The Bush

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Don Watson is best known for being the speech writer and political adviser to former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. Keating is famously touchy and his book about the Keating years – Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM – led to a major falling out between the two.

Keating was also famous for his sharp tongue and killing one liners. You can watch a selection of them on an ABC TV video clip or read them in The Book of Paul, accurately subtitled ‘The Wit & Wisdom of Paul Keating.’ It’s full of useful lines like his description of an opposition politician as ‘all tip and no iceberg.’

The BushWatson’s latest book is The Bush – Travels in the Heart of Australia. Watson grew up ‘in the bush,’ in country Victoria, and has travelled extensively over the continent. His book wanders the country physically, politically, historically and emotionally. Australia has always had a love-hate relationship with ‘the bush,’ that near mythical region that occupies most of the country, starts as soon as the city ends, or alternatively doesn’t kick in until you get way far out, ‘back of Bourke.’

Modern Australians have not been kind to the bush or to its original inhabitants, the Aboriginals who were driven off their land so it could be turned over to sheep or wheat or anything else with a profit attached. Nor has the bush always been that kind to Australians, life can be tough in the bush for the unprepared and it’s certainly been tough for women.

Small disclaimer, I was supposed to doing a ‘conversation’ with Don Watson about this new book as part of the Australia New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London last weekend. Unfortunately deadlines meant that he couldn’t make it.

The Bush has interesting overlaps with another Australian book I’ve read recently, Tim Low’s bird book Where Song Began.