Modest Expectations – Winchester

Bill Hayden

I cannot let the death of Bill Hayden pass without acknowledging this great Australian. Having read the Savva obituary, I can’t top hers. Having spent most of my political life as defender of the medical profession, I barely knew Bill Hayden as more than a courteous opponent. He won the Federal seat of Oxley in 1961 with a swing of 9.4 per cent from the father of a great friend of mine, both of whom were distinguished doctors. Dr Donald Cameron, who had been the Minister of Health under Menzies and had held the seat from 1949, had held the seat comfortably until challenged by Hayden. His insights, particularly his promotion of Deeble and Scotton, the “engine room” of the reform in health financing of this country precipitated by the Nimmo Report in 1969, was masterful.

He was one of the only senior Australian politicians to stand up to the Americans, since every politician was aware of the unseen hand they had played in the removal of Whitlam. Nobody has ever accused them of interfering in the removal of Hayden just before the 1983 election, but Richardson had tunnels everywhere. And one into the American embassy would not have surprised me.

In the 1980s, when I was still connected to the Australian Medical Association, some parts of the medical profession objected to the tone of a speech he gave to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians whilst Governor-General. I strongly defended Hayden’s stance in letters to the Press.

Some time later I was invited with my wife to dinner at Admiralty House. It was one of those dinners where, even with Bill, privilege dripped from the ceiling.

I never spoke to him again, but my admiration grew as I experienced what he had wrought, and which Neil Blewitt consolidated. It is a pity that their successors have not been up to the task of maintaining the scheme in the way it was devised and let in a succession of interfering bureaucrats who, for all their bluster, were incompetent and knew bugger-all about health. 

Andy Beshear

In December 2021, the Western Kentucky tornado directly killed 57 people and resulted in injuries to between 508 and 533 people. The toll makes it the deadliest tornado ever recorded in the United States in the month of December, in addition to being the deadliest tornado since 2011.

Andy Beshear

In writing a piece in a blog soon after on 17 December, I wrote the following as an exemplar of charismatic leadership. The exemplar I used was the then recently elected Governor Andy Beshear. 

As I was exploring this topic, I tuned into the Kentucky disaster, and noted immediately the decisive compassionate leadership being shown by the Governor, Andy Beshear. He so clearly demonstrates the qualities of the charismatic leader. It is hoped that he has the moral compass to keep going with it. His demonstration of charismatic leadership and his deft and rapid transfer of the reconstruction of his State to his relevant authorities will serve as a model.

My bias is that of a person who lived through the 60s, I believe Beshear will take a national leadership role at some point. He reminds me of Robert Kennedy. I hope his life is not cut short and he does not become a fallen idol, as have a number of people of promise who have not been able to define a successful leadership style.

Andy Beshear is a Democrat who retained his governorship recently in a State where Trump won by 26 points in 2000; and he has to deal with two houses of government, which are overwhelmingly Republican such as they can override the governor’s veto by a “supermajority”.

Like the Kennedys, he has a refreshing assertiveness, which I remember so clearly as a young man, when I thought John Kennedy would lead us into a new world after he faced Krushchev down over the Cuban missile crisis.

Then the world descended into darkness, when both Jack and Robert were assassinated, and over the next 40 years, the Americans were defeated in every war they pursued while they spent more and more on the armed forces.

Jack Kennedy followed Dwight Eisenhower who, during his last term, was sick and at times his Vice-President, Richard Nixon stepped in. Eisenhower, when he vacated office, was nearly 70, and that in 1961, was long before the mantra “seventy is the new fifty” became fashionable.

By the end of his second term. Eisenhower was thus a sick man. Biden is perceived as such if in a different manner, and when he stood for a second term, Eisenhower was considered well enough for another four years.

Eisenhower did not like Nixon, but he did not have the strength to get rid of him. Unlike Trump, Nixon was intelligent, and while he played “dirty” and was found guilty of criminal behaviour, he was not mad as Trump is.

I believe Biden is not electable, irrespective of his Republican opponent. He looks old. He moves like an old man; and the closer to the election, the more his obvious age will alienate the electorate. The Israeli War will age him further, because the stance that he has taken to humour two per cent of the American population, the increasing genocide being undertaken by the Israelis will be harder and harder to justify to the US to continue the level of both moral and financial support. Netanyahu is playing his normal game, and banking on the US not removing its support.

Everything in the US political scene appears toxic and, if not toxic, so very stale.

