Bert Kelly, “High and low tide in Canberra,”
The Bulletin, April 5, 1983, p. 139.
Mavis says that I should offer my political experience to the large number of new MPs who have suddenly appeared in Canberra, carried there by the big change in the political tide.
I can still recall the pleasant excitement I felt 24 years ago when I was first elected so I can imagine, to some extent at least, how the new members must feel.
I admit I had an easier entry to politics than they did; I almost blundered into parliament by succeeding the previous member, Sir Philip McBride, who retired. When I asked him if he thought I could win the seat, he started me on the path to my modesty by saying: “Bert, even you couldn’t lose it!”
Most of you members just starting your political careers will have won your spurs in tougher election battles than I had but I think I can still understand how excited you must feel.
Your lives will indeed be jammed full of excitement, meeting all the good and great and even calling them by their Christian names and that kind of thing. You will also be busy trying to understand how parliament works but I cannot help you there, as it was all a mystery to me after 19 years.
And then there is the relief of having a secretary and a research officer. And the Commonwealth drivers will wear uniforms and call you “Sir” when they pick you up. And your wife will glow demurely when she goes to Canberra with you for the opening of parliament. Everything will be so pleasant and exciting, at least for a while.
Then, things will start to go sour.
Your maiden speech will rightly be a great occasion for you (if not for the others) and it will be heard in respectful silence, as tradition demands. Mine was, too, and people congratulated me warmly when I sat down and I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps I was, after all, the New Messiah. But I noticed that a lot of people walked out when next I rose to speak.
The first signs of disillusionment come when you find that even your friends do not know — or even seem to care — that you have been toiling night and day governing the country. Indeed, I used to find that the sods did not even know whether parliament was sitting.
I shall never forget my disappointment when a friend stopped me in the street one day after I had been labouring in the capital vineyard for nearly three years. “Can you remember who succeeded Sir Philip McBride as our member, Bert?” he asked.
“I can’t remember his name,” I replied, “but, if I do, I’ll let you know.” I wonder if he knows yet.
The iron really enters your soul when you return from Canberra one Friday, having made a powerful speech which attracted quite a little attention, so you hope your wife will be pleased. But, when you ring her from your office, she is crying because one of the kids has measles and the hot water system is on the blink and the neighbours are starting to avoid her since the salary increase.
Then, she says that she will not be able to go with you to the big ball you have to attend that night. So you have that sinking feeling that, if she is not at your side looking sweet, rumours will start that all is not sweetness and light at home. This is electoral dynamite.
Next comes the creeping realisation that everything is not going well in Canberra, either.
You probably will have realised by now that all the talk about governments creating jobs is nonsense, that any money the government uses for job creation has to be borrowed (thus raising interest rates) or printed (increasing inflation) or taken from taxpayers (so reducing their ability to employ people).
Finally, as you feel the next election grimly approaching, you almost certainly will have discovered that many of the idealistic things you hoped to do have not been possible just because they cost too much. You will know by then that money does not grow on trees but comes from taxpayers and that too many of these are too much like me: When I find that the government is pinching too much of my money, I just slow down so the economic cake tends to get smaller.
It is true that the government can cut the cake up into more equal slices but, because the cake is smaller, the slices are smaller than before and this makes the cake eaters sad. It is on this rock that socialism usually breaks after about three years in Australia.
So, unless the new government makes a good job of governing the country, many of the new members who came in in such large numbers on March 5 will have to get ready to go out on another tide in three years.
But perhaps things will be different this time; perhaps this time Labor will govern us well. I hope so, anyway — for your sake and mine.
Bert Kelly, “Better to lose a poll than morality,”
The Bulletin, April 12, 1983, p. 111.
Last week [above] Mavis made me lecture the newly elected government members of parliament about how to behave, which they will no doubt ignore. Now I must do the same to the coalition members who suddenly find themselves in Opposition and who don’t know how to behave.
I went through this trauma in 1972-5 and it was hard to get used to. But it should not be so hard this time as many of the present Opposition went through the mangle then.
We did not acquit ourselves well then. There was something childish about the way we thought an Opposition should behave. We used to oppose any government proposition whether or not it was sensible.
One sordid example of this behaviour was our refusal to lengthen the quorum time while the cabinet room was being refurbished. This necessitated another room being used pro tem so the Labor cabinet had almost to run to answer the quorum bells.
