Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Best Prime Minister of them all?

Following my previous post about Blair's oral skills, Don Quixote said:
All this talk of prime ministers makes me think: who was the best of them all?I toss up between Whitlam and Keating; Whitlam for his social reform and Keating for his economic inroads.
I know, it's an old, subjective and endless discussion. That's why it's fun.

Who do you think and why? I like Keating but for all round skills Bob Hawke was the ultimate in my view, because he had that Clintonesque combination of a very powerful intellect and folksy down-to-earth manner.

Keating, like Costello in the present situation, couldn't see that he was at his peak as offsider to somebody far more electable.

17 comments:

Guy said...

Whitlam and Hawke for entirely different reasons. Hawkey was great because he was down-to-earth and smart. Whitlam was great because he was so eloquently aloof and smart.

Splatterbottom said...

You are spot on here, Armaniac.

What I don't get, is why that egomaniac Whitlam gets a mention at all. He was simply the wank we had to have after 23 years of Liberal Party rule.

Armagnac Esq. said...

And the no fault divorce, reversal of 'buyer beware', and 20 or so other crucial reforms he and murphy drove and that we had to have.

However I don't view him in the same messianical way others in Labor do.

Rachy said...

Keating and Whitlam good? Er, can't stand either of them but I'd pick Keating because as a "Statesman" Whitlam sucked IMO... Baltic states anyone?

adam said...

I must point out that our current PM is no slouch in the "smarts" stakes either... the wily bastard. I admire Keating for hanging in there, completely neglecting popularism, and asserting his vision. Having read Latham's diaries, I reckon he had similarly important vision; albeit adjusted for "the times". I'd like to see some vision from the current govt -- beyond a purely economic one.

Armagnac Esq. said...

Actually in terms of the kind of intellect you'd look up to, he's absolutely bereft. However he's extremely politically cunning.

Guy said...

Splatterbottom, Whitlam did more in his first few months of office than most governments do in years.

He was a reformer, and too few reformers ever reach the summit of political life as he did.

Rob M said...

Rachy, if I may be so blunt, there is more to Whitlam's record than just what he happened to think of Soviet rule in the Baltics, an issue on which Australia had bugger-all influence.

It's like damning Johnny for, say, his efforts to torpedo the republic. Sneaky though the little bastard was, it was a very small part of the John Howard story.

Splatterbottom said...

Possibly the worst thing St Gough did was to make tertiary education free. This 'reform' really just diverted billions of dollars into middle class purses.

Not only that, freed from the discipline of fees, courses based on leftist 'thought' proliferated, debasing the intellectual currency for a generation or more.

Armagnac Esq. said...

Bla bla come on SB, you're having the splatts.

I agree with changing university entrance to ensure that working class kids who want to attend have an equal shot at it, by reducing emphasis on school leaver exams and increasing use of particular aptitude tests for particular courses, as well as moving the emphasis to people who've gone and worked a few years first.

Rachy said...

Rob M, that's one of many things and represents a much wider issue. It's not what he thought, it's what he did.

All I'm saying is he wasn't the Statesman some claim

Rachy said...

Oh, and I'm working class and got my degree just fine.

Anonymous said...

Maybe but his policy lead to this???

U.S. Muslim Gets 30 Years for Plot to Assassinate President Bush

snorri the goblin said...

Perception here has to do with age. If I had lived under Scullin or Chifley or Curtin I might feel differently, but I grew up under the great Toad of Menzies, who wanted to shove me in a uniform and let me run screaming at foreign persons with a specially sharpened bayonet.

So I have kept a special place my own vision of hell for him, where he drowns forever in an ocean of the Queen's contemptuous spit.

Whitlam worked so patiently to beat him, taking two elections to develop some credibility for the ALP, redevelop the party machine, get a younger generation interested, evolve some policies that genuinely did change things. Then he won, and burst the great blister of the old, grey fifties that trapped us all, so we could move on and actually participate in the modern world.

I always thought Hawke was a parody, a stop-gap put in by the party machine, gunshy because of the trauma of 75, only driven by the desire to be "not-Whitlam" because the pain of losing hurt too much.

I never bonded to Keating's beliefs because he sees the world through the eyes of a self-taught autodidact economist, as a big version of the empire clocks he loves. But I did and do love his style, his devotion to language, his contempt for the small-minded shitbags like Howard.

And the thing that brought him down is surely ugly - the tall poppy crap that infects us like a post-colonial plague.

Those that followed him were moral, visionary and intellectual midgets.

Whitlam made his mistakes. Egged on by horrible people who advised him on foreign affairs, he somehow believed in the decency of a nascent Indonesia, and that sustaining it would ultimately be for the good. He didn't get the captured nations thing, but then there were a lot of those anti-Warsaw people that smelt of their patrician and reactionary past, and he confused that distaste for a true analysis.

The ALP of the time was naive about Khemlani, but then they understood that the mandarin pricks in treasury would lie to them about the availability of money, just because they thought that Rexie Connor was common and should be politically emasculated.

They knew that Murdoch was a turd, and they would have to stand up to him, and in due course he prostituted The Australian so badly his own staff came out on strike, and hid Khemlani in a Singapore hotel to drip feed the "revelations" and destabilise the government.

Don't forget this was a time when the Australians "abandoned" Nixon and his charmless bunch of thieves over Vietnam, when the CIA left Allende dead in the ruins of the Presidential Palace and the people of the left were butchered in the stadium.

High stakes, ugly years, an oligarchy that thought their worst nightmares had come, and that the apparatuses of power should be mobilised to stop the consequences of a democratic vote.

Let's face it - Whitlam did what we desperately need someone in the ALP to do now. The same moment will come again, when the Great Leader passes on, and the small minded ones who lived like carnivorous mice in the folds of his cloak try to run the country and fail.

Because when Johnny goes, we will discover that he has bitten every effective opponent with an idea neatly in the spinal chord with his sharp, nasty little teeth. And his successors will stumble around in the light like a herd of grey, fragile spiders who evolved in a cave shut off from light and air, eating nothing but batshit rained on them from above.

I have changed my opinion of Hawke. He held power for a long time, and captured the public imagination, and presided for good and ill over vast changes which he allowed his ministers to evolve and make.

Mind you, they trashed the tertiary education sector, for which they deserve to suffer but never will.

TimT said...

I'm gunning for Hawkey. He started the economic reforms the country needed, and didn't try to shove a 'vision' down our throat like Whitlam.

Generally, I don't like politicians with a 'vision', since the implementation of said vision generally requires some form of authoritarianism to implement it.

Howard's an excellent statesman in many ways; he sees to the heart of a lot of political matters. (For instance, the issue of a 'Bill of Rights', of aid to foreign countries, etc). But his statements on these matters tend to be forgotten quickly due to other aspects of his career.

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