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A Dissident Liberal

A Dissident Liberal: The Political Writings of Peter Baume OPEN ACCESS

PETER BAUME
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183q3f4
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  • Book Info
    A Dissident Liberal
    Book Description:

    In the ‘broad church’ of the Australian Liberal Party, rarely has there been a maverick so unrelenting in his commitment to personal principles as Senator Peter Baume. Over a parliamentary career spanning 17 years, three ministerial portfolios and five party leaders, Baume was increasingly pitted against his own party room. In A Dissident Liberal: The Political Writings of Peter Baume, we learn of personal threats, crises, constitutional confrontation and the tension between conservatism and classical liberalism—and between ideology and toeing the party line. This collection of personal observations, speeches and commentaries on contentious policy issues presents a valuable resource for students of Australian political history.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-55-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. FOREWORD (pp. vii-xii)
    Peter Baume

    It is now a long time since the Dismissal on 11 November 1975. In brief, there had been a unique stand-off between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the Budget and Supply and the matter was resolved at the eleventh hour by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr, who dismissed Gough Whitlam summarily as prime minister and appointed Malcolm Fraser in his place. Before 1975, no prime minister had been dismissed against his will by a governor-general, although Sir Philip Game, the then Governor of New South Wales, had dismissed the state Premier Jack Lang in 1932.¹

    Elsewhere the...

  2. John Wanna and Marija Taflaga

    Peter Erne Baume MD, AC, served in the Australian Senate from August 1974 until January 1991, representing the people of New South Wales as one of their initially 10 and then 12 senators. As a member of the Liberal Party, Baume was a dissident liberal, very much his own man, who often baulked at toeing the party line, and was not afraid of crossing the floor against his party colleagues. He was a highbrow classical intellectual of Jewish faith with professional training in medicine. He tended not to suffer fools gladly but equally was not elitist or aloof in his...

  3. Gough Whitlam became prime minister of the first Labor government to take office in Australia for 23 years after Robert Menzies led the Liberal Party to victory in 1949. Whitlam’s Labor Party triumphed at the general election of 2 December 1972 by winning eight seats and sweeping out the Administration of William ‘Billy’ McMahon.¹ At that election, the Labor Party won 67 seats, the Liberal Party won 38 seats, and the Country Party won 20 seats.

    I have always felt somewhat sorry for Bill McMahon. He was never a likeable person, and I did not ever like him. His voice...

  4. 2 AUTUMN 1975 (pp. 17-24)

    This was my second sitting period¹ in Parliament. This time I would not come to everything new. I had some feeling for the job, for the chamber, for the people, for the institution. I had established an office, had somewhere to stay in Canberra, had competent staff, and knew how to organise transport, how to find food and how to use the library. I had friends within ministerial offices and within the apparatus of the Opposition. I had made friends with senators and members, and with their staff. In the electorate, I had made progress, too. Constituents, party organisation people...

  5. Winter in Canberra is bitter and cold. This is not surprising; Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory within the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales some 600 metres above sea level. One of the attractions of this capital city is that it does have definite seasons. So it is that we look with pleasure at the autumn colours and enjoy the blossoms in spring. But equally, the summers are hot and the bush flies troublesome, while the winters are cold, dreary, bleak and bitter.

    Politicians cope with this in good years by scheduling the two long breaks—the...

  6. 4 BUDGET 1975 (pp. 37-42)

    The 1975–76 Budget was brought down on the evening of 19 August 1975. It was Bill Hayden’s only Budget and was rather less irresponsible than those of his predecessors. I flew to Canberra that morning and had an argument with an unusually surly hire car driver. I am normally equable and to have an argument was unusual. I had lunch with various staff members and John Carrick. Then, as usual, we filed into the Senate in the evening to hear the Budget read by the representative of the Treasurer in that chamber.

    The Budget is an enormous challenge to...

  7. This chapter covers the month before the deferrals of Loan and Appropriation Bills on 15 October. During this time I faced and resolved my own doubts about deferral, discussed the matter with Malcolm Fraser and with Carrick and Cotton, and became outraged at the serial revelations wrung out of the desperate Government until, finally, I was ready for what we did.

    We had an ‘up’ fortnight in our electorates in mid-September. It began with a trip to Newcastle, which was noteworthy because it was Misha Lajovic’s first trip in a small plane. Our contacts in Newcastle were very old and...

  8. The constitutional crisis of 1975 began formally when, on 16 October, the Senate deferred any vote on the Appropriation Bills (that is, the Budget) until the Whitlam Government agreed to submit itself to the people at a general election. Most observers had predicted the event, and pressure for it had built up inexorably over a year or so. The Labor Government had, by a series of errors, sackings, demotions and unpopular decisions, made the course easier to take and to justify.

