Don Bethune 1928 ‐ 2012 Donald Raymond Peter Bethune QSM was born in the year of what was to become known as the Great Depression and died in the midst of another global financial crisis. He was born in Auckland, one of six children; his father was an electrician and small farmer. Don was educated in rural primary schools and Te Awamutu College before taking a one year course at Massey College. As a youngster he was much involved in the small farm operation and become adept at being what he called a multi‐tasker. In those hard times when cows were hand milked, Don learned much about hard work and commitment, assets which were to serve him well for the rest of his life. Don was also into seeking what was behind things being the way they were and his analytical skills became well honed as he began to question why things were not working in the best interest of the communities in which he lived, worked and played. His practical abilities learned on the farm were enhanced by his early working life when he drove scrapers and bulldozers when our hydro‐electric schemes were being developed and then established a land development business. He later became a school teacher, a medical representative and founder of an egg incubator company, manufacturing his own design of incubator, an international Director of the Jaycee movement and the youngest Councillor elected to the Hamilton City Council. When his parents had fallen victim to the depression and his father’s electrical business and the family home were lost, Don’s interest in politics and the monetary system was whetted and came to dominate much of his attention over the rest of his life. He
wrote recently of his parents and siblings sitting down to breakfast on the Sunday after the 1935 Election and hearing M J Savage congratulating voters for have the strength to vote Labour, despite scurrilous threats from the finance sector. Savage said he had a message for the foreign bankers in NZ: “It is we who have been elected to govern this country, not you. If you don’t like our programme the sooner you pack your bags and go home the better”. In a letter written in 1934 M J Savage very clearly supported the Social Credit contention that purchasing power (money) had to equate with the production and wrote (about the Douglas Credit Movement): "I am bound to strive for unity with them and not seek their opposition”. Major C H Douglas had toured NZ and promoted an alternative to the ‘sound money’ orthodox policies that had led to the Great Depression, and the first Labour government saw the merit of a non debt based monetary system to build a progressive, prosperous and peaceful country. Indeed the Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and the use of its mechanism to create credit at low cost saw the boost needed to employment and production that led NZ out of the depression and laid the foundation for a period of stability and progress that lasted through to the 1960s. However, and unfortunately, the reform of the debt system didn’t continue and the foreign bankers and financiers quickly returned to ensure the threat represented by Social Credit was shut down. The Labour Party's financial policies fell back in line with those promoted by National, and so it remains today. Don applied himself to learning and understanding what C H Douglas’ proposals were about and became absolutely certain that continuing with a money supply that was increasingly based on the creation of debt through the lending activities of the banking sector would lead to a repetition of the financial disaster he had been born into. He made a commitment to educate people in an alternative to the debt system that
was to drive his reform activism right up to his death. Recent events have absolutely vindicated his stand. Don Bethune’s contribution to reforming the monetary system has long been recognised, not only in NZ but internationally. That is evidenced by his invitation to be a guest speaker at the American Monetary Institute Conference in September this year. His involvement with the Social Credit Movement has been long and influential. He was a Dominion Councillor in 1972 when the party split, and was elected as President with Bruce Beetham becoming the Leader. Over the next decade the party prospered due, no doubt, to Bruce and others having charismatic personalities but in the background was Don Bethune using the skills gained through Jaycees, City Council and other public activities to pull together an exceptional team of high achievers which saw the party go from 7% to 31% in public opinion polls and regain representation in Parliament. Unfortunately the golden period was not to last and Don’s view was that commitment to the CH Douglas Social Credit philosophy and policies were eroded as respective leaderships sought alternative (and hopefully more attractive) ways of rebuilding the party. Rightly or wrongly he felt his considered contribution to the debate around the DSC’s direction was largely ignored as support for the party slide down to less than 1% but he remained committed to the Social Credit cause right to the end and, indeed, just a few days before he passed away was writing page 44 of his final message to the world. The late Robert F Kennedy must have had people like Don Bethune QSM in mind when he wrote; “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope”. I believe Don’s ripples of hope are continuing to spread and indeed will grow. He will be greatly missed. Trevor Crosbie
Don Bethune was for years President of the NZ Social Credit Institute, a demanding position that required very broad knowledge of Social Credit and also of the banking system. As an academic body that usually had at least two perfectionists at every meeting, few people could have chaired and guided it as Don did. The Institute was established, on Bruce Beetham’s initiative, at the time when the Party changed its name from Social Credit to Democrats. Its intended purpose was twofold: to register and protect the name and to provide technical guidance to the Party for policy formation. In its second task, it did not succeed for as long as it might have, but it remained a fount of wisdom for those interested in consulting it. I personally owe a debt to Don for the number of times I was saved from hours of searching the literature by a simple question to him on some elusive technical point. On occasion, if my query was not well worded, the answer could be a little abrasive but, at every such time, clarification resulted in clear and sensible reasoning. Don was one of the giants. John G Rawson
At the same time as the announcement in the last issue of the Guardian, an obituary appeared in The Bay of Plenty Times, headed "To his credit, Les was passionate about a fair go for all". It continued: "In 1969, Mr Hunter was involved in creating social change by writing articles and pamphlets on industrial relations and monetary reform. He was the first director of the Social Credit Research Unit in Parliament House, researching the world of politics and radical monetary reform. He wrote two books: And Now Social Democracy and Courage to Change. The latter was described as one of the best books on monetary reform published in the world."
Australian monetary reformer Jeremy Lee passed away on 8th May 2012. Jeremy's fame grew when he was not only doing speaking tours all over Australia but aiso in New Zealand, Canada Ireland and the U.K. He combined many meetings with writing articles and books, and was in demand as a speaker at meetings organised by many organisations other than The Australian League of Rights. This led him to becoming involved in political campaigning on many issues. His passing is a great loss. He was an outstanding individual who did more than his fair share of work to try and leave this world a better place in which to live. Donald Martin (extract)
Guardian Political Review, Issue 62, Page 16
Summer 2012 issue of The Guardian