Talk:Harold Holt

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In much the same way that I remember hearing of JFK's death, Harold Holt's demise was a singular moment. Steve Smith & I had just spent three weeks backpacking in SW Tasmania. The first humans we had seen in half a month turned up on the trail & gave us the news - in January!. Having seen the LBJ imperial procession in downtown Sydney in October '66 - my first thought was that Oz is a truly free society - Imagine Nixon hitting the beach solo! Along the same lines, several years earlier whilst hitchhiking from the Big Smoke to Wagga Wagga (my home town), a big black limo stopped for me, - the blokes in front informed me that I was sitting where Menzies "planted his bum". I have lived in the Western United States for the last three decades & I can say with certainty that a) no US President will ever go solo ocean swimming, and that b) no US President's limo will ever pick up a hitchhiker.

Is one society more free than the other? - cheers Dave.

That is all fair comment, but it is also fair to note that no Australian PM has ever been assassinated (there has never even been an attempt), whereas four US Presidents have been assassinated, so it is hardly surprising that their security is much tighter. Adam 06:05, 6 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  • However, no US President has ever disappeared into the ocean, either. The closest we've had is William Henry Harrison refusing to wear a coat to his inauguration and dying of pneumonia. Xyzzyva 23:39, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Holt's disappearance stunned Australia enough to be marked by public lexicon, with the term 'Doing a Harry Holt' being employed as rhyming slang for 'Doing the bolt' - meaning to leave suddenly or disappear. This term is in use today, though it seems when shortened to 'Do a Harry' it becomes interchangeable with the phrase 'Do a Harry Houdini' (also meaning to disappear).


The 2005 Age article talks of an inquest yet to be held, so presumably it wasn't held in 2003 as the SMH story implies. Pete 11:27, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Likely explanation for Holt's death[edit]

Adam, I don't disagree with this assessment. But I though the coroner's verdict made that sort of irrelevant now. It might perhaps better follow the text about the coroner's verdict. I'm not really fussed either way. Cheers JackofOz 06:46, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Now that the Coroner has given a ruling, we don't need to speculate further, and the Coroner's verdict can be quoted. Adam 07:52, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Not really, if Holt was 'knocked off'. The accident theory looks like disinformation to me after reading Anthony Grey's book 'The Prime Minister was a spy'. An accident is far too simplistic. Grey's Chinese submarine story looks really quaint, but has all the hallmarks of disinformation, not Chinese hallmarks, especially in view of the witness intimidation events, which were complete overkill. So, who had an interest in making Holt go away?

Holt was a complete wildcard in international politics. He was vulnerable to blackmail, because he was a womaniser or perhaps bisexual, close to organised crime since the falsification of his lawyer qualification records in Melbourne, and a friend of China regardless who was in power. At the height of the Vietnam and Cold Wars such a person was intolerable as a Prime Minister. ASIO, the Australian Secret Service, was obvioulsy sceptical and when you look at other literature, how closely ASIO and the CIA worked hand in glove, the CIA must have known.

Greys book mentions ASIO but not the CIA - and that gives it away. The reader is not supposed to think in that direction - hm.

What Grey sees as a Harold Holt's great merit in history, shortening the Korean War, would have angered Washington. Holt passed on US plans to threaten bombardment of bases in China, if the Chinese did not cave in at the conference table. Knowing this, the Chinese did cave in, but the US might have well preferred to drop the bombs and unseat Mao. Holt spoiled that for them.

As all US activities are about US companies getting access to markets, shortening the Korean War was counterproductive for US goals. They could have had access to the Chinese market in the 1950s, if Holt had not spoilt it for them by working with China.

If you read about the Petrov affair in 1954, the Combe/Ivanov affair in1983, and other literature (Wright's 'Spycatcher', Robinson's 'The Laundrymen') which deal with secret services, it becomes very clear that the proponents of the Vietnam War needed to get rid of Holt because Holt worked for the benefit of China and Australia, instead of focussing on US access to markets.

One of the frogman who searched for Holt, became a businessman years later, operating a company that was a front for ASIO. Later literature suggests he was turned and worked for the KGB also. He has all the hallmarks of being the nameless 'Australian businessman' who was the initiator of Anthony Grey's book. The amount of time and effort that the 'nameless Australian businessman' put into tracing Holt's life is not in step with a busines mind, who is solely interested in money. He, if he indeed existed, was put up to this by those who wanted to blur tracks.

Grey's otherwise excellent analyses, thinking patterns as well as language, suggest, that he was/is part of the intelligence services himself. In hindsight, it is rather weird that Holt became Prime Minister of Australia at all. Somehow, ASIO and the CIA must have missed something, or they would have unseated Holt before he moved up in the ranks.

We've includedabout as much as Grey's theory as needs be mentioned in this biographical article, given the requirements for credible sources. Perhaps there is a need for a new article on alternate theories for Holt's death, where there would be more latitude? --Pete 16:54, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Possibly; an acquaintaince of mine was at the beach and told me that Holt had been drinking when he chatted to her, but she kept quiet about it for ages, I suppose it was likely to be too much trouble mentioning it.Polypipe Wrangler 12:21, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

In memoriam[edit]

I must admit to laughing a bit at the crassness of naming a swimming pool after him considering his unfortunate end. Kewpid 06:03, 5 September 2005 (UTC)

AFAICT, it wasn't a matter of "let's build a swimming pool and name it after him" so much as "he's just died and we need to name something after him, the only major building project we've got going is the swimming pool".
Mention of the memorials got deleted in an incident of vandalism[1] and didn't make it back into the article afterwards; I've re-added it (with slight expansion on the swimming pool) on the assumption that this was an oversight rather than a deliberate decision to leave it out. --Calair 06:46, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

there is a memorial to him in the Melbourne General Cemetery, too - the Prime Minister's Memorial Garden. Gsaus (talk) 03:23, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

The Private Holt[edit]

[Uncited claim about a person categorised as disappeared deleted by Andjam (talk) 14:16, 21 June 2008 (UTC)] (edit of 22 April 2006 by

[Uncited claim about a person categorised as disappeared deleted by Andjam (talk) 14:16, 21 June 2008 (UTC)] Engleham (talk) 13:46, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

Edit changed into an addition. It is considered bad form to edit someone else's comments. Peter Ballard (talk) 23:20, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
Well, it's publicised now, if not necessarily "published". -- JackofOz (talk) 12:42, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Missing or dead?[edit]

This article is in categorised as missing persons, so is it fair to say "Harold Holt died on..." or should it say "...went missing on..."

Holt is not missing, he is legally dead. Adam 14:10, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Date of death[edit]

More of a query than anything: Holt's date of death preceeds the end of his commission as Prime Minister. While I realise that McEwen wouldn't have been immediately sworn in because of the hope of finding Holt, given that his death was (as I understnad it) was retrospectively deemed to be the date of his disappearance, wouldn't his commission also be legally terminated by his death. Thus, if his death is put as 17 December then his commission should also be taken to have ended on that date? Now I know that would leave the period 17 December - 20 December where Australia actually had no commissioned PM but is that any more ludicrous than a dead man being commissioned? Well, it's all more academic than anything but I was just curious if there were any constitutional law experts out there... Shadow007 08:37, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

A minister holding a commission from the crown continues to hold that commission until it is withdrawn, even if they are dead. Adam 09:02, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Interesting. Is this established by law or custom? Shadow007 11:32, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

In matters of this kind in the Westminster system custom is law. Adam 14:03, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Editing of recent expanded article[edit]

Someone has recently done an extensive rewrite and expansion of this article. Unfortunately, it was deficient in several respects.

