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 TRC 2247

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.