Monday, January 22, 2007

The truly-excellent Maxine Mckew

I have worked with Maxine McKew for years and most recently made a number of very good radio programs with her.

She never does anything unless she really wants to and she is quixotic about her choices. And she always lands on her feet.

In December she left the ABC and journalism after 30 years. Just like that.

She lay on the beach.

Now she is to join Australia's Prime Minister in Kevin Rudd as his Special Adviser on Strategy. He told her he liked her "dynamism".

Here's what I wrote in this morning's CT...

Maxine McKew acknowledges that it is a big shift. After 30 years of asking political questions, she is to become a political operator.

Kevin Rudd announced on Sunday the appointment of one of the ABC’s best-known faces as his Special Adviser on Strategy, responsible for drawing on the expertise of business, academic, and non-government organisations to develop Labor Party policies to take next election.

The Walkley Award winning journalist resigned from the ABC in October and presented her last Lateline program in December.

She said last night that she had been literally taking a break at the beach in January when the Opposition Leader phoned her and said, “I’ve got this in mind for you would you consider it?” “I said: well actually yes, I would because I had been watching and thinking the guy might be able to get it together actually. I’d been rather impressed by what I had been seeing over the summer. So we had a couple of chats on the phone and then I went up to Brisbane on Friday and we then had some very long chats.”

Maxine McKew said she knew Kevin Rudd from the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in which they had both been participants. She had spent 30 years asking questions and watching politicians. She had never been a member of a political party.

“ I made the jump because I like Kevin, He’s got this incredible sense of purpose. Let me tell you: there is going to be nothing timid about what you will hear from Kevin this year. There is a boldness about his approach and he is ambitious, both for the country and for the quality of the policy making that he has in mind. You are going to see that about issues like education, I mean really – watch this space - and climate change,” she said.

Maxine McKew said her job would be to act as a clearinghouse for now ideas, “to make sure all this stuff is coming through his door. Now I’ve got to tell you he’s no slouch at this himself - the bloke is almost like a one-person policy think tank, but he also knows that you can’t operate like that if you want to be Prime Minister.”

Ms McKew will work from both Sydney and Canberra. She expects to start work in Canberra at the start of the parliamentary year on February 6.