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A Life -

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EXTRACT (Archive Tape)

BOB SANTAMARIA: How do you do? What's actually happening in China today is a fascinating subject for inquiry, as continued news of the activities and excesses of the Red Guards come into the Western Press.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: He's been called the most prominent lay Catholic in Australian history, a politician who never stood for office, an idealist and hard-line ideologue. Tonight, we profile a man whose activism has spanned almost 60 years - B A Santamaria.

Hello, I'm Geraldine Doogue. Welcome to the first of our new series of interviews with Australians who've influenced our national destiny.

Tonight, we'll meet a man still very much in the public eye but who cut his teeth on the politics of the 1940s and left his indelible mark on the tumultuous '50s. Whatever his protestations, B A Santamaria actively shaped our history. He influenced a generation's voting habits and their attitudes to Communism, the Labor movement and the church. And yet, these last two institutions - the Labor movement and the Australian Catholic church - eventually rejected their one-time champion fearing his potential as both wrecker and crusader. For he was that dangerous blend; exceptional, ambitious and out of sympathy with the 20th century - Against the tide, the title he chose for his autobiography.

So, I'd like to introduce you now to the life and times of one of Australia's most controversial characters, one of our real men of passion.

Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria's noble name belies the humblest beginnings in working-class Melbourne as one of six children of Italian immigrant shopkeepers. Early on, the easier moniker of 'Bob' was duly applied. Love of church and family instilled along with devotion to the Carlton Australian Rules football team. A Christian Brothers education led to a scholarship at Melbourne University during the Depression years - an era that would profoundly influence his political attitudes in the years to come.

BOB SANTAMARIA: When I see myself as a boy in Brunswick, I suppose that the most important things to me was the fact I was born of an Italian family and therefore that it would have been the family unit would have been very strong. Secondly, it would have been an Italian family and so I felt that I had a strong link with Italy and whatever Italy meant. I had a very strong link with my own school which was a Christian Brothers school just around the back of our place. The school was very important to me and the school was what after my family introduced Catholicism into my life. I was only a stone's throw from the parish church in Brunswick - that was a big thing too. And I hesitate to say it but I was a few stone's throw from the Carlton football ground and that was a big thing to me. And if you put all of those things together they would have summed up the influences that really formed me at the very beginning.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Would you always have felt so comfortable to describe the Italian influence as so strong?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Always. As a matter of fact, one of my earliest recollections was when I was about three and a half years old, I only remember it because my mother told me about it later on but it did come back. When I was little more than a baby I used to always talk in Italian dialect and my mother used to be very worried about it in the train, that I'd be talking loudly in Italian dialect, that people would be looking at us and she said that on one occasion I simply said to her: But what's the problem, we're Italians? And while there is no doubt at all as to where the centre of my loyalties has been and is today, which is Australia, that close link with an Italian background and Italian culture is one of the most important things in my life.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: You said in your autobiography 'we learned to take the appellation 'dagoes' and not to challenge the superiority of our white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (or Catholic) tormentors, there were too many of them'

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, that's right. I don't know what is said in the outside world today. Nobody calls me that today but it was very common when you were very young and going to school.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Did it hurt?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I didn't like it but I didn't have to make the, sort of, fetish out of it that they make in multicultural circles today. I think that those things can become too important to you and stop you doing things, but the one thing that did hurt about it was when I heard my mother called that and that I couldn't forgive. But beyond that, I let those things go through to the keeper.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But did you every resent the sheer ... the Irishness of the place?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, as a matter of fact I felt completely at home in what was an Irish Catholic community, much more than I do today.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: It's a bit odd in a way, isn't it?

BOB SANTAMARIA: It's very odd but you've got to understand that I was brought up in that environment and all the friends with whom I played football, very badly, and cricket a little better, were all of that group, that cast, that whatever you want to call it and I felt myself part of them.

I was living in a suburb that was stricken by the depression, probably more than almost any other suburb in Australia. The average level of unemployment throughout the Depression was, I understand, about 30 per cent. They said in Brunswick it was between 30 and 40 per cent. And I saw the fathers of my closest friends at St Ambrose's reduced to absolute penury, having nothing to live on. We, in a little fruit shop, always had something to live on, but I saw much worse than that and I have to say that I deeply resented the system that had reduced them to that.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But it was the targeting of the Catholic church during the Spanish Civil War that led Santamaria to swim against the tide of political fashion.

