Wide World of Quotes > Paul Keating

Paul Keating
Australian politician and former Prime Minister
(1944- )

Paul Keating, former Australian prime minister (image)

Paul Keating, 2007

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The opening of Barangaroo Point

ANNE DAVIES: This is a big day. You're opening a park. How do you feel about the outcome?

PAUL KEATING: This is a piece of fantasy, Anne. It would never have come out of the State planning process. Not a chance. This is a bit of creative madness, but it's the right kind of madness. Sydney Harbour Bridge came down on the Harbour like a theatrical curtain and we've always regarded the "good harbour" as the eastern side and the grungy old harbour was on this side. But this is the side with the great possibility at the end of the maritime and industrial period. To put together at the foot of a city of five or six million people that Sydney will become, at the foot of it, this natural playground, this constellation of headlands, which New York doesn't have and Paris of course doesn't have and London doesn't have. If it had been just a wharf with a few bowling green lawns and planter boxes and gee whiz bits of art, it would have been a complete failure.

ANNE DAVIES: You've used a lot of natural materials from the site. I think you were instrumental in all of these beautiful sandstone blocks being excavated.

PAUL KEATING: Well, Peter Walker, the American designer here, understood one thing. The fact that there was a headland here until the 1960s meant that this was a heart of stones around here. Otherwise after millions of years it wouldn't be here; it would have been out at sea. So that gave us a clue that maybe if we could go down, if we wanted to have a cultural space and a car park, then we could mine the blocks out of there. Now these blocks are a big blocks: they're a metre square, they're two metres long, and there are 9,600 of them. A big mining operation.

ANNE DAVIES: And what about the planting? Are you happy with the planting?

PAUL KEATING: Well, this is the first attempt to put onto a headland in Sydney the natural flora that Sydney had before European settlement. On all the other points of Sydney they've all been cleaned out and knocked over.

ANNE DAVIES: Now you've had quite a battle against what you call the architectual archaeologists who wanted to keep the old wharf. How did you win that battle?

PAUL KEATING: Just by doggedness. This is the old thing about industrial archaeology. It was like an aircraft carrier, a big slab of concrete like an aircraft carrier. And the fact that you had it didn't mean to say that you had to keep it. I took the view it should not be an urban renewal but an urban reconstruction. This is a reconstruction. This is new. This is not reinterpreting a bit of old industrial archaeology. You know I just think the people who want to keep old lumps of stuff like this are dull, conservative and wrong.

-- Transcription of interview with Paul Keating the occasion of the opening of Sydney's Barangaroo Point on 22 August 2015

Malcolm Fraser

The death of Malcolm Fraser underwrites a great loss to Australia.

Notwithstanding a controversial prime ministership, in later years he harboured one abiding and important idea about Australia – its need and its right to be a strategically independent country.

He detested what he saw as our strategic subservience to the United States and our willingness to be easily led from the path of a truly independent foreign policy.

His public life also enshrined other important principles: no truck with race or colour and no tolerance for whispered notions of exclusivity tinged by race. These principles applied throughout his political life.
-- "Malcolm Fraser Dead: Paul Keating Pays Hommage", Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 2015

Peter Costello

Costello got hit in the arse by a rainbow. He's just got to wake up every morning and take credit for the economic outcomes I created.
-- Paul Keating to Labor MP Mark Latham during a lunch Keating's Sydney office in April 1999, noting that there was no acknowledgment of the Hawke and Keating reforms when Howard and treasurer Peter Costello claimed credit for the economic good times that Australia experiences under their government. (Source: The Age, Good Weekend, 31 January 2015.)


I ran Australia in 1984-89, not Hawke

Bob Hawke’s long-standing Treasurer, Paul Keating, has attacked his former boss, suggesting he ran the government for most of Mr Hawke’s almost nine years in office.

“To be Prime Minister of Australia, you have got to be lucky,” Mr Keating said at the launch of Gareth Evans’ political diaries in Canberra. “To be Prime Minister for Australia, with five years down time, you’ve got to be more than lucky – and history deserves to know that that’s the way it was.”

