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2015 Australian Writers' Week at PKU: Paul Kelly

Peking University, Mar. 23, 2015: The 2015 Australian Writers’ Week at Peking University was held at Yingjie Overseas Exchange Center on March 23, 2015. Paul Kelly, an Australian political journalist and commentator, gave a lecture titled “Triumph and Demise: the Rudd, Gillard, and Abbott Years in Australian Politics”.


At the beginning of his lecture, Kelly gave a brief introduction to current Australian economy. It goes through a booming period, largely driven by Chinese and Asian industrialization and their demand for raw materials. However, “the story of booms are that they start and they end”, and “they end in tears”.



According to Kelly, Australia now faces two great economic transitions. The first is the “turning away from the mining and resource sector back to the non-mining, non-resource side of the economy and in particular in the service sector of the economy”. The service sector is essentially not competitive in international trades while Australian prosperity largely depends upon the international competitive performance of the service sector. The second one is the substantial budget deficit, the solving of which requires taxation increases and spending reductions in areas including welfare, health and education. “We are left with a very substantial hangover,” says Kelly, “and there is no escape for the Australian government”. “They have to reverse the two economic transitions” however “unpopular” the policies may be.


Later, Kelly gave a more detailed lecture on the current politics and political instability in Australia. He first elaborated on the election of Julia Gillard, the 27th Prime Minister of Australian and the Australian Labor Party leader from 2010 to 2013. Her election was, according to Kelly, “a shock”. “She herself felt that she was not truly a legitimate Prime Minister.”“Before the general election, she refused to move into the Lodge, where it is a privilege for the Australian Prime Ministers to live, and insisted to wait until after the general election.”“The outcome of the general election? She survived, but performed badly as a minority government Prime Minister. Her authority as a Prime Minister was broken”. “She was not prepared for it (the prime-minister-ship) and did not have a proper agenda”, commented Kelly. Kevin Rudd, whom Gillard once worked with “as a team”, felt “resentful” and sought vengeance against her. Two prime-minister-ship were destroyed, concluded Kelly.


The present PM Tony Abbott seems to have failed to do a good job as well. The outcome of the election is a cliffhanger. According to Kelly, Abbott’s authority as PM diminished “substantially” after the great public financial sacrifice for solving internal economic problems. Even worse, due to the lack of the official explanation and clarification, the public show no understanding of these policies. Whether Tony Abbott can succeed his prime-minister-ship remains unknown. But when asked about his opinion on the outcome of the election, Kelly answered simply that a politician often does what he denies orally.


In the Q&A session, a question on the prospect of political journalism is raised. “It is the greatest job in the world”, Kelly answers without hesitation. He quoted from one of his friends working for the New York Times that the profession of political journalists is” intellectually stimulating”. They enjoy the privilege of travelling around the world. They are given the platform to spread their opinions and views to a wide range of people. “Who am I going to talk to today? What sort of challenges will I face? I wake up every morning and think of these exciting questions”, says Kelly, “And these are the essence of journalism”.


Background information:


Paul Kelly is a veteran journalist commenting on Australian politics, public policy and international affairs for four decades. He is Editor-at-Large of The Australian newspaper and appears each week on Sky News. He is the author of seven books; the latest is Walkley-Award-winning Triumph and Demise, in which he analyses the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government from 2007-2013.


2015 Australian Writers’ Week is organized by the Australian Embassy in Beijing and consulates-general in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The event aims to show the rich Australian literary culture as well as aspects of Australian society. Famous Australian writers are invited to China visiting libraries and bookshops and engagingwith Chinese readers. Over the last ten years, 50 writers have been invited to China. Writers this year include Maxine Beneba Clarke, Tim Cope, Brooks Davis, Jennifer Mills, Paul Kelly, AJ Betts, Zohab Zee Khan and Damon Young.


Reported by: Yan Shengnan

Edited by: Zhang Jiang