Most Western left-thinking intellectuals supported the republican fight but Santamaria, by now involved in the Catholic intellectual group - the Campion Society, consolidated his lasting view that fundamental world conflict would always involve Communism.

BOB SANTAMARIA: I didn't think about the communists in that way, as a practical problem. I have mentioned somewhere that I did think of Communism as a theoretical problem because of an accidental discovery of a book by Malcolm Muggeridge - whom then I didn't know at all, I'd never heard of his name - it was called Winter in Mosco w and it was his description of what went on during the collectivisation of the peasantry in Russia. He was in the Ukraine at the time. I think he was the Manchester Guardian correspondent. And so I had a realisation but it seemed a distant thing to me, it didn't seem a local problem at all, and my mind was concentrated on what was around me. There were two things that directed my attention to the Spanish Civil War. The first was, naturally, what was happening and there was no doubt about it to the priests and particularly to the nuns wherever the anarchists and the communists got control.

I often wondered whether I understood the other side as well as I should have, simply because there must have been an enormous deal of social injustice in Spain to lead to that explosion, but it was that that emotionally moved me, if you like.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: And the effect on the church, it was fundamental?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Yes, that was fundamental. But there was something else that I reasoned out for myself. You see, the theory was, during the Spanish Civil War, that it was a war between democratic republicans and fascists. I could see very well that what would happen at the end would be that the democratic and republican leadership would be got rid of and the ultimate victors, in my judgment, would have been the Spanish Communists. And I was greatly reassured later on in reading Orwell's personal experiences on the Catalonian front and so on. But I could see then that if Russia, if the Soviet Union, really got a base at that side of the Mediterranean, the whole strategic situation for the Western democracies would be changed. And so there was an emotional thing, if you like, through the attack on the church; there was an intellectual thing because of the strategic view which I was already developing in those years, and both of those led me to the same conclusion.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Santamaria had already started publishing the Catholic worker newspaper by this time and had met his great friend and mentor, Daniel Mannix.

Archbishop Mannix was a powerful figure to Australian Catholics for over half a century, a committed political activist with at formidable intellect, devoted to the development of a strong lay leadership within the church. In the young Bob he would find a precocious intelligence, endless energy and drive and shared political ideals. In turn, Mannix had the authority, connections and leadership that would inspire Santamaria in his coming quest against Communism.

BOB SANTAMARIA: First of all, I never met him until he was 72 years of age and when he was 72, I suppose, I was 21. I wanted to start this paper called the Catholic worker which ultimately was to deal with Depression things and so on. I think that that would have been in 1935. So, in 1935 I would have been 19 or 20. And of course he was a legend. Even in our home where there was no great degree of education, he was regarded as the leader and I simply asked him the question - and I was amazed to notice that he didn't answer my question as to whether I could start the paper - and I'll tell you the answer that he gave me in a moment. He talked to me for two hours and he went over the gamut of everything; the Abyssinian War, the Spanish Civil War, the Depression and so on, and at the end of the time - at the end of two hours - he hadn't told me whether I could start the Catholic worker or not. So I thought he was brushing me off. So I raised the question: Well, may I or may I not? He said: You don't need any permission from me. But, he said: If you want to see me, see me. And so I did and I started it with some friends. And to me that remained the greatest expression of trust, and I would have thought foolish trust in somebody as young as I was, and it remained with me to the very end. And I saw him only two days before he died - I saw him on the night he died as a matter of fact, when he was just under 100 years of age, so it went a long way.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Would you still say you have not seen his like again? Does he remain the pinnacle for you?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Absolutely. And you may regard this as fantasy but when I face a problem that I cannot solve, a serious problem, in the light of my own reasoning capacity, I often say to myself, how would he have tackled it? And if I can answer that question to my own satisfaction, I know what I've got to do.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: So you miss him?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Very much. Very much.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: He was your intellectual equal. That's what strikes me.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Vastly my superior.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Really?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Absolutely, of course, no comparison.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: And theologically you admired him?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, I'm not a great admirer of theology as a science. I think there's a good deal of speculation in theology and I think he wasn't a great admirer of it either. I thought that he brought to religion what he brought to everything else that he touched which was common sense. In other words you didn't seek for esoteric explanations and long words and so on. You looked at things as the ordinary man would look at them and come to the ordinary man's conclusion. And I never found anything that he said that was really something that I'd rebel against because it seemed to be what I would have said in his situation.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: If the '30s were a time of intellectual development for Santamaria, then the industrial turmoil of the following two decades would see his ripening as a political warrior.

