ACT News


The common touch of a long-ago PM

Even though he once dressed like a toff (even a top hat) for the great naming of Canberra occasion in 1913, prime minister Andrew Fisher was a working-class man and seems to have had the common touch.

One of the friends of the Hall Museum has been doing some research into old bush schools of the federal territory and has come across a letter written on prime ministerial stationery and signed by prime minister Fisher in Melbourne on September 21, 1915. This, and other papers associated with the school at Gibraltar, were first found by Vince Fisher, author of Gibraltar: An Old Bush School (1986).

Examining the letter (your columnist has a photocopy of it) it's not quite clear who is being written to; but whoever it is you'd expect a letter from a prime minister to deal with some great big matter. But the PM's letter reads: ''With reference to your letter … relative to the sanitary arrangements for the Provisional School at Gibraltar in the Federal Territory, I have the honour to inform you that a new iron w.c. of the approved type has been erected in place of the old one and a new cesspit has been provided. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient servant.'' Then the letter bears what is certainly the prime minister's signature.

Quite how and why matters of bush school lavatories crossed the desk of a prime minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is not clear, but it would endear a present-day prime minister to us to think he or she was in such grassroots touch with everyday, unglamorous Aussie life.