Mr Keating said it fell to him as treasurer to “nourish the country with ideas” from 1984 to 1989 – a task he thought should be a leader’s job.

“In his book, Bob says he was down for a month or two. In fact, Bob was down for about five years,” Mr Keating said. (Evans’ book mentions Hawke’s emotional breakdown after learning of his daughter Roslyn’s heroin addiction.)

-- "Keating launches Hawke attack", The New Daily, 27 Aug 2014

Abbott sabotaged superannuation

The government’s decision yesterday, with the connivance of the Palmer United Party, jams compulsory superannuation contributions at 9.5 per cent till July 2021 – effectively wiping out any prospect of the SG ever moving beyond 9.5 per cent without a change of government.

Yesterday’s decision represents nothing other than the wilful sabotage of the nation’s universal savings scheme. And sabotage for reasons only of prejudice. [...]

The Liberal party has always opposed universal superannuation and as it revealed yesterday, it still does.

This decision ranks with that of the former Howard government’s 1996 decision to abandon the Keating government’s 15 per cent Superannuation Guarantee, designed particularly to lift the 1940s baby boom generation to more adequate levels of accumulation in their remaining years before

The cost of yesterday’s decision will not only adversely affect the baby boom generation but more substantially, their children – the so-called Generations X and Y.

-- "Paul Keating: Abbott wilfully sabotaged super", The New Daily, 3 September 2014

Gough Whitlam

LEIGH SALES: Do you consider that he has been important in your life?

PAUL KEATING: He [Gough Whitlam] front run the system. I mean, you know, I had a couple of people in my political life I was interested in. Lang was one, Whitlam was another.

I mean Australia was a post imperial outpost, effectively, in the post war years. In the years of the Menzies torpor, it was like sort of wading in molasses, you know. And to shock the system and change it, to change Australia's idea of itself is what Whitlam did. [...]

PAUL KEATING: No. He [Gough Whitlam] was a grenade thrower. I used to often say, well I'm the grenade throwing business, occasionally I drop one beside my foot but I get many direct hits. He was in the direct hit business. He wanted to make Australia fairer, more decent, more open, more confident, more exciting, you know. And he did, you know.

Reorientate the country in foreign policy terms, he wanted to make Australia, take Australia from an outpost to a bridge. We were a post imperial outpost. With all the glue of the Anglosphere hanging on us. We missed the sort of, by getting out of white Australia, we missed the marginalisation that South Africa had, we missed it by seconds in time and that change in orientation and the shift in policies and domestically in the big social programs like Medicare, you know, the health of any one of us is important to all of us. The right to get yourself a secondary education and a tertiary one, and further and technical and further education, these things.

But the whole range like, you know, fault free divorce, rights for women. It was all compressed into two years and nine months. That's tough. [...]

LEIGH SALES: What is your lasting memory, not of Gough Whitlam the prime minister, but of Gough Whitlam the man?

PAUL KEATING: He... there's always a sort of a disassembly and kindliness about Gough and thoughtful, he would look at current events and provide commentary to you. It was also a wide view. Often self deprecatory. He was sort of softer in private than you would see him in public. But the key thing is he made a difference. He was around and we all know that he's been around.

-- Paul Keating interviewed by Leigh Sales, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 21 October 2014, shortly after the death of former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam


Remembrance Day 2013 address at Australian 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. [...]

The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism. A complex interplay of nation state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural superiority peppered with racism.

The First World War not only destroyed European civilisation and the empires at its heart; its aftermath led to a second conflagration, the Second World War, which divided the continent until the end of the century.

But at the end of the century, from the shadows, a new light emerged. Europe turned its back on the nation state to favour a greater European construct. Individual loyalties are now directed from nationalist obsessions toward an amorphous whole and to institutions unlikely to garner a popular base. [...]

While a century ago Australia was an outreach of European civilisation, here we had set about constructing an image of ourselves, free of the racial hatreds and contempts which characterised European society. Though White Australia institutionalised a policy of bias to Caucasians, within Australia we were moving through the processes of our federation to new ideas of ourselves. Notions of equality and fairness – suffrage for women, a universal living wage, support in old age, a sense of inclusive patriotism. [...]

