Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ben Chifley

Ben Chifley is another Prime Minister. I should say I'm sick of learning about Prime Ministers, because that would make me look kind of normal. Honestly though, I like learning about them. They fascinate me. I suppose it makes sense...since it was a son of a Prime Minister who got me into all of this in the first place. Maybe it was my destiny to learn about Prime Ministers. Well, I love learning about other Australian stuff too, so that can't be completely true.

All I really know about Chifley is that he came after Francis Forde, and he's Labor. Who came after him then? It was Menzies....right? I'm pretty sure it was. Let me go talk to Lord Wiki.

Yeah, good. I'm right. Menzies came after Chifley. Chifley was in office from 1945 to 1949.

Baby Ben was born in Bathurst, New South Wales on 22 September 1885. He would have been about sixteen when Australia became a Federation.

I've heard of Bathurst before, but don't remember exactly where it is. All I know is it's not on the coast. Maybe it's near the Blue Mountains? My parents went there yesterday (Blue Mountains, not Bathurst).

I'm looking at Google Maps now. I was right again! Bathurst is about an hour west of the Blue Mountains. How far is it from Cowra then?

Google Maps says it's about an hour and twenty minutes north-east of Cowra. So Bathurst is kind of in the middle of Cowra and The Blue Mountains.

I should stop with the geography, and get on with Chifley.

His daddy was an Irish Roman Catholic blacksmith. Chifley was one of four sons. That's a fairly small family for those days.

Lord Wiki says that Chifley was raised mostly by his grandfather from the ages of five to fourteen. I'm not sure why. From what I've learned in the past, I'd guess that their mother died, and father didn't feel fit to raise them. That seems to be the pattern. The mother dies, and then the children are sent to live with another relative.

It sounds like life wasn't completely easygoing with the grandfather. He lost all his savings in the 1892 bank crash. That's not good. And this gave Chifley a long-lasting dislike of private banks.

I just found this poem about the crash. This website has poems all about Australia history. I wish I liked poetry more. I'd probably love this website.

When Chifley was fifteen, he started working for the New South Wales railways. Eventually, he became an engine driver. Lord Wiki says they're the ones that operate the train. Yeah. I know it's probably embarrassing that I didn't know that.

Chifley and some other folks started the AFULE (the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen) Their website says there's some big Queensland thing going on right now. I guess the government wants to do the privatization thing? I'm not sure. Have any of you heard about it?

While Chifley did the AFULE thing, he also got himself active with the Labor Party.

In 1914, he got married to a woman named Elizabeth McKenzie. She was Presbyterian rather than Catholic. Some Catholics frowned upon this union.

In 1917, Chifley got himself involved in a strike, and that led to him losing his job. But then when Jack Lang became Premier of New South Wales, Chifley got the job back. Did I know Lang had been Premier? Well, I probably did. But I guess I forgot.

In 1928, Chifley got himself into Parliament via the seat of Macquarie. He lost the seat in 1931 to someone from the United Australia Party. Then in 1940 he got the seat back, and was there until 1951.

In 1929, Scullin became Prime Minister, and by 1931, Chifley was Minister of Defence. That didn't last long though, because as I just said above, Chifley had lost his seat.

This was when the Great Depression was happening. Lord Wiki says that Chifley survived on his wife's family's money. And he also partly owned a newspaper called the National Advocate. I think it's very nice when family members help each other out...especially when there are rough economic times.

Chifley wasn't a lazy bum. He worked hard. He was involved with the community. It's not like he took his in-laws money, and gambled it at the horse races.

In 1935, Joseph Lyons invited Chifley to be a member of the Royal Commission on Banking. Chifley accepted, and advocated that private banks be nationalized. This viewpoint probably came as a result of seeing his grandfather lose money.

In 1940, Chifley got back into Parliament. When John Curtin became Prime Minister in 1941, Chifley got to be the Treasurer.

Lord Wiki says that although Forde had been Curtin's Deputy Prime Minister, Chifley was the one Curtin relied on. Well, yesterday I was told that Forde had been a very good Deputy Prime Minister. What's the deal here? That makes me kind of sad for Forde.

While Curtin was busy with World War II, Chifley handled most of the domestic stuff. And what did Forde get to do then?

In 1945, Curtin died. Forde was Prime Minister for eight days. Then Chifley took over. As Prime Minister, he pushed for democratic socialism.

