Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Robert Menzies

Maybe now I can learn more about why Robert Menzies was willing to move past all the mean things that Earl Page had said and work with him again.

Here's something embarrassing. Yesterday, Jack wanted to buy notecards to draw on and play with. The pack came with a bunch, so I took a third of them to make myself some flashcards. I'm tired of learning stuff, and then totally forgetting it. I made myself Australian Prime Minister flashcards, and then there were cards left over, so I put other Australian facts on it. I'm hoping I'll start remembering more this way. I used flashcards in college, and it really helped a lot. In high school, I always had a C average. In college, I had a high B average...got on the honor role and all that.

Anyway, back to Robert Menzies. What do I know about him already?

His wife's name was Pattie. His family went to the same church that she went to. Weren't they Presbyterian?

Menzies was Prime Minister before World War II, and then he was Prime Minister again from 1949 until 1966. That's a LONG time.

As far as I know, he's the daddy of the Liberal Party.

He loved the monarchy...was like a royal family groupie.

And that's about all I know.

I shall go and learn more....after we eat lunch.

I'm back.

Lord Wiki says that Robert Menzies was born in Jeparit, Victoria, on 20 December 1894.

I'm looking at Google Maps. Jeparit is about four hours north-west of Melbourne.

Daddy Menzies was a storekeeper, and the son of Scottish immigrants who came to Australia during the 1850's goldrush.

Menzies' maternal grandparents came from England. They sought gold as well.

Menzies' father, and some uncles, had seats in Victorian Parliament. I guess politics was in the family bloodline.

Menzies did his early schooling in a one room school house. Then later he went to private schools in Melbourne and Ballarat. Lord Wiki doesn't give the name of the Ballarat school, but he says the Melbourne one was Wesley College. This is the same school that Harold Holt went to.

Menzies studied law at the University of Melbourne, and graduated in 1916.

Now we get to some of the Earl Page stuff. If you remember, Earl Page criticized Menzies in Parliament for not fighting in World War I. Now Lord Wiki explains what Menzies did and didn't do during that time.

He was nineteen when the war began. While many people were eager to enlist, it seemed Menzies was not. Some say it's because his family had already sacrificed two or three brothers. It was decided that Menzies would stay back and study.

That's so complicated. I would not want to fight in a war, but I'd feel so guilty if my sisters went and I didn't. I'd also probably be very jealous and resentful if I went while my parents asked one of my sisters to stay back.

I guess you could look at it two ways. If parents ask one child to stay back from the war, it could be they don't have faith in them to survive such a situation. They may see their other offspring as being stronger. On the other hand, they may keep their favorite back...or the one they believe has the most hope in having a successful life and career.

It's probably best then if parents simply stay out of the decision, and let their kids decide for themselves.

After Menzies finished school, he was admitted to the Victorian Bar, and became a successful lawyer.

In 1920, he married Pattie Leckie. Eight years later, he gave up his law practice and became a member of the Victorian Legislative Council. He represented the Nationalist Party which was then led by Stanley Bruce.

Menzies almost didn't get the seat because some former servicemen attacked him in the press for not enlisting in the war. So Earl Page wasn't the first to give him grief about this.

Menzies career thrived though, and in 1932 he became Deputy Premier of Victoria.

In 1934 and 1935, we have the whole Egon Kisch thing. I've read vague things about this before. I'm not sure if I've ever learned the exact details.

Kirsch was a Czech Communist Jew, and some people in government wanted to keep him out of Australia. Menzies was one of them.

Kirsch came to Australia to speak out against Fascism...specifically Nazi Germany. He came via ship, and officials boarded the ship, to tell Kirsch he was not welcome in Australia. The only strike against Kirsch I have  is that Lord Wiki says he lied about not being Communist. He denied that. I think he should have been honest and upfront. I prefer that in people.

The ship left with Kirsch on it, passing by various Australian cities.

Many Australians supported Kirsch, including some politicians. Frank Brennan from the Labor Party asked why someone was being denied entry to Australia just because some politicians disagreed with him.

Oh, and at one point, Kirsch jumped off the ship and swam to Melbourne. That's pretty brave.

Have I written about Frank Brennan before? I think I may have, although I don't really remember anything about him.

This is funny. I did write about Frank Brennan, but not the Labor Party politician. There was another Frank Brennan....a lawyer and priest. I didn't know which one I had added to the list, so I had to choose. For some reason, I picked the lawyer-priest.

H.V Evatt got involved with the case. Well, he was the High Court judge that ruled the government had acted improperly in trying to exclude Kirsch from the country.

The government then tried to use a language test to keep Kirsch out. Australia usually used this to help them exclude nonwhites from joining all the fun in Australia.

Kirsch refused to take the test. Then more legal stuff happened. What Kirsch was supposed to do for the test is translate something into Scottish Gaelic. What the hell?

