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[23 Jun 2017 | No Comment | 12 views ]

The clock is now ticking on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. He currently faces active resistance from more than a score of Coalition MPs who didn’t enter public life to mimic the Labor Party. To them, the current PM’s not just leading a ‘Labor-lite’ government; he’s in the process of undermining fundamental Liberal Party values.
Edmund Burke defined a political party as a group of people working to advance the national interest according to a set of principles upon which they all agree. As John …

Reviews »

[16 Jun 2017 | No Comment | 24 views ]

‘Sydney Noir: The Golden Years’
Michael Duffy and Nick Hordern
NewSouth, $34.99
Can a crime era be described as golden? That depends on your point of view, I suppose. If you’re a criminal or a corrupt cop, the description might, or might not, be apt. Hence ‘Sydney Noir’ is subtitled “The Golden Years” with more than a modicum of irony.
This compelling, well-researched and finely written book focuses on the Sydney underworld from 1966 to 1972. Good times to be a crim, apparently.
These “golden years” saw the replacement of illegal gambling as the main …

Reviews »

[8 Jun 2017 | No Comment | 12 views ]

‘Making Headlines’
By Chris Mitchell
Melbourne University Press 2016
ISBN: (Paperback) 9780522870701
ISBN: (E-Book)9780522870718
RRP: $32.99 pb
Reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald
For years from the mid-1990s onwards I wrote a regular column for Chris Mitchell when he ran Brisbane’s ‘Courier-Mail’ and then, from July 2002, when he was editor-in-chief of ‘The Australian’. This was the case until he retired from his extremely demanding editorial position in December 2015.
My experience is that Mitchell genuinely believes in freedom of speech and in the free play of ideas. Indeed, I can’t remember a single instance when he tried to prevent …

Reviews »

[3 Jun 2017 | No Comment | 14 views ]

‘Four Weeks One Summer’
By Nicholas Whitlam
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 284pp, $44
The causes of World War II are still debated, but was there a seminal moment?
As Australian author Nicholas Whitlam makes clear, there is almost universal consensus the conflict had its origins in the dubious settlement arrangements of World War I.
The breakdown of the established order in Europe, hyperinflation, the Depression and perceived political appeasement all laid the groundwork.
While there has been much speculation about how the war could have been avoided, Whitlam’s ‘Four Weeks One Summer’ centres on this question: when …

Columns »

[1 Jun 2017 | No Comment | 10 views ]

By capitulating as dramatically as he has, Malcolm Turnbull further highlighted the question of his character while simultaneously trashing his party’s brand. Is there any principle he stands for or would fight for, other than personal ambition, blind vanity and his current position?
A Vainglorious PM’s Bankrupt Budget
For the past few weeks in Canberra, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been congratulating himself on how well the budget has been received. No one in the Coalition party room has yet chosen to contradict him, but that doesn’t mean he’s right.
In …

Reviews »

[30 May 2017 | No Comment | 9 views ]

Labor and Santamaria by Robert Murray
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2017
103 pages, $24.95
A disastrous division in its ranks in the mid-1950s kept the Australian Labor Party out of power federally for twenty-three years. Until Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister in 1972, there hadn’t been a federal Labor government since 1949, when Ben Chifley was defeated. The infamous Labor Split fundamentally reshaped Australian politics, both nationally and in the states, especially in Victoria and Queensland.
In 1970 Robert Murray published ‘The Split’, a groundbreaking analysis of Labor in …

Books »

[24 May 2017 | 2 Comments | 35 views ]

A book set in a fictitious Queensland that seems frighteningly familiar is up for the country’s only award for humour writing which is held every two years.
Local writer Ian McFadyen and Sydney-based historian and author, Professor Ross Fitzgerald, collaborated on GOING OUT BACKWARDS, which is subtitled A GRAFTON EVEREST ADVENTURE. It has been short-listed for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing which is run by the State Library of New South Wales.
The book is set in Mangoland and in it the protagonist, the shambolic Dr Professor Grafton …

Reviews »

[20 May 2017 | Comments Off on Rollicking history of hosties | 31 views ]

Smile, Particularly in Bad Weather
By Prudence Black
UWA Publishing, 310pp, $29.99
The air hostess was an immediate symbol of the jet-set era. The hair, the uniforms, the fashions were all synonymous with the world of glamour and international travel.
We don’t call them air hostesses any more because that’s politically incorrect. Prudence Black’s fine book about Australian air hostesses is a nostalgic and engaging backwards glance at their heyday.
Some years ago, a friend in Brisbane put a personal ad in a paper that read: “Wanted — grounded Qantas hostie.” It worked. He …

Columns »

[19 May 2017 | Comments Off on Identity politics | 14 views ]

Liberal? Labor? Is there any visible difference between our two major parties?
The budget week just gone has marked the moment when both sides of politics officially gave up on budget repair and economic reform. Barring a change of leadership on the Coalition side or a change of heart from Labor, Australia now faces budget deficits as far as the eye can see and is set on an indefinite period of ever higher spending chased by ever higher taxes.
Going down the European path is likely to give us the European …

Columns »

[4 May 2017 | Comments Off on Dance of the budget veils | 16 views ]

Conventional wisdom holds that an elected government’s first budget should be its bravest. Albeit with a micro-majority, Malcolm Turnbull is an elected prime minister, rather than merely a coup leader. So next week’s budget should be an opportunity to place his economic stamp on the country.
It’s becoming clearer what the budget is likely to contain: there’ll be ‘good’ borrowing to fund more infrastructure, especially railways; there’ll be some superannuation concessions for seniors who downsize the family home; there’ll be some savings that will annoy the hell out of the impacted …

Columns »

[30 Apr 2017 | 2 Comments | 31 views ]

Despite a long career as a professor of history and politics, I am still fascinated by the spread of, and resistance to, evidence-based policies that work to reduce crime.
In the Western world, pills have been tested at youth music dance events for almost 20 years, improving public safety and saving scarce resources. Yet Australia has been slow to accept such testing, while rushing to adopt expensive, tough, anti-crime policies not backed by evidence. Having accepted these expensive ways of making a bad problem worse, our governments often persist with such …