I was disappointed to discover that I was not the first Catholic to be elected Federal President - that milestone belongs to Ashley Goldsworthy. Not that such is a matter of any great importance these days but a milestone none the less. In any event it was a great honour, at times a daunting challenge but most importantly an opportunity to be part of Australia's history during the Howard Government. The Government led by John Howard changed Australia and together with my predecessor Tony Staley we had a 'birds eye' view. The commetariate often got it wrong notwithstanding their belief they had a ring side view.
At the national level, the coordinating body of the Liberal Party is called the Federal Council. The Federal Executive exercises the powers of the Federal Council in between meetings of the Liberal Party and is comprised of the Federal office bearers, the Divisional Presidents and the Federal Parliamentary Leadership Group. The seven Divisions come together at the Federal level under a structure which draws together the self-contained Divisions of the Liberal Party into a national body and supports and services the needs of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party. There is one Division for each of the six states, as well as the Australian Capital Territory. The Northern Territory Country Liberal Party is an affiliate of the Liberal Party. Each of the Liberal Party’s seven Divisions is autonomous and each has its own constitutions. The QLD LNP is a Division of both the Federal Liberal and Federal National Party.
Following my retirement as Chief Minister in February 1999, I was elected Federal President of the Liberal Party five months later in July, during the term of the Howard Government. I was President for the successful 2001 election and the historic fourth general election held on 9 October 2004, retiring in 2005. My availability to serve had been flagged to John Howard well before my retirement as Chief Minister and the Statehood referendum. I had shared with the Prime Minister in early 1998 that I would not be leading the CLP to the next Territory election due in 2001. At the time, he had expressed surprise, given the strength of my electoral showing in 1997 which still remains a CLP ‘high water mark’. My ten years in Parliament was coming up and it was time for me to move on.
My election was not universally welcomed in some sections of the Liberal Party given the CLP was affiliated but not a Division of the Liberal Party.1 I had ruffled a few feathers during my term as Chief Minister and hadn’t been backward in criticizing and chiding federal members over the years. The fight over euthanasia had more than irritated a few. A nasty anonymous letter, what we call in the game a ‘shit sheet’ or ‘dirt file’, was widely circulated to the Federal Liberal Parliamentary Wing calling on John Howard to dump me before I started. It had clearly come from the Territory and included material only privy to the CLP. It was a clumsy inept attempt that failed. In Australian politics ‘dirt files’ don’t work, ask new NT Labor Senator Nova Peris who was subject to a scurrilous campaign against her preselection. Howard suggested I get around the Executive members before my first meeting which I duly did. I was conscious that my election was supported at the expense of others who may have had an expectation. I spent considerable time with Vice President Jillian Storey. She was accepting of what the Prime Minister wanted, however, I sensed a tinge of sadness and regret that she was not being offered the opportunity to step up as the first female Federal President.
Jillian was an outstanding deputy and it was a matter of personal regret when she later decided to retire. Jillian gave exceptional service to the Party at a Federal level as well as the NSW Division. I missed her counsel and support when she finally decided to give it away. Jillian and her husband John had been through a rough trot during the drought on their farm outside Yass.
My other deputy was Bruce Macdonald, the former NSW Opposition Leader, and former State President of the South Australian Division. An aggressive and forthright individual, Bruce called a spade a shovel. I nicknamed him ‘thumper’ after the one and the same in the briar rabbit series. Once I got past the bluster and chest beating we became great mates. He was an invaluable ally and loyal to a fault. His wife Gloria was a hand break and moderator of Bruce’s more direct, and at times blunt, forays into policy. I did not appreciate the way he was later ‘retired’ from the Federal Executive; he deserved better than that. When I chaired my first meeting of the Federal Executive whilst I was the incumbent CLP member for Port Darwin, an old friend and Deputy Leader in the Senate Nick Minchin took exception. He claimed it was contrary to the Liberal Party way that an MP be elected President. The room fell silent until Howard brushed the concern aside as quickly as it had been raised; I was Howard’s and Tony Staley’s2 choice - Premiers, Opposition Leaders and State Divisions supported my election, there was no alternate candidate and the time had passed for discussion.3 Reflecting on this some years later, to this day neither John Howard nor I understood what Nick was on about. In any event it never affected our relationship - that would come later when I supported Peter Reith over Alan Stockdale for the Federal Presidency. Minchin had been strident in his opposition to Reith and in support of Stockdale.
The Federal Executive comprised an interesting cross section of the Australian community. One of the enduring legacies of John Howard’s leadership is that the Liberal Party was truly transformed into a ‘broad church’. The ‘broad church’ was reflected in the parliamentary wing and in the organisation all the way to the top of the Party leadership. In the CLP, we were well ahead of the game having elected Richard Lim, the first Australian Chinese member of the Legislative Assembly (Darwin also had elected an Australian Chinese Alex Fong Lim as Lord Mayor). Harry Chan was the first Assembly Clerk and Hyacinth Gabriel Tungutalum from the Tiwi Islands our first Aboriginal member in the Assembly at Self-Government (he also served in the last Legislative Council). I was completely attuned to the idea that for the Liberal Party to remain relevant, we had to reach beyond the ‘white Anglo’ demographic.
State Divisions were of similar mind and had their own success stories as had past Federal Liberal Governments dating from Fraser. Tsebin Tchen was first Asian migrant, Australian Chinese, to win a seat in either house of the Federal Parliament. He served as a Federal Liberal Senator 1999 to 2005. The federal Liberal Party also counted Senator Neville Bonner from Queensland 1971 to 1983 as the first ever indigenous member of the Federal Parliament. It took the ALP a long time to match their rhetoric of indigenous empowerment with action.
True to the Menzies tradition we enthusiastically applied ourselves to promote the Liberal Party as a political party for all Australians. Key Federal Executive members Storey, Macdonald, Staley and Walker made for a very successful and trusting partnership - we were aligned and committed. Wendy Spry followed Jillian Storey and, like her mother Joy Mein,4 stepped up with enthusiasm and commitment. Wendy worked hard at the role but also fell to internal Howard Costello manoeuvring with the election of fellow Victorian Helen Kroger. Wendy was a great asset to the Party at the Federal level as well in the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Ron Walker was the honorary Treasurer for most of my watch. ‘Uncle Ronnie’, as I came to call him, was a legendary figure who to this day has helped to ‘grease the wheels’ of successive elections. For over twelve years in the wilderness during the Hawke Keating Governments he kept the Liberal Party alive financially - he was active again in 2010 and 2013 playing a commanding role in raising campaign funds. Ron was by far the most successful Treasurer in the Party’s history. Throughout he was a loyal friend and colleague and never took a backward step in backing me as President; our friendship endures to this day. He is a legendary figure to be counted in the Parthenon of Liberal Party heroes. His Outstanding Service Award, the most senior accolade the organisational wing can confer complete with bust of Sir Robert Menzies was richly deserved.