It was later revealed that the guy administering the test, couldn't translate stuff into Scottish Gaelic either.

Why would you need to know Scottish Gaelic to live in Australia?

Anyway, it seems after a huge struggle Kirsch was able to stay...at least for awhile. Menzies' involvement in the affair made people wonder about him. Was he pro-Nazi? Anti-Communist? Maybe a little bit of both?

In the mid 1930's, Menzies became deputy-leader of the United Australia Party. Joseph Lyons was Prime Minister. People accused Menzies of wanting to push Lyons out. Menzies denied the charges. Well, who would admit to them?

In 1939, Menzies resigned as a protest to what he saw as being government inaction. This might have something to do with some industrial battle. I'm a little unclear about that though. Maybe I'll gain more insight on the other websites.

A little after Menzies resigned, Lyons died.

Earl Page became the temporary Prime Minister. And now we're getting to the big drama.

Well, Lord Wiki doesn't really have much here that I didn't already know. Page denounced Menzies for not supporting Lyons, and for not fighting in the war. He does say that Menzies ended up forgiving him while Mrs. Menzies never did.

The big drama happened on 26 April 1939. It's also the day that Menzies became Prime Minister. About five months later, England declared war on Germany.

It wasn't easy for Menzies to be a war Prime Minister. First of all, there was still resentment over the fact that he hadn't fought in the first war. Also, Menzies had made an official visit to Germany in 1938. So back then it may have looked like he supported Hitler. Now Australia was thinking of joining the war. And they did.

If I'm reading this right, Menzies wanted to join the fight by helping out England. That makes sense. He was all into the Monarchy. John Curtin, on the other hand, wanted to keep troops in Australia. He wanted Australians to defend Australia.

In 1941, Menzies went to England to discuss strategies with Winston Churchill. Some folks believed that Menzies wanted to become the next Prime Minister of England. Wasn't there another Australian politician who was in such a situation? I can't remember who it was.

While he was in England, people in Australia lost their love for Menzies. When he returned in 1941, he was asked to resign...not just as Prime Minister, but as leader of the United Australia Party. Menzies was hurt by this; he felt betrayed. I can't blame him for feeling that way, but I also can't blame Australians for pushing him out.

Eight years later, Menzies got back into the game. He became Prime Minister all over again. From what Lord Wiki says, it looks like he did this by exploiting anti-communist sentiments. I guess they made the public feel that the Labor Party might be a bit too connected to communism.

This here is kind of funny. At least I think so. Menzies felt the government had too many Labor Party folks in the Senate. He wanted to fix things, by having a double dissolution. He started up a legislation banning the Communist Party. He figured the Senate wouldn't let it pass, and then he'd have an excuse for the double dissolution. But then the Senate did let it pass. I guess the Labor Party was pretty anti-communist themselves. The High Court though said it wasn't Kosher. So I guess it didn't pass, after all.

Menzies later got his beloved dissolution with a banking legislation that the Labor Senators didn't support. Menzies and his people got control of both house of Parliament. Were they the Liberal Party yet? Or does that come later?

Around 1951, Evatt became leader of the Labor Party. Now he was the one who ruled against the excluding of Kirsch. Now he and Menzies were at odds again with another thing related to Communism. Menzies introduced a Referendum that would make it legal to ban the Communist Party. Evatt campaigned against it. Evatt's side won.

In 1954, there was an election with Evatt and Menzies as the key players. Menzies played the Cold War and communist card. He won.

Fear is a great way of getting people to elect you. Ask George W. Bush. I'm wondering though if it' a matter of perspective. Would Republicans think that Democrats equally use fear as a campaigning device? I'm thinking of political debates I've had. From my limited experience, I think Republicans are more likely to use fear tactics. Now really this is just with my family and friends. I'm sure the Internet provides more variety in argument.

But in arguments I've seen, the Democrats usually go for moral arguments. I saw this child, and she had no health care. Is it fair that..... They also try to appeal to logic. If you're scared of socialism, does that mean you're against libraries and public schools?


When Republicans try to get me on their side, it's usually by trying to scare me. Obama's going to take all our freedom away. We're going to become Communist! The Muslims are going to take over our country, and we're all going to be killed by terrorists! We're going to work hard, and the government will take all our money away and give it to people who sit around watching TV all day. Today the government wants to take over health care. Tomorrow they'll be taking control of all private businesses!

Although I do know the left uses SOME scare tactics. I'm sure I've said, at least once, that if we don't change our behaviors, Lower Manhattan is going to be underwater.

I guess in the end....voting is really about choosing your fear.

Menzies did well through the 1950's. He kept getting reelected.

In 1963, television got into the whole election thing. Menzies did well with the medium, and won yet again.

In 1965, Menzies sent troop to Vietnam, and reintroduced conscription. That's kind of ironic from a guy who received so much grief for not enlisting in World War I.

