Lem Johns, LBJ Bodyguard, Dies; Witness To JFK Assassination, Spattered With Paint In Australia

Lem Johns, the United States Secret Service agent who was spattered with paint during President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to Australia in 1966, has died, at the age of 88.

Johns, with his right hand raised, can be seen in the picture below on the right hand side of Johnson’s limousine. The incident occurred during a demonstration in Melbourne.


Johnson’s visit in October 1966 came just one month before the federal election of November 26. The election was conducted amidst vigorous public debate about Australia’s commitment of conscripted troops to the war in Vietnam. [Read more…]

Rudd Meets With Vietnamese Prime Minister

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has met with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, in Canberra.

The two leaders held a joint press conference this morning.

  • Click the Play button to listen to the press conference (35m)

Transcript of Joint Press Conference with His Excellency Mr Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Prime Minister’s Courtyard, Parliament House.

RUDD: The Prime Minister of Vietnam, Prime Minister Dung, will make some remarks and then as is the custom, we’ll invite a couple of questions each from the Australian side and from the Vietnamese side. [Read more…]

Costello Hints At Benefits Of Deputies Taking On The Top Job

The Treasurer, Peter Costello, says that the elevation of a deputy leader to the leader’s position allows a government to regenerate and pursue new policy directions.

Peter Costello, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Member for HigginsLaunching a biography by Tom Frame of former Prime Minister Harold Holt, Costello said “when Holt became Prime Minister the Government had the opportunity to reconsider options that had previously been considered and rejected.”

After 10 years as deputy, Holt became Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister in January 1966, following the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies who had held the office for 16 years. He disappeared in the surf at Portsea on December 19, 1967. [Read more…]

Alexander Downer: Earle Page Politics Speech

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, has delivered a speech on Australian foreign policy and politics at the University of New England in Armidale.

Downer gave the Earle Page College’s Annual Politics Dinner speech. [Read more…]

General Peter Cosgrove’s Address To The National Press Club

The Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove, has conceded that “in retrospect” Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War of the 1960s “was not going to be successful”.

Cosgrove Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra, Cosgrove said: “It was simply not going to work, and therefore with 20/20 hindsight we probably shouldn’t have gone.”

Cosgrove did not acknowledge that the war was immoral in any way, claiming simply that “at the time I’m very clear that the majority of Australians thought we should be there, and it was only as a very widespread public reaction started to persuade the government of the day that it was, and the alternative government, that we shouldn’t be there, that the mood changed.”

Cosgrove ignored the strong body of opinion, including the then Labor Opposition, that had been opposed to the war at the time Australia’s commitment was announced by the Menzies Government. He said: “The men and women who were there of course performed magnificently, and I think, felt, a little abandoned by such a sharp swing in the public opinion which was never really about them, but was about the overall political reasons why we were there in the first place.” [Read more…]

Arthur Calwell Responds To The Menzies Government’s Military Commitment To South Vietnam

Arthur Calwell, the ALP Leader of the Opposition, announced the ALP’s opposition to the commitment of troops to South Vietnam in a speech to the House of Representatives on May 4, 1965.

Don Watson, speech writer for prime minister Paul Keating, described Calwell’s speech in these words:

“Among Australian speeches, Arthur Calwell’s 1965 speech in which he declared Labor’s opposition to the war in Vietnam stands out. The speech, when I last read it, seemed to have something of the sinewy intelligence and courage that FDR’s speech had. It is not eloquent for the sake of eloquence, but in proportion to the argument and the conviction that underlies it. Graham Freudenberg built it on a proposition, not a political convenience; that is why it is free of both cliche and condescension and the phrases still ring long after we have ceased to care about the subject. Speeches like this are rarely written nowadays because the political climate does not allow of much intellectual effort or, in general, politicians of much character. Perhaps they should bear in mind that while Labor lost the election that year it did help them grow a spine and eventually they won because of it.”

The Age

Speech by Arthur Calwell, Leader of the Opposition, to the House of Representatives.

CalwellMr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) – The Government’s decision to send the First Battalion of the Australian Regular Army to Vietnam is, without question, one of the most significant events in the history of this Commonwealth. Why I believe this will be explained in the course of my speech. Therefore, it is a matter for regret that the Prime Minister’s announcement was made in the atmosphere that prevailed around the precincts of this Parliament last Thursday. When one recalls that even two hours before the Prime Minister rose to make his statement it was being said on his behalf that there was no certainty that any statement would be made at all, it can hardly be said that the Government’s handling of the matter was designed to inspire confidence or trust. [Read more…]

Sir Robert Menzies Announces Military Commitment To South Vietnam

Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies announced his government’s military commitment to South Vietnam in a speech to the House of Representatives on April 29, 1965.

Menzies said the government would provide an infantry batallion. He said: “The Australian Government is now in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance.”

Menzies said the commitment had been made “after close consultation with the government of the United States”.

The Menzies government first provided assistance to South Vietnam in 1962 when it sent 30 military instructors to provide military training assistance. [Read more…]