  • The huge section on events in the Liberal Party after Holt's death is irrelevant.
  • A complete history of Australia's involvement in Vietnam is irrelevant (as are the author's opinions about it)
  • The discussion of Menzies' views on the monarchy and the US alliance is irrelevant (also full of opinions)
  • The author's opinions on what is "unfortunate", "significant", "historic" etc, and on whether Menzies was "fawning" or an "autocrat" etc, do not belong in the article. Nor does the usual tiresome eulogising of Whitlam.
  • The 1967 referendum (not plebiscite) did not change the citizenship status of indigenous Australians (an endlessly repeated error).
  • Annabelle Rankin was not the first woman federal minister.
  • All this new content is largely unsourced. I know where it comes from (Alan Reid) but the reader doesn't. Reid was an dreadful old gossip and as a hired hack of the Packers his material must be seen as partisan journalism, not history. All this stuff about Holt's last months is pure speculation on Reid's part.
  • Generally this material is journalistic, over-written, over-opinionated and dotted with errors of fact. I have cleaned up the worst of it but more editing is needed. It does not meet current Wikipedia standards on sourcing. Adam 07:49, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

I disagree, as prime minister of Australia the consequences of his death on political matters is entirely relevant to the article. Furthermore, where else would this information go? It is certainly all historically verifiable and relevant.

As to the quality of Alan Reid as a source, that is not really up to you to judge, under wikipedia standards, if you've sourced the material to Alan Reid then you can attribute the information to him. You can't have it both ways when it comes to referencing sources (removing unsourced information you don't like and ALSO removing sources that you don't like). --I (talk) 12:12, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

Recent additions to Holt article[edit]

Adam -- I acknowledge and apoligize for any shortcomings in the factual accuracy, language and referencing of my additions to this article. Sorry about that -- I can only plead that I have had to make most of the editorial changes "on the fly" and from memory, without direct access to my reference material, since I have no internet access at home at present. Also, some of the locations I have been using (e.g. my local public library) have somewhat troublesome and unreliable web access and on occasion I have lost significant portions of text during editing. PLEASE consider it a work in progress. I am still learning the Wiki referencing rules and techniques, and any advice on this would be appreciated.

I have to say that generally I found your comments somewhat bitchy and pejorative, however, apart from that, I also have to take specific issue with several of the points you raised:

  • Whilst I agree that a lengthy discussion of Australia's role Vietnam ca. 1967 is best confined to the major articles on the conflict, some mention of Holt's significant personal role in promoting and expanding Australia's involvement is IMO essential. Also, whilst I agree that the language has to be carefully considered (and I was probably overly opinionated) I definitely feel that the relationship between Holt and Johnson needs to be discussed here. I think that informed opinions -- such as Alan Renouf's stated view that Holt had in effect been seduced by his "friendship" with Johnson -- need to be canvassed, not only because of its significance at the time, but also in terms of the ongoing power relationship between the USA and Australia, up to and inlcuding the current "friendship" between Mr Howard and Mr Bush, which has clear and obvious parallels with the Holt-Johnson dynamic.
  • I am unsure how I was "eulogising" Whitlam? There is no question that he was a formidable opponent, both in parliament and in the media, that in the context of the times he was vastly superior to Calwell as a leader, and that he hurt Holt and the government significantly over the VIP planes affair. (BTW -- strictly speaking one can only eulogise somebody after they are dead.)
  • I strongly dispute the claim that a discussion 1967-68 leadership struggle is irrelevant. Holt's disappearance brought about McEwen's appointment as caretaker PM, which in turn triggered the Xmas '67 leadership crisis, an event that showed serious cracks in Coalition unity for the first time, and one that had the obvious potential to split the Coalition if mishandled. Further, McEwen's veto of McMahon took him out of the running for PM until after McEwen's retirement and led directly to the election of Gorton. All this stems DIRECTLY from Holt's unexpected death -- how can it be irrelevant?
  • I agree that Reid was a highly partisan commentator and that this needs to be stated -- e.g. it is well known that he (and Packer) were McMahon supporters and that Reid disliked Gorton intensely. However, his stature as the leader of the parlimentary press gallery at the time, and the most senior political correspondent of his day, surely deserves some respect? There can be no question about the breadth and depth of his 'insider' political knowledge, and whilst his speculations need to be acknowledged as such (which I think(?) I did), they ought to be included when they are relevant, since he is one of the few non-academic commentators of the day who wrote about Holt in any detail. I feel strongly that his remarks about matters such as reputed growing dissension within the Liberal Party prior to Holt's death and Holt's possible health problems are at least as acceptable for inclusion as the laughable urban myths about Holt being abducted by UFOs and the like.

