Tuesday, June 30, 2009

John Kerr

I know who John Kerr is, and I have to admit I'm not too excited to write about him. I'm tired of the Dismissal.

People say it's my blog, and I don't have to write about what I don't want to write about.

Actually, I think it's just Tim who said that.

I still feel obligated to write this post though. But maybe I don't have to talk about the Dismissal so much. Maybe I can talk about other stuff. Yeah, that's like ignoring the big elephant in the room.

I'm sure I'll have to talk about the Dismissal at least a little. Maybe I just won't DWELL on it.

I'll go and start my meeting with Lord Wiki.

Baby John was born on 24 September 1914. That would make him a Libra like my younger sister.

Birthday website

Kerr is a 3 in numerology. That's the number that's social and expressive.

So here we have a 3 Libra. I picture that person being outgoing and romantic; the type who'd write poetry and sing songs under your window.

Is Kerr that person?

I sort of doubt it.

But he could surprise us.

Kerr shares a birthday with Jim Henson and Phil Hartman. I liked both of those guys, and I was sad when they died.

Oh, here's something fun on the birthday website. If Kerr was still alive, and if he were a dog; he'd be thirteen years old. That's a cool piece of trivia there.

In the year Kerr was born, the population of Australia was only about five million.

All right. Let's move on.....

Kerr was born in Balmain.

We went to Balmain. That was the place where we had the "energy" mango smoothie; then Tim and I became totally lethargic.

Today Balmain is cute and expensive looking. Back in Kerr's day it was working class.

Daddy Kerr was a boilermaker. Lord Wiki says that's a craftsman who works with steel.

Kerr went to Fort Street High School. Lord Wiki says it was selective and prestigious. I'm doubting the family had money, so I'm guessing Kerr had some smarts.

The school is actually a government school.

I'm looking at other famous people who have gone there.....

Edmund Barton
Michael Kirby

That's all the names I recognize. But there are TONS of names.

I don't remember talking about this school before, but I did a post on Kirby. I guess I've just forgotten.

Lord Wiki says Kerr won scholarships to the University of Sydney. He graduated in law with honors. Impressive. I'm getting the point here. The guy did well in school.

He was called to the bar in 1938.

Lord Wiki says Kerr met a guy named H.V Evatt when he was at the Fort Street school. Evatt did go to Fort Street, but he was twenty years older than Kerr. Maybe he became a teacher there? Lord Wiki doesn't mention him being a teacher though. Maybe he did some kind of alumni volunteer work in the school.

Anyway. He was there somehow when Kerr was there. It seems Kerr saw him a sort of mentor. Evatt became a judge in in the High Court of Australia. I guess maybe that's what inspired Kerr to get into law?

In the same year Kerr was called to the bar, he got married. He and his wife Alison ended up having three kids. I wonder if any of them are still alive.

During World War II, Kerr worked for an intelligence agency; Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. Lord Wiki says this group is somewhat mysterious, and Kerr's involvement has inspired conspiracy theories. Fun!

In the late 1940's, Kerr became principal of the Australian School of Public Administration. This was basically a training facility for teachers who'd be sent to Papa New Guinea. The school was located in Mosman Sydney. Interesting.....

Around this time, Kerr was also the secretary-general of The South Pacific Commission. What the hell is that? I shall go read and see.

Well, it was founded in 1947. Kerr was the FIRST secretary-general. That's a pretty big honor, I think.

Lord Wiki says it's a group of countries who got together to protect the Pacific area. It's a political military type thing. In the beginning the participating countries were Australia, France, The Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and France.

The United Kingdom and The Netherlands eventually dropped out.

Today other countries have joined in the game...a lot of the small island countries.

In 1948, Kerr went back to doing law stuff. He represented trade union clients.

He joined the Labor Party. I wonder why he ended up causing the Dismissal of a Labor Prime Minister. And why did he allow a Liberal PM to take his place?

Well, I guess Kerr didn't really stay Labor. Lord Wiki says he became disillusioned from it all when the party split in 1955. Ah, I guess what happened is it split into the Labor Party and Democratic Labor Party. The former was too leftie for Kerr. And for some reason he didn't like the latter party either. Maybe Kerr is just too picky.

In the 1960's Kerr was a big time lawyer.

Oh this is so boring.

I feel like I'm writing this guy's resume.

I'm just going to try to skip all that.

I'm going to read through and find the important interesting stuff.

For example, in the late 1960's, Kerr started becoming more conservative. He joined a group called Association for Cultural Freedom. It was eventually revealed that it received funding from the CIA. Wow, there's a conspiracy theory for you.

The Association for Cultural Freedom was an anti-communist organization.

In 1972, Kerr was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales. Yeah, more resume stuff. I hope someone out there is finding this interesting, because I'm sure not.

In 1974, the current Governor-General retired. Whitlam offered Kerr the job. The two didn't know each other that well. They weren't buddies. But Kerr was friends with people in Whitlam's Ministry. I think? I may be reading this wrong. I guess it was a friend of a friend type thing.

Wife Alison had also been a school peer of Margaret Whitlam.

I guess all these things made Whitlam feel he could trust Kerr.

Whitlam thought Kerr was Laborish. He didn't quite realize that Kerr had crossed over to the other side. Oops.

Ah! Here's some soap opera stuff.