I’ve expressed my admiration for both the Michigan Governor, Gretchen Widmer, and Senator Amy Klobucher from Minnesota as Presidential material. At this time, the failure of Hillary Clinton to beat Trump in 2016 has left raw areas, because Trump plays on the “jock” side of American masculinity. Even though Widmer has stood up in Michigan and Klobucher comes from a prairie state, I doubt they can win because of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous performance.

However Beshear, by retaining the Governorship of a State which voted heavily for Trump, demonstrates his electability. The advantage he has is that he is on the crest of a wave; and the polls should show very quickly his strength with the electorate. America is ready to dump old men; but first Biden must graciously quit once Beshear gains momentum.

Andy Beshear is a member of a Protestant church, certainly within the evangelical diaspora, but like the Kennedys who were ostensibly burdened with Roman Catholicism, he can clearly separate church from state considerations.

So Biden, do the right thing, but unfortunately he’s so consumed by his own ego he won’t step down graciously, thus imperilling America. Everyone knows his Vice-President is unelectable. Not because she does not have the requisite ability but Hillary Clinton, with her cold personality and her great intelligence, coated with political ineptitude has made it very difficult for a woman to be elected.  Until Beshear emerged, my preferences were two very strong women of integrity.

But it’s up to a very old man being bullied into submission by a criminal, Here Netanyahu and Trump are interchangeable names.

The “Liberal Republican”

Nelson Rockefeller – a true Liberal Republican

I wrote the following some fifty years ago as a private reflection. It was never published because political staffers were paid for advice and loyalty to your boss and not for showboating. I discovered it when I was going through my papers. I was using the US Republican when there was a Liberal wing, with such people as Nelson Rockefeller and Earl Warren. After all, Lincoln was also a Republican. It was a time, a brief time admittedly, when the Liberal Coalition had lost after 23 years, and a few pretended to embrace liberal social positions.

This was my rather sceptical assessment at the time, and even if I say it myself, I was not too far away from the mark then, especially when viewed from a couple of generations on. Notice the use of “he”.

A Liberal Republican claims that he is the bearer of the Liberal tradition. At that time, the world is affluent; the governing elders are out of time.

All slick – all gloss – all façade. The issues are canvassed. When he talks, he replies in fore-owned sentences; when he is photographed, the right colours are chosen; the clothes are just matched; when he is “featured”, the family hovers against a prepared Australian background. When he relaxes, he is suitably self-deprecating about his sporting skills. 

Maybe mix a little – rub with others who have also been gilded with the Liberal tradition. Public relations experts ensure that he is never lonely.

Pilgrimages to be made – self-indulgent gestures to be made – it is allowed in the game – when the world is affluent.

The Liberal tradition becomes a pair of sunglasses ensuring that all that penetrates has the right tinted polarity. No glare.

It is also an important ingredient that the party leadership at the time is growing acceptably old – age is considered a synonym for old fashioned. Whereas you are the young and who else is to inherit?

Words like “conservatism” or “facts” or “consumerism” or “trendy” or “community” or small “l” or “socio-economic” or “equality” substitute for meaning. Rhetoric is when the leaders are retiring to their rhododendrons or golf courses; and when the world is affluent. 

But the world darkens; private enterprise suffers. The suffering deepens. The economy becomes sprinkled – unemployment – inflation – stagnation – stagflation. Arcadian visions vanish – gloom pervades. The sunglasses come off.

Liberal tradition what may I ask? The questioner is trampled by the mob who are shedding their clothes of Liberalism for the stronger colours of conservatism, or the more politically myopic who do not know where to stop the harsh colours of reaction.

Impressionism is out; realism is in. Essential to be pragmatic. The rhetoric of the left is forsworn. Everybody is still progressive, although progressive means that the sun moves from east to west. Illusion for change. 

The Liberals – those who still want to dismantle privilege and seek the rights of equality to be distributed evenly, find that the overloaded wagon of a time before has an almost empty shell. Liberals do not exist in this situation. The remaining must be the stooges on the left.

Socialist – destroyers of private enterprise. No, they are not. All they are is consistent. All the non-Labor side of the spectrum needs is for people who profess Liberalism to remain Liberals. Not just use the rhetoric and as soon as difficulties arise flee. 

These vacillators are the Liberal Republicans. They case their fortunes all over the political spectrum. They stand for nothing. They besmirch the Liberal. They destroy the consistency of belief patterns which evolve according to personal revelation not due to some rule of political survival.

