Author talk: Kerry O’Brien will speak about his interviews with Paul Keating as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Picture: ABC
After covering politics for almost 50 years as a journalist, Kerry O’Brien is more than happy to watch this year’s federal election from the comfort of his own home.
“I’m very happy to watch the political process from the lounge room and from the morning radio and the papers,” he said.
“I’ll be able to dip in and out of it but I won’t be missing it.”
Rather than focus on current politics, the six-time Walkley winner and former host of7.30andFour Cornerswill instead be focusing on politics of the past as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival.
He will speak at Riverside Theatre on May 21 about his first book,Keating, based on aseries of conversations with Paul Keating.
The book is drawn on the 16 hours of interviews Mr O’Brien did with the former Prime Minister for a four-part ABC series in 2013, as well as additional interviews specifically for the book.
“Even after all that time interviewing, I was left with more questions that had gone unasked,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It was almost a case of how long is a piece of string.”
Keating has never written an autobiography or a memoir on his time in politics, and Mr O’Brien said the book is as close as we’ll get to Australia’s 24thPrime Minister.
“When you’re doing an interview for7.30, they’re on the issues of the day and tend to be sharp encounters. There’s no real time for real conversation,” Mr O’Brien told theSun.
“The difference with this is that there was time to give discursive answers, it was a much more relaxed process so it encouraged a candour not seen in those short interviews.”
The interviews ranged from Keating’s childhood to his time as treasurer under Bob Hawke to his five years as Prime Minister.
“One of a kind”: Paul Keating spent 16 hours being interviewed for the ABC series and eventually the book. Picture: Brendan Esposito
“Together with Hawke, those years were probably the most intensely dynamic years of economic reform in Australia,” the veteran journalist said.
Reflecting on his interviews, Mr O’Brien said it’s unlikely there’ll be another politician like Keating that will grace the chambers of Parliament House.
“In the spectrum of Australian Prime Ministers, Keating was one one of a kind,” he said.
“His dynamic personality was both an asset and a liability. He had the sense of purpose and determination to do big things.”
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