-- Paul Keating's address at the Australian War Memorial, 11 November 2013 ( the full text of the speech is here).

Two critical commentaries regarding this Keating speech:
(1) "Let us forget … Paul Keating"
URL: blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/.../index.../let_us_forget_paul_keating...
Nov 12, 2013 - How dare Paul Keating abuse the great privilege of delivering the Remembrance .... Proud thinking Australian replied to Phillip George

(2) "Paul Keating's ambivalence about Australia's war story", onlineopinion.com.au, Nov 29, 2013


The 2012 Keith Murdoch Oration: Asia in the New Order

How things go in the Indonesian archipelago, in many respects, so go we. Indonesia remains the place where Australia’s strategic bread is buttered. No country is more important to us – and it is a country which has shown enormous tolerance and goodwill towards us. Focus on this country should be a major imperative driving our foreign policy.

The fourth largest country in the world, a secular democracy, the largest Muslim state, Indonesia’s vast archipelago straddles the air and sea approaches to our country. No major power in or beyond the wider region could hope to have the capacity to project forces towards Australia, certainly to our north and west, without needing to transit Indonesia.

I have always thought Indonesia will become our most important strategic partner. The need of this will become more apparent as its economy gets stronger.

Already, on a purchasing power parity basis, the Indonesian economy is larger than our own. Because population is the principal driver of GDP, particularly with the ubiquity of technology and capital, Indonesia’s economy is likely to be at least twice as large as Australia’s and in time, even larger. Indeed, a recent study by McKinsey and Company, forecast that by 2030, Indonesia’s economy would be larger than either Britain’s or Germany’s. [...]

Now that Australia is front and centre in the fastest growing part of the world as never before, our future has to amount to more than simply managing alliances. Effective at that as we have been in the past, we are now compelled to be more relevant to the dynamic region around us. This must mean that our opportunities to exercise independence and independence of action will be greater than they have ever been.

Not to measure up to this challenge would be to run the risk of being seen as a derivative power, perpetually in search of a strategic guarantor, a Western outpost, seemingly unable to confidently make its own way in the world. Surely we have reached the point where we have to turn away from that scenario, recognise the realities of our geography and strike out on our own.

-- 2012 Keith Murdoch Oration delivered by Paul Keating in Melbourne on 14 November 2012

The transcript of the 2012 Keith Murdoch Oration is here.

Paul Keating interviewed by Tony Jones, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

TONY JONES: Let's bring us back to the present then. You've said in the speech and you just mentioned it, this era of effective Australian foreign policy activism has passed and you go on to say it's passed because our sense of independence from the foreign policy objectives of the United States has flagged. What's the evidence for that?

PAUL KEATING: Well the evidence of that is our commitment to the undeclared war in the Gulf, the second Gulf War, the one without the UN mandate, the commitments that have followed. And I think that we are far too deferential to what we see as the proclivities of US foreign policy vis-a-vis our own.

TONY JONES: You actually plot this trend through the Howard, the Rudd and the Gillard governments. So you're literally talking about ongoing subservience to US power.

PAUL KEATING: Well, not knowing when to strike out on your own, not knowing when to map out your prerogatives and where the lines are all blurred with their own. I mean, Howard was - describes himself as a deputy sheriff, remember this, in Asia.

You know, in the WikiLeaks cables, the Chinese discovered that Kevin Rudd was urging the Americans to keep the military option open against them. This is hardly a friendly gesture. And of course we had president Obama make an aggressive anti-Chinese speech fundamentally in our parliamentary chamber, the so-called pivot speech.

The full text of this interview may be read here.


Clover Moore

[Clover Moore has a] "miserable, microscopic view of the world (...) The lord mayor has no concept of a metropolitan city, she's an inappropriate person to be lord mayor of this city because she thinks it's a city of villages, she's for low rise, she's for sandal-wearing, muesli-chewing, bike-riding pedestrians without any idea of the metropolitan quality of the city.
-- Paul Keating on Sydney City Council Lord Mayor Clover Moore and her followers
(reported in The Australian, 5 May 2011)

Paul Keating speaking of Clover Moore, 2011 (image)

Paul Keating delivers his opinion on Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney (2011)

Brad Hazzard writes to Paul Keating about this quote

Paul Keating replies to Brad Hazzard about this quote


Bob Hawke

"(Your) emotional and intellectual malaise lasted for years... All through the Tax Summit year of 1985; through to your lacklustre performance through the 1987 election, to the point when in 1988, four years later, (John) Dawkins had to front you, asking you to leave.

