Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Gorton

I have no idea who John Gorton is.

Starting out with a name I don't remember is a lot of fun. It's like an unwrapped present. I'm so excited to see what I'm going to get.

Oh! Lord Wiki says he's a Prime Minister! He's the one that came between McEwen and McMahon.

His birthday is interesting. 9 September 1911. That's a lot of nines. And when I look at the date, it makes me think of September 11.

Okay. Birthday website time!

He's a Virgo like my mom. Oh, I guess Tracey is a Virgo too. Then there's Dave. He's a Virgo...and my grandpa. It seems I have a lot of Virgos in my life. Anymore out there? Raise your hand.

This website says this about the Virgo. Virgo governs critical analysis, intellectual subtlety and service. Virgo people are inclined to be practical and industrious, yet adaptable, with a remarkable eye for detail. Tracey, you did say you notice things left on tables. That's a detail, right?

I know Virgos are also known to be very critical. My mom fits that trait quite well. I can say that because I don't think she reads my blog. But just in case she decides to read this entry...Hi Mom! I love you! It's okay if you're critical because I'm being critical about you being critical. So that makes me critical too.

Okay. I just noticed something weird. Gorton is the 19th Prime Minister. There's that nine again. Ah! I'm writing this entry in 2009. And I'm writing this entry at 9:19 in the morning. Okay, I'm actually not. But wouldn't it be eerie if I was? Would you guys get major goosebumps?

Speaking of numbers....

Gorton's numerology number is NOT 9. It's 3. That's the social number. This website says this about the 3: You are witty, possess a gift for gab and savor the limelight. I guess they would make good actors. Would they make a good Prime Minister?

You know, I don't think I know of any 3's....nor do I remember writing about any 3's. Maybe I have though and just forgot.

Well, onto more stuff about Mr. Nine.

He was born in Melbourne. Lord Wiki says he was illegitimate. I've just decided that I hate that term. What? Having a father that's married to your mother makes you more legitimate? I think I prefer the term bastard. That word has a lovely ring to it.

All right. His family stuff is confusing. I'm going to have to read this ten times to understand it.

His mom's name is Alice Sinn.

His father was John Rose Gorton. He was an orange orchardist. Yum. Oranges are what I craved during my pregnancy. They were like my crack. One day at preschool we made orange juice with the kids. I just wanted to grab all the oranges and eat them all.

Daddy Gorton and his wife Kathleen emigrated from South Africa. They broke up and Gorton got together with Alice Sinn. She died in 1920 from Tuberculosis. Gorton would have been about nine when he lost his mother.

Lord Wiki says young Gorton went to live with his father's estranged wife and his half-sister. I'm confused. What happened to Daddy Gorton. Was he there too? Or did he die as well?

I wonder how Kathleen treated Gorton. Did she resent him? Take pity on him? Love him?

If Daddy Gorton was still alive and part of the picture, how did he convince Kathleen to let him back into their lives? I'm trying to picture if Tim left me for another woman and ended up having a baby. What would I do if the woman died? I can imagine if both of them died, I'd feel obligated to take the kid. I mean if no one else was going to take the baby.....I couldn't let Jack's half sibling go to an orphanage. But if Tim was still alive, I'm not sure I'd let him back into my life. I'd perhaps send my condolences for his loss though. Maybe I'd send the child a Christmas present every so often.

Kathleen lived in Sydney so Gorton ended up going to school at Sydney Church of England Grammar School.

Lord Wiki says he also went to Geelong Grammar School. Was that after Sydney Church of England Grammar School? Did he return to Victoria? Or was that before his mother died and all that? I thought he was born in Melbourne. Oh well. Maybe he went to boarding school in Geelong.

For his university studies, Gorton went to Oxford. He studied history, politics, and economics. Well, that's a good mix for a future Prime Minister. He also took flying lessons there and got his piloting license.

His wife is American! He met her during his college years while holidaying in Spain. They got married in 1935 and took over Gorton's father's orchard. This was in Kerang Victoria. I need to look this up on the map.

 It's about three hours from Melbourne.

I'm trying to get a handle on all of this. According to Lord Wiki, Gorton was born in Melbourne. So, this must be where Alice lived. So, how was this orchard three hours away? Maybe Daddy Gorton bought it later? Maybe when Alice died, he rushed off to buy an orchard up north and sent his son to his ex-wife.


