Keating’s pointscoring unfair to Menzies and a disservice to history

Today in The Australian:

Paul Keating’s attack on Robert Menzies is merely the latest episode in the politicisation of Australian history. Lost in that attack, which seeks to portray Menzies as an appeaser who would have left Australia undefended in World War II, is even the slightest pretence of historical accuracy.

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
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53 Responses to Keating’s pointscoring unfair to Menzies and a disservice to history

  1. iain russell

    Keating is a knuckle-dogging, Neanderthal; a harsh reminder of the hate-filled Irish-Catholic bigotry which has poisoned this land for so many years. Shun him.

  2. stackja

    Just more ALP ‘history’.

  3. nemkat

    Labor likes to forget that it was the Government during the War in the Pacific.
    The Yanks had to occupy the Country for 3 years to prevent them handing the keys to Japan.
    Here’s a brief rundown of Curtin’s changing Defence Policies:
    1. The Brisbane Line- a line from Nambour to Geraldton would be defended, the North could go whistle.
    2. The Newcastle to Whyalla line…
    3. Once the Jap fleet appeared off Sydney and Melbourne, the Authorities would empty those cities and burn them to the ground. Residents would ”live off the land”.
    Little wonder Curtin’s ”appeal to America” was considered treachery by the Americans.

  4. Mother Lode

    A lot of people seem to think that Keating was some kind of lion in debates.

    Yet it always seems to come down to his vituperation and abusive invention.

    If such a thing had any impact in debates, then it would be that people with a rational point were humiliated into silence – that is, rational and germane thoughts were silenced and replaced by malice.

    If his insults did not have an influence then they were were superfluous and merely added unpleasantness.

    I always thought he should be on a stage somewhere using his particular blend of bile and spleen in hecklers.

    We should leave him in his hollow rooms with his French clocks listening to his time ticking away. Eventually I expect he will slip entirely into dotage, rambling most times but occasionally mounting to a crescendo of impenetrable rage, and his reputation for repartee will be diminished.

    The dick head.

  5. cui bono

    PK should read up about union behaviour in WW2, before he starts throwing barbs at the ‘Tories’.

  6. H B Bear

    Is there anything more ex than an ex-PM?

    Particularly this one.

  7. NB

    The left always need to re-write the past, otherwise no-one would bother with them. Oh, and did I see someone called Paul Keating vituperating in the shadow of Bob Hawke?

  8. Tim Neilson

    Keating liked to boast about his “special relationship” with the murderous kleptocratic dictator Suharto.

    And he was right.

    Suharto only had one arse so there was only room for one tongue, so Keating’s relationship with him wasn’t just special, it was unique.

  9. Robbo

    Keating has always been a nasty little piece of shit and as he gets older he gets nastier. That is probably because he finds that fewer and fewer people find him interesting or all that smart. Keating’s time was over a long time ago and everybody knows that with the sole exception of Keating.

  10. C.L.

    Pretty funny coming from a man whose father dodged WWII service.
    Keating has always been an imbecile when it comes to history. The Japanese had no intention and no capacity to invade Australia.

  11. Habib

    Keating was one of the main reasons I walked away from Labor, so I can thank the odious, microcephalic failure for one thing at least. The ALP is now full of fuckers just like him, who admire his vindictive pettiness and lack of acumen in any field. I generally enjoy it when an ex politician finally and involuntarily stops picking my pocket, I’m on the pop big time when that c*@t pops his clogs.

  12. Rabz

    keating was always a loathsome z-grade imbecile with a massive chip on his shoulder, hence his preposterous pretentiousness and delusions of grandeur.

    The relevance deprivation syndrome must really be getting to him.

  13. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    The Japanese had no intention and no capacity to invade Australia.

    Partly the situation – the Japanese Navy produced two plans for the invasion of Australia, to prevent the Americans using Australia as a base. The Army rejected both plans – they calculated they would need between nine and twelve divisions to occupy the country, which would have to be redeployed from Manchuria or China, which they didn’t want to do, and half a million tons of merchant shipping to transport and resupply those divisions, which they couldn’t allocate.

  14. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    1. The Brisbane Line- a line from Nambour to Geraldton would be defended, the North could go whistle.

    Bullshit. A course of action never even seriously considered, let alone adopted.

  15. classical_hero

    Stop feeding the trolls.

