Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 6, 2011

After Words (2011), by Paul Keating

After WordsWe’ve got another book by Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia from 1991-1996, but this is the one that’s autographed.  The Spouse and I attended a packed Recital Centre to hear him in conversation with Robert Manne this afternoon, and thanks to a bit of luck were at the near front of the queue for the book signings afterwards.  And I got to shake the author’s hand!  (BTW That photo of the title page looks yellow because I photographed it badly under a desk light; the paper is actually pristine white.)

Engagement: Australia Faces the Asia Pacific: Australia Faces the Asia PacificUnlike Keating’s other book Engagement: Australia Faces the Asia Pacific (which tended to be on the dry side), After Words is a collection of his speeches since leaving office, and they reflect his inspiring preoccupations with the arts, with culture and social policy, and with international relations.  There are also some about (yawn) economic policy.  (Yes, I know economics is important, and he pointed out quite rightly that the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating era not only stood the country in good stead during the Global Financial Crisis but have also delivered a 35% increase in real wages to ordinary Aussies like me.  But economics IMO doesn’t make for great dinner party conversations like arts, culture and international relations do).

So I’ll probably skip those, but I know I’m going to enjoy these ones:

On the arts:

  • Film and Art in the Australia of Nationalism and Cynicism
  • Introduction to Mahler’s Symphony No 2 (Keating is famous for his penchant for Mahler);
  • His moving Eulogy on the Death of Geoffrey Tozer (who performed once, as a child prodigy pianist as my school);
  • Building a Masterpiece: the Sydney Opera House

From book launches

 On Social Policy

  • A Time for Reflection: Political Values in the Age of Distraction
  • Obsession: Australia and the Challenge of Asia (he spoke at length about this today)
  • The Privacy Imperative in the Information Age ‘free-for-all’

On International Relations and Foreign Policy

  • Peace and Prosperity: The Spiritual Challenge
  • Leadership and Change
  • John Curtin’s World and Ours
  • Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century

Alas, his famous Redfern Speechvoted by Australians as the third most unforgettable speech after ‘I have a dream’ and the Sermon on the Mount – is not included, because he gave that speech while he was PM.

There is much more than this, which in itself is unusual.  I have a couple of books that are collections of great speeches, but a book featuring the speeches of just one person is rare.

But then, men like Keating are rare.

It’s not a book you read straight through in one go, and I haven’t read it yet, so this is the blurb:

The speeches collected in After Words, virtuosic in their scale and range of subjects, are remarkably the work of one eye and one mind: that of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. The speeches reveal the breadth and depth of Keating’s interests – be they cultural, historical, or policy-focused – dealing with subjects as broad as international relations, economic policy and politics. Individual chapters range from a discussion of Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House through to the redesign of Berlin, the history of native title, the challenge of Asia, the role of the monarchy, to the shape of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and more. After Words contains an analytic commentary on Australia’s recent social and economic repositioning by the man viewed by many as its principal architect. The speeches go beyond observations, as Paul Keating sketches out new vistas and points to new directions. For those interested in matters relating to the future of Australia and the world, After Words presents, unmediated, a panoply of issues which the inimitable mind and writing style of Paul Keating has sculpted into a recognisable landscape.

About the Author

Paul Keating was Australia’s Treasurer (1983-91) and Prime Minister (1991-96). He championed a clutch of seminal changes to the country, including the reorientation of Australia’s strategic and trade relationships with Asia, promoting Australia’s shift to a republic, the development of a major legal structure to return lands to Australia’s indigenous people and significant fiscal reforms which underpinned twenty years of economic growth. Paul Keating maintains his interest in politics, economics and foreign policy and contributes occasionally to the public debate. He is committed to aesthetic interests in architecture, the decorative arts and the romantic repertoire in classical music.

I’m sure the Wheeler Centre will upload the session in due course, but in the mean time, here’s an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC.

Update: here’s the link to the Wheeler Centre’s video of the event.

Author: P.J.Keating
Title: After Words
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742377599
Source: Personal library, purchased from the Readings stall at the Recital Centre Melbourne

Fishpond: After Words


  1. And yet, despite all these achievements, mention Paul Keating to a Brit and the only thing they know about him is that he once breached royal protocol by putting his arm around the Queen! ;-)


    • Yes, the Moron’s Media did a rerun of this issue when our Julia didn’t curtsey. Good grief, I thought kowtowing to rulers went out with The King and I…


  2. Ah Paul Keating how the Australian political landscape misses you. My sister used to say, and perhaps she stole it from someone else “A thinking woman’s crumpet.” How I wish we could hear more from him, on the issues we face these days.


    • Well, Fiona, these speeches show that he is indeed out and about…he was asked if he would consider a return, but he said he’d done his dash. He did look more contented and relaxed than in the days when he was PM, I must say.


  3. […] After Words by Paul Keating, see my review […]


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