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March 2, 2021

ALP leadership in the spotlight at Writers’ Fest

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Former Labor MP and journalist Maxine McKew.

Another tumultuous week in the circus that is Australian politics and the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival is poised to analyse much of the action.

From August 2 to 4, a posse of political journalists will gather in the main marquees of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival and conversations will be intense. Said Festival director Jeni Caffin: ‘The Byron Bay Writers’ Festival deals as much in the real issues of the day as it does in the realm of imagination. Mind you, it would be hard to imagine the events that have transpired in our nation’s capital. Maybe in a David Baldacci thriller, but this is a case of fact trumping fiction.’

The keynote conversation of the Festival takes place Friday August 2, when Kerry O’Brien sits down with Simon Crean. ‘This was always going to be a fascinating conversation, but the stakes are suddenly much higher,’ said Caffin. The inside story continues to unfold when Kerry’s next conversational partner, Maxine McKew, discusses her extraordinarily frank account of party warfare in Tales from the Political Trenches. After winning a spectacular victory against John Howard in 2007, McKew was one of the bleeding casualties of the doomed 2010 election campaign, after which Labor was forced into minority government.

The back cover blurb on McKew’s take-no-prisoners book asks ‘What the hell happened?’, and this forms the subject of a blockbuster panel on Saturday August 3, when Kevin Rudd’s former speech writer James Button joins respected veteran journalist Craig McGregor, Maxine McKew and Canberra correspondent and Insiders regular Karen Middleton to dissect Labor’s descent into the badlands. Mungo MacCallum will chair: expect dissent, debate and drama aplenty.

Moving away from politics, the book provoking controversy and furore across media is Anne Summers’s The Misogyny Factor. Dr Summers has worked as a senior bureaucrat and political advisor, and in 2012 gave two landmark speeches about women in Australia, attracting more than 120,000 visits to her website. She is formidable, outspoken and on the money, dismissing the idea that we should celebrate progress for women, as opposed to outright success. In conversation with journalist George Megalogenis, Anne Summers will show us what success will look like. A Friday marquee session.

Journeying to the Festival from mid-west USA is former CIA agent Glenn Carle. His book The Interrogator is a memoir to stop you in your tracks!

After decades as a CIA operative, Carle was suddenly recruited to the position of interrogator and commissioned to interview, and break, a man suspected of being Osama Bin Laden’s banker.

Despite Carle realising quickly that this was a false assumption and the man, who had been kidnapped, rendered and tortured, being nowhere near the upper echelons of Al Qaeda, the CIA persisted with the operation and removed Carle from the case. Listen to him in conversation with former Sydney Writers’ Festival director Chip Rolley, and in what promises to be a devastating pairing with the former commander of the Australian forces in Afghanistan, John Cantwell, whose Exit Wounds is reviewed on this page.

Find them all in the marquee program of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2013. Tickets at www.byronbaywritersfestival.com or 6685 5115.

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