It was only after that that you approached me, at your initiative, to enter into an agreement with me to succeed you following the 1990 election. An agreement you subsequently broke.
-- Letter from Paul Keating to Bob Hawke, July 2010, as quoted in article "Paul Keating unleashes on Bob Hawke: I carried you through years of 'malaise' ", by George Megalogenis, The Australian, 15 July 2010

Blanche d'Alpuget

The book is even stooping so low as to say that, because I had no university education, I was incapable of absorbing complex documents, and that I did not even read them," Mr Keating told The Australian.

The preposterousness of it is faint-making. How would anyone at the top of public life deal with 30-plus cabinet submissions a week plus hundreds of other issues, for one and a half decades, without a speedy comprehension of matters? This shows the depth to which Blanche d'Alpuget stoops in her misplaced attempts to uplift Bob."
-- Paul Keating commenting on statement about him by Blanche d'Alpuget in her biography, Hawke, The Prime Minister. In that statement d'Alpuget had described Keating as follows: "With little formal education, his intellect led him to hobbies, one after another, all his life: car engines; budgerigars; the life of Winston Churchill; rock music and, as his taste matured, classical music and its visible sister, architecture."

Source: "Paul Keating unleashes on Bob Hawke: I carried you through years of 'malaise' ", by George Megalogenis, The Australian, 15 July 2010

Paul Keating vs. Don Watson

So, the sentiments that ''we did the dispossessing … we brought the diseases, the alcohol, that we committed the murders and took the children from their mothers'' were my sentiments. P. J. Keating's
sentiments. They may have been Watson's sentiments also. But they were sentiments provided to a speechwriter as a remit, as an instruction, as guidance as to how this subject should be dealt with in a literary way.
-- Paul Keating, "All mine, my dear Watson". Sydney Morning Herald, 26 August 2010. This article refers to a dispute between Keating and Don Watson. Watson, then Keating's principal speechwriter, had claimed authorship of the Redfern Park Speech that Keating delivered on 10 December 1992, although Keating disputed this.

Barangaroo Point, Sydney

PAUL KEATING: This is density juxtaposed with nature. This is like Central Park in New York. You go along Central Park, you see these wonderful green open spaces and you see these huge phalanx of buildings beside 'em, right? This what you'll see here. You'll see rather than the buildings sort of petering out as they get to the waterfront, as is the case in all Australian cities, they tend to peter out as they get - you'll have these big standing buildings here with a park underneath it. (...)

PAUL KEATING: What would you prefer? A headland that looks like Goat Island, that remediates the massive vandalism of the Maritime Services Board in 1961; it just chopped it away and used it as fill to fill in Cockle Bay. What would we prefer? A sort of USS Nimitz, the aircraft carrier with the green lawn, you know, on the top - this is the Phillip Thalis idea. Or a headland that looks like Ball's Head, which Jack Lang reserved or Goat Island or Balas Point near it and water coming into it. I mean, in the end, if you run along this wharf at Barangaroo it just looked like a wharf in Rotterdam. I mean, you know. (...)

PAUL KEATING: Every single building will be approved by the authority, that is aesthetically, quality and what have you. Look, let's get down to the nub of this: Sydney would not normally have anything as good as this happen to it. Normally we muck these things up. We have all the boofhead planners in there, Treasury, planning, maritime, ports, and you know what they would have done? We'd have a row of KPMG buildings from one end of it to the other. I mean, this is rescuing a victory from the jaws of defeat basically. We're ready to take it. It will be, without a doubt, the most important waterfront development in the world and it gives - it's gonna bookend Sydney; we'll have a botanical garden to the east and a botanical garden to the west. We had no chance of getting it.
-- Quentin Dempster interview with Paul Keating, ABC News, 26 February 2010

Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo

PAUL KEATING: ...the Finger Wharf sterilises Woolloomooloo Bay. It's two-thirds the length of it. It should have been taken down. It was the last public bay left to the east of the Harbour Bridge. Instead of that, it's privately owned now and its full of loft apartments. It should always have come down.
-- Quentin Dempster interview with Paul Keating, ABC News, 26 February 2010


Global Financial Crisis

[The global financial crisis is] a catastrophe, it's way worse than it appears. We have had an expansion of credit running for 60 years from 1947 to 2007. This is the first time, 2008, and now 09, where we have had a contraction of credit.

The top 200 financial institutions in the world have suffered an average loss of value of 74 per cent. The top 200, average loss of 74 per cent. We have gone through a bull market which began in 1982, went for 25 years, a bull market in the stock market to 2007.

What we need is a completely new global political and economic settlement. We need to get rid of the old G7. We have to be rid of the old IMF (International Monetary Fund), we've got to bring the surplus countries into the, into the political framework. [...]

The thing is when you have a crisis of this proportion and fortunately our banking sector is in a way better position than most anyone else. You see, our four banks are now the top 15 banks.

Before this crisis not one was, only one was in the first 50. Now we have four in the top 15. It hasn't happened by accident. It's there because the fact that what happened in 1990 was seared into the minds of our banking community and our regulators have sat on them. And of course, we kept them locked up under four pillars.

-- Paul Keating interviewed by Tony Jones, Lateline programme, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 February 2009


-- Referring to former Treasurer Peter Costello, launch of Unfinished Business - Paul Keating's Interrupted Revolution, August 6 2008. 7.30 Report Interview

I used to refer to him as Thallium, a slow acting dope
-- Referring to former Treasurer Peter Costello, 7.30 Report, ABC TV, 6 August 6 2008.

This is a low flying person
-- Referring to former Treasurer Peter Costello, 7.30 Report, ABC TV, 6 August 2008.

While frenetic activity, in the end suiting journos; running at the behest of little press secretaries does not pay off
-- Referring to Kevin Rudd's first eight months, 7.30 Report, ABC TV, 6 August 2008.

The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.
-- Referring to his economic record, 7.30 Report, ABC TV, 6 August 2008.

John Howard turned the prime ministership into something like a state police minister. He's at the scene of every crime, twice a day on radio, the guy did no thinking.
-- Referring to former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard, 7.30 Report, ABC TV, 6 August 2008.


The fact is Burke is smarter than two thirds of the Western Australian Labor Party rolled together
-- Paul Keating referring to disgraced former Western Australia Premier Brian Burke, ABC Radio interview, 5 March 2007.

For John Howard to get to any high moral ground he would have to first climb out of the volcanic hole he's dug for himself over the last decade. You know, it's like one of those deep diamond mined holes in South Africa, you know, they're about a mile underground. He'd have to come a mile up to get to even equilibrium, let alone have any contest in morality with Kevin Rudd.
-- ABC Radio interview, 5 March 2007.

He's a pre-Copernican obscurantist.
-- Referring to Prime Minister John Howard's attitude to industrial relations. ABC Radio interview, 1 May 2007.

Because in the end those kind of conservative tea-leaf-reading focus group driven polling types who I think led Kim into nothingness, he's got his life to repent in leisure now at what they did to him.
-- On Kim Beazley's ALP leadership, Lateline interview, ABC Radio, 7 June 2007.

The Labor Party is not going to profit from having these proven unsuccessful people around who are frightened of their own shadow and won't get out of bed in the morning unless they've had a focus group report to tell them which side of bed to get out.
-- On the modern ALP, Lateline interview, ABC Radio, 7 June 2007.

Silly what's his name, the Shrek, whoever he was on the television this morning?
-- Referring to Howard Government Minister Joe Hockey, Lateline interview, ABC Radio, 7 June 2007.

He’s the greatest L plater of all time.
-- Referring to Treasurer Peter Costello, Lateline interview, ABC Radio, June 7 2007.

