Monday 8th August 2016 - 11:47 am

Kim Beazley:the unwritten story

by Alan Thornhill

Many readers will think of Kim Beazley as the former Labor leader, who lost Federal elections in 1998 and 2001.  But this story is not about him.  It is about his father, also Kim Beazley.  It has never been written before.

 

Kim Senior, as we will call him, was also a Federal politician.  Education minister in the Whitlam government, in fact.

 

He was on the Right, in the Whitlam cabinet.

 

 

This was at the height of the Moratorium movement, as the protests against Australian involvement in the Vietnam war were known, back then.

 

And in those turgid times, Kim Senior was invited to “explain his views,” before a Trades and Labor council meeting in Perth. We all knew what that meant.  Big Kim’s job was on the line.  Left wing unions had the numbers 80-20 on the council back then.

 

 

So Kim Senior was fighting for his political life.  Whatever happened, this would be a national story.   Not just one for The West Australian, where I worked, as industrial reporter at the time.   We knew, also, the result would come, either right on The West’s deadline, that night, or just after it.  But the result, itself, was the thing.

 

Kim Senior looked remarkably relaxed, as he rose to speak at that meeting.

 

And his speech ran to just one, or two sentences.

 

“I do not support the Vietnam war,” he said.

 

“Because getting involved in a land war in Asia is the second worst military decision  it is possible to make.”

 

He then sat down, leaving the assembled union officials turning to each other, to ask: “What’s the worst?”

 

After an interval of at least two minutes, Big Kim rose again, and said: “Oh.  And by the way.  The worst is to invade Russia in winter.”

 

In a long career as a reporter, I never heard a better speech.


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