Recorded: 25 March 1996
Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Interviewed by: Ken Begg
Reference: OPH-OHI 3

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Interview with Hazel Craig 1  

K Begg: Identification. This is an interview between Ken Begg and Hazel Craig recorded Monday March 25 1996. Miss Craig could I ask you your full name please?

H Craig: Lorna Hazel Craig.

K Begg: Where and when were you born?

H Craig: Bankstown, New South Wales, 9th June 1914.

K Begg: What year did you come to Canberra?

H Craig: 1934.

K Begg: Do you remember that day?

H Craig: Yes, we arrived by train from Sydney was taken to Gorman House where most of the lower public servants were housed.

K Begg: What was your impression?

H Craig: Wide open spaces, there wasn’t very much to see. Parliament House was probably the central building with East and West Block which were the offices for whatever departments were in Canberra at that time. Then on a few blocks away was the Hotel Canberra and on the other side of Parliament House was the Hotel Kurrajong where most of the Members stayed.

K Begg: As a young woman how did it feel to come down from Sydney to what was a big country town, or even a country town at that stage?

H Craig: No, it wasn’t even a country town, lonely [laughs]. It was very lonely at first because I hadn’t been away from home before. At nineteen I think we were very green in those days [laughs] didn’t have much experience.

K Begg: What was your first job?

H Craig: I was appointed to Prime Minister’s Department over in West Block.

K Begg: What did you do?

H Craig: Typing and shorthand mostly.

K Begg: For Members of Parliament?

H Craig: No, no just any work that came in with letters addressed to the Prime Minister. People complaining about things and one thing and another, like.

K Begg: There would have been very few women here then?

H Craig: There weren’t a lot. Most of the departments were in Sydney and Melbourne. In West Block there was Prime Minister’s Department, Treasury, Attorney Generals, and in East Block was the Post Office, the Telephone Exchange and a couple of offices from — which would probably be a senior officer of a department with a stenographer that would transmit any material from their department in Melbourne to a Minister if the House was in session.

K Begg: Of course these were the days when getting in and out of Canberra wasn’t all that easy was it?

H Craig: No, there was only the train and when the Members came for a session they had — if you didn’t live in Melbourne or Sydney you had to be prepared to stay in Canberra for six or eight or ten weeks, whatever the length of the session was because nobody could get back at the weekends. They certainly didn’t have this two weeks on and one week off that they have now, you just went straight through the session.

K Begg: And the same situation would have applied to the young Hazel Craig. You couldn’t have gone back all that easily, could you, to Sydney?

H Craig: No, but when we first came up we tried to get home, perhaps, every six or eight weeks if we could. We were able to get the afternoon train, it got to Sydney about nine at night or something like that and come back on the midnight train on Sunday night.

K Begg: You worked hard?

H Craig: Yes, pretty hard. It was all an adventure because it had been — it was still the depression time and in Sydney those coming out of business college, like I was, could only get temporary employment. You were looking for a job every six months or something like that.

K Begg: How did you get around Canberra in those early days? Gorman House to your place of employment?

H Craig: Well, there were buses at morning, lunchtime and evening when — fitting in with the public service hours or else on a bicycle or walk. We used to walk from Gorman House to Parliament House to save threepence on the bus.

K Begg: What about, say if you were working back late at night. Were you ever uncomfortable about walking around Canberra? How would you have got home if you were working late.

H Craig: Well, if you worked late, usually you got the last bus which we always called the picture bus, which came from Manuka. We got — it might go past Gorman House or it might stop at Civic, but you walked across two or three paddocks there was no buildings there in between Civic and Gorman House in those days. You never felt worried about walking if you were the only one that got off the bus you didn’t mind, but quite often there were several of you.

K Begg: One gets the impression that this was very much, the parliament at that time was a boys’ club, there were more men here, quite clearly then women.

H Craig: Oh yes.

K Begg: So, who did you talk to if you were having a tough time at the office? How did you deal with those sort of problems as a young woman?

H Craig: I suppose you didn’t talk [laughs].

K Begg: And that is something that you felt went with the job?

H Craig: Well, when you were appointed to the public service you took an oath of allegiance and a secrecy oath and you were apolitical. You took the oath that you would serve whatever government was in power at that stage, faithfully.

K Begg: And that was something that stayed with you pretty much throughout your whole life working for Prime Ministers wasn’t it?

H Craig: Yes. I mean you can have your own ideas but you wouldn’t work for them if you didn’t like the person or you didn’t feel that he was doing the best he could for the country. You wouldn’t — it was up to you.

K Begg: You were, in a sense, very privileged weren’t you, in that you worked for five Prime Ministers, five Australian Prime Ministers.

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: You chose to work for them?

H Craig: On the whole, yes. In the early days when the Ministers came up they were only allowed one private secretary which was always a man and he was very competent. He was a very good shorthand typist but when he came to parliament he had to get his Minister the Bills and the notices of the day and all these kinds of things and look up references for his speeches and so naturally there correspondence got behind and they would send over to Prime Minister’s Department to have a stenographer for a couple of days to clear up their work. That might happen every two, three, four weeks according to what mail they got in and how far behind they were. I was sent across to the Postmaster General who was Senator A.J. McLachlan in those days to do that and I went over to them for a couple of times. Then next session I was sent over to the Leader of the Opposition and he was a privileged person because he only had his secretary but when the House sat he was provided with a stenographer from Prime Minister’s Department to stay the whole session. That was probably the first time I realised I liked the type of work that was going on in the — it was the day I went over to the Leader of the Opposition was the day that Mr Scullin retired because of ill health and Mr Curtin was elected as the Leader of the Opposition.

K Begg: Do you remember what that day was like, working there, what was his mood like? What were your feelings?

H Craig: I’d only just arrived in it really but Mr — it was thought that Mr Forde would get the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Curtin was put up as an alternative candidate. He won and so there was quite a lot of comings and goings because it was so unexpected that Mr Curtin was elected as Leader of the Opposition. But then, after that, we just went on with our job.

K Begg: Did you talk to Mr Curtin on that particular day, that first day?

H Craig: I wouldn’t have thought so. All I can remember was a lot of ‘toing and froing’ in the office.

K Begg: That must have been exciting again for a young person to suddenly be flung, almost, at the centre of power in the nation’s capital?

H Craig: Yes, I found it quite exciting really.

