By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Backstage Politics: Fifty Years of Political Memories
By Phillip Adams (Penguin Books, $32.95, softcover, 252 pages)
Australia’s political landscape is ever-changing, but this book of anecdotes gives the biggest characters of public life - from Menzies to Rudd - a fresh, new luminosity.
Presented in a laid-back style, you will be amazed – and often smile – at the histrionics behind the pure, unadulterated store of anecdotal knowledge.
Having been a confidant or a fierce opponent of many of Australia’s most influential political and cultural figures, Adams reveals things that have been sourced mostly from direct encounters with “personae at their dramatis moments”.
Adams tells many memorable, familiar and mythologised accounts of, for example, “Whitlam’s self-ridiculing pomposities or Keating’s butt and thrust”. Then there is the wonderful quote about enemies from Fred Daley to a new member who sat next to him in the House of Representatives before his retirement in 1975.
Before compiling this book, he wrote to every federal politician and got the most eager response from Barnaby Jones “who pours out stories as effusively as a ruptured oil well, hinting at the prodigious energies that Tony Abbott finds hard to cap”.
There are also some gems compiled from the memories and memoirs of other participants including Barry Cohen and Mungo MacCallum.
Then there’s the summary of Kerry Packer’s view of Australian democracy. “Kerry Packer once told me, Governments are there to do things for you, not to you”.
He adds to the archives with remarkable and untold stories of his own involvements – from leaving the Communist Party as a teenager to his resignation from the ALP as a protest over the Rudd coup.
With illustrations by Bruce Petty, this is a insightful compilation.
Adams’ involvement in politics appears to have been “tangential, infrequent and often accidental”, yet his powers of observation and memory are phenomenal.
Government is not staid after this illuminating read!
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.