Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Talking Heads -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) THEME MUSIC This week, a man of many passions, Welcome to Talking Heads. railways and Greek archaeology. from football and broadcasting, has been incredibly varied. David Hill's life by tremendous enthusiasms But always marked as a rocket ship. He once described himself Good to see you, Peter. David, good to see you. It's been quite a while. Thanks for coming on Talking Heads. had an unpromising start. Now, you, in a sense, as a child migrant, You came to Australia written about this recently. and you've

sort of person you turned out to be? What was the impact of that, on the a tougher start than most I think because I had probably determination and perseverance, I think it certainly taught me I've relied on a lot in later life. which are qualities that is that if you hadn't been One thing which is undeniable, a very different life in the UK. the child migrant, you would have had Very different. Your opportunities

Oh, yes - oh, yes. would have been profoundly different. the Chairman of the Board of the ABC I tell the story that when I was I was introduced to my counterpart on a visit to London,

of governors of the BBC, the Chairman of the board Can you believe that? who was then Sir Marmaduke Hussey. and he's a Victoria Cross winner And when I arrived, and he opened the door and he'd lost a lower leg in WWII, a John Cleese, silly walk. and I thought it was Tea? - as he led me across the room. And - My dear boy do come in. Tea? And I said...he was a top bloke. that I had hoped that one day But I expressed the view the Chairman's office of the BBC I could go into a heavy Yorkshire accent and be confronted by

accent. But it will never be. or a lower working class Cockney working class background like me And yet, a kid from that lower the Chairman of Australian railways can come to Australia, and I'm and I'm the Chairman of the ABC, a fantastic country Australia is and that says what But at least that aspect despite all its flaws. Australian tradition prevails. of the great egalitarian ways. Now you've taken on the task You're the ultimate extrovert in some a writer. of being the loneliest occupation - Yeah, now that is a big adjustment. how I've managed to handle that. I'm surprised As being a parent is. It's a huge lifestyle change. Yes. Mid-50s. In your early 50s. And that has...changed me in a way nothing ever has. How has it changed you? but you know, I hate to use the word selfish, and I would have been torn between I was doing all this other stuff otherwise and parenting. what I was doing with my life And that's where it's changed. Now, I'm essentially, Damian's Dad. it thoroughly. It's just terrific. And I love him to bits and I enjoy My mum was a single parent. She already had two children when my twin and I were born. in a very poor post-war Britain pretty dire economic circumstances. And she was in child migrant schemes. There were a number of these

if you really love your children, The promise was that you'll make the ultimate sacrifice of your children to us, and you'll sign over guardianship and an education and we'll give them an opportunity in England. that you couldn't possibly, and my older brother was 14. My twin and I were 12 - nearly 13 the old SS Strathaird. We came out on luxury. It was really fantastic. We had never, never seen such to the stark reality And certainly, a big contrast when we got to Australia. of what we encountered the old Forbes mail train overnight, We were put on 3rd class, up to Molong. and very tough environment. It was a very spartan extensive vegetable gardens We baked our own bread and we had It was a big wheat and sheep farm. and orchards. A big dairy, poultry. twice a week. The kids also did the killing was largely a write-off. I'm afraid my schooling High School. I left school at 15. I was thrown out of Orange we had a mum who followed us out. Where I'm different is, the Fairbridge Farm School, And after we got back together as a family. I had to get a job, I came down to Sydney,

none of us had. but I'd never used a telephone - I'd never operated a bank account. in North Sydney, but I was so inept My first job was in a hardware store counting the nuts and bolts. I spent most of my time just

And I worked in various unskilled labouring jobs. enrolled at the local tech college It was boredom, really - I then and managed to matriculate a scholarship to Sydney University. and pick up the Fairbridge Farm School David, those scenes from are very familiar to you. Oh, yeah. guys there lifting those hay bales. In fact I recognised a couple of the I can remember doing that myself. Fairbridge, did you hate it? When your mum signed you up for it very distressing at first. That's an interesting one. I found But then you just get into it. It's interesting how quickly, become institutionalised. children particularly, What was expected of you? was designed in the Edwardian era. The Fairbridge Farm School scheme that all children needed And it was essentially the belief The kids cut each other's hair - was discipline and hard work. largely barefoot even in winter. so they looked terrible. We lived You went to the local school. and after school. You worked before school might have been a disaster On the face of it, your childhood except from the obvious love that you had, in both directions, with your mother. I think that was the difference. Well, Child Migrant Schemes that operated, And if you look at the don't really appreciate and Australians how big those schemes were, about 10,000 kids came out to Australia other of the Child Migrant Schemes. without their parents under one or They didn't end until about 1980. under one of those schemes And it was that I came here with two brothers. We were in the migration scheme But we were a bit older. and most importantly, for a shorter period, that followed us out to Australia. we had a mum kids never saw their mums again. Whereas most of these poor bloody of circumstance, those institutions, A lot of kids that are in that sort become very angry about the world and about other people. Did you do that? No, but I think it helps me explain my...strength of my political philosophies. My anger about social inequality. My anger about the rigid class structure in Britain.

