Tuesday, August 1, 2017


 Now that there is  a legal move to  try and  gain access to  secret   correspondence between Sir John Kerr and the  Queen over the  1975 sacking  of  Prime Minister  Gough  Whitlam , our S(h)ipping   Reporter, just  back from Woy Woy ,   recalls   an   amazing   nautical   event  in  the  Queen City of the  North.

Another  major  political   milestone , the  recent   41st  anniversary of  the    extraordinary demonstration in Townsville  against   Governor-General  Sir John Kerr ,  which  culminated in   his  effigy being  cast  adrift   at  sea ,  went  unnoticed  by the  local  media .

On a tour of  North Queensland  , Sir John and Lady Kerr arrived in Townsville  in  July 1976  so  that  the GG  could open the  Show, travelling  in a funereal  black Rolls-Royce , accompanied   by a large posse of police-uniformed , plainclothes, Special Branch , three  motorcycle  outriders.
The  ALP  Mayor  of  Townsville, Perc  Tucker , had  been  strongly urged to  snub Kerr , but replied  he would represent  all  the  people  of the city in   welcoming the  GG , in so doing  defying  the "unwritten code of the ALP", according to the local paper, then  known as The Townsville  Daily  Bulletin .
After the show opening , they adjourned  to  the Matthew Flinders Room at Lowth's Hotel ,the premises swarming with police,  where a  red  carpet had been rolled out, and   got  stuck into the  menu  which  included seafood cocktail ,   avocados (unsmashed, one presumes, Sir John , on the other hand , may have already  been  smashed ) , barramundi , white wine, strawberries  and cream . Five policemen  including Kerr's bodyguard  were  fed  "ordinary hotel " tucker...pie and peas , bangers and mash , paper thin Vienna  Schnitzel  and chips ?   
 A Trades and  Labour Council  organised   protest  march  held before the arrival of the  GG   ,  said  to  be 70 strong, included  men in overalls and  Jackie Howe  singlets , women  with shopping bags , young  women in Indonesian skirts , some office workers  and a postman on his bike . 
Kerr  hanging around 
At its head were  two union officials  posing as  Sir John and  PM  Malcolm Fraser, the latter known as the  Crazy Grazier.  The  rally proceeded  to   Hanran Park  where it  was proposed to  burn  Sir  John's  effigy , a  rope about his neck .  However, the   police  doused this   proposal  before  ignition . 
A Special Branch officer was  quoted as  saying  the  march had been "a flop" , which says a lot about  the impartiality of  the SB.
Burial  at  Sea 
A newspaper  account , under the  above cross  heading ,  ran  some fascinating paragraphs  which   I can reveal  were  penned  by  a very literate Townsville  union activist,  without  acknowledging  it was  his golden   prose .   It  read :
Meanwhile, out in Cleveland Bay, the effigy of Sir John  that  led Tuesday's march through the streets  was   with  curses   dumped into the sea   by disaffected   unionists  eating  meat pies  and  drinking  beer .
The unionists had planned   to  bury the effigy on the beach outside  the motel where  the vice-regal party  was  staying but the police told them they would be "littering " the beach  by doing so , and  stopped them .
After a short  argument in which police said  permission to bury the   effigy,  granted on Tuesday,  had been withdrawn , the burial party retired to Trades Hall . A TLC  spokesman  said that it  had decided that the presence  of even a  dummy Governor-General   could no longer  be tolerated  and the  dummy  was   put  to  sea  in  a  small  boat.  (ends).
Then what ?  In the immortal saying   from the Spike Milligan   Goon Show, he fell  in  the water,  disappeared.