For World War II, Gorton enlisted in the Royal Australian Airforce Reserve.

In 1942, he was injured in a war plane crash. It doesn't sound too extreme. Well, I guess it was kind of bad. He injured his face. But that's better than death. And his face looks okay in Lord Wiki's photo. Well, his nose is a little crooked. He's still fairly handsome though.

Yikes. That wasn't his only scary war experience. His ship the Derrymore was attacked by the Japanese. The ship was abandoned and Gorton spent a day on a liferaft in shark infested waters. Plus, he didn't have a lot of drinking water. I'm glad he was rescued fast.

Wait! There's more.

He was in another plane crash and was lost in the bush for a few days. Then another time his plane engine failed when he was about to take off. His aircraft flipped. Gorton fortunately wasn't hurt.

Now for the political stuff.

Before the war, Gorton had been a member of the Country Party. After the war, he was elected senator for the Liberal Party. He served under Menzies and Holt. He had a lot of Minister roles: Minister for the Navy, Minister for Works, Minister for the Interior, and Minister for Education.

Minister of the Navy is now called Minister for Defense. Joel Fitzgibbon has that role now. I think I've seen his name mentioned on Twitter.

Lord Wiki says Gorton originally had extreme right-wing views, but later toned them down a bit.

When Holt mysteriously drowned, there was that whole leadership thing. McMahon was supposed to be Prime Minister. McEwen said no way. McEwen became Prime Minister with the understanding that when the Liberal Party voted in a new leader, he'd be out. I think I got that right. I hope.

Gorton took McEwen's place.

Gorton was elected in on 9 January 1968. There's that 9 again.

Lord Wiki says he's the first senator to become a Prime Minister. Really? Has their been any after him?

Gorton was popular at first.  A man of the people. Ah, that goes well with his numerology number.

He lessoned ties to the British.

He supported the Vietnam War....which began to make him drop in popularity. My parents were just in Vietnam. I've been looking at all their photographs.

He increased funding to the arts, including the film industry.

He was not a good public speaker. That probably helped his popularity sink. Also, rumors started to float about his drinking problems and experiences with women.

As Gorton became less popular, the Labor party began to be a threat. McMahon challenged his leadership. The catch was McEwen forbid the whole McMahon-as-leader thing. But then McMewen retired, and McMahon was free to become leader.

Ah! Malcolm Fraser had a fit about Gorton. He retired as Defense Mechanism. During his resignation speech, Fraser said Gorton wasn't fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister. I have to say I feel a little bad for Gorton. I mean it might be true, but still....Those are some pretty hurtful words. That's why I'd never go into politics. I'm way too sensitive.

Gorton called a Liberal Party meeting to settle the whole issue. It seems he had them vote on whether they thought he was a good leader or not. There was a tie. Gorton said that wasn't a vote of confidence and threw in the towel. McMahon became leader.

Gorton didn't walk away with his tail between his legs. He got himself the role of Deputy Prime Minster and Defense Minister. A few months later, McMahon fired him for disloyalty.

I love Holt, McMahon, McEwen, and Gorton. They're awesome. Fascinating. Fraser and Whitlam too. I love this whole time period. If I had to pinpoint my favorite Aussie history time, this might have to be it.

When Labor came into Power (Whitlam, right?), Gorton was in the Shadow Ministry. Then he resigned and became an independent. He did not like Fraser becoming Prime Minister. He passionately hated him. And he denounced the Whitlam dismisall.

Okay, now we get to his elder years.

He retired to Canberra.

He rejoined the Liberals Party.

He continued to hate Fraser.

His wife died in 1983. Ten years later he met a new wife.

He died in 2002. He was 90.

That's it for Lord Wiki.

Now onto other things....

I'm going to look at the National Archives of Australia Prime Minister Site. It has a picture. He is a bit unusual looking, but not bad. Someone did a pretty good job at fixing his face.

Okay. Now I'm getting more childhood stuff. Daddy Gorton and Alice had TWO kids. Our John was the second. This website talks about the older sister, Ruth (who Lord Wiki mentioned as a half sister). She moved off to South Africa eventually. Was she Alice's child, or Kathleen's? I'm confused. There was a rumor that Ruth died in infancy, but she didn't. I wonder how that rumor began.