But it's pretty hard for kids who know nothing else. For a lot of these kids - more than me - I was 12 when I went there. Imagine kids of four - they don't know this isn't normal.

The first real idea you had, was to be a teacher, wasn't it? It was really taking advantage of the scholarship that headed me in the direction of teaching. A teacher's scholarship. But I never did that, because when I finished my undergraduate...

..when I graduated in Economics at Sydney University amazingly, I got offered a job immediately, as a junior member of the teaching staff. David, you tried out being a journo for a time and had the distinction of being sacked personally by Rupert Murdoch.

Now, that's right. A mate of mine came in one Wednesday to borrow all my money - he was a mad punter - I'm not. And I was working and behind me was the sports section, I heard the race on radio and I wandered through. But everybody was scattering because this man in a short-sleeved pink shirt came past and I'd be the only person in the history of News Limited who didn't know it was Rupert. And he demanded to know what I was doing at the radio, and I said shush, I'm listening to the race. And I said, look, go and boss the copy boys around. And he insisted that I be sacked. But he was talked out of it. You didn't entirely abandon economics after you studied it and tutored it, because you took up jobs in merchant banks in the UK, didn't you? Both here, in Australia and in the UK, yes. It was while you were back in the UK that you really fell in love with Greece. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the place. The real reason I went to Europe was Greece. And every time the sun shone, or hinted at showing, I'd head off to the Mediterranean. It was spectacularly beautiful and it was just one continual party. It was also the sun and the sea. It was a lot of fun, but you can't do that forever, so I came back here.

Never before in Australia's history... Shortly after, by accident, I was introduced to Neville Wran. And I helped him on the campaign with economic and tax advice. And when he became Premier he asked me to set up his economic advisory team. Working for Neville Wran was like a launching pad of a rocket ship. We worked on the state budgets and state finances for four years. And then, at 33 years of age, because the railways were such a financial mess, I was appointed boss of the NSW Railways. An organisation that's losing 3 million dollars a day. 50,000 employees, 28 different unions. I mean, it was a real hot potato. And I had no management experience at all. consult. We're very keen to... We started to chalk up some successes - particularly getting the trains to run on time. I'd developed a reputation at the Railways

of being the, sort of, troubleshooter. And that was very much the case with the ABC. I think the great challenge facing the ABC, without any doubt at all, is that over the last 10 years or so, fewer Australians have been tuning in to ABC Radio and Television. The ABC was suffering a giant cultural cringe. I committed the ABC to making 100 hours of new, quality Australian drama for television each year. It was irresponsible because I had no idea what it would cost. But it was the best decision because it galvanised everybody.

And everybody knew we were fair dinkum. TV: The ABC's Managing Director, David Hill, has complained long and loud that the government... They had proposed some big cuts in the ABC funding. We embarked on an advertising campaign pointing out that the ABC only cost each Australian 8 cents a day

and the government backed off, and withdrew the proposed funding cuts. Well, it cost me any friendships in the Labor government.

During the time you were at the ABC you took on the Presidency of the North Sydney Bears rugby league club. And very quickly you got yourself into hot water over your fight against cigarette sponsorship. It was like pulling the pin out of a hand grenade. And it started a raging debate that resulted - overdue in my view - in the banning of tobacco sponsorship of sport.

I was an absolute pariah in the sporting world. Because they were seduced by the money. Nowadays, nobody would support tobacco sponsorship of sport. But at the time, it was quite... I was in a very unpopular position. So, there you are again, pulling the pin out of the hand grenade. In that one - I really enjoyed that one, though. Did you ever do a job interview for any of these posts you took on? No...Oh, one. When I became the Chairman of the Board of the ABC. OK, were you humble? In the sense that I don't think you're a very humble person. I didn't have to be. You've never been accused of being humble.