Dunks 03:20, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

OK, so I'm a bitch - you'll have to get used to that. I am however a very well-informed bitch. Some points in reply.

  • He who writes without access to his references is asking for trouble and will usually get it.
  • This is a biographical article about Harold Holt. It is not an essay on everything that happened in Australia and the world in the 20 years either side of his prime ministership. A few sentences of context, on Vietnam for example, may be justified, but not whole paragraphs of general history. You obviously know this topic well and I encourage you to write History of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War if no-one has already done so. But not here.
  • No, events after Holt's death are not relevant. Maybe a general sentence to the effect that his death led to a period of instability in the Liberal Party would be justified, but a huge chunk out of History of the Liberal Party of Australia (another article awaiting your attention) is not. After all, where does this stop? If the 1972 election is relevant, why not 1975, or 1983?
  • I don't make any apologies for deleting you many statements of opinion - calling Menzies "fawning" and an autocrat, etc. If you can cite a source on this points (and if they are relevant), that is one thing (eg Manning Clark called Menzies "a fawning autocrat", History of Australia, Vol VI, 4765): simply stating them as facts is not.
  • I may have over-reacted on Whitlam, but I am very tired of endless Whitlam-gush at Wikipedia (and I speak as an ALP member and admirer of the Great Man). I don't now remember what you said, but I thought it overstepped the mark.
  • Using Reid as a reference is probably OK, provided his deficiencies are acknowledged. Simply recycling his opinions as facts is not OK. He may have been the Dean of the Gallery and all, but that is no guarantee of professional probity (see Alan Ramsey). In his case he was a hired hatchet-man, about as reliable as a source as Glen Milne.
  • There has recently been a new biography of Holt. I suggest you read it and then rewrite this article from scratch as a properly researched piece of history. That would be doing Wikipedia a service. Cheers Adam 10:44, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

1966 general election record majority[edit]

Compare this:

  • The transfer of power from Menzies to Holt in February 1966 was unproblematic, and at the federal election later that year the electorate overwhelmingly endorsed Holt, re-electing the Holt-McEwen Coalition government with 56% of the two party preferred vote. As of 2007, this stands as the greatest winning margin at a federal election in Australian political history.

with this:

  • The Coalition scored a stunning victory over the ALP, winning many former ALP seats and sweeping back into power with (at the time) the largest parliamentary majority since Federation.

Is it still the greatest majority since Federation? I thought that Fraser did better in 1975. In any case, one of these sentences will need to be changed. -- JackofOz 08:13, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Additional cites sought[edit]

{{Refimprove|date=November 2007}} tag was added by User :Johnfos on 4 November. I have asked the user to be more specific rather than the blanket request given that there are references at the bottom of the article - mainly books plus also the archives web site. In line citations aren't mandatory but wil be added for any fact that is challenged. I can't see anything out of the common knowledge domain in the article at present.--Golden Wattle talk 05:07, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

Filling in red links[edit]

There's a couple of red links scattered through, which nevers looks good in an article looking for FA/GA status. I'm going to throw together an article on Charles ("Ceb") Barnes, so at least there is an article on each member of Holt's first ministry and then see what others I can do. --Roisterer (talk) 22:12, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Contradictory categories[edit]

Harold Holt is currently in Category:Disappeared people and Category:1967 deaths. However, disappeared people is a wikipedia BLP maintainence category, only for those people whose subsequent fate is unknown (ie, we don't know whether the person is alive or dead) - and it explicitly states that it is contradictory with the dead people categories. So either disappeared people goes, or 1967 deaths goes.