  16. testpattern

    ‘never even seriously considered’

    ‘Public awareness of the alleged plan was raised when General Douglas MacArthur referred to it during a press conference in March 1943…

    In his memoir, Reminiscences, MacArthur claims that the Australian military had proposed designating a line roughly following the Darling River as the focus of defence during the inevitable Japanese invasion of Australia’

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisbane_Line

    1942. Had Japan invaded Canberra would have surrendered the Kimberleys.

    ‘Canberra 11 March 1942

    Secret

    830 Broome and Wyndam Defence Measures

    The Chiefs of Staff furnished the following information regarding defence measures at Broome and Wyndham

    Broome is an advanced refuelling station for the RAAF. It has no RDF equipment. A small VDC unit [approx 100] is stationed at both Broome and Wyndham. Communications at Wyndham are almost non existent. Darwin is a more important base and it is preferable to concentrate the forces there.’

    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=924923&S=1

  17. Ivan Denisovich

    Hal Colebatch:

    It is unfortunate that a man who has held the office of Prime Minister like Paul Keating does not exhibit a greater acquaintance with history and the truth in his wild and insulting attack on Sir Robert Menzies. Menzies was by any reckoning Australia’s greatest Prime Minister and a brave and resolute leader in the darkest days of World War II, when the British Empire stood alone against Nazism.

    As I made clear in my book Australia’s Secret War (Quadrant Books, order it here), the Labor Party at the outbreak of war attacked the war effort in every way. It opposed conscription even for home defence, let alone sending troops overseas, and opposed the compiling of a war-book organising Australia’s assets. Labor front-bencher Eddie Ward called Australian servicemen “four bob a day murderers” and encouraged strikes in vital defence industries.

    Two days after the outbreak of World War II the Australian Labor Party Executive passed a resolution, endorsed unanimously by Caucus, which was evidently intended to bring Hitler and the Panzer divisions smashing into Poland smartly to heel without the necessity of further exertion. It began: “The Australian Labor Party affirms its traditional horror of war and its belief that international disputes should be settled by negotiation.”

    Unfortunately, any heart-searching or second thoughts which this ringing declaration caused at Fuhrer Headquarters or the Oberkommando Wehrmacht seems to have so far escaped the attention of historians.

    Labour and union strikes during the war in coal-mines, the waterfront, ship-building and repairs and in other vital industries would cost the hideously ironic figure of 6,000,000 working days directly lost from the war-effort, with days indirectly lost through flow-on stops to production a multiple of that. One example of the effect on Australia’s wartime production was that it sometimes took longer to build a corvette in Australia than an aircraft-carrier in America.

    Keating calls Menzies cowardly and defeatist

    Here is the actual record of what Menzies said at the most crucial moments in this dark period. It shows a virtually Churchillian determination to fight on, no matter what.

    On October 3, 1939, with the rapid defeat of Poland, Menzies said:

    “There could be no greater error than to think that because Poland lies defeated and dismembered, the cause of this war is finished … on the contrary, the war is only just beginning … we are now hearing that the war may bring Bolshevism to Europe … It is an extremely subtle piece of propaganda, and like all such propaganda, has just enough truth in it to make it appear palatable if it is not scrutinised closely …”

    The Nazi invasions of Denmark and Norway shocked the world. Prime Minister Menzies said on April 10, 1940:

    “As far as Australia is concerned, this grim … savagery will harden our determination to see this war through and to drive the evil spirit out of Germany.”

    When the great German offensive through Belgium and France began, Menzies made a renewed call to arms on May 10, 1940:

    “We are facing the greatest danger in our history. We must give our last ounce to the cause … If Britain herself were defeated, or even substantially weakened, our day as an independent nation might well be a brief one …”

    On June 18, 1940, when France surrendered, a stunning blow to the alllies climaxing an unbroken series of German victories, Menzies said:

    “This is not the end of the war. On the contrary, it is the beginning of its bitterest and most crucial phase. So long as Great Britain is unconquered the world can be saved, and that Britain can or will be conquered is unthinkable. We must take up our courage and work like tigers because the fate of humanity now rests with us …”

    Such is Keating’s version of “defeatism.”

    http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2017/12/keatings-distorted-disgraceful-history/

  18. Squirrel

    Amazing – from someone who has been talking, for years, about “security in Asia, not from Asia” – clearly Menzies (if Keating’s version of history is correct) was not an appeaser but a visionary, way ahead of his time about ‘Straya’s place in Asia.

    There’s also, of course, more than a little irony about the timing of Keating’s comments, coming as they do in the midst of the Bennelong by-election – the current crowd running the Labor party could in no way be accused of being appeasers…..

  19. Damienski

    keating was always a loathsome z-grade imbecile with a massive chip on his shoulder, hence his preposterous pretentiousness and delusions of grandeur.

