Thursday, January 03, 2013

Fitz[G]erald Rapport

Come to think of it, I'm sure I heard at least one angry National Party supporter in the late 1980s complaining that the Fitzgerald Inquiry “of course” had a pro-Labor bias because it was chaired by that “weird looking” Griffith University professor with the panama hat who was always knocking Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Myself, I’d be more inclined to describe Ross to the uninitiated as not much as ‘funny looking” but “looking like he was created by the same deity who created Wallace & Grommit”:
… The day before I was due to leave [Hong Kong in 1999], my journalist friend [...] suggested I might interview a London-born old Communist China hand, Anthony Lawrence, who had broadcast from the BBC from Hong Kong for fifty years. When I requested that this be arranged, the woman from the Hong Kong tourist bureau virtually said, "Why on earth would he want to see you?" Persisting, as is my wont, I said, "Could you please do me a favour and ask him?" Half an hour later, she rang back gushing "Oh Professor, I didn't realise how famous you are. He has ALWAYS wanted to meet you. He said it would be a privilege." She continued, "You will be pleased to know that we can put you up at the Peninsula Hotel - in the president's suite." Immediately I knew what had happened: I had again been mistaken for the ex-Australian ambassador [scil the Australian ex-ambassador] to Communist China, Dr Stephen FitzGerald…
-- Ross Fitzgerald, My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic's Journey (Sydney, UNSW Press, 2010), p 180.
… But the Chinese did have one lingering concern. The Australian press was full of rumours that a "very young man" was set to become the country's first ambassador to the People's Republic. This was Steven FitzGerald, a Mandarin-speaking China specialist at the Australian National University, who had accompanied Whitlam to China in July of that year. It turned out an official in the Chinese Protocol Department mistook Steven FitzGerald for the (not-so-young) British historian and China-watcher CP Fitzgerald, about whom Beijing had misgivings. A few words about "history" were swiftly exchanged between Canberra and Beijing, allowing Steven Fitzgerald to take up his post in Beijing in March 1973.
-- Angus Grigg, "Cracks in China's diplomatic door: Angus Grigg describes the last-minute hitches in a ground-breaking agreement," Australian Financial Review (21-26 December 2012), Review p 3.


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