But were you humble in the sense of actually thinking I really don't know how to do this, what do I need to find out? Well, there's no point pretending to yourself you know what you're doing. I certainly presented myself with a level of confidence that really had no substance. Well, you must have thought to... I'm a very quick learner. I'm a very, very, very quick learner.

TV: Now to one of the most intriguing political contests in the state. I was asked by the Labor party to run in the seat of Hughes, which was a Liberal held seat. This is going to be a very tough seat to win I was in it to win it, but it was never on. And as my mum used to say, these things are meant to be. 1998, the year I ran unsuccessfully in Hughes federally, was also the year I married Stergitsa. It was just a coincidence that Stergitsa's from a Greek background but it is terrific that we both share a Greek heritage, and a love of Greece. I started getting involved with the Parthenon Marbles in the late 1990s. I became involved first of all with the Australians campaigning for the return of the Marbles. Now, I'm the president of the international body that's campaigning for the return of the sculptures. I feel very strongly about that. This is part of the growing love I've had for Greece over 35 years that I've been interested in the archaeology of the ancient city of Troizina that fell between history's cracks. I thought I'd best get some professional qualifications so I went back full-time and graduated at Sydney University in classical archaeology a few years ago. The Elgin Marbles, called the Parthenon Marbles, more generally. Outside Britain, anyhow. You'd married a Greek woman, you'd had a long-term love affair with Greek archaeology. Why did you take this on? This is surely a losing cause? I don't think it's a losing cause because I don't think the British have any reasonable grounds to keep on hanging on to them. They have for the last couple of hundred years. Yeah, but I think it's really been only the last 20 that's there's been a concerted campaign for them to be returned. Why am I involved? Why am I passionate about it? Here's another one of those issues which is about righting one of history's wrongs. It's wrong. It's unjust. The British should never have taken them. But even if there was an argument for Elgin taking them,

what everybody agrees are the world's most significant

surviving ancient artworks - it's a vast collection. They've got over 100 significant pieces of the sculptures in the British Museum. And a similar amount that never left Athens that are going into the new Acropolis Museum. And it's just struck me, and it's not often, if you think about it, we have an opportunity to right one of history's wrongs. But here, we do. That's certainly a motivation for my involvement. It's coincided with a time where, it might be said, you become unemployable. As a lot of CEOs do. It's hard to be CEO of more than one organisation. You'd been CEO of at least two. Oh, unemployable - no. Certainly, I'm lucky, because just by accident I've found writing books. Which is fantastic. I've found yet another very different career. So, where a lot of people would be struggling to find the encore, yet again, another opportunity has wafted past my nostrils and I've gone for it. I thought I'd try out my new-found skills by doing an archaeological-cum-heritage survey of the old ghost town of Fairbridge Farm Oh, dear me. Look at that. How different. And still, how the same. Yeah. They started doing that and I was asked to extend it to collect the oral histories of the Fairbridge kids. I had no idea of how disadvantaged those kids were. And how it cost them through their whole lives. Every childhood lasts a lifetime. I had no idea of the prevalence of abuse and neglect -

sexual and physical abuse that happened. When I was writing the book based on their stories, my little fellow turned five. Some of them were younger than him when they went there and spent their entire childhoods up there. I used to think bullets bounced off me, until I wrote that book.

People might ask, hey, how come you wrote a book about 1950s child migration to Australia and then end up writing 1788 about Arthur Phillip and the convict settlement of Australia? Well, there is a connection - it is migration. It is Britain getting rid of a class of people it doesn't want. I think all migrants to Australia remember the day they arrived here. I certainly do, when I arrived here as a boy on the SS Strathaird. And I'm sure the over 1,000 settlers that arrived on 11 leaking wooden boats in January 1788 remember coming through these heads of Botany Bay and anchoring here, just behind us. As a writer, I haven't attempted to analyse history, or extrapolate anything from it. I'm just telling their story of what happened.

