Incorrigible Optimist: A Political Memoir (Gareth Evans, MUP)
Gareth Evans has enjoyed a stellar career as a politician, policy expert and internationalist. He has worked for governments and institutions that he variously describes as ‘gold standard’, ‘platinum’ and ‘blue ribbon’. In this political memoir, Evans covers a wide range of policy issues, from education and industry to war and nuclear disarmament. In a style that is nimble, witty, thorough and precise, Evans takes the reader through the business of high-level policy-making. It’s a world of big names, high-level panels, commissions and ‘dialogue architecture’. Being a political memoir, Incorrigible Optimist does often read like a personal CV. Evans defends some of his more controversial actions in government (the carve-up of East Timor’s hydro-carbon resources) and lists his many achievements. The personal aside, he mounts an eloquent defence of the UN, provides a fascinating analysis of China, and is refreshingly honest about politicians and their motivations (they’re either idealists or megalomaniacs). The sketches of prominent political and diplomatic figures are enjoyable and gossipy; Evans has many a fun tale to tell about his travels in diplomacy-land. Incorrigible Optimist will appeal to readers interested in serious policy development and international issues; for the up-and-coming diplomat, it will provide an indispensable playbook.
Chris Saliba is co-owner of North Melbourne Books and a freelance reviewer