Malcolm Turnbull followed Ron briefly, before being endorsed as the Federal Liberal candidate for Wentworth over sitting member Peter King. Malcolm was a very successful Treasurer in his short tenure; he flagged a number of important issues including a ban on corporate and union donations. His framework for low donor fund raising was innovative and represented an important breakthrough in how we approached fund raising. Malcolm was followed by John Calvert-Jones. I didn’t immediately hit it off with John. The ‘top end’ of Melbourne polite society and my direct bare knuckle approach didn’t quite intersect and accommodate each other. You could take the boy out of Wodonga but not Wodonga out of the boy. We learned to get on and in time we became good friends; importantly we learned to laugh at each other. John is one of nature’s real gentlemen, schooled in England’s finest schools the son of a British general he was soon on board and no one could doubt his passion for the Liberal Party cause. Because of his unique connections we were able to tap donors beyond our reach.5 John’s performance as Treasurer in the three years he held the role was an outstanding success. John would later re emerge on Federal Executive as a Vice President where he continued to give outstanding service. Another who initially served as WA State President and later Vice President of the Party was Danielle Blain. A prolific fund raiser for her Division and capable in every sense, she provided strong leadership in Federal Executive. Danielle was a champion of women’s issues but not to the exclusion of a broader agenda. Likewise, Con Galtos from Queensland, Michael Osborne from NSW, Ian Carson from Victoria and Rosemary Craddock from SA were powerful advocates for their Divisions.
On my watch, the Federal Women’s Committee was well represented by Dierdre Flint from Tasmania followed by Theana Thompson6 from Victoria. They were both at times ferocious in their advocacy on women’s issues at Federal Executive. To those who suggest that women don’t have much of a say in the Liberal Party, that is not true. The young Liberals were represented by Brett Hogan, Gerard Paynter (Daniel Clode Vice President), Grant Mullett and Mark Powell. Seated next to the President of the Women’s Committee I sensed at times the Young Liberals found our proceedings tedious and underwhelming. Various State Presidents and Executive Members went onto be elected to the Federal Parliament; Helen Kroger (Victoria), David Johnston (WA) and Richard Colbeck (Tasmania) - all elected Senators. Christine McDiven from the NSW Division succeeded me as Federal President. I was very proud to have agitated her election as the first female President of the Party. Federal Directors Lynton Crosby and Brain Loughnane were different but effective and talented in their respective approaches to campaigning. The Liberal Party has been very fortunate to have in Andrew Robb, Lynton and Brian, in succession, three Federal Directors who all excelled in their craft. Tony Staley stayed on Federal Executive as Immediate Past President. Tony is a man of considerable capacity and helped guide me through my Presidency. His stella effort was all the more remarkable given his at times poor health - six years as President and another six as Immediate Past President. Loyal, solid, and determined he remained steadfast in his support when it mattered. I was very pleased to be made an Honorary Life Member of the Liberal Party of Victoria with Tony Staley who was far more deserving of the honour than I was.
There were many funny parts of the movie, ‘The Life of Brian’, but one in particular centred on the many factions vying to free Palestine. The script went as follows:
Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front? Reg: Fuck off! ‘Judean People’s Front’. We’re the People’s Front of Judea! ‘Judean People’s Front’. Francis: Wankers
I eschewed all attempts to draw me into a factional allegiance; compared with our political opponents, the Liberal Party does not have a clear demarcation between either the left or the right. Loosely, there are the ‘moderates’, the right (in NSW the right and the right) and the rest. Federal members do tend to stick together based on State of origin and around personalities who become their champions and mentors. Relationships are also forged through the sharing of ‘digs’ around Canberra. Proximity made for some interesting and at times unexpected alliances - it was almost a disadvantage to have your own home or flat and not mix it in with colleagues in rented accommodation. As for hard and fast ‘factions’ I never saw any real evidence of such disciplined alignment as occurs in Labor despite what some MPs claimed. John Howard once quipped in reference to one of his colleagues: ‘’If only he spent as much time on his Ministry as does on that nonsense’’. I stayed above the fray and was not the least bit interested in the silly games that went with such nonsense as it was so aptly described. I was a liberal - foremost a social conservative who believed in the free market. I didn’t need some pumped up Liberal heavyweight telling me what to think, fortunately most Liberal MPs don’t either. The day conservative politicians go down the path of ‘factions’ we will be no better than Labor who now pretend they are operating in a new liberated democratic universe.
Back in the NT my election as Federal President did not meet with the approval of the CLP hierarchy or my successor Denis Burke.7 This contrasted very sharply with public opinion and strong NT News Editorial support.8 On reflection, the CLP reaction was another sign that there was this growing disconnect with the electorate. When attacked in the Legislative Assembly by Labor over the Federal Presidency I was left to largely defend myself.9 After a heated exchange with Burke I felt I had to resign my membership of the CLP for the duration re-joining in 2004 as my Federal term drew to a close and old protagonists had moved on. I was deeply hurt by being placed in this predicament by Burke and others; I was angry and up-set that someone, who had no real history in the CLP other than to ride into Parliament on the patronage of Marshall Perron and step into the Chief Ministership by default, would so easily discard my long and committed service to the Party. Burke had no idea what I and others had been through to save the CLP in its darkest hour during the NT Nationals assault. My continuous membership had been ‘broken’ on spurious, petty grounds. I have learned to forgive most things but not this.10
I tried to understand why Burke was so opposed to me taking on the role of Federal President. Later, colleagues confided that he felt I was trying to overshadow him - the ‘ghost of banco’ rattling around in the background. He simply wanted me gone, out of sight as though I would disappear down a plug hole. My capacity to draw a headline would have fed the antipathy of those closest to him. I know he had to put up with the constant comparisons and he copped the odd verbal lashing from my supporters in the ethnic and business communities, however, I wasn’t responsible for such incidents. I was mystified by the whole thing. When I took over from Marshall Perron I lauded my predecessor, I leveraged off his legacy and traded on his authority. That was all on offer to Denis but instead he kicked sand in my face.
I was an ‘activist’ Federal President who engaged the Party membership direct. I travelled Australia regularly to attend branch meetings and oversaw major fund raising activity. On my retirement, I left the Federal organisation financially secure and well resourced. I have continued my fund raising activities for the CLP, LNP and Liberal Parties and am pleased to have been part of the 2010 and more recent 2013 Federal election campaigns.
I am flattered to be still a ‘sounding board’ for many in the Party although I eschew the labels ‘Liberal heavy’ and ‘Liberal elder’. I am particularly pleased to have assisted so many into Parliament, advocated their advancement and been around when things have turned to ‘custard’. Political life can be a lonely and embittering experience and it is important that those of us who had an opportunity to serve pick up the phone to encourage, console and support current incumbents. When things are going badly the occasional supportive call means a great deal.
I am still seething over this incident - thirteen years on and it is as raw as if it happened yesterday. I have allowed a reasonable time frame before writing about what occurred. I never sought to explain myself or offer an explanation in office as that would have been counter -productive. Media would have lapped it up. Not for a single moment was I going to allow an ‘‘I said’’ ‘‘he said’’ narrative play out in the national media. I regretted the document had become public - nothing more. I was doing my job and the day a Federal President of the Liberal Party has to apologize for what I did they might as well not be in the role.
