The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Speech of 20/02/2002

LAUNCH OF
"PAUL LYNEHAM - A MEMOIR"

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2002
6.30PM

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 day.

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.