K Begg: Did you have an interest in politics?

H Craig: Not really but it was much more interesting to be in an office and follow what was done from day to day and what went on in the office then being in a pool in Prime Minister’s Department where you just simply did odd letters that came in and never saw them again. It was most uninteresting because — there were a few of the senior people, stenographers and that in the department who worked for one man, such as Geological Survey man, cables and that, and did see things through but, well a junior like myself and we just simply did whatever was put in front of us.

K Begg: How long did you work for Mr Curtin?

H Craig: Only the one session then because they wanted me to go somewhere else and I went a little — I fell a bit fowl of things so they didn’t send me over again. Then the Prime Minister who had a suite of offices and a Cabinet Room in West Block, and who used to work there, except when parliament was sitting. Parliament House was only for Ministers and Members when the session was on, and of course, Hansard and the Clerk of the House and Clerk of the Senate and his staff were naturally working in Parliament House. But otherwise the departments were the people who provided, like Casey had a suite of offices in the Treasury when he was Treasurer, Mr Menzies when he was Attorney General, in the Attorney General’s Department. Mr Lyons would work in West Block except when the House was sitting.

When I first went there you took up your bed and walked, kind of business, you took all your papers and everything you thought you’d need over in the House, tramp across to Parliament House with the House sitting and then, if you found you’d left something behind, or something came up that you needed some papers, they’d have to send back to West Block. I think it was about, probably about the end of ’35 or ’36 that Mr Lyons decided to have his office permanently in Parliament House and had Cabinet meetings in the Cabinet Room in Parliament House. The Cabinet Room in the offices were used for conferences and things like that afterwards.

Then gradually the Ministers began to — all the other Ministers only came up when the House sat and they naturally stayed in Parliament House and they were allowed to bring, one secretary with them. I think there were about nine or eleven Ministers in those days all the other Members were in the Party Rooms and they had to do their telephoning, do their correspondence, do everything altogether in the Party Rooms with the exception of the Whip on each side and the Chairman of Committees who also had a room.

K Begg: Do you recall the Cabinet Room and the Prime Minister’s room, those suites have been demolished, they are gone. Do you recall…

H Craig: We were in Prime Minister’s Department.

K Begg: …in the Old Parliament, do you recall?

H Craig: The Old Parliament House, yes.

K Begg: Do you recall the Prime Minister’s office?

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: Did you go there often, what was that like? Perhaps you could describe what the furniture was like, can you recall what the furniture was like or was that a bit abstract perhaps?

H Craig: Yes, well it was — the Prime Minister had a large desk with inlaid leather in green and the walls were all lovely timber.

K Begg: Did that office have a view, Miss Craig? Did the Prime Minister’s office…

H Craig: Yes, it was right on the corner, looking out towards the War Memorial. His room was right on the corner, then the private secretaries and the office rooms were still along the front of Parliament House, next door to it. Next to that was the Anteroom where they could have a cup of tea or a drink according to what they wished. Usually after they came out of Cabinet or if somebody called on the Prime Minister to — some VIP or somebody came up to see him. Then off that was the Cabinet Room.

K Begg: What was that like, was that timber panelled as well?

H Craig: Yes, and a great big oval table and after they altered Parliament House they took in another room, knocked out the wall and made the Cabinet Room larger, that was about in Fraser’s day I suppose. It might have been in Whitlam’s day.

K Begg: Yes, it started with Whitlam and progressed.

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: In those days when you were working for Mr Lyons and you went across to the Parliament. Did you regularly go into his office, would you have gone into the Cabinet office often?

H Craig: No, I was junior in those days. I was only just in the office. I started off by doing overtime. In session time they asked if someone would like, could work at night and I did that and then they had a vacancy in the office. There were two, a secretary and an assistant secretary and Marge Grosvenor was the senior woman in the place and then one other and that girl left and I — they asked me if I would like the job. As I say taste of being able to see what you did and follow everything through was just so much more attractive than being in Prime Minister’s Department and doing something and then never seeing whether it came to anything or just copying stupid letters that people wrote in and things like that.

K Begg: Did you have a sense, again — I’ve put this question to you I know, but did you have a sense that you were at the centre of things?

H Craig: Well, I suppose so, except that being a junior in the office at that stage I didn’t — I really wasn’t in the middle of everything. The seniors did that, that part of it.

K Begg: Did you gain an impression of Mr Lyons?

H Craig: Oh yes, he was a very considerate and nice person. Again, you can’t compare what had to be done as a Prime Minister in those days with what had to be done as a Prime Minister after the war where everything change, after the war. And, of course, Mr Lyons died in 1939 and war wasn’t declared until the end of 1939. Things were on the whole pretty calm in parliament all together. There wasn’t the contentious things that come up today and everybody — I suppose it was that they had to share these rooms in Parliament House and stay up here over the weekends, except in parliament there wasn’t much politics. I mean you didn’t get nasty, you didn’t not speak to somebody they were on the — had an opposite idea to you. You found out that you liked to play tennis or hockey or something like that at the weekends or you liked books and they would exchange books and lived in these two hotels. They were thrown together an awful lot and so you just found out the people you liked and, as I say, it didn’t make any difference what their political colour was.

K Begg: Where you effected by Mr Lyon’s death?

H Craig: Yes, I was very sad. Well it came so suddenly. He was going down to open the Sydney Show, the Royal Sydney Show and he said he didn’t feel very well and he went to Sydney. We were all working down in the Commonwealth offices in Sydney and the next thing we knew he’d been taken off to hospital and I think Dr Page opened the show in his place but except that he didn’t feel very well, there was nothing to give us any idea that he going to die by the Good Friday.

K Begg: Dame Enid came into parliament subsequently, did you have any acquaintanceship with her during that period?

H Craig: Not a great deal. I don’t think we had more than saying hello to people — you were so busy all the time you just didn’t have time to do very much outside of your own office.

K Begg: So you then went to work briefly for Sir Earle Page?

H Craig: No, he was only there for such a short time.

K Begg: He was there for nine days wasn’t he?

H Craig: Yes, you could hardly say he was there.

K Begg: So your next Prime Minister would have been Mr Menzies?

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: So, I’m interested, tell me, did the Prime Minister have the say in who he wanted to work for, or did you automatically go across to Mr Menzies? How did that system work?

