author of Downfall…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Perth and schooled in Melbourne and Geelong, where I went to high school. I studied an Arts degree, specializing in politics, at Melbourne University, and later did a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard University.
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to be lawyer specializing in computer science. We had an Apple IIe computer, which I loved tinkering with, and I thought lawyers were the smartest people in the world. By the time I turned 18 I had joined the Labor Party and decided I wanted a political career. At 30 I was set on the path of journalism.
I was raised in a very pro-Labor home. Both my parents and my grandmother were active in the party. We believed in the moral superiority of the labour cause. I was the only kid in my class to have a poster of Bob Hawke on his bedroom wall. In my twenties, as I got to see how politics really operates, I learnt that there are decent people in all parties.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
Meeting Bill Shorten. I knew Shorten well in Young Labor. To this day he remains one of the most impressive people I’ve met: a natural leader, funny, intelligent and confident. He taught me the importance of never giving up on your ambitions. At Harvard I learnt the importance of facts over ideology. I worked for the Wall Street Journal for four years in London. The paper’s commitment to clear writing, fairness and context shaped my approach to journalism.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
The plethora of media outlets available today makes books even more important. They remain the best way – perhaps the only way – to convey the complexity of the modern world in the written form. As an author it was incredibly satisfying to be able to discuss in depth how the Labor Party really works. That’s hard in short-form journalism.
Downfall is a fast-paced, behind-the-scenes description of one the greatest dramas of our time: the self destruction of Labor governments at the state and federal levels. From ministerial encounters with prostitutes to the brutal removal of Kevin Rudd, the book charts exactly what went wrong and who was responsible. If you want to understand how politics really works, this is the book for you.
From the publisher:
It’s the biggest and most puzzling story in Australian politics: how did the Australian Labor Party go from a thumping win in 2007 to facing annhilation in the forthcoming election? Other books have pointed to a lack of coherent policies and an over-reliance on polls–all true–but as this book makes clear, Labor’s biggest problem is one nobody wants to talk about; ethics. Or rather, the lack of them. Dogged by scandal, tainted by self-serving heavies and political opportunists, Brand Labor is a shabby shadow of its former self. Can the much touted next leader, Bill Shorten act to save it, or will he proceed with business as usual?
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
Convince the Labor Party leadership to take the political high road – and never again tolerate the sleazy characters who trashed the party’s reputation.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
My mother. With little money or family support she raised three boys mostly on her own, and stuck to her principles to the day she died at 57 from pancreatic cancer. Downfall is dedicated to her.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’ve long wanted to be prime minister. That seems unlikely now and I will settle for contributing to a better society through honest, tough journalism.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read relentlessly, rewrite, and use short sentences.
Aaron, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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