Niki Savva’s new book, The Road to Ruin, has just been released and is all over the news this morning. It deals with the close relationship between the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and his chief of staff Peta Credlin. ‘Uniquely close’ is the term used – but was it? PM Chifley’s relationship with his personal assistant was pretty close too, while Elizabeth Chifley was sidelined in Bathurst.
In June 1951, Ben Chifley, the former Labor Prime Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, had a massive heart attack in his rooms at the Hotel Kurrajong. The Hotel Kurrajong was essentially an up-market boarding house, built at a time when Canberra was still a country town without many places for its floating population of politicians and public servants to stay. Chifley was moved to Canberra Hospital, but died later that night. He was 65.
L. F. (Fin) Crisp was the professor of political science at Canberra University College. He was working on The Australian Federal Labour Party, 1901-1951 (1955), and was fascinated by the story of Chifley, self-educated and rising from extreme poverty in the 1890s to become an engine driver, then a union leader, and finally Prime Minister. Crisp was already gathering materials for Ben Chifley: a biography (1961).
Crisp knew that a lot of papers dealing…
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