Casual Journo

John Curtin was not long away from journalism.

He was back at the Westralian Worker in 1932, after Labor was devastated at the polls the previous year.

He was offered the position of sub-editor but rejected it. He knew his eminence would make the editor's task untenable. Instead, he took over the sporting page as a one-day-a-week casual.

His product was conventional: the football reports began with a comment on the weather. His son John reported on one of the league football games.

Curtin's affection for long words, noted later by R G Menzies, was on show. The racing column had 'Anticipations' rather than 'Tips'.

Sports reporters: the two John Curtins in 1932

Sports reporters:
the two John Curtins in 1932. Records of the Curtin family. Two John Curtins 1932. JCPML0004/17.


Beside the column was a string of small display advertisements for (illegal) starting price bookmakers including P B Healy and Jerry Higgins. There were a number of hypotheses as to why these hard-headed operators would wish to support the Worker's Anticipations.

In general, it was working class people who frequented the SP bookies, while the more affluent bet at the race track. Perhaps the bookmakers were also confident that the 'Anticipations' provided by Curtin were not likely to damage their profits by any great success in predicting winners!

Advertisements for SP bookmakers, Westralian Worker, 29 April 1932

Advertisements for SP bookmakers
Westralian Worker 29 April 1932

Football and Footballers


Ideal weather conditions helped to give the new season a splendid opening last Saturday. At Fremantle, last year's pennant was handed to the famous veterans, and on behalf of "The Mirror", Mr J.J. Simons, himself a former secretary to the League, presented the shield donated by that paper. "Old Easts" are the greatest club in the State, and one whose organisation and control takes rank with the best playing the Australian rules in the Commonwealth.

And they started off this year by beating Claremont to a frazzle. The first quarter saw the visitors with the wind, but their forward work was almost helpless, and East Fremantle went steadily ahead with play that was by no means first-class, but was still too good for their opponents....

Westralian Worker 29 April 1932


At this time, Curtin also wrote articles for the West Australian and the Daily News, which he penned on behalf of the ALP under headings such as 'Labor Views'.

However, despite his protests he could only write under the banner of the 'Labour' not 'Labor' Party in the West Australian. H J Lambert, the somewhat stuffy editor of the West, refused to countenance the word without a 'u'.

Reduced and Increased Expenditure

Expenditure in Western Australia since the last election upon education has been reduced as follows:-

1930-31     £692,000
1931-32     £549,115
Reduction     £142,885

Is that a good thing? Hardly! We spend less on the intellectual welfare on the people; but we have spent more on satisfying the money-lenders.

West Australian 4 February 1933

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These columns provided a considerable contrast to his earlier writing.

This was 1932 and the topic was usually the Depression. However, the answers to problems were no longer simple and the articles were packed with figures, accompanied by an occasional reference to Maynard Keynes, the prominent economist and pioneer of the notion of full employment.

Here was Curtin the politician writing.

World Problem of the Workless

Mr J. M. Keynes was recently asked if any other depression in history compared with that through which the world is now passing. His reply was that nothing on the same scale is recorded since the crisis that is called the Middle Ages. "And that," he told his interrogators, two great international bankers, "lasted for 500 years." Although this may be a somewhat exaggerated view, it has its message. Our civilisation is as vulnerable as any other. It cannot withstand indefinitely the failure to provide one-third of the population with the essentials of existence.

Daily News 27 September 1932

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  While writing these articles - and later - Curtin made frequent visits to newspaper offices as related by Perth journalists Griff Richards, Frank Davidson and Peter Ewing in their oral histories.

Griff Richards recalls John Curtin

Oh, he was a very modest man. He used to drop into the West Australian office sometimes to have a talk with people. But he wasn't the sort of chap that would stand out in a crowd. Although he liked to be inconspicuous and spoke very modestly, at the same time when he made a political speech he became very much aroused and spoke entirely differently.

In 1934 Curtin was back in parliament, again representing the Federal electorate of Fremantle.

A year later, his colleagues selected him as leader of the opposition. In 1937, he appointed a Canberra journalist working for a Labor paper, Don Rodgers, as his full-time press secretary. It was the first such appointment by an Australian politician.

John Curtin and Don Rodgers (2nd and 3rd from left) at Adelaide Station, 1937

John Curtin and Don Rodgers (2nd and 3rd from left) at Adelaide Station, 1937. Records of the Curtin Family. Eric Tonkin, John Curtin & Don K Rodgers, 1937. JCPML00376/156.



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