There were a few things that caught the interest last week. The first was that brilliant new slogan (or is it phrase?) generated by Tony Abbott and his NO Coalition to represent the aspirations of a bold new Australia under a Liberal/National Party government. There it was in all its scatalogical simplicity. ‘Hope, Reward, Opportunity’. So, ummm . . . . inspiring? I suspect that Julie Bishop (that plagiarista extraordinaire) had a hand in the creation of this piece of linguistic beauty. Take ‘Hope, Faith & Charity’, remove the words connected to religion (hmmm, don’t think we really need to go there at the moment) and to helping those less fortunate, and add ‘Reward’ and ‘Opportunity’ to present a brand new phrase for a brave new world under NO Coalition rule. Unfortunately I can’t overcome the uncomfortable feeling that Phoney and Julie ‘ had all the right words, but couldn’t quite get them in the right order’. For some strange reason it seems to make more sense as ‘Hope, Opportunity, Reward’. But more of that later.
Then there was the commentaries by one ‘Sax’ and another ‘lynot’ on the piece about ‘Miracles And Other Such Stuff’ (https://deknarf.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/en-passant-7-miracles-and-other-such-stuff/) which recalled the days of my youth.
And, finally there were the pieces by Geoff Cooper (www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/thanks-gough-for-giving-us-all-a-chance-20120703-21f98.html) recognising Gough Whitlam, and his Government’s, contribution to education for the masses by abolishing university fees. And also, Café Whispers (www.cafewhispers.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/we-want-gough) did a piece on Gough praising his contributions to a better Australia.
So here we go in an attempt to merge all these into a somewhat coherent story, whilst attempting to maximise the impact of any derogatory comments made against those that I don’t think particularly well of. Let’s call it ‘Hope, Opportunity, Reward’ for the sake of well, just for the sake of it!
I was born in 1945, that year when the Second World War ended and the Australian birth rate actually climbed above the death rate. The latter, from my perspective making that year cohort the first of the Baby Boomers. My parents had great Hopes for me and we grew up in plentiful times, in a country largely isolated from the world but subject to significant levels of immigration post-war. From 1949 to 1972 we lived under the rule of Federal Conservative governments which from memory were much given, especially in the earlier years, to elitism, protectionism, and carrying on about the threat of the communist. These communists were apparently everywhere, and particularly seemed to have a desire to secrete themselves under beds. I still have no idea why. To the elitist Conservatives we were very much the ‘Working Class’ (Dad was a ‘Train Driver’) who needed to be taught how to behave, and recognise and pay suitable deference to one’s superiors.
It was lorded over by Sir Robert Menzies (aka Pig Iron Bob) for much of my youth (1949 to 1965), followed by various other unremarkable Conservative leaders of not much gravitas. Holt stands out for drowning himself, and McMahon for just being a dill really. Menzies was truly a hard act to follow. Arthur ‘Cocky’ Calwell was the leader (1960 to 1967) of the Labor Opposition that comes readily to mind. Overall impression of Calwell, about as useful as a non-slip strip on the bottom of a snow ski. Most memorable for his comment, ‘two Wongs’ don’t make a White’ during the interminable debates going on in Australia about immigration, particularly Asian immigration.
We were kids growing up, we were happy, there was nothing to fear (if you ignored the Reds and the threat of nuclear annihilation), we saw the Korean War (1950 to 1953) come and go, we got TV (1953) and the ‘Mickey Mouse Show’, as well as the Vietnam War (1962 to 1975). We saw, on the 14th of February, 1966 the decimalisation of the Australian currency. We reconfigured motor cars to make them powerful, and noisy. We were also a deferential lot, well behaved, suitably ‘umble, and we knew our place. But we were somehow different, the world was a-changing and so were Australians. We didn’t like the way our world was structured.
