Tag Archives: George Johnston

5 Sex Scandals in Australian politics that didn’t make a blind bit of difference

Australians don’t do political sex scandals terribly well.  Perhaps it’s because Australia is a very secular society, and a good dose of Protestant prurience or Catholic guilt helps – Berlusconi’s strippers dressed as nuns.  And while not a classless society, few of our children spend their formative years in boarding schools under the rule of Matron, like the children of the British elite.  As for the French, in My Fair Lady Henry Higgins said that ‘The French don’t care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly’ – but even they seem finally to be taking Dominique Strauss-Kahn seriously.

Our current scandal involving the Speaker, Peter Slipper, rates a bit higher than usual, though it hardly scales the heights of Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards or most of the poor fools outed by News of the World over the years.  It is unusual though, because it (allegedly) involves homosexual, not heterosexual, activity, and because, since the numbers in the House of Representatives are so tight, it might actually bring down a government.

In the 19th century, Australian politics had its fair share of sexual hanky panky, but I can’t think of any that brought down an administration.  So here, for your delectation and delight, are 5 sex scandals that didn’t make a blind bit of difference to the stability of government. Continue reading

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Reading the Rum Rebellion

At about five o’clock on the afternoon of 26 January 1808, Major George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps led his men from the barracks in Bridge Street.  They marched in a line two or three deep along the streets of Sydney to Government House.  They carried the regimental flag, and played The British Grenadier.  They carried their weapons, with bayonets fixed.  Their plan was to arrest Governor Bligh.  Arriving at Government House, they found the governor’s daughter and a number of his supporters who had just finished dinner, but they spent some time hunting for her father, until he was found in an attic bedroom.  He would later say he was destroying documents there.  The soldiers insisted he was hiding under a bed.

Governor Bligh seized under the bed

One of the few contemporary images of the Rum Rebellion. Painted on thin paper, the illumination would have been placed in the window, with a lamp behind it. Needless to say it is propaganda rather than an accurate portrayal of the arrest

In the last few weeks, I’ve been revisiting a long neglected project of mine, a biography of an early Australian settler called Walter Davidson who became an opium trader in China. Continue reading