The fact that Holt would be/is almost 100 years old isn't a factor as far as BLP goes - the yardstick is 123 years. Thanks, Andjam (talk) 08:40, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Still in the contradictory categories. Andjam (talk) 12:51, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
Questions: 1) Has he been declared legally dead? 2) Can you point out where exactly you see the contradiction of Category:Disappeared people. What I see is that the category is "for people who went missing and whose subsequent fate remains a mystery" which wouldn't be in contradiction with being declared dead at a certain point. Our internal maintenance criteria are a secondary problem as the cats are mostly for the readers.--Tikiwont (talk) 16:26, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
With regards to 2), it is referring to those whose current fate is a mystery (hence the reference in the category to excluding people born pre-1885). Andjam (talk) 09:09, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
While not particular concerned by the possible contradiction of using both categories at the same time myself, reading the article on Holt he is presumed dead drowning which isn't exactly what "a person who has disappeared for no known reason" refers to. --Tikiwont (talk) 10:05, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Surely the Victorian Coroner (as in this reference[2] in the article) is a WP:Reliable Source. I say we should follow his lead and declare Holt a 1967 death. Peter Ballard (talk) 10:15, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Kick him when he's down[edit]

I've removed the following:

In terms of party politics, the most significant feature is that it marked the beginning of an unprecedented period of internal turmoil for the Liberals and a rapid decline in the party's electoral fortunes. For twenty-two years, from its founding in 1944 to his retirement in 1966, the Liberal Party had had only one leader – Robert Menzies. After his retirement, the party had three leaders in the six years between 1966 and 1972; in December 1972 the Coalition's 23-year hold on power ended with a resounding electoral loss to the ALP under Gough Whitlam."

This editorialising is irrelevant to Holt's career. It implies that he was responsible for the woes of the Liberal Party after his death. How careless of him to die.

