Bert Kelly, The Bulletin, February 10, 1981, p. 91.
Until this week, I had been congratulating myself on the way I have handled our “family” meetings at which we have been dissecting “Malcolm’s Message,” the PM’s statement of Liberal philosophy made last December 5 in Adelaide. By exercising all the cunning footwork I learnt in politics, I have prevented Eccles from dominating our discussion and, believe me, that is no mean achievement. But I am afraid that this week’s meeting rather got away from me and the fault was Fred’s, not Eccles’s.
I began the meeting by reading from the Message this stately quotation: “Perhaps the most fundamental of the Liberal’s belief is the right to freedom to choose … It is this belief in the right to freedom to choose that distinguishes most clearly and directly our own open, expanding, caring, co-operative society from the grey, imposed and shut-in collectivity of the socialist State.”
When I read this out Mavis started to sniff, which she always does when she gets excited. Eccles was shuffling around a bit, but it was Fred who put the cat among the canaries. Fred doesn’t say much at meetings; he grunts a good deal and snorts sometimes, but no one could say that he tries to overwhelm opposition with eloquence. But on this occasion he let me have it with both barrels.
He started by saying that because recently he had been surprised to find that he had a better harvest looming than he expected, he suddenly decided to buy one of those big, self-propelled headers. He chose an imported header because he wanted it to reap small seeds as well as wheat. But when he went to buy the machine of his choice, he was told that it would cost an extra $2000 because of the customs duty that the government had imposed. So I can understand his irritation when he heard me meandering on about the virtues of having free choice.
“Free choice indeed,” he snorted, “I wonder how much extra the header would have cost if the choice had been unfree!”
I admit that this rather rocked me, but I came back at him by saying that, although I was sorry about the extra $2000 he had to pay for the header of his choice, at least he had the choice of paying the extra money to get it; he got the machine he wanted. But my argument seemed to inflame him even more. Fred has a brother in the car business and Fred went to him after harvest a bit flush with money, to buy a particular imported car. He had the money and was even reluctantly prepared to pay the 57.5 percent duty on the car of his choice. I can imagine how savage this must have made him because it would have meant that the car cost $4000 extra. I bet there were some awful mutterings about free choice when Fred heard that.
Then Fred’s brother told him that he couldn’t have that car anyway because the number of cars of that model that were allowed by the government to be imported was limited by an import quota and that all the cars that were allowed in had already been sold. You can imagine Fred’s reaction when he heard me reading about the Prime Minister’s dedication to the principle of free choice!
While Fred was fulminating about this, I glanced across at Eccles who winked at me. We were well aware that, if Fred knew what we knew, he would blow his top properly. Only a few months ago, we knew, the IAC had advised the government that if it felt that it had to continue this awful import quota system for cars, then at least some of the import licenses should be auctioned so that at least some of the shady business could be exposed to market forces. But the two ministers concerned, Mssrs Lynch and Moore, insisted on keeping to themselves the responsibility of allotting the import quotas.
I know there must be some explanation for this kind of behaviour. You just cannot have the PM sounding off about the virtues of free choice and at the same time have his ministers making sure that no choice is available. Mavis is sure that Fraser could not have known about the ministers’ decision: perhaps they have been doing things behind the PM’s back.
Or the pair of them may have bullied Fraser into submission. That doesn’t seem likely somehow. Sir Phillip has never lacked eloquence, but he hardly seems the bullying type. Perhaps Moore has hidden depths.
So this week’s meeting ended up in a nasty mood. Fred said sourly that the freedom of choice about which the PM was so eloquent reminded him of the choice that Henry Ford used to give his car customers.
He told them that they could have the choice of any colour they wanted as long as it is black!
- 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