Life wasn’t meant to be easy – who said that?

“The 1975 Australian constitutional crisis (sometimes called “the Dismissal“) has been described as the greatest political crisis and constitutional crisis in Australia’s history. It culminated on 11 November 1975 with the removal of the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam  (elected in 1972) of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), by Governor-General Sir John Kerr. Kerr then appointed the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, as caretakerPrime Minister. When the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, went to seek the Governor General’s approval for an election, the Governor General instead dismissed him as Prime Minister, and shortly thereafter installed Malcolm Fraser in his place. Though Kerr, who died in 1991, continues to be reviled in some quarters, Whitlam and Fraser later reconciled.”

Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was 18 in 1972 and voted for the first time.  It was an exciting time in politics in Australia. The Australian Labor Party had been out in the wilderness since Prime Minister Ben Chifley was defeated by the Liberals in 1949! Gough Whitlam was elected as Prime Minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party after a landslide victory.

Today’s blog is not about history though! It is about people and how we perceive them with the limited knowledge available to us at the time. I, and thousands of others, hated John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser for bringing down the elected Government of the day. Even at 18 I could see a great injustice against our democratic rights to have the party we voted for to remain in office. Great offense was caused and outrage ensued. Passions were ignited! Malcolm Fraser spoke like the “upper classes” and we believed he “was born with a silver spoon in his mouth”! He is remembered for his use of the phrase “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. Our reaction was… “What does he know about the working classes – his life appeared to be very easy indeed!” It has been fascinating to see the retired Malcolm Fraser in action. It seems that a lot of our hatred of the man was misdirected. It is said that he is one of the most misunderstood  Prime Ministers in our history. Today he speaks out about the harsh treatment of refugees and is often on the side of the disadvantaged in the community and against the views of the big L liberals. It just goes to show that we only see what we want to see in a person. Perhaps memoirs offer an opportunity to tell the story of the misunderstood or, less kindly, it is the opportunity to rewrite history in a different light. Skip forward now to 2012 and today I am reading “Malcolm Fraser, The Political Memoirs” by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons. I still find it hard to warm to the man but I feel I can better understand his side of the story and elements of his personality (or some would say, lack there-of). He was incredibly shy and not good in social interaction or in finding friends. This was seen as arrogance and snobbery.

We mustn’t be too quick to judge our fellow men and women.



English: The Mount Whaleback mine at Newman, W...

English: The Mount Whaleback mine at Newman, Western Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I lived and breathed politics at one time in my life. The left side of politics was under threat in Newman (iron-ore mining in the North West of Western Australia). Robe River Mining had taken on the Unions and beaten them – it was a bitter fight. Other mining companies tried to shake off the unions and there were lots of strikes – lots of nasty name calling as well.

I didn’t work for the mine but I did some casual work with the local Labor Member of Parliament. I then took on the Secretary’s job at the local ALP Branch. I loved it. All sorts of issues came up and I wrote letters to anyone and everyone. I realized that one person writing one letter can make a BIG difference to a community. I represented the branch and that had some impact.

We fought against issues like “fly-in, fly-out” contractors. They came to work for two weeks on and one week off. They didn’t contribute anything to the community infrastructure – in fact services were under threat as the number of school children reduced so teachers were withdrawn etc.

I’m not so passionate about politics today. I still believe that one person can make a difference though. Cynicism can take over if you let it!

The politicians visited town often and the local ALP branch members used to put them up over night. It was so interesting to get the inside story. I know they worked incredibly  hard with long hours every week. Is it the power that drives them to keep going?  My lads gave up their beds for the night so that a couple of them could stay over. One of them left their silk dressing gown behind once and I had to parcel it up and send to his wife with a message I hope she believed!

Sometimes I would get up in the morning and find one of them doing my dishes. That was a pleasant sight 🙂

Until tomorrow