by a Modest Member of Parliament, The Australian Financial Review, January 11, 1974, p. 3.
I quickly learnt, soon after becoming an MP, that if my electors questioned the accuracy of any of my statements, to reply that my opinion was the result of “research in depth.”
This immediately gave the impression that I had been poring over masses of literature while locked in a garret.
“Research” by itself is eminently respectable, but “research in depth” is quite irresistible.
My audience were usually unaware that the facts that I had been propounding had often been gleaned from some half-digested information gathered by some ill-informed journalist like myself.
But if I claimed it to be the result of “research in depth” then it took real courage to contest it.
But my particular personal problem is Fred who knows me all too well, having farmed alongside me long before I became an MP.
He knows too much about me for my comfort.
The first time I tried this “research in depth” gambit on him he didn’t say anything but I could see his slow, cynical mind grinding away.
The second time he just snorted.
But the third time he was bold enough to get up in the back of the hall and say that he thought I was talking through my hat.
This saddened me but when I explained my problem to Mavis, she, as usual, had a ready solution.
“The next time he questions your opinions, dear,” she advised, “say that your facts are based on research using a computer. That’ll fix him. Even Fred will not question the decision of a computer.”
This seemed an eminently sensible and simple solution. Few of my constituents, and particularly myself, know how a computer works.
We know it murmurs away wisely in a dignified way if you feed it cards with the correct writing on them.
Every now and again it takes a big breath and squirts out of a lot of information into a metal basket standing attentively by.
We know if you feed it wrong information it is likely to get sulky and refuse to give its milk down. But we don’t really understand it so it frightens us.
The awe with which we hold computers is compounded by the veneration with which great intellectuals like Eccles regard the animal.
I have a sneaking suspicion that even Eccles doesn’t know how the thing works, although of course he wouldn’t admit this.
Eccles genuflects if he is in the presence of one and I always expect him to take his shoes off in its presence or back away when leaving.
So I thought Mavis’ advice to get a computer into the act to support my rather shaky arguments was sound. And it worked, too.
The next time when Fred expressed disbelief at my arithmetic, I trotted out the computer and that fixed him.
And it worked the second time, though I could see he wasn’t going to continue to take this lying down. I should have been more careful.
At my next meeting I was laying down the law about the price of wool.
I admit my arithmetic has always been weak but the position had been made infinitely worse by all these newfangled metric measurements.
But when I stated that 210c a kilogram was equivalent to 123,73265 pence a lb, I could see that Fred was not going to take this as gospel, so I quickly added that my statement was backed up by research in depth and the final result had been obtained from a computer.
There was a general murmur of approval and respect at this statement so I went eloquently on, but Fred got out his notebook and a stub of pencil and went laboriously to work.
I watched him out of the corner of my eye and my apprehension did nothing to help my eloquence.
When I sat down there was general, if restrained, applause and some questions which I answered with the fast footwork which a politician acquires.
But all the time Fred was doing his sums, muttering away at his tables and wearing a worried frown.
Just before the vote of thanks he got to his feet and said that 210c a kilogram was equivalent to 114.305184 pence a lb. and either the computer or I was telling lies, and if I was wrong on this occasion, I was probably wrong on others.
Then he said truculently that he hoped he wouldn’t ever again hear me mention research in depth and invoke a computer as an authority either.
But it was good while it lasted!
- Bert Kelly on Journalism
- Move for a body of Modest Members
- Modest Members Association
- Bert Kelly's Maiden Parliamentary Speech
- Government Intervention
- 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Bert Kelly
- Petrol for Farmers
- Some Sacred Cows
- Experiences in Parliament
- Spending your Money
- Who needs literary licence?
- A touch of Fred's anarchy
- Supply and Demand
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
- Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
- An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Side Benefits Argument for Government
- Bert Kelly gets his head around big-headed bird-brained politics
- First Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Second Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Third Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fourth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fifth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Sixth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Bert Kelly on the 2011 Budget and Australia's Pathetic Journalists and Politicians
- Bert Kelly, Bastard or Simple Sod?
- Liberal Backbencher Hits Govt. Over Import Restrictions
- Bert Kelly feels a dam coming on at each election
- Bert Kelly Enters Parliament
- Why take in one another's washing?