    In the previous chapter, I recounted how we had prepared ourselves, and been moved by our leaders, to the...

  9. At the beginning of November the constitutional confrontation had been under way for more than two weeks. Its outcome was still unclear and was certainly unforeseen even by that majority of Australians whose attention was riveted to the battle. As with all such matters occurring in the national capital, citizens distant from Canberra understood what was going on only as the events were interpreted by journalists writing for print media or presenting material on radio or television. And it was in this area that we were doing rather badly. To put it bluntly, I thought we were getting a pasting...

  10. This was the most dramatic day in which I have played any direct part. Though I was merely a minor actor, an insignificant courtier, I was there. I was present. I played some role.

    On this day all the events of previous weeks came together in one convulsive climax. On this day, the consequences of foolish and reckless ministerial actions came home to roost, the constitutional confrontation was resolved, Supply was obtained, prime minister Whitlam and opposition leader Fraser each saw in a historic confrontation the results of his respective gamble. While the crisis had begun much earlier—formally on...

  11. From the moment Gough Whitlam was dismissed, the election campaign was under way. His famous appearances on the front steps of Parliament House on 11 November—once when David Smith prorogued Parliament; the other with his colleagues later that evening, to singSolidarity Forever—were both early campaign activities. The election campaign lasted until the day of the general election on 13 December 1975 when, in the face of an unprecedented electoral disaster, Whitlam had finally to recognise that ‘La commedia è finita’.¹ During this time, Malcolm Fraser was prime minister, heading a caretaker government that made no new policy...

  12. No event in Australian political history has so stirred or excited or angered people, including people who otherwise make an effort to avoid any interest or involvement in politics. The Dismissal has been described variously as a ‘coup d’état’,¹ as ‘a political revolution’,² as ‘a coup’³ and so on. In the Senate, it was described by many pejorative words, including ‘jackboot tactics’⁴ and ‘reprehensible’,⁵ that it ‘jeopardise[d] the defence of the country’⁶ and as an ‘impropriety’.⁷ The events of that period polarised people as has no other event I have known. It caused lasting bitterness, it entrenched a sence of...

  13. My late father first introduced me to the Council for Civil Liberties [CCL]. He supported it strongly and supported strongly much of the work it did and the issues it pursued in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

    Indeed his support was sometimes practical and important. In Don Watson’s bookBrian Fitzpatrick: A radical life, complimentary reference is made to my father in the following terms: ‘the time on [radio station] 3XY was arranged by a friend with a public conscience and an advertising business, Sidney (Bill) Baume.’¹

    There are so many things which could with advantage be raised tonight. The...

  14. This graduation is a recognition by this university of several things.

    It is an opportunity to congratulate you individually for your persistence, your exam cunning, and your success. It is an opportunity to congratulate your spouses and your families for their part in that success.

    It is an opportunity to acknowledge that this graduation day is a day of celebration and happiness.

    It is an opportunity too, to welcome each of you, formally, to the community of scholars. To welcome you to the rights and to the obligations that go with membership of that community.

    In the United States occasions...

  15. My first task is to congratulate the mover and seconder of this Motion and to thank them for their maiden addresses.

    This contribution will draw attention to the poor state of political debate in Australia. The debate today is too personal, too trivial, too technical but above all too little attention is paid to matters of purpose, of goals, objectives.

    As a result people have been moving to support third parties and independents. They have been moving away from the main political parties that enjoyed their support traditionally. An independent member won a seat in a formerly safe Liberal area...

  16. Many colleagues have been kind enough to be in the chamber for this small event, and to all those senators, thanks. Some other senators have been kind enough to speak, and I apologise to those who would still like to speak but I am conscious of the time and of the nearness of 3.45 pm. To you, Mr President, to the clerks, to the Hansard staff, to the committee secretaries, to the Senate officers, to the waitresses—thank you not just for what you have done this year, but for what you have done over the long period since 1974...

  17. Mr President of the Legislative Council, Your Honours, Knights of the Realm, Ministers of the Crown and former Ministers, Parliamentary Colleagues, Former Parliamentary Colleagues, Mr Secretary of the Department of Defence, Auditor-General, Learned Professors, Medical Colleagues, Baume Irregulars, Liberal Colleagues, Family, Friends—

    The many doctors here know the phrase ‘angor animi’¹ (which means a sense of impending doom) and everyone here will know that, at times like that, your life is said to pass before your eyes in seconds. So tonight much of my life passes before my eyes. There are so many friends here, from so many occupations, and...