Lord Wiki says democratic socialism is hard to define. Well, that's real great.

I would guess it's simply socialism that's democratic. Higher taxes and more sharing....but people have a political say in all of it.

This website has some information about it. I think it pretty much says what I said.

As part of this democratic socialism plan, Chifley did some medical stuff. I don't quite understand it. Maybe my other Prime Minister resource sites will explain it better. It has something to do with The Pharmaceutical Benefits Theme.

Actually, Lord Wiki has an entry on that, and I think I can understand it. It looks like it helps Australians afford their medications. Chifley had other health plans as well, but the High Court ruled they were unconstitutional. That's interesting. Anyway though....the pharmaceutical thing was one of the few ideas accepted. I guess more ideas were later accepted. At least I think they were. As far as I know, Australia has socialized medicine.

Besides healthcare, Chifley also worked on bank issues. He wanted to nationalize the banks. The press gave him a hard time on this, and the High Court said no, no, no.

It eventually happened though, I think. There was...or is...a Commonwealth Bank of Australia. When did that come about?

Oh. Lord Wiki says it started BEFORE Chifley. Andrew Fisher brought that about in 1911. What happened? Did people change their minds eventually?

I'm reading about all this, and I'm totally lost. From what I see, the Commonwealth Bank never disappeared or anything. I guess it could be that there was national bank, and private banks. Maybe Chifley wanted all banks to be part of the government? I'm not sure.

Maybe I'll understand it one day. For now, I'm going to move on.

In 1949, there was a big coal strike. I think maybe I wrote about this before. Yeah. This was the one in which the army got involved. Although maybe I'm thinking about another strike in which the army got involved.

The reason the army was brought in was Chifley felt there was communist motivation behind the strike. He wanted to fight communism. But calling in the army was apparently not enough for Menzies. Menzies pushed the idea that Chifley was soft on communism.

At the next election, Menzies won. Lord Wiki says it was the worst defeat of an Australian Federal Government. Wow, the fear of communism sure gives people power.

Chifley wasn't exactly a graceful loser. Despite his failing health, he refused to retire. What other guy was like that? I wrote about him recently. He refused to step down, and then died during the election.....

I better go look this up.....

It kind of took me awhile to find it, but I did. It was Earle Page.

Despite their major losses in the election, the Labor Party still had control of the Senate. Lord Wiki says Chifley used this to make Menzies' life miserable. Then this is when Menzies went for the double dissolution. He introduced an anti-communism bill, expecting the Labor party to reject it. The Labor Party didn't do what was expected of them.

Oh...wow. This almost brought tears to my eyes. These kind of stories get to me. Chifley died of a heart attack in his hotel room. Menzies heard the news at a function, and he had to fight back tears. Lord Wiki says, Normally impassive, "Ming the Merciless" (as his foes called him) had difficulty on this occasion in fighting back tears; and he ordered that the function be brought to an end, in homage to his predecessor and adversary, whom (for all the previous decade's political quarrels) he had never ceased to respect as a person.

There's something so beautiful about that.

Speaking of tear-jerker moments, have any of you seen the Ben and Ilana scene on Lost? It's AMAZING. To me, it's worth watching the whole damn series of Lost for that scene alone. You could just watch the scene alone, but I don't think it would be as meaningful. And speaking of that show, I've been obsessively reading Lostpedia, and I'm having more hope in the writers now. I'm seeing more connections. Things are starting to make sense. I think the writers are less lost than I imagined. Although I still think they had no idea what they were doing in the beginning. From what I've been reading though, I think they might have had it all figured out by the beginning of season 5....maybe even earlier.

I should get back to Chifley. Right.

In 1987, the New South Wales government decided to name a University after Chifley. The Liberals then got into power, and they changed the name to University of Western Sydney. That's rude!

Here's some soap opera gossip. Before his death, Chifley had separated from his wife. Rumor has it that he was with with his girlfriend when they died. Yeah. Stuff like that happens. I can't say I'm too excited about it. It would be much more intriguing if his girlfriend was an alien or something. How about if his girlfriend was a time traveler from the future? That would be awesome!

Here we go. Although Chifley doesn't get a university, he does have a chain of hotels named after him.