It is important to explain what transpired in context. One Nation was on the rise particularly in QLD. The conservative side had not come to terms with One Nation and the politics of how to deal with them. They were in hindsight a ‘lightning rod’ of disaffection with the conservative side of politics. In my view there are some alarming parallels with Clive Palmer and PUP. I had seen One Nation off in the NT as they scrambled unsuccessfully to organize for the 1997 Territory Election.11 Our bitter internal fight with the NT Nationals ten years earlier had shown the way when it came to dealing with renegade conservatives gone feral. In QLD the home state of Hanson, One Nation were better organized and Borbidge was having to deal with the nonsense: ‘’they are really our people’’. Borbidge had One Nation’s measure - he saw them for what they were. He was rebuffed by colleagues at the State and Federal level who had the fanciful belief that One Nation could draw the Labor vote to the Coalition. This was a cynical and misguided ploy. Come the State election 26 June 1998 the Borbidge National Party Government fell when a key independent Peter Wellington agreed to support a minority Beattie Labor Government.
In 1998, the Howard Government was returned12 with a mandate to introduce the GST.13 Meanwhile, now Opposition Leader Rob Borbidge continued to struggle with a divided conservative movement in QLD. As the 2001 State election rolled around the infighting over preference deals with One Nation continued. Again, Borbidge was let down by State and Federal colleagues who still hadn’t learned the lesson over One Nation. The implementation of the GST was not going well and there were some other issues swirling around the Howard Government causing electoral irritation. The stars were aligned for the perfect political storm on the conservative side. We knew the QLD State election was going to be ugly. It presented Labor the prefect opportunity to ‘plumb’ the growing disaffection with the Howard Government. Regardless of political colour we always maintain the mantra that federal and states issues are different but the reality is that often one intrudes on the other. Premier Peter Beattie, the ‘ringmaster’ in QLD, was set to make the most of it. I had a discussion with John Howard in the week before the QLD election and it was agreed the Federal Director Lynton Crosby and I would be in Brisbane on election day. We based ourselves in Liberal HQ with the support of State Liberal President Con Galtos. The QLD State election was held 17 February 2001. As the vote came in the result was evident. Beattie was returned with a clear majority - the conservative vote had collapsed dramatically. I rang the Prime Minister and confirmed our worst fears. Further, a number of federal MPs had been coming and going from Liberal HQ - they were agitated and unsettled. With the Prime Minister’s consent, we organized at short notice a meeting of all federal Liberal MPs for Sunday 18 February at QLD Liberal HQ. All were available save for Cathy Sullivan who had a commitment she could not be excused from. That day Lynton, Con and I sat at the front of the meeting room at QLD Liberal HQ. Those present were invited to tell us what they really thought in the light of the QLD result and whether they believed there were implications for the Federal Government and if so what to do about it. Those present didn’t hold back - Lynton, Con and I took copious notes which we later compared. I reported to John Howard the meeting and he requested I prepare a note which I did.
There was nothing startling about a note - if you want accuracy a note wins out over an oral report every time. The note, in effect the minutes of the meeting, was brief and to the point. Both Con and Lynton Crosby had input - Lynton looked over my final draft. He suggested toning down some of the commentary that had been recorded verbatim by hand which we did. I subsequently handed my note in an envelope to the Prime Minister in Darwin at the Beaufort Hotel. He had a cursory read, put it back in the envelope and passed it to Tony Nutt who put it in what I assumed was the Prime Minister’s brief case. I advised John he had the only copy, I did not keep a copy. I have never had a copy. Thereafter I never gave it another thought.
In early May while I was in Sydney, Laurie Oakes rang me to ask about ‘’my memo’’ - I hesitated. I didn’t know what he was talking about at first and thought it was a joke. Then Laurie started to read from the document. The content of what he had, stopped me in my tracks. I was gob smacked - I felt ill. I got off the call from Laurie as fast as I could and rang Howard’s office in Phillip Street and was passed through to Arthur Sinodinos. He already knew about the Oakes story to be published in the Bulletin and asked me to come in. I was close by and within a short time arrived in the Prime Minister’s Phillip Street office. What happen next initially ‘wrong footed me’. I was cross examined by Arthur and Tony Nutt on the supposition I had leaked the document. The questions came fast and furious and I realized they had a view I was the culprit. John Howard joined the meeting and I drew a line in the sand. How dare they. I believe that the strength and conviction of my response demonstrated I had not leaked the document. I don’t blame them for their approach – this was serious and they needed to find out ‘who and why’. I left the meeting angry and up-set. My integrity was on the line and not for one moment did I underestimate the fire-storm about to erupt. Worse, Peter Costello was in Washington and the timing of the leak would be seen to be deliberately orchestrated to place him at a disadvantage. Out on the street I rang Lynton - I was furious. He calmed me down, we had a crisis to manage.
Laurie Oakes, with some journalistic license, dressed up my report as a memo to the Prime Minister from the Party President. It featured in the now defunct Bulletin Magazine.14 The report repeated statements made in the meeting by Coalition Parliamentarians that the government of John Howard was seen as “mean and tricky”.15 This turn of phrase became a source of much irritation to Howard and was used with some effect by the Labor opposition. Some thirteen years on and this phraseology has found a place in the political lexicon of Australian politics. As I recalled ‘Out of their own mouths:’16
‘’these were the words of his own colleagues repeated over and again in the meeting. The ensuing controversy quickly mushroomed with Stone and Howard both being accused of leaking the memo’’.
Some commentators later conceded that the events surrounding the so called ‘memo controversy’ cemented a necessary change of direction in a number of government policies thus ensuring the re-election of the Government that year17 although Peter Costello would beg to differ. The Government had already started to correct a number of policies that were proving electorally difficult long before the so called memo became public. I did not retain a copy of the document and have consistently denied ‘leaking’ it as later confirmed by Laurie Oakes.18
In his autobiography, John Howard sets out a recollection of events surrounding the ‘memo’, questioned why it was in written form and how it was conveyed.19 Clearly, I have a different recollection. For some considerable time after the controversy I felt deeply aggrieved and a casualty of the on-going fractious relationship between Howard and Costello. When attempts were made to force my resignation by some members of the Federal Parliamentary Wing I gained strength from the unanimous endorsement of all State Presidents and Directors who had been at the coal face trying to deal with many of the issues addressed in the note. This was not some imaginary note with me off on a frolic of my own - it was the Federal President of the Liberal Party responding to the membership’s concerns.20 Honorary Federal Treasurer, Ron Walker AC, was strident in his support and put at risk his relationship with Costello in publicly endorsing me as the President.21 Tony Staley never took a backward step in his support. John Howard would later inquire of me “Have you and Peter buried the hatchet?” I replied “’Not unless it’s buried between my eyes”.22 In the aftermath and post politics Costello and I did have some contact including a conversation together and with others to persuade Costello to consider the leadership in the event Malcolm Turnbull faltered. These were people who were Howard loyalists still determined to support and encourage a return to Government. As matters transpired they in time threw their collective weight behind Tony Abbott.23 However, we have never spoken about the so called ‘’memo’’ apart from the meeting in Costello’s office in Melbourne when he returned from Washington following the breaking of the story. That meeting in Melbourne was uneventful and not what I expected. Howard had urged on me the importance of travelling to Melbourne to meet with Peter on his return from Washington. Reading Costello’s memoirs I noted that Costello recalls having a separate discussion with Lynton Crosby about the matter which was news to me but not surprising given the Federal Director was expected to maintain an even handed relationship with members of the leadership team. I can only encourage a death bed confession from Laurie Oakes as to how he came by the note.
