Flat White

Back for one day only, Paul Keating

10 November 2021

5:06 PM

10 November 2021

5:06 PM

As we were reminded many, many times 30 years ago — that’s a generation, by the way — Paul Keating used to manage a rock band.

The Ramrods (that was their name) never bothered the charts, but Keating himself must have learnt all about marketing.

In the quarter of a century — that’s almost a generation — since he was so firmly knocked out of the Lodge, he’s successfully reinvented himself as a nostalgia act that’s yet not nostalgia, that still has that edge.

Gough Whitlam, in whose cabinet PJK so briefly served, used to pop up at this time of year religiously for a rousing rendition of “well may we say…” to an ageing crowd squeezed into their old It’s Time t-shirts and a few curious youngsters.


Keating, though, is something different.  It’s not as if he’s like the Rolling Stones, churning out the hits again and again and again. He does more.

Keating’s era was the eighties, so let’s compare him to an eighties band. He’s New Order, simultaneously cult and simultaneously hugely successful.

Just as on any New Order release there’s one track where the guitars hark back to their roots in Joy Division, Keating always has a colourful line that reflects the PJK of old and sticks in the mind, be it whether he turns up 7.30 or, as today, the National Press Club, scene of some his greatest performances.

This lunchtime, it was his reference to a handful of Australian submarines threatening China as being like “throwing toothpicks at a mountain”.

Keating, no doubt, had fun. And the Laura Tingles of the world all remembered when Keating was it — and they were the cool kids.

Was the nation served in any way? That’s doubtful.

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