Before the 1990s, the decades in Australia used to run to a predictable script of bust, boom, and bust. They'd commence with the economy in the pits, assume the personality of the good times that followed, and conclude with another collapse. Conveniently, this cycle took about ten years to play out. Paul Keating and John Howard altered the nation's body-clock. Between them, they have dominated the past 30 years of power, as both treasurers and prime ministers. Typically, they are seen only as antagonists with competing visions of Australia and its place in the world.
In The Longest Decade, George Megalogenis argues that they also deserve to be seen as the twin architects of the political, economic and social revolution that took Australia through a period of trauma and recovery, and then on to an era of unprecedented affluence.
Based on exclusive interviews with both Keating and Howard, and on Megalogenis's many years experience as a member of the Canberra press gallery, The Longest Decade is a brilliant, non-partisan analysis of the forces that shape Australia today - from the rise of working women to the triumph of the McMansion.
This is the story of how an era came to be defined by Keating and Howard, but it is also the bigger story of how Australia became a more complex society, and how the nation's evolution, in turn, forced its leaders to adapt. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Australia in the 21st century.