  18. Tonight you have honoured not just a person but also a system of belief. To be your patron is important. You will not be tainted by association with this political warrior and your gift will not become an albatross around your collective necks.

    Our liberalism is the belief that came to us from Alfred Deakin.¹ Refined by nineteenth-century philosophers, it is a system of belief that recognises our obligations to those around us and to a wider community, which accepts obligations along with rights, and which contributes to, as well as takes from, its society.

    It follows that we will...

  19. Two weeks before he died, Robert Nestdale came to our home for lunch. He was painfully thin, was dressed immaculately in a crisp white linen suit and was his urbane, civilised and gentle self. The other guests were shocked and unnerved by the fact of a person, obviously very ill, being at table. During lunch, my wife suggested that he lie down for a rest. So Robert had a rest, then came back to join us, and was driven home, after lunch, by another guest. We never saw him alive again.

    We did attend the memorial service in St Stephen’s...

  20. Three points of history are relevant and necessary. Bear with me, please.

    First, my grandfather was a Liberal member of the Parliament of New Zealand. His opponents were the conservatives. He was elected as a Liberal and was opposed, in the electorate, and in the Parliament, by the conservatives. His beliefs and his traditions have come down to me—by serendipity.

    Second, one of our early prime ministers was a liberal exemplar. His name was Alfred Deakin. Some of his disciples today are called, unflatteringly, by neo-Thatcherites, ‘Deakinite wets’.

    The third piece of history: in 1944, in Albury, Robert Menzies...

  21. The title of this address is ‘Caring for People’. You may find it an odd title. You may wonder what relevance it has, or could possibly have, to life at the end of the twentieth century. Well, let me explain.

    I am a medical practitioner by basic training, a physician by professional training, a practitioner of the art of medicine at one time, a politician for a period, a doctor by academic training and a teacher today. As an author has written in a recent book: ‘Medicine has lost the plot.’ That is really what this talk is about. How...

  22. FOUR CAREERS (2012) (pp. 155-162)

    This is a great room, in a wonderful club, and it is always a pleasure to be here. So many friends are here. Peter Wilkinson has been a good friend since Rotary days, and many in this room are good friends from lawn bowls here.

    But enough of the bowls and this club. Let us consider four careers.

    They represent a lack of ability to stick at any one and make it last. And retirement seems to have failed too. Each career lasted about 15 to 20 years. First, there was medicine where there were fine people. That career started...

  23. Reflecting on the progress of the Liberal Forum in May 1987, it seems incredible that we have achieved so much in so short a time. So much! It was just over two years ago, in February 1985, that we met first and established our small, self-selected group at a time of great crisis for philosophical liberals.

    Max Burr claims that he was a prime mover in the formation of the group. He acted after a conversation with Yvonne Thompson, who, after years of involvement in Liberal Party councils, was thinking of throwing it all in, and getting out of organisational...

  24. Many of us enter these debates seldom, relying on the words of our leaders to speak for us all. This will not do for Alan Missen. He was a singular person, he was a singular liberal, he was a singular senator. As a person, he was singular because of his uncompromising and quite predictable adherence to his principles. No-one else in this place, in my time here, has approached his determination in this area. More than any other, we could use about Alan Missen—in their best sense—words written by Carlyle in 1837 about Robespierre: that he was ‘seagreen...

  25. The political values central to the Australian liberal tradition are the theme of a new book to be launched in Canberra tomorrow [2 December 1986].Australian Liberalism: The Continuing Visionis the first comprehensive anthology of the key speeches and writings of prominent Australian liberals, from the 19th century to the present day.

    The work makes generally available for the first time the vital speeches which shaped the development of mainstream non-Labor politics. In particular, it revives a number of the long-neglected 1940s speeches of Robert Menzies, in which he outlined his vision of liberalism and laid the philosophical basis...

  26. During the evening of 21 March 1987, the Leader of the Victorian Opposition, Jeff Kennett, was travelling by car from central Victoria back to Melbourne. His candidate [Marie] Tehan had just held the Upper House Seat of Central Highlands against Labor and the National Party, and Kennett was pleased with himself. Using a telephone in his car, he called Andrew Peacock in Melbourne to say some harsh things about Federal Liberal Leader John Howard in robust and basic barrack-room language.

    Mobile radio telephones operate as do radio transmitters, and transmissions are not secure. This conversation was recorded and released to...

