Memorializing Harold Holt’s 50 years
Today marks 50 years since prime minister Harold Holt went for a swim On December 17, 1967 at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, in Victoria, never to be seen again becoming the third Prime Minister to die in office in Australian history.Harold Holt, Australia’s 17th Prime Minister was in office from 26 January 1966 to 19 December 1967, when he was officially pronounced dead after drowning at sea. He was the first premier born in 20th century to govern Australia and also hosted Lyndon Baines Johnson, the first US president to ever visit Australia in October 1966. Your blogger is joining friends and family members of the late Harold Holt to mark his disappearance and remember his achievements that has shaped Australian politics for decades.He is said to have been the first premier with strong social and economic legacy especially the introduction of child endowment scheme nationally when he was part of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies government. According to data available, Holt won his first seat in parliament in 1935 and at that time became Australia’s youngest minister four years later when Prime Minister Robert Menzies designated him a junior position. Holt went on to hold senior portfolios of Immigration and of Labour and National Service in the 1950s, and became Treasurer in 1958.For most time of his 32 years in parliament, Holt was on the government benches and the only period in Opposition was from 1941 to 1949.Since his disappearance, there has been all kinds of conspiracy theories that have formed over the years, including one that my brother used to insinuate to me as a child that Holt was taken by a Chinese mini-sub.
My Auntie used to say Holt was eaten by a shark even though my late Uncle theory differed claiming Holt committed suicide.There was a report published in 1968 and an inquest that took place twelve years ago that found the death of Holt was nothing but accidental.That aside, Holt achievements in office are plenty and even though he was in office for 680 days, the policy reforms that his government introduced have been termed as instrumental in shaping Australia’s economic and social achievements.One of his biggest is certainly the ending of the White Australia policy that he began the process of dismantling it, my mom once told me that it was a bold move that Holt took because at the time it was a very difficult political decision to do.Holt oversaw the referendum that gave the rights to Aboriginal people under his first year in office and the result was 90 per cent in favour, an astonishing result that my mom used to tell me was beyond expectations. Conspiracy theorists believes that idea could have been inspired by Lyndon Baines Johnson who oversaw the dismantling of racial discrimination laws in United States in mid 1960s. Holt government also introduced decimal currency as well as the formation of Australia Council for the Arts.There have also been well documented facts that the expansion of higher education in Australia began under his tenure. From records available, the most bizarre conspiracy theory i came across is that of an American lawyer who claimed there was more than 50 per cent chance his death was as a result of expert sabotage possibly foreign.He claimed those behind it could have used some delayed-effect drug, which Holt might have got in refreshments on his way to the beach,” the lawyer wrote. This, in lawyer’s theory would be revealed by expert autopsy, unless it’s one of the new disappearing ones. That aside, Holt will forever be remembered as a man who was a progressive leader, one of the founding fathers of the Liberal Party, a fan of snorkelling, cray fishing, spear-fishing and scuba-diving.