On 17 December 1967, then Australian Liberal and Coalition Prime Minister, Harold Holt, went swimming with friends in rough conditions before lunch off remote Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria. After seemingly getting caught up in a rip and eventually disappearing from view (according to his friends on the beach), our then 59 year old PM was never seen again.
One of the largest search operations in Australian history then ensued but to no avail. Many theories arose as to what happened that day to PM Holt ranging from suicide, faking his own death, being assassinated by the CIA and being collected by a Chinese submarine. In 2005, a coronial inquest returned a verdict of accidental drowning.
Holt was Australia’s 17th PM and the Liberal Party’s second – but his stint was less than two years. He took over from the long and prosperous reign of his Liberal predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies on Australia Day in 1966. Prior to the smooth transition/hand-over, Holt had been Menzies’ deputy Liberal leader and sound treasurer for the previous ten and seven years respectively, which had cemented his position as Menzies’ likely successor.
Thirteen months before his death, PM Holt won the November 1966 Federal election against Arthur Calwell’s Labor opposition in a landslide, which was the electoral high point of the 23-consecutive years of Coalition government – eventually ended by Gough Whitlam’s Labor election victory in late 1972.
After a brief stint with then Country Party leader, John “Black Jack” McEwen, as caretaker PM, the Liberal Party held a ballot and appointed their new leader, John Gorton, in early January 1968, who became Australia’s 19th PM.
Holt was the third Australian PM to die in office after Joseph Lyons in 1939 and John Curtin in 1945.
Commemorate/commiserate the untimely death of former PM Harold Holt by:
- (if you are in/near Melbourne) visiting the Harold Holt memorial at Cheviot Beach (beyond Portsea near the tip of the Mornington Peninsula) or the Harold Holt memorial swimming centre at Malvern
- watching this documentary on our 17th PM
- viewing these clips on this tragic incident for Australia
- reading further about Harold Holt’s life, passions and disappearance
- going for a safe swim down at your local beach, river, pool or waterhole with some good and trusting friends, but without being too adventurous, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, classical liberals, political aficionados, conspiracists and those that love the summer, sand, surf and the Aussie great outdoors.
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