- Bert Kelly breaks the law, disrespects government and enjoys it
- Gillard's galley-powered waterskiing
- Can price control really work?
- Should we put up with socialism?
- We're quick to get sick of socialism
- Time the protection racket ended
- Can't pull the wool over Farmer Fred
- People not Politics
- Bert Kelly admits he should have had less faith in politicians
- Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
- Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
- Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
- Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Bert Kelly reviews The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop
- Bert Kelly reviews We Were There
- Tariffs get the fork-tongue treatment
- Bert Kelly reduces government to its absurdities
- Politician sacrifices his ... honesty
- It's all a matter of principle
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Infant Industry Argument
- Bert Kelly Untangles Tariff Torment
- Bert Kelly resorts to prayer
- Eccles keeps our nose hard down on the tariff grindstone
- "Don't you believe in protecting us against imports from cheap labour countries?"
- Even if lucky, we needn't be stupid
- Great "freedom of choice" mystery
- Small government's growth problem
- Tariffs Introduced
- More About Tariffs
- Sacred cow kicker into print
- Modest Member must not give up
- Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
- Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
- The Society of Modest Members
- John Hyde's illogical, soft, complicated, unfocussed and unsuccessful attempt to communicate why he defends markets
- Modesty ablaze
- Case for ministers staying home
- The unusual self-evident simplicity of the Modest Members Society
- Animal lib the new scourge of the bush
- The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Krill
- Repeal economic laws, force people to buy new cars and enforce tariffs against overseas tennis players
- Thoughts on how to kill dinosaurs
- Let's try the chill winds
- Taking the Right's road
- Bert Kelly: "I did not try often or hard enough"
- Bert Kelly "lacked ... guts and wisdom"
- A look at life without tariffs
- The Gospel according to Bert
- Tiny note on Bert Kelly's column in The Bulletin in 1985
- Why costs can't be guaranteed
- Hitting out with a halo
- Paying farmers not to grow crops will save on subsidies, revenge tariffs, etc
- "The Modest Farmer joins us" | "How The Modest Farmer came to be"
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Freeloading Justifies Government Argument
- Government Intervention
- Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
- Bert Kelly on the Political Process
- Charabanc: Part 1
- Charabanc: Part 2
- Charabanc: Part 3
- Relationships with the Liberal Party
- Tariffs = High Prices + World War
- Bert Kelly's Family History
- Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
- Why Bert Kelly was not even more publicly outspoken
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- How to stand aside when it's time to be counted
- How the Modest Member went back to being a Modest Farmer
- My pearls of wisdom were dull beyond belief
- Bert Kelly on Political Football
- Ross Gittins Wins Bert Kelly Award
- Interesting 1964 Bert Kelly speech: he says he is not a free trader and that he supports protection!
- This is the wall the Right built
- Has Santa socked it to car makers?
- Is the Budget a cargo cult?
- Will we end up subsidising one another?
- Do we want our money to fly?
- Can a bear be sure of a feed?
- How to impress your MP -
- The time for being nice to our MPs has gone ...
- Don't feel sorry for him -
hang on to his ear
- Trade wars can easily end up on a battlefield
- Tariffs Create Unemployment
- Bert Kelly recommends Ayn Rand
- Bert Kelly's Satirical Prophecy: Minister for Meteorology (tick) and High Protectionist Policies to Result in War Yet Again (?)
- Bert Kelly in 1972 on Foreign Ownership of Australian Farmland and Warren Truss, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan in 2012
- Parliament a place for pragmatists
- Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
- Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
- A Modest Farmer looks at the Problems of Structural Change
- Government Fails Spectacularly
- Know your proper place if you want the quiet life
- Bert Kelly on political speech writers
- Perish the thawed!
- Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- Why no-one nails the Big Green Lie
- A case for ministerial inertia
- Why politicians don't like the truth
- Ominous dark clouds are gathering
- Better to be popular than right
- Crying in the wilderness
- Ivory tower needs thumping
- Bert Kelly asks, "How can you believe in free enterprise and government intervention at the same time?"
- Rural Problems
- Unholy state of taxation
- Boring economics worth a smile