September 22

One of the greatest

Sir Robert Menzies, our longest serving and one of our greatest Prime Ministers  is popularly depicted as “an almost brain-dead, drooling monarchist”, observes The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan ( 19 September) while Labor Opposition  Leader Dr.H.V.Evatt is seen as a masterful, global statesman.

Mr. Sheridan points out that the considerable John Douglas Pringle, a liberal Scot and one of the great editors of The Sydney Morning Herald   described Sir Robert as one of the greatest public speakers in the English-speaking world, which he certainly was.

…two faced….

Sir Robert  was a powerful and witty speaker. He had had no need for auto cues,  did not read his speeches and did not employ an army of speech writers and spin doctors.  When an election was called, his campaign broadcasts attracted wide audiences. These events were not handled by spin doctors, and were open to the public.

There were always hostile elements in the audience, and frequent interjections – at times worse.  What kept the audiences was Menzies quick and witty way of handling interjectors.

On one occasion a woman yelled: "Ah, Menzies your two faced, that’s what you are Menzies.“ He addressed the enormous crowd: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the good lady says I’m two faced. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is evident that she is not two faced."

" Else she would not have worn that face this night.”

The crowd erupted in laughter, including the interjector. Across the nation, in the cities and far into the the country, even on short wave, families joined in.

 A frequent comment from both supporters and opponents was that Menzies was the man to represent the country internationally. He was, as Pringle said one of the greatest public speakers in the English-speaking world. And with that he had a gravitas, a dignity  which suggested a man of great personal authority and principles. 

…the nation's greatest leaders have all been  constitutional monarchists..

 Mr. Sheridan says Pringle saw Dr. Evatt as a man completely lost to ambition and paranoia who came to rely on communists within the Labor movement and as a result took many pro-communist positions on foreign policy.

Dr Evatt was surely the principal cause of the split in the Labor Party which led to the formation of the DLP, which helped keep  the Coalition in power over many years.  

But Sir Robert and Dr Evatt had one thing in common. Both were staunch constitutional monarchists, as the nation's greatest leaders have always been.


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