Michael Cooney’s thanks to former PM Gillard at the launch of The Gillard Project:




Thanks – I think. I wish I’d written that.


I have at least two messages, at least two audiences, and far too many acknowledgements. It’s a definite Cooney-Gillard special. At least I’ll try only to have one ending.

Now, message one. It was worth it.

Audience one: you here in the room.

I say in the book

It was a comedy of manners, it was a comedy of errors, it was a tragedy, it was a bunch of stuff that happened; it was a calvary and a triumph. There were days of despair but I never lost hope. That is what I most want to tell you; this is the ‘message in a bottle’ from the island of my mind: it was worth it.

I don’t need to tell you, I just need to remind you: it was worth it, and it was worth it because of her.

Do you know what she did to me?

I wrote in the book

I hesitate to say any MP I first met when I was a staffer is ‘a mate’, but we’d socialized, and certainly I called her Julia.

Which she read. And then Julia Gillard signed our copy of My Story ‘thanks for your mateship’.

That’s our boss.

Audience two: you outside the room.

I do need to tell you.

It was worth it because of Australia.

This is a great nation which deserves progressive leadership.

Whenever I am in Sydney, I think of 1788. The local Eora people on this shore looking at those white sails thinking ‘I don’t know what this means, but we really better stick together’. The new chums under those white sails looking at these shores thinking ‘I don’t know where this is, but we really better share’.

That’s what we wanted to be, that’s what we became – this fair, strong, united, egalitarian, apologetic, forgiving, Australia – and we did it by changing; and if we don’t keep changing, we are going to lose it all and become the divided trash of the Indo-Pacific.

I hear di Lampedusa’s words – ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change’ – and I know the project for Australia in the years ahead is national modernization under conditions of national fairness.

That is what we need to become and how we need to become it and there is only one party that can lead Australia to do that and to be its best future self – and it’s not the party that wants to cut the pension and penalty rates, and it’s not the party that voted against climate change action in 2009 and tipped Verity Firth out of Parliament in 2015.

Australia still needs Labor.

Message two. Thank you.

Audience one: you here in the room.

I’ve acknowledged many people in my book. I’m going to do that again now.

I fear God and He was with me in those years and while I wrote this and tonight.

Many friends said to me over the years I should write a book and I am so grateful for all those kind words.

Ben Ball and Arwen Summers – if you haven’t met them you’ll recognize them in the crowd. Ben looks like an exclamation mark and Arwen looks like a semi colon.

My two favourite punctuation marks. I am so grateful.

I am yet to meet Laura Thomas who designed the cover. I love her work.

Tony Kitchener [who is here tonight/couldn’t make it tonight] is the Malcolm McLaren of the Australian progressive think tank movement. The rest of us are just punks and I’m glad to have a few Saints and Pistols with us here.

Right at the start, Mark Latham gave me a chance, and then Kim Beazley gave me a second chance, and I would never have worked in Government or had anything to say remotely worth putting in a book without those two bosses, and I never forget it.

While I was writing this book I had enormous support from the Chifley Research Centre: our chair Nick Martin and directors, some here tonight, our financial supporters, some of whom are here as well.

Your generosity is never forgotten or taken for granted.


I was especially blessed by my remarkable colleague Jane Austen, who has an amazing future in our movement.

I had absolutely essential support from Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, from my MP-mates Jim Chalmers and Andrew Leigh and from NSW General Secretary Jamie Clements; Professor Tom Kompas at the ANU’s Crawford School, David Pembroke at contentgroup, Jo Scard at Fifty Acres and Rowena O’Neill at Global Shapers; the Chief Minister of the ACT Andrew Barr and Meegan Fitzharris MLA.

I hope it is never unclear that I did not work on speeches alone.

So thank you Carl Green. As I live and breathe, Carl Green. If there had been a misanthropy speech, he’d have written it. I am really grateful you are here, my brother. I know it’s not your scene.

I hope you are going to listen to that link on the Chifley website of me telling the bloke on Tasmanian radio how proud I am of your work on the apology to the survivors of forced adoption.

