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'Right Turn!'


As I begin let me pay tribute to the great Left journalist Rupert Lockwood who, in the 1930s, began to uncover the secret history I’m about to relate. He suffered for what he found out, said, and wrote. He was the man who knew too much; at the time the archival material and scholarly research was not available for him to footnote and substantiate with certainty and safety. For many people the period between the two World Wars is a sepia toned era of nostalgia and innocence—Gladys Moncrieff, the Dad and Dave movies, Fatty Finn, Donald Bradman, Ginger Meggs, the birth of Qantas, the bodyline series, Boy Charlton, Kingsford Smith, electricity, radio, the new city of Canberra, the Spirit of Progress, Smith’s Weekly . . . there were lows, like the Depression, and a constitutional crisis involving Jack Lang (but then that was Jack Lang). And there were some nutters running around like the New Guard, but that amounted to little more than a bloke with a sword and a horse, and a tussle at the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932. My Australia of the 20s and 30s, however, is a different world, one that D.H. Lawrence glimpsed in 1922 when he visited Australia, and wrote about in his novel Kangaroo the following year. Lawrence’s insights into Australian political realities were still being dismissed by critics as hocus pocus well into the 1950s; Kangaroo, apparently, Illawarra Unity 18 was not about an ingrained Australian martial authoritarianism, indeed fascism; Lawrence was simply writing for some unfathomable reason about Italian fascism in an Australian setting. We now know better.