    For my sins I’m gradually wading my way through a biography of the very same Paul Keating. It was written (very objectively) by Troy Bramston. For some reason Mavis seems to have a different set of opinions about our former Prime Minister.

  20. John Constantine

    Keating is paid by the Chinese communist party.

    Supposedly nobody else except him is suited to the role he was given in a chicom bank.

    Possibly even believes himself it is nothing to do with using him as an agent of influence.

    The Chinese know what they are buying, even if he pretends he ain’t selling.

  21. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    ‘Public awareness of the alleged plan was raised when General Douglas MacArthur referred to it during a press conference in March 1943…

    U dope.

  22. testpattern

    ‘Amazing – from someone who has been talking, for years, about “security in Asia, not from Asia” ‘

    The media here collectively fail to hold Keating to account for what he said and did when in Gov. He negotiated a security treaty in secret with Suharto. In secret, because he thought opponents and supporters of East Timor would sink it. Critics would have told him that a treaty was premature and not sustainable, shouldn’t be negotiated with a murderous dictator, and should be left until Indonesia had embarked upon a democratic transition. Keating’s rationale at the time included forming a shield with Jakarta to contain China. Nor would there would have been independence for E.Timor had Keating had his way. I may yet invite him to become a dual citizen of Port Irony, capital of the Pillllbara.

    I agree with him on Menzies and Brudenell White though.

  23. nemkat

    The Brisbane Line was the Defence Force Policy at the time .
    The Policy was clearly treachery, that’s why General MacArthur made it publicly known.
    The incredible thing is that the Labor Party likes to rewrite the history of the 39/45 War to suit themselves, and no one ever calls them on it.

  24. Tel

    Keating was one of the main reasons I walked away from Labor, so I can thank the odious, microcephalic failure for one thing at least.

    Egats! I think Keating was the best the ALP has ever had on offer. Sure, his personality was somewhat abrasive, but that’s entirely reasonable, achievements are what matters. Keating got the country moving again.

  25. Neil

    achievements are what matters. Keating got the country moving again.

    Did he? Govt debt went from 6% of GDP in 1983 to 18% by 1996. And this was the unemployment rate during Keatings recession

    Sept-Dec 1991- 10.1, 10.0, 10.2, 10.4
    Jan-Dec 1992- 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 11.0, 11.0, 10.8, 10.7, 11.0, 11.0, 11.2
    Jan-Dec1993- 10.9, 11.0, 10.8, 10.7, 10.8, 11.0, 10.8, 11.0, 10.7, 10.9, 10.8, 10.6
    Jan-April 1994- 10.4, 10.3, 10.3, 10.1

    Nothing like it since the Great Depression

  26. Marcus

    If you read the Media Watch Dog today, it turns out that Paul Keating never even read the 38-page Cabinet minute he quoted from when he declared Menzies a defeatist.

    But hey, why bother doing any basic research when you can just bash the Tories?

  27. Muddy

    Zulu is correct, and this Brisbane Line ‘controversy’ has been shot and buried for many moons. The myth was a political tactic perpetuated initially by Eddie Ward, with the blessing of Curtin. MacArthur had nothing to do with it at any stage, and the claim that it was he, The Great One, who refused to sacrifice northern Australia and proposed a plan of forward defence in Papua and New Guinea was, and still is, absolute and utter bollocks. This can be ascertained by accessing various documents of the period, including those preceding 17 March ’42 (the arrival of MacArthur) via the National Archives of Australia.

    Curtin was an inexperienced, pissweak groveller who was star-struck by Macarthur.

  28. nemkat

    Curtin was an inexperienced, pissweak groveller who was star-struck by Macarthur.

    Maybe, but that is irrelevant to the rest of your comment
    The existence of the Brisbane Line is evidence that there was no reality based Plan to defend Australia.
    In other words, if the Japs could get troops here, they could have the place [ as far as the ALP was concerned. The ALP was for sale in the Thirties and Forties, it’s still for sale today].
    MacArthur let the cat out of the bag, but he was no match for experienced politicians, as events in Korea and later, showed.
    Ward and his cronies controlled the news, and they turned events to their advantage.

  29. Tel

    Nothing like it since the Great Depression

    Keating was still PM up to 1996, why did you not show those statistics? Oh yeah, it bounced right back again… that’s right. The early 90’s recession in Australia was not much fun, but strangely enough there was simultaneously an early 90’s recession in the USA as well… how about that? Must have all been Keating’s fault… you would have to blame Keating for that if you were interested in consistency. Oh gosh there was also an early 90’s recession in New Zealand and the UK as well… you must at least give credit to Keating for getting around the place, if nothing else.