H Craig: Well, no they had, they could say who they wanted but on the whole when you were changed over — if there was a change of Prime Minister they were usually fairly glad to have people in the office who knew what was what and where things were and something about Parliament House. The Parliamentary Library and where things were, who did you get in touch with, so on the whole, unless — I suppose if they didn’t like you they didn’t keep you, but usually they more or less left the staff as it was. That even happened with Mr Curtin.

K Begg: How did your working life, your working environment change under Mr Menzies? Did you change the office around? Did you have an upgrading of your position?

H Craig: No, not particularly, we went on very much the same as we were except that he did have his own secretary which was Peter Heydon in those days, came across from Attorney Generals with him. Mr Menzies was a person who didn’t — he took a while to really get to know people. He didn’t — it wasn’t that he didn’t trust you, but he didn’t, he wouldn’t bare his heart in the first place.

K Begg: What was your impression of Mr Menzies. He’s been described as being very confident man, having an aura of confidence about him, how would you describe him?

H Craig: He had confidence in the things that he brought into parliament and did for Australia but he was anything but confident in himself, particularly in the first period, ’39-’41. He was very self-conscious and the press used to say that he swaggered and — and he did alter himself when he’d see the press, but it was nervousness, not that he was over confident of himself. You could see him when he walked out and suddenly all the cameras came, say walking out of the barracks in Melbourne and see him quite change. But it wasn’t that he was thinking, I’m the Prime Minister or anything like that, it was that he was quite self-conscious that the cameras were on him. But if it came to something that he had thought out and made up his mind that this was the right thing then he was confident.

K Begg: What was the Mr Menzies that you knew? What was he like to his staff?

H Craig: Marvellous, absolutely wonderful, really you couldn’t have got anybody better then Sir Robert and Dame Pattie. If they hadn’t I don’t think it would have been worth staying really with them because, for instance, in overseas trips you can get very lonely really. He used to take a very small staff. He would take his Head of Department nearly always and myself and the Press Secretary and that was his travelling staff.

K Begg: You would travel by ship wouldn’t you?

H Craig: Hmmm?

K Begg: You travelled by ship?

H Craig: Only about twice, otherwise we went in ‘Constellations’, we went in every aeroplane that came out…

K Begg: Every bumpy one.

H Craig: …they started on the air flights [laughs] but you were included. Even when we went to Melbourne at a weekend he nearly always ring you up in your room and say, ‘Hazel, what are you doing for dinner tonight? We’ll go somewhere or we’ll have it together at the Windsor’ with Dame Pattie and his family, Ken and his wife and so forth. The same when we were overseas. They never left you out, never left you on your own. If you were going to the theatre, which out main times were when we were going through New York because we were still just, more or less, travelling. He would have either been to Washington or being going to Washington on his way back which was where you did any government business and so forth. In New York, if we had a spare night, they used to like to go to the theatre. They would always include you, their staff, in the group that went to the theatre and then we’d go behind and meet people like Mary Martin and Rex Harrison and people like that. But they didn’t leave you out.

K Begg: This must have been a wonderful adventure for still a young woman.

H Craig: And then the — in London, of course, it was always so terribly busy. They had — the press had a feeling always, without being verified, or anything like that, that he went to the cricket for all the time it was on over there. If we got one afternoon at Lords we were lucky. Quite often he didn’t manage to get there at all, but quite often he would give out team a dinner at the Savoy where we stayed which he paid for himself. If he were returning some hospitality, it could be some Ministers from the UK Government or a couple of Prime Ministers that were over for the conference, or anything like that. He asked one single person who was a friend. Say like, Sir Alan Herbert or some other people that were — and he paid for the whole lot himself. That was not a government return, it should have been, but because he invited, perhaps a couple of real friends who had nothing to do with the government, of course, he paid for that himself. He was very honest and really always looked at what the expense was. We never, ever went to the Caribbean or any of those places for a holiday on our way back, like some Prime Ministers I’ve known since.

K Begg: So it was business all the way?

H Craig: It was business all the way.

K Begg: Your next Prime Minister after Mr Menzies would have been Mr Curtin?

H Craig: Yes, of course this happened in the second part that we did all this. The first part was war time.

K Begg: War time, right.

H Craig: Also there is one thing that people, I think, forget, that when Mr Curtin came in two years of really hard slog. We admit that Australia was unprepared, so was Britain, who could say they weren’t but in that two years Sir Robert appointed Sir John Storey, Essington Lewis, several of those top business men as — to look after the war production such as the rifles and, getting the aircraft factories going and all that. They must remember that when Mr Curtin came in, I’m not taking away from Mr Curtin being a good Prime Minister and a wartime Prime Minister. I think he could have been, probably better than Sir Robert would have been as a wartime Prime Minister, but everything was just starting to gel when he came in. Now Mr Curtin didn’t alter one of those appointments and the bullets were coming. The rifles were coming, everything was coming off the production line when Mr Curtin came in but people forget that. They think that he did all this. But there had been two years of really hard yakka…

K Begg: To get there.

H Craig: …to get there.

K Begg: What were the atmosphere like in the parliament during those war years under Mr Curtin, can you recall what it was like?

H Craig: In what way do you mean?

K Begg: Well were you aware, you were obviously very busy, you were aware of the war that was going on around you or were you focusing entirely on supporting the Prime Minister?

H Craig: Oh no, well, you couldn’t help but be aware of the war because, I mean there was War Cabinets in Melbourne and here Generals coming up. That was one nice thing about Parliament House though in its friendliness and all the rest of it. If a VIP came to Canberra everybody in Parliament House knew about it and everybody either came on the balcony or downstairs as almost as a greeting crowd to be there but we didn’t have many VIPs in those days. There was nothing except an odd motor car or the train. So, I mean, it wasn’t like — and also as far as overseas people were concerned, except when General MacArthur arrived, of course, there was no traffic from overseas. Our airlines weren’t established in those days so that VIPs were few and far between, but we did know, say if General Blamey or certainly when General MacArthur came and all the rest of it, everybody was out to greet them or have a good look if nothing else [laughs]. But you would know, that would go around, you would know just when he was arriving kind of business.

K Begg: What was your position, by the time you got to Mr Curtin’s office what were you doing?

H Craig: I went from there into Don Rogers office on the press side.

K Begg: On the press side, right. Were you able to make any observations of the impact of the war on Mr Curtin, on the people who worked in the parliament, say the politicians, how was that effecting them and him particularly, were you able to assess?