Carl and I had a lot of help writing for Julia Gillard.


I especially thank Virginia Cook, Penelope Layland, Julianne Stewart [who is here], Corinne Grant – and my little mate James Newton, who has taken up the pen we put down.

Virginia, I am really sorry for those terrible things I did on your Facebook page at the PM and C Christmas party.

Yvette Nash once said to me ‘Cooney, you have more co-dependent relationships than anyone I know’.

Which was deeply unfair and surely an exaggeration.

So many current and former staffers, dear mates and beloved friends, are not named in this book, for all sorts of reasons. Some of you here, some of you not here.

Part of you pours out of me/
in these lines from time to time.

You all know who you are. I loved your work.

I want to acknowledge the current staff of Julia Gillard, the last Labor Prime Minister, particularly Bruce Wolpe and Michelle Fitzgerald who are here.

You are amazing, you make her look amazing, we are so proud of you, you are doing such a wonderful job.


And I want to acknowledge the staff of Bill Shorten, the next Labor Prime Minister. We know what you are doing and how much difference it makes and we hope you know how much we admire you and how much it still matters.

Bill has transformed Australian politics before – on flood insurance, on equal pay, above all on disability insurance – and he will do it again.

My family is here, which is just wonderful.

I didn’t think anyone’s ‘don’t put me in the book’ could be firmer than the one I got from David Fredericks …

… until Catherine had her say. So now is clearly not the time or place for an encomium of thanks and praise – I promised I wouldn’t be trite or ridiculous, and anything I say here would only be trite or ridiculous – so I’ll just say this.

Your job is more important than my job.

My Mum. Mum taught me to read, drove me to the library, took me to children’s book week, joined me up for the Puffin Club, bought me Roald Dahl, gave me the dream.

She’s also gone to lots of trouble to be here tonight.

Thanks Mum.

My brother and sisters and their families have gone to huge effort to make it and Alex, San, Steve, Nicole, Helen, I’m just so delighted that you’re here.

Which brings me to audience two: you outside the room.

Let me tell you a story about sibling rivalry … you bust your neck in politics for fifteen years, get a job with a prime minister, write a book – you get a contract with Penguin! Not MUP! – you get a lauch on Sydney Harbour with the former Prime Minister and all your mates …

… and your brother takes your Dad to Gallipolli for the centenary. Unbelievable.

I do thank my Dad in the text.

Dad’s Dad fought with Jacka’s battalion, the 14th AIF, and was wounded at Courtney’s Post in May; Dad is a Vietnam Veteran of 8 RAR and brother Paul is an Afghanistan veteran and still serving.

The Australian poet John Manifold wrote of a soldier friend:

His freedom gave him nothing else to do
But set his back against his family tree
And fight

This is why I dedicated my book to the Australians who served, suffered and died in Afghanistan.

Many of us here have experienced the privileges and pains of democratic life to the full; I wanted to acknowledge that our democracy has its defenders.

In that same poem Manifold wrote

This is not sorrow, this is work:
I build a cairn of words

The greatest privilege I had working for Julia Gillard was helping her with Afghanistan war policy speeches and with condolence speeches for our dead. The work was not to build, but to add a few more stones to the cairn.

It was Australia’s longest war and one of its most dangerous phases was from 2010 to 2013. The Prime Minister who led us through that was wise and the ADF who carried out the mission was resolute.

At the end of it Afghanistan was not a safe haven where terrorists could train to kill our people, our alliance with the United States was stronger – and our voice at the United Nations was louder.


Great nations need great leaders because they have great responsibilities as well as great opportunities. Some of our greatest opportunities are at home, some of our gravest responsibilities are in the world – that hasn’t changed in the past hundred years.

The Gillard Project is finished, and with it plenty to celebrate tonight – but then for tomorrow, there’s plenty in the Australian project still to do.



Sydney, 28 April 2015

About Michael Cooney

Michael Cooney

Michael is a former Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre. He was previously Speechwriter to Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Senior Adviser at the HR Coombs Policy Forum, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, and was Principal Policy Advisor to Federal Labor Leaders Kim Beazley and Mark Latham.

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