In 1966, Menzies retired. For awhile after that, he spent time in America. He had a Scholar of Residence position at the University of Virginia.

In 1968 and 1971, he suffered some strokes, and faded from public view. He died in 1978.

I'm done with Lord Wiki, and can't remember him mentioning the beginning of the Liberal Party. Maybe I missed it?

I'm reading Lord Wiki's entry on the Liberal Party itself. It was born in 1943. That would have been when Menzies was not Prime Minister. I guess I thought he started the party in the midst of being Prime Minister.

Ah, now I see it on the Menzies entry. I did miss it. And I misread the date a minute ago. It was founded a year AFTER 1943. If I'm understanding this right, it was thought up in 1944, and officially launched in 1945.

All right. I'm going to take a short break, and then look at my other favorite Prime Minister sites.

I'm back. I had some Jelly Bellies, and did my triceps exercise.

Now I'm going to head on over to the government Prime Minister site. Yesterday I used that site to help me make my flashcards.

Here's the Before Office Page.

Menzies had four siblings. He was the second youngest. His parents ran a not-so-successful store. The family lived in it's back rooms.

As children, Menzies and his siblings played in Lake Hindmarsh. At first they went to a local school, then there parents sent them off to school in Ballarat. The whole family didn't move. The kids boarded with their paternal grandmother.

Menzies did very well at school, and earned scholarships. He spent a short time doing secondary school in Ballarat. Then the family moved to Melbourne because Daddy Menzies expected to get elected to Victorian Parliament. Did it happen for him? I'm not quite sure.

For some reason, Daddy Menzies wanted his son to go to Scotch College. Menzies rebelled, and went to Wesley instead.

People who went to school with Menzies said he was energetic and talkative. He had a lack of tolerance for disagreement, and would resort to name-calling.

The website says that as a law student, Menzies supported conscription. Strange then that he did not go join the war effort. Maybe he felt all conflicted, and felt it would be better if joining was a requirement rather than a choice.

During his university days, Menzies was a patriotic supporter of the war. He even participated in university military training. So what happened in the end?

I think some people support wars, but they don't support fighting in them themselves.  Someone in my family is very pro-Iraq war, and very supportive of George W. Bush. Yet they said they'd forbid their own children from going off to fight in a war.

I don't think many parents these days WANT their children to go to war. But to me, it makes more sense to be against war, and not want your children to go. It's hard for me to understand supporting a war, but then saying you'd never allow your own offspring to fight in it.

I'm wondering if the avoidance of enlisting was more Menzies choice or his parents. And if it was his parent's choice, how hard did he fight them over this?

During his lawyer years, Menzies argued against claims that he did well because of innate intelligence. He said his success came from working hard. Maybe it came from both. I don't know.

I'm not going to go into details here, because I'm too lazy to try to fully understand them. But it looks like Menzies law career was propelled by a state vs. Commonwealth dispute regarding industrial stuff. Menzies defended the state's side. This case also pushed him into politics.

As you may recall, Menzies also had the politics in his blood. But this website points out that it wasn't all conservative. Menzies' maternal grandfather was a unionist, and more on the left. The website says because of this exposure, Menzies was not ultra-conservative. I'm not sure if it works that way. My family is mixed politically. I have a lot of exposure to the Republican viewpoint. I don't think that makes me less left at all. And I don't think it makes the Republicans in my family less on the right. We stand our ground. I do think though that it helps teach you that you can still get along with people that have opposing viewpoints.

I've encountered people on the Internet who seem to have a complete intolerance to people who don't share their opinions. They don't respond with debate. They respond with exasperation, name-calling, intolerance, and out-right rejection. I'm wondering if they've simply lacked exposure to people who think differently than they do.

In my family, we loudly and passionately debate at lunch. Ten minutes later, we're out at the pool talking about something else.

From 1928 to 1934, Menzies was in the Victorian Parliament. That was during The Great Depression. I'm just trying to provide some historical perspective here.

The website says that Menzies supported orthodox finances.....

I'm kind of skimming. This is getting LONG.

In 1934, Menzies was asked to join Federal Parliament. He was somewhat reluctant, and was wooed by promises that Lyons would eventually step down so Menzies could become Prime Minister.

Menzies took on the role of Attorney-General, and Minister of Industry. Then the whole Kirsch thing happened.

This website says that Menzies was not involved with the original decisions regarding Kirsch, but he was the government's primary defender. This led to later political opponents using the Kirsch affair to say that Menzies was anti-free speech.

In 1938, waterside workers participated in a political protest by refusing to load iron onto a ship heading to Japan. They said they were doing this in response to Japan's aggressions in China, and also fear that Australia would be Japan's next target.

Menzies' stand was against these workers, and in the end the workers were forced to give into government instructions.