Otherwise, how the hell can the person in the street ever feel that his politician means anything more than the guy who may ensure that your pension cheque is removed from a fouled-up system as a special favour, or is just a pretty face in your letter-box at election time?

Pretty face is a bit extreme! And for some reason so many years later I am reminded of the Peter Sarstedt song, “Where do you go to, my lovely.”

I remember Piping Lane

The two-mile thoroughbred race is Australia’s equivalent of Britain’s Grand National or America’s Kentucky Derby, capturing the world’s attention for the three-and-a-half minute spectacle.  BBC


The Melbourne Cup has always been part of my life. I remember that for three years in a row my mother who bet on no other day of the year would have two bob on a horse in The Cup. She would bet through her sister, who was very keen on racing and would lay bets with the “SP bookie” generally found in the lane behind the local pub. She won by betting on Russia (1946), Hiraji (1947) and Rimfire (1948).

The first Melbourne Cup I really remember was in 1950, when Comic Court with a big weight led all the way. He was ridden by Pat Glennon because his regular jockey, Jack Purtell preferred to ride the Cup favourite, Alister. Comic Court was a five year old and trained by Bart Cummings’ father, Jim Cummings, who had started his equine relationship as a horse breaker in the Northern Territory before becoming a trainer. Amazing how much trivia lodges in a small boy’s brain.

I have always pondered why the Melbourne Cup attracted so much attention, even before it became an excuse for getting drunk on cheap champagne and for others to display their wealth and snobbery and as a parade of fashions.

The fact is that it has been a holiday since 1873, at a time of great wealth in Victoria because of the gold. The actual Melbourne Cup is made of solid gold even now. It fills in a gap of the holiday calendar, being always on the first Tuesday in November. The immutability of the date I believe cemented its uniqueness – because whatever ever happens on a Tuesday?

I dislike the way Cup Day has evolved, but horse racing despite the obscene prize money is slowly dying. Once, it existed for people to bet when there were few opportunities to legally wager. The racecourse was the haven for betting legally until off-course betting in Victoria was legalised in 1961 and thereafter in all States. Betting is now so pervasive that the betting industry does not really need live animals.  Facsimiles will do, because when all is said and done trying to intellectualise an industry where there is none will take some minor tipping point to send it completely into Tombstone Territory.

Jean Shrimpton

I genuinely enjoy horse racing; I no longer bet.  I used to go to the Melbourne Cup. I was there the day Jean Shrimpton, the English model, was “unveiled”. Little did we realise that she was the harbinger of the times to come when the fashionistas and the moveable “celebrity trade” took the Cup away from the people – the Cup sweep being the symbol of this connection with the people.

The Cup once did not require sponsorship; polls suggest that most people, especially the young, have lost interest; then there has been rise of those who proclaim that horse racing is barbaric. As one public relations guru, after this Year’s Cup, published in the Guardian stated “… then you add to that the very topical issue of the cost of living crisis. You can see the lavish excess of the event might be considered inappropriate.”

The wariness of sponsorships may begin to define that tipping point.

The reference to Piping Lane – I backed it in the 1972 Cup at 66/1. There is a backstory to this, but I’ll leave it to another blog. But let me say, one of those most vicarious pleasures I have experienced is to back a winner at long odds – and in the 1972 Melbourne Cup with that winner I almost emulated the price of Rimfire which my mother backed in 1948 at 80/1.

Mouse whisper

I don’t know what to whisper this week. I watched a 1950s film depicting the life of James Herriot who spent 50 years as a Yorkshire vet. The leading lady, Lisa Harrow was a beautiful actor born in New Zealand, who had a child at about that time with Sam Neill.

Or should I write about the Pope who transformed Rome. At the beginning of the 16th century, Rome was a very dilapidated city. The Pope, Pius III had just died 26 days after election. The newly-elected pope, Julius II, a megalomaniac with the sobriquet papa terribile, who enlisted the Italian alum baron and the German copper baron in funding this revitalisation. This was the time of Michelangelo and the Sistine chapel ceiling.

Or finally, do I write about the difference between “pickaroon”, “picaresque” and “picayune”? Perhaps along these picturesque lines

In the picaresque manner, our hero wielding a pickaroon made short shrift of the picayune politicians leaving them in quite a pickle.

What a dilemma about whom and what to whisper!