Recollections of a Bleeding Heart


by Don Watson

In January 1992, less than a month after Paul Keating became Prime Minister, Don Watson was employed as his speechwriter.

Though trained in history rather than economics and generally regarded as a 'bleeding heart liberal' he became a close advisor and friend.

Based on notes Watson kept through the four turbulent and exhausting years he spent with Keating, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart is a frank, revealing and engrossing portrait of this brilliant and perplexing man, and a unique reflection on modern politics, government and Australia itself.

If he had never become Prime Minister Paul Keating's place in Australian history would still have been assured.

He was the Treasurer who deregulated the economy; the weaver of Labor's modern story; its heavy weapon in the parliament.

He was also the great enigma - a self-educated boy from Sydney's working class and a defining element of the head-kicking Labor right who loved Paris, Mahler and Second Empire clocks.

Paul Keating did become Prime Minister. In December 1991 he wrested it from Bob Hawke and the bruises from that struggle were part of the baggage he brought to the job: the other parts included the worst recession in 60 years and an electorate determined to make him pay for it.

Keating defied the odds and won the 1993 election, and in his four years as Prime Minister set Australia on a new course - towards engagement with Asia, a republic, reconciliation, a social democracy built on a modern export-based economy and sophisticated public systems of education and training, health and social security.

Widely regarded as a quintessential economic rationalist, Keating's record clearly shows that his vision was infinitely broader and more complex.


BLEEDING HEARTS, an ultraconservative view of the ultraliberals, as those whose "hearts have bled for the poor", who are "suckers" for every "sob story", and who place tax burdens on all in a mistaken effort to cure social ills. 'The liberal who is so labelled considers the one who calls him a "bleeding heart" to be reactionary.'
WILLIAM SAFIRE, Safire's New Political Dictionary

'We are the entrepreneurs of political life and are the people who dream the big dreams and do the big things. There are no bigger dreamers than in our office. It's a mixture of econocrats and bleeding hearts.'

Don Watson

Don Watson has written on Australian history, culture and politics for more than twenty-five years.

Through the eighties he wrote political satire, particularly for the actor, Max Gillies, and speeches for the Victorian premier, John Cain.

He joined Paul Keating as speechwriter in January 1992 and stayed until the final defeat in 1996.

Born in Warragul, Victoria in 1949, he attended school in Gippsland and took degrees at La Trobe and Monash universities.

His other books include Brian Fitzpatrick: A Radical Life, Caledonia Australis and The Story of Australia.

He lives and works in Melbourne writing essays, articles, books and films.

For media review copies of the book, interviews with Don Watson, extract sales, and front jacket images, please contact,
Benython Oldfield at Random House Publishing
(02) 89239836 / 0410 516658 /

"Watson is a natural writer with the ability to reduce a complex idea to eight words that are understood by all and, as a bonus, carry a lilt.
It is the story of four tumultuous years told by an intelligent and curious insider, and no one has ever done it better".
Les Carlyon, The Bulletin

"..the finest insider's account yet published of Australian politics'.
Tony Baker, Adelaide Advertiser

"..a classic: an insider's account of the working of the political process, with its paranoia, its envies, its fevered inconsequentiality, its joys, crammed with wisdom and a lovely detachment.' Evan Williams, Sydney Morning Herald

" is the portrait of Keating that surely the book's triumph... It is impossible to leave Recollections of a Bleeding Heart without more
affection for a politician and man who fought his own bouts of apathy and had a crack at dragging Australia out of its crippling slumber'.
Peter Lalor, Daily Telegraph

"In years to come it will be ranked with some of thegreat political biographies of the past 100 years....A great work of political anthropology."
Noel Turnbull, Courier-Mail

"..highly readable, witty and sometimes bizarre".
John Button, The Age

"..a sheer delight".
Sunday Telegraph

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