The transition of power from Menzies to Holt was without any conflict. No general election loss, no partyroom brawl - an event almost unique in Australian political history. During his tenure, he was well-liked and respected. The voters overwhelmingly approved his government at the only election he faced as Prime Minister. For Wikipedia to say that "the most significant feature" of his time was to spark turmoil and decline is misleading and mischevious. --Pete (talk) 22:43, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Pete, after chuckling at your delightfully inflammatory heading (are you related to Miranda Devine?) I'm restoring that paragraph, with a minor edit.
I respectfully disagree with your opinion and I think you are enforcing your own prejudices here. I had no intention of misleading or being mischievous, and I do not think that this paragraph is guilty of any such thing. You have evidently failed to register that it is an observation about the general significance of Holt's tenure as leader in terms of party politics from then on.
I simply stated that Holt's Prime Minister-ship marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented turmoil for the Libs and the Coalition, and I maintain that the events undeniably support this assertion. The Coalition ruled virtually unchallenged for over 20 years under Menzies, but after his retirement they had three leaders in six years and they were roundly defeated in the 1972 election, largely because of the internal strife that flared up after Holt's unexpected death. (I personally think it's quite likely Holt would have been toppled before then, had he survived, but that's just my view.) As the article states, the key problem was that there was no effective line of succession behind Holt, and when McEwen unexpectedly took McMahon out of the running, it threw the party's plans into disarray, forcing them to select the "wild card" candidate Gorton, who had nothing like the support that Holt enjoyed when he took over.
Your complaint about Holt's accession is frankly silly. Of course he took over unopposed -- he was Menzies' chosen successor and it had been effectively set in stone for years -- how could it have been otherwise? Anyway, this exact point is clearly stated in just these terms elsewhere in the article, so what are you grizzling about?
Let's also remember that the 1966 election was held less than a year after Holt took over, and while that's slightly outside the traditional "honeymoon period" it was still *before* the major controversies of 1967, which did significantly dent Holt's profile ... and let's not forget that the Coalition got their arses kicked in the subsequent Senate election.
IMO I did not imply or suggest that Holt was "personally" responsible for any of this (whatever that means?) -- but in fact as PM and party leader, isn't he *supposed* to be responsible for everything that happens under his leadership? However, as I mention in the article, there *is* a significant 'personality' aspect to this question, and it can be supported with reference to commentators such as Tom Frame and Alan Reid. Both opined that Holt's "niceness" was increasingly perceived as weakness by his party colleagues, and there was clearly a growing concern within the Libs that Holt was not willing to make tough decisions (c.f. his controversial decision not to sack Nixon over the VIP planes affair). He also came under increasing pressure in parliament after Whitlam became ALP leader (and there can surely be little doubt that Whitlam was a far superior parliamentary performer, whatever you think of his politics); allied to this, Holt was starting to make serious mistakes during 1967 -- e.g. his foolish interruption of St John's maiden speech, which was widely seen as a serious breach of parliamentary protocol -- and the subsequent embarrassing reversal of Holt's decision not to have another inquiry into the Voyager affair.
Although it's outside the scope of the particular paragraph in question, Holt's "personal issues" did have a great bearing on his career as PM. His health, canvassed elsewhere in the article, is a very significant matter. There was evidently growing concern within the party about it and this is supported by the known facts about his illness and injuries, and his use of opiates and other strong painkillers. Take a look at Holt's briefcase, which is on display in the foyer at the National Archives in Canberra -- the pill bottles and foil packets of painkillers are still in there, for all to see. I suggest to you that there would be a major crisis today if it was revealed that Kevin Rudd was chronically ill, that he was taking large doses of morphine and codeine and that he had suffered collapses and two near-drowning incidents -- in Holt's case this was all obviously "hushed up" at the time, but how long could this have gone on if, for example, he collapsed in parliament or suffered a heart attack, as some of his colleagues evidently feared might happen?
To conclude, I maintain that Holt's unexpected death and the lack of an effective succession unquestionably triggered the damaging 1967 leadership crisis which (however briefly) also threatened a split in the Coalition, and the internal dissent (alongside the growing opposition to the war) contributed greatly to the subsequent decline in the Coalition's electoral fortunes and their ultimate defeat by the ALP in 1972.

- Dunks (talk) 08:05, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

Spouse name[edit]

This page lists Zara Kate Dickens, but the link goes to a page with spelling Zara Kate Dickins.

Google cites both, hinting that Dickens is more likely, but I didn't see anything definitive. Perhaps someone more familiar with the situation can fix one or the other.--SPhilbrickT 02:22, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

I've always understood it was Dickins. I've edited this page. -- JackofOz (talk) 08:46, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Prescription of opiates[edit]

I reviewed my father's medical records with Peter Butt for his film the PM IS Missing and Dr Marcus Faunce did not prescribe opitates to Harold Holt prior to his disappearance. The film doesn't suggest this. Marc knew opiates well as he was an excellent palliative care physician, but he also knew that Holt would push his luck physically and continue to strain his shoulder with the masking effect of the morphine. Holt was prescribed the opiates by a Melbourne doctor.Fauncet (talk) 11:09, 14 July 2009 (UTC)


In 1983, <snipped> published a controversial book in which he claimed that Holt had been an agent for the People's Republic of China and that he had been picked up by a Chinese submarine off Portsea and taken to China.[5]

Is there any particular reason for China here, other then geography and the China is evil mentality that persisted then (and er the questionable 'mental faculties' of the author/proposer of this theory)? The article doesn't seem to mention a close connection of HH with China and in fact he seems to have had a close connection to the US and expanded Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war, hardly seeming to be something a Chinese agent would do (well perhaps if it was part of a wider plan but he disappeared before he could do anything major with whatever advantage gained)... But perhaps the theory is more complicated or there's something I'm missing. Nil Einne (talk) 22:23, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