    Should you be interested in looking at the overall picture, Keating started out as Treasurer in 1983 and left as PM in 1996 so the overall trend during that time was decidedly upward (and afterwards as well which I claim is at least partly Keating legacy). Indeed when Keating started in 1983 we were at an employment low point.

    https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/employment-rate

  30. Neil

    but strangely enough there was simultaneously an early 90’s recession in the USA as well

    Yes there was. How many countries had 30 months of double digit unemployment like we did during Keatings recession?

  31. Muddy

    MacArthur did not ‘let the cat out of the bag.’ As I mentioned above, some elementary research will give you access to statements from Gen. Blamey pre- MacArthur, that contain references to fighting the Japanese from Australia’s north. It was not unusual for ‘appreciations’ to be written by military commanders setting out the position as it was then, and what future options were available to both friendly and enemy forces, and the likely courses of action to respond to the same. The mere existence of documents stating the quantitative inadequacy of existing forces for the defence of non-industrial areas does not make them official military or Government policy. Similarly, repetition of the phrase ‘The Brisbane Line’ does not make a myth into reality.

    You are correct, however, that there was no coherent strategy in early 1942 to defend our own country, aside from token and lightly-equipped forces sent to our north (Lark Force in Rabaul, Gull Force on Ambon, Sparrow Force on Timor, Robin Force on New Caledonia) and expected to delay the onslaught for as long as possible.

    While the fear of invasion was understandable at the time, with the access to information we have now, to still think that the Japanese were either capable or desirous of occupying the whole of Australia, or even a significant region, betrays an amazing ignorance.

  32. Tel

    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/employment-rate

    UK in the mid 70’s boom was about the same as UK in the late 80’s boom was about the same as UK around 2000 as well. Not really any improvement. The end of the 70’s and early 80’s really smashed the UK employment hard, Thatcher turned it around and improved things but only pulled them back to where they were to start with.

    Australia from the late 70’s boom to the late 80’s boom put on 2 percent employment and then with the resources boom around 2007 put on another 3% employment. Yes we started out from behind, but that was not Keating’s fault, and yes Howard kept following much the same policies but that’s because he knew he was onto a good wicket (or perhaps Costello did).

    The USA did better during that 70’s, 80’s, 90’s period than what we did, and they also crashed harder in the recent recession, especially in terms of employment. Swings and roundabouts. We had Keating, they had Reagan, but also they got the boon of the end of the Cold War (thanks mostly to Reagan).

    Want to compare with Canada? They gained two percent employment from the late 70’s boom to the late 80’s boom (same as Australia) but then went through a horrible long slump during the 90’s and only slowly pulled out of that in the mid 2000’s (much worse than Australia).

    That said, employment is not by far the entire story. Australia’s GDP made slow but unspectacular rises during Keating’s watch, Canada made similar gains at about the same time while the UK shot up a lot at the end of the 80’s so they were obviously deploying the same number of people to better effect (and that’s kind of the idea of being economical, if we could all work a few hours a day that would be fine) while Australia was deploying more people (which is also helpful). The USA did best of all, but they were the world empire at the time (and remain that way, although not what they used to be).

  33. Neil

    Tel

    Mate what are u raving on about? We had 30 months of double digit unemployment during Keatings recession. Nothing like it since the Great Depression.

  34. Tel

    I linked to actual employment numbers. You are the one raving.

  35. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    It was not unusual for ‘appreciations’ to be written by military commanders setting out the position as it was then, and what future options were available to both friendly and enemy forces, and the likely courses of action to respond to the same.

    It’s significant that, when General Sir Ivan MacKay prepared his appreciation for the defence of mainland Australia, he never even considered, let alone adopted the “Brisbane Line.”

  36. Neil

    Yeah i saw the numbers for the UK U linked to. They had a few months of DD unemployment in the early 1990’s. We had 30 MONTHS during Keatings recession

  37. Tel

    I linked to employment numbers. Not sure what you were looking at.

    In the early 90’s the UK lost 5% employment (from 73% down to 68%). During the same period Australia also lost 5% employment (from 60% down to 55%). Recovery in both cases took about a decade.

  38. Neil

    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/unemployment-rate

    UK had a few months of DD unemployment in the early 1990’s. We had 30 months

  39. Tel

    Yeah well unemployment rate is a game of hide the unemployed person innit?

    Not a whole lot of economic gain in being slightly better at putting people onto disability pensions.

  40. Neil

    So unemployment went from 8% to 4% under Howard because he was better at putting people on to disability pensions?

    You are insane

  41. Tel

    The employment stats are right there. I’ve already been through them.

