Martin Kelly, a suburban architect running his own business in solidly middle class Chatswood, always harboured a sense of resentment. His wife’s death had forced him to leave his lucrative gig in the city and start a business from home so he could juggle the kids and still design home extensions for young North Shore stockbrokers on the make.
Kelly’s success as an architect largely relied on him knowing Sydney’s North Shore very well. These were his people. He knew the good streets, he knew the good schools. He could tell what type of extension someone wanted merely by which end of Killara they lived and where their sons and daughters were wait-listed to go to school.
His politics were Liberal, if passively so.
His secretary Betty manned the polling booths each year for Country Labor in her home town of Walgett. Moving to the city, her strong sense of working class pride was galvanised by Kelly’s bully-boy tactics in the office, creating a clear, two person class divide which secretly incensed the seemingly unassuming secretary.
It was during the Keating years that Kelly became politicised. He took particular umbrage at the changes to superannuation. He just couldn’t see why he should have to pay more to ensure Betty had a decent retirement. He’d struggled as a single parent to provide for his kids, and thought Betty’s retirement was her responsibility. For the first time in his life, Martin Kelly volunteered for a political party – in 1993, galvanized by a Fightback! pamphlet in his letterbox, Kelly handed out how-to-votes on Election Day.
The 1990s recession caused a dive in the fortunes of the suburban architect. Fewer and fewer were looking to put extensions on their homes. In the mid-1990s, with the kids out of school and home, Mr Kelly moved to Singapore to join a large architecture firm making a killing in Asia’s growth decade. Ironically for Mr Kelly, he left just as the renovation boom really took off in suburban Sydney through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
While largely disaffected from Australian politics, from Singapore, Mr Kelly cast a postal vote for the Australian Sex Party in the 2011 NSW State Election.
After lapping up stories from Betty of strikes in the bush, ostracising rats, and working the numbers on an intra-factional enemy, Macarthur turned to politics when his family moved to Melbourne in the early 1990s, just as Kennett came to power.
Joining Young Labor, the same qualities that saw him help himself to so many free lunches at the Kelly household stood him in good stead negotiating his way through the internecine union politics of the Victorian Right. After a horrific jetskiing accident in 2008, Arthur is now known in the party as the Faceless Armless Man.