"Mostly [it] gives you judgment and the ability to craft things that people without the same degree of experience and confidence really wouldn't either comprehend doing or be able to do": Paul Keating. Photo: Penny Stephens
Paul Keating has confessed to being a ''maddie'' as a political leader, saying the inspiration for many of his biggest projects came from getting as ''high as a kite, mad'' listening to symphonies on a Saturday morning.
I always believed in burning up the government's political capital, not being Mr Safe Guy, you know?
But the former prime minister says his unorthodox ways were minor compared with Winston Churchill, who read the papers in bed, had his butler draw a bath and returned to bed until midday while he was running World War II.
''Politicians come in three varieties: straight men, fixers and maddies,'' he declares in the final part of Keating, The Interviews, on ABC television on Tuesday, insisting the maddies, including Margaret Thatcher, are those who ''charge in and get it done''.
Asked by Kerry O'Brien how conscious he was of what people would have considered his eccentricities, he replies: ''I couldn't have cared less about them, you know, mugs and hillbillies on life's long pathway''.
Mr Keating describes himself as a ''shrinking violet'' when compared with Bob Hawke, but concedes he has ''a healthy ego'' and a lot of ''earned'' confidence.
Conceding that this confidence can bring arrogance, he adds: ''Mostly [it] gives you judgment and the ability to craft things that people without the same degree of experience and confidence really wouldn't either comprehend doing or be able to do.''
Like the first three parts, the final instalment will enthral his admirers and annoy his detractors. It covers the Keating prime ministership, with Mr Keating defending his push for a republic, focus on indigenous land rights and pursuit of Asian engagement.
''You get one chance to do something about native title. You get perhaps one chance in your life to do something about a republic. You get one chance, your chance, to build a piece of the political architecture in the Pacific. I wasn't going to give those up.''
Mr Keating says he worked for seven months on legislating a response to the Mabo decision because it required the prime minister's authority to make the key decisions as negotiations with indigenous leaders progressed.
He insists the Liberal Party would never have legislated Mabo, saying: ''[John] Hewson called it a day of shame when the bill went through the Parliament, you know. That dreadful Tim Fischer wrung his hands about it and said we will have mass extinguishments everywhere.
''I always believed in burning up the government's political capital, not being Mr Safe Guy, you know?''
Mr Keating accepts that he and Bob Hawke were a greater political force together than either man was apart and, when asked what epitaph he would like, replies: ''That he did his best … I never short-changed the public one jot.''