Dominic Perrottet and I have a lot in common.
We’re both suburban dads, both came up through the Young Liberals and both cut our teeth in the corporate world before heading into politics.
Ironically, we can both say that Paul Keating has motivated us in some way.
In fact, as my then local member, Keating actually motivated me to join the Bankstown Young Liberals.
As a young person who entered the workforce when youth unemployment was nearly 50 per cent, it’s impossible for me to sit around to cop the veneration of St Paul.
His recent claim that he’s encouraging Premier Perrottet to make “people” the priority of the state government is bitterly ironic.
For those of us who are on the wrong side of 50, it would not come as a shock that Paul Keating’s government caused my father prolonged periods of unemployment and created 17 per cent mortgage interest rates. And Keating was the most uneducated prime minister since World War II.
Now I’m not saying you have to be a tradesman or professional to be in politics, in fact it would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge the vision of Gough Whitlam by establishing the University of Western Sydney.
It thereby gave us westies a crack at a tertiary education but, like Bob Hawke mused, it’s no coincidence that Keating is the only former Labor prime minister incapable of writing his own memoirs.
Although there is one thing I thank Keating for.
His government’s economic failings forced me to mow lawns and paint houses to pay for my university degree, with that degree being my entry into the Royal Military College at Duntroon.
His cosy, and sometimes deeply hypocritical, relationship with the union movement gave me the motive to work in industry associations and the rest, as they say, is history.
As important as it is for Australian historians to objectively compare and contrast our leaders it’s probably a good time to note that as Treasurers, Dominic Perrottet and his federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg have managed the economy through an unprecedented number of national crises.
The cost of the war on terror, drought and climate emergencies, as well as the global pandemic, have forced treasurers and first ministers into providing a higher level of governance. Keating, however, faced no disaster that wasn’t of his own making.
Recently, I made the point to some journalists that the reason we have crap politicians in this country is because we treat our politicians like crap.
And I know us politicians are our own worst enemy and I’m in no position to cast the first stone, but it’s also just as important that we stop offering up blind praise to our leaders simply because it’s fashionable or, worst still, it suits the agenda of contemporary thought.
Do I sound bitter? I hope so.
The boyhood memories of having household utilities cut off and the embarrassment of having well-natured friends anonymously drop off groceries while listening to Paul Keating say that his recession was one we “had to have” still cuts to the bone.
Labor colleagues often remind me that Keating was disloyal to everyone who ever backed him in.
Saying that he has to teach any Liberal leader about “people” is like Henry VIII offering marriage guidance. He seemed to hate people, particularly his constituents in Bankstown, which is why he lived in Elizabeth Bay.
In short, Paul Keating was a complete prick and it took John Howard a decade to fix his mess.
Rare straightforward talk from a NSW Liberal - Police Minister David Elliott.