It was the foul-mouthed tirade that prompted John Howard to sack Andrew Peacock from the shadow cabinet but it remains one of the finest examples of what politicians really say – unplugged – that Australia has ever witnessed.
Long before the era of the mobile phone, the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Jeff Kennett, and friend Mr Peacock were caught out providing a frank and expletive-ridden character assessment of their arch enemy Mr Howard.
It was Saturday March 23, 1987 when Mr Kennett made his fateful decision to call Mr Peacock on his car phone.
Unbeknown to both men, the call was intercepted by a man with a scanner who flogged it to the newspapers.
This is the transcript of the Kennett-Peacock car phone conversation featuring such classics as “hold your flow”, “Arthur or Martha” and “ “Tomorrow, I’m going to bucket the whole lot of you”.
KENNETT: He got on the phone and said are you happy with the result, and I said “No I’m not”, and he said “Why?” and I said “Without your front pages and total disunity I’d have had a ten per cent swing. I would have got myself another four and you’ve f***d it up for me and he went off his brain.
PEACOCK: Oh did he?
KENNETT: And he went off his brain trying to (inaudible)
PEACOCK: He went off his brain?
KENNETT: And I said …
PEACOCK: And HE went off his brain?
KENNETT: He said to me, “I didn’t like the way you kept me out of the campaign”. I said, “Wouldn’t have you in it, and I didn’t have any federal people in it.”
PEACOCK: Well you didn’t have me. Didn’t have anyone.
KENNETT: And I said to him, “Tomorrow, I’m going to bucket the whole lot of you”.
PEACOCK: No! Don’t do that Jeffrey.
KENNETT: Hold your flow. I said, “Tomorrow John” and he said, “I know where your sympathies lie”, and I said, “I couldn’t give a f**k. I have no sympathies any more. You’re all a pack of s**ts and tomorrow I’m going berserk”. Well he went off his brain and in the end I said to him, I said, “Howard. You’re a c**t. You haven’t got my support, you never will have and I’m not going to rubbish you or the party tomorrow but I feel a lot better having told you you’re a c**t.”
PEACOCK: Oh shit!
KENNETT: And the poor little fellow didn’t know whether he was Arthur or Martha.
PEACOCK: Oh s**t!
KENNETT: (laughing) I just thought I should let you know.
PEACOCK: Well, tomorrow you are humble. You do feel better. And I am getting out of that car. I’ve told you. I told Margaret, I said “Tomorrow I’m just gonna get out of that f**kin’ car and say this is not Howard’s day, it’s not my day, it’s not Carla’s day, it’s not anyone’s day, not Richie’s day. This is a day for Jeffrey Kennett”. And I was thinking that I’d go in even earlier, and even if only a third of the bastards were there I was gonna go and grab the mic and say this is unprecedented. This in the midst of the most horrific difficulties and I faced ’em when I was the leader in by-elections, we haven’t had ’em for some years. We had a great win yesterday, and the only person who is deserving. Not just earned it, but deserving of support is Jeffrey Kennett and if you don’t give him everything then you’re letting down the Liberal Party.
KENNETT: Well, all I can say. I thought I should let you know where I ended up with your little mate …
PEACOCK: Well, f**k him. I’m not worried. I just. I almost bloody cried. I was terribly worried. I was terribly worried. My f***in’ anger yesterday as Margaret knows. First thing I came in last night I said “Oh, f****n’ c**t! I said the whole f***in’ thing could upset tomorrow” I was really … And she was saying “What’s Jeffrey done?” and I was saying “It’s not what Jeffrey’s done. It’s what everyone’s f****ng done to Jeffrey”.
KENNETT: Well. I think we came out of it alright and certainly …
PEACOCK: Alright? The news reports. Have you seen them on the television?
KENNETT: Well. It’s been a good result. But anyway. Howard won’t know whether he’s Arthur or Martha.
PEACOCK: I know. But you feel better?
KENNETT: Oh yes.
PEACOCK: Be humble. Everyone’s gonna say “You are the greatest leader” since sliced bread mate.
KENNETT: It’s a good all-rounder.
PEACOCK: Where are you?
KENNETT: I’m on the way home. I’m going home and having a reasonably early night and I will see you tomorrow.
PEACOCK: I’ve got to sit in the chair about four or five rows back from the front. And I’ll allow Howard, after he’s had his tumultuous reception to come down and sit next to me and be photographed together smiling.
KENNETT: Oh, how pathetic.
PEACOCK: I would do that.
KENNETT: How pathetic!
PEACOCK: Yeah but I’m doing it on the basis of when I get out, and when I talk because they’ll be chasing me because of the federal issues, I’m just gonna talk Kennett. I knew it was gonna happen, and it should have been f****n’ better but it would have been better despite those difficulties.
KENNETT: Well there’s two points. One is the federal difficulties. The other point is the way Cain tried to bloody deceive the electorate on this price control thing.
PEACOCK: That’s right.
KENNETT: And the good thing about it ….
PEACOCK: Be humble mate.
KENNETT: Oh, I know.
PEACOCK: They’re behind you. So you don’t have to …
KENNETT: The thing is we didn’t (inaudible) like Cain and the National Party did to try and win political support. We might have lost some votes on that price control thing but we’ve kept very firmly to our philosophies. That’s an important part of this whole win I think.
PEACOCK: Well make those points. But just tell them, there are hundreds of thousands of people in this state who are going to support you. And you’re right. And that’s it. Just be humble.
KENNETT: I will see you tomorrow.
PEACOCK: I look forward to it. And I am just so thrilled.
KENNETT: Alright mate.
PEACOCK: See you then.
KENNETT: Give my regards to your good lady.
PEACOCK: Ok. Ta. Bye.
Former Prime Minister John Howard paid tribute to his old political foe on Friday night.
“Andrew gave years of service to Australia and to the Liberal Party,’’ he said
“His early years as minister for external territories helped prepare Papua New Guinea for independence. He was a strong Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Fraser government and won the respect of our close allies, especially in our immediate region
“I welcomed the opportunity of appointing him as Australia’s ambassador to the United States in 1996. He discharged that role with much distinction. His knowledge of American politics enabled him to provide special insights regarding our most important ally. Australia lost a man who brought flair and style as well as high intelligence to his years in public life.”
But perhaps the final word should go to his old friend Jeff Kennett.
“My friend, colleague Andrew Peacock has just passed away in the United States,’’ he wrote.
“To his daughters Jane, Caroline and Annie I extend Felicity and my condolences. Andrew and I shared a long friendship of political high and lows. He was a very successful Foreign Minister
“As the Colt of Kooyong he and his then wife Susan carried the aspirations of the Liberal Party.
That he did not become Prime Minister of the country was probably a reflection more of his generous character more than crass ambition.”