PMs past–from my childhood to just recently

I have been reading David Day’s Chifley for a couple of weeks now. I am really enjoying it.

You think the Labor Party has problems now? Just spend a bit of time looking at how the Labor Party/Parties went in the 1930s! Fascinating stuff, and interesting also at the personal level as Chifley was an almost exact contemporary of my Grandfather Christison, was the first PM I actually remember, and issues raised in the book evoke things I heard discussed in the family and neighbourhood, much of which I had pretty much forgotten. Ben Chifley was a pretty admirable sort of bloke, even if at times some of his views – either individual views or those he shared with his peers – can’t be directly adopted in our own time. White Australia is one such view. But his orientation, his attitude to issues, and the contrast between him and the more fanatical Laborites, resonate still.

See the National Archives.

The Light on the Hill

“I have had the privilege of leading the Labour Party for nearly four years. They have not been easy times and it has not been an easy job. It is a man-killing job and would be impossible if it were not for the help of my colleagues and members of the movement.No Labour Minister or leader ever has an easy job. The urgency that rests behind the Labour movement, pushing it on to do things, to create new conditions, to reorganise the economy of the country, always means that the people who work within the Labour movement, people who lead, can never have an easy job. The job of the evangelist is never easy.Because of the turn of fortune’s wheel your Premier (Mr McGirr) and I have gained some prominence in the Labour movement. But the strength of the movement cannot come from us. We may make plans and pass legislation to help and direct the economy of the country. But the job of getting the things the people of the country want comes from the roots of the Labour movement – the people who support it.When I sat at a Labour meeting in the country with only ten or fifteen men there, I found a man sitting beside me who had been working in the Labour movement for fifty-four years. I have no doubt that many of you have been doing the same, not hoping for any advantage from the movement, not hoping for any personal gain, but because you believe in a movement that has been built up to bring better conditions to the people. Therefore, the success of the Labour Party at the next elections depends entirely, as it always has done, on the people who work.

I try to think of the Labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.

If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labour movement will be completely justified.

It does not matter about persons like me who have our limitations. I only hope that the generosity, kindliness and friendliness shown to me by thousands of my colleagues in the Labour movement will continue to be given to the movement and add zest to its work.”

– JB. Chifley in speech to the NSW Labor Party Conference, 12 June 1949.

See also Ben Chifley A Local Man, and a very interesting workshop on Australian Political Biography.

More recently…


I note Julia Gillard to end self-imposed exile at two public forums.

Julia Gillard is set to end her public silence in an interview with journalist Anne Summers at public forums at the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Town Hall in the next few weeks.

The 90-minute interviews will take place at the Opera House on September 30 and the Town Hall on October 1 and include 30 minutes of questions from the audience at each venue…

Ms Gillard has not been interviewed since a dignified appearance before the Canberra press gallery the night she was defeated by Mr Rudd in a caucus ballot.

She chose not to deflect any attention from Labor’s campaign for re-election by avoiding any media contact during the campaign period.

”I want to give Ms Gillard the opportunity to share with us what it was really like to be Australia’s first female prime minister, her proudest achievements in office, how she dealt with the harsh treatment by media and fellow politicians, and her feelings on being voted out of the job,” Dr Summers said on Tuesday.

”Ms Gillard served longer as prime minister than Gough Whitlam and she was our most productive leader, passing 590 pieces of legislation, including carbon pricing and DisabilityCare – despite leading a minority government. And she did so while enduring relentless vilification.

”It’s time to hear Julia Gillard speak for herself.”…

See also Julia Gillard: Why She’s So Easy to Hate and Gillard’s Place In The Labor Pantheon.