Brown Study

Brown Study

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

Troy Bramston (‘Gorton vs McMahon: the secret memo’ 30 August) joins a long line of journalists who keep repeating the official story of how John Gorton ceased to be Prime Minister of Australia in 1971, in the course of a moving narrative that culminates in Gorton’s Roman suicide by using his casting vote against himself. I suppose you can’t blame them, but they should try to get the story right. The first event in the mythicised version is that in March 1971 there was ‘a party room vote of no-confidence in Gorton’s leadership’. That is not correct.

There was never a motion of no-confidence proposed in Gorton; the lesser men who were undermining him were too shifty and cowardly for that. So, one of his supporters, Alan Jarman, moved a motion of confidence, not no-confidence, in him. Bramston then says that when the vote was tied Gorton cast a ballot against himself. In fact, when the whip, Max Fox, announced that the votes were tied, Gorton said: ‘That is not a majority. The party will have to find another leader.’

So the vote remained where it was: a draw. Third, Bramston then adds his own touch: ‘He cast a vote as chairman (which was in breach of the rules) against himself.’ Gorton did not cast a second vote as chairman. But had he cast a vote it would not have been in breach of the rules because there were no rules. After the ballot, David Hamer went to the whip and asked for the rules, was told there were none and started a campaign to make some. (see also Peter Kelly, Bottom Drawer).

Did you notice how quickly the media fell into line when Bill Shorten said there were to be no more questions and answers on the rape allegations against him? It is certainly a rare privilege for a public figure to be able to announce that an issue is dead and that there will be no more discussion of it. You can imagine how this plea would have been laughed off the front page had it been made by anyone other than a darling of the left media establishment. The argument would have been: ‘something must have happened; where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so we should have a judicial inquiry into it.’ But, luckily for Mr Shorten, he is not subject to that degree of scrutiny.


Speaking of Shorten, he certainly made a place for himself in the annals of rigorous strategic and economic analysis with his razor sharp assessment of Australia’s plan to acquire new submarines: ‘The ALP will build our submarines in Australia because we love this country.’

I hope we all do, but should the purchase of a fleet of such monumentally expensive war machines be determined solely by the most ephemeral emotion of all? No doubt Shorten’s next policy will be that our sailors should undertake anger management training to keep the love flowing.

Also, I have drawn your attention to the new ways that governments have adopted to waste our money. The massive East West tunnel and freeway project in Melbourne has got off to a bad start in that regard by the government announcement that East West Connect is the ‘preferred tenderer’, so all the others can go home. I could not think of anything sillier to say of a multi-billion dollar contract where there is no contract signed, but the lucky bidder now knows the government will have to agree to its price and conditions, whatever they are. Why not have two or three finalists and make them really compete on the final price? As things are now, get ready for a big price hike. The East West project has also produced another avenue for wasting money: two trendy councils, Yarra and Moreland, are spending a fortune on supporting court action by the sandals brigade (which they will lose) to stop this much needed project, as well as a wasteful PR and advertising campaign.

The state government, of course, will not stop this nonsense, so the commonwealth should deduct this expenditure from its local government handouts. Also, this would be a good time to introduce a new reform that does not need legislation; no federal money if the contractors contribute to a union slush fund. Meanwhile the waste of public money has gone into the silk class at the Melbourne City Council where, wait for it, the Council now pays for QCs (going rate, $5 -7000 a day) to prosecute traffic fines in the magistrates’ court. Apparently the big brass is rolled out to intimidate defendants pleading not guilty.

All the world, it appears, is adrift, internationally, with some hideous forces at work. But at least we have a government that assesses these issues correctly, looks at factors apart from love and has the backbone to use military power when needed. It is very reassuring.

But I am worried about one aspect of the campaign to free the world of the ghastly caliphate and all its works. At the time of press, I am still waiting to hear what contribution the Arab states will make to their own defence (so far, none) and what the Europeans will chip in (so far, 40 soldiers from Germany and lots of talk). Australia is rapidly becoming a respected world power, but others seem to have a death wish by doing nothing.

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