Some commentators persisted with a the view that my actions were damaging and amateurish. Clearly they didn’t understand the role of the Federal President to speak up for the membership and to be a sounding board for the Parliamentary Leader. If I, of all people, couldn’t tell the Prime Minister what was amiss, who could - obviously his Cabinet didn’t. Kevin Rudd might have benefited from some honest advice and in-put during his tenure.24 Tony Stalely had not been backward in having his say behind closed doors and didn’t pull any punches. He could be brutal, as Alexander Downer would attest. Laurie Oakes would later reflect that Rudd in his first ‘tour’ might have survived had he someone looking over his shoulder.25
For the record, I don’t believe John Howard leaked the document. It did not serve John’s purpose to have this report in the public arena no matter which way you slice it. Peter Costello didn’t leak it. In his memoirs, Costello refers to an investigation ordered by the Prime Minister and an allegation that the ‘memo’ was copied on a photocopier in the Prime Minister office. That in itself adds little to the story. I do however, have a theory and have formed a view. I remain unwilling to share that view at this time as I have one piece of the puzzle to go.
Peter Costello was an outstanding Treasurer. He was the longest serving Treasurer in Australia’s history serving from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007 although that in itself is not necessarily an indicator of success. There are many ‘time servers’ in public life who have little to show for their tenure - not so Peter Costello. During Peter’s time in office he brought down twelve consecutive Federal Budgets, including ten surpluses. An extraordinary performance that a grateful Nation acknowledged when he was conferred a Companion of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 26 January 2011. His citation read:
“for eminent service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly through the development of landmark economic policy reforms in the areas of taxation, foreign investment, superannuation and corporate regulation, and through representative roles with global financial organisations”.
Costello’s most recent appointment as a Guardian of the Future Fund should instill in all Australians confidence that ‘our money’ is in good hands. During Peter’s tenure as Treasurer he eliminated the Commonwealth Government net debt of $96 billion. Too often this is glossed over as though it was a given. He was also at the forefront of a number of other important reforms. Under the CLERP program he reformed and modernised Australia’s Corporations law. He established the Takeovers Panel to hear disputes over mergers and acquisitions. Peter had the foresight to establish the Future Fund and with an eye to the future of our post secondary sector he established the Higher Education Endowment Fund as a perpetual fund with an initial contribution of $6 billion. He also introduced the largest reform of superannuation with the abolition of tax on superannuation payouts for those over 60. Every ‘baby boomer’ should go down on bended knee at the mention of Costello’s name. All up a magnificent performance by an outstanding Australian.
Contrary to what some might believe, claims that I frustrated Peter Costello’s leadership ambitions are untrue. To believe otherwise would be to attribute to me an influence and power I simply didn’t wield. Peter clearly thought the Federal Presidency was of little consequence and I was irrelevant26 so I was always at a loss to understand why his acolytes apportioned so much blame to me. I bit my tongue during the controversy but as one old timer later opined if the Federal President was irrelevant the membership at large clearly didn’t count for much. According to Peter’s committed supporters it was my fault Peter wasn’t Prime Minister and they weren’t backward in telling me and others.
The leadership of the Liberal Party Parliamentary Wing was a matter for the elected members and always has been - we are not like Labor where faceless union hacks and party officials make or break leaders. I was forever dealing with the conspiracy theory that my role was to do all I could to disparage Costello’s ambitions and the memo was seen in that light. At the Federal Council meeting in Canberra 24 June 2004 as I walked towards the podium to make my farewell address I was confronted by a Costello supporter who seethed:
“I hope you are proud of yourself. You have robbed this country of a great Prime Minister’’.
It took all of my resolve and discipline not to up-end the person concerned. Angry, annoyed and plain fed up I accepted my presentation gift from John Howard and responded with the single line:
“Thank you it’s been a privilege and an honour”.
As I stepped down from the stage Dennis Shanahan quipped:
“Best speech all night”.
On that note I went home - that irrelevant honorary unpaid role as Federal President over six years had exhausted me.
In my assessment Peter Costello was not Prime Minister for two reasons – first, he wouldn’t ‘have a go’ much to the frustration of his supporters inside and outside the Parliament and second he had a sense of decency in not challenging the leader as Deputy. He would have had to remove himself from the leadership group and clearly was not of a mind to do so. He would have to do what Paul Keating did when he took on Bob Hawke. Others would add that unlike Keating he never had the numbers in any event. As to what level of support Peter Costello enjoyed I had no meaningful sense of - I didn’t go around doing soundings or counting numbers. That task wasn’t in the Federal Presidents job description as far as I was concerned. However, I do have a view that the only way Peter could have ever built momentum was to change his ways and engage with his colleagues. The regular complaint was that Peter wouldn’t see anyone.27 When the Federal Director Lynton Crosby and I sought to meet with Peter to discuss issues that were impacting on the Government we were told to make an appointment. We did and three weeks later were granted a 15 minute audience. This contrasted sharply with the Prime Minister who would make time without an appointment. On each and every occasion it was a genuine engagement.
On balance, I believe Peter Costello would have been a capable and competent Prime Minister. In his day, Peter was an exceptional parliamentary performer, had an agenda and the interests of Australia at heart. We will never know what shape a Costello Prime Ministership would have taken. If Michael Kroger’s tale is to be believed, Peter realized he had made a mistake in leaving the Parliament and is destined to die wondering save for a bigger comeback than John Howard. I wish him well.
My little brother Terry Michael Stone was murdered in Dili East Timor on 23 July 2001 - a tough year with the ‘Memo’ thrown on for good measure.
After I scattered the ashes of my little brother Terry over Darwin Harbour following his senseless murder I finally sat down and after some reflection tried to string a few lines together. It’s hard to describe the numbness and helplessness of those left behind. You expect to lose a parent or an elderly relative, a motorcar accident or terminal illness is a tough call but you do work your way through it all as hard as it is. Murder – now that’s something else. That happens to other people, it doesn’t happen to you. For years in public life I supported organisations such as VOCAL (victims of crime) because I believed it the right thing to do. I now truly understand the importance of what they do. No one can prepare you for being a victim of crime or in my case to have the proximity of losing a loved one. It’s bloody rough.
The remarkable thing about what happened was that I was so wrung out by it all I didn’t feel any sense of vindictiveness or revenge against those who murdered my brother. I found that strange given my hard line law and order policies and I still can’t get excited about the people who murdered him – no matter what I feel it was never going to bring my little brother back. Yet I knew they deserved to be treated harshly.
It’s was quite an experience. I couldn’t stop crying for the first 3 days. I felt so inadequate as I struggled to deal with everything that had happened. Then there was the media. Poor bugger he had the misfortune to be Shane Stone’s little brother. There really are some serial idiots masquerading as journalists - not all fortunately. Headlines around Australia screamed: 28
'’Brother of Liberal Party Head stabbed to death in East Timor’’.
'’Brother of Liberal Boss Stabbed to Death’’.
'’Brother of Federal Liberal Party President Murdered’’.
He couldn’t get a headline even in death. He had a name – Terry Stone. The NT News may be ridiculed Australia wide at times but at least they dignified his name:
“Terry Stone killed in stabbing attack – Shane mourns young brother”.
