Monday, 14 April 2014

Politics: The phone call from Don 34 years ago that failed to launch my new career!

So.. as a young man growing up I was exposed to all sorts of influences in my world of politics. My father, a staunch conservative suggested I make my own mind up. Rather amazing when I look back on it now in hindsight!

The entire Whitlam campaign in 1972 totally mesmerised me.  Hell, I was only 19 and compared to what the conservatives were trotting out to sell us by way of our votes.. well he was miles in front. Back in 1972 I was too young to vote as the voting age was still 21. When I told my father how impressed I was with Gough and Labor.. well he glared at me and warned me of the "dangers" of having Gough as our leader. But the choice was crystal clear to me.. if only I could vote!

But sadly by 1975; I could see he was right! Watching our business suffer under runaway inflation and a whole lot of other issue.. it was time for a change.. again! But the alternative.. Malcolm Fraser just did nothing for me. At the time I thought he was a ruthless man, who would do anything to become Prime Minister of Australia. I remember having dinner at the Coorparoo home of my good friend Dr Ken Brand in early November 1975. Over dinner we discussed the blocking of supply; we both thought and agreed with each other that it wouldn't happen.

Well.. it did.

And to this day I still maintain and say it was hardly the Liberal party's finest hour!

Poor show all around in my opinion!

So.. the day after the 1975 election I am sitting on a QANTAS 707 in Nadi and we're waiting for the stairs to be removed from the side of the aeroplane. To fill in time, the Captain says, "Ladies and gentlemen, you would not believe what is going on outside our aeroplane at the moment. The stair truck is stuck and so are we. And if you haven't heard the news already, the Whitlam Government was defeated in a landslide at yesterday's federal election at home."

And so it came to pass that Malcolm Fraser was going to "Turn on the lights!" Do you remember that? The Liberal campaign was built around that phrase. Three years later my dad exclaimed in frustration that, "Fraser couldn't find the bloody matches!"

And so we drifted through the late seventies with Malcolm at the helm, not doing much to sort out any problems and to me at least, looking more and more like an Easter Island statue every day.

Then one day I pick up the paper.. the headline reads, "Good Bye Mr Chipp" Don Chipp had resigned from the Liberal party and had a better idea. The Chippocrats were born!

So tell me all about it Don! He was coming to Brisbane so I asked if I could meet with him! Of course you can..  and it came to pass that I spent a couple of hours with him.. and found a new place for my political ideology. (Of course what I didn't know then was that the Democrats would eventually head to the left at high speed.. and away from my values) So I joined the Brisbane Central Branch of the Australian Democrats about the same time as Cheryl Kernot also joined. Meetings were held in member's homes. Cheryl's at Paddington and sometimes mine at Wavell Heights. Things are cruising along, I agree with most of their policies and the 1980 state election is coming. Mike West the candidate for the then seat of Toowong suggests I run for Everton. It was then held by Glen Miliner for the ALP. He was the son of Senator Bert Milliner.

My answer was simple. "No way Mike! I am only 27 and don't know anything." (Some might say nothing has changed)

About a week later I am watching Carson's Law with my now ex wife when the phone rings. She answers it and says.. "Don Chipp is on the phone for you."


"No.. really"

"Hello Senator.. how are you? Fine Mark; do you know why I am calling?"

So.. the Australian Democrats had a new candidate for Everton.. me!

Boy was I unprepared for that. The only thing that went to plan was Don launching my campaign at a gala dinner at the Gaythorne RSL. He was brilliant.

Me.. er.. not so much! I remember talking about lots of stuff... some members of the Party thought that Terry Lewis, our top cop was corrupt and wanted me to say we would investigate the Police force. I wouldn't have a bar of that.. I knew the family!

Like I said.. I didn't know much!

Me launching my non career as a state politician.

In the middle of the campaign the abortion issue came up and I received a stack of letters from "Concerned Catholics" in the electorate about my views on this after Rosmary Kyburz made it an issue in the State Parliament. So.. I told them what I really thought.. not what they wanted to hear.

That went down well! Not!

At a barbecue fund raiser... me, Senator Michael Macklin, Cheryl Kernot and Senator Don Chipp.

Weekends spent letterbox dropping junk mail, my election posters being vandalised.. at least I had a moustache.. they couldn't draw one on. Got lots of devil's horns though!

After the polling booths closed, this exhausted trainee politician was so sunburnt and exhausted that I was in bed by 7:00 PM.

A good number that.. 7! If only I had polled that many votes! As it turned out I hardly made a dent in the electorate..  I polled, 6.1% or something like that.

It was an interesting experience. Especially in the old 3 corner contests where the AlP, the Liberals and the Nationals all went head to head. Not a lot of room left for minor parties.

Once Don retired.. well Don's Party was over really. He was a man of high principles in my opinion and he often asked of the public.. "Am I right in my beliefs, or am I a crazy Don Quixote tilting at windmills?"

Senator.. wherever  you are now.. you weren't tilting at windmills, you had a dream to keep the bastards honest. It was a noble cause. Rest easy mate.

And thanks for the experience!

No comments:

Post a Comment