H Craig: Well, it affected Mr Curtin a lot. He was a very sensitive person and they said that he just simply walked the grounds of the Lodge at night when he was bringing the men back from the Middle East. Everybody — he counted every man as though it were his son and he was upset by the lists of our losses of men and all this kind of thing. I think that really killed him because he was at the Lodge by himself. Mrs Curtin was rarely at the Lodge as Mrs Chifley wasn’t either, but for different reasons, really. But Mrs Curtin had obligations over in the west and it most have been pretty lonely really to be at the Lodge, by yourself and with all these things going on and all these battles, so close to Australia. When Darwin was bombed which I gather from a lot of the things that have come out since, that none of us knew, except for the top people. The real losses we had in Darwin.

K Begg: So it was something he carried by himself…

H Craig: Carried by himself. ‘Chiff’ was here a good deal. He lived at the Kurrajong. He and Mr Curtin were very close and Mr Curtin had every faith in ‘Chiff’, ‘Chiff’s’ judgement and things like that. I dare say he talked over quite a lot of things with him because I can always remember him saying on anything that was to do with Treasury, has ‘Chiff’ seen it? What did he say? Well, if he’s alright, that’s alright, then go ahead, kind of business. But other than that, a Prime Minister’s life is a pretty lonely one really, in whatever guise except for having his family around him because — you’ve got to be pretty certain. I think it was more so then because today they seem as though they test an awful lot of things out with the press. Whereas, in those days, they used to come to their decisions and then tell the press what the result was. Today they seem as though they kind of test out the public through the press before they do certain things, if they think they’re not going to be too — that was one thing, with ‘Ming’ at any rate, he was never frightened to do something that he thought was good for Australia even although he knew there would be a lot of opposition from the public. If he felt that that was really going to be the right thing to do he would go through with it.

K Begg: Working with Mr Rogers you would have developed an understanding and perhaps even a relationship with the press. What did you think of the press at that time, and what you remember about them?

H Craig: Well, there were good and bad, as I suppose there are today, I don’t know, but particularly the head men of each newspaper was a senior man and had had a lot of experience in the press. To me they did their work much better than I think they do today. This idea of doing a byline by so and so and so and so, he could be almost the messenger boy but he’s still got his byline if he could get it through. They never knew who did it…

K Begg: They being the politicians you mean?

H Craig: No, the general public.

K Begg: General public, right.

H Craig: But the likes of [Harold] Cox and [Ian] Fitchett and Alan Reid and those top people they used their knowledge of what had gone before to analyse certain things that happened and gave a much better impression of why something had happened or it was a follow-on to so and so. To me today, or at least, what I experienced in some of the later ones particularly in Melbourne after Sir Robert retired. They hadn’t a clue what — how a certain thing had arisen. I don’t know whether it was that — I think the press, having to go through a certain training before the war was much better than a lot of the press, the younger press chappies, who after the war — it didn’t only happen to the press but I’m talking about the press at the moment. It happened in every line. They did not have to have their certificate to say they had done a course in whatever their calling was, and I think they were very good in, on the whole. They didn’t like Mr Menzies and it was partly his fault.

K Begg: Did he like them?

H Craig: Well he could get a lot of fun out of them at times. He liked, I think he liked, most of them. He could pretty well sum each of them up but I know, Fitchett and a couple of them, at times would — if they were getting the worst of it, would throw in some Latin. Well fancy throwing in Latin to Sir Robert. Of course he would down them before he knew where they were. They really got hostile because I don’t think they ever got the better of him but he liked them as individuals. I wouldn’t say he liked them as a bunch, as you didn’t anybody really.

K Begg: The war years, you’ve talked about some of the comings and goings in Mr Curtin’s office. Would the Leader of the Opposition have been a regular visitor in the Prime Minister’s office, or Opposition members?

H Craig: When the House was sitting they would be — the war years were so different. Nine-tenths of the business was done in Melbourne in the Barracks in Melbourne. War Cabinet took precedence over the general Cabinet. It just — general Cabinet just fell away really, all our things were — and therefore they had to call parliament to pass certain Bills and do this, that and the other, but it was — a good deal of it was done down in Melbourne. Not so much Mr Curtin, although we were down there as well, but certainly in Mr Menzies day before 1941 Shedden took over and the War Cabinet and the War Council were predominant as far as the Ministers’ was concerned. Of course, you’ve got to remember, that apart from all the work that Mr Menzies put in to appointing these people and everything, he lost Sir Brudenell White, Street, Fairbairn, Gullett in that awful air crash here.

K Begg: Were you here then?

H Craig: Yes, which was just — we were just waiting for them to come to a Cabinet meeting and saw the plane fly over and then, of course, the next thing we hear that they’ve crashed and — it was just unbelievable. There he lost three of his, not only friends, but staunchest allies. Everything was agin him as far as, his first lot of years of Prime Ministership really.

K Begg: How did that affect him?

H Craig: Very, very much. He always thought of the wives and families there were left. He did the same with Dame Enid who was no admirer of Menzies, as you might know, probably read some of her books, or something. But she was — I mean she didn’t like him from the first time she clapped eyes on him, without any reason, that he did anything, or even said anything. So that when Mr Lyons died there was no pension for Prime Ministers or any of the Members and having eleven children and the youngest one was six, I think, four or six. He said, you know, he wanted to bring in something special for her because she had having something to live on and so forth. She turned it down…

K Begg: Turned it down?

H Craig: …for quite a while.

K Begg: Turned it down?

H Craig: Yes, but any rate she eventually saw — I mean there was really no option. She had no — they didn’t have any money behind them. Prime Ministers never made any profit in those days and — so he did eventually get her to see reason and there was a special provision made for her. But, and then, of course, when she came into parliament she was made Vice President of the Executive Council.

K Begg: A senior position.

H Craig: Yes, but, of course, that was in his second…

K Begg: Second term.

H Craig: …time as Prime Minister, of course.

K Begg: Before we move on from Mr Curtin to Mr Chifley, Mr Curtin also, I believe displayed some genuine feelings for his staff. Was it with Mr Curtin that you travelled across by train?

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: To the west, could you tell us that story?