Now Menzies thought Lyons would retire, and he could become Prime Minister. But things didn't work out as easily as he hoped. The website says this might have been partly his own fault. They say, Despite possessing great personal charm, he could be arrogant and impatient with those he considered fools. In the hothouse atmosphere of Parliament House in Canberra, his haughtiness and cutting wit occasionally offended political opponents and Cabinet colleagues alike.

It looks like the issue that caused Menzies to resign from the Ministry involved health insurance. He actually supported a system that would provide medical coverage for working people. I guess maybe that came from his leftie grandfather. Anyway, the system wasn't supported, and was shot down by others who thought the money should go towards more defense.

Menzies left the Ministry, but still stayed in Parliament. He did the backbench thing.

This site says that Menzies response to Page's harsh speech was to remain dignified and quiet.

All right. Now I'm on the In Office page.

In 1939, Prime Minister Menzies supported the British stance on the war. They were open to negotiations with Germany, but also ready for war.

It was September 3, 1939 that Britain declared war. In his evening radio broadcast, Menzies announced this, and said Australia was as war as well.

This website says that Menzies too was hesitant about committing all Australian troops to Europe. He was worried about Japan's intentions for Australia. I guess maybe he wasn't as concerned as Curtin though. Or maybe Lord Wiki was confused.

This is all very enlightening. I don't understand it fully, but it's something along the lines of England assuming...maybe even taking...Australian troops. Menzies supported it publicly for some reason, but in private, he wasn't happy about it.

In the beginning of the war, Menzies didn't use the fear approach. He went the opposite direction, pushing for a business-as-usual mentality. Then the war became worse, and I guess Menzies regretted the don't-worry-be-happy approach. Perhaps that's why he later resorted to fear tactics.

In 1940, three people from Menzies Ministry were killed in a plane crash. They weren't just his colleagues, but his close friends as well. For some reason, I remember reading this before....awhile back. I don't know why. Maybe it was when I researched Curtin. I would have been reading World War II stuff then.

Oh, this is interesting. If I'm reading this right, the United Australia Party really wanted to UNITE Australia...at least the government. They wanted to form a coalition government for the war, with ministry positions being split between the two parties. That sounds good to me.

The Labor Party didn't like it for some reason. Their veto, and criticism he received from his own party, led Menzies into resigning. Arthur Fadden became Prime Minister for a short time, and then Curtin.

From 1941-1943, Menzies sat his butt on the backbench. He also did weekly radio broadcasts where he pushed for education as a way for social classes to achieve equality.

Wow. There were rumors around this time, that during Menzies Prime Ministry time, he proposed that Northern Australia should be abandoned to the Japanese. Menzies denied those accusations. It's kind of scary to imagine them being true.

By 1943, Menzies got tired of being on that backbench. He became leader of the United Australia party again. Around this time, that group broke their alliance with the Country Party.

Then the Liberal Party was soon born.

Menzies was sworn in as Prime Minister, for the second time, a day before his 55th birthday. I bet they had some nice parties.

Soon Menzies faced another war. This time it was the Korean one. Menzies told his cabinet that he did this to secure their relationship with the United States. The United States was very anti-Communist at the time. Did Menzies push the anti-communist thing to impress the United States? Or did he desire an alliance with them because he felt it would help protect against communism?

I'm kind of skimming over all the Evatt and Menzies fighting since I read that from Lord Wiki.

I'm down to a part about Menzies trying to get support from female voters. He found that they were often more conservative then men. I wonder how true that is today. This article says a study shows that women (American ones, at least) sway more to the left after having children. It was probably different in the 1950's though. My guess is that in those days, women paid more attention to what was happening in THEIR family. These days, mothers extend their concern to other families. Although, I could be stereotyping the past.

I'm going to quickly skin over the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I probably won't report much. I'm getting tired, and it's getting late. If there's anything super exciting, I'll mention it.

Here's something. In the 1930's, Menzies said disparaging things about modern art. His critics claimed this further proved how overly conservative he was.

There's some Earl Page information. Menzies said bad things to Page about Lyons behind Lyon's back. Then Lyon's died, and I suppose Page was resentful about the bad stuff that was said. On top of that, Lyon's wife partly blamed Menzies for her husband's death, and Page decided to agree with her.

The biography dictionary talks about how Menzies had a love for England...the queen and all that. But at the same time, he understood some of the realities of the British-Australian relationship. At one time, he said, You've got to be firm with the English. If you allow yourself to be used as a doormat they will trample all over you.

That's true in any relationship. If one entity has high regards for another, it's easy for them to be used as a doormat.

Here's a Robert Menzies virtual museum website.

It has lots of fun photographs.

This page has a photo of Mommy and Daddy Menzies.

Here's Menzies when he was twelve.

Here's some artwork he did for school. I'm pretty impressed. I could never draw that good.

Okay. I'm tired. That's it for me.

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