Former defence minister and one of the many self-appointed leaders of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party Kevin Andrews will return to his alma mater on Wednesday night to deliver the 36th Daniel Mannix Lecture, speaking on “Joseph Lyons and the management of diversity”. The Melbourne University lecture series, which invites prominent Australians to speak about “the art of public leadership in Australia”, was actually started by Andrews when he was a student living in residence at Newman College, the host of the event. So who was Andrews’ first call back in 1977? To none other than B.A. Santamaria, to speak on the topic of former Archbishop Daniel Mannix himself. What a way for Andrews to get in Santamaria’s good books. A tipster tells us that in that speech, Santamaria made the “nonsense” claim that Catholics faced living in ghettos over their faith:

“Unless Catholics were prepared to cut themselves adrift from their own traditional religious culture, and to confine their Catholicism to Sunday Mass and private prayer, they would have been doomed by inadequate education to remain the inhabitants of a poverty stricken ghetto. The most able would face the constant temptation to abjure their faith in order to ascend the ladder to temporal success.”

We’ll leave that claim and whether it is nonsense to our more learned colleagues. Andrews is also a member of the Newman College council. The speech has not always been a conservative Catholic love-in, with Peter Garrett, Waleed Aly and Julian Burnside on the illustrious list of former speakers. Perhaps next year the students should invite another one of Newman’s powerful alumni to speak on leadership — Peta Credlin. It would go a small way to correcting the major gender imbalance in speakers, and would keep the attendees awake for much longer than Andrews will tomorrow night.