Well, the thing about poor old Costello, he's all tip and no iceberg, you know. You know, he can throw a punch across the parliament, but the bloke he should be throwing the punch to is Howard. Of course, he doesn't have the ticker for it.
-- Paul Keating on Treasurer Peter Costello. ABC Radio interview, 5 March 2007.

Oh, look, it's just Howard being Howard, isn't it, you know? The little desiccated coconut's under pressure and he's attacking anything he can get his hands on. (...) (He is) still there araldited to the seat.
-- Paul Keating on Prime Minister John Howard. ABC Radio interview, 5 March 2007.

An old antediluvian 19th century person who wanted to stomp forever ... on ordinary people's rights to organise themselves at work ... He's a pre-Copernican obscurantist.
-- Paul Keating speaking of John Howard's Work Choices industrial policy. "Middle-of-the-road fascists can't compose IR policy". The Australian. 2 May 2007.


[Australian Reserve Bank] Governor MacFarlane said recently when Paul Volcker broke the back of American inflation it's regarded as the policy triumph of the Western world. When I broke the back of Australian inflation they say, "Oh, you're the fellow that put the interest rates up." Am I not the same fellow that gave them the 15 years of good growth and high wealth that came from it?
-- Paul Keating, 7:30 Report interview on ABC TV, 8 May 2006.

Between 1999 and 2004 there was no investment in Australia, it all went into housing and consumption all borrowed on the current account. When Peter Costello runs around saying, 'Oh we've paid off the debt,' it's like the pea and thimble trick. The Government debt or the massive private debt abroad? It's continuing to grow.
-- Paul Keating, 7:30 Report interview on ABC TV, 8 May 2006.


You just can't have a position where some pumped up bunyip potentate dismisses an elected government.
-- Paul Keating referring to John Kerr, the former Governor-General of Australia. This remark was made during The Great Crash for The World Today book launch, 9 November, 2005.


In the end it's the big picture which changes nations and whatever our opponents may say, Australia's changed inexorably for good, for the better.
-- Paul Keating, , 2 March 1996, in his concession speech after the Australian Labor Party lost the 1996 federal election

We will not adopt the fantastic hypocrisy of modern conservatism which preaches the values of families and communities, while conducting a direct assault on them through reduced wages and conditions and job security.
-- Paul Keating, election campaign launch, 14 February 1996

By the year 2000 we should be able to say that we have learned to live securely, in peace and mutual prosperity among our Asian and Pacific neighbours. We will not be cut off from our British and European cultures and traditions or from those economies. On the contrary, the more engaged we are economically and politically with the region around us, the more value and relevance we bring to those old relationships. Far from putting our identity at risk, our relationships with the region will energise it.
-- Paul Keating, election campaign launch, 14 February 1996


Go and get a job! Go and do a bit of work like the rest of us.
-- Paul Keating to protesters, 1995


He's wound up like a thousand-day clock! One (more half) turn and there'll be springs and sprockets all over the building. Mr Speaker, give him a valium.
-- Paul Keating to Opposition Leader John Howard, 1995


A familiar question for Australians is how much we are a product of our circumstances, and how much we are what we have made ourselves to be. In truth, by the act of migration the country was made: by that voluntary act and by the emigrants' ambitions it was built.
-- Paul Keating's Address to the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of parliament of the Republic of Ireland, 20 September, 1993.

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.
-- Paul Keating, 1993

Remembrance Day 1993 speech

We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.

Yet he has always been among those whom we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century.

He is all of them. And he is one of us.
-- Opening lines of the eulogy delivered by the Prime Minister, The Hon. P. J. Keating MP, at the funeral service of the Unknown Australian Soldier, 11 November 1993, that is, Remembrance Day 1993. (The full text of the speech may be here).


Hewson: I ask the Prime Minister: if you are so confident about your view of Fightback, why will you not call an early election?
Keating: The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm out of this load of rubbish over a number of months. There will be no easy execution for you. You have perpetrated one of the great mischiefs on the Australian public with this thing, trying to rip away our social wage, trying to rip away the Australian values which we built in our society for over a century.
-- Paul Keating replying to a question from John Hewson, then the Opposition Leader. Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives, 1992.

