Launch of “Paul Lyneham – A Memoir”, National Press Club

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Ramsay Report; fiscal position; defence photos; Governor-General
February 19, 2002
Foreign currency loans; Governor-General
February 22, 2002
Ramsay Report; fiscal position; defence photos; Governor-General
February 19, 2002
Foreign currency loans; Governor-General
February 22, 2002

Launch of “Paul Lyneham – A Memoir”, National Press Club




WEDNESDAY, 20 February 2002

I think one of the things that journalists and politicians often forget about

each other is that, at the end of the day, each are human beings. There’s the

journalist bowling up his trickiest delivery trying to take your wicket and

there you are dourly defending, or refusing to flash at a wide delivery, or

sometimes hitting a boundary. But after the over each one goes home to a family,

and to a home, and a dog and their minor triumphs and disappointments and regular

lives before padding up for the next day’s entertainment.

To most people Paul Lyneham was a familiar face who came into their homes on

a television screen. I first saw Paul Lyneham on a television screen in my living

room. And after a while I saw him in studios and people saw him and me in their

living rooms. But behind the face on the screen was a man, and this book, written

with so much affection and wit, reveals Paul as he was, and as how most of us

knew him and remember him – as intelligent, humorous, hardworking, hardliving,

egotistical, proud of his family, a lover of tips and scandals and gossip. Not

a perfect human being. But a very, very interesting and stimulating one.

You could never accuse him of being boring. He would have regarded that as

the most vile of insults.

That was one of his great talents in those years when he reported politics.

He could get you in. He made his characters larger than life, their foibles

greater, their failings sharper and sometimes he made them much funnier than

they were. Sometimes even if you had played in the day’s events they were more

colourful on the replay, when Paul was commentating about them. It was cutting

but not malicious, it was informative without being labored. It was terribly,

terribly cynical, but he always left you with a laugh or a scoff.

My favourite bits about this book are the chapters written by Paul himself

and by Dorothy, his wife. Like me, he grew up in the semi-rural outer suburbs

of Melbourne where horses roamed and snakes slithered into the outhouse and

we roamed free – our style was only cramped by sadistic teachers who administered

“the cuts” – in my case thoroughly deserved, and in Paul’s case delivered

in circumstances of great injustice.

Paul worked his charms on me when I was a very new member of parliament. Not

long after I was elected in 1990, Paul invited me to dinner at the Charcoal

Grill. I think it was like an initiation rite that he practised on new MP’s.

Because anyone who has ever been to the Charcoal knows that its specialties

are red meat and lots of it, and red wine and lots of it.

There were only two of us at dinner. After the first and second bottles we

decided I had a great political future.

After the next two we decided Paul had five or six Walkleys left in him. And

after that I can’t remember much that we decided at all. Except that my office

rang me to get a press release. And Paul took the phone and dictated a statement

on corporations law that was put out as my press release, was considered quite

successful, and widely reported the next day.

And he told me that there were only three famous people that went to Camberwell

High School and one was Brian Naylor, the famous GTV 9 Newsreader, and one was

him and the other was Kylie Minogue who was a Pop star. And he was half in television

and half a Pop star. And I wondered if he were some kind of love child between

Brian and Kylie. But he said he wasn’t with a touch of melancholy. And maybe

I would like to read a great novel called Dream Run by his wife, Dorothy Horsfield,

because it was going to beat all the best sellers here in Australia. And I wondered

if we had another Dostoyevsky on our hands.

And after all that he drove me back to Parliament House in a beat up 1978 Kingswood

Station Wagon, which he called the Golden Holden.

The next day I came into the building and I rang up Paul to thank him for dinner

but his Bureau told me that Paul wasn’t well and wouldn’t be coming in that


There was another time we had lunch and after it he took me around to his house

in the Golden Holden, because he wanted to do extensions and wasn’t sure what

was going to happen to the real estate market in Canberra and interest rates,

and perhaps I had a view on whether he should sell or renovate. It was by no

means the last of my memorable dining engagements with Paul. I miss them, and

I’m sure many others do too.

Now Paul was a bit of a tariff man and that meant he didn’t altogether approve

of my economic policy. You will see in one of his speeches in this book that

he had a shot at me in a speech to a Gold Miners’ dinner. Well, the gold price

today is around US $295 and if you sold at $355 per ounce that is $60 per ounce

better than the market and there are a lot of ounces in 167 tonnes, not to say

the compound earnings over the last 5 years. But the infuriating thing is that

the way he tells the story you could nearly be led to believe it all happened

the way he said it did. He could get you in. And he would not have had to try

too hard at that audience. Which made him very good and very dangerous.

Michael Kinsley, an American political analyst, is responsible for saying,

“A gaffe occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”

Paul was always probing for gaffes. What is Australia’s GDP he would ask. And

you knew you had seen a yorker bowled on middle stump.

One of my favourite political writers, Peggy Noonan, says modern political

journalism is a protection racket. She quoted veteran Washington journalist

Robert Novak telling an assistant: “in this town you’re either a source

or a target.” Peggy says this means:- you talk or you die.

Well, we talk and we die. And in between, live and love and make mistakes and

do some good. And our lives interweave in all sorts of interesting ways. At

least Paul’s untimely death meant that his friends and colleagues got the chance

to reflect on his life, to remember him at the peak of his powers and to write

this memoir. Perhaps too, we all got the chance to reflect a bit on our lives.

And I hope that is for the better.

And the Press Award that is to be inaugurated in Paul’s name will, I hope,

be prestigious. And young journalists will sit at the `Charcoal’ discussing

how many Lynehams they have left in them. And remember how human they are –

we are – and what goes to make a better political culture.