The site says that Gorton was born in Prahran. It's in Melbourne and a lot of gay people live there. It's a trendy type place. At least that's what Lord Wiki says. I'm going to have to learn all these Melbourne neighborhoods. I wonder if I'll love Melbourne as much as Sydney. I'm starting to feel a little twitch in my heart. That might be become some of my favorite bloggers are from Melbourne. I can't help but fall in love with it.

At some point, Gorton's father told him he had been born in Wellington New Zealand. This is the birthplace he wrote down when applying to Oxford and RAAF. Interesting. Can you become Prime Minister if you weren't born in Australia?

Gorton spent a lot of time with his maternal grandparents. They lived in Melbourne. His parents traveled a lot on business trips. Later, when Gorton five, the family moved to Sydney.

Now I'm getting more information about what happened to Gorton after his mom died. His father did leave him with Kathleen. And I guess Ruth was their daughter. Gorton had been told she had died in infancy. But surprise! She was still alive.

Kathleen played mom to Gorton and Ruth while Daddy Gorton went off doing business things in Victoria.

When he was sixteen, Ruth and Kathleen moved to London. Gorton did boarding school at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School. I can't tell if this was before or after they left.

I need to read a whole biography about this guy. His childhood fascinates me. I want to know EVERYTHING.

Sometime after they left, Gorton moved to Victoria. He did boarding school in Geelong. He says this was the happiest of his school years. While there, he visited the homes of the unemployed in Geelong. What he saw influenced his life and carried over into his political career.

The website says in his political career he was very anti-communist. And he was a Cold War warrior. That sounds like some kind of action hero. It kind of rolls off the tongue weird though. I think they'd need to nickname him CCW. No. That doesn't sound good either....

Gorton pushed some marital law through the senate. The website says if it had passed, his parents would have been allowed to marry. I think it's about the grounds for divorce. Maybe Daddy Gorton couldn't divorce Kathleen and that's why he never married Alice. I guess Kathleen wasn't good enough as a wife, but she was good enough to raise Daddy Gorton's child.

 Am I being too judgmental?

Gorton was hard-working, but kept to his own interests in politics. He wasn't well known outside his circles. Then in October 1967 something happened that increased his popularity. Holt had some troubles involving VIP planes. There was some missing information that made the party look suspicious. Gorton found the information and saved the day. I THINK I'm getting that right.

When he was Prime Minister, some people accused Gorton of being a one man band. My dad was like that with meals when we're all at their lake house. He wanted to do all the work himself. Sometimes it's easier to do all the work rather than enlisting help from others. You lose a lot of control if you do the latter. But I think most people WANT to help. They want to be involved.

Gorton sounds like a very fun man. The website says, Political commentators and his Coalition colleagues often referred to the ‘Gorton style’. They noted his friendly and relaxed manner, his approachability, irreverence, random brusqueness and perennial candour, his tendency to speak ‘off the cuff’, to be unorthodox and unpredictable (to those who did not know him), and his careless habits of dress, the cigarette always in his hand and the jaunty grin.

He did get in trouble for his adventures with the opposite sex. He had a very late night with a female journalist that caught people's attention. Who knows what he was doing with her in the wee hours of the morning. It might have been innocent. But when a married man is with a woman that late at night, it looks suspicious. At least I think so.

He supported the Vietnam War.  But if I'm reading this correctly; he did not want to send more forces over there.

He wanted to make Australians proud of their country. He wanted to prevent overseas takeovers of natural resources.

He helped the disadvantaged, including free health care for families in need.

So he was someone I could like in that regard.

As for the Indigenous Issues. He supported assimilation. He was against land rights because he feared it would promote separatism. I think I've mentioned this before, but I support assimilation.

I don't support the type of assimilation where everyone adopts the culture of white men. No way. I like the idea of many people coming together. They maintain aspects of their original culture, but at the same time though, a general culture is shared by everyone.

The idealism of assimilation can cost lives though. I'm reading a book now about the Holocaust and Australia. A lot of Jews were rejected from Australia because certain people worried they wouldn't assimilate enough. I think there ARE Jews who don't assimilate. They live in their own special world, like the Amish. But most of us DO assimilate. It might not be always to the point if intermarriage, but we don't stick to only our kind.

My feeling is those in need should be allowed into a new country...rescued. They shouldn't be rejected because they might not assimilate. But once in the country, these rescued people should least a little. They can keep their language and culture. But I think they should become fluent in the language of the country they live in. And I think they should adopt part of the culture. Then in return the dominant culture should borrow from the new cultures.

