Chapter 29 ...In Retrospect ...June 2012
As I prepare to finalise this work to be submitted to the National Archives I have has cause to reflect on this account written some years ago. Most of it was written shortly after I walked out of that fateful meeting where I came face to face with David Ettridge, a man I had only known for three hours. Over the next year or two I penned other facets of the story and then put it on the internet and forgot all about it. The Hanson episode does not invoke happy memories but a period where I saw the very worst of the human nature.
So on the evening that I was to hit the send button to commit this saga to the National Archives, I paused and wrote the following. This closing Chapter in a sense brings a sense of closure.
Leading into the last chapter I question my my own judgement and said that in the case of Paul Trewartha it was flawed. Yet over the years I have wrestled with this issue in my mind many times. The man I knew and trusted was to do things that not only hurt deeply at the time, but had a lot to do with my severing ties with those who had been at the forefront of our fight early on.
You cannot apportion blame to others without realising that there is a thing called 'cause and effect'. To some extent a pointer we all missed surfaced before the advent of David Ettridge. At a committee meeting our treasurer Lindon Litchfield said 'The answer to this question is that Bruce either comes back to the pace of the committee or we as a committee must catch up with Bruce".
The PHSM was not an idea that evolved from collective thoughts but the solitary idea of one person. To some extent the movement consisted of a man with the idea and passion to match with that of ordinary people who thought along similar lines but were happy to do their bit. All of this only came to the fore after the initial meeting on October 28th 1996.
I have no doubt looking back that in my case I was running before we had learned to walk and that was of concern to the committee. The fact that my wife and I between us had put in place 28 branches in six weeks speaks for itself. The other facet that caused a breakdown was that unlike Paul Trewartha and Ron Paddison, I had no idea of how to conduct meetings. In fact committees have always been an anathema to me; in a word they got under my feet.
So what we had was a maverick of sorts in the midst of men who did things by the book. The bottom line of course was that only a maverick would have attempted to create a movement in support of another maverick who was just as bloody-minded, just as determined and just as strong willed.
Paul Trewartha whilst admitting that his memory of events are not as clear as mine are today told me that he cannot reconcile some of the things that he did that finally saw me walk away. When I offered and did stand down as Chairman, it was with the idea of me resigning my position and I would nominate him. This happened and he became Chairman of the PHSM. When I had expected him to move for me to be vice-chairman and he nominated Ron Paddison, I was staggered. John Clodd, then attempted to nominate me but I declined. For me that bond of trust was broken; irrevocably as it turned out.
Today Paul acknowledged that I made a mistake, because to some extent this allowed him to become a pawn in the hands of David Ettridge. There is no doubt that Paul's candid assessment today is not only brutally honest but also quite courageous. "I was naive and David was used us to his advantage'. We all believed that we could work with him and believed him and although you were the convenor we saw him as an organiser who was going to help Hanson and in doing so that allied with him what we were doing.' This was a valid point but it did nothing for my confidence when I could see clearly that they chose to go with the flow; and that flow was with Pauline Hanson.
Prior to Hanson going to the States before the Christmas of 1996, she came down on a mission and spoke to the committee. With Trewartha as Chairman Pauline spoke to a very sympathetic audience, but she had me in her sights. The topic was that 'Nobody was going to speak for her in the public domain'. Of course this was wrong because my public comments were not about her 'policies' but rather an admonishment of the things that she was doing'. Although none of us with the possible exception of Paul Trewartha knew of David Ettridge, this outburst was obviously caused by the discomfort of what I was saying that criticised her and cut across the cosy profile that he wanted the public to believe in . It was at this meeting that Hanson sought and received an undertaking from the committee that I would be silenced whilst she was in the States. What developed here was a memorable stoush between myself and Hanson when I accused her of accusing Howard of trying to gag her and here she was doing precisely the same. This resulted in Ron Paddison saying 'we have come here to hear Pauline, not you'. Lost of course by the sycophantic followers was that the reason for Hanson being there at all was because they had listened to me in the first place.
Later on in March it became all too obvious that the reason for silencing my voice was a directive of Ettridge. Plans were to seize the Movement, its infrastructure and finances to build a party around Hanson. The integrity, honesty and loyalty , those great values spruiked by Hanson would with her approval and complicity be sacrificed to accommodate the two Davids.
Paul believes that I also made a big mistake of walking away from the PHSM after I took leave of the meeting where I told Ettridge to his face that he was a con-man and to bugger off back to Sydney and forget all about us'.
I don't know that it was. The anger that I displayed that day was tempered with what Ettrdge had told me privately before the meeting to which no one else was present. It was here that he informed me that they were going to form a party around Pauline and market her. The party would consist of her, himself and 'a brilliant and dynamic young Liberal'. The members would belong to the Support Movement, not the party and would be there to help raise funds and to assist on election days. 'We need $15 million for the State Election'. My response was that I'd having nothing to do with a political arm of a party that Hanson had vowed and declared she wanted no part off. This early Hanson was a pawn and in trying to convince people that Ettridge was bad news, they like lemmings would not listen or heed 'this old fool'.
After going into that meeting I listened to what he had detailed for us, then he courted opinions from each separate member and found that they were with the odd small dissention largely in favour of his plans and it came as iced water in the face of all concerned when I said what I did. I walked out; not as most thought because of my harsh words to Ettridge but rather in realising that with a team of people who could not see and understand what that bastard was up to filled me with a sense of utter hopelessness. Nobody there was prepared to support me and I felt a deep sense of disgust. All these years on it has never left me.
I came home and in due course I had visitors who were shell-shocked and ask that I reconsider. Perhaps the most cutting comment came from my own wife. "You were rude to a man who was a guest and you had no right to say what you did'. My reply, lost on her was that "He came uninvited and had tried to takeover and mark my words that bastard will end up in gaol'.
Effectively after that I was placed in Coventry. I was perceived as mad, sick, a bad loser and out of control.
For a while I was on the fringe, but the damage was done. Ettridge and Oldfield had thoroughly achieved what they wanted ...a financial and structural base on which to launch One Nation.
No one worked harder, no one gave more of himself and more financial help to the creation of One Nation than Paul Trewartha.
I know that Paul Trewartha and Barbara Hazelton were in line for Senate positions. That Hazelton knew I know. It all blew up in my lounge in Hazelton's presence and a fiery and mad as hell Hanson launched a veritable tirade, but I held my ground. Trewartha never had that verified by Hanson and it does not surprise me. The man who stymied that was the 'brilliant and dynamic young Liberal, David Oldfield who it transpired later was loathed by all except for a while by Pauline Hanson who thought the sun shone from him.
Oldfield's biggest problem was that he always saw himself as a political colossus. He was the definitive answer to all problems, but not his own. It was the vile and foul language of this man that finally caused Paul Trewartha to sever ties with Pauline Hanson and One Nation. It was galling that Hanson as she did to so many never showed any concern for the damage that Oldfield did to many of her followers. She could have supported Trewartha for his loyalty and stuck by him, but that was never part of the Hanson character. The girl who was so fond of quoting the upbringing that many of our generation grew up with like integrity, honesty and most of all loyalty showed none of these qualities toward those who bled and some quite profusely for her. Hanson deserved David Oldfield and earning that relationship she was to reap that which she had sown with not a care for anyone but herself.
Many, many Hanson fans now dislike her with sense of being used. Unlike most Hanson the fighter I admired, Hanson the individual I have long ago lost any respect I ever had for her.