Far worse was our knee-jerk reaction when the Labor Government reduced tariffs in 1973. Instead of analysing the reasons for this, we just grabbed the opportunity to beat the government over the head.
Even the Country Party, as it was then, joined in with gusto in spite of its policy of tariff reduction. We really thought that this was the way an Opposition should behave.
At that stage, both coalition parties were interested only in getting back into government at any price. We justified this by pointing out how badly Labor were running the country so we were prepared to do almost anything to get rid of them.
This thinking was continued when we returned to office. If I complained to my colleagues that some of the things we were doing were clearly unwise or contrary to our party’s policies, they would snarl at me and say: “Do you want Labor back in power again, Bert? Surely you know that politics is the art of the possible.”
Ginger, when joining the army in 1914, asked if he wanted to join the infantry or the cavalry. He considered this important question for some time and then said that he preferred the infantry. When asked why, he replied, “One day the retreat will be sounded and then I don’t want to be hindered by no plurry horse!”
Since 1973, the coalition has been imbued with only one thought and that was to get, and keep Labor out of, office and, in doing this, they were not going to be hindered by any plurry political principles.
So the Fraser Government lectured the world about the wickedness of its trade barriers while building ours even higher. It lectured the electorate about the virtues of self reliance and self help while promising a car racing track to the people of Canberra. It promised us smaller government but the government grew bigger; it was going to be ruthless in controlling the money supply and look where we finished!
There is a worse fate for a political party than losing an election and that is for it to lose its morality. It is bad when the electorate begins to regard a party and its policies with cynical contempt. It is far worse when its members, particularly its parliamentary members, do so too.
Now the wise ones are telling us that to regain government we must regain the middle ground and try to be loved by all, posing as believers in free enterprise while at the same time giving in to powerful pressure groups who want more government intervention. Andrew Peacock says that he will return to Liberal principles and will resist the temptation to chase after every popular political hare that gets out of the squat. I hope he can but it will not be easy.
In 1978, in One More Nail, I wrote:
I must record my disappointment with the performance of Andrew Peacock, our Foreign Minister. Judging by his public statements, it is clear that he is aware of the damage done to our relationship with Asian countries by our protection policies. But nothing seems to happen. I used to figuratively keep my ear pretty close to the cabinet keyhole when I knew they were discussing the effect of our protection policies on our Asian neighbours, but I could never catch any sounds of battle. Andrew Peacock has all the attributes I envy most, grace, charm, intelligence and eloquence.
But he gives the impression that he is waiting in the wings for the call to be Prime Minister one day, and doesn’t want to get mixed up in the rough and tumble of the sordid political world. I would like to see him come out of the cabinet room more often with blood on his boots and a frown instead of that contagious smile on his dial.
I would love to eat those words.
- Bert Kelly on his 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
- Bert Kelly, Hayek and Mencken on the virtues of farmers
- Sound economics calls for quiet from government
- Petrol for Farmers
- Some Sacred Cows
- Experiences in Parliament
- Spending your Money
- Is Taxmania a politician fetish?
- How Bert Kelly repays a free feed
- Modest column #898
- Chicken-hearted feathered friends strange bedfellows on a feather bed?
- Who needs literary licence?
- A touch of Fred's anarchy
- Helping the farmers help themselves
- Standing on the shoulders of the downtrodden
- Supply and Demand
- Bert Kelly responds to claims he is arrogant and uncredentialed
- Politics: it's a very confusing business
- The best featherbeds run on rails
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
- Blinded by their tears
- Anti-freedom pro-tobacco industry lobby harmed Australia
- Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
- An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
- Is free healthcare worthless?
- Can government kiss it better?
- 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
- State Premiers are always asking for more taxing powers
- 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
- The inspirational incentivising Dear Leader Gough Whitlam
- Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
- Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
- Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
- Bert Kelly's empowering feminism
- Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
- What if the whole country is swindled?
- Moss Cass: "Flood plains are for floods"
- A worm's eye view
- Eccles returns to haunt us
- How to grip a politician's ear
- It's hard to digest this economic cake
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Cold water on government-instigated irrigation schemes
- Hooray for Ord River Dam!
- Tariffs paid by exporters
- The problem of principles v popularity
- If you support State Quotas, where will your logic take you?
