Santamaria still ruffling feathers with new book

20 Aug 2008

By The Record

By Therese Spruhan
Melbourne-based political activist BA (Bob) Santamaria wrote one speech every month for 60 years and after the Labor Party split founded a new organisation every two years for 40 years, it has been revealed.

He also wrote 10,000 letters to bishops, cardinals and political figures in Australia and overseas and received more than 30,000 letters on political and religious issues.
These were some of the facts editor Patrick Morgan revealed at the launch in the Crypt at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral of Running the Show, BA Santamaria Selected Documents: 1939–1996.
The book will be launched in Perth on September 10 at 7.30pm by Archbishop Barry Hickey in the Alexander Library Theatrettes at Perth Cultural Centre on Francis Street. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who presided at the Sydney launch, said the book shows a formidable intellect at work and reveals the man’s fundamental religious motivation.
He said Running the Show was a wonderful collection of documents and a precious source of information for scholars, friends and opponents of BA Santamaria.
Cardinal Pell said that he did not always agree with Bob Santamaria’s politics, but with the passing of years he had developed sympathy for his political positions.
“I always felt that Santamaria had something of the Irish Australian Christian Brothers about him. He shared the same assertiveness, courage and perserverance and their belief that they deserved a place in Australian society. He wasn’t primarily a writer or a commentator; he was an activist and a doer. He was a pessimist who was attracted to crisis situations and he did have an urgent apocalyptic tone.”
Bob Santamaria (1915–98), a devout Catholic and founder and head of the National Civic Council, was a key figure in the Labor Party split in the 1950s that spawned the Democratic Labor Party.
After he died his family gave his papers and books to the State Library of Victoria.
His archives are among the largest in Australia – 350 boxes of documents, memos, speeches, position papers and audio tapes and 280 boxes of newspaper clippings he collected over 60 years.
His daughter, Dr Bernadette Tobin, who will also speak at the Perth launch, said at the launch that she grew up “thinking that all fathers read ceaselessly, were serious thinkers and tireless organisers – that the word father meant great man”.
She said that as her father’s life and work were controversial the family thought that rather than having someone write his biography it was better to present his work and let the readers make up their minds.
Running the Show is the second volume of his documents edited by Patrick Morgan.
-Courtesy of The Catholic Weekly