H Craig: Well, the only time we didn’t go by train to the west while Mr Curtin was Prime Minister was when we went in G for George, on the recruiting campaign. But, once we were going across and we had, I suppose, I’m wrong in saying that he was a bit selfish. Our man secretary, but when the Prime Minister went across it didn’t matter whether it was Mr Chifley, this happens to be Mr Chifley, but always when the Prime Minister went to the west, on the train they put on a carriage which was done for the Prince of Wales when he came out. There were two bedrooms and then some bunks and a private kitchen and dining room. And the dining table was, it was a fairly large. I’d know it to be used as a Cabinet Room, because if you had a few Ministers on board, it was a heck of a long way from the west, by the time you got to Adelaide. The man secretary had taken the other bedroom and we were just standing on the platform at Port Augusta and the Prime Minister — that was where we joined the Commonwealth part of the train. He said, ‘Oh where are you Hazel?’. I said ‘I’m in a bunk there somewhere’. He said ‘There’s a second bedroom on this, why haven’t you got that’. I said Mr so and so has got that. He said ‘You’re the only lady travelling with us, you’re going to have the other bedroom’. So I had the other bedroom [laughs].

K Begg: G for George was another story? When did you fly across with G for George and tell us that story?

H Craig: Well, that’s the only time I’ve know Mr Curtin to fly. I don’t think he liked flying but in any case there weren’t any aeroplanes much and there certainly weren’t any ordinary air services. G for George came out on a recruiting campaign to try and get people interested to join the air force. In — I think it must have been 1944. There had been some eminent person came out and from England on G for George and for something to do with the war effort. I think it was. He had a kind of lilo thing to have a snooze and so forth. It was right behind the cockpit. Peter Isaacson was the pilot who was crazy but a wonderful pilot and we — Mr Curtin had that seat, which meant that he’s — he could more or less lie out and the rest of us sat down the back in between the struts, it was unlined. It had the struts in between, keeping the outside skin alright and each one sat on a form in between these struts, with your back curved like that, and every time Isaacson saw a kangaroo or a rabbit he waggled his wings, like this, going across, with the result, of course, that nearly everybody was sick. The crew were not used to having any females or outsiders on their plane so they just simply got into their sleeping bags, or up into their gun turrets or something or other and we just didn’t see them. There was nothing to drink, there was nothing to eat, there was nothing on board. Well, it was a war plane. It had just come back from doing a stint over Germany etcetera. So, you can imagine, by the time we got to Pearce, no we got to Kalgoorlie I think, first and we got off the plane. There was a WAAF [member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force] on board who was go to all the way with the recruiting to try and get women to join up for the WAAF. She was very sick and when we got out there was her senior officer and all the senior officers off the air force base where we got out. She put on a bit of powder and lipstick and got out. I don’t know how she did it. I know I couldn’t have if I’d been as sick as she was. One other of our staff was very, very sick and we put her in hospital when we got to Perth for the whole week that we were there. We went in to have something to eat in the officers’ mess and Mr Curtin was to speak to all the men and thank them for all their service and all the rest of it. We went through and by the time we got to Perth, believe me, it took a whole week to get the bend out of your back after being sitting in those — just a form and you’re in between these struts on the aircraft.

K Begg: Did you fly back?

H Craig: No, came back by train but, I mean, Isaacson apologised afterwards. He had no idea that while he was wiggling his wings and everything. Nobody came to see how anybody was. Since, I suppose, on the way out, except for — there was no call for the boys to be in their turrets or anything, they were in their sleeping bags all along the plane. He had no reason to realise that we were sitting like this, crouched over all the way. When Isaacson took G for George to start the campaign going down to Busselton and Albany and all those places down there, he came down St George’s Terrace so low that all the flags flew as he went through St George’s Terrace. And, he had taken a representative of all the press on board which he mainly offloaded on the first stop he made. And did rather a lot of the work that was supposed to be being reported so as that everybody would feel they had to go and join up the air force. Quite deliberately he did that. He said he would and he did.

K Begg: Mr Curtin, do you remember the last time you saw Mr Curtin?

[End of part 1]


Interview with Hazel Craig 2  

H Craig: No, it was up here, everything — Mrs Curtin came over, but everybody — I think ‘Chiff’ was about the only one that saw him in the last, possibly week of his life. He just left the office one day collapsed. Mrs Curtin came across, as I say, probably ‘Chiff’ was about the only one that was allowed by the doctors and by Mrs Curtin to — of course then they flew his body over and we flew over in air force planes for the funeral. They had lying in State in Kings Hall before he went over.

K Begg: Do you recall how his death affected the parliament?

H Craig: Parliament, I think, like everybody else, they just couldn’t believe it, because Roosevelt had died just before, hadn’t he. Here the war was so close. I suppose we were really all thinking of celebrating with him the end of the war. I just think that everybody in the parliament just was absolutely stunned by it and we were very upset about the whole business. It was really the last thing we’d thought about.

K Begg: By this time you were then contemplating working for yet another Prime Minister, were you? How did you feel about your work life by this stage?

H Craig: I suppose it was just a natural thing. ‘Chiff’ flew over, Frankie Forde had himself made Prime Minister in the meantime because he was Deputy. From the time Mr Curtin was elected as Leader of the Opposition they left Frankie Forde as the Deputy out of his service to the Labor Party, really had nothing, they just didn’t put up anybody against him each time. So he was Deputy Prime Minister despite the fact that ‘Chiff’ as far as Mr Curtin was concerned was his Deputy. He was the one he leaned on and everything. Mr Forde was made Prime Minister for, what was it six days or something. Again, I don’t think — like Page I don’t think he thought he was going to be put out of it but by that time all the Labor Party had realised that just to good and faithful service to the Party was not the criterion by which you elected a leader. Of course when we got back from Perth they held a Party meeting and it just naturally evolved that — we just more or less carried on. See the war wasn’t over then.

K Begg: And your movement to Mr Chifley was almost as natural, you just moved across?

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: What was he like to work for?

H Craig: Great, he really was, very thoughtful of everyone. He used to get in before his staff in the morning, of course. He got in about eight o’clock in the morning and was always there when his staff arrived. Then he would usually — he was Prime Minister and Treasurer for a while and he still kept his Treasury office which was the next one, there was the Party Room and our office and then the Treasury office down the corridor. He would come out of the Prime Minister’s office — he would read his cables and sign letters and talk to his secretaries and the secretary of the department and so forth in the morning. But, when we all started to arrive he would come down and come into Don Roger’s office and then come into the Treasury and have a word with everybody in the morning. How they had gone, what they had done the night before and a few — just the same as any other person around the place. Very much more friendly that way then I suppose any other Prime Minister. He did the actual walking. He came out of his room, then talk to his private secretary and the people who were in there and the people in Don’s room and asking if the press had put anything up from the night before, then on to his Treasury room, that was as long as he kept the Treasuryship of course.

