mid-century maunderings for men who know better

The Iconoclast

smoothmodernist remembers Don Dunstan for more than just his aesthetic statements. smoothmodernist applauds that eminently sensible sartorialist for his blending of utility with panache and his visionary leadership as Premier of South Australia.

The middle image illustrates Dunstan on the steps of parliament demonstrating how relaxed  parliamentary dress rules can bring about an unambiguous display of one’s bona fides. Dunstan helmed South Australia with verve and courage.

In one of those smooth and convincing tricks memory plays, smoothmodernist recalls a mauve safari suit. And why not? If the Premier of South Australia will conduct his business at the despatch boxes in a pair of snug pink shorts, why not a mauve safari suit?

“I think people should have a good sense of dress and of design and colour and texture and material. Their clothes should be comfortable and well designed.”

If a man dresses and behaves differently from his peers, if he chooses not the easy approval of the ragged mob, if he cares not for cheap applause and the witless approval of the salivating rustics, oafs and yokels that hold sway over the popular mind, if his sense of self-worth does not depend on the base instinct for popularity that so many men in power deploy, if he makes a difficult and unpopular decision because it is right, then we can expect great things.

Don Dunstan did great things.

It cannot be overstated how the reforms enacted during his time in office rival his lionised federal counterpart, Gough Whitlam, in vision, justice and fairness. His government was the first in Australia to pass legislation to begin the process of recognising Aboriginal land rights, enact anti-discrimination legislation, enshrine consumer protection, reform health and education, decriminalise homosexuality, appoint the first female judge and the first indigenous governor, create a ministry for the environment and abolish the death penalty.

Vanity is a powerful goad and the iconoclast is vain, superior, and even blind to his own shortcomings. Long may it remain so. At times Dunstan was linked to tawdry scandal and petty smears, his government was not immune from accusations of corruption. After nearly a decade as South Australia’s longest serving ALP premier, in 1979, after the death of his second wife, he resigned citing ill-health and Doctor’s orders. He died in 1999 aged 72.


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This entry was posted on October 22, 2012 by in Doug Nicholls, Indigeneous rights and tagged .
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