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Sex. Prejudice and Politics - Junie Morosi

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Sex. Prejudice and Politics - Junie Morosi

Sex. Prejudice and Politics - Junie Morosi

Sex, Prejudice and Politics - Junie Morosi

Used paperback: .1975 edition  good condition


A biography of Junie Morosi and her view of the "Morosi affair" that resulted in the sacking of Jim Cairns as treasurer.

About the author Junie Morosi

Junie Morosi (born 26 July 1933) is an Australian businesswoman, who became a public figure in the 1970s through her relationship with Dr Jim Cairns, Deputy Prime Minister in the Whitlam Labor government. Morosi's appointment as Cairns's Principal Private Secretary, and the nature of her relationship with him, aroused intense media interest, and the affair contributed to Cairns's eventual dismissal from office and the fall of the government.

Early life

Morosi was born in Shanghai, China, and educated in the Philippines. Her father was Italian and her mother Portuguese, and both were of part-Chinese descent. The family moved to Manila when she was a child. She worked as a journalist, becoming political correspondent at the Manila daily newspaper Voz de Manila. She also worked in advertising and travel consultancy. She married a Filipino man as a teenager and had three sons. In 1958 she was employed by Qantas, the Australian national airline. In 1962 she moved to Australia, where she married an Australian businessman, David Ditchburn.

Morosi continued to work in the airline and travel industry until 1974, when she was employed as an assistant to Al Grassby, the Commissioner for Community Relations. Grassby had been a minister in the Whitlam government before losing his seat in the May 1974 elections. Morosi's new job brought her into contact with other Whitlam government ministers. In Canberra she read and was impressed by one of Jim Cairns's books, The Quiet Revolution, and arranged to meet him.

Jim Cairns

Cairns was then Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer (finance minister) in the Whitlam government. Tom Uren, another Whitlam minister and one of Cairns's closest friends, later recorded that "Jim and Junie were attracted to each other from the first time they met." She was attracted to his intellect and personal charisma, and he responded to her emotional warmth and unorthodox attitudes. The attraction soon became sexual, although whether and when their relationship became a sexual one was then, and still is, a matter of controversy.

In December 1974 Cairns appointed Morosi as his Principal Private Secretary, a job traditionally held by a senior public servant. Her business background made the appointment at least defensible, but she had no knowledge of Australian politics or economics, and not much experience of managing a large and complex office.

The appointment aroused an immediate storm of sensationalist media coverage. The fact that Morosi was "exotic" (the media's code-word for "Asian"), youngish (she was 41) and attractive was given much prominence. To this were soon added allegations that both she and Ditchburn had questionable business associates. It was also soon alleged that Ditchburn was using Morosi's position to further his business interests.

Cairns's friends urged him to end the Morosi appointment, but out of both personal loyalty and a refusal to be bullied by the anti-Labor tabloid press, he refused. He said that there would have been no media outcry "if I had appointed a man, or even a woman who was not good-looking." He and others pointed out that Elizabeth Reid, who had been appointed Whitlam's advisor on women's issues in 1973, had received the same sort of media attention. But after a few days Morosi took the initiative and resigned, pending an investigation into the business affairs of herself and Ditchburn.

When at the end of December the investigation found no irregularities, Cairns promptly re-appointed Morosi, and the media circus resumed. It was aggravated by Morosi's decision to give interviews to the Sydney tabloid the Sun and the mass-circulation Woman's Day. Morosi said: "If I had been a white Anglo-Saxon male there would have been no story at all. One day, I was the most sinister, deadly enemy of Australia - a member of the KGB, the Chinese mafia, you name it." In February 1975, Cairns was at the Labor Party's national conference, and told a journalist that he felt "a kind of love" for Morosi.

The more serious aspect of Morosi's appointment was that she used her position to cut Cairns off from his political associates and from alternative sources of advice. This seems to have been the genesis of the crisis that later erupted over Cairns's dealings with the Melbourne businessman George Harris. Harris claimed that Cairns had given him a letter authorising him to investigate overseas loans, and promising him a 2.5% commission. Cairns denied having given him such a letter. When the letter was produced, Cairns said he had no memory of signing it. The most likely explanation was that the situation arose from poor communications in his office.

After Cairns was dismissed from the Ministry in July 1975, he kept Morosi on his backbencher's staff as a research assistant. She published her version of events in a book, Sex, Prejudice and Politics, later in the year. Together they worked on a new project for an alternative lifestyles festival to be held near Canberra. Morosi was a devotee of the ideas of the German sexologist Wilhelm Reich, and Cairns had become an unlikely convert as a result of their relationship. The Down to Earth Festival in December 1975 attracted 5,000 people. Cairns and Morosi continued to work on developing the movement until 1977, when Cairns retired from Parliament.

Life after politics

By 1977, however, the same allegations that had been made against Morosi in the political world were being made in the alternative lifestyle movement: specifically, that she was manipulating Cairns, and that her husband was manipulating both of them for financial gain. By 1979 the movement had fizzled out, leaving a legacy of ill-feeling and disputes over money which eventually led to litigation in the New South Wales courts.

By 1981 Morosi had moved on to a new project, the Wyuna Co-operative, a "community housing project" in Canberra involving Morosi and Ditchburn as well as Morosi's brother and sister-in-law, with some financial support from Cairns. In 1985 the co-operative received a 3,000 grant from the Community Housing Expansion Program of the federal Territories Department. When the National Times newspaper revealed this, Prime Minister Bob Hawke intervened and the program was wound up. Morosi complained that the controversy was entirely because of her involvement, and indeed an inquiry later found that there was nothing improper about the grant, although it was critical of Wyuna's management.

Despite the inquiry's findings, the government took legal action to recover the 3,000. The resulting proceedings dragged on until 1988, and the strain ruined both her business interests and her marriage to Ditchburn. In 1986 she was hospitalised suffering from stress and exhaustion. These events also effectively ended her relationship with Cairns, who was reconciled with his wife, although the two remained friends until Cairns's death in October 2003.

Defamation case

Morosi gradually faded from public attention, but her tumultuous years in the spotlight continued to haunt her. Media outlets continued to make allegations about her relationship with Cairns, and she successfully sued the Sydney tabloid the Mirror, commercial radio station 2GB, and the National Times for defamation. She won ,000 in damages from the Mirror and ,000 from Radio 2GB. On 2GB a commentator had said that "Junie Morosi is an immoral adventuress who has slept with a variety of notable politicians."

In the National Times case Morosi told the court: "I felt insulted, angry, upset and hurt. It was very demeaning to me as a woman [to be called Cairns's 'girlfriend']. I saw myself as a professional, as a competent person doing her job. It was cheap. It was as though it had nothing to do with business but everything to do with sex." The jury decided the article in question did imply a sexual relationship, but was "not defamatory."

In 2002 Cairns admitted his relationship with Morosi had been sexual


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