Shortly after the release of the Report, Fitzgerald was
approached to undertake further advisory work for government.
About that time, I don’t think with any knowledge of what had
happened to me, Nugget Coombs, Dr Coombs, asked me would I join his
Royal Commission into Government Administration. The Public Service.
And I agreed to do that. I was to be a special adviser, replacing Peter
Wilenski. And from early 1975...I stayed a few weeks at least in Minerals
in 1975 but quite early I joined Nugget Coombs and worked for about
eighteen months on that enquiry. Which I found again extremely interesting.
Because it gave one a chance to meet the heads and other senior officials
of almost all departments. To meet with them, to sit in on the hearings
with...either public or private, to have informal discussions with them
and to get to know what sort of people they were. And that kept me in
Canberra for another eighteen months.
So I’d been altogether three years in Canberra when I had the approach
from Neville Wran, through David Hill. And at first I thought I could
work in the Premier’s Department as part of the unit called the
Ministerial Advisory Unit. I’d be part-time. By this time I’d
conceived the idea of writing something about John Curtin and I wanted
to use most of that part-time to work on Curtin…
I was asked especially to represent the Premier on issues relating to
minerals and that meant mainly coal mining. And I had the chance to go
with the State Minister for Minerals to Tokyo and Seoul. We only had a
week there but a great experience.
I had been with the Premier’s Department, for about six years which
was longer than I had expected. I was confirmed in that period in an impression
I had formed a long time before. That some discussions of a committee
character between people who are not necessarily academically qualified
can reach an extraordinarily high level of intelligence. I’d had
experience of that even with milk vendors in the very early forties. I
had more of it from time to time after leaving journalism in both the
Commonwealth, but particularly in the state government sphere. To attend
inter-departmental meetings or meetings between government ministers and/or
departmental officers on the one side and business people and/or trade
union officials on the other side, not always but sometimes gave one very
fascinating intellectual cut and thrust. Highest... the highest ability
was shown. And I have often thought that this all goes unrecorded of course
and that the more literary people among us who can never reproduce such
occasions in their literary works underrate the intelligence of more practical
people in government and in business.
I possibly worked for a few weeks in January 1983 but I was winding up,
trying to wind up, in ’82. I left, therefore, before the elections
which brought the Hawke government into power. 
1 - 2 John
Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of the National Library of Australia.
Interview of Tom Fitzgerald, 01/02/1988 - 3/09/1988. JCPML00658/1. Original
held by National Library of Australia TRC 2247
3. McQueen, Humphry, A human
face of economics and an emperor of ice cream, 24 Hours, April
4. John Curtin Prime Ministerial
Library. Records of the National Library of Australia. Interview of Tom Fitzgerald, 01/02/1988 - 3/09/1988. JCPML00658/1. Original held by National
Library of Australia TRC 2247