Chapter 44 – Goodbye Australia


1.  Defeated in Canberra
2.  Australia’s Manufacturing Miracle Destroyed
3.  Menadue for Japan?
4.  A Nod to The Australian
5.  An ANU Redux
6.  Visa Problems. Sophia University?
7.  Forced Farewell to the Australian Left
8.  Bleak Prospects in Japan

The last half of 1975 saw the slow collapse of the Whitlam regime.

My Canberra career was headed the same way. 

1.  Defeated in Canberra

I had been badly defeated over NARA. The Vietnam Cables affair had left me with my legs cut off. I had got nowhere in efforts to open a door to Hanoi. 

On economic policy I had been equally unsuccessful 

My coal export tax proposal had been cruelly distorted by Treasury economic dogmatists (see the 1975 article). 

I could only watch on as Whitlam fell for badly mistaken advice from the ANU economic rationalist, Fred Gruen. 

Gruen was calling for a 25 percent cut in all tariffs at a time when the Australian dollar was already heavily over-valued and manufacturers were already in deep trouble as a result. 

Whitlam, never known for his grasp of economic affairs, took that advice. As a result, large slices of Australian manufacturing were to be wiped out. 

More were to be destroyed later as the rationalists took complete control of economic policy under Hawke and Keating. 

 2. Australia’s Manufacturing Miracle Destroyed

For all their faults, 1. planned protectionism, 2. World War Two and 3. the blessing of distance from the large scale manufacturing complexes of the West, had all allowed Australia to build a remarkably efficient manufacturing base by the 1960’s.

It was even able to make heavy equipment in competition with Britain and the US.

Even without tariff protection, much could have survived. 

But little could survive the double blow from an over-valued currency plus tariff reduction. 

The Gruen, Hawke and Keating policies were a monument to yet another of Australia’s liking for simplistic dogma, this time in economics. 

A brief spell with the group handling Commonwealth-State relations and headed by Mike Codd, then also a PCU member, had also left me sidelined. 

Codd had effectively derailed Whitlam’s ideas for stronger Commonwealth power, by calling for never-ending conferences with State officials to discuss the subject. 

I tried to warn Menadue of this stratagem. But he was too busy, or not very interested, or something. 

Codd ended up in Menadue’s job a few years later. 

3. Menadue for Japan?

But by late 1975 none of this worried me too much. 

I was already sick of Canberra and was looking forward to getting back to Japan, even though I had few job prospects there. 

Whitlam had been dismissed, and replaced by Malcolm Fraser. Menadue had made it clear that I would not have my one year policy advisor’s contract renewed. 

I could stay on for an extra month or so, and that was it. 

Menadue too realised he would not last long under an LCP regime. He too wanted to go to Japan, but as ambassador. He was making moves to get himself sent there as replacement for Shann. 

I was recruited to help him establish his image as a Japan hand. This included having to rewrite some of his speeches on Japan’s role in world affairs. 

Yasuko was also brought in, to teach Japanese to his eldest daughter, Susan, and to organise Japan-style dinner parties where Menadue would be the main guest. 

4. A Nod to The Australian

February 1976. My one-year contract with Prime Ministers Department has ended. Technically, I am unemployed

Rawdon, Dalrymple, Ambassdor

I may also be unemployable. No one is making me any job offers. 

With more than 20 years of experience and education behind me, and fluency in three of the world’s more difficult and important languages, that says something about me, or Australia. 

But no matter. I have little desire to remain in Australia anyway. Trying to relate to Canberra’s close-minded bureaucracy and lightweight academia has left me exhausted. 

All I want is to get back to the peace, sensible living and natural beauty of the Japan I had known earlier.


First move was to ask the Sydney office of The Australian whether they still needed a Tokyo correspondent.

Jim Hall, a former friend and sometime political progressive, was now editor. He said thanks but no thanks. They were trying to cut expenses, he said lamely. 

I was not too surprised. The Australian had already shifted rightwing enough to realise it did not need someone like myself, especially someone associated with the now discredited Whitlam regime. 

Hall clearly had little choice but to move with them. 

(In fact, The Australian still did need someone in Tokyo, even if only to match Fairfax and the Melbourne Herald. A year or so later they sent Allan Goodall, a journalist with no Japan background, to work out of an office in the rightwing Yomiuri.) 

Nor was I all that keen to return to the paper. The idea of having to go back to writing about mistreated Australian racehorses did not appeal greatly. 

I had contacted Hall mainly to ease my own conscience about having suddenly left The Australian in the lurch when I left Tokyo a year earlier. 

I was relieved when they said no. 

5.  An ANU redux

But that meant I still had to find a way to get back to Japan. 

Yasuko had a job waiting for her at the Ajiken library – another reason for me wanting to get back to Japan. 

But the Japanese government had, and still has, a fairly severe visa system designed to keep stray foreigners at bay, even if they have Japanese families. 

I had long thought about setting up my own translation company in Japan. 

I liked the idea of being able to sit at home, working at leisure, typing up in English the text of an interesting Japanese manuscript which I would have wanted to read anyway – and earning something like 10,000 yen a page while improving my Japanese in the process. 

But to do that I needed a work visa to get to Japan, and that could not happen till I got myself established in the translation business in Japan – a Catch 22 situation if ever there was one. 

One answer was to try to get a position at a Japanese university. Here the mere promise of a position might be enough to satisfy the visa people. 

