‘The light on the hill’: Chifley, Keating, and a new interpretation of Australian Labor Party rhetoric

Rebecca Hawkings

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review


In recent years, there has been a resurgence of affection and nostalgia for the rhetoric and acerbic wit of former Prime Minister Paul Keating. Musical theatre tributes, editorial pieces in prominent national publications, and a plethora of YouTube video montages and Facebook groups have celebrated the supposedly unique rhetoric of Keating. But just how unique was it? As a response to this resurgence of nostalgia, this paper examines the rhetoric of Prime Minister Keating in three key areas: the use of Australian history to promote progressive political agendas, the Keating economic rhetoric, and the invocation of the Australian Labor Party's 'Light on the Hill' ideology. Through analysis of these three areas, it becomes clear that the Keating rhetoric was not, as existing literature argues, a wholly unique entity. Rather, much of the Keating rhetoric was in fact a re-imagining and econtextualisation of the rhetoric of another looming figure in Labor Party history: Prime Minister Ben Chifley. In arguing against the dominant narrative of difference, this paper thus establishes a new interpretation of Australian political rhetoric, and asserts the need for more cross-generational approaches to Australian rhetoric analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNEO : journal for higher degree research in the social sciences and humanities
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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