1. How did Malcolm Fraser lose his trousers?
With all the terrible stuff going on in the world, I thought I’d try to investigate an important part of our history.
How did Malcolm Fraser lose his trousers in a seedy hotel in Memphis on 14 October 1986?
- On 14 October 1986, Fraser, then the Chairman of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, was found in the foyer of the Admiral Benbow Inn, a seedy Memphis hotel, wearing only a pair of underpants and confused as to where his trousers were. The hotel was an establishment popular with prostitutes and drug dealers. Though it was rumoured at the time that the former Prime Minister had been with a prostitute, his wife stated that Fraser had no recollection of the events and that she believes it more likely that he was the victim of a practical joke by his fellow delegates.
The Daily Telegraph tells the story more vividly:
- Asked about how he ended up in the lobby of the Admiral Benbow Inn wearing nothing but a shirt and tie and a tiny towel he said at the time: “There’s nothing I can say.”
It was all a blank. “I wish I’d never been to bloody Memphis,” he added.
Mr Fraser had been guest speaker at the Memphis Country Club and had gone out afterwards to hear the blues in Beale Street and drink at the luxury Peabody Hotel.
But sometime after midnight he had signed into the Admiral Benbow Inn as John Jones from Victoria and had paid by belligerently waving a $100 bill.
The next morning he appeared in the lobby wrapped in a small towel and complaining that he had lost his $10,000 Rolex watch, passport, wallet, $600 cash and, of course, his trousers.
ABC’s Media Watch investigated this important issue just after Malcolm Fraser died on March 20, 2015. It came up with nothing more than Tamie Fraser’s version – he was probably ‘set up’ by his fellow delegates.
The Daily Telegraph says:
the more likely story is that Mr Fraser was the victim of a tall Texan blonde with a tattoo above her breast who police reported had pulled the same trick on a number of wealthy Memphis businessmen in the months after Mr Fraser lost his trousers.
Anyway, here’s Malcolm Fraser on the campaign trail at the Post Office Hotel, Brisbane, in 1983 flanked by Melinda Cappa (left) and Kathy Davis. (Picture: Graeme Thomson)
2. Jacinda Adern rules OK
New Zealanders have done something remarkable. They returned a Labour government with enough seats to govern in their own right. Here’s the interim summary from Wikipedia:
In 2017 Labour was able to govern with only 46 seats in the 120-seat chamber, with New Zealand First (9) in coalition and the Greens (8) giving supply and confidence. Now it has 64, maybe 65 in its own right.
With 49.1% of the vote Labour gets just over 53% of seats. This happens because under the mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) voting system introduced in 1996 parties getting less than 5% of the vote get no representation, while those getting more than 5% get their share of the remaining pie irrespective of whether they win any seats.
I think the Greens with 7.57% of the vote got 8.3% on the seats (10) although I don’t think the won any specific seats.
Winston Peters, leader of NZ First and former Deputy PM, didn’t make the cut and now disappears. Commentary in the Guardian says:
Her win in 2017 was courtesy of her coalition partner, New Zealand First. The chalice wasn’t exactly poisoned but it prevented Labour from achieving any radical change in its first term. New Zealand First took pride in its position as a handbrake; Labour had to grin and bear it, although the smile wore thin.
“Let’s keep moving,” Labour’s campaign slogan urged, but in reality it was much more a case of: “Let’s stick with what we’ve got, so actually let’s not, you know, move”. The alternative – National’s Judith Collins – was too appalling a prospect.
Adern’s compassion and inclusiveness saw NZ through crises from a volcano eruption and a mass murder in Christchurch. So far she has kept the people safe from COVID, although the economy tanked 12.2% in the June quarter. Only 600 homes have been built in Kiwibuild, a bold initiative to build 100,000 affordable homes. The ABC tells us:
New Zealand ranks a shocking 35th out of 41 developed countries on UNICEF’s child wellbeing report card.
So there is work to do.
There is no upper house and no states, so NZ does not suffer from the same multi-level sparring politics we do. Adern now has an open go, albeit in difficult circumstances.
3. Labor/Green government returned in the ACT
I’ve found most helpful Tim Colebatch with Few signs of turbulence around Lake Burley Griffin before the election and Will the Liberals ever learn? after the poll.
Canberra has five 5-member electorates. As Colebatch explains, if the major parties get 33% or more in each electorate they get two seats in each electorate, so the real contest has been for the fifth seat. In 2016 Labor held 12 seats, the Liberals 11 and the Greens 2.
This time Labor has its basic 10 seats with a chance in two more, one against a Green and one against a Liberal.
The Liberals have come up short with only 8 seats secured, but are a chance in two more, one against Labor, and one against a Green.
The Greens have improved from two to five and possibly six.
- On first preferences, the night finished with Labor on 38.4 per cent, the Liberals 33.1, the Greens 13.9 per cent and others 14.7. But whereas the preferences of the “others” in 2016 largely favoured the Liberals, this time they have spread more evenly between the three biggest parties. Crucially, that has lifted the Greens’ share of the three-party vote to 18 per cent — in a voting system where 16.67 per cent is the threshold to win a seat.
The Greens vote lifted by 3.6%, and to 4.5% after preferences.
The Liberals declined by 3.6%, then by 4% after preferences.
Labor declined by 0.1% on first preferences, then by 0.5% after preferences.
Colebatch says performance on COVID helped, but also:
- Part of the Liberals’ problem, surely, was that their young, stunt-addicted, ultra-conservative leader did not come across as a credible chief minister for a place like the ACT.
Colebatch points out that the Greens vote still falls short of the 20% they got in the last federal election, but they must take heart from the gains made.
4. Trump – American democracy on the block
David Frum, who worked for George W Bush, believes that American democracy is at stake in the coming election.
In his latest article in The Atlantic Last Exit From Autocracy he says America survived one Trump term, but it wouldn’t survive a second. He says:
- Americans have lavished enormous powers on the presidency. They have also sought to bind those powers by law. Yet the Founders of the republic understood that law alone could never eliminate the risks inherent in the power of the presidency. They worried ceaselessly about the prospect of a truly bad man in the office—a Caesar or a Cromwell, as Alexander Hamilton fretted in “Federalist No. 21.” They built restraints: a complicated system for choosing the president, a Congress to constrain him, impeachment to remove him. Their solutions worked for two and a half centuries. In our time, the system failed.
Through the Trump years, institutions have failed again and again to check corruption, abuse of power, and even pro-Trump violence.
Frum’s list is long. He emphasises here Trump’s abuse of the pardon power, his abuse of government resources for personal gain, directing public funds to himself and his companies, and inciting political violence (the more the better).
Anyone who disagrees with him is sacked, anyone who breaks the law for him can be pardoned. The Republican Party has become his tool.
- In a second Trump term, radical gerrymandering and ever more extreme voter suppression by Republican governors would become the party’s only path to survival in a country where a majority of the electorate strongly opposes Trump and his party. The GOP would complete its transformation into an avowedly antidemocratic party.
Frum told Phillip Adams that technically Biden could win 14 million more votes that Trump under the broken college system and still not win the presidency. He also discusses ideas from his latest book is ‘Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy’ about what might be done to restore and remake American democracy. They can’t start with a clean slate, they must adapt the current constitution and electoral management arrangements, which are old and designed for another time. That will not be easy.
Frum also says that while Trump may indeed be able to pardon himself of misdemeanors under federal law. However, it is alleged Mr Trump has committed offences in several states, which could take action.