- Against guidance by government
- A socialist in Liberal clothing
- Never ask the government to help
- Don't listen to economists!
- Bert Kelly's revolutionary strategy
- Whitlam's July 1973 25% tariff cut
- Bert Kelly on Import Quotas
- Good directions when government backseat driving, like reversing down wrong side of road
- Barriers to imports are barriers to exports
- 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
- I like my kind acts to get a mention in the press
- A Modest Member rakes the embers
- Tariffs Introduced
- More About Tariffs
- Sacred cow kicker into print
- Bert Kelly's 1984 two-article quote-collection on Aboriginal policies
- Modest Member must not give up
- Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
- Tariff-cut nonsense lives on
- Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
- The high cost of protection
- Generosity creates problems
- 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
- modest members society
- 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
- Industrial Relations Club shovellers
- From Shann to Stone
- Government Intervention
- A sojourn in the real world
- The tariff wind swings
- Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
- Bert Kelly on the Political Process
- A charabanc called protection
- Taken for a ride - to nowhere
- Down hill, in circles, all the way
- Economic facts and figures are statistics who should speak out
- Any cons arguing small business bad but big government good?
- Relationships with the Liberal Party
- Tariffs = High Prices + World War
- Bert Kelly's Family History
- Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
- What the MP could say to the Bishop
- 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
- Undigested morsels in Fraser spew
- Bert Kelly on LSD
- Bert Kelly reflects on the Australian car industry in 1992
- Bert Kelly wants reprinted Shann's Economic History of Australia
- If tariffs are opposed here then why not there?
- The emperor has no textiles, clothing and footwear sense
- 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
- Tariff Protection in Australia (1970)
- Has Santa socked it to car makers?
- Is the Budget a cargo cult?
- Will we end up subsidising one another?
- Keeping the bucket of worms alive
- Can we get off the stomach-churning head-spinning tariff merry-go-round?
- 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 on Alf Rattigan's Industry Assistance: The Inside Story
- 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
- Bert Kelly baits Welfare State Tiger
- Why does Govt wear two faces?
- Parliament a place for pragmatists
- Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
- Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
- Bert Kelly on dumping duties
- The Govt's helping hand often hurts
- Unbuckling the hobbles on the motor industry
- 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
- Having your cake and eating it
- Perish the thawed!
- Hooray for Northern Development!
- The silly image of our MPs
- Bert Kelly Question Time highlights
- Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
- Should facts stand in the way of a good story?
- Fondling one another's glass haloes
- What is the sense in making the effort to look after yourself?
- Fred's Feeling: Counterpatriotic country contrarian
- Handouts for big boys only
- Mavis trying to buy a hand loom
- Bad news for bearers of bad news
- Is it time to get aboard the tariff band-waggon?
- Why farmers resent tariff protection for motor makers
- A sordid use of scare tactics
- Goods vs services
- Tariffs are hilariously counterproductive
- Bert Kelly on decentralisation
- Inflation breeds moral decay
- Who envies equality?
- Growth – malignant or benign?
- Government wiser than Magna Carta
- Bert Kelly on looking to politicians for moral leadership
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- Whitlam & co on the Dismissal
- 25% Tariff Cut
- Bert Kelly on pensions
- Mr Clunies-Ross of the Cocos Islands should rule Australia
- They get the wind up when it changes
- Why the Big Green Lie survives
- Ross McLean in 1982: "Malcolm! Why don't we try good government? It might be popular."
- Bert Kelly on the importance of exchange rate movements
- Bert Kelly shows how to attack
- Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly
- Industrial relations dinosaur, Bruce, chews his cud
- Hooray for "firmly entrenched"!
- Respect your dinosaurs
- What if something is "deeply ingrained" yet harmful?
- A case for ministerial inertia
- Why politicians don't like the truth
- Our great open spaces
- 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?"
- Politicians get undeserved praise, why not undeserved blame too?
- Feet in a bucket of champagne
- Rural Problems
- Health cover needs a $30 excess clause
- Unholy state of taxation
- Boring economics worth a smile
- The Libido for the Miserable
- Agricultural Development and Tariffs
- Fred's too poor to have principles
- Eccles Law of the constant wage share
- "He whom the gods would destroy ..."
- Tariffs: when to wean infant BHP?
