. She endured her surgeries and therapies with acceptance and a sense of humor. What happened to her made her a stronger person not a weaker one. She became a better person rather than a worse one.

As the saying goes, it's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.

I'm going to look at Google News now.

This article talks about the Keating Musical. It talks about how if you're going to make fun of other people, you need to be able to laugh when other people make fun of you. I think we all know people who can dish it out, but turn red with anger when the table are turned.

I actually really like the writing of whoever has written this article. I can't see the author's name. I must be missing something. Anyway, he (or she) says,I'm getting thoroughly fed up with prime ministerial addresses, tabloid reports and slow-motion bank ads hinged on what it means to "be Australian" and how we "share a dream". What dream would that be? The one where I'm shooting down a slippery slide naked into a large vat of custard? Or the one where Doctor Who turns up and abducts the cat?

I like that. I wish I knew who wrote it.

Oh! Now I know. It's the guy who wrote Keating the Musical! He explains what he was going for with the musical At the same time, certainly, I wanted to celebrate Paul Keating's progressive social agenda but the satiric content was centred on the notion that if you believe only one side of the story, if you choose to see the world only as a good-guy-versus-bad-guy proposition, you wind up living in fantasy.

I'm really liking this guy. I need to add him to my list. I think what I've learned through my research is that things really AREN'T black and white. It's easy to put people into categories based on simple labels. I could have simply divided up the people on my list and said Okay, these guys are on the left. I like them! These people are on the right. They're bad! But it doesn't work that way. I don't agree with Malcolm Turnbell's politics. He's too much on the right for me. But I find something endearing about the man. I also like William McMahon and Harold Holt....even though they're Liberals. I love that Keating supported Indigenous reconciliation, but I think he's an asshole.

I'll be honest with you. Maybe for other people it would be different. But for me, it's hard to spend a full day researching someone and end up either hating them or loving them. I usually end up with very mixed feelings.

I think what this guy is trying to say about his play is that the characters were exaggerated. I might be reading this wrong, but I think he was going for satire in making certain characters very good and other characters very foolish. But it seems maybe the audience missed some of that. What's more, I can't deny that deep down, where a sophisticated ironist would have been nurturing a flinty black heart, I found pockets of warm sap instead. I wanted to cheer for PJK as well. Some satirist, eh?

It kind of reminds me of Donald Horne and the whole Lucky Country thing. From what I've read he meant it as an insult. But many Australians took it out of context and turned it into something to be proud of.

Back to the whole issue of being able to take a joke. I think there's two ways to take a joke.

A) You understand you're being insulted and can still laugh.
B) You are completely ignorant at the fact that you're being insulted. It goes over your head. In fact, you might wrongly assume someone is giving you a compliment.

Can Americans take truly take a joke? Do we have a good sense of humor?

What about Australians? Can they take what they dish out?

As the author of the article says, it really depends on the individual. And it depends on the joke. As no nation has truly collective dreams, no nation has a collective sense of humor.

This editorial here praises Keating's oratory skills, yet at the same time criticizes him. The last PM this country has had - and indeed the only PM it has had in my lifetime - who like Obama combined charismatic physical elegance with powerful oratory and highly-developed on-his-feet verbal skills was Paul Keating, and even Keating spoiled it: the public speaking skills were habitually undermined by the coarseness and cruelty he was capable of (and really enjoyed) when speaking on his feet, and his considerable physical elegance was likewise marred by the great big chips on both shoulders, which completely spoiled his line.

I think this well summarizes the sense I've been getting of Keating today. There are aspects of him that are good, but they are overshadowed by his nastiness.

Keating wasn't a fan of Andrew Denton. He said, I always regarded the program as an itsy bitsy talk shop show of no account. Should I translate that to mean he was never invited to be on the show? Nope. It seems (according to Keating) that he was invited many times to be on the show, but kept turning down the offers.

I remembered something from past research. It involved Paul Keating, Andrew Denton, and bowling. It was for the show Live and Sweaty. He challenged Keating to a game of bowling and Keating refused. But he did agree to be interviewed. I guess maybe he didn't enjoy the interview and that's why he refused to do Enough Rope. Maybe?

I will say Keating has his head on straight about Bush and the Iraqi war. See? I'm okay with SOME of his insults. He says, And all the people around him, (Vice-President Dick) Cheney, (former Deputy Defence Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz, (former Defence Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld... this was nothing to do with 9/11 and al-Qaeda, this was all about getting square with Saddam Hussein, who they thought had rubbed their nose in it in 1991.

Anyway, I know I don't love Keating.

I don't hate him either.

At the very least, I find him interesting. But I have had enough of him for today.