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[30 May 2017 | No Comment | 3 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 …

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[20 May 2017 | No Comment | 20 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 …

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[22 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on The ‘spies’ who never came back from New Guinea | 22 views ]

REVIEW
Line of Fire
By Ian Townsend
Fourth Estate, 309pp, $29.99
Ian Townsend’s third book, ‘Line of Fire’, a work of nonfiction, is excellent. It follows two fine novels: ‘Affection’ (2007), based on the 1900 plague outbreak in north Queensland, and ‘The Devil’s Eye’ (2008), centred on the worst cyclone in Australian history.
The Queensland radio journalist and author has a talent for discovering little-known events and fleshing them out to make history come alive. His new book is a gripping yarn of espionage and war.
Townsend meticulously mined research archives in Australia, Japan and Papua …

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[8 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on Disposing of leaders, Australian-style | 14 views ]

POLITICS
Disposable Leaders
Rodney Tiffen
NewSouth Books $34.99
Coups are becoming increasingly common in Australia. This in turn means that, in recent years, party leadership has become much more precarious.
Rather clumsily subtitled “Media and Leadership Coups from Menzies to Abbott”, Rodney Tiffen’s ‘Disposable Leaders’ begins with the claim that in 1941 the later long-serving federal Liberal luminary, Robert Gordon Menzies was “the first Prime Minister to be overthrown by his own party.”
This is questionable on two counts.
In early 1923 W.H. (“Billy”) Hughes was forced to resign as Prime Minister due to the refusal of …

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[2 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on Red Ted’s Fall and Recovery | 29 views ]

The Curse of Mungana
by David E. Moore
Boolarong Press, 2017, 336 pages, $34.99
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Widely known as “Red Ted”, Edward Granville Theodore was Queensland Premier from 1919 to 1925 and federal Treasurer during James Scullin’s federal Labor government from 1929 to 1931. He was arguably the greatest Australian politician never to become prime minister.
In large part Theodore’s political career was killed by what became known as the Mungana Mines scandal. The Mungana mining leases were situated twenty kilometres north-west of Chillagoe, a north Queensland town which was part of Theodore’s state electorate from …

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[25 Mar 2017 | Comments Off on The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller | 39 views ]

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller
By Carol Baxter
Allen & Unwin, 410pp, $32.99
Jessie Miller is one of our most fascinating adventurers, even if she is little known today. In the 1920s and 30s she was world famous.
She was born in Western Australia in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.
Four years earlier Mark Twain published Following the Equator, a nonfiction travelogue about his whistlestop tour of the British Empire. Of his time in colonial Australia Twain wrote: “It is full of surprises, and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are …

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[1 Mar 2017 | Comments Off on Reality Trumps Satire | 37 views ]

‘Way Beyond Satire’
by Rowan Dean
Wilkinson Publishing, 2016, 160 pages, $34.99
Reports of the death of satire have been grossly exaggerated. Indeed in an age when fact is much stranger and more preposterous than fiction, satire is still alive and has never seemed more pertinent. Despite this, some of my writer friends still contend that satire is deceased.
I do understand why some are saying this, because satire now seems to have been eclipsed by reality. Hence the timely title of Rowan Dean’s book ‘Way Beyond Satire’— a collection of satirical essays, which …

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[18 Feb 2017 | Comments Off on When German ‘aliens’ lost their liberty | 40 views ]

Nazis in our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
By David Henderson
Australia Scholarly Publishing, 197pp, $39.95
Any book with Nazis in the title is sure to receive attention, such is the fascination with the movement that personified evil in the 20th century. So it is that there will be considerable interest in the stories of former German-Australian internees and their families at the Tatura internment camp in rural Victoria, and in other Australian detention centres.
As La Trobe University academic David Henderson points out in ‘Nazis in our Midst’, the reality …

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[28 Jan 2017 | Comments Off on The fight the Little Digger just couldn’t win | 20 views ]

Review
The Conscription Conflict and the Great War
Edited by Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, Murray Goot and Sean Scalmer
Monash University Publishing, 220pp, $34.95
In memorialising World War I the anti-war movements of the time have been somewhat overlooked. In all the sabre-rattling countries, efforts to prevent the outbreak of war were quickly overwhelmed. More’s the pity. But in Australia a movement to prevent the introduction of military conscription was surprisingly successful.
On October 28, 1916 and again on December 20, 1917 the federal government, led by the so-called “Little Digger” William Morris (“Billy”) Hughes, …

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[28 Dec 2016 | Comments Off on Review of ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’ | 30 views ]

Book Review
By Rama Gaind
‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure.’
By Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen, Hybrid Publishers, $26.95
Professor Dr Grafton Everest is said to be a ‘wonderful creation’. Depends on how you assimilate his tedious long-winded repartee.
This is not fact, but fiction: an incoherent academic accidently finds himself elected to the Australian Senate. What’s more, he has somehow ended up holding the balance of power. On top of it all, Australia is facing natural disaster from Tectonic Change.
It sounds like a familiar scenario, but Everest’s personal life does not …

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[24 Dec 2016 | Comments Off on Books of the year for 2016 | 58 views ]

BOOKS OF THE YEAR FOR 2016.
By Professor Ross Fitzgerald
For me, the most important book of the year is a co-authored work published by the nimble Melbourne publisher, Hybrid. This finely researched and brilliantly written, hugely significant and thoroughly accessible scholarly work is by Australian Jewish writers Sam Lipski & Suzanne D. Rutland – “Let My People Go: The untold story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959-89.”
Two extremely revealing books about communism follow this fine work of and about Australian history and politics. The first fearless expose is Sheila …