- Keep any government as far as possible from farming
- The Playford charade is out of date
- Bert Kelly: the odd man out who's now in
- Dries must resist giving up struggle as going gets tough
- How a well meaning Government can be so stupid
- The icing on the economic cake
- Sir Roderick Carnegie's foreword to Bert Kelly's Economics Made Easy
- The Vale of Popularity and the Protection Procession
- Politics 101: Pay Lip Service to Capitalism and Shoot the Messenger
- Bert Kelly makes politicians eat their own words on tariffs, then says, "We cannot be blamed for treating the statements of our statesmen with cynical contempt"
- Bert Kelly on Free Enterprise
- Cartoons of protected industry, the welfare teat and the nanny state
- Bert Kelly on the theory of constant shares and the Fabian Society
- Bert Kelly vs Doug Anthony
- You're lucky if you escape being helped by government
- Bert Kelly on Small Farmers
- Bert Kelly on Apathy
- Bert Kelly in 1967 on "problems of government and things like that"
- The last "Dave's Diary"
- Bert Kelly vs The Australian on tariffs in 1977
- Bounties or Tariffs, Someone Pays
- Geriatric companies without a minder
- A free marketeer wary of free trade
- Nixon's puzzling profession of faith
- "Ford ... seems to spend more time bending its knees than its back"
- Clyde Cameron's weak ways with wise words
- Why flaunt what others flout?
- Bert Kelly yearns for Tim Flannery's powers of prediction
- Looking after yourself is silly
- Bert Kelly masterpiece on drought, fire, flood and other natural disaster relief schemes
- Government can take credit for our car industry mess
- Car makers want the 4wd driven deeper into tariff bog
- Why our MP is no longer prone to a good sob story
- Auto industry is in a straitjacket
- Bert Kelly on market predictions
- Why should dryland farmers subsidise irrigation farmers?
- How much should government decrease incentive for independence from government?
- Clarkson crowned Deputy Government Whip
- Bert Kelly to blame for soaring government healthcare costs
- 1959 return of Dave's Diary
- Bert Kelly in 1966 on developing northern Australia
- Successful government intervention can [sic] occur
- Vernon Report upholds Clarkson
- Quiet Man Makes An Impact
- Should it be compulsory to buy footwear and clothing?
- To save Australian clothing industry women must all wear same uniform
- Don't confuse plucking heart strings with plucking harp strings
- Speech only for public
- Catchy Tariff Circus Extravaganza
- Bert Kelly in 1985 on cars yet again
- Hurrah for the Gang of Five
- Thoughts on a verse about Balfour
- Bert Kelly pep talk to politicians
- Government intervention = Agony postponed but death brought nearer
- Recipe for disaster: Freeze!
- Recipe for government intervention: Gather winners and scatter losers
- Recipe for industry destruction: Blanket market signals
- Mavis writes!
- Bert Kelly's empiricism is not kneejerk reaction kind
- The $2,000 song of the shirt worker
- Subsiding only small farmers means subsiding the big banks
- Difficult to be fast on your feet when you've got your ear to the ground
- It would surprise people to see how sensible MPs behave if they think they are not being watched
- Bert Kelly on "this land of limitless resources" and "great open spaces"
- Growing bananas at the South Pole
- Car components tariff protection under fire
- Why carry a $300m car subsidy?
- Tariff feather beds for the foreign giants
- Bert Kelly says end compulsory voting to stop donkey vote
- Perhaps being smart and insured isn't all luck
- You gets your tariff, you pays a price
- More funds to train Olympians?
- Fire in their guts and wind in ours
- Should free universal healthcare include pets?
- Sound advice from a modest farmer
- A tottering monument to intervention
- Cunning meets wisdom
- Competition, Aussie-style: Who's the bigger parasite?
- Australians are proud patriotic parasites, says Bert Kelly
- Taxpayer-funded sport is cheating
- Being loved by all is not always a good thing
- Welfare State Destroys Society
- 1980 Bert Kelly feather bed series
- The White Mice Marketing Board
- Government intervention and advice can be harmful, even when right, even for those it tries to help
- One small step on the compulsory voting landmine
- The free & compulsory education sacred cows have no clothes
- Holding a loaded wallet to an economist's head
- Political No Man's Land
- Only blind greed demands both equality and prosperity
- A cow that sucks itself — that's us!