Australia had barely recovered from the traumas of the Depression, and despite growing union muscle, blue-collar workers often faced conditions that were backbreaking and dangerous.

To many, the revolution promoted by the Communist Party was not only seductive, it was vital. In the early '40s, through the help of rank and file members, Communists gained strong footholds in unions and the Labor Party, despite the antagonism of Prime Minister Chifley and his Attorney-General - later Labor leader - Dr Evatt.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape): In recent years a sinister force has appeared in our world. Its leader and its army preach a new gospel, the gospel of materialism, with a greed that denies God and says that you, the individual, has no soul and no human rights. That sinister force is Communism.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: There were strong reservations too, among some workers. Concerned unionists turned to their religious leaders and the cerebral Santamaria unwillingly became an activist.

BOB SANTAMARIA: I wasn't fundamentally interested politically. I have to emphasise that. I'm not fundamentally interested politically today. I want some results that can only be got through politics. Now, the only reason that I became interested in the Communist problem at the beginning of the '40s, was that it was put to me. I didn't come to that conclusion despite everything that I had felt about Spain, as an Australian problem, until a group of what would be regarded today as leaders of the moderate grouping in the Labor Party - this was at the time when Lang was high flowing and so on - went, I understand, to the leaders of the various religious denominations and said that they had actually lost control of the unions, of the major unions, and that this was flowing over into the machinery of the Labor Party, because the unions were 75 per cent of the delegations to a Labor Party conference, and that they believed that the moderate elements would lose control and that a pro-Communist or Communist force would take control of the Labor Party. And they were said to have asked the different religious denominations would they encourage their people to do something about it. Well, the only denomination which was large numerically, which had a working class membership who were Labor people, who were unions, were the Catholics and they were the only ones who could do anything.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Santamaria, with financial backing from Archbishop Mannix, used the church to encourage and coerce Catholics to involve themselves in their union and to lead the way against Communism.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape): The response of Catholic trade unionists was to form the Movement, which was later to become the National Civic Council, in order to confront Communist organisation in the unions with counter-organisation. Later, when the Labor Party formed its own resistance, the industrial groups, the Movement threw its whole weight behind them so that the opposition to Communism would be on a basis beyond denomination.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Marked by a pervasive tone of drama and even secrecy, one of the great crusades of Australian politics had begun.

I want to ask you about your logic then and now, the logic in setting up the Movement. What was it then, and when you reflect upon it now, what is your verdict?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, granted that you had the view of the Communist problem after I studied the question, you felt that something had to be done about it. The characteristic liberal, in those days I think it was UAP, view was: Oh, you'd introduce legislation to ban the Communist Party and so on. I must say that I never had any faith in that they would have enough courage to do it anyway and what's more I knew it would be totally ineffective. All you would do would be to drive them underground and give them the cloak of martyrdom which I thought was a stupid thing to do. If you were going to do anything, you had to create a counterforce and it had to be based on people who were where the fight was, in the factories, in the workshops and in the unions and that's what we set out to do.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: It would be fair to say you love a good fight.

BOB SANTAMARIA: I'm a coward. I'd much rather loll on the beach at Mornington.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: I don't believe you. Nothing in your life suggests that is true.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, you should come and see me at Mornington. No, I am. But nevertheless, if things have got to be done they've got to be done and so what we set up was a movement that was counter to the Communist movement.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Were you, in effect, Catholic Communists as people have suggested to me?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, far from Communist but if you have to have an organisational struggle in the trade union movement, you must build an organisation that is capable of fighting in the trade union movement. It's ... we were anti-Communist, not Communist.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape): Marx House, Sydney headquarters of the Australian Communist Party, scene of a dramatic raid by officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Workers in the five-storey building are taken by surprise as 24 Commonwealth police begin the raid which is authorised by the Attorney-General, Dr Evatt. Police are believed to have seized lists of Communists and sympathisers.

