Jim Killen loved a joke, but he was especially fond of taking the mickey out of those who had an inflated view of their own importance and ability.

During the Fraser Government years, Jim Killen maintained a close friendship with Fred Daly, the former Labor Minister, who had retired from Parliament at the 1975 election. They often dined together and it was over one long dinner at Parliament House that they concocted perhaps the best sendup of all.

There was a vacancy in the Ministry, and Daly asked Killen who would fill it. When Killen replied that he had no idea, Daly suggested they set up three or four ambitious backbenchers who thought they deserved promotion and had grovelled to Fraser to achieve it.

The offices of the members were contacted by a secretary purporting to be from the Prime Minister’s office. The members were required by the Prime Minister at 8pm that night. All dutifully turned up – though somewhat embarrassed there was only one vacancy but three or four contenders!

When Fraser returned from dinner he asked his staff what the members were doing there. Told they said he had sent for them, Fraser exclaimed “get me Killen, but bring him in through the side door”.

Killen dutifully arrived with Daly in tow. Over a scotch or more, Fraser, Killen and Daly discussed everything but the hapless members still waiting just metres away.

After a couple of hours, Fraser called in his secretary and told her to tell the members they were no longer required.

He enjoyed the joke almost as much as Killen and Daly. And none of those who had waited embarrassingly for a couple of hours was appointed to the Ministry the next day.

Peter Fray

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