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A Fist Fight Between the PMO and the Gallery – “Inside the Canberra Press Gallery: Life in the Wedding Cake of Old Parliament House” – Rob Chalmers

June 1st, 2012 · No Comments · Democracy, Ethics, History, Journalism, Newspapers, Politics, Spin, The Media

During the 1951 election campaign, Cockburn (Menzies’ Press Secretary) was standing just to one side on the stage of the Adelaide Town Hall. Menzies was about to make his entrance and Cockburn, a bit edgy, was to give a signal to the ABC sound technician in the hall preparing to broadcast the event. The hall was well filled when Ian Fitchett came to Cockburn and demanded to know there and then details of the trip the press party was to take with Menzies to the Woomera rocket range the next day. Cockburn was saying things such as ‘in a minute, Fitch’ and ‘can’t you see I’m busy’. With this, Fitchett, who could be a spiteful bastard, said: ‘You’re a fucking Murdoch stooge [a reference to Sir Keith Murdoch, Rupert’s father and at the time running the Melbourne Herald]; ‘you’re holding it back for the Herald.’ Cockburn’s temper flared and he punched Fitchett in the face. Fitchett staggered back and then replied with a punch right on Cockburn’s chin, almost knocking him out, but Cockburn responded and landed a punch into Fitchett’s ample stomach. A police inspector and Alan Reid (Sydney Sun) broke up the scuffle. Cockburn remembers an outraged Fitchett declaring: ‘He king-hit me.’ This he repeated many times the next day in Woomera and for some days after that. Cockburn said that although most journalists and people in the packed hall awaiting Menzies’ arrival witnessed the incident, surprisingly there was absolutely no report in the media.

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