I want to talk to you about Fairbridge separately - you include the allegations that the former Governor General, Lord Slim sexually abused children when he was patron, or head of that organisation. I didn't put those allegations into the book about Lord Slim. It was after the book was published and I was asked that very question by a journalist - when do you know what to include and not? And I said, well for example one of the boys at Fairbridge told me the story of him being sexually molested by Lord Slim, in the back of his Rolls Royce on an official visit to the Fairbridge Farm School at Molong. But when I was told, when I was writing the book, the guy that made the allegation wouldn't put it on the tape recording, wouldn't publicly defend the allegation It's in the book now - it's in the revised book.

It's in the revised book, because what happened was the journalist then published that story in the Sydney Morning Herald. And other boys came forward. But I have to tell you something else. The guy that first told me about Lord Slim, and I didn't use it because it was only him and he wouldn't defend it and I thought that was unfair on Slim. But I believed him. You know what? I think it's very unusual for children to make that stuff up. And when you get 60- and 70-year-old women talking about it for the first time... ..they don't make it up. So that's what you mean when you talk about the bullets not bouncing off. Yeah. Yes. Do you feel like you've done all you can do on that?

Now that there appears to be some reparation or compensation, yes. I think that's a good thing. It's not much,

but for a lot of these kids who've never had a lucky break, they might have something they can put away for their grandkids now, that they couldn't before. It's too little, it's too late, but it's something. Great way to travel. Yeah. Gold is the biggest single event in Australian history. You know, I can feel it in my bones. The gold.

It's a phenomenal story. With some phenomenal characters. I've seen lots of scratching around here, so anywhere round here's probably worth a go.

Might get a bit of a grassy patch over here... We're going back to where it all started. Where Hargraves found gold in February 1851. And we're going to uncover the gold that he didn't. Eureka - on the first pan!

It's only a speck but it's gold. Well, here at the Mitchell Library, it's another goldfield. All of the stuff we've seen up there in the goldfields, we can find here, and more. ..well, he died after this... Smiley was at Fairbridge Farms School with me. Let Smiley loose in an archive and he'll find some terrific stuff that most people, including me, wouldn't find. Oh, good save in goal. One all...

It's an accidental career, like most of my careers, this writing. But, I'm a very old first-time father and I'm just so lucky that I can fit around my son Damian. I can be part of his life in a way

that fathers of a normal age - they're off at work. The main things that I really like are swimming. Is that right? I can walk him to school and pick him up in the afternoon. When we leave the front gate, he reaches out and grabs my hand.

And I dare not tell him how precious that is. He's seven now and I know I'm on limited time, but isn't that fantastic? Oh, dear. Hey, Damian, I'm resigning. I win! Congratulations, good win, well played.

So there you go, Damian literally joins Boris Spassky in beating you at chess. They have that in common that they both beat me in a game of chess. But I have to say that I went closer with Boris Spassky than I did with Damian. You didn't have a father as a role model. What sort of role model would you want to be? Gee. You know, I've never thought of that. I don't want...I certainly don't want to push him. And, I just want him... ..I'd like him to enjoy life. And I'd like him to do good things with his life. From all those range of things you've done, from what do you derive most satisfaction? I think a sense of gratitude that I was able to enjoy so many, for so long. I'm just very grateful that I've been that lucky to be able to have done so many different, exciting, interesting and can I say, communally valuable things. David, it's been good talking to you. Thank you very much. CLOSED CAPTIONS BY CSI

PETER THOMPSON: 'Next week, the difficult journey of a former child star.' Cheers, cheers. 'Tina Arena, reinvented, smouldering and enjoying amazing success in France.

Monday at 6:30.' 'On Wednesday, Maggie and Simon are back.' We're talking about Australian food. SIMON: This smells great. This is beautiful food that's been used for a long time. 'Australian food. That's The Cook And The Chef, Wednesday at 6:30.'

This program is not subtitled This Program Is Captioned Live. Tonight, the death toll climbs in the bushfire disaster. All our are dead. dead. Towns wiped off the map with no chance of survival. And a nation mourns. a nation mourns. A tragedy beyond belief, beyond beyond belief, beyond precedent and really beyond words. and really beyond words. Good evening, welcome to ABC News. I'm Virginia I'm Virginia Haussegger. The death toll continues to rise in the wake of the wake of Australia's worst bushfire disaster. 131 people are At least 750 homes At least 750 homes are destroyed. 3,700 people destroyed. 3,700 people have registered homeless. We cross now homeless. We cross now to Ian Henderson who's in the Victorian town of Ovens. I'm