As we say Bye Gladys, we look back at other sordid Aussie political affairs. There’s plenty to remember in a country with the unique distinction of losing an adulterous PM in the surf while his mistress minded his drink on the beach. If there’s one thing that inspires bipartisanship in politics, it’s adultery.
Gladys Berejiklian’s eventual demise seemed inevitable from the moment the public learned of her secret affair with the former member for Wagga Wagga, Daryl Maguire. Maguire previously admitted to seeking corrupt payments. Although the NSW Premier denies any involvement in corruption, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing whether Gladys Berejiklian breached the public trust.
Most Aussies will feel some sympathy for the hard-working premier. Shakespeare or Joan Rivers or someone once said, ‘the path of true love never did run smooth’. We’ve all been there — ignoring the failings of our beloved. Indeed, this writer, over a long life, frequently made an art form of turning a blind eye.
But let’s look at the long and sordid history of Aussie political affairs. We won’t start at the very beginning. Instead, we’ll first revisit some recent dalliances.
Leading off the pack, our on-again/off-again Deputy PM, the man known far and wide as The Beetrooter. Barnaby Joyce opposed same-sex marriage citing his belief in ‘traditional family values’. As US talk show host John Oliver commented, “Joyce has such incredible family values that he can’t restrict them to just one family.”
Within months of Australians voting YES to same-sex marriage, Joyce admitted to breaking his marriage vows. In fact, he’d conceived a child with a former staffer. Not a good look, as they say at Canberra swinger’s clubs.
The Beetrooter’s hypocrisy faced exposure soon after the plebiscite. However, we waited until 2020 to find out about Alan Tudge’s roaming todger.
Yet another campaigner for ‘traditional marriage’, Minister Tudge also cheated on his wife during the marriage debate. However, unlike Joyce, Tudge at least voted for marriage equality to reflect the vote in his electorate.
In another scandal, junior minister Jamie Briggs quit after inappropriate behaviour towards a female staffer. And, of course, George Christensen faced criticism and relentless mocking for his frequent presence in adult entertainment venues in the Philippines
Copulate or Perish
Prime Ministers of the past frequently chanted the mantra ‘Populate or Perish’ while covertly copulating like randy bandicoots on erectile dysfunction medication.
Australian war-time PM Ben Chifley reputedly conducted an affair with his private secretary between 1928 and 1951. Chifley’s wife suffered from poor health and rarely visited Canberra. A 2001 biography claimed the PM also enjoyed an affair with his mistress’s older sister.
Chifley began a run of prime ministerial two-timing.
Sir Robert Menzies, enjoyed a liaison with Dame Elizabeth Fairfax, whose husband owned the Fairfax newspaper company. That dalliance perhaps inspired the Fairfax papers then unique endorsement of Labor in the 1961 federal election.
After Sir Robert’s retirement, Harold Holt took over the prime ministership. He introduced numerous reforms following his predecessor’s long reign. But at Christmas 1967, Holt went for a swim and never came back. He disappeared under the waves while visiting the beach with his mistress. Holt’s widow Dame Zara set the record straight about her husband’s philandering in 1985.
“He was a womaniser. He loved them.”
The Liberal Party replaced Holt with noted drunk and womaniser John Gorton, probably one of the most decent blokes to ever hold the job. But someone else wanted to be boss. Silly Billy McMahon managed to force Gorton out and take over. Although Bob Hawke usually gets plaudits for being the ‘Consensus PM’, McMahon inspired bipartisanship and consensus Hawkey could only dream of. Everyone hated him. On both sides of Parliament.
Sadly, the only Australian PM widely acknowledged as gay was downright nasty and universally recognised as our most useless national leader. Gough Whitlam, who triumphed over McMahon in the next election, although personally supportive of gay rights, never missed an opportunity to mock McMahon for his perceived sexuality.
The rumours about Billy McMahon began decades before. During his tenure as Navy Minister in the 1950s, other politicians noted his propensity to ‘co-opt handsome young sailors in tight-fitting bell-bottom trousers to caddy for him at golf’.
After McMahon, both Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser enjoyed reputations as devoted spouses. Fraser did however cause a bit of a commotion after leaving office. In 1986, he wandered dazed and confused into the lobby of a Memphis hotel frequented by sex workers and drug dealers. It was 7 am and he was attired in naught but a tiny towel. He’d lost his trousers, passport, wallet and a $10,000 Rolex watch.
No explanation was ever forthcoming.
The aforementioned Bob Hawke defeated Fraser in 1983. He later admitted to cheating on his wife, surprising no one. He divorced Hazel after leaving office and married his biographer.
Although he never became PM, Sir Billy Sneddon deserves an honourable mention. Sir Billy succeeded McMahon as Leader of the Liberal Party after the election loss to Whitlam. A noted womaniser, rumours abounded in the Liberal Party that the handsome Sneddon fathered another prominent politician’s children. We’ll leave you to add two plus two.
Sneddon was found dead — and naked — in a hotel room in 1987. The Truth headlined its coverage ‘Sneddon died on the job‘. The Sydney Morning Herald noted the presence of a condom on the honourable member.
“It was loaded.”
Speculation swirled for years about the identity of the woman Sneddon was with. Years later, Sneddon’s son revealed the truth. The former politician died f___ing his son’s ex-girlfriend.
There are so many stories to tell. The NSW police minister, Matt Brown who stripped to his underwear and gyrated on a female MP, calling out to her daughter, “Look. I’m titty f___ing your mother!”
The federal Labor MP who previously splurged union funds on visits to brothels.The leader of the Democrats who defected to Labor without mentioning her affair with a senior Labor Minister.
We could go on all day with numerous other sordid Aussie political affairs but we will leave it there. These people should stay in politics. They wouldn’t earn enough to live on in front of a webcam.
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