This has now been removed, which I object to. It is a famous, though ridiculous, theory. As to your question, I think you're missing the fact that conspiracy theories don't need to make sense.--Jack Upland (talk) 18:00, 13 December 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps we should put it back again. Finding sources is pretty easy with Google.[3] Yes, it's gloriously ridiculous and total fantasy, but it is probably the thing most associated with Holt in the minds of the public.--Pete (talk) 19:07, 13 December 2014 (UTC)

Holt's collapse and an early plan to install Gorton[edit]

I came across an article in The Age from 1969 discussing plans to replace Holt around six months before his death. According to the report, it was commonly believed that senior Liberals were plotting to put Gorton forward because of Holt's drop in popularity, etc. Gorton denied any knowledge. Dudley Erwin said he had indeed participated in such talks, but denied it was part of a plot. They were contingency plans following Holt's collapse in Erwin's office (Speaker Aston and Ainsley Gotto were also there). According to Erwin he, and Holt for that matter, believed the "turn" was a heart attack, so he felt it his duty as whip to plan for HOlt's death or incapacity.

I'm not sure if this should be included or, if so, exactly where or how to best add it. I therefore leave it to more regular editors of this article to decide. -Rrius (talk) 12:39, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

I came across another article, again looking for something else, this one from The Sydney Morning Herald. It was written after Alan Reid's The Gorton Experiment (listed in our article under "Further reading"). In the book, Reid claimed that Gorton "was being groomed" for the top job before Holt's death. In response, Gorton said he told Erwin he would not be part of any plot and if there was a move he would tell Holt and do his best to defeat it. Erwin backed up his comments, which would tend to contradict his earlier statement that there was no attempted plot, merely contingency plans. Gorton's comments appeared in "a Sunday newspaper" on 8 August 1971, so if anyone has access to a database or microfilm, there may be something useful to be gleaned. -Rrius (talk) 13:24, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Normal Succession?[edit]

With regard to the succession, the article says:

In the normal course of events, Liberal deputy leader and Treasurer William McMahon should have succeeded Holt as both Liberal leader and Prime Minister.

That is not true. It was normal for McEwen as deputy PM to be sworn in as PM. When Lyons died in office, the deputy PM, the Country Party's Earle Page, became PM. Moreover, there are plenty of deputy Liberal leaders that never became leader. The Liberal Party replaces its leaders by party room ballot, not by succession.

However, the article suggests there was an expectation that the deputy PM was going to be bypassed and the deputy Liberal leader sworn in as interim leader. This seems to be abnormal.--Jack Upland (talk) 01:59, 1 January 2014 (UTC)

