Vale Ted Wilshire

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There are very few peo­ple who qual­ify as unfor­get­table in your life, and Ted Wilshire was one of those for me. A larger than life char­ac­ter in every sense of the word, Ted was best known as the Research Offi­cer for the Aus­tralian Metal Work­ers Union (AMWU) who penned the then-influ­en­tial pam­phlets Aus­tralia Ripped Off and Aus­tralia Uprooted in the days prior to The Accord under the Hawke and Keat­ing Gov­ern­ments.

He passed away on Wednes­day last week dur­ing an oper­a­tion in Bris­bane, and there will be a wake to cel­e­brate his life at the Bayview Bar, 1st floor Wool­loomooloo Bay Hotel, at 4pm this Thurs­day. If you knew Ted and you’d like to join the cel­e­bra­tion, please let Alan Ander­son know by send­ing an email to (spelling it out to avoid spam­bots) alanan­der­son­209 AT bigpond.com (the venue had to be changed from the For­est Lodge Hotel, because of the num­ber who have already said they will attend).

Fig­ure 1: Ted at my farewell from the Free­dom from Hunger Cam­paign’s Ideas Cen­tre in 1980, half his life ago

I first got to know Ted when he was a mature age stu­dent at Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity back in 1975, when the first Polit­i­cal Econ­omy courses began. He was in his ele­ment in the vibrant and pas­sion­ate Uni­ver­sity atmos­phere of the mid-70s, and he pro­vided an impos­ing bulk to the Polit­i­cal Econ­omy Move­ment’s many demon­stra­tions. Ten years apart in age, and a world apart in lifestyles—well, every­one was a world apart from Ted, because no-one could match his capac­ity to con­sume and party—we became firm friends.

Later he employed me, when he became the Direc­tor of the (pro­nounce the acronym) Busi­ness Union Con­sul­ta­tion Unit—a sem­i­nar-organ­is­ing group within the Depart­ment of Trade, estab­lished to improve Union-Busi­ness com­mu­ni­ca­tion under The Accord.

We lost touch for a while when I resigned in 1987 to start my aca­d­e­mic career, and after BUCU (later given the more bureau­cratic name the Trade Devel­op­ment Coun­cil Sec­re­tariat) folded, and Ted moved to Queens­land. But we got back in touch in the early 2000s’—Ted took the initiative—and I’ve vis­ited “Club Ted” (as he aptly called his self-con­structed and well-appointed home in Boon­dall) on sev­eral occa­sions since.

At least I think I did—it was always hard to remem­ber a night out with Ted the next day!

I was always amazed that Ted lived as long as he did—his over­con­sump­tion of cig­a­rettes and alco­hol (and other intox­i­cants) was deservedly leg­endary. But he had such a life force in him that he made it to 71, liv­ing far longer than most peo­ple thought he would. And for a while, he had a strong impact on the eco­nomic debate in Aus­tralia (and inter­na­tion­ally), before the finance sec­tor derailed every­thing.

He could be an intim­i­dat­ing presence—his huge per­son­al­ity, along with his bulk, guar­an­teed that. But he was at his heart a lov­ing and gen­er­ous soul, and full of bois­ter­ous bon­homie. I knew no-one who could party like him, nor cook as good a meal, nor build as grand an abode when he put on his worker’s boots.

If any­one lived Dylan Thomas’ adage to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, it was Ted. And of all the verses of this great poem, one stands out as the tem­plate of Ted’s life:

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gen­tle into that good night.

Good­bye, old friend. I hope to see many more of your old friends at The ‘Loo on Thurs­day. There will indeed be a rage for Ted.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gen­tle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no light­ning they
Do not go gen­tle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, cry­ing how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gen­tle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blind­ing sight
Blind eyes could blaze like mete­ors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gen­tle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
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