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The ‘Abominable “No” Man’ – “Inside the Canberra Press Gallery: Life in the Wedding Cake of Old Parliament House” – Rob Chalmers

May 26th, 2012 · No Comments · Economics, Policy, Politics, Quotes

The more influential businesspeople did not turn up at the front counter in William Street; they went to Canberra to see the Minister for Agriculture and Commerce, McEwen. What they did not know was that McEwen would have made up his mind in advance of seeing any delegation whether he could revise a licensing decision or not. If he could help and if those seeking his assistance were important to him and the Government, he would see a visiting delegation. If not, the task of breaking the bad news fell to his undersecretary, Reginald Swartz. A rotund, pleasant man, quite bald with a round face and a neat moustache (he was known throughout Parliament as ‘Curley’), Swartz had a polite manner that belied his heroic background. He enlisted in the AIF in November 1940 with the rank of captain, served with the 2/26 Infantry Battalion in the Malaysian campaign and spent 3.5 years as a POW, some of it on the ghastly Burma–Thailand Railway. He won the Queensland seat of Darling Downs in 1949 for the Liberals. Swartz would see the delegations pleading for an import licence, hear them attentively and then say ‘no’. In the gallery and among importers, he became known as the ‘Abominable “No” Man’.

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