That's just my personal opinion.

Of course with that in mind, I'd have to fault the First Fleet folks. They should have taken up the Aboriginal languages and culture. I guess it was impossible since there was no one dominant language. And many of the white folks did try to learn some of the language. That was good of them.

Gorton wanted to restrict immigration from outside Europe. It seems he felt Europeans would assimilate better. The sad thing about the book, I'm reading, is the Jews were often not counted as being European; even though they were born and raised in Europe. But that was a different time period....decades before Gorton was in power. I wonder what he would have done if he HAD been in power in the 1940's.

Reading the book really makes me angry at the people who are anti-Israel. The Jews were killed by the Europeans. Then the Americans and Australians would take only very small quantities. Where the hell were the Jews supposed to go?  I'm not saying I support what the Jews do to the Palestinians. They're far from perfect. But when people are against the actual state of Israel.....

Yeah, I don't know.

There's a HUGE difference between being against Israeli Policies and being against Israel's existence. I have respect for the former. I have none for the latter.

Back to Gorton. I love this quote from the website. Two views have emerged about the reasons for Gorton’s fall. One was that Gorton destroyed himself by being too much his own man. Another was that conservative Liberals brought him down because they were unable to accept necessary change, and were assisted by a virulent press campaign against the Prime Minister.

Which was it?

I wonder.....

When a lot of people are against you, it's easy to begin to think you MUST be wrong. The power of conscensous can make someone feel very small. But sometimes the lonely one is NOT the wrong one.

I'm going to go watch TV with Jack and then move onto a new website......

Here we have the National Museum of Australia kid's website.

It says here that he voted against himself when he asked the Liberals to vote whether or not they wanted him to remain as leader. You know....I think I remember reading about that when I researched McMahon. Actually, I think that's why I added Gorton to my list. I wanted to know more about this guy who voted against himself.

The website lists legislation that occurred during his Ministry. One of them was the Maritime Conversion Act of 1970. This was when Australia changed to the metric system...leaving America alone in the dark ages. Before we visited Australia in 2007, I thought it had always used the metric system. A lonely old security guard set me straight.

Now I'm going to look at the Liberal Party's Website. I'm not sure I'll find anything new and different here.

They do give the reason for McMahon firing him.  It's something about him writing stuff that McMahon felt was disloyal.

This obituary talks about how Gorton was both a Nationalist and a Centralist. He shared my love for Australia. And he believes the whole of Australia should come before the individual states.

The obituary says, in some respects, he behaved more like a reforming Labor leader than a conservative. Maybe that's why he was unpopular in the party. Later, (much later) the Liberal party embraced him, realizing he wasn't such a bad PM after all.

I like him. He's not perfect. I don't like everything about him. But if I was going to divide my research victims into people I like and people I dislike, he'd be in the smiley face category.

I know that sounded like a conclusion. But I aint ready to shut up yet.

I want to look at some blogs.

The Riot Act in Canberra says a new road is being built and it might be named after Gorton.

This blogger has a transcript of one of Gorton' speeches. It was done in 1964, and was about World War II.

He begins by saying, There has been a good deal of confusion of thought as to why we went to war, and as to what we can reasonably expect as the result of our military victory. We did not go to war to make a new and better world. We cannot expect to make a new and better world as the result of the exercise of brute military force. We can only expect to achieve the kind of world we want by the use of brains and effort during peace. We fought only to preserve, for ourselves and our children, that conception of political freedom and justice which was being attached by a tyrannous power.

I think that's very well said. It's about context though. If I imagine someone talking about Hitler and the Nazis, I like the speech. If I imagine George W. Bush saying it about the Middle East, it's a different story. Why? I don't know. In most cases, I'm against war. But sometimes, I feel there really IS no choice. The problem is we all disagree on what wars are really needed and which are not. Where do you draw the line?

