Last week I went to Melbourne for the launch of this book.
There's a good review on the Conversation by someone much more familiar with the policy issues involved than me.
I worked for John Dawkins in his personal office from October 1987 for about 3 years as variously a political adviser (dealing mainly with internal ALP matters and links with the ACTU), an adviser on training policy, media relations and finally as senior private secretary.
The first thing to say about working for Dawkins while he was devising and introducing his revolution is that he was a difficult and demanding boss. He treated a lot of people poorly.
Few people get to be Cabinet ministers, even fewer make any real use of the often brief time they have in those privileged positions.
As a staffer, the long-term value of your experience has a lot to do with whether your boss turns out to be one of the few who achieve something significant or one of the many time servers who flap about the place continuously out of their depth in a policy area of which they have only a superficial grasp.
One of the key traits of the Hawke Government was that it had a greater than usual share of the type of Cabinet minister who has the desire and capacity to do something truly significant.
These substantial ministers were fortunate to have the backing of an excellent prime minister in Bob Hawke who encouraged substantial reform efforts without feeling the need to micro-manage and who frequently protected his ministers from the sort of party and sectional interest criticisms that will often cause a lesser political leader to wilt.
The achievement of Dawkins should also be seen as an achievement by Hawke as well.
Dawkins tried to do something significant in every portfolio he held. He came to education after establishing the Cairns group, an alliance of nations that lobbied for fairer and freer trade in agriculture. Dawkins' achievements for Australian farmers stacks up well against the often lame efforts of his National party predecessors and successors in the trade or primary industries area.
And let's be clear, the Dawkins revolution was not reform by consensus, it was not watered down to an extent that made it essentially meaningless, but broadly acceptable to all stakeholders.
Dawkins took on his critics and sought to overwhem them and out-manoeuvre them.
Dawkins was in a fight that he could have easily lost.
The demands of that fight put a lot of pressure on his staff and his departmental officers, as well as himself.
Political reform is not for the faint hearted. It is not a parlour game.
Dawkins chose to play the game hard.
He was determined to win the argument and get the biggest changes he could.
He would never have been content with 'canniness'.
Dawkins always knew, perhaps intuited, that big changes have the best chance of lasting the distance.
Too often reforms like these get captured by the internal stakeholders, those with most at stake in an immediate sense.
The Dawkins revolution was not about universities, it was about delivering economic and social benefits from a bigger higher education sector to the Australian community.
This approach helped Dawkins win the political argument, but it did not endear him to many people in the higher education sector.
But now it is 25 years later, and about 8 ministers from both sides of politics have succeeded Dawkins as higher education minister.
Despite some tinkering, the essential architecture of the Dawkins reforms are intact.
It is a rare politician who gets to look back with pride over the continuing success of his reforms a few decades later.
As a staffer, last week's festivities confirm my long-held view that you're better off working for a difficult boss than for some plodder who prides himself on his ability to get through his paperwork and turn in a polished (but vacuous) media performance.
When I was working for John Dawkins I never thought about a 25 year celebration and reunion.
But it was a great privilege and pleasure to be there last week.
(the photo is me with Dawkins and his wife Maggie at the reunion last week)