Friday, July 16, 2010

Laurie Oakes: Please Confirm or Deny

We were returning to the Herald Sun in my taxi. John Gorton’s 1970 half-Senate election campaign launch at Springvale Civic Centre had just finished with a group of anti-war demonstrators being freed from the paddywagons. They had been arrested during the PM’s speech when some Young Liberals attacked them after they had displayed cardboard coffins.

My passenger, a very young Laurie Oakes told me that he had threatened to make the police frontpage news on the Sun newspaper if they didn’t release the protesters. Anyway that’s not the real story. Any journalist can find themselves part of the story even if it’s supposed to be against the code of ethics.

What really stunned me was his next revelation. At the 1969 Federal election Gough Whitlam had soundly outgunned Gorton who just scraped home on DLP preferences. The Prime Minister had seemed tired and jaded. Rumours about his drinking and female philandering had become common. Laurie explained why he thought this was the case.

His inside information was that Gorton had believed that he had a terminal illness and dropped his bundle. The diagnosis had been wrong and he was back on track. As history shows, his political revival didn’t last long. He did mange to live to ninety and was always a colourful character.

I emailed Laurie Oakes a couple of years ago, asking him to confirm or deny this story. I also indicated that I might publish this tale one day if I didn’t hear otherwise. Now I don’t know what a citizen journalist’s code of ethics might allow but I was just a cabdriver in those days.

Perhaps Laurie was just trying to impress his driver with a couple of tall stories. Perhaps one or both is true.

Laurie, please confirm or deny the Gorton revelation.

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