maxine from the trenches

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Maxine McKew. I was a Kevin07 tragic ever since he published that magical article in the Monthly about faith in politics. When she danced after her triumph over Howard, I was dancing too. It was beautiful.


I love a bit of political drama too. So when Tales from the Political Trenches came out on Saturday, I bought a copy. I wanted to hear all the gory detail, every sordid incident, a blow by blow account of the Rudd assassination.

tales from the political trenches

I commented to Phil on the way to the bookshop, ‘is this any different to a Hollywood gossip magazine?’

‘No. Politicians actually do things, they actually matter.’

So I could buy it with a clear conscience.

It was a pretty good book. Admittedly all the juiciest bits had already made their way into the news in advance, there wasn’t much intrigue actually left in the book (for you political junkies they’re here and here) but it was nice to get to know McKew and reminisce about the glory days.

McKew has mixed feelings about Rudd. But Paul Keating she adores (even commenting that every woman wanted to ‘take him home and do him slowly’). She writes like he’s the sage old Gandalf of the Labor party. He was the one who encouraged her into politics.

As a younger journalist, fresh from a posting in North America and newly installed as a member of the Canberra press gallery I was in the room at the National Press Club on the night of 7 December 1990 when Paul Keating delivered his famous Placido Domingo speech…

What I remember most vividly from that night was the final exhortation.

“There are two types in this world – voyeurs and players.” Keating paused and I swear he looked straight at me as he issued his challenge. “And who wants to be a voyeur?”

Who wants to be a voyeur? Keating’s words stuck with me as I read McKew’s story. It was like he was talking to me too! I was a voyeur! That’s why I’d bought the book, it was a piece of political gossip to entertain me on my weekend. Just some cheap entertainment. I whinge and whinge about the state of politics, but I’m a voyeur. I was so – let’s use a Christian term – convicted that by the end of the book I was on the verge of heading down to my local branch and signing up for party membership.

But then, if even McKew, a so-called ‘player’ and hardened journalist was sucked into the great machine of politics, chewed up and spat out the other end, frustrated and disappointed, if McKew can’t hack it, what hope does someone like me have of working within the system and surviving?

Perhaps Keating’s player/voyeur dichotomy isnt’t so true of Christians. We’re all players, but we’re playing a different game. In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul calls the apostles ‘co-workers’ with God. We are players, working with God, but we know the real game is not Aussie politics, that’s not where the fate of the world (or even Australia) lies. And the ‘system’ that threatens to chew us up and spit us out, those ‘powers and principalities’ – they’re fighting a losing battle, so can’t threaten us, even if the ‘system’ appears to have got the better of us.

So I’m still thinking of getting involved in politics, but I don’t want to get distracted and start believing that politics holds the answers and a party holds my alliegiance. I want to play, but remember I’m playing a different game.


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