BOB SANTAMARIA: I must say that if I hadn't been able to read their text books I could never have done it. I learnt from them. The only thing that we wouldn't do ... there was no question of violence. You can go through the whole of our career in that period, you will never find that even alleged, I think. I simply believe that if you could bring them to the ballot you could win and I turned out to be wrong because when I knew that we were winning there were two things that stopped us. One was, that the ballots were crooked and the Communists had an enormous advantage over us. You see if ours could have been a movement of a number of religious denominations it would have been easy, but they could isolate us as Catholics and they could say to people wherever they were seeking influence: Look, it's Rome versus Moscow. And there are a lot of people in Australia who would rather have Moscow than Rome even without being Communist.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But weren't you playing into some of those fears by the nature of the Movement, its allusions to extremism and zealotry, wasn't that a risk you took?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, after all ... of course it was a risk I took. That's like saying to soldiers who are going over ... out of the trenches: Weren't you taking a risk of being shot? I mean, if you're going to fight, you've got to take risks. It's never fought out in a nice room like this. The factors are not always in your hands. In other words, it would have been much more convenient if I could have got Anglicans and Methodists but they weren't there.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Well, you wouldn't admit them to the Movement would you? Non-Catholics weren't admitted, am I right there?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, you're ... well, yes. The Movement as it turned out, when there was nobody else, was a Catholic thing. But the purpose of developing the concept of the industrial groups, ALP industrial groups - branches, in effect, of the Labor Party - was to widen the whole of the struggle so that there would be an agency in which people regardless of religion could be involved, and we could be the guarantees because we had numbers there to give them. So, what I was trying to do was to get out of the dilemma in which we found ourselves.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Your sense of cataclysm, imminent cataclysm, around that time, do you think now, you were right?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, I haven't got, never had a sense of imminent cataclysm. We were engaged in one small wing of a world-wide struggle known as the Cold War. I never misunderstood the importance or the context of the Australian struggle. Like things Australian, it doesn't really matter except to Australians, and my only view was not that there was a cataclysm but it was important for us to win our part of the fight. That's not a cataclysmic view, that's commonsense.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: You use hyperbole, though.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Of course I do. Have you heard anybody who tries to move people when he's speaking who doesn't use hyperbole?

GERALDINE DOOGUE: I'm wondering whether you believe it yourself. It's really an effort to try to find out what people have often wondered, does Santa believe the world is in such a terrible shape?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I believe, throughout the Cold War, that the great issue was between Communism and what I might broadly call the Western democratic system. I believe that it was a great historic struggle and what's more, I believe that Gorbachev and Yeltsin, now, agree with my view that it was a great historic struggle. Reagan believed that it was a historic struggle. Attlee believed that it was a historic struggle. I think it's all very well 20 years later on, when the Soviet Union has ended in general collapse because it was fought, to say: Oh well, it wasn't really a great issue at all. It was one of the greatest issues in history.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Did it compare with the fight against Nazism?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Of course, it was much more important than the fight against Nazism. Nazism could only win if it won military victory. Communism could win through international organisation founded on ideology; it's a much greater problem.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape): Sensational scenes are witnessed at Kingsford-Smith airport, Sydney, as Mrs Petrov is about to begin her journey back to Russia.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: In the '50s, the death of Communism was far from certain. It was a time of high emotion.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape): .... when the crowd seems likely to get out of hand, airport staff run out fire hoses with the idea of breaking up demonstrators with water power but the water was never turned on, for though excited and hostile the crowd did not riot.

An attempt is being made to put Mrs Petrov aboard the airliner on the wrong side using the crew ladder but hundreds surge onto the tarmac, yelling to her Russian guards to release Mrs Petrov. Their hostility surges up in an angry roar.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Looking at the coverage of the Petrov affair now, it is as shocking as it surely must have been when shown in picture theatres nearly 40 years ago.

Distrust and suspicion were in ample supply. Everywhere the fight for and against Communism led to accusations, bitter recriminations, personal antagonisms and enmities that last to this day. It would split friends, families and eventually the Labor Party. And in the background was B A Santamaria. Not in any political party, he had never even run for office but he was the ultimate political mover and shaker, often an object of public derision, even hatred.

Detractors would claim he was an inflexible ideologue, an hysteric, who just like the Communists sought to win at any cost.

