Feb 6, 2018

Australia’s most notorious political turncoats — Part I

Martin Hamilton-Smith may hold the current trophy for ship-jumping, but Crikey has learned of a few leaders of wobbly loyalty who would give him a run for his money.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Our piece on Martin Hamilton-Smith, in which we asked whether he was Australia's biggest turncoat, prompted a wave of feedback from readers about who really deserved that title. So in the interests of completionism, Crikey has talked to a group of Australian political historians about their favourites. Here's our first installment, in no particular order:

Mal Colston

Colston was an ALP senator and Doctor of Philosophy, elected 1975. After 20 fairly nondescript years -- aside from perpetual questions surrounding his use of expenses -- and frustrated by his lack of progress up the ranks, he jumped ship in 1996. He quit the ALP and stayed in the Senate as an independent, giving his vote to the new Howard government, which they needed for the privatisation of Telstra (a policy vehemently opposed by Labor at the time). He was rewarded with election to Senate vice president for his trouble.

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8 thoughts on “Australia’s most notorious political turncoats — Part I

  1. cp

    I don’t see what the big deal is with these bastards eating​ each other. It’s quite refreshing actually. The real scumbags are their “loyal” political colleagues screwing us over.

  2. Wayne Robinson

    My nomination for a turncoat is Albert Field, who was nominated by Joh Bjelke-Petersen-Petersen to replace a Labor senator who’d died in 1975. As an irony, the person the ALP nominated for the casual vacancy was Mal Colston.

    Field was a member of the ALP, but was very much a social conservative, vowing never to vote for the Whitlam government.

    He was on leave from the Senate at the time of the Whitlam dismissal, there being some doubt that he was eligible to sit in the Senate owing to section 44 banning people receiving profits of the crown to sit in parliament. The opposition had refused to provide a pair, so they had a majority and were able to defer supply.

    1. Nudiefish

      My vote as well, Wayne.

    2. zut alors

      Yes, it’s a great tale. Too impossible to make up.

  3. AR

    I wish that there were some other motive for Kernot’s abandonment of her colleagues and electorate than having been love bombed.
    And by Gareth Gareth Garrulous !

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Sir John Kerr put in a diva performance in turncoatism. A once faithful friend of Gough Whitlam he was the one to butcher him. Bastard.

  5. AR

    Thanks for that cover pic – I can’t quite put my finger on the begging/cur metaphor – sort of a McAuley glyph.

  6. Norm

    But let’s not be too hard on Lucy Gichuhi defecting from Family First to the LNP. After all, if she had defected to Labor, Peter Dutton would, at this very moment, be plotting her deportation on whatever spurious, malicious grounds he could invent.

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