John Howard, Historian Of Menzies, Addresses National Press Club

Ahead of the broadcast of his television documentary on Sir Robert Menzies, former prime minister John Howard has addressed the National Press Club.


It was Howard’s 40th appearance at the Canberra press club. The documentary on Menzies will be shown on ABC television at the end of this month.

Howard spoke about the Menzies period but also commented on contemporary politics.

He said Senator Sam Dastyari had become a liability for the ALP. He also warned the major parties against embracing identity politics and cautioned against too much legislative interference in political donations. [Read more…]

Turnbull Now 23rd Longest-Serving Prime Minister

Malcolm Turnbull is now Australia’s 23rd longest-serving prime minister.

TurnbullTurnbull is the nation’s 29th Prime Minister. Whilst he has not yet reached a year in office, he has surpassed the terms of 6 of the other 28 who have held the office since 1901.

Turnbull has been prime minister for 10 months and 18 days, a total of 324 days. After overthrowing Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party leadership ballot on September 14, 2015, he was sworn in as PM on September 15.

If Turnbull is still Prime Minister on December 9 this year, he will overtake Joseph Cook’s 452 days in office. Cook’s Liberal Party won office in 1913 with a majority of one, as Turnbull has just achieved. He went to a double dissolution election less than halfway into his term and was comfortably defeated by the ALP’s Andrew Fisher, who then became the second man to serve three terms in the top job.

Turnbull has overtaken the time in office of 2 Labor and 4 non-Labor PMs: Frank Forde (ALP, 8 days), Earle Page (Country Party, 20 days), John McEwen (Country Party, 23 days), Arthur Fadden (Country Party, 39 days), Chris Watson (ALP, 113 days) and George Reid (Free Trade, 321 days). [Read more…]

The Myth Of The Ten-Week Election Campaign In 1984

A popular view of the 1984 Federal Election is that Bob Hawke and the ALP suffered a swing against them because of the “long ten-week campaign”.

In just the past few weeks, as speculation about Malcolm Turnbull’s intentions has grown, the claim has been made repeatedly.


Monash University academic Nick Economou said Hawke “called an election that ran for ten weeks”.

The estimable William Bowe, in Crikey, referred to “the 10-week marathon” in 1984.

Writing in Fairfax Media, Michael Gordon discussed “Bob Hawke’s experience in 1984, when he went into a 10-week campaign with soaring approval ratings and suffered a 2 per cent swing and lost a swag of seats.” [Read more…]

On This Day In 1966: Menzies Retires, Holt Government Takes Office

Having announced his retirement on January 20, Sir Robert Menzies officially departed the prime ministership on this day in 1966. Harold Holt’s first ministry was sworn in at the same time.

It was a historic moment 50 years ago that brought to an end the political career of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. Menzies had been Prime Minister for two years between April 1939 and August 1941. He formed the Liberal Party in 1944 and served for six years as Opposition Leader before defeating the Chifley Labor government in December 1949.

Menzies went on to win six more elections in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961 and 1963. When he retired, he had been prime minister for 16 years and 5 weeks.


Harold Holt took office at the age of 57 with a ministerial career that had started 26 years earlier. He had first served under Menzies in 1940 and had been Treasurer since 1958. [Read more…]

Barry Jones: Whitlam’s Vision Of Social Democracy – Parliament And Party

This is a paper presented by Barry Jones at a symposium conducted by the Whitlam Institute.

The symposium was titled: Gough Whitlam and the Social Democratic Imagination: the challenge for contemporary public policy.

Barry Jones was a Victorian state member of parliament (MLA Melbourne 1972-77) and then the federal member for Lalor (1977-98). He was Minister for Science and Technology in the Hawke government between 1983 and 1990.

Jones’ paper is notable for its pessimism about the capacity of the ALP to tackle contemporary public policy issues. He says that Gough Whitlam, Don Dunstan, Lionel Murphy and Jim Cairns were “the figures that changed the face of the ALP” in the 1960s and 1970s. He instances powerful figures of the Bob Hawke era, such as Bill Hayden, Mick Young and Kim Beazley, as well as Clyde Cameron. In this decade, however, Jones doubts that we could “identify nine current Labor politicians with equivalent intellectual power and persistence. [Read more…]

Abbott On The Liberal Party’s 70th Anniversary

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has used his weekly video message to remember the 70th anniversary of the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party was founded in 1944, following conferences in Canberra and Albury that were convened by Robert Menzies. Menzies was a former leader of the United Australia Party (UAP). He had been effectively deposed from the party’s leadership in 1941. The UAP collapsed in the aftermath of its landslide defeat in the 1943 election. [Read more…]

Mungo MacCallum Not Dead

Some journalists took to Twitter today to tell us Mungo MacCallum was dead, but he wasn’t and isn’t.

Still, any excuse to remember one of my favourite Mungo pieces. It appeared in Nation Review on December 27, 1974.

It was a month after Malcolm Fraser had failed to dislodge Bill Snedden from the Liberal leadership. It’s easy to see leadership changes as inevitable in retrospect, but foretelling the future is fraught at the best of times. [Read more…]