K Begg: He was an avid — did he and Mr Menzies share an interest in books?

H Craig: Yes, an avid read — in books.

K Begg: Tell us about that.

H Craig: Well, I don’t know how it all began but it began when ‘Chiff’ was Prime Minister because it was nothing to see him go around to the Leader of the Opposition’s office and say to Eileen Lenner, ‘Is the chief in?’. She would say, yes or no, accordingly, but if she said yes, he would say, can I see him for a few minutes. It would be that he had a ‘Who Done it’ or a book that he thought that ‘Ming’ would like to read and the same happened with anything that Mr Menzies got. Alan Reid was the third one in it. If he found a good book that he thought that they would like, he was in the circle.

K Begg: So in your view Mr Menzies and Mr Chifley enjoyed each other’s company, or shared a respect?

H Craig: Oh yes. I think that Mr Menzies did for all of them, for Mr Curtin as well, and certainly it was Mr Lyons who got him to stand for Sir John Latham’s seat of Kooyong on the first place. Mainly, I suppose, he wanted a good Attorney General when Latham left. I would think that was probably what Mr Lyons was thinking about when he got him — Mr Menzies actually came into parliament in 1934 and so we started off about the same time [laughs].

K Begg: You said something very interesting about Mr Chifley and Mr Curtin, in our earlier discussion you described them as two halves of a whole, do you remember that? What did each half, as it were, contribute or consist of?

H Craig: Well, I suppose just backing each other up, knowing probably more as a sounding board of each of them, and if they agreed, well that was — that was it.

K Begg: Do you think that loss of the half impacted on Mr Chifley to his detriment in the sense of his political judgement in the years in the years that followed?

H Craig: No, I don’t, really.

K Begg: Chifley was his own man?

H Craig: Yes, I think he was quite determined on everything. Right from the time when he was an engine driver and they had that 1915 strike, I think wasn’t it. They were so badly done by that the New South Wales government said, you will get back your rights, kind of business, and went back on their word. I think that really put the steel into him. Perhaps in some ways Mr Chifley was a more ardent Labor man than Curtin was, in that, he had more steel in him perhaps. Because, really for the time that Mr Curtin was Prime Minister the war took everything. You didn’t see anything — you didn’t worry about Labor or United Australia Party, as it was then, or the Liberal Party when it was made, as going against it. I mean everybody’s work was for the war effort.

K Begg: So there was a unity of political purpose?

H Craig: Yes, you see that was where the War Cabinet came in to the thing as well. There wasn’t that same fighting for anything that was foremost for their Party. It all went into the war effort. You could almost say they didn’t play politics in those years. You didn’t try to get — you didn’t do much I suppose for the people of Australia except fighting the war. So that political things didn’t quite come into it so much.

K Begg: In Mr Chifley’s rule politics did come in, in a sense of the bank nationalisation which was seen by some as his downfall. Do you recall that period?

H Craig: Yes, if he believed in something, he too would go for it. There was — well they had to straight after the war. There was post-war reconstruction, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and all these things, they all had to be put into operation and go for it. When ‘Chiff’ came back in again you were thinking of Australia the everyday living of the people of Australia. Whereas, as I say, right up until almost the beginning — there was only about four months of war and you knew, no we didn’t know until the bombs fell did we. But the war in Europe being over you realised the Pacific was going to fold up not too long afterwards and from then on you had to go back to — or go forward to looking after the people of Australia and the men coming from the war and all those type of things. All the things that ‘Chiff’ had to do after that, had to be what he thought was best for the people, for employment and then the Snowy Scheme and all these type.

K Begg: You’ve commented about Mr Menzies and Mr Chifley in one respect that they both knew what they wanted and if they believed it to be right, they went after it.

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: So they shared that characteristic. Were there any other characteristics — again you seem to speak very fondly of Mr Menzies and Mr Chifley were there other characteristics that stand out for you?

H Craig: Just that they were nice people I suppose [laughs].

K Begg: Nice to work for. Mr Chifley’s death, Mr Menzies was in power then, where were you and how did that effect you?

H Craig: That affected us quite a bit because — well great things, of course, had happened before that time. There was the spy thing before that wasn’t there, the Petrov case had come up just before that.

K Begg: Well let’s touch on the Petrov Affair. How did that affect you?

H Craig: Well, it didn’t affect me at all actually except that — Sir Robert, Mr Menzies had tried to bring in the, what was the name of it?

K Begg: The Anti-Communist Dissolution Bill.

H Craig: Yes. Things were pretty tense, particularly between him and Dr Evatt of course. Then before that there was the bank nationalisation which was the downfall of ‘Chiff’ but nothing would have moved him on that. I mean he really — that was one of the things that he stuck out on but…

K Begg: So the election of Mr Evatt changed the mood, changed the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition?

H Craig: Oh yes certainly but it had changed before that. I mean, not against ‘Chiff’ but there was always that electric feeling between Evatt and Menzies, which had come out of the law cases that they had fought on the opposite side in the High Court. I think it was mainly on Evatt’s side. I don’t think Evatt appealed to Mr Menzies but I think that Evatt was really — had a streak in him that couldn’t bear to be second fiddle and so forth. You see they had gone through Melbourne University and Sydney University winning, pretty well, the prizes in each university which were comparable with each other and scholarships and things like this. Evatt was clever, nobody was going to take that away from him, but as Mr Menzies said, he was his own worst enemy in that he didn’t present his cases clearly enough to the judges. Obviously not as clearly as Menzies did. In each case — I won’t say it’s only because the presentation of the cases, it must have been substance as well, but I don’t think Evatt won one case that they were on opposite sides and this really wrangled with Evatt.

He had a nasty streak in him. I think he treated his staff like dirt, I always thought. I must admit they were loyal to him and all the rest of it but the way they yelled at each other and spoke to each other. I wouldn’t have been able to bear it.

