Extract from oral history of Tom Fitzgerald by Ken Inglis
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John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records
of the National Library of Australia. Interview of Tom Fitzgerald, 01/02/1998
- 3/09/1998. JCPML00658/1. Original held by National Library of Australia
I think a slight interest in Curtin had developed in my years as Financial
Editor of the Herald. On some occasions I had gone back to old
volumes of Hansard for their relevance to current issues. One being the
question of whether the Commonwealth Bank should be split into a trading
bank and a central bank, quite separate. Because Theodore, EG Theodore,
had proposed such a separation in the period of the Scullin government.
Going back through Hansards on that and other occasions I had begun to
notice that a number of the Labor members of Parliament, self-educated
people from the working class, read a great deal of serious economic literature,
not least, perhaps most, the work of Keynes, from the earliest of Keynes’
public writings. One of those was Curtin.
When the thirtieth anniversary of Curtin’s death was approaching
(he died in July 1945), I thought, having nights to spare in Canberra
(this was even in my period with Minerals and Energy, the latter part)
I would see what material there was in the National Library bearing on
John Curtin, that might lend itself to an extensive article or even a
pamphlet, comparing him with our then current Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.
Particularly in their grasp and attitudes on economic issues.
I found this an increasingly absorbing subject. I went through the files
of the weekly newspaper the Westralian Worker, not only during
Curtin’s editorship of it, but I went back, before his editorship.
And came across whom I regard as a magnificent Labor journalist who’s
almost unknown, if not totally unknown, William Laurence Bodley who had
been editor of that paper for some years which spanned its movement from
Kalgoorlie into Perth until he was killed. Run over by a train, in 1913,
and killed. He was one of the most exhilarating editors I’ve ever
followed through. I remember not once but twice as I went through this
period on the micro-films in the basement of the National Library, enthralled
by his writing, his wit, his passion, on each occasion when I came to
the issue which announced his death, I groaned out loud and disturbed
the people around me. Having already known he was…I was going to
find it the second time I still groaned when I came to it. Curtin was
one of the very few people outside Western Australia who had a high regard
for Bodley. Perhaps the only one of any consequence.