It includes Menzies’ emergency flight to London in 1941 to warn the British government of the likely threat Australia and other southern Pacific countries faced from Japan, the friendship he established with Winston Churchill and his family life in Melbourne and Canberra.
The images were taken in color on a 16mm Kodak camera, which Howard brandishes during the documentary as he recounts with historian Anne Henderson and members of Menzies’ family, the importance to Australia’s wartime security of the 1941 trip.
Howard says his favorite piece of footage is of a cigar-champing Churchill, in a light coat and pork pie hat, feeding bread to swans at a lake while Menzies has his camera rolling. It shows the friendship that slowly developed between Menzies and a man he called a dictator and a dangerous, God-like figure when he first arrived in London.
Other footage captures the devastation of Germany’s bombing raids over England, including at the Dorchester Hotel where Menzies was staying, and a gaping crater where the Old Trafford cricket pitch should have been.
“The relationship didn’t start well,” Howard says. “Menzies thought that Churchill was unaware of the danger that was posed to Australia, particularly a potential Japanese entry into the war.
“Over time, Menzies and Churchill became good friends and he admired, as everyone had to, the extraordinary leadership of Churchill.”
Howard, a keen Menzies historian and the author of the 2014 book The Menzies Erapoints out that when Australia’s prime minister set off for London on what became a 27-day, 42-stop flight, Australia was one of only a handful of small Commonwealth nations standing by Britain in the war.
The US had not yet entered the war, Russia was still allied with Germany and the rest of Western Europe had capitulated to the Nazis.
“It was a very desperate time,” Howard says.
The electoral challenge facing the Liberal Party next Saturday might also be described as desperate. Although Howard does not accept his party is facing an identity crisis, he agrees its greatest threat is not from teal candidates but from habitual Liberal voters annoyed at the party.
“Politically you have a number of people who, not always but normally, voted Liberal and for one reason or another, perhaps length of time in office, are cranky with the Liberal Party and thinking of voting for an independent who are running around saying ‘ we really are Liberals, but we think they need a shake up’,” he says.
“The only message I have is a very simple one: you can’t have it both ways. You can’t vote for these so-called independents who are in effect an anti-Liberal group to send a message to the Liberal Party without tipping the Liberal Party out.
“Once you do that you are handing government to the Labor Party.”
Dr Kerryn Phelps, a member of the Climate 200 group’s advisory committee, which is helping to fund the teal campaigns, said Howard misunderstood the movement and the reason that voters with small-l liberal values had deserted his party.
“The people I have spoken to are not just cranky with the Liberal Party, they have given up,” she said. “The Liberal and National Coalition has moved so far to the right it no longer reflects those original Menzian values.
“People who have been frustrated and exasperated by what has happened within the current Liberal Party have found a home among this independent movement in various communities.″
Howard has a particular affection for Frydenberg, who he has known for 20 years. He describes him as a politician of “exceptional ability.” Kooyong is Menzies’ old seat and some of the home videos in the documentary were shot in the electorate, on the front law of the Menzies historic family home in Kew.
Two recent polls using different methodology – once conducted by RedBridge for teal candidate Monique Ryan and one conducted by YouGov for The Australian newspaper – both indicate that an election held today would result in Frydenberg losing Kooyong to Ryan.
“I talk to Josh regularly and I will certainly be paying his electorate a visit between now and polling day,” Howard says. “I think Josh will win, but he is not a fool. He understands that he has got a fight. It is a different kind of fight but the danger is there.”
The Menzies Movies premieres on FOXTEL on Wednesday, 18 May at 7.30pm AEST.