4 October 2016
Transcript - #2016059, 2016

Interview with Luke Grant, 2GB

SUBJECT: Harold Holt

LUKE GRANT:

Minister good afternoon.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good afternoon Luke.

LUKE GRANT:

Tell me about Harold Holt, now there’s been a million conspiracy theories, but we’ll start at the beginning – how did he get the top job in the land and tell us a bit about the man.

KELLY O’DWYER:

He was the very first Federal Member for Higgins in 1949 and he served in that capacity right up until his disappearance on 17 December 1967. He was a very accomplished man, he had been in the parliament for about 32 years, he served in a variety of different capacities, as Immigration Minister and obviously when he was Immigration Minister he was actually responsible for ending the White Australia policy. He was also actually a Federal Treasurer and the seat of Higgins has actually had two Federal Treasurers, also with Peter Costello, he was the Federal Treasurer from 1956 to 1959 and he established the Reserved Bank, which of course is absolutely critical to our whole financial infrastructure in this country. He introduced the decimal currency. He is someone who I think made an enormous contribution to this country and unfortunately, he’s remembered very much in terms of the great disappearance, when he went missing at Cheviot Beach in December 1967, but an extraordinary man.

LUKE GRANT:

You might be the third Federal Treasurer, just quietly, from that seat, but I won’t let you comment on that.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well there’s actually a Sharks fan who is currently the Federal Treasurer right now.

LUKE GRANT:

I know all about him, I had him on last weekend and he was, anyway we’ll leave all that alone. Tell me about the disappearance because Kelly, there have been, haven’t there, lots of different theories about this. What have been the accepted or established facts around it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

There have been lots and lots of theories. There were theories that he was murdered, theories around being kidnapped by the Chinese in the submarine, theories, actually, that he was also taken by a shark, believe it or not, which goes into the famous Jack Gibson quote there. Look, the conventional view is that he died from an accidental drowning, because it was pretty rough surf and it was pretty fierce on the day that he disappeared. He was well-known to have had a sore shoulder on that day that he was down at the beach. He loved to go for a swim but as we know, it can be very dangerous in some of our beaches, actually going for a swim, and so it’s accepted that it was an accidental drowning.

LUKE GRANT:

But, you see, there’s been no remains, no indication that…it does leave the whole thing open doesn’t it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think that’s why there’s been so much mystery to it, because his body was never recovered, and it’s a pretty shocking thing to lose a Prime Minister in those circumstances, particularly one as extraordinary as Harold Holt. And that’s why I think there have been so many theories over the years, but as I said, he is someone who achieved incredible things during his many years in the Parliament. He introduced mandatory secret ballots for unions, he introduced the child endowment family payment scheme, he oversaw the referendum that gave the Commonwealth power over Indigenous Australians and to include them in the Census. These are pretty extraordinary achievements.

LUKE GRANT:

They certainly are. When you were my local member a few years ago, and I wanted to go for a swim, and I don’t want to make a joke of it, but it struck me as odd that there was a Harold Holt swimming centre.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well in the true Australian style, that’s right. In the electorate, our most famous swimming pool is actually named after Harold Holt – the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool. It’s named in that capacity because he was known to love going for a swim, he was the first Member for Higgins, very significant Australian, our Prime Minister, and so when people, when generations of Australians who grow up in my electorate first learn to swim, they often learn to swim at the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool.

LUKE GRANT:

They certainly did. You enjoying your work?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I love my work, I love my job and every day brings something new.

LUKE GRANT:

Good to talk to you Kelly, take care.

KELLY O’DWYER:

You too Luke.