K Begg: Mr Menzies as Prime Minister the second time around, you spoke of his feeling of insecurity, as it were, the first time around. What sort of Prime Minister was he the second time around, to work for?

H Craig: I think that, he developed a great — what was he forty four when he was first Prime Minister, I think, I guess he’d learnt a lot. He was very hurt, of course, that he didn’t have the support of his Party behind him when he resigned in ’41. I think that probably made him cautious when evaluating people and so forth afterwards that he had been hurt that time, very badly.

K Begg: What was it, do you think, that aside from that, that made him such a successful politician?

H Craig: It’s hard to say really. He had an aura around him. I mean anybody who — you couldn’t say he was always popular of course, but anybody who has — like Billy Hughes had something that honestly he didn’t deserve for mine but he could play on it. The press played up to him. This little digger business. He was no more a digger than flying, yet he’d have that seat in Martin Place every time on ANZAC Day and all that kind of thing. They would praise him up and he would get away with it. He was the funniest little fellow you ever struck. Menzies had something that you, I suppose respected. I don’t know what it was. Just to give an example, when he became Chancellor of the University of Melbourne I was speaking to the Chancellor’s secretary one day. I don’t know how it came up but she said ‘We all come out to the corridor when Sir Robert comes. We just love it when…’. That was only walking past them, now what made that. I mean it’s something intangible, that you can’t say why. He was either a good Prime Minister or why people respected him so much, I suppose. I think, possibly they trusted him very much in those years. They must have because they wouldn’t have returned him, I don’t suppose. I don’t know what it was, it was something, it didn’t matter where you went there was this kind of respect for him.

K Begg: The Royal visit of 1954, do you have memories of that?

H Craig: Yes, very much so. It was really a great time, all the Royal visits were, of course, we always had a reception in Kings Hall. Again, everything — everything was always so very friendly in those days. I think that was the — and we were all together. The press would come down from the Press Gallery, the Ministers would come out of their rooms, the Members would come out of the Members Room or out of the House, and you were all in the same corridor. You’d all just talk to people, staff, members, Ministers, VIPs, anybody who came around or were confined to those corridors.

K Begg: It’s a very democratic building that way, isn’t it?

H Craig: Yes. Also we had the advantage of not having all this security and all the rest of it. A Prime Minister never thought of having any guard or anything like that. Now, for instance, you take the wall around the Lodge. There used to be that fence with wires strung through it. As Dame Pattie used to say, the kids around the place used to kick their football or throw their ball over into the thing, because they knew that if they saw Dame Pattie they always got a soft drink and a biscuit or something, or a cake. So she said, I think they did it on purpose, but they all just jumped in and got their balls if they put it over, and all the rest to it, it was just such a different life.

K Begg: Just going back to that ’54 visit, was their anything specific about that at the parliament that you recall. The Queen came here and Mr Menzies made quite an often quoted statement there didn’t he?

H Craig: Yes, and if we sent out — if the people in those days liked it, that was an understatement. I guarantee we sent out hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of that speech, copies of that speech to everybody who wrote in. Just hundreds and thousands of people wrote in and asked if they could have that speech.

K Begg: Do you recall who wrote that speech?

H Craig: He did.

K Begg: Mr Menzies wrote that speech?

H Craig: He didn’t do any speeches that he didn’t write himself.

K Begg: Mr Rogers didn’t play any role in that then?

H Craig: Oh he didn’t belong to ‘Ming’.

K Begg: He’d gone.

H Craig: He left when I left after Mr Chifley died. But, no, he never delivered a speech that he didn’t do himself. This is one of the things that used to annoy him. He used to say, some people think you only have to turn a handle and words come out. He said, if you are going to make a speech and there is going to be anything in it at all, you’ve got to think about it. He might do a sheet of paper about that size with half a dozen headings on it, just so as his theme will go through as he thought it should, follow one and another. That would be all he’d have except for the policy speech which he knew he had to fit in to a certain time on the air at a public meeting. And so he had to also make allowances for the interjections that he used to like to reply to. He would finish to the tick. He would — you would have the lectern. He would put the speech on the thing, we would give him the number of words on each page. He would take off his wristlet watch, he would put it on the lectern and he would finish right on the tick.

K Begg: Where do you think he got that great respect for words from?

H Craig: I think he always had it.

K Begg: Legal training?

H Craig: Legal training, that was one of the big things. I told you about ‘Chiff’ coming in at 8 o’clock in the morning before his staff did. Unfortunately, Mr Menzies didn’t. He liked to work into the night. If he had a case to go to the court in the morning, even if he had to work until 2 am he would have everything prepared and know exactly what he what he was going to say and what he was going to do and so forth and then he would go and sleep and just get into the court before it started. He did that particularly at the beginning of the time that he was Prime Minister much to the worry of his head of department and all the rest of it who were — he didn’t make allowances for instances for cables overnight. Perhaps the head of department wanting to tell him something before he went into Cabinet or something like that. But they soon learnt that he had a photographic memory. He just had to look at that page and everything had sunk in. They got used to it in the end. Probably he would do in a quarter of an hour what it would take another man an hour and a half to do. He got out of it a little bit but he never came in really early. He didn’t like the morning very much I don’t think.

K Begg: An evening person.

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: From whom did he seek council and advice in those early days?

H Craig: Which days, the first time or the second time?

K Begg: The second time around as Prime Minister was there a particular Minister or a staffer in whom he would have sort council about the day to day business of politics?

H Craig: Politics, no I think he did anything that was political himself, somehow or other, but he — when he came in Sir Allen Brown and quite a number of people in our department had come from post-war reconstruction which was being dismembered at that stage. There was Coombs had just been appointed to the Bank and Brown to our department and, I think, Bunting also to our department. Well the seven dwarfs, I think, all came from the post-war reconstruction.

K Begg: Yes.

H Craig: And, of course, they all adored ‘Chiff’ let’s not be doubtful about that. Not necessarily politically, I don’t know, but they adored ‘Chiff’. When Mr Menzies came in he said something to Brown and — I don’t know whether he said, oh I don’t know I tend towards Labor or something like that. He said ‘I don’t care what your politics are. All I want is loyalty’ and he took an awful risk you know because, although I think they were probably Menzies men in the end they started off, probably as Chifley’s men.

K Begg: Chifleys - Mr Menzies had a reputation as a politician of being fairly ruthless, of getting rid of anybody who might have challenged him for leadership, sending them overseas. Did you find him to be like that?