Shortly after Kerr became Governor General, his wife died. I sort of remember reading that in Whitlam's book. Anyway, shortly after his wife died, Kerr found himself a new wife. He married her six months after his wife died. In situations like that, I often wonder if the new lovebirds had something going on BEFORE the death of the first spouse. I'm not saying they were engaged in adultery. It could have been PG-rated, and then moved up a rating when the other spouse was out of the way. Who knows......

Lord Wiki says that in those days, the role of the Governor-General was seen as mostly being just ceremonial. And that's how Whitlam saw it. You know, it's something you put on your resume or your headstone. It makes you look cool. Kerr saw things differently. He didn't care what the current beliefs were. He cared what the constitution said. And the constitution says the Governor-General has POWER. He can wave his wand and do all type of wicked things.

The Whitlam government won the election for their second term. They had one itsy bitsy problem. They didn't have control of the senate. Uh oh! The senate blocked the budget. Ouch.

There's tons of stuff on the Dismissal. I'm skimming over it. I'd tired of it. Sorry.

I'll skip to the after effects.

Kerr became super popular. People threw parties in his honor. At bakeries, his face on the cake was the most popular pastry purchased for children's birthday parties.

No, I'm joking...of course.

Kerr became a much hated man. Lord Wiki says he couldn't go out in public without facing angry demonstrations.

All the hatred towards Kerr was hard on him. It's believed he turned to alcohol.

I do feel sorry for the guy. But I feel sorry for anyone who's hated that much....even when they do something very wrong.

Kerr eventually moved to Europe with his wife. He died in 1991. That's the year I graduated from high school.

I'm done with Lord Wiki.

Now I'll look elsewhere.

This dismissal website says this about Kerr. The man appointed by Whitlam to the position of Governor-General in 1974 is variously portrayed as a man of principle, a deceiver, an insecure man desperate to make his mark on history, a drunk.

It's funny how each of us is perceived in different ways.

We're all complicated human beings. Each one of us is liked by some and despised by others. I guess the better situation would be to be loved by those who know us well and despised by the people who hardly know us. If it's reverse....well, that's sad.

I guess what I'm saying is I think it would be better to be a man despised by a nation, but loved and trusted by his family; than a man celebrated by a nation and feared and despised by his family. I guess there are exceptions of course...like if you're a mass murderer, but your family supports it because they don't like the people you're killing. That wouldn't be good at all!

Here's an article about the dismissal.

It says that Kerr went behind Whitlam's back and talked to a Liberal High Court chief justice...Garfield Barwick. I'm getting that this guy told Kerr he could do the whole dismissal thing.

The article has a excerpt from The Age in 1975. It says, Yesterday was the most extraordinary in the political life of this nation. It was also one of the most regrettable. The decision of the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, to dismiss the Whitlam Government was, we believe, a triumph of narrow legalism over common sense and popular feeling.

Narrow legalism. It reminds me of when horrible criminals don't get punished because they get off on some trivial legality.

Here's something that might be interesting. It's on that dismissal site again. It's Paul Keating's condolence speech after Kerr died.

Keating says, Sir John Kerr was a person of substance. He was very interested in public affairs and public life. He is like a lot of frustrated people of quality: they want to be in public life, but never ever make the jump; they never quite take the chance. He was such a person.

I can't say I understand that very much. He's quality. I got that. He wants to be in public life. I got that. I just don't get the part about him not making a jump. He jumped into the role of Governor-General. And then later he jumped into the whole Dismissal mess.

Yeah, I don't get it.

I like this quote better. He was a person of substance. But, in the end, one has to follow that substance with integrity. He lacked the integrity in dealing politically with the Prime Minister and he has suffered history's admonition as a result.

I like Keating's speech. I think it's fairly balanced in terms of talking about the recently deceased. It's not all flowery...making the dead person seem like a saint. That's annoying. But he doesn't cruelly trash Kerr as Germaine Greer did to Steve Irwin.

I think I'm going to quit. I've been playing on Google for the last ten minutes and haven't found anything that really catches my interest. I was kind of hoping to find some more early biographical stuff about the guy. I'm not finding much.

I'll try one more time. I don't like giving up.

There's an autobiography book about the guy. Maybe I should read it someday....

Well, I'm still not finding anything.

I'm going to say good-bye, and go eat lunch with my family.


  1. 'the place where we had the "energy" mango smoothie that made Tim and I totally lethargic'. Lol.

    Did I mention about Melbourne High Dina? Like Fort Street High, it is a selective government school for the brightest.

    Kerr, bah. I was in one of those protests against him.

  2. Andrew,

    Yeah, you mentioned Melbourne High. We have some schools like that here. I think?

    So what was the protest like?

  3. Loud, chaotic, disorganised but such passion. It was outside an expensive restaurant called Leonda and a perfect location to protest with lots of standing room and embankments. I think the trams and traffic were stopped by the crowds.

  4. Andrew,

    Sounds exciting.

    You know what's funny. I always imagine you being close to my age. I feel a bit disjointed when you speak of being at a protest during that time.

  5. Dina, I was taken to the protest by my parents :-P

  6. Andrew,

    Okay. So you're not THAT old. But since you have such a good memory of the event, I'm guessing you're still at least a little older than me.

    I'd be about 3 at that time...well, unless it happened way after the dismissal.