Every month, Probus Perth invites a speaker to address members on his or her particular field of expertise or endeavour. Below are summaries of talks given recently. Summaries of various earlier talks are to be found within the “Archives” section of the website.
DIFFICULTIES of GOVERNING TODAY
Peter Kennedy, November 2019
David Heath introduced Peter Kennedy who gave us an entertaining and very interesting view of how difficult it was to govern in today’s climate and his views on how to fix the problem.
In the good old days there were fewer parties and a lot more stability in Governments. He cited the longevity of the likes of Bob Menzies, David Brand, Charlie Court, Malcolm Frazer, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard who all spent at least two terms in office. Compare this with the six prime ministers we have had in the last 12 years of government.
What is causing this state of turmoil? Apart from the differing personalities there are –
- The effects of worldwide problems such as the mess Europe is in, conflicts in the middle east, the influence of the USA/China competition for dominance, the spinoff of Donald Trump, the climate change debate etc. The world is in a bigger mess than it has ever been.
- The fragmentation of the major parties. When there were only 2 major parties and a handful of minor parties, things were more predictable and consequently more stable. Having a big bunch of minor parties coupled with their ability to get into the Senate with really small numbers of members, creates a situation where Bills are hard or impossible to pass without some horse trading.
- The influence of polling. Politicians take far too much notice of opinion polls and worry more about retaining their jobs than doing what is best for the country. Polls go up and Polls go down – they should be almost ignored.
- The influence of allegedly reputable journalists who push their particular view can sway a lot of the “non thinking” voters. The biased advertising that goes on can have the same effect. Rarely are the journalists or advertisers asked to justify what they are putting out.
- The influence of prominent citizens, whether they be sportsmen, socially prominent or business leaders can also be followed blindly by the “non thinking” voters.
In Peter’s view the only way to get rid of these issues and make governing a more reasonable task is for the Labour Party and Liberal Party to get together and make the necessary changes. He accepts that this is difficult to envisage but says it needs to happen. The changes he suggests are –
- Aim for a better quality of Members of Parliament. They should have some career experience in “the real world” before being eligible.
- The numbers need to be reduced, particularly in the Upper House. Keeping in mind that the Upper House is a “house of review” only, you do not need the current numbers, particularly with their small representation and specialist views.
- With lesser numbers and better quality of members paying them more can be justified. It follows that people who would make good politicians are more likely to be interested in a political career.
- Aim to get more people interested in joining the major parties and not the “one topic” parties who do nothing but disrupt the process.
Peter got a good round of applause for his talk and I guess there were many Probus members who thought he should have been in politics himself rather than reporting on it.
Frances Maber, October 2019
Frances Maber told us how she tracked down her great-great-grandmother-in-law Catherine Maber, and then about the tough life her GGG had lead.
With her husband in a barbers shop way back in 1975 they spotted a Sports journal which had an article on a boxer named Shadow Maber who came from Goulburn in NSW. As Maber was an unusual surname they decided to trace it back as a potential relative. It was not easy, after many years in working through the old microfilm records they finally found a William Maber who was convicted of stealing cheese and earnt seven years in gaol as a convict in Australia. Further research ended up with William Maber being identified as the grandson of Catherine Maber.
Catherine had no childhood as she started work as an eight year old cleaning pots and pans. With the help of the cook, a Mrs Reilly, she held her job till aged 19 while learning the skills of cooking and sewing. After marrying a man called Tolson, the marriage was unsuccessful and she left him. To make ends meet she worked in a hosiery shop. She was accused of stealing from the shop and when convicted at the Old Bailey was deported and spent seven years in the Female Factory at Parramatta. The best way out of the Factory was to offer herself for marriage. William Maber became her partner but they never married. Generations later Frances put the story into her book – Remembering Catherine.
PS: If the above is disjointed and not what Frances was trying to convey – my apologies; to me it was not easy to follow. Maybe some of you did better.