H Craig: No, you’re probably thinking of Casey to start with. But, no, he asked for the job and I wouldn’t think — can you think of anyone other than Casey who was really a potential challenger?

K Begg: I think there were some who were sent overseas, but right at the moment I can’t think, Downer?

H Craig: He wasn’t a potential Prime Minister.

K Begg: Maybe he might have thought he was.

H Craig: No, and Harrison certainly didn’t think so.

K Begg: So that is not a view that you would endorse anyway?

H Craig: No. I wouldn’t endorse it at all. Well, if you think Downer, I would have doubted that very much. But Spender could have been one that had great ambitions, he did, but certainly not that he thought he was going to succeed or anything, or was sent away for that reason. I think the only one who really ever could have been a competitor in that line was Casey. Probably after Mr Lyons died really. See he had the backing of the Melbourne Club and they wanted Menzies not to stand and to let Casey be the leader because they directed him. I remember, I think, ‘Ming’ said, when they asked him to stand down he said, no, and of course, I suppose they held it against him that Menzies was never a member of the Melbourne Club. He said, ‘No, if I’m elected I expect ‘Dib’ [not clear] to be loyal to me. If he wins I will be loyal to him’. I think that was really the only really big challenge that ‘Ming’ ever had.

K Begg: On the issue of loyalty, you worked for five Prime Ministers. Was loyalty ever an issue for you? You must have got very close to some of these men. You shared confidentiality, I suppose, some secrets, was loyalty ever an issue in your mind?

H Craig: No.

K Begg: So did you have any difficulties dealing with the change overs of Prime Ministers and routine?

H Craig: No, not really because I liked the people. I respected them because they were doing the best there was in their outlook for the country. We were only public servants, serving them really, when it came down to the point. You might have been a bit more now and again, but that never worried me really.

K Begg: When you — we were in the old parliament just a week or so back weren’t we. When you go back into that building, what are your memories, what are your thoughts, what comes to mind?

H Craig: Happy times, really happy times. I feel sorry in some ways that parliament has changed so much. I know that this building has to be, had to be, because we grew out of the other one miles before they put on those couple of wings that they put on outside and spoilt the look of the building. They just grew out of it. Again, as I say, people have got to realise that there were not half the number of people in parliament to start with. That there were only — the temporary parliament house was built for the number in those days, and the number of people in Australia that they were serving. Just as Ministers were allowed to have staffs to start with. The one secretary that was able to travel in those days. Then with the aeroplanes the mobility around Australia, just everything changed after the war. Whereas, as I say, everything was geared to the train travel. In ‘Chiff’s’ day and in Menzies day mostly, for his time, we travelled around in DC3s and if the wind was blowing hard, you went backwards and not forwards. But it was a great difference.

I can remember coming over from Perth once with Mr Chifley and we were — they weren’t pressurised in those days and we were allowed to go up more than 10,000 feet. The wind against us was such that we were just almost standing still according to the pilot. So, and this was during the night — it was funny, we took off from Busselton and they didn’t have an aerodrome there they had an air strip. There was nothing for night flying. They put some candles in kerosene tins along the runway and they said, the Prime Minister can’t take off without the fire brigade and the ambulance. As you know ‘Chiff’ main adjective was bloody, he didn’t stress it, it was just another word in his vocabulary. So they sent down the ambulance from Perth, I think it was, and the fire brigade from somewhere else. Here they are lined up as we’re taking off about eleven o’clock at night. He had a night speech there and he looked around and he said ‘All they’ve forgotten is the bloody undertaker’ [laughs].

K Begg: Well, I suppose…

H Craig: But we came across, we had a head wind and turbulence and all the rest of it. It used to be fitted out with a lounge and a couple of swivel chairs and then at the back a couple of seats with a table in between. Any rate we all woke up about the same stage. ‘Chiff’ was in this reclining chair, a swivel chair, and Rogers, of course took the couch and the rest of us did the best we could. Suddenly we all woke up and we seemed a bit out of breath and Rogers struck a match and it went out. After he’d struck about twelve of them, ‘Chiff’ said ‘There’s no oxygen’. The pilot came and apologised afterwards that he had gone up higher than 10,000 to try and get out of the turbulence and that he shouldn’t have. Then we got into something and suddenly Don Rogers went up to the sky and fell back down onto the floor, the plane dropped. He went up and then came down again [laughs]. We all laughed because he was on the couch. That was the only thing against the DC3. They were a lovely plane really. They were really, both with ‘Chiff’ and with Mr Menzies we went through some funny trips on the DC3 to various parts of Australia.

K Begg: Just one final question. Going back to the 1954 Royal Tour. Mr Menzies seemed to be genuinely happy about the outcome of that tour and his speech reflected his feelings and his mood. Why was that do you think? What was it about that visit that was so important?

H Craig: It was our first Royal visit for how long? None of us had ever seen any of the Royal family up until then except Menzies and Curtin when the King was — when they went over to England. I just think it was a joyful time for all Australia because it was the first time we had a member of the Royal family out. He also had seen — he knew the Queen and Margaret as younger people and was very pleased that she was Queen I think because there was no doubt about it. She did and has an still does a very good job as far as her job is concerned. Nobody can point the bone at the Queen I don’t think for anything, except the kids messed up everything.

K Begg: There is one Royal story that you shared with us, the abdication and how the news of the abdication was relayed to the Australian parliament.

H Craig: Yes.

K Begg: How did that happen?

H Craig: Well, Baldwin was going to announce the abdication in the Commons and it was to be done simultaneously in the House of Reps which happened to be at about 2 o’clock, I think, it was in the morning here, 2 am. About half an hour before the time for the Prime Minister to get up and make the announcement the cable hadn’t come through about — giving the text. So, they got on — the Prime Minister got on the telephone and spoke to Baldwin and then Irvin Douglas and Eileen Lenihan and Thelma Caswell got on the telephone and each took parts of the speech down and then went off and typed it back. Took it in relays until the full speech was done. When he got up in parliament the last bits weren’t with him but were sent into the House and that was how we managed to get it on time here. Also shows you the difference in communications of the day.

K Begg: Certainly does. Hazel thank you very much for communicating with us for the last two hours.

H Craig: Glory, is it that long.

K Begg: It is, thanks very much.

H Craig: Good.