ONE OF MY guilty indulgences has been my admiration of former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, particularly his use of political oratory.

As a political pundit recently suggested, he is too talented a man to be simply an amusing talking head or to be a carping sniper like Mark Latham’s foray into journalism as a columnist for the Australian Financial Review.

Keating should be on a National Economic ‘War Council’ because the fellow is brilliant. While I haven’t shared his zealous approach to deregulation or his secularist embrace of superannuation as some kind of financial Prozac, Keating needs to be brought into the fold. He’s made some howlers, one of them being his foolish characterization of the Senate as representing a “house of swill”.

The collapse of Australian manufacturing recently showed its tragic human face with the decision by Pacific Brands to slash its Australian production facilities. Someone like Keating, with his Churchillian sense of imagination and risk-taking can help us all deal with these on-going economic and social pressures.

I feel for the workers of Pacific Brands; the best years of my mother’s life were squandered in textile sweatshops for little reward. However, union hotheads need to remember that it was Gough Whitlam who reduced tariffs by 25 percent in 1972, setting off an inevitable decline in this most vulnerable of industries.

As an editorial in The Australian pointed out this week, Bob Hawke squandered $89 million to prop up an ailing manufacturing concern in 1989  only to see the precious monies squandered. 

If  Barack Obama can tap former US Federal Reserve Chief , Paul Volcker, now in his eighties, on the shoulder to help rebuild the American economy, Kevin Rudd should embrace Keating in a serious capacity because if you took the best parts of Wayne Swan, Craig Emerson, and Lindsay Tanner, you’d still only have half of the brilliance and knowledge of Keating (if that).

‘President’ Rudd and ‘Prime Minister’ Gillard can’t do on their own. Keating is in the intellectual prime of his life and his talents should be actively sought. Keating: The Musical was fun but now’s the time to get serious.

One person who is getting serious is the South Australian Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon.

An active person in Adelaide’s Greek community, Xenophon has been wrongly depicted as a one issue politician, in his case that of an anti-gambling crusader.
Xenophon takes an ancient Athenian seriousness to his democratic vocation and he has recently made a rightful mockery of Keating’s “house of swill” jibe.  With Lake Eyre seeing water for the first time in eons, Xenophon actually has a responsible environmental outlook with regards to enhancing the precarious livelihood of the Murray-Darling Basin.   

As the Ancient Greeks noted, “men were not made for safe havens”, and Senator Xenophon’s attempt to tie in a caveat to the Rudd stimulus package is courageous and legitimate. 

One recalls that it was a young Senator John F Kennedy who once wrote a Pulitzer Prize – winning book called Profiles In Courage and Xenophon is living up to that moniker. Senator Xenophon is an erudite man and if he can tap into the vision first expressed by Barry Jones in Sleepers, Wake!, new solutions will emerge to the problems strangling the old politics currently setting Australia back.

If John F Kennedy was able to choose a Republican banker, Douglas Dillon, as his Treasury Secretary, then Rudd and Gillard must start looking for answers outside of their very insular Caucus room.

Rudd and Gilllard would be best advised to treat the likes of Xenophon seriously.  After all, the current Federal ALP Cabinet is clearly the weakest talent-wise, since the two Whitlam ministries of 1972 and 1974

Nick Xenophon is to be applauded, as is Bob Brown, for making the Senate a house of review once more, and not just a retirement home for lazy politicians.

Theo Giantsos is a fleelance writer and a regular contributor to NKEE