Likewise the Border Morning Mail:29
'’Mum’s pain for murdered son - Terry loved by all who knew him’’.
The day after Terry’s death started badly. I put out a media release and pleaded for privacy of the family to be respected – it didn’t work. Then I had to contend with the spin that my brother was some sort of ‘root rat’ in Asia with the barmaid in tow. I had one journalist suggest:
“We are dealing with a high profile Australian here”. When I challenged one journalist about the coverage his response was: “but mate, he’s Shane Stones brother, that’s news”.
My brother had just been butchered and here I was contending with sleazy allegations that would make a headline. First reports were of a “crime of passion”, a “domestic incident” – great spin. One journalist said to me:
“You of all people know how it works”. My response was simply: “I have never accepted how it works”.
The only way through was to engage journalist after journalist over the phone - to tell the true story, to dignify my little brother and defend his name. I gave a voice over for national television news to set the record straight. That’s a tough call in an otherwise awful day. You cry a lot between those type of interviews but keep going because you know that you owe it to his grieving mother to see it right.
Australian journalism really scrapes the bottom of the barrel at times – whatever it takes just do it. The reality is that my little brother left a failed marriage in Albury to start afresh in Darwin and then Dili. He fell in love with a Timorese lady Berta Soares, a village girl who he adored. She was a divorced lady and had separated from her husband 12 months before she met Terry. Terry knew it was a difficult situation. We talked about it at length. He knew the challenges. Berta had been to Darwin to meet us all – they were happy and content and we were happy for them. Boy meets girl and there’s nothing remarkable about that.
Terry was a thoroughly decent man. He was popular, loved and respected. Not just my words but also those who worked with him. East Timor was a tough call at the best of times. Mick Hannon gave him an opportunity, which he grabbed with bother hands. At the time of his death he was the Brambles East Timor Manager. He was stabbed in the back as he walked away from two East Timor males in the depot yard. We have no regrets about him taking the job – it was a new start. ‘Pottsie’, ‘Wombat’ and Ron Brown were with him as he died. I can only try to understand what they went through. They were there to the end in the true Australian tradition of mateship. Our friends gathered round and tried to console us but we are inconsolable. Life goes on. I remain for ever grateful to DFAT who were magnificent in their consular service and in monitoring and attending the trial from start to finish.
Terry Stone was a good man and left the world richer for having been with us – 2 June 1957 to 23 July 2001 aged 44 years.
I have had a feisty relationship with many in the Australian media. Over the years some journalists I counted as friends, not many. The late Dave Nason, Kevin Naughton, Frank Alcorta, confidant Peter Murphy aka Murf and long standing press secretaries Garry Shipway and Cameron Thompson among them. I have a very high personal regard for Andy Bruyn and Don Kennnedy who occupied senior executive roles in their respective media organizations during my time. I have had a professional relationship with Laurie Oaks, Pam Williams, Dennis Shanahan, Lenore Taylor and Nikki Saava – they have never gone out of their way to misreport or misrepresent my comments. I worked hard at having nothing to do with ABC political journalists and not much has changed. They are a disgraceful partisan mob who lost any credibility with me a long time ago. The cavalcade of ABC journalists who have emerged as candidates and elected members of Parliament tells a story in itself. I don’t deny the right to choose, to political freedom, but if politicians and business people have a duty of disclosure come a conflict of interest, why not journalists? I refer particularly to those journalists at the ‘pointy end’ of political journalism fronting current affairs programs. In my time they included Clare Martin,30 Denis Driver, Maxine McKew, Mary Delahunty, Barbara McCarthy - should they not have declared their party allegiance before embarking on questioning and editorializing their political opponents?
As Minister and Chief Minister, I held regular media conferences on my terms. As Chief Minister there were weekly briefings. If as claimed I sent female journalists scurry in tears from media conferences that was not my intention.31 I rarely did doorstops; they simply fed a 24 hour news cycle. I was otherwise supportive of the media and never for one moment questioned their right to report the news.32 If I didn’t like the way a journalist reported a story I either let it pass or had it out with the writer - I didn’t complain to management. I believe that the problem with many journalists today is their lack of formal education that would equip them with the necessary skill sets to properly research, analyse and write coherently about matters worth reporting on. We live in an era where sound bites and 20 second grabs are the daily currency of political commentary. Perhaps I am being too harsh; journalists captive to the 24 hour news cycle have little time for thoughtful considered work. Nowadays, consequently when I do read a newspaper I skip the headlines and head for the opinion pieces.
As Chief Minister, I was always very careful when dealing with southern media; they generally came north with a predisposition about the NT. I recall Janet Hawley visited Darwin to interview me for the Good Weekend Magazine Sydney Morning Herald. There was no getting out of it. I researched her background and realized I was about to have my first encounter with a very serious journalist; a southern scribe from Fairfax not exactly fussed on the NT. We planned how we would engage including a spontaneous ‘home visit’. We worked out that by dumbing down the conversation I would get through relatively unscathed. I had two audiences – those down south who would read the article, and the home base. I saw an opportunity to deliver a number of key messages to both. Hawley was given unrestricted access and included in a number of social functions. It was important that I not let Territorians think I was more sophisticated and better than them. In time, the article circulated widely in the NT. Headlined ‘Little Big Chief’33 on balance it was fair, accurate and did no damage. There was the odd put down and southern swipe which I expected but I could live with that. My art collection was a little more substantive than Hawley realised and my Asian collection wasn’t something cobbled together from airport duty free shops.
I used my 2002 Federal Council President’s Report to raise concerns about the Australian media over their partisan political coverage. Not surprisingly, this caused up-set in the National Press Gallery amidst protestations of innocence and misunderstanding.34 In my view, a number of journalists who’d made a mess of it during the Republic referendum were at it again – telling Australians how to think and vote. Some in the Parliamentary Wing were unhappy with my speech - John Howard definitely wasn’t. I was not alone in being frustrated by partisan commentators. Those of us closest to the campaigns were fed up with the selective reporting, disparaging commentary and plain untruths that punctuated certain media reports.
The ABC still don’t get it - their continuing partisan coverage of the conservative side of politics enrages my side of the political fence. They are quick to point to partisan coverage from News Limited and radio ‘shock jocks’ but, the reality is, that one is a reaction to the other. Also, the private media are not consistently pro conservative whereas the ABC and now, the newbie on the block, ‘The Guardian’ are consistently pro left. Media that editorializes rather than simply report the facts does a huge disservice to informed debate and undermines the role as a chronicler of history.
Editorials are for editorializing and Opinion pieces can do likewise but can we please have the news without the usual gratuitous side observations.35 As for journalists, interviewing journalists as a source of news – such lacks all credibility. The ABC is in need of overhaul and reform – yes it is ‘my ABC’ and I am not happy and or alone.
