Paul Keating said that when you change the government, you change the country.
But if you're Paul Keating you get to keep on changing the country regardless of the fact you lost government 17 years ago. If you're Paul Keating, the nation's taxpayer-funded cultural institutions give you a platform for your views on politics, history, and all that's wrong with Australia.
This week the ABC started broadcasting its interview series with Keating. Why the public broadcaster should provide Keating the privilege of talking about himself for four hours in prime time is a question the new Coalition government will probably be too afraid to ask.
When you change the government it seems you don't get to change the ABC.
It's one thing for the ABC or our public universities to indulge Keating — that's what you'd expect.
But for the Australian War Memorial to give Keating a stage for his partisanship and politicking is a travesty. The War Memorial is an institution that must be above politics and it must be seen to be so.
On Monday, Keating delivered the Remembrance Day commemorative address in Canberra at the War Memorial. In it he gave the classic leftist interpretation of Australia's history, which is of our past as the march towards an inevitable social democracy. This interpretation of our history is what the national curriculum now requires to be taught to every school student.
After the address, a bronze plaque at the entrance to the Hall of Memory was unveiled. On the plaque is inscribed the text of the Remembrance Day speech Keating delivered at the War Memorial in 1993. Also unveiled was a new inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — "He is one of them, and he is all of us" — words taken from Keating's speech 20 years ago.
The decision of the Council of the War Memorial to venerate Keating in such a way is more than inappropriate. It besmirches the memory of those the memorial commemorates.
A few weeks ago it was revealed the War Memorial Council had originally planned to not only put Keating's words on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but also remove from the tomb the inscription "Known unto God".
Following the intervention of the new Coalition government, a "compromise" was agreed. Keating's quote would still be added to the tomb but "Known unto God" would stay.
Such is the way the left operates. It makes an ambit claim that swings the pendulum of what is acceptable two degrees to the left. Then, in the name of compromise it agrees to swing the pendulum only one degree to the left.
When Tony Abbott next lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, Keating's words will stare him in the face.
The only compromise the Coalition should have provided to the War Memorial Council after the council's plans were discovered was to offer to accept the resignation of the council members rather than have them sacked.
There's no justification for the reverence given to Keating's 1993 speech.
Parts of it are moving and noble, but other politicians have also made moving and noble Remembrance Day speeches. John Howard in 1997 talked of those Australians "whose lives were lived in deeds, not years, in sacrifice, not heartbeats in service ...".
Keating's "He is one of them, and he is all of us" is nearly as trite as Julia Gillard at the ALP national conference in 2011 declaring "We are us".
Significantly, not in his speech in 1993 nor on Monday did Keating once refer to the freedoms at stake in our country's conflicts. In contrast in 1997 Howard spoke of those who fought to ensure our "freedom to think, to move, to speak, to worship, to have a say in the election of governments ... [and] to raise a family and to educate our children".
The words of neither John Howard nor Paul Keating should appear at the War Memorial.
It is not for any politician, living or dead, Liberal or Labor, to take ownership of the sacrifice of those who fought and died in Australia's wars.
It is not within the gift of any member of the Australian War Memorial Council to give a politician such ownership.