The speech is mostly about the work that needs to be done during peacetime. He says,

This is why I demand of you, in the name of the dead and returned, that you do not consider this war as a tasked finished; that you do not regard this celebration as the last chapter of the book. Look on it rather as half-time! a joyful occasion certainly, but only a break in the continous task. For tomorrow we must carry on again, and the tasks which lie in front us are immense and urgent as never before. Later.....It will be hard. Without the spur and urgency of a war, it will mean a constant effort from all of us. But I am going to call on your imaginations. I want you to forget it is I who am standing here. And I want you to see instead Bob Davey. And behind him I want you to see an army; regiment on regiment of young men, dead. They say to you, "Burning in tanks and aeroplanes, drowning in submarines, shattered and broken by high explosive shells, we gave the last full measure of devotion. We bought your freedom with our lives. So take this freedom. Guard it as we have guarded it, use it as we can no longer use it, and with it as a foundation, build. Build a world in which meaness and poverty, tyranny and hate, have no existence." If you see and hear these mean behind me - do not fail them.

That's a pretty powerful speech.


  1. Unfortunately, when I think of Gorton I think of his "White Australia Policy" and the "assimilation" of Aboriginals, which meant taking their own culture away and forcing them to be exactly like the "white" Australians that he wanted the country to filled with.

    He was interesting though. And a flaming alcoholic. So my history lessons taught me.

    Great post! I learned a lot (as I usually do when I read your posts!).


  2. Fe,

    There are a lot of different sides to people--both good and bad.

    I think that's what I've learned from doing all this research. The best people still have a little bad in them. The worst people still have a little good in them.

    I have strong anti-Mel Gibson feelings because he's so anti-semitic. But I wouldn't call him a total asshole. I think he's a good actor, and I'm also sure if I researched him, I'd find redeeming qualities.

  3. wow! that's an awful lot of information. I couldn't read it right through to the end but the first half was pretty interesting.

    anyway, putting my hand up as a Virgo here. And we have a prime minister's widow as a patient at the gimcrack. Obviously I can't tell you which one but if you like to leave a list of 5 guesses I can tell you whether she's on the list)

  4. nursemyra,

    I'm impressed with your honesty about reading only half. I REALLY treasure honesty. My posts are terribly long so I can't blame anyone for not finishing.

    If the PM widow is there because of injuries due to a fall, then I know who she is.

  5. Nursemyra,

    Never mind. I did my research and now I think it must be someone different.

    There aren't many PM widows out there though...

  6. are a veritable Australian encyclopedia. And as far as virgos can add another one. I am a virgo...and if you ask my son right now if he thinks I m critical he will completely agree. We are debating the merits of him getting a haircut philosophy is if you can't see through your hair its time to get it cut. His point of view is if God had meant him to cut his hair short it would automatically fall out when it reached a certain length. Sheesh...can't fault that reasoning!

  7. Wonderful post. I always liked Gorton because Fraser didn't :)

    He was before my time, but even Labor people spoke highly of him.

    I never knew he once belonged to the Country Party, so thanks for that.

    You mentioned his sister moved to South Africa.

    I can tell you that I met his nephew in Johannesburg! He ran a photo processing business in a shopping centre!

    I took about 12 rolls of film there in 1991 and when he heard I was Australian he told me about his connection with John Gorton.

    Small world.

  8. Donna: I love your son's reasoning! It makes sense to me!

    Michael: That's funny that you met his nephew. Pretty cool. And I agree. It IS a small world. Was Gorton part of the Country party? See, I've already forgotten what I've written and learned. Now I have to go back and read my own post.

  9. When Gorton transferred to the House of Reps as the sworn in PM he made use of Section 64 of the Australian Constitution which states a minister must take a seat in either the Senate of the House within 3 months of becoming a minister.

    Sice By convention Senator Gorton needed to be in the House of Reps as PM. To do this he needed to be elected to the House. He stood in the seat of Higgons vacated by Holt on his presumed death. He first needed to resign from the Senate to be eligible as a candidate for the House of Reps.

    Between Feb 2 1968 and Feb 23 1968 John Gorton was the Prime Minister without holding a seat in either the Senate of the House of Reps as allowed under section 64.

  10. When Gorton transferred to the House of Reps as the sworn in PM he made use of Section 64 of the Australian Constitution which states a minister must take a seat in either the Senate of the House within 3 months of becoming a minister.

    By convention Senator Gorton needed to be in the House of Reps as PM. To do this he needed to be elected to the House. He stood in the seat of Higgons vacated by Holt on his presumed death. He first needed to resign from the Senate to be eligible as a candidate for the House of Reps.

    Between Feb 2 1968 and Feb 23 1968 John Gorton was the Prime Minister without holding a seat in either the Senate of the House of Reps as allowed under section 64.