I was frustrated in my attempts to move on long serving MPs and Senators. First, it wasn’t within my authority or the remit of the Federal organization. States and Territories pre-select and the Federal organization, unlike the ALP, has no right of intervention. Second, John Howard resisted most attempts to ask people to retire particularly those closely aligned to him. He saw matters as exclusively for the organizational wing, in any event. I recall the common refrain from many “I came in with him and I’ll go out with him” (‘him’ being Howard). I used to grind my teeth at such intransigence. This was a recurring frustration for both me and the Federal Director, Lynton Crosby. Simple arithmetic made it clear that it was cost effective to transition a sitting member out rather than try and win a seat back once lost. An example was Peter Slipper in Fisher who I contemplated unsuccessfully to move on after John Howard in his own words “gave Slippery the slip”, dumping him as Parliamentary Secretary. Slipper had been around a long time and his career at that stage was pedestrian, at best. No one had the appetite to confront Slipper and pull on the fight. If only the QLD Liberal Party had been able to look into a crystal ball to foretell Slipper’s role in propping up a discredited Labor Government. Appeals to move on regularly fell on deaf ears. Some had their own reasons for staying on including the pursuit of the Gold Card – the unrestricted travel and aligned benefits. Others sought the distinction of becoming‘ Father of the House’ although such a goal is beyond my comprehension. Occasionally, someone comes along who adds real value, like Ian Sinclair and Phil Ruddock36 but it’s a long time between drinks with most. For many time servers, they have no-where else to go. The ALP is much better at renewal than the conservative side of politics. Such would be greatly assisted by a federal organization that could in conjunction with State and Territory Divisions of the Liberal Party have a say in pre selections (I wont’t hold my breath).
I partly attribute he recent emergence of Clive Palmer to the failure of the Liberal Party to front up to sitting members who have long lost their mojo. I have commercial interests on the Sunshine Coast and what has been relayed to me by local residents and scrutineers is that Palmer was as much a ‘lightening rod’ for disaffection among conservatives as he was entertaining. The Liberal Party was punished for leaving in place ineffectual non performing MP’s - those who wore the impact were the newly endorsed Liberal candidates. Palmer was the perfect conduit for those not prepared to vote Labor but wanting to send the conservatives a message. It only takes a handful of votes with preferences falling the right way for an unexpected outcome.
Fund raising was the bane of my life and still is - it’s like a ‘tar baby’. I don’t seem to be able to shake off the expectation or hope that I will simply keep raising money for the Party. The ‘begging bowl’ approach to funding political parties is hard yards and a most ineffectual way of funding a working democracy. Over the years, Ron Walker and I have lamented such activity as the worst imaginable. Ron tells of donors running across Collins Street dodging fast moving traffic and trams to escape his encounter - he was not alone. In my business dealings, to put some people at ease, I regularly had to start the conversation with “I’m not here to ask you for a donation”. Ron has been extraordinary in his efforts on behalf of the Liberal Party and is very deserving of all the accolades and awards that have come his way. The same can be said of my predecessor Tony Staley;37 both have earned their respective places in the Parthenon of Liberal Party heroes alongside others who came before them.
The volunteer base of the Liberal, LNP and CLP are the life blood of the party. They can never be taken for granted. Without the volunteer base there is no party. As John Howard often reminded us of a quote attributable to Sir John Carrick:38
“Always remember who brung you to the dance”.
Far too many MP’s forget where they came from. Members of Parliament who only pay attention to their branches and members when an election rolls around are inviting rejection. Branches and their membership are not just about pre selection and fund raising. A good branch is like a low interest loan on the most favourable terms - look after it and never default.
Politics is an honourable profession. The success of our democracy turns on people of good intent from all sides of politics putting their hand up. It is very hard to persuade women and men of substance and capacity to offer for pre selection. For starters, unlike Labor, it is extremely difficult to guarantee pre selection. Those who want a parliamentary career have little option than to run the gauntlet of members, branches and pre selection panels. To add to those challenges we compromised the one incentive that helped in attracting candidates.
I condemn in the strongest words I can muster the panicked decision in 2004 to abolish the Parliamentary Pension Scheme for new entrants. This knee jerk reaction has played a part in condemning Australian Parliaments to mediocrity. It was meant to be matched with a substantial increase in salary – predictably it never was and never will be. Latham ambushed John Howard and he went for it. I was present with Mark Textor when he spoke to the Prime Minister before heading into Cabinet that day – it wasn’t an issue. Howard disagreed. The cynics cheered39 and the facts were lost in the politics of envy and resentment driven by a largely misinformed public commentary.40 The ladder was pulled up behind those already in the scheme creating two classes of MP. The life gold pass which should have been abolished save for former Prime Ministers and Governors General inexplicably survived at first instance. The whole decision reeked of self-interest and not a single Cabinet member was prepared to draw a line in the sand over the issue. Some would later whisper disagreement and dismay but on my information not one put up a fight.
Commentators today who decry the poor standards in our Parliaments talk out of both sides of their mouths; they have contributed to this parlous state of affairs by decrying benefits and remuneration that accomplished and successful people enjoy without all the intrusion that comes with public life. A successful plumber makes more than a back bencher – go figure. If you want the best, the talented women and men in Parliament then stump up otherwise don’t complain. Despite perceptions to the contrary, most former parliamentary members struggle to find gainful employment post their political careers. Commercial success stories are few among former members and a number fail.41
During my tenure as Federal President, I resisted all overtures and attempts by the Federal Liberal Party to formalize the CLP as a Liberal Party Division. I have steadfastly remained of the view that the CLP is the Territory Party and should maintain its independence. Despite speculation in Territory media on occasions that I supported such moves such belies a complete misunderstanding about my CLP history that I will come back to shortly.
I was somewhat surprised after departing the Federal Presidency to discover that CLP President Rick Setter and Federal President Allan Stockdale had been in discussions to bring the CLP into the Liberal Party. Setter had no such mandate. I together with others moved quickly to make our views known. It also seemed contrary to the argument that a merged conservative political party was the way to go – for the uninformed we are already merged, have been for near on forty years so leave us alone. The establishment of the LNP bears out that we don’t all need to have the same name and brand so long as our underlying beliefs and principles mirror the conservative cause.
The difference between the CLP and LNP is that the CLP has its own brand and proved consistently that we don’t need the Liberal brand to win locally in the NT. The CLP governed from 1974 to 2001 and since 2012 (29 years out of 39). In Federal elections we have always identified closely with the Coalition, foremost the Liberal Party. We are the third conservative party in the Coalition and in the aftermath of the 2010 Federal hung Parliament, not for a moment did the CLP try to play games or extract concessions from the Coalition – we are and have always been ‘on the team’.
This then begs the question, why there was this urge in Canberra to absorb the CLP. Back to my CLP history: anyone who was around when the NT Nationals tried to establish themselves in the NT and fought that intrusion as hard as I did would ask the question why we bothered. A lot of ‘political blood’ was spilt; friends, families and colleagues divided. From 1986 to 1990 the future of the NT gave way to a debilitating, self-indulgent and destructive battle for the hearts and minds of Territorians. The first consequence of a rebadged CLP as the Liberal Party would be to open the door to the Nationals to re-establish; they would have little choice if they were to retain the Senate position. We would end up where we started in 1974, a divided conservative movement.
I hope this foolishness has been put behind us. Far too often the people who raise the issue are motivated by what suits them personally rather than what’s in the NT‘s best interest. You can be part of both - at times I have been a member of the QLD LNP, Liberal and CLP parties. I was greatly honoured to be made an Honorary Life Member of the Liberal Party in Victoria;42 however home base remains the CLP,43 the Territory Party.
