opinion

Opinion: Peter Fiorenza recalls the time he scored an unlikely interview with Sir Charles Court

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Sir Charles Court in his office at Parliament House in 1974.
Camera IconSir Charles Court in his office at Parliament House in 1974. Credit: Dave Tanner The West Australian

Regardless of political persuasion, I think everyone was shocked by the recent dramatic demise of the WA Liberal Party.

It’s still hard to comprehend this once very influential organisation is today substantially less than a shadow of its former self after the State election last month.

You could say the party today in no way resembles the political powerhouse of former premier Sir David Brand, who served from 1959 to 1971 — the longest-serving premier in this State.

Interestingly, Sir David was the Member for Greenough, hence the Brand Highway is named in his honour.

His government was noted for being bold, making WA a frontier in the mining of one of the world’s biggest commodities, iron ore.

Before then, WA was regarded as a mendicant State, meaning it could generally not generate enough wealth to support itself, therefore, reliant on extra funds from the Commonwealth (the other States) to survive.

As you can imagine, I did all right with the assessment, with my lecturer commenting: How the hell did you get hold of Sir Charles Court?

How do I know this?

Well, about 20 years ago, while studying politics at university, I was asked to select a political party in WA to study as part of an assessment.

I decided to research the WA Liberal Party, but struggled to find any substantial information, so after scratching my head for some time, I took a bit of a gamble.

I had a wild idea that — maybe, just maybe — I could get in contact with former premier, Sir Charles Court.

Someone suggested I contact the Premier’s Office as his son, Richard, was the premier at the time.

Even though I went through all the right channels, I thought it a long shot, but a couple of weeks later I received a surprise phone call.

“Hello, is this Peter Fiorenza?” came the voice on the other end.

“Peter, it’s Sir Charles Court here.”

Wow, this was the elderly statesman, himself.

After a brief conversation, Sir Charles invited me to visit his home in Mandurah a few days later, when I could record an interview about the WA Liberal Party with him.

Sir Charles Court with wife Lady Court on his birthday in 1981.
Camera IconSir Charles Court with wife Lady Court on his birthday in 1981. Credit: WA News

My subsequent visit to the Court residence saw Sir Charles meet me at the door dressed in a suit and tie.

And after being served afternoon tea by Lady Court, I sat down and chatted with the couple, and then spent about an hour with Sir Charles.

The man who was, ironically, born into a strong Labor family, spoke very passionately about the Liberal Party — a party he had devoted most of his life to.

As you can imagine, I did all right with the assessment, with my lecturer commenting: “How the hell did you get hold of Sir Charles Court?”

A couple of weeks later, I received another phone call from Sir Charles. He said he and Lady Court were wondering how I went with my assessment.

For some time, I believed that I had lost or accidentally thrown out the recorded interview, but recently, while doing a big clean-out at home, I came across the old cassette tape.

“Sir Charles Court — Recorded Interview 1998” was scribbled on the cover. Now, I need to find a cassette tape player so I can have another listen ...

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