  27. Jenny and I spent the latter half of Easter 1987 at Point Lonsdale on the western side of Port Phillip Bay. The invitation had come from Tom Harley, our colleague and collaborator in the Liberal Forum. This body had been established in February 1985 to advance liberal thought, and had enjoyed greater success than we could ever have imagined.

    Tom Harley is the great-grandson of Alfred Deakin. Tall, dark, slim, handsome, intelligent and very tough, he is indispensable to the forum and its operation. Educated at Oxford, he had already helped George Brandis and Don Markwell to edit one liberal...

  28. John Howard had just started his address to the Queensland conference of the Liberal Party when I reached the ballroom area of the Hilton Hotel in central Brisbane. I slipped into the back of the room, ignoring the other federal parliamentarians sitting in the front row, and stood behind the last row of seats to listen to the speech. Standing with others in the same area, behind the last row of seats, were Tom Harley and George Brandis. Greeting them briefly, I then stood on my own and attended to the familiar messages of the leader. He spoke from a...

  29. Recent events in Australia suggest that Trevelyan was wrong. The balance of power is not on the side of Parliament.

    On 17 October the Senate debated a motion to establish a new select committee to examine issues related to in-vitro fertilisation and human embryo experimentation. During that debate, Senator Peter Walsh,² speaking on behalf of the Executive Government, questioned the justification for another select committee and said:

    I do not accept the proposition, which was accepted by the previous Government, that the amount of money appropriated for the Parliament is a matter for the Parliament to determine. It is a...

  30. The Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1987 will have my support. As a philosophical liberal, I can do nothing else but support the Bill. Liberalism is not and has never been just some economic doctrine. Liberalism cannot be presented as such to an informed electorate. Philosophical liberals believe passionately in equality of opportunity and in removing barriers, wherever they may be, which prevent people from exercising that equality. The greatest achievements of philosophical liberalism have been to remove such barriers. The ending of slavery, the emancipation of Jews and Catholics in Protestant England, public education, reform of the electoral...

  31. The essence of the theme you have chosen for this conference concerns the people with whom we interact, their disadvantage, and the possibilities of their empowerment.

    Such a theme is what traditional philosophical liberalism has always been about—the empowering of people and the taking of steps to make such empowerment possible. So philosophical liberals supported universal education, supported the extension of the franchise, supported the vote for women, supported income support for the elderly and for those in other need, supported decent industrial legislation, and supported equal employment opportunity for women. Philosophical liberals support anti-discrimination legislation and support the...

  32. Two systems of cash transfer operate in Australian welfare. Welfare is also provided by systems of service provision, by the welfare effects of other taxation measures (such as the reduced living standards from the imposition of indirect taxes), and by the provision of universal benefits such as health and education allowances. The traditional cash-transfer system operates through the social security apparatus. The other, the tax expenditure system, operates through the taxation apparatus. Some features of the two systems are compared in the table below. In 1981 women received 67 per cent of age pensions, 95 per cent of the Supporting...

  33. One of the arguments being advanced increasingly frequently is that there is no justification for a separate policy for Aborigines and that we should make one set of arrangements for one homogeneous nation. Apart from this being a thin veil over a racist approach, it is inconsistent with our approach to other areas of policy where special programs and policies have been judged to be necessary. The most obvious example is in the area of veterans’ affairs. Anyone propounding the ‘abolish Aboriginal affairs’ argument should be asked whether, in the name of consistency, they are willing to abolish veterans’ affairs...

  34. Senator PETER BAUME—It gives me no pleasure to take part in this debate. It gives me even less pleasure to know that I will be out of line with my colleagues when the vote is taken. We are debating a Government notice of motion on immigration and an amendment moved thereto by my Leader, Senator [Fred] Chaney. My colleagues have chosen generally to speak to the amendment. That is quite proper. It is provided for within the Standing Orders. They have set out reasons why I will want to support that amendment. I will address the motion itself. I...

  35. This is historic legislation. It is an attempt by Australia, through its Parliament, to come to grips with one of the most murderous episodes of this century, to bring to justice, even 45 years after the event, any Australian citizens among the remaining perpetrators of the World War II Holocaust of the minorities—the Jews, the gypsies, Russian prisoners of war, handicapped, Germans, and children. It was not just a Jewish holocaust and it should not be remembered as just a Jewish catastrophe. We must not deal with it today as if it were just a Jewish catastrophe. But it...

  36. Because this is an emotional subject, an attempt will be made to put some simple propositions and to develop what seems to be a ‘least worst’ policy position.