I never met Bob or Pattie Menzies; their daughter Heather Henderson was the closest I came. Heather called on me when I was Chief Minister and would later renew the acquaintance when I was elected President. Over a cup of tea I asked Heather what her father would have thought of a political street fighter like me succeeding to the Presidency. Heather believed her father would have approved. That meant a great deal to me.
As an aside, I did meet on more than one occasion Sir John aka ‘Black Jack’ McEwen GCMG CH the 18th Prime Minister of Australia. John McEwan was born in Chiltern near Cornishtown. He was the federal member for Murray when I first met him. As a young member of the Victorian Country Party it was an overwhelming experience to meet the great man.
Later when people asked whether I ever met Bob Menzies I would reply: “No, but I did meet ‘Black Jack’ McEwan”. That would earn a quizzical glance - how quickly people forget.
I retired as Federal President in June 2004 at the end of my 6th term.44 John had asked me to stay on but thinking it through six years was long enough. This is a voluntary role and it takes its toll. In my time as Federal President I recall John Howard as consultative and interested in the affairs of the Party.
John and I didn’t always agree but we spoke regularly and often during the six years working together. John Howard was forever grateful for the opportunities Liberal Party endorsement brought him and said so. He was a man who understood and valued the Party and the broader membership and made a real effort to show his appreciation and gratitude. Most importantly he understood the Party. A Parliamentary leader who doesn’t understand their party, is not familiar with the history and corporate memory and ignores those peculiar nuances that define the Party, is destined to fail. I have seen it time again; those who are not of the Party rarely come to terms with the inextricable link between the organisational and parliamentary wing. The lay wing is not there just to do the blind bidding of MP’s and the leadership.
On Australia Day 26 January 2006 John Howard was conferred the Nation’s highest civilian honour the Companion of the Order of Australia. The citation read:
“for distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister and through contributions to economic and social policy reform, fostering and promoting Australia’s interests internationally, and the development of significant philanthropic links between the business sector, arts and charitable organisations”.
If I could have added a line to the citation it would have read:
'’For not forgetting where he came from’’.
When matters looked grim for John Howard in 2006 I sought a meeting to discuss the future of the Government. I was no longer an Office Bearer but Howard graciously indulged the request. It was a one on one meeting, amicable and open held in John’s office in Parliament House. Notwithstanding I was just another member of the Party, I was deeply concerned for John Howard the man and his legacy. John had changed the country for the better in my view; he had restored dignity to the office of the Prime Minister and genuinely upheld the ‘national interest’. The decline had been remarkable; in February, John Howard was unassailable and in a number of months the tables had been turned by a man who would, in time, be dismissed from office first by his Labor colleagues and later the electorate as an abject failure. There is no political justice in a democracy; when the ‘punters’ turn there’s no going back. In describing the vagaries of public sentiment and ever shifting support I often quoted a saying I heard many years ago to make the point that the public turn around can be quite dramatic.45
‘’Remember there was 7 days between Palm Sunday and the crucifixion’’
We talked about the emerging trend, the Government’s preoccupation with the past and lack of an Agenda going forward. We also discussed the void left by the departure of Arthur Sinodinos, the ‘go to’ man.46 On the street, the Government was no longer believable - after thirteen years we had run out of ‘puff’. There is a inevitability about all Governments regardless of political colour. Contrary to some reports since published I did not ask John Howard to retire although privately I felt it was still possible to transition to Costello. I left the meeting knowing the die had been cast, there would be no change.
Some months later in early September 2007, during the APEC Conference in Sydney, a number of the senior colleagues assembled in Sydney to discuss Howard’s on-going leadership apparently at his suggestion. Alexander Downer led the late night discussion. Later, media reports emerged that Downer had been requested to take ‘soundings’ about the leadership. I became aware of the episode when I was telephoned by one of the participants and later another Cabinet Minister who was not participating (he was upset to have found out about the meeting in his absence). I was surprised to be asked my views. I was also surprised by such a ham fisted last minute scramble for self preservation (somewhat akin to the Gillard Rudd switch). My interstate caller elicited that Alexander had been requested to take a ‘sounding’, not every Cabinet Minister was involved, Costello was not present and in all probability heard about the meeting details after the event. In any case, they couldn’t agree. So far as I can determine only one Cabinet Minister ever man to man, face to face suggested to John Howard that it was time to go. Making a phone call doesn’t count in my book. As matters turned out John Howard had already decided to bunker down hopeful that the ‘Howard battlers’ in the marginal seats would see him back – it was not to be.
On election night 24 November 2007, I watched John Howard calmly make a gracious concession speech – an era was over. A few people shed a tear that night as the curtain closed on one of the most exciting and productive Federal Governments since Bob Hawke.47
I have declined past attempts to encourage me to seek federal pre selection. For a short period I entertained a suggestion that I might make a contribution in the Australian Senate. The thought was short lived, particularly on the home front. That’s not to say that I completely rule out some further involvement down the track. You never quite loose the ‘Itch’ notwithstanding my continuing activity in the IDU and ICAPP. Some commentators have mused on the merit of including in the Senate former leaders who might bring their collective experience and wisdom to the Commonwealth Parliament. Wayne Goss, Jeff Kennett, Richard Court, Marshall Perron, Peter Beattie and John Fahey would add significantly to the fabric of informed debate - this is not an exclusive list by any means. The great strength of the House of Lords is that the most talented in the UK find a place to serve and contribute to the national conversation. In Canada, it is through an appointed Senate. As Australians we should not have a closed mind as to how best to harness the very best of what’s on offer. The Malaysian system of appointing unelected Ministers subsequently appointed to the Senate greatly enhanced the ability to bring into Government the very best in their field. To be clear, I am not advocating a MMP system as is the case in New Zealand or moving away from preferential voting for single member electorates. However, I remain unconvinced that we have the best system on offer to serve the Australian public.
