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Politics at the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup, the so-called “race that stops a nation”, will be run for the 150th time today.

Such is the pull of this sporting event that it takes precedence over other events and institutions. For instance, the days are long gone when the Federal Parliament met on Melbourne Cup day.


Yesterday, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, visited the Governor to set in train the November 27 election. The writs are officially issued today and the government goes into caretaker mode but Brumby would have received next to no media coverage if he’d made the vice-regal call today.

The Federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is at Flemington today, his first visit since becoming Liberal leader last year. For politicians, the Melbourne Cup is a place to be seen.

But the 1977 Melbourne Cup is the gold standard for political aficionados. Just two years since the dismissal of the Whitlam government on November 11, 1975, the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, made a drunken farewell appearance to present the Cup to the connections of Gold and Black. The horse was trained by Bart Cummings and ridden by John Duggan.

During his presentation of the cup, Kerr was heckled and booed by the crowd. The memories of the dismissal were still raw.

  • Listen to Kerr’s 1977 Cup presentation:
  • Watch Kerr (2m)

Sir John Kerr at the 1977 Melbourne Cup

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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