If I could ask you to, sort of, cast your verdict on your tactics of the '50s, post-split, could you do so for me? Do you think that there were losses that you could have prevented?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, I don't think .... I don't think that there were any losses that could have been prevented. Once Evatt had made his decision and rallied all of the forces around himself, which he did rally, the difficulties and the arguments that arise are inevitable in any struggle whether it's a military struggle or a political struggle. In the light of after events, you can perhaps say you do things in a different way, but the responsibility for the bitterest sectarian struggle in the history of Australia since conscription, does not belong to us at all. We never invoked it, we could only be destroyed by it. And for as long as one could we fought for the protection, the recognition, of the ALP for the industrial groups that kept people of all views together and it was taking away that accolade, if you like, which in the end was what the struggle was all about.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Do you look back on the emotions that were stirred at that time, which you know occurred, with regret?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I suffered from them more than anybody else did. You would not know what happens to your own children and so on, in those situations. But I want to make it very clear, the split was organised quite deliberately by Evatt, to recover from the procedure of the Petrov commission, organised calculatedly, Delziel says, on sectarian lines in order to win. And I don't accept any responsibility for what followed that.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Despite his high decency as a person, he has always been a crusader but never a healer. The Melbourne psychologist, Ronald Conway, said that of you in Quadrant, in 1990, and I wonder whether you think that's fair?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, I can only answer that in two ways. Whenever I hear a politician getting up and saying that he's going to embark upon a healing process, I know that he's a crook. He's either won an election or lost an election and he's trying to get an alibi for it. Nobody engages in healing processes and nobody demonstrates compassion or justice as they always talk about, but without defending myself, the truth is that right through my life I've found some thousands of people to work with all the time. I think that if they'd hated my guts they wouldn't have worked with me.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Isn't it a noble aim to be a healer?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Oh yes, but look, it's a cliche. The important thing is to do something that advances the prospects of your country, your community and that improves the prospects of the people who are coming afterwards. If healing simply means compromising with people that you believe are destroying the prospects of your children and the children of everybody else, the point is to change that situation. Now, after that if like a football match, which you've referred to, you can turn around and shake hands with the opponent - that's great, but don't confuse the shaking hands after the bell with what has got to be done before the bell.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Are you conscious of the fact that as a result of your activities, people have had to make huge decisions about loyalties, whole families were divided during the '50s as they struggled, wrestled with a sense of loyalties to the church or to you or to Labor?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, the ... I really believe ... first of all, a general premise, yes.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: You're conscious of ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: There are one or two things, yes, that I regard, not very many things, as essential and I don't deny the fact that on those things that I regard as essential I don't compromise, but there are not very many of those ....

GERALDINE DOOGUE: That doesn't make you totalitarian in any way?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No. I mean, a man is a totalitarian when he uses the power of government to persecute his enemies. What's totalitarian about a more or less democratic movement that has got its own policies, that votes ... the mixture, the concept of totalitarianism with the internal dynamics of any organisation in which there are always divisions of opinion. There have to be if they're a human being and you've always got to resolve them in some way, otherwise you simply fade away into nothingness. But that's a very different thing from totalitarianism. I mean, there are no trials, you haven't got the power of government, you haven't got any power.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But Santamaria and the Movement were accumulating power on a scale that made some in the Catholic church alarmed. For while Archbishop Mannix's hopes for lay leadership were being fulfilled, in Sydney the clergy sensed trouble for the hierarchy and its flock.

When discussions began about the formation of the Democratic Labor Party to represent Catholics, the pragmatic Sydney-siders worried. Catholics, they reasoned, could become more marginalised, risking all the power and influence already gained in New South Wales.

The church turned to its ultimate weapon. It called in the Vatican, who opted for strict separation of church and politics.

The Sydney branch of the church decided that there were damage control measures that could be set in for the sake of the church.

BOB SANTAMARIA: No.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Are you disappointed with their behaviour?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I'm not disappointed with their behaviour. The truth is that they bailed out.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But was it for the sake, was it for the greater good? That's exactly what I'm asking.

BOB SANTAMARIA: No ....

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Was there a useful compromise for the sake of the Catholics?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I would say that, and of course I can't pretend to be in another man's mind or conscience looking at it from the outside, that those who made the choice, and I know very well who made the choice ....

GERALDINE DOOGUE: This is Archbishop James Carroll?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Yes. Were very keen to ensure that Catholics who were in the Cabinet and in the judiciary and in public positions, should retain their positions, that they should not be jeopardised.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Wasn't that a valid thought?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Very valid thought. That is, against the real issue of total unimportance.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: And the real issue was?