The fact that the Deputy PM position is given to the leader of the junior member of the Coalition doesn't mean that he's the heir apparent. It's not like the American Vice President stepping up and serving out the term. When Menzies retired, the PM job wasn't handed to the (then unofficial) Deputy PM John McEwen. McEwen became PM when Holt drowned (or was picked up by a Chinese sub, take your choice) but that was because the Libs couldn't come up with a leader on the spot, much like the previous time Menzies left the top spot. --Pete (talk) 19:20, 13 December 2014 (UTC)
No, you're wrong. The Deputy PM automatically steps in. That's why they are called the Deputy. They will also act as PM when the PM is on leave. (Doug Anthony always boasted about running the country from a caravan park.) The party caucus needs to meet to elect a new leader, and they can't do that "on the spot". Normally, there will be time for the party to elect a new leader before the outgoing PM formally resigns, so the Deputy PM will be not need to step in. When a PM dies (or vanishes), however, there isn't time, and the Deputy must step in until the party room can vote. When Lyons died, Page stepped in; when Holt disappeared, McEwen stepped in. When Curtin died, Frank Forde was briefly PM for the same reason.
Robert Menzies's first prime ministership was quite different. As discussed on that Talk page, Menzies was faced with disloyalty (in time of war, no less) and decided to resign. The misnamed United Australia Party caucus were unable to decide on a replacement as leader (and hence PM). In order to deal with this unprecedented anomaly, Billy Hughes agreed to serve as UAP leader, and the Country Party's Arthur Fadden became PM. A few months later, Curtin then engineered a vote of non-confidence and became PM. At the next election, the Coalition was smashed. The UAP collapsed, and Menzies rebuilt it as the Liberal Party and returned as party leader.--Jack Upland (talk) 23:42, 13 December 2014 (UTC)
As far as I can tell, Jack is correct: the sentence is misleading. In fact the whole section, which implies that McEwen made his famous statement about never serving under McMahon on 18 December, when I can find evidence of no such thing. It also implies that the Liberals could conceivably have organised a leadership ballot in a single day, which I find unlikely. Of course, should hard evidence for this turn up (I don't have the biographies for any of the key players in front of me and so am relying on Trove and ADB), that would be a different matter. Frickeg (talk) 02:52, 14 December 2014 (UTC)
To clarify: I removed that sentence back in January. I have amended the section further today. I think we need clarification of when McEwen said that, but it certainly doesn't have any bearing on the Deputy PM becoming interim PM.--Jack Upland (talk) 03:24, 14 December 2014 (UTC)
Of course the Deputy PM becomes Acting PM in the circumstances named above - sudden death or planned (but temporary) absence. I raised the point about Menzies in 1967 because McEwen didn't become PM when Menzies left. Holt did. There was no Acting PM when Menzies left. In the normal course of events, McEwen wouldn't have become Prime Minister, because the normal course of events is for the PM to be rolled within his own party, or (in the case of Menzies) to arrange a successor. The Deputy PM normally doesn't get a look in. Except maybe, for the case of Gillard taking over from Rudd, but she got the job because she challenged, not because she was Deputy PM. --Pete (talk) 06:12, 14 December 2014 (UTC)
No, sorry, the Deputy PM actually becomes PM in the case of death, but only acting PM in the case of leave. In any case, the article originally said in the "normal" course of events McMahon "should" have succeeded Holt. This is false. But this is now dealt with. I have just amended the article again based on information from the National Archives. I presume this is accurate, though the source incorrectly calls McMahon the Deputy PM at one point. Why can't everyone be as accurate as Wikipedia?!--Jack Upland (talk) 22:03, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

McEwen did not hold the title "Deputy Prime Minister" until the Gorton government. Prior to this the formal title had not been used at all in Australia although it may have had some informal currency. Secondly Australia inherited a lot of the British conventions including the Crown Prerogative that the selection of the PM is at the Crown's or their representative's pleasure and is not predetermined with formal heir apparants and automatic successions, and whatever ego boosting title they may hold does not change that (often new DPMs have their egos publicly deflated on this precise point). The permanent use of the title "Deputy Prime Minister" in Australia from 1968 onwards may have altered the position but there have been no vacancies since to test it. (The use of leadership elections by parties has diminished the Crown's choice - mainly to the Crown's relief! - but in emergency circumstances they still have to pick someone). I question the reliability of the PM mini-bios on the National Archives site - I can't see who actually wrote them and there are a number of obvious errors across the entries - for instance the entry on Fadden can't make up its mind if the UAP was led by Menzies or Hughes whilst he was PM. The McEwan entry misdate a Senate election and there's the widespread use of the term "deputy Prime Minister" as though it was an official term at the time. We really need to break the more indepth biographies and histories on this one. Timrollpickering (talk) 11:20, 15 December 2014 (UTC)

I agree we need better sources, but McEwen's succession followed a pattern set by Page and Forde on the deaths of Lyons and Curtin. It also followed the pattern set by Doug Anthony when Menzies was on holidays etc.--Jack Upland (talk) 19:08, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
It may be a moot point now, but I suggest that a "normal succession" is not one imposed by sudden death. The replacement of Menzies by Holt with no intervening term as PM by McEwen as Deputy PM is more the thing. Likewise when McMahon replaced Gorton, the Deputy PM at the time (was it still McEwen?) did not get appointed as PM. A normal succession would be a Liberal PM succeeds a Liberal PM. --Pete (talk) 19:31, 15 December 2014 (UTC)