Columns »

[19 Jul 2014 | One Comment | 39 views ]

AS many Australians, including federal Attorney-General George Brandis, are now fully starting to realise, protecting free speech and freedom of expression is an uphill struggle that needs to be fought over and over again.
These days in this country, as in much of the West, fewer and fewer people actually believe in freedom of speech. They may believe in freedom of speech for themselves, but they tend not to believe in freedom of speech and expression of opinion that contravenes their own deeply held beliefs, be they religious, political, racial or …

Columns »

[5 Jul 2014 | 2 Comments | 29 views ]

THE democratic process in Australia is driven by two competing, often conflicting, imperatives. Governments are often faced with critical decisions for the long-term good that are potentially unpopular in the short term.
For politicians it would seem there is little point in making decisions for the long-term national good if it results in an election loss, with an incoming government reversing any gains. In recent history two federal governments have managed the competing demands of the short-term electoral cycle and the longer-term national interest.
The Hawke-Keating government floated the Australian dollar to …

Reviews »

[28 Jun 2014 | No Comment | 48 views ]

Menzies at War
By Anne Henderson
New South, 263pp, $34.99
WHATEVER you think of Robert Menzies, he is one of the towering figures of Australian politics. In ‘Menzies at War’ Anne Henderson has written a compelling account of the first prime ministership of the future founder of the Liberal Party, who between April 26, 1939, and August 29, 1941, led Australia during the troublesome beginnings of World War II.
Although sometimes repetitive, this well-researched and finely illustrated book follows on from Henderson’s previous work about Aus­tralia in the 1930s. In particular, she has illumin­ated …

Columns »

[21 Jun 2014 | No Comment | 16 views ]

THIS afternoon, in a do-or-die struggle at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, my beloved Collingwood battles against the injury-wracked Hawthorn — who last year won the AFL grand final.
The task of the Hawks today will be made more difficult by the prolonged absence of their senior coach, Alastair Clarkson, who is suffering from a rare auto-immune condition, called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
From as long as I can remember I was taught that Aussie Rules was of the utmost importance to our family life and to life in general.
Indeed, although I couldn’t have …

Columns »

[9 Jun 2014 | No Comment | 72 views ]

PROBABLY Australia’s most celebrated teetotaller will toast his Order of Australia in the same style he has his long list of other achievements in the past 44 years.
“I’ll be going to an AA meeting at 8pm, to give thanks from whence it all has come,” academic and author Ross Fitzgerald laughs as he tells ‘The Australian’.
“Had I not stopped drinking and using all other drugs from Australia Day 1970, I wouldn’t have been around to do the work that the award’s about.
“I stopped at 24, if I hadn’t, I probably …

Reviews »

[7 Jun 2014 | No Comment | 15 views ]

Review of Dangerous Allies
By Malcolm Fraser, with Cain Roberts
MUP, 360pp, $65 (HB)
IN the public mind, Malcolm Fraser is best remembered for the following: taking over the prime ministership in 1975 as a result of John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam; opposing the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia and supporting the Commonwealth campaign to dismantle apartheid in South Africa; publicly weeping when he was defeated as PM in 1983; and losing his pants in a shady hotel in Memphis in 1986.
Written with the assistance of academic Cain Roberts, Fraser’s ‘Dangerous Allies’ …

Columns »

[7 Jun 2014 | One Comment | 31 views ]

WITH a new federal upper house due to convene on July 1, minor parties will be in the spotlight. Five minor parties, plus Nick Xenophon, will be represented in the new Senate and will hold the balance of power between them. The voting blocks that form out of these parties will not only determine the fate of Tony Abbott’s first budget but they could give us an insight into just how far the Senate may change in future years.
The days of the Senate being a house of review where senators …

Speeches »

[2 Jun 2014 | No Comment | 38 views ]

“Austen Tayshus : Merchant of Menace” by Prof Ross Fitzgerald. An address for Melbourne’s first Jewish Writer’s Festival, the Beth Weizmann Community Centre, 306 Hawthorn Rd, South Caulfield. 4.30pm Sunday June 1, 2014
LAST YEAR` marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of Australia’s best-selling single ever, ‘Australiana’.
Performed by Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus), this subversive spoken-word piece is filled with an array of Australian puns, including ‘How much can a Koala bear?’, ‘Do you want to go Anna?’ and ‘Tryin’ to Platypus!’

Born in New York on St Patrick’s Day …

Reviews »

[31 May 2014 | No Comment | 12 views ]

Review of ‘Carrier Attack: Darwin 1942′.
By Tom Lewis and Peter Ingman
Avonmore Books, 368pp, $49.99 (HB)
THE surprise air attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was unforgettably described by then US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt as “a day of infamy”. A few weeks later we had a similar brush with infamy. On the morning of February 19, 1942, four days after the surrender of Singapore, 242 Japanese aircraft savagely bombed the isolated, lightly defended port of Darwin and its two airfields, especially targeting more than 60 Allied …