Gil Duthie lost his seat in Federal Parliament along with a bunch of his other colleagues in the infamous 1975 election following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s government. My Grandfather’s cousin had held his seat for 25 years. His fall from public grace was in the context of public drama, but his path into office 25 years previously had been quietly impressive.
In the lead up to the 1946 Federal election, Allan Guy held the Tasmanian seat of Wilmot. It had been a liberal stronghold for decades. When Gil Duthie discovered the ALP did not have a candidate, this young church minister stuck up his hand. No one gave him a chance. Many of his state ALP colleagues hadn’t even heard of him.
He spent the next 6 months on his own on the road; literally. Some weekends he returned to see his young wife and daughter. He drove to every nook and cranny of the vast and often remote electorate through a particularly vicious Tasmanian winter. He knocked on door after farmhouse door, his own estimate was 70-80 homes a day. Never once, he says, did he ask anyone to vote for him. His agenda was simply to introduce himself and say what he stood for.
On the Monday, a week following the October 21 election, with all the postal and absentee votes counted, Gil Duthie came out ahead by 855 votes. The hard behind-the-scenes work that defined his first campaign kept him in office for an incredible 25 years until the unravelling of 1975.
As I start another week, like others of you in business, I am thinking about business development. As the mantra goes, ‘it is a numbers game’. We could learn a lot from my Great Uncle Gil. Strength of conviction that we’ve got something to offer and the willingness to get out there and rack up the numbers.
I’m weak really. This morning our central heating packed it in … again. The thought of a heaterless house for the weeks it will take the repair contractors to arrive in the depths of Melbourne winter is not very pretty. And then I see a photo of Gil Duthie’s old Standard bogged in snow somewhere near Tarraleah deep in Tassie wilderness during his first campaign.