Land Of Hope And Dreams: Wayne Swan’s John Button Oration

This is Treasurer Wayne Swan’s John Button Oration, delivered tonight.

Wayne Swan

  • Listen to Swan’s speech (29m)

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  • Download a copy of Swan’s speech (PDF)

Text of Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan’s John Button Oration.


One of the aspects of my job I enjoy most is speaking to different parts of our community about so many different facets of our economy. In roughly eight years in the Treasury portfolio I’ve made hundreds of speeches on economic topics, which is of course no great surprise particularly given the whiteknuckle ride the global economy has been through in recent times.

But tonight I want to do things a bit differently. Tonight I want to talk to you in a very personal way about some of the values that have underpinned these speeches and about some of the influences that have shaped those values. In particular I want to talk to you about the ends of economic policy: what sort of society we want, and the sorts of lives we each aspire to lead.

To answer those questions we need to broaden our debates beyond the usual parameters of economic argument and policy-making. Most importantly, we need to talk about culture. Because it is culture perhaps more than anything else which influences our values, which in turn shape the type of society we want to build and the sorts of lives we want to lead. [Read more…]

Hockey: Springsteen Not A Basis For Sound Public Policy

The Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has castigated Wayne Swan for being inspired by Bruce Springsteen.

“We might as well have Glenn A. Baker and Molly Meldrum running the country,” Hockey told a media conference.

Joe Hockey

“This is another ‘look at me’ speech… this is the clown trying to run the circus… it says everything about this government that it’s guided by the principles of a rock singer rather than any enduring philosophy that builds a stronger nation… I see rock and music as entertainment, I don’t see it as the benchmark of guiding principles for the destiny of a nation…”

Mr. Hockey said he was inspired more by Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, or “a Menzies who said we should be a nation of lifters not leaners, or a Howard who says the things that unite us are far bigger than the things that divide us. Or a Teddy Roosevelt who said it’s far better to dream mighty things, to seek glorious triumphs even though chequered by failure, than to be amongst those poor souls who neither suffer much nor enjoy much because they live in the great twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • Listen to an indignant Hockey’s media conference

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[Read more…]

Wayne Swan And Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run

It’s not every day the front page of the Financial Review features Wayne Swan and the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen songs.

Financial Review frontpage

Treasurer Swan will tonight deliver the annual John Button Oration.

In extracts of the speech published today, Swan pays tribute to the power of Bruce Springsteen’s music, especially his 1975 song, Born to Run.

Swan renews his attack on Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart, saying his only regret is “not going in hard enough”. Swan reiterates his argument “that a handful of powerful people not only think they have the right to a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success, they think they have the right to manipulate our democracy and our national conversation to gain an even bigger slice of the pie.”

This is a video Swan released today in which he discusses John Button, Bruce Springsteen and politics:

Extract of Wayne Swan’s John Button Oration, as published in The Age.

My inspiration has always been music. Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss”, was and remains my musical hero. And not just mine. He’s the favourite musician of the Prime Minister and many other members of the government.

Like Springsteen, I and many caucus members came from working-class families. We are in many ways the Springsteen generation. And if our generation has an anthem, it is Born to Run.

It was released as a single in August 1975, and it’s the song we listened to during the Whitlam dismissal in November of that year and the bitter election campaign that followed. The song has never left me. I still crank it up loud on budget night and after our family dinner parties. It’s about trying to stay young when the carefree days of youth are coming to an end. It’s a song about realising that big and daunting responsibilities are just around the corner. But it’s also a song about a way of life that was just starting to disappear.

Springsteen never let the success of Born to Run go to his head or make him forget where he came from. He never stopped singing for the people he grew up with: the blue-collar workers of New Jersey and the midwest. [Read more…]