BOB SANTAMARIA: The real issue was to make sure that Communism in Australia did not regain the ground that it had got and there would have been many ways in which that difficulty with Sydney could have been avoided.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: So they were seduced by temporary power?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Seduced is your word, not my word. They made a choice. I understand why they made the choice. I disagree with their choice.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: The Vatican appears to have agreed with them fundamentally?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No. The Vatican as a matter of fact, if you look at the final Vatican judgment, it wanted to help them, I have no doubt about that. But, in fact, made it very clear in the fifth of the five terms, that we were perfectly entitled to continue our struggle under our own steam.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: As laity?

BOB SANTAMARIA: As laity or as citizens. My emphasis is on citizens and from that moment I simply accepted that.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But didn't the Vatican ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: I was given the choice: Do I want to work with the Bishops and eschew the struggle in the unions, or do I want to continue the struggle in the unions, and it was no easy choice. And I chose the second and the vast majority of the Movement chose it with me. And from that day to this we have never once, even remotely, looked to the church for support, never. The Movement has continued its work. To make it clear that there was a fundamental change, we changed its name. What was the Social Movement became the NCC and continues today, but on our own steam. And it would never change even if we were to be offered a million a year to resume the original relationship; and we won't be of course, I can assure you. I would never change from that.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But you see that looking on, one of the great institutions in your life, other than your family, the Catholic church, turned its back on you and said, we don't want ... you are too dangerous for us.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, they did the same to Don Luigi Stritza(?) the head of the popular party in Italy and chose Mussolini. They did the same to Breuning and Adenauer in Germany and chose Von Papen. They did the same to the Cristeros(?) in Mexico, it fought for them with their lives and in the end those men were killed. These are mistaken judgments in my mind, and I understand why the decisions have got to be taken, but you can't expect me to applaud them.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Did you feel betrayed?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, I don't ....

GERALDINE DOOGUE: You'd never admit it?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, it's not a matter of not admitting it. If you follow Australian rules football, you realise that it's part of the game.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: The referee is fallible.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Exactly.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: In a letter to Father .... Gallagher, of 19 August 1958 ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: You must have been reading my files.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: I've read a lot. You declared, 'my primary responsibility is to God, not to the state, nor to the hierarchy, nor to the party, nor to any individual'. Is that how you still see it, and have you fulfilled that responsibility?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I can't say that I've fulfilled that responsibility. I don't regard myself as particularly exemplary in that regard, but as an abstract statement of where one's philosophy is I ... as a matter of fact, I didn't realise that I had as much sense as that at that time.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Your faith hasn't wavered through all these years?

BOB SANTAMARIA: I suppose that I would be, I'd give you a wrong impression if I didn't say that I understand all of the arguments against belief. I understand most of them I think. I think it would have been quite easy for a person with a different background who hadn't devoted himself for most of his life, as I have, to thinking on the subject to say: Well, the New Testament, the scriptures, are all a bunch of old wives' tales that have been told a thousand times in the learned books about the countries and other cultures. In other words, I've thought about it a long time and I simply come to the conclusion there as I do with most other things that on the balance of evidence, at the end of the day, I still say: I believe. And I hope never to change from that ....

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Is it still ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: .... but of course I've still got some way to go.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Is it still the same consolation, though, is there still that certitude? I understand, I believe, ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: Yes, there is personal certitude. There isn't the same consolation as one would have. I think that you would understand that belonging to the Catholic church in the '50s was belonging to a winning team. It's not belonging to a winning team in the '90s. But, perhaps, Christianity can be brought once again to be a winning team.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Bob Santamaria has now fought for his team for over half a century. His public career has taken in media commentary, political lobbying and grand scale efforts at agenda setting.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape)

BOB SANTAMARIA: Those who gathered in this great assembly only a year ago will remember that then a ferocious war was being waged in South Vietnam. Whatever the merits of that struggle there were people in this country who seem to believe that it was being waged half a world away but there were others that tried to point out that Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was, in fact, no further from Darwin than Melbourne is from Darwin - 2,000 miles.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: The threat of Communism may have subsided but Santamaria has continued to keep a watchful eye on the affairs of Australia, finding a stage for his beliefs long after many old battle weary colleagues have left the forum.

