November 3rd 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY What religious freedoms does the Government propose removing?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Regions are in no state to accommodate immigrants

CANBERRA OBSERVED Wentworth swing least of Morrison's worries

CLIMATE CHANGE Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree panic

GENDER POLITICS Inquiry needed into why so many kids are identifying as transgender

LIFE ISSUES Truth the first casualty of Victorian bubble-zone law

LIFE ISSUES Culture of death lands killer blow on Queensland

FOREIGN AFFAIRS High stakes in U.S. midterm elections

FREE SPEECH Are university chiefs growing backbones?

HISTORY Chicago: City of the Big Shoulders

LITERATURE AND CULTURE

EUTHANASIA Making death easier makes life harder

RECENT RELEASE BOOK

MUSIC Recipe for groove: pulse is best sign of life

CINEMA First Man; Ladies in Black; Bad Times at the El Royale

BOOK REVIEW FDR's bad example from Depression era

BOOK REVIEW Cartoon hero puts it in black and white

HUMOUR

LETTERS

VICTORIAN ELECTION The left gets ready to scream 'haters'

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News Weekly, November 3, 2018

 

THE MANNIX ERA: Melbourne Catholic Leadership 1920–1970

by Patrick Morgan

Connor Court, Redland Bay
Paperback: 320 pages
Price: AUD$29.95

News Weekly is pleased to present for our readers an extract from Australian historian Patrick Morgan’s forthcoming book, The Mannix Era: Melbourne Catholic Leadership 1920-70. Patrick Morgan is author of the companion volume to this book, Melbourne Before Mannix: Catholics in Public Life 1880-1920 (2012); and editor of B.A. Santamaria: Selected letters: 1938-1996 (2007); and B.A. Santamaria: Selected Documents 1939-1996 (2008).

The Mannix Era can be ordered through Freedom Publishing Books on (03) 9720 5288 or email orders@freedompublishingbooks.com.au; or directly from the publisher via email to sales@connorcourt.com

The publication in 1950 of Frank Hardy’s novel, Power Without Glory, with its depiction of alleged Catholic intrigue in politics, caused instant uproar. The controversy developed into a saga of miscalculation on both sides. Frank Hardy was a Catholic from Bacchus March who on reaching early adulthood had transferred his redemptive hopes for the world from Catholicism to Communism.

The Communist strategy at the time was to collect from its supporters as much dirt as they could find on both the Wren machine and the Movement, and then to get the party member, Frank Hardy, to put it all together in thinly veiled “fictional” form as a novel. This they believed would discredit the Movement and the Catholic Church, their prime targets, by linking them with John Wren and his dubious business and political activities. The novel accused Wren of bankrolling the Movement, which revealed the Communists had badly (or deliberately) misunderstood the situation.

At the time a three-way clandestine struggle for the soul of the Victorian Labor Party was taking place between the Wren forces, the Movement and the pro-Communist left. Wren had operated as a background political manipulator for the past half-century, but his influence was fading. His forces were being challenged by the two new kids on the block, the Movement and the Communists, both of whom were austere and highly ideological in contrast to the Wren forces, who were often bribe-grabbing timeservers.

So far from Wren backing the Movement, he was under siege from Movement forces who sought to replace him as old fashioned (he was in his 70s), and lacking ideological Catholic fervour. Movement man Stan Keon strongly attacked Wren as soon as he got into the Victorian Parliament. The Movement believed the ALP should be purged of both Wren hangers-on and secular leftists, and utilised for “higher” Christian ends.

Hardy could hardly attack the Movement for being ideological the Communist pot calling the Movement kettle black so the Movement had to be damned by associating it with the discredited Wren influence.

The “novel” was also wrong about any strong Mannix-Wren connection. The plot has the Movement being financed and supported by the Wren machine, with the Mannix figure portrayed as the sinister go-between and controller, thus tarnishing both the Movement and Mannix with the racketeer Wren connection. But Wren’s intrigues had been essentially a political, not religious, operation, involving the ALP but not the Catholic Church.

There are few if any documented occasions when Wren and Mannix met, though their homes were near each other. Niall Brennan quotes Mannix as saying: “I have never visited Mr Wren’s house.” Yet the novel has the two engaged in almost daily tête-a-têtes, as a tandem Machiavellian operation deciding over a drink who should be the next federal and state ALP leader, etc.

The book and Hardy’s subsequent trial for criminal libel had the effect of putting Wren in the public spotlight, not the Movement, which was the Communists’ real target. The Communists kept their heads down during the controversy, and the Movement forces could not respond as that would have blown their cover.

So the Movement was not outed in 1950, though there was plenty on it in the novel, with the result that four years later Evatt caused a sensation with his revelations. The Calwell-Kennelly group wondered which way to jump; as anti-Communists, but in the Scullin-Brennan tradition of putting party before religion in the political sphere, they did not back the Movement.

If the Communists had made a tactical blunder, so did the Wren faction by accepting legal advice to instigate a criminal libel action against Hardy. It meant the Wren forces were hit with the full force of bad publicity about Wren’s past, admittedly sensational but a diversion from the main game. As a result the Wrens were diminished in the public mind rather than the Communists or the Movement.

And anyway the novel came out too late. It was planned in the mid 1940s when the Communist stranglehold on key essential services unions was first being challenged by the Movement. But during the five years Hardy took to compile his book, the Communist hold had largely been broken, so the book’s effect within the Labor movement was not as far-reaching as intended.

One of Wren’s advisers was lawyer Jack Galbally, who had just been elected as Labor member for Melbourne North in the Legislative Council; he was not aligned with the Movement. He came from a family of nine whose parents had struggled to make a living. The eldest child, Dr Kath Galbally, helped the others get a start in their careers. The family produced three doctors, two lawyers, and a headmaster.

Jack Galbally became a minister in the Cain government of 1952–55; during the Split he was troubled and pulled both ways, but stayed in the ALP, like his fellow Catholic, Arthur Calwell. Both were subsequently made to feel unwelcome at their local parish churches, and by some pro-Movement Catholics.


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