    First, we might ask why was it that we prohibited the use of some drugs—totally in some cases, recreationally in others? After all, heroin is just a white powder. It has no value and no addictive properties except as humans use it. The demonology of drug use is enormous with people who should know better, presenting accounts that are simply at variance with the truth.

    We probably prohibited narcotics early in...

  37. Your invitation is very welcome. By conducting this session, you honour the singular and special Michael Kirby, and in your choice of speaker you make another choice that is very much appreciated by that person.

    Michael Kirby is an old friend. He was president of the Sydney University Union one year when I was a director and our paths have crossed often since then, usually to my benefit and edification.

    He is one of the finest of all Australians living today. He holds two bachelor degrees and a Master’s degree, has two senior communal honours, is a Justice of the...

  38. Some people have strange logic. We should act on evidence. That is, we should do things, then look at what happens, and then act on the results. This is what happens when we play bowls. If a bowl goes way off course, theoretically one adjusts the next delivery to correct for the error. Hopefully the next time we will do better. You might think we would do the same in public policy. But we seem not to do so.

    Let us consider the example of our attitude to drugs. We might observe first that we are schizophrenic about drugs, accepting...

  39. In 1991, Australia began a major reform of its drug licensing system and is implementing the outcomes now. This course of action follows a report done for the Government during the first half of 1991 and accepted by the Australian Government. A public service task force has been established to implement all the recommendations.

    Australia’s drug licensing system evolved, like that of other Western industrialised countries, during the 1960s in response to disasters like the thalidomide tragedy. That particular event had impacted heavily on Australia. Indeed, many of the early reports about the adverse effects of thalidomide came from Australian...

  40. Professor BAUME [10.02]: Mr Speaker, first, six brief stories. The first concerns Motte Gur, an Israeli commander, who captured the holiest place in Jerusalem in 1967. In 1994, faced with a painful terminal cancer, General Gur took his own life.

    The second story concerns Jacqueline Onassis, who left hospital one day and died the next at home surrounded by family and friends. At the very least, she dealt with her painful terminal condition by choosing the place of her dying.

    The third brief story concerns a British medical practitioner who was found guilty of murder a few years ago for...

  41. A metaphor came up in a film calledIl Postino. It was a magic film in which, inter alia, the man pursued the woman with metaphors taught to him by a poet. So what is a metaphor? It is defined in the dictionary as:

    Application of name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

    HIV/AIDS has been a metaphor.

    Now what do I mean by that? Well, the infection has exemplified some issues and problems. Face HIV/AIDS and we were facing those issues and problems. We had no choice. The...

  42. First, congratulations to the new graduates. You have good awards from this university and I congratulate you on your successful negotiation of difficult courses. To your families, to the significant others in your lives, go congratulations too. These special people have sacrificed for your success and today belongs to them as it does to you.

    Your city and your state need your skills now. You have so much to contribute and your society will be richer when you are giving to it the benefits of the expertise and training you have on board. You are now members of the worldwide...

  43. To the new graduates, and to your families, congratulations. The qualifications of the University of Canberra, the degrees, the diplomas, the certificates, are valued by scholars, by the community, and by employers alike. If we really want a clever country then it is to people like you that we look to achieve it. It is people like you who will deliver it. Your families are proud that you have seen the distance, that you have prevailed, that you have succeeded in the exams with their support, and their sacrifices, and their encouragement. Remember, it is their success too and that...

  44. First, let us set some context. This is important, as things are not as simple as they may seem. Australia’s health generally is that of an industrialised nation. Most children survive; there is not much infectious disease; people generally live until some part or other wears out.

    Many emerging nations are worse. Certainly, they have some older people, but they have a lower percentage than we do and they have a higher mortality in infancy and childhood than we do, and they have a much higher incidence of infectious disease. That means that the average age is skewed downwards—many...

  45. You are very brave to discuss rationing and to invite an outsider to discuss this awkward matter with you. Rationing there is, but the standard of breakfast out here is still excellent. We might start by asking why each of you does not have a Rolls Royce car. It is, after all, the best available car, has the best motor, the best body, the best fittings.

    It is also the most expensive kind of car.

    You might respond that you cannot afford to buy or maintain such a car. That is called budgeting. You do it every day at home....

  46. Malcolm Schonell is the special person after whom this presentation is named. Many of you would remember him well. But, strange to say, so do I from a previous life. He is remembered because he was such a fine clinician and teacher.

    Malcolm Schonell was born in 1934 in London, England. He died suddenly, far too young, at Somerset on Cape York on 15 July 1999. During World War II, he was evacuated to Wales when his home was bombed in the Blitz. His father was a professor of education who became vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland. His mother...