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Prime Minister interviews

Southeast Asia


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Prime Minister interviews

News is a daily addiction, not a source of knowledge: the trees which blind us to the wood. It's the broad patterns that count, and the personality of the incumbent Prime Minister (even when he appears to lack one entirely) is a clue to these. It tells us a little of the current phase in the unfoldment of the national character.

Prime Ministers tend to be people whose dark reigns I hide from (forgetting politics altogether for long stretches), or, roughly every generation, whose vision brings me out of my sanctuaries, and plugs me into the grid of national life.

Regardless of whether we are in a golden age or kaliyuga, I have periodically travelled to Canberra to interview PMs and PMs-in-waiting. This began in 1986, when I sat with a youthful Paul Keating late one Friday afternoon, as he poured forth recollections of his mentor, Jack Lang - and shared his impressions of the Labor Party’s heroes, ‘weak-arses’ and ‘fakers’.

Most PM interviews were so dull in those days (they're even worse now) that I tried to function on a different level. Keating (my favourite interviewee) never spoke in soundites, and cursed like a sailor when the mic was off. Howard lied quite a bit, but was exquisitely polite, and wasn't so lifeless as his TV doppelganger. Hawke blew thunderclouds on enormous cigars, and sometimes replied in paragraphs from his own speeches.