It was the Sydney Morning Herald, now it's the ABC. Now it's the Treasury with the Teachers' Federation wrapped in. I mean (blowing lips), I mean he's going Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker, he's going troppo, he's going troppo, he's more to be pitied than despised, he's simply going troppo.
-- Paul Keating in Parliament to the Opposition Leader John Hewson, 1992

Whether the Treasurer wished to go to there or not - I would forbid him going to the Senate to account to (those) unrepresentative swill.
-- Paul Keating, 1992

The Redfern Speech

It was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. 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.
-- Paul Keating delivering the Redfern Speech (also known as the Redfern Park Speech), launching the International Year of Indigenous Peoples, 10 December 1992

A background article on the Redfern Speech may be read here and a full transcript of the speech may be read here.


The "Placido Domingo" of Australian politics
-- Paul Keating describing himself in a 1990 Christmas dinner speech to the Press Gallery (the assertion was based on the observation that Domingo's performances are "sometimes great, and sometimes not great, but always good")
-- Paul Keating, 1990, deflecting an attack over Loan Council arrangements


It was the limpest performance I have ever seen ... it was like being flogged with a warm lettuce. It was like being mauled by a dead sheep.
-- Paul Keating, 1989, on John Hewson's debating skills

Unless (Mr Hewson) is in with a question in his hand written by someone on his staff, he's useless.
-- Paul Keating, 1989, on Opposition Leader John Hewson


The Opposition wages policy is a joke and would be washed to one side in the real economy, if it were ever put into place. Yet Opposition members talk about the Opposition's credentials ... the Opposition crowd could not raffle a duck in a pub.
-- Paul Keating, 1986, on the Coalition

The Opposition put all its faith in some notion that the Japanese would be asking for some contracts for coal. The Opposition could not manage a tart shop.
-- Paul Keating, 1986, on the Coalition

I will never get to the stage of wanting to lead the nation standing in front of the mirror every morning clipping the eyebrows here and clipping the eyebrows there with Janette and the kids. It is like 'spot the eyebrow'.
-- Paul Keating, 1986, to Opposition Leader John Howard

If this Government cannot get the adjustment, get manufacturing going again, and keep moderate wage outcomes and a sensible economic policy, then Australia is basically done for. We will end up being a third rate economy... a banana republic.
-- Paul Keating, May 1986 (this is a quote from Keating's famous "Banana Republic" speech)

Parliament House, Canberra, 18 Feb 1986

Paul Keating (PK), ALP government's Treasurer
John Howard, Opposition leader
Wilson "Ironbar" Tuckey (WT), Liberal MP for Western Australia seat of O'Connor
Deputy Speaker, Leo McLeay

PK (re John Howard): This is a character who's up lecturing us about fiscal rectitude; His Oiliness, the man who put all the oil [excise] money up [i.e. in 1978 when Howard was Treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's government].

WT: If you want me to talk about Christine, you keep up with this "His Oiliness".

Deputy Speaker: Order, order. ORDER!

WT: And I'll give it to you

Deputy Speaker: The Member for O'Connor!

WT: You play it straight.

Deputy Speaker: The Member for O'Connor might have an early afternoon if he keeps this up.

PK: The Member for O'Connor is a member with a criminal intellect.

Deputy Speaker: Order!

PK: And is a criminal in my view.

Deputy Speaker: Order, order.

WT: Withdraw!

Deputy Speaker: The Member for O'Connor claims the words used by the Treasurer were offensive to him. Will the Treasurer withdraw?

PK: I'll withdraw nothing.

WT: I object to the words "His Oiliness". I've now also been accused of having a criminal intellect, and I ask that be withdrawn. I certainly don't mix with criminals.

PK: I don't get someone to to hold somebody against a wall while I belt him with a truncheon.

Deputy Speaker: Order, order!

Various MPs from the Opposition bench: Name him.

Deputy Speaker: The Treasurer will withdraw.

PK: Mr Deputy Speaker, in deference to you I withdraw, but can I point out that the Leader of the Opposition [John Howard] hurls all sorts of abuse at me, and all through Question Time these two pansies over there want retractions. They're a bunch of nobodies going nowhere.