In 1962 I started a five year apprenticeship in printing with West Australian Newspapers (WAN). Like many of my peers we were lucky in that there was a surfeit of jobs for the working class, and we grabbed them. Thirteen years was spent in the newspaper industry, along with a bit of martial arts learning and teaching along the way. During the time at WAN I became a unionist (and briefly) a union representative, and by sheer luck missed out on being conscripted to fight in Vietnam. One of the few lotteries I missed out on and didn’t regret. Four out of the six who started at WAN with me were not so lucky.
In the latter days of working at WAN the industry was changing with the introduction of new technologies (computerised typesetting and photosetting). That change continued apace and we now see technology placing the newspaper industry in a world where newspapers as we know them are unlikely to survive. But I digress.
As the years progressed, we got older, we got to our early twenties and got married and got children, or got children and got married (‘shotgun jobs’ in those days) and got our quarter acres with a house on them. We were slaves to the conventions of the time given to us from an age gone by. Inevitably we got divorced (Baby Boomers had a penchant for this practice, and I was one) and during those years the Hope we all had for the future, got a bit battered and bent. But it still burnt in many, the Hope that they could be something different, something better. That they could get further educated in a system that restricted tertiary education to those who could pay for it. And Australia was becoming more liberal in attitudes and thinking and the restrictive shackles of the Conservatives (so inappropriately called Liberals) were becoming irksome and restrictive. More and more Baby Boomers were coming of voting age and were looking for something different. Then along came – Opportunity!!
In 1972 Gough Whitlam with Labor’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign saw the conservatives shuffled off to the opposition benches and Labor finally returned to power after some 23 years in the political wilderness. A feat that they seem to be trying to recreate currently, incidentally. The Whitlam government saw in many changes which included the elimination of military conscription and criminal execution, universal health care, the implementation of legal aid programs, and, fee-free tertiary (university) education. Opportunity was presented to those of us who wanted something different, and perhaps better, higher education and a better/brighter future in the pursuit of knowledge. It was a great moment in Australian political history eventually brought down (1975) by ministerial scandal, a hostile Coalition dominated Senate and a Governor General entirely unfit to perform his duties and the Liberal Party’s Malcolm Fraser (so affectionately known as Kerr’s Cur).
So after a year of study to improve my educational levels I was accepted (1975) into the newly founded Murdoch University. University was fun, challenging, and without doubt the most experiential part of a life. We worked hard, we played hard and for most of those ‘mature age’ students they ultimately attained their – Reward.
Some four years later saw the first part of the Reward, a Bachelor of Science (with Honours) in Microbiology. An offer of a Wool Board Scholarship and another five years of research culminated in a Doctorate in Microbiology and Trace Element Nutrition in Ruminants.
Successive years saw another marriage, a Post-Doctorate research position, a University Lecturer position, and ultimately an Intellectual Property and Research Management role at Sydney Water with a five year sojourn as a Research Manager in a Co-operative Research Centre. And now at 67 I’ve finally placed myself in semi-retirement and am enjoying the fruits of the Opportunity that Gough Whitlam gave to me all those years ago.
And in that journey I’ve been given the reward of a brighter, more challenging and interesting life, where I hope that I’ve made a contribution to the undertaking and carriage of science in this country in some small way. I have benefited from the higher salaries paid for the acquisition of my skills by employers and conversely have contributed to repaying the Opportunity given to me by the payment of higher taxes commensurate with those higher salaries and contributing my skills to make a better Australia. I’d say that the Whitlam Government’s decision to permit equal access to higher education has been one of the great moments in Australian political history.
So I say ‘Happy Birthday Gough’ and thanks, for turning my Hopes for the future into reality by giving me an Opportunity that I would have never obtained under the Conservatives, to attain higher qualifications thereby Rewarding both myself, my family, Australia and your visionary thinking.
And to Phoney Tony and his NO Coalition I say; ‘You know so little about Hope, Opportunity, Reward that you can’t even get the phrase the right way round!!
- We Want Gough! (cafewhispers.wordpress.com)