The Federation Press

The Worldly Art of Politics


Politics is the task of liars, cheats and scoundrels and politicians are the lowest of the low. So runs, and has always run, popular opinion in Australia. And yet New South Wales has been one of the best governed, most peaceful and most prosperous of societies over the past 150 years.

How is the one compatible with the other?

The Worldly Art of Politics argues that the public image owes more to myth than fact, and that politicians mostly live hardworking, effective, insecure, and very public lives.

The book focuses on their contributions away from the spotlight of the Parliamentary bearpits. Some have special talents as committee workers, others as coalition partners (like the Nationals’ Charles Cutler), skilful administrators and negotiators (like Labor’s Reg Downing), or constructive party officers (like the Liberals’ John Carrick).

All, in their own fashion, “represent” the electorate. There is the stalwart seen as “one of us” (Jack Ferguson); the “good local member” (Michael Maher); the Independent (John Hatton and Richard Torbay); and the pathbreaker who achieves relevance for a minor party (Elisabeth Kirkby) or a formerly unrepresented group (Millicent Preston Stanley).

Overall, despite the lurid headlines, New South Wales politicians maintain a system in which ideas and conflicts and interests are openly articulated and peacefully resolved: a successful, working democracy.

A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.


... worth a look by people who teach politics at any level, or anybody interested in understanding the politician’s craft. - Stephen Matchett, The Weekend Australian, October 14-15, 2006

This volume is a collection of 22 vignettes spotlighting the contributions of lesser-known but important figures in New South Wales state politics over the previous century and a quarter. Some chapters deal with parliamentary and other institutional operations and practices, but the most engaging chapters are those which describe the contributions of the political ‘fixers’ and those stalwart ‘backstops’ who provide the backbone of experience, toughness and gravitas for any successful government.
The editors have covered a wide spectrum of political representation and interests ...
For this reviewer, the highlights of the book, and the chapters which best reflect its title, are those which tell the story of the stalwarts referred to above. They put flesh on the bones of history, with a sympathetic account of several people who lived for politics and genuine public service. This book is a defence of politics and of politicians, in the face of what its editors regard as a worrying feature of public life today: the erosion of social capital, and the inability of the party system to adjust to concerns by the electorate that the public good is no longer being served. This book reminds us of how some politicians once got some things right.
... The Worldly Art of Politics is informative and highly readable, for the most part, thanks to some well-known contributors. It reminds us of the extent to which party political success depends on the depth of talent among players on both sides of politics, and of the fact that the most interesting characters on the political stage are likely to be found just right or left or behind those on whom the spotlight usually falls. - Australasian Parliamentary Review, Vol 22(1), Autumn 2006

Table of Contents

Section 1 - The Need for Good Politics

Ken Turner & Michael Hogan
Why politicians must be odious
Henry Mayer
The ethical standards of politicians
Gerard Carney

Section 2 - Representing a Constituency

Michael Maher: A Good Local Member
David Clune
Sir William Lyne: In His Electorate
Sir Joseph Carruther
A Tale of Two Independents
Frank Bongiorno
Jack Ferguson: Representing Workers
Rodney Cavalier
Millicent Preston-Stanley: Organising for women’s representation
Michael Hogan
A Plea for the Politican
John Osborne

Section 3 - Forms of Contribution

George Mure Black: Labor Publicist
Jim Hagan
Arthur Hill Griffith: Standard Bearer for Public Enterprise
Morris Graham
John Hatton: Independent MP
Henry Lee & Glenn Mitchell
Elisabeth Kirkby: Attention to Parliamentary Review
Ken Turner
Sir John Peden: Representing the Public Interest
Gareth Griffith
Charles Cutler: A Lesson in Coalition Partnership with Premier Askin
Paul Davey
Creative Committee Work: Random Breath Testing
Kevin Rozzoli
The Public Works Committee 1888-1930
Clive Beauchamp
John Carrick: the Influence of Head Office
Ian Hancock
Reg Downing: a Safe Pair of Hands
David Clune
Speechwriters: Are They Necessary?
Graham Freudenberg
Decision-Making in Greiner’s NSW Inc. An Insider’s Perspective
Peta Seaton
Ken Turner & Michael Hogan

Of interest...