IN OCTOBER 1970, a young Laurie Oakes interviewed an old Sir John McEwen, the legendary leader of the Country Party (now the Nationals), long-time deputy and strong right arm of Sir Robert Menzies. One of the things the old warrior had to tell him was why he admired so much his former adversary, the Labor leader John Curtin.
“Curtin found himself prime minister while we were at war, and his party was completely unprepared for the violent policies necessary,” said McEwen. “He had never been a minister, and he had to handle the crisis by introducing conscription and wage-fixing policies completely repugnant to the Labor Party. He faced up to this without a flinch, and I admire his courage and sense of duty…”