Next move was to lean on Heinz Arndt, still a good friend, to let me call myself a visiting research scholar (unpaid) in his ANU Department for a month or so. 

That would give me some kind of credential to organize an academic job back in Japan, I hoped. 

Heinz obliged, and even gave me a room. 

I did not get to use it much. Walking the lifeless corridors of the Coombs Building and the John Crawford auditorium brought back too many unhappy memories.

The ANU tea rooms were not much better. Memories of the dry, fruitless debates I had had with Canberra’s ‘best and brightest’ over Vietnam just seven years earlier still lingered. 

In the seminar rooms where seven years earlier I had had to face down hard-faced, know-it-all rightwingers in a vain effort to get them to see sense about China, I now had to listen to trendy-mushy, pro-Cultural Revolution academics denouncing Deng Xiaoping as a capitalist roader. 

Fitzgerald, back from China, was about to put out a book through the ANU university press. 

It was full of embarrassing gush about Chairman Mao as a great hero of the Chinese people, and pinned hopes on his very temporary successor Hua Guofeng (Hua who?). 

Just a few years earlier the same ANU Press had rejected my In Fear of China book as being too leftwing. 

Determination to get out of that house of meaningless academism was even stronger than before. 

6. Visa Problems.  A Sophia University Connection? 

Next move was to contact Father Robert Ballon, a Belgian professor of business at Tokyo’s Sophia University. 

Ballon had befriended me earlier while I was still a journalist in Tokyo. Why not see if he could help get me some kind of position at Sophia? 

Ballon obliged, even though he could promise no more than say I could be a visiting lecturer in Sophia’s International Department. 

Visiting lecturer (hijokin-koshi) in Japan is even further down the academic food chain than it is in the West. 

But no matter. If it gave me a visa and a slot back in Japan, that was fine. 

The final move was to lean on Hatakenaka Atsushi, then first secretary at the Japanese Embassy in Canberra, a family friend, a fellow Sinologist and a fellow golfer, for a visa. (Later he was made ambassador at the same Embassy.) 

Normally being a visiting lecturer is not enough to qualify for an academic visa to Japan. But Hatakenaka found some way around the hurdle, and I will always be very, very grateful to him for that.


But before leaving Canberra I wanted to sort out a few unresolved Australian matters. 

One of them was to get on the record my distress and dismay over the Whitlam regime disasters I had been subjected to during the previous year.

7. A Forced Farewell to the Australian Left 

March 1976. 

I am still simmering over my experiences of the previous year in PMC – the shabby deal I had suffered over the wretched Vietnam Cables affair especially . 

As well, I am looking for something to do while waiting to get back to Japan. 

Max Suich, my former Fairfax competitor in Tokyo and then editor of the weekly National Times, has promised to run the occasional article from me if and when I get back to Japan. 

To get me started and keep my journalistic hand in, I decide that I should give him something about what I saw as the mistakes of the Whitlam administration in the previous year. 

By this time Whitlam has gone down to crushing defeat in the national election after his November 1975 dismissal. Writing rude things about his policies could hardly be seen as a stab in the back, I thought. 

It might even be seen as a boost for those in the ALP like Hayden seeking to replace him. 

In the manuscript I sent Suich I had tried hard to restrain feelings. But obviously there were going to be criticisms, even if they were buried down in the body of the article. 

Suich, being the jugular-grabbing journalist he always was, immediately dragged the criticisms to the top of the article and made it the lead article for that week’s edition. 

Worse, he hyped it up as the definitive expose of the Whitlam government’s failures written by none other than by a former ‘senior Whitlam adviser’ (which I had never claimed to be). 

A derogatory anti-Whitlam cartoon on the cover of that issue completed the damage.


Labor Party people have a gut hatred of anyone who seems to betray their cause. 

That is understandable, given the damage and harassment ALP people have suffered from various ASIO/ASIS spy and sabotage activities against them in the past (though in the Vietnam Cables affair it was I who had been sabotaged by Labor, not vice- versa). 

As well, there was the continuing paranoia over the way Whitlam had been dismissed a few months earlier. Within the ALP he had become a revered icon, above all criticism or attack. 

So when the National Times beat-up of my original copy hit the streets personal hell broke loose. At the few Canberra parties to which I was still invited, the ALP faithful did not even try to hide their loathing.  

I had criticised the great Gough. I was a traitor to the cause. Maybe even I was a spy in the pay of the enemy. 

I ran into Labour Party, Deputy Leader, Hayden at Parliament House soon after. He was the one ALP leader I had respected and I had hoped to keep some connection with him. 

But he too was furious, though he himself was critical of Whitlam and was trying to take Whitlam’s job as ALP leader (he was to be defeated by Hawke). 

Given all the hostility, any chance I had of keeping an ALP connection, and possibly returning to Australia if the ALP ever regained power, clearly had to be shelved.  

I had no choice but to get back to Japan and get re-established there. 

8. Bleak Prospects in Japan? 

As I gathered up Yasuko and young Dan for the trip back, the prospects were still bleak. 

I had a few half-hearted writing possibilities with Australian media. 

I had no contract or letter of appointment from Sophia. All I had was Ballon’s word that some kind of job would be waiting for me. 

We did not even have a place to live.

True, my future did not seem entirely hopeless. Apart from Ballon I had a few odd jobs on offer. 

But it did it seem to be star-spangled. 

What I was not to know was that buried in my belongings was something far more glittering than any number of spangling stars. 

It was the rough manuscript of that book about Japan.