    You can talk to Memoryvault about putting people onto disability pensions, because he knows something about it.

  42. Neil

    I gave U the rates in the UK. We has 30 months of DD unemployment under Keating. Nothing like it since the Great Depression

    Not sure what U are raving on about

  43. Tel

    Repetition. Bound to work.

    Repetition. Bound to work.

  44. sdfc

    The early 90s recession was a watershed event in Australia’s economic history.

  45. nemkat

    Zulu Kilo Two Alpha
    #2585489, posted on December 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    They never fessed up to the Brisbane Line, and they never will.
    How could they? It was a secret surrender Policy, clearly treachery, in other words, people at the top were going to throw Australians into the mincer.
    Australia is Sydney and Melbourne, that’s it.
    Had the Japs invaded, they would have done exactly the same thing the Yanks did when they occupied Australia, i.e., occupy Sydney and Melbourne, then head north.

  46. Neil

    Repetition. Bound to work.

    And U are the expert.

    Keating did not get the country moving again. Did anything good come out of 1983-1996?

  47. Muddy

    Had the Japs invaded, they would have done exactly the same thing the Yanks did when they occupied Australia, i.e., occupy Sydney and Melbourne, then head north.

    Yes. Clearly longer and more insecure lines of supply/communication make for the easier maintenance of forward positions. *Throws up hands in exasperation.*

  48. Muddy

    The U.S. forces began being based in Melbourne and Sydney because those areas were then the seats of major military headquarters and facilities, and because their larger populations and industries could cope with the influx of large numbers of foreign personnel.

  49. testpattern

    ‘Curtin was an inexperienced, pissweak groveller who was star-struck by Macarthur’

    Curtin saved Australia, he certainly saved WA which would have been abandoned by Menzies and Churchill.

    Prior to the war there had been no continental defence.

    Britain had built defences in Victoria against an expected Russian attack on goldfields ports, the establishment of Victoria at Port Essington was built with the French in mind, but when Admiral Henderson visited Fremantle he was astonished to find WA undefended apart from a few rusty old guns on Rottnest. Neither Brit nor the Eastern States cared about WA.

    Just 6 years before WW2 began WA had voted to secede and the tiny population in the SW were still regarded by the east as disloyal and treacherous. In 1931 and fearing secession the Commonwealth asked London to transfer control of Ashmore and Cartier, a potential coaling station, to prevent WA gaining possession. London did so, a sure sign that WA secession would never be agreed to either.

    When McArthur coined the term ‘Brisbane Line’ he most certainly had in mind the defunct ABDA Line that had been drawn from Onslow to Cape York. When Singapore and the NEI collapsed so did ABDA. There was no plan B. The north Australian portion of ABDA had been expected to fall to Japan shortly thereafter. Women and children were ‘evacuated’ from the Kimberleys and Aboriginal people rounded up and taken to centres to ensure they wouldn’t collaborate with an expected Japanese invasion, scorched earth actions were undertaken. Fear of invasion outlasted the US presence and the last recorded counter invasion exercise was in May 1944.

    Had Curtin not been PM the Japanese would have strolled into WA and been welcomed by some of the same treasonous establishment families who had attempted to secede from Australia just a few years earlier.

  50. nemkat

    The U.S. forces began being based in Melbourne and Sydney because those areas were then the seats of major military headquarters and facilities, and because their larger populations and industries could cope with the influx of large numbers of foreign personnel.
    That’s right.
    Unfriendly invasion would have done exactly the same.
    That’s why the ALP adopted the Brisbane Line as [secret] Policy.
    As Policy, it was clearly ridiculous, and could never have been admitted to, but it gave enemy Intelligence the heads up that those in control would welcome their new overlords.

  51. testpattern

    Re my earlier post –

    ‘Canberra 11 March 1942

    Secret

    830 Broome and Wyndam Defence Measures

    The Chiefs of Staff furnished the following information regarding defence measures at Broome and Wyndham

    Broome is an advanced refuelling station for the RAAF. It has no RDF equipment. A small VDC unit [approx 100] is stationed at both Broome and Wyndham. Communications at Wyndham are almost non existent. Darwin is a more important base and it is preferable to concentrate the forces there.’

    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=924923&S=1

    Notice the date 11 March 1942. ABDA was disbanded in February after the fall of Singapore, Japan won the Battle of the Java Sea and ABDA forces surrendered on 9 March just 2 days before this document was produced. It demonstrates clearly that an invasion was expected and the Kimberleys were to be left undefended, abandoned.

  52. Oh come on

    Some more ‘original reaearch’ from pesty, I see.

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