Written 24 February 2018
On 11 November 1975, as a year 9 student, I was in a pitch battle with some of my friends and in a minority when we all heard that Gough had been dismissed from Government. I went to a catholic school which had luminaries of the labour party as old boys and future leaders of the ALP – as well as the liberal party. Yet I seemed to move with friends who were supportive of the decision.
You cannot but help be part of the environment in which you are brought up. The 1960s and 1970s had these quaint evenings called dinner parties and I would hover in my hall listening to mum and dad talk about Bob, Gough, Vietnam, feminism…. and this concept “It’s Time”.
In hindsight I see now that everyone was saying Bob was destined to become Prime Minister and I actually said it at the time and friends said don’t be silly. I have no idea how I became informed politically but somehow, I had a working knowledge and interest in following and understanding politics. I guess it was a combination of listening to mum and dad, watching the news and discussions at school.
University was a hot bed of left wing politics, probably more left wing than today with Lenin, Trotsky and communist groups and Marxist interpretations in all subject areas. I observed from a distance the student politics but never got involved. Gough Whitlam one day spoke to the student body from the Main Quad, but my highlight was at one of those university book fairs.
I was wandering around the different stalls and I looked in the Oxford stall and there was Gough with a glass of champagne in his hand. He saw my surprise and shock in my face and from a distance lifted his glass in a sign of cheers and mouthed hello. I never did get a chance to thank him for my university education.
I realise now that I was sort of involved in university politics. For most of my courses and each year I was nominated as the student representative for the different subjects I studied, though mainly in geography and education. This enabled me to organise social events, work with academics in different contexts and even got to have beers with the leaders of the Green Bans, Jack Monday.
My bookshelves have several books from the 1970 and 1980s which due to the politics of the era are mostly about labour politicians. My job though university was as a furniture removalist which required me to be heavily entrenched in the Transport Workers Union (TWU). All they talked about was Bob and how he would become Prime Minister. In my first school I was a very average union representative for 7 years not once being involved in a strike.
The idealism of the university days was tempered by the pragmatism of working in an independent school. The world of university is not like the world of work, though it took me a while to understand this after I found myself in some challenging discussions and situations.
I have been watching the ABC series on Bob and it is exactly how I remember it. The era was very different and somewhat unorthodox if my experience at the TWU was anything to go by. I am not sure if it is just a product of getting older, having a family, a mortgage and responsibilities but I have become more conservative over time.
Still one day I would like to meet Bob and thank him too.