Dr John Hewson comfortably spoke his mind on deeply personal topics -.his strict Baptist upbringing in Carlton, the effect of his mother’s illness and his working numerous jobs through high school.
Hewson spoke of his great successes in academia, business and politics. He was Professor and Head of the UNSW Economics Faculty. He worked as John Howard’s Chief-of-Staff, and consulted for what became Macquarie Bank.
Hewson also spoke of his weaknesses – his “cats in the cradle” attitude to his children, his addiction to work and his tendency to exude stress on those around him, acknowledging his marriages possibly failed because he was too much of a “handful” for his partners.
Hewson also gave us his assessment of other political players. He told us of his conversation with Paul Keating after losing the unlosable 1993 election. After virtually apologising for calling Hewson nasty names, Keating confessed:
Mate, you must understand. Politics for me is a game. I’ll say and do whatever it takes to win.Hewson said he could never be part of this kind of politics. Certainly that seemed clear to me as a final year law student watching him deliver his speech after Keating claimed victory to his true believers. Hewson was far too honest for politics.
Howard, on the other hand, may be a different story. Hewson acknowledges growing up in a similar era and in similar circumstances to Howard – working class Protestant neighbourhoods in South-Western Sydney. But Hewson says Howard is still driven by many prejudices they grew up with – relating to women and ethnic minorities.
So how does Howard get away with exuding prejudice? Hewson says part of the reason is playing games with the truth and of hiding political “Chinese” walls of his advisers.
If he hasn’t been told, it’s because people around him know not to tell him what he doesn’t want to hear.It seems obvious who Dr Hewson thinks more deserves the title “Honest John”.
© Irfan Yusuf 2006
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