JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Ex-politician still in public arena

Date

Daniel Flitton

Alexander Downer AO

Alexander Downer.

Alexander Downer. Photo: Tomasz Machnik

AS A minister, the longest to serve as Australia's chief diplomat in the foreign affairs portfolio, Alexander Downer came to relish an argument - mostly against political opponents but even with public servants.

''I used to always say, 'Out-argue me, convince me'. I spent hours and hours sitting with them, talking to them, not just reading submissions,'' Mr Downer says. ''When I had become minister, they had you circle 'agree' or 'not agree' - so I added 'discuss'. Quite often I'd think, they just want me to sign off on this, let's get them over here … I used to like to make them defend their positions.''

Mr Downer still enjoys a debate and hasn't shied away from the public arena five years after retiring from federal politics. He writes a regular newspaper column in his home town of Adelaide and is at present the focus of intense speculation that he might rejoin the political fray - as leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia.

He has been at the top before, a short and inglorious stint as federal opposition leader. ''Born with the silver cutlery service in his mouth,'' Paul Keating once jibed, part of the regular Labor characterisation of Mr Downer as a patrician stemming from his family's long involvement in conservative politics.

''They seemed to be extremely interested in who my parents were and my background, that seemed to be a huge preoccupation for them,'' Mr Downer says.

''You don't chose your parents, it is just what happens, it is nature's way. I'm more interested in attacking people over the choices they make if I don't agree with them than over the things they can't control.''

Downer came to be known as a spear carrier for John Howard in government, close to the former prime minister and eager to stir trouble with his opponents.

He is being appointed a companion of the Order of Australia for his eminent service to international relations and the community of South Australia.

See the full honours list here

Related Coverage

Honour at last for Balmain boy

''I'VE been hit with open hands, closed fists, pieces of wood, iron bars and bamboo about two inches in diameter,'' Tom Uren says.

Ita Buttrose named Australian of the Year

It's Ita. The former copy girl, journalist, famous lisper, editor-extraordinaire, has been named Australian of the Year 2013.

Well-deserved honour for lady with plenty of polish

IT'S ITA. Former copy girl, journalist, famous lisper, editrix-extraordinaire. The woman who, as editor of The Australian Women's Weekly, liked to catch the bus to work because bus trips were an excellent time to read and touch up nail polish. The lady - because she is a lady - whose brains and strength of character saw her become the first female appointment to the News Ltd board (she said she ''often felt lonely''). The single working mother who rejoiced when retail trading hours were extended in 1984 because it had been such a terrible rush, cramming all that kid-ferrying and shopping into short Saturday mornings.

Tom Uren, a man of letters: POW, MP, AC

Tom Uren has taken many hits in life, and he rolled with them all and refused to lie down.

Poignant tribute in poet's sunset years

THE honours are coming fast for Clive James. Today he becomes an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO), adding to the Commander of the British Empire conferred by the Queen a year ago and a special career award in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards in December.

Honour for leadership in Japanese quake crisis

Nothing could have prepared Australia's ambassador in Tokyo for Japan's earthquake in 2011.

Mabo's life remembered in bitter-sweet moment

FOR Bonita Mabo, news of her Australia Day honour came at a bitter-sweet moment: just as the 21st anniversary of husband Eddie's death was due.

Improving outcomes in Aboriginal health

Jill Gallagher is humbled by her Order of Australia for distinguished service to Victoria's indigenous community.

Dedicated coach helps players achieve net gain

Norma Plummer has been on top of the netball world as a player and coach, but there's good reason why she walked away from leading the Australian side after its 2011 world championships triumph.

Islamic professor keen to boost interfaith dialogue

Courses on Islamic studies are now commonplace at Australian universities, but Melbourne University Professor Abdullah Saeed recalls it was not always thus.

Passionate and devoted to the world of AFL

Ask Kevin Sheehan about any AFL player and he won't simply tell you which club he plays for or in which position he spends most of his time.

Journalist at forefront of telling Australia's story

As one of Australian Story's pioneers, Deborah Fleming-Bauer put subjects front and centre and made the journalism less visible

Local recognition great start to new year

When asked how Australia's highest honour compares with receiving a Nobel prize, astrophysicist Brian Schmidt says it is wonderful to be recognised ''at home''.

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo