Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pmac 365 Day 11. My most recent reading.

Continueing my effort to meet my goals for 2010 I'm now up to three books read for the year (just 47 to go). The latest book is 31 Days to Power. A quick and dirty analysis of the Bob Hawkes sudden elevation to leader of the ALP on the eve of the 1983 federal campaign and his triumph in that election.

The book is fascinating for two reasons:

1. Having been written immediately after the events (ie just months afterwards) there is a real freshness to the writings and a focus on the players that were important then and there without seeing them through the lens of history. As a result John Howard is just a failed treasurer and outsider in the liberal party while Paul Keating is just another factional heavyweight of the NSW machine.

2. Its written in a context where foreign communism, union power and the ALPs inability to handle power (in the aftermath of the Whitlam years perhaps not an unreasonable fear) were staples in the media. The concluding phases of the book speak at some length of the danger to the ecomony posed by the recently installed Hawke government.

Of course there was no way the authors could see that the ALP would be in power for 13 years and be possibly the most progressive and economically reformist government in the history of the Commonwealth. But really that just adds to the enjoyment, it really places you in the moment, not outside it like a reader who already knows the ending of the book.

I suppose the next question is "does the Hawke story tell us anything about today"? All I can think is not really. Rudd is no Fraser and Abbott is no Hawke. The then nascent power of television is actually beginning to give way to the internet and our engagement with politicians is continuing to change. On the other hand, the previous election between Rudd and Howard was a much more interesting (and apt) comparison.

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