For example The Indonesian Observer ‘Sow and Ye Shall Reap’ 16 April 1998 ↩
Hon Tony Staley AO was a former Fraser Cabinet Minister and my predecessor as Federal President serving from 1993 to 1999; Staley was sent by Howard to sound me out on the Presidency. Josephine and I met with Tony Staley over dinner in Melbourne and the transition was agreed. Stalely remained a close confidant and mentor; he had his own controversy when as Federal President he withdrew support from John Hewson in favour of Alexander Downer ↩
Mrs Joy Mein O.B.E. became the Victorian Liberal Party’s first female President in 1976 and in that capacity was a member of the Federal Executive ↩
Later commentator Pam Williams reflected on John and I working together. She described our partnership as an ‘’Odd mix of connections, Melbourne old school charm and Top End chutzpah’’ Australian Financial Review ‘A right Royal mess: how Howard led the Libs into chaos’ 11 Dec 2007 ↩
Wife of Murray Thompson and daughter in law of Lindsay Thompson ↩
NT News ‘Stone Under Attack over Top Lib Post’ 23 March 1999 ↩
NT News Editorial ‘Divided over Stone’ 25 March 1999 ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 08/10/1999 Parliamentary Record No: 18 11 August 1999 Adjournment Debate Election of Shane Stone as Federal President Liberal Party ↩
See also comments of CLP President Susan Cavanagh CLP Annual Conference Magazine Focus 2000 August 11 (extract Archives Documents) ↩
One Nation supporters ran as independents and were of no electoral consequence in the 1997 General Election. Some in the CLP had wanted to entertain an alliance with One Nation however I saw them for what they were – the enemy encroaching on our CLP turf. I was outraged when Chris Lugg the CLP Vice President was among those who hosted Pauline Hanson to Darwin. The CLP organizational wing should have dealt with Lugg there and then and saved themselves some grief further down the track ↩
In the 1998 Federal Election Pauline Hanson lost the seat of Blair to my former press secretary Cameron Thompson; I traveled to Kingaroy to launch his campaign. I was determined to do all I could to destroy One Nation – defeating Pauline Hanson was a first important step in that direction ↩
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a broad-based tax of 10 per cent on the sale of most goods and services in Australia. Subsequently passed June 1999 commenced 1 July 2000 ↩
Oakes L ‘Remarkable Times Australian Politics 2010-2013 What Really Happened’ Hachette UK 2013 ↩
ABC ‘Coalition Returns to Form in Second Half’ Curtis, Lyndal 2001 ↩
Martin C ‘Out of their own mouths’ ↩
Editorial Courier Mail ‘Sometimes Home Truths Must be Told’ 1 Feb 2010 ↩
Errington W & Van Olsen P ‘John Winston Howard. The Definitive Biography’. Melbourne University Press 2007 p. 297 reporting that Oakes had told a number of senior Liberal parliamentarians that I had not leaked the ‘memo’ ↩
Howard J ‘Lazarus Rising’ Harper Collin 2010 ↩
I received voluminous mail from Party members applauding my note. If anyone ever wondered why I never blinked and acceded to demands from some in the Parliamentary Wing to resign it was because I carried the support of the membership Australia wide and the entire Federal Executive apart from Peter Costello. That was a very empowering situation to be in ↩
ABC The World Today ‘Liberal Party Executive Meet in Canberra’ 4 May 2001 ↩
In my letter to John Howard advising my intention to retire I wrote a more bland response about my relationship with Peter Costello (Archives Documents) ↩
Timing is everything in politics. I believe Costello was right in declining the leadership after the Howard defeat however he missed the opportunity when it presented following the demise of Turnbull. I understood Costello’s view that the Party needed to get the Turnbull experiment out of its system before he could contemplate the leadership. His decision to leave the Federal Parliament in October 2009 changed all the dynamics leaving Tony Abbott to be the right man in the right place at the right time. Abbott was elected over Turnbull and Hockey in December 2009 ↩
Oakes L ‘Remarkable Times Australian Politics 2010-2013 What Really Happened’ Hachette UK 2013 reproduced article ‘Would Kevin handle the Stone cold truth’ 12 June 2010 ↩
Oakes L ‘Remarkable Times Australian Politics 2010-2013 What Really Happened’ Hachette UK 2013 reproduced article ‘Would Kevin handle the Stone cold truth’ 12 June 2010 ↩
ABC Radio Australia ‘Political manouvering fuels speculation about Australian PM’s future’ Extract: ‘However Mr Costello has dismissed the Liberal presidency as not a significant position and Mr Stone as irrelevant to his future prospects. “Mr Stone doesn’t change my career decisions, Mr Costello said” ↩
Costello P & Coleman P ‘The Costello Memoirs’ Melbourne University Press 2008 pp. 154-156 Peter Costello gives an account of our meeting which I confirm is accurate; as to whether he dealt with colleagues in the way he describes is at odds with the many complaints I fielded. That said I accept that he was extremely busy and occupied as Treasurer and he would not have had the time to get around many of his colleagues ↩
The Age Newspaper 25 July 2001 ↩
Border Morning Mail 25 July 2001 ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 10/10/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 15 11 October 1995 Adjournment Debate ‘Political Bias of ABC Clare Martin’ p. 5153 ↩
NT News ‘Good bye Little Napoleon’ 26 February 2000 Nikki Voss profiled my retirement. Some of her observations included ‘the media frequently loath him’; ‘every interview or public address was a masterful stage performance’; ‘his casual abandon and his disarming control of the floor transformed political reporting from a chore to a form of entertainment’; ‘while his fellow Ministers preferred the hands on method of dealing with annoying journalists…Stone fought his battles with a tongue slightly sharper than a freshly ground butchers knife. His words sent more than one female reporter scurrying from NT media careers in a flurry of tears and hairspray’ ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 10/17/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 16 17 October 1995 Adjournment Debate Media Awards p. 5309 ↩
Hawley J Weekend Magazine Sydney Morning Herald ‘Little Big Chief’ 25 October 1996 ↩
A random example of ABC bias was the Guestroom promo for Chris Makepeace - ‘’he was a political advisor to the likes of Shane Stone’’ 3 December 2012; not sure ‘‘what the likes of’’ was meant to convey but clearly not intended to be complimentary ↩
Phil Ruddock’s role in supporting and mentoring Tony Abbott and in helping newer members around the Parliament as well as his active engagement in the NSW Division is outstanding ↩
Conferred Honorary Life Membership of the Liberal Party Victorian Division at the same time I was so conferred ↩
Sir John Carrick AC KCMG former Secretary General of the NSW Division Liberal Party; mentor John Howard; Fraser Government Minister for Education (1975-1979), Minister for National Development & Energy (9179-1983), Minister for Regional and Urban Development (1975), Minister for Housing and Construction (1975); Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate (1978-1983); Senator for NSW (1971-1987) ↩
For a factual over view and history of Parliamentary Pensions and their evolution over time see The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948 Australian Parliamentary Library website under My Parliament ↩
NT News ‘Ban ‘best’ outcome former CM’ 22 December 2011 ↩
I am the first Territorian to receive the award in recognition of my past Victorian membership and term as Federal President ↩
I dislike the name Country Liberal. We had trialed the name in 1990 hence there was nothing new about the re-introduction of the name in recent times. I still prefer CLP or Country Liberal Party but clearly have lost that argument ↩
Federal Presidents of the Liberal Party are elected annually ↩
In fact it’s not 7 days however the saying stuck. I believe I first heard Harley Barber Republican Party strategist and later Governor of Mississippi use the saying ↩
This was not a criticism of Tony Nutt who was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and fulfilled an entirely different role than Arthur Sinodinos as Chief of Staff. Sinodinos as a former senior Treasury Officer at Assistant Secretary level was the ‘go to man’, he understood how the public service worked, could clear the log jams and get things done. This was even more important than before as the Secretary of Prime Minister & Cabinet Max aka ‘Max the axe’ Moore-Wilton AC had retired to the private sector; he together with Sinodinos had been a formidable team. Sinodinos had suggested Cabinet Secretary Peter Conran for the role however it was not to be. Conran had all the credentials to do the job plus more ↩
Commentators and journalists knocked each other over in the rush to write John Howards epitaph. Some commentary was informed, some missed the point and others just plain gleeful. I considered the on-line article by Janet Albrechtsen ‘Election Debacle Doesn’t Devalue Crucial Triumph’s’ 28 November 2007 as the most succint Weblink to article on-line ↩