Now that there is a legal move to try and gain access to secret correspondence between Sir John Kerr and the Queen over the 1975 sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam , our S(h)ipping Reporter, just back from Woy Woy , recalls an amazing nautical event in the Queen City of the North.
Another major political milestone , the recent 41st anniversary of the extraordinary demonstration in Townsville against Governor-General Sir John Kerr , which culminated in his effigy being cast adrift at sea , went unnoticed by the local media .
On a tour of North Queensland , Sir John and Lady Kerr arrived in Townsville in July 1976 so that the GG could open the Show, travelling in a funereal black Rolls-Royce , accompanied by a large posse of police-uniformed , plainclothes, Special Branch , three motorcycle outriders.
The ALP Mayor of Townsville, Perc Tucker , had been strongly urged to snub Kerr , but replied he would represent all the people of the city in welcoming the GG , in so doing defying the "unwritten code of the ALP", according to the local paper, then known as The Townsville Daily Bulletin .
After the show opening , they adjourned to the Matthew Flinders Room at Lowth's Hotel ,the premises swarming with police, where a red carpet had been rolled out, and got stuck into the menu which included seafood cocktail , avocados (unsmashed, one presumes, Sir John , on the other hand , may have already been smashed ) , barramundi , white wine, strawberries and cream . Five policemen including Kerr's bodyguard were fed "ordinary hotel " tucker...pie and peas , bangers and mash , paper thin Vienna Schnitzel and chips ?
A Trades and Labour Council organised protest march held before the arrival of the GG , said to be 70 strong, included men in overalls and Jackie Howe singlets , women with shopping bags , young women in Indonesian skirts , some office workers and a postman on his bike .
At its head were two union officials posing as Sir John and PM Malcolm Fraser, the latter known as the Crazy Grazier. The rally proceeded to Hanran Park where it was proposed to burn Sir John's effigy , a rope about his neck . However, the police doused this proposal before ignition .
Kerr hanging around
A Special Branch officer was quoted as saying the march had been "a flop" , which says a lot about the impartiality of the SB.
Burial at Sea
A newspaper account , under the above cross heading , ran some fascinating paragraphs which I can reveal were penned by a very literate Townsville union activist, without acknowledging it was his golden prose . It read :
Meanwhile, out in Cleveland Bay, the effigy of Sir John that led Tuesday's march through the streets was with curses dumped into the sea by disaffected unionists eating meat pies and drinking beer .
The unionists had planned to bury the effigy on the beach outside the motel where the vice-regal party was staying but the police told them they would be "littering " the beach by doing so , and stopped them .
After a short argument in which police said permission to bury the effigy, granted on Tuesday, had been withdrawn , the burial party retired to Trades Hall . A TLC spokesman said that it had decided that the presence of even a dummy Governor-General could no longer be tolerated and the dummy was put to sea in a small boat. (ends).
Then what ? In the immortal saying from the Spike Milligan Goon Show, he fell in the water, disappeared.