I'm wondering whether in some ways you miss that sheer stridency?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, I don't, no. You've got to understand that at my particular stage in life you don't look for stridency. No, I don't miss it at all.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But there was an enormous passion ....

BOB SANTAMARIA: There was an enormous passion, but it rather tends to obscure the fact that the real problem today that confronts this country is no longer a matter of those extrovertish passions. When you look at the economic crisis which confronts this country which is as serious as anything that happened in the course of the '50s and the condition of political paralysis, these things don't lend themselves, in a sense, to demonstrations or anything like that, but they're still equally serious.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: What sort of society would Australia be today, if your social ideas of the '40s and '50s had been implemented? If you had got what you wanted ideally?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, I don't believe that that was ever likely to happen but the only thing that I can say is I do not believe that there would be the immense economic problem confronting this country at the present moment. I don't believe that the abandonment of all controls over the financial system would have taken place. It certainly wouldn't have taken place if I'd had anything to say about it. And I don't believe that the division of society the increasing division of society, into rich and poor would have taken place. As a matter of fact, the man who best expressed the opposite philosophy was Menzies. You remember his series of speeches that he published in The forgotten people. Whether he meant it or not, I don't know; I think he did. But the society which he envisaged was a society based upon small ownership, small proprietorship, professions, artisans, families, homes owned by their own people. That sort of society is an inherently better society than the one that we've got in which the two poorest elements in our community are supporting parents, who are the lowest although numerically the greatest, but the single income family. And the division of our society between the very rich and that group of very poor is progressively going on all of the time and, ultimately, will have very profound social consequences. I think it would have been better than that.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Are you ashamed of anything that occurred over your long career? Are there points that you look back on and your conscience is heavy?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, you're inviting me to reveal myself as being completely stupid. There must be things about which I should be, but I'm not conscious of them. If I were I would tell you. Now, I do want to emphasise the first point, there must be things about which I should be, but I'm not conscious of them.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Can I ask you why you always put such an effort on humility. I think a lot of people find it very hard to understand because they see you as fundamentally a highly influential figure and you always dismiss that.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well you see, I don't put effort into it. I don't believe I am influential. I really don't. Can't you understand that?

GERALDINE DOOGUE: Well, it's so patently untrue, if you look over your life.

BOB SANTAMARIA: Well, that's the way I look at it.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: But is it because you need to see it like that? Is it because anything else would seem egotistical?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, I'm not worried about that at all. I didn't call that book that you've referred to, Against the tide, to sell it. It's not a very good way of selling a book. I really don't see that at this moment I can say that those ideas have been very influential, but as I've said to you already, I do see some signs of sprouting.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: That doesn't mean you see yourself as a failure though?

BOB SANTAMARIA: No, failure is a very personal thing, isn't it. If I hadn't tried I would be a failure, but I have tried.

GERALDINE DOOGUE: And what's the point? Why keep doing all this?

BOB SANTAMARIA: Fundamentally because I believe that there is a kind of Australia that we would like to build and I think that it would be a magnificent Australia. This country is so rich in terms of its natural resources and so on, that it deserves much better than has been given in the last 10 years. But side by side with that, we're now bereft as we are of British and American support in this region of the world, in a region of the world which strategically is ultimately unfavourable to us, so we'd better make it good and better if we want to retain it, and that's why I work. Now, you may say, at this particular stage of my life, perhaps he should put up the riding boots. I suppose that occasionally I remember the example of an old man, Daniel Mannix; he was active until he was 99 years of age. Well, I won't be here until I'm 99 years of age, but I think that if he wasn't prepared to put up his riding boots, I'm not prepared either.

EXTRACT (Archive Tape)

BOB SANTAMARIA: How do you do. Within the past 10 days, two significant events have taken place, one in China, one in Indonesia ....

This week's comment is recorded against a background of some difficulty, still another power blackout in Melbourne.

If you believe that the Labor movement should support Communist China and its satellites in South-East Asia ....

The moderate trade union leaders had permitted their Communist and extreme left colleagues to plunge the industry into chaos.

Alone, isolated, unorganised and without possibility of pressure, they have no weapon with which to protect themselves.

Which brought about the triumph of Communism in Russia and created the threat to the more or less free world ever since.

And on that uncertain note, necessarily uncertain, I say goodbye for the time being.