Lord Wiki says that Chifley has a famous speech. It's called the light on the hill. I have to be honest. It doesn't really move me, and I think I'm easily moved. I feel nothing.

Part of it says: I try to think of the Labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody's pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective - the light on the hill - which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.

I think all political parties believe they're the light on the hill. And those in opposition see them as a deep dark scary cave. Obama is my light on the hill. To my best friend in Texas, he's a monster that's going do horrible things to our country.

It's not a bad speech really. I guess I've just heard better...or I should say, I've heard ones that inspired me more.

Well, I just flipped the coin. I got tails, so I'm going to soon head over to the government Prime Minister site. First I'm going to look at some of my parent's Australia photos. My dad uploaded the ones from their first few days. That's a wise move, since my family has a habit of losing cameras.

I'm back. I'm going to look at the Before Office page.

Grandpa Chifley had migrated to Australia during the Irish famine. When was that again?

Lord Wiki says it was between 1845 and 1852.

There's nothing here about Chifley's mother dying. I suppose I was wrong about that. The website says he was sent to live with his grandfather and aunt, so he could help on their farm. I wonder why they did that. Was it to broaden his experiences?

When Chifley was thirteen his grandfather died, and he went back to living with his parents.

I'm thinking now that maybe they simply hadn't had enough money to take care of all their kids. Maybe the grandfather had offered to help.

Chifley went to school when he lived with his grandfather, and then did another year of it when he returned to his parents. Then he entered the job market. He worked at a store, then a tannery, and then the railroad.

He worked his way up through the job ranks, and at the same time read and took evening classes. He worked. He learned. I admire that.

When Chifley and his wife were first married, neither their churches or their families approved. But I guess the family folks came around eventually. Chifley's in-laws provided the newlyweds with their first home. The website gives an exact address. I love that!

The house was at No. 10 Busby Street in Bathurst. Let me see if I can find it on Google Maps.

I see the street on Street View. That's cool.

The house was right next to Chifley's in-laws. I wonder if Chifley had a good relationship with them. Hopefully.

When World War I began, Chifley did not enlist. He was against conscription. This differs from Menzies who supported the war and conscription, but did not enlist.

The website says, Chifley was no rabble-rouser – he preferred an appeal to reason. I think this means that instead of aiming for people's emotions, he would try to reason with them by providing facts. I think this is a much better way of debating....not that I can say that I don't ever go for the sensationalist approach. But I do try to avoid it.

I really wish I had been aware of these different ways of presenting information when I had first become a parent. I read SO many parenting books, because I was a lost little soul. I was so confused, and all these parenting gurus had such conflicting information. Your child will be forever damaged if you do this. No. Wrong, says the opposing parenting guru. Your child will be forever damaged if you DON'T do it. 

These parenting "experts" often don't base their information on carefully evaluated statistics. They have an opinion, and they share it as if it's gospel. They push their viewpoints by appealing to the feelings of fear and guilt that most parents have. I'd say that 90% of what they say is crap.

I think it's fine to have an opinion about parenting. And I don't think every idea has to be backed up with scientific studies. But if you're going to act like your way is the ONLY way, and all other ways are horrible, I think you do need to back it up with research.

Anyway, I almost went off on a REALLY long tangent right there, but Jack stopped me by telling me he was hungry. I cut it short. Y'all should be thankful to that kid.

Let's get back to Chifley.

In 1917, there was a big railway strike. He was involved with that. Six weeks into it, the railway workers were given a ultimatum...come back to work, or be fired. Oh okay. I remember this now from Lord Wiki. It's sad that I forget things less than a few hours later. But I now remember, and that's the important thing. Probably. This is the thing in which Chifley lost his job, but then was hired back when Lang became Premier.

This website goes into more detail though. And I don't see any mention of Lang. They say he was first denied re-employment. Then he was hired back, but demoted. That was tough on Chifley. But he didn't give up. He stayed strong. He worked himself back up to being an engine driver. The experience also helped to lead him into politics. Sometimes unfairness leaves us bitter and angry. Other times, it pushes us to take action, and make changes.

Right now I'm bitter and angry for reasons I won't reveal. I can't really imagine a way to turn this into a positive action. I think this is more one of those times where you say. Okay. I learned my lesson. I won't be making that choice again in the future.

Chifley furthered his involvement with the unions, and that led to Parliament dreams. His try came in 1922...not Federal, but with New South Wales.