Don Cameron (Liberal, QLD): Point of order. The Treasurer has called people over here pansies. When are you going to put an end to all this rubbish he's going on with?

Deputy Speaker: Members of the Opposition are busily provoking the Treasuer and the Treasurer is busily provoking the Opposition. If both parties continue in this mode, I guess they have to expect to take what they get.

Parliament House, Canberra, 19 Feb 1986

Paul Keating (PK), ALP government's Treasurer
John Howard, Opposition leader
Wilson "Ironbar" Tuckey (WT), Liberal MP for Western Australia seat of O'Connor
Deputy Speaker, Leo McLeay

WT: The Treasurer has commenced a personal attack. I am about to warn him what he will get if he does.

PK: This loopy... Let me just make this clear...

WT: I ask for the Treasurer to withdraw that remark, or shall mention Christine.

PK: If you stop interjecting, I'll withdraw it. The loopy crim for O'Connor is at it again.

Deputy Speaker: The Member for O'Connor will resume his seat.

WT: Christine had a little girl named Paul...

PK: You stupid, foul-mouthed grub.

WT: No, you are, you grub.

PK: You piece of criminal garbage.

Deputy Speaker: I warn the Member for O'Connor.

WT: What about him?

Michael MacKellar (Lib, NSW): Is it in order for a member to refer to another member as a piece of criminal garbage and get away with it?

Deputy Speaker: The Chair did not hear it. (...)

WT: I request he withdraw. Now I know how Christine felt.

20 Feb 1986 – on the steps of Parliament House

Paul Keating: From this day onwards, Mr Howard will wear his leadership like a crown of thorns, and in the Parliament I will do everything I can do to destroy him.


I am not like the Leader of the Opposition. I did not slither out of the Cabinet room like a mangy maggot.
-- Paul Keating, 1985, to Opposition Leader John Howard

Wilson Tuckey (WT): All you have done is finance growth with debt.
Paul Keating (PK): You boxhead, you would not know. You are flat out counting past 10.
WT: Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask for that remark to be withdrawn.
PK: I will withdraw it if you shut up for a while.
WT: I will shut up in the normal way I have to. You are an idiot. You are just a hopeless nong. You would not know.
PK: Shut up! Sit down and shut up, you pig.
Deputy Speaker (Mr Millar): Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will resume his seat.
PK: Mr Deputy Speaker, the fact of the matter is...
-- Parliament House, 21 August 1985


You were heard in silence, so some of you scumbags on the front bench should just wait a minute until you hear the responses from me.
-- Paul Keating, 1984, to Coalition front benchers

The Leader of the Opposition is more to be pitied than despised, the poor old thing. The Liberal Party of Australia ought to put him down like a faithful old dog because he is of no use to it and of no use to the nation.
-- Paul Keating, 1984, to Opposition Leader Andrew Peacock

It really surprises me that some people in this party think we owe Westpac something. Or the ANZ Bank. Or the National.
-- Paul Keating at Australian Labor Party national conference, July 1984


Keating's powerful use of language

It has become tedious practice in our national politics to decry the lack of great political communicators. Pejorative comparisons with Keating have become commonplace. Again and again he is referred back to as the gold standard for the vivid use of political language. And why not? The man turned the Australian vernacular to the unexpected purpose of high-concept political analysis: forensic insight disguised as low insult. No less than any novelist, he has shaped our conception of what our own tongue can do.

And that is the point: Keating was doing an artist's work when it came to langugage. It is also why commentary that expresses the wish that our leaders be more Keating-like misses the mark. Keating was not a simple tradesman shaping language to that day's necessary tasks. He was that, too, of course -- he was a politician and as cynical as the next, with an agenda he would pursue at any cost. But it was his belief in -- no, more than that, his genuine feeling for aesthetics that gave his words their punch.

To pu it another way, it was not simply that Keating knew that language was powerful, it was the powerful use of language was a fundamental expression of who Keating was.

-- Sean Kelly, "Baulking the talk", in: The Saturday Paper, August 29 - September 4, 2015.


Paul Keating's official website with selected speeches

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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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