Past Australian Federal Politicians and Extramartial Sex

Past Australian Federal Politicians and Extramartial Sex, by Tony Bramston.

If Joyce’s affair were discovered a generation ago, it might never have been revealed to the public due to the cosy relationship that existed between politicians and the media. And if it were disclosed, Joyce might have weathered the storm without the impact of social media and tabloid sensationalism. …

It was easier for Harold Holt, a serial philanderer who disappeared in the surf at Portsea while his mistress, Marjorie Gillespie, frantically looked on. Holt’s parliamentary colleagues, friends and journalists knew about the relationship but it was never publicly disclosed. Zara Holt said years later her husband “was having affairs everywhere”.

Holt is not alone among former prime ministers known for their dangerous liaisons. It has been suggested John Curtin had an affair with Belle Southwell, who managed the Kurrajong Hotel in Canberra. Ben Chifley is said to have had an affair with his secretary, Phyllis Donnelly, and her sister, Nell. It is ­alleged Robert Menzies had an ­affair with Elizabeth Fairfax. Yet evidence for these sex scandals is threadbare.

John Gorton acknowledged he had multiple affairs, though probably not while prime minister. Gorton loved to be in the company of attractive young women and frequently escaped from the Lodge to go to late-night parties in Canberra. Gorton also had a serious drinking problem.

Most prime ministers have endured salacious gossip about their private life that was almost always untrue. But Malcolm Fraser, often suspected of being a “pants man”, was literally caught with his pants down in a sleazy Memphis hotel in 1986. Drugged and robbed, Fraser appeared in the lobby with a towel wrapped around his waist.

Jim Cairns, deputy to Gough Whitlam, had an affair with staff member Junie Morosi. Cairns declared “a kind of love” for Morosi while married to his wife, Gwen. He later ­ac­knowledged the affair and ­ad­mitted being “distracted” by it as treasurer. It didn’t stop Morosi, however, pocketing several large defamation payments in the 1970s.

There have been comparisons made between Joyce and Bob Hawke. But these are erroneous. The difference with Hawke, who was known for his drinking and womanising in the 60s and 70s, is that he was ­always upfront about his faults and they never had an impact on his public duties. Hawke knew he had to change if he wanted to become prime minister. He gave up the drink and left the womanising, mostly, behind. Hawke renewed his love ­affair with biographer Blanche d’Alpuget in the mid-80s but — here’s the thing — he never lied about his infidelity, hid it or claimed moral superiority. And he didn’t sleep with his staff.

The voters, fully aware of Hawke’s history and knowing he was never hypocritical in his politics, made him prime minister and kept him there for nine years.