I don't get this part right here. The website says stood for pre-selection. But then the State Labor Executive stepped in and selected the candidates. What does that mean? And what is a State Labor Executive? Would that be the Premier?

Some of the people, who were not chosen by this executive, wanted to run as independents. Chifley refused to take that path. He wanted to fight problems of the Labor party from within, rather than from the outside.

I think my main problem is I don't really understand what pre-selection is. I've heard it before, but kind of ignored it. Lord Wiki is trying to explain it to me, but I still don't understand.

In 1924 Chifley made a second try at getting into Parliament, and it didn't work out again. But on the plus side, it built up his speech-giving skills, and helped him establish contacts in the political world.

In 1925, he tried for Federal. In 1928, he tried again, and this time it worked. Go Chifley!

Oh my....

Holy shit.

I know it's not a black and white/good vs evil situation when it comes to Labor and Liberal. Still sometimes, I can be surprised at the Labor party's past.

The website says that the Labor party used scare tactics in their campaign. What was it about? The White Australia policy. They tried to scare voters into thinking that the Bruce government was allowing too many Dagoes and Aliens into Australia. What is a Dagoe?

This dictionary website says it's a derogatory word for people of Latino descent.

I shouldn't be overly surprised. I already knew of the Labor Party's support of the White Australia policy. It's funny how it could be so overt in those days, actually used as a campaign tool. These days, a prominent party couldn't do that. They can be racist, but they have to hide their racism...disguise it as someone else. Well, I guess Pauline Hanson's racism was fairly overt. But she didn't get THAT far in politics.

In 1929, the Nationalist Party was out, and Labor Scullin became Prime Minister.

In 1931, Chifley was Minister of Defense. This was hard on him because he had to defend economic policies that he didn't really support. So why did he support them? Well, the website says it was forced on the Scullin government by state Premiers and banks. Okay.

Also that year, you have one of the three Labor splits. This was the one with Jack Lang. It led to Chifley losing his Parliament seat. If that wasn't bad enough, he was also expelled from the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. Wow, that sucks.

Now we get to the Great Depression. From what Lord Wiki says, I thought Chifley had borrowed money from his in-laws...or received it as a generous gift. It turned out the money came from an inheritance. Chifley's wife's father had died.

Chifley kept somewhat active in politics, but spent more time at home. This might have been good, because his wife was suffering from health issues.

In terms of politics, Chifley's involvement at the time was mostly about fighting Lang. He tried to get his seat back in Parliament, but didn't have success. He also did some local politics stuff, and then got that royal commission position. What happened is that Chifley ended up disagreeing with the commission's verdict. He wanted nationalization of the banks. I guess the other folks did not.

Here's something somewhat ironic. In 1939, he tried again to get the Macqaurie seat. He was sick though, and couldn't campaign as much as he did on the earlier tries. He ended up winning. Maybe he was bad at campaigning? Maybe people preferred it when he was more quiet.

The website says that when Curtin died, Chifley couldn't bring himself to attend the funeral. Was it too sad for him? Or do they just mean he couldn't get there for practical reasons?

Now I'm on the In Office Page. Chifley had the job of building up a post-war Australia. Part of this involved building up big economic projects. One of those was the Great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme.

I'm just kind of reading through....just trying to find interesting stuff.

Here's something. Chifley appointed Arthur Calwell as the Minister of Immigration. That's not surprising. Calwell was big on the White Australia policy as well.

I'm feeling very inadequate right now....fear that I'm either repeating myself too much, or missing stuff. I read stuff, write it down, then realize I already read it from Lord Wiki, and reported it. Or at least I HOPE, I reported it. I worry I read it, and didn't mention it. I'm worried that I'm going to end up with all these holes. But these posts are long enough without me repeating myself.

I guess I'm just going to read and pick out the exciting stuff. I know I keep saying that too. Oh....goodness....

In 1949, the public wasn't happy with Chifley's desire to keep on rationing petrol, and his whole bank nationalization desires. The Menzies promised to get rid of the rationing. People liked that. And Menzies also went for the communism fear-tactics.

