Michael Cooney. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Michael Cooney, former speechwriter to Prime MInister Julia Gillard. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Q+A: Michael Cooney

Australian politics hit a tumultuous patch between 2010 and 2013. As Prime Minister Julia Gillard traversed the pitfalls of a minority government, MICHAEL COONEY, BA (Hons) '96, MA '01, was at the heart of the action.

As Gillard's speechwriter, Cooney's role was to aid the national conversation. He came to the job a true Labor believer with years of experience behind him, but the stakes in the Prime Minister's Office were high.

After the election defeat in 2013, Cooney wrote about his rollercoaster ride, now published as The Gillard Project.

He returned to ANU to launch the book and answered audience questions at an ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author event.

You've had a long and ongoing relationship with ANU, how important is the University to you?

I like to quote James McAuley - I am fitted to this campus "as the soul is to the body".

I was born about 25 minutes' walk south of here, at the old Canberra Hospital, gone now, of course. I first put money over the bar at the workers club, about 10 minutes' walk east.

This University is where I first heard Paul Keating speak, other than in the Parliament. It's where I joined his Labor Right and then his Labor Party in 1994.

Though I wasn't active in campus politics, I was active in the ACT ALP Branch and that's where I met Young Labor activists like ANU students Andrew Barr [now ACT Chief Minister] and Jim Chalmers [now Federal Member for Rankin].

I know there are some cracking young activists on this campus today.

I've spent a lot of time on campus since the first time I graduated, including studying in the old Department of International Relations, not long before the world changed in September 2001, and at the Crawford School [of Public Policy] for a happy season in 2013.