The website says despite all this, Chifley may have still won...IF Jack Lang hadn't jumped back into the picture. Lang went for a smear campaign. He pointed out that while Chifley criticized banks for their obnoxious interest rates, when he had lent money out in the 1930's, his interest rates had been high. I guess Lang made him look like a bit of a hypocrite. The Prime Minister website says, Splashed across newspaper front pages, the stories seemed to demolish the popular image of Chifley living an austere and frugal life in a simple Bathurst cottage. Yeah. I can see how that might damage someone's reputation.

Chifley had spoken out against private banking, not revealing to the public that he himself did private banking. That's not good. See, we're all hypocrites. I'm definitely one. But I think us better hypocrites recognize we're hypocrites, and admit to it. AND we also try to better ourselves. The worse hypocrites are the ones who dogmatically speak out against something while secretly doing exactly what they bitch about.

For example, I'm a hypocrite when it comes to factory farms. I readily admit to that. I speak out against them. I try to minimize what I consume from them. But I too often morally regress and eat unethical dairy and eggs. This is pretty bad. If I was a super good person, I'd speak out against such practices, and never eat anything that comes from a factory farm. But I think it would be worse if I LIED and told everyone I was perfect in my abstinence. There might be benefits at first. Maybe my dishonest proclamations would influence other people to follow in my holy footsteps. I could be a light on the hill. The problem is though....hypocrites are often caught. Then people get disillusioned, and the cause is damaged.

I'm going to go to the Australian Biographical Dictionary now. They say that Chifley had two brothers, rather than three. Out of the three, Chifley was the only one who was sent away. His father visited on occasion, but Chifley rarely saw his brother and mothers. This is so incredibly odd to me. I wish I could be more understanding, but I can't. I guess I just come from the cultural mentality in which mothers stay with their children....unless there is a good reason otherwise.

Maybe there is a good reason. Maybe I'm being intolerant. I can sort of see them sending off a child for economic reasons. But why didn't they visit him more often? The grandfather's farm was in Limekilns, which is only about forty-five minutes north of Bathurst. Okay, granted that's by car, and there weren't cars back then. But they could have ridden their horse-carriage, or whatever.

I think the Australian Dictionary of Biography agrees with me in that this little Ben had a harsh childhood. They say, It is probable that his isolation produced a craving for friendship and affection, but also a certain inability to display deep emotion.

Although who knows. In some ways, we're being like the didactic parenting gurus. We have ideas about how childhood should be, and sometimes this is based on our own expectations and wishes...not fact.

Maybe I should just say this: I'd be heartbroken to send Jack away, and then rarely see him. We can leave it at that. But I don't have any proof that Jack wouldn't be better off if I sent him off to live with relatives. Really. Who knows. I guess we'd have to clone Jack, send the clone away, and then make comparisons.

There are a few things about Chifley that I don't like. And I could sit there and say he became like this because his parents sent him away. But how do I know that's true? Maybe living with his grandfather was the best time of his life. Maybe the worst time was when his grandfather died, and he was sent back to his parents.

Here's something I DO like about Chifley. He was into Australian literature...both popular and obscure. I'm into Australia literature too. Although here in America, it's almost all obscure.

I love this website because it gives interesting insight into things. For example, we learned earlier that Chifley's first job was at a store. Now I find out why left. He was unhappy with the disparity between wages and profits.

When he joined the railway world, he worked hard. He did the job, and took classes four nights a week. This paid off. He ended up being the state's youngest engine driver.

Chifley and his wife never had children. There was a miscarriage, and Mrs. Chifley had the various health problems. I'm sure that was very rough on them.

I hate to do this, but it is REALLY late. Time has flown away from me. It's almost 6 pm. I could blame the whole Daylight Savings time...I suppose. Anyway, I'm going to quit, which is terrible because I haven't even finished reading.

I'm going to change something though. For the next three Prime Ministers (coming up) I'm going to skip the Lord Wiki entry, and just go directly to the government Prime Minister site. I'm hoping this will make things less repetitive and exhausting. I feel guilty doing that...like I'm abandoning Lord Wiki. But I'm sure I'll still chat with him. The government Prime Minister site will surely talk about things I don't understand, and Lord Wiki will try to explain them to me.

Right now I'm feeling like a failure for two opposite reasons....

First, I feel like a failure for always relying so much on Lord Wiki. Then I also feel like a failure for planning to temporarily abandon him. Wow. You know what I just realized. I have a co-dependent relationship with Lord Wiki. That's sad; very sad.