Reviews »

[26 Dec 2015 | One Comment | 28 views ]

Review of ‘The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO, 1963-1975’
JOHN BLAXLAND
ALLEN & UNWIN, $49.99
REVIEW BY ROSS FITZGERALD
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation of 1975, at the end of the controversial federal Labor government of Gough Whitlam, was very different from 1963 when the long-serving Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies was still in power.
As John Blaxland explains in this rather pedestrian account of our signature intelligence agency, the so-called “Protest Years”, from the expulsion from Australia of the Soviet spy, Ivan Skripov​, in February 1963 to the ascension of …

Columns »

[26 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 13 views ]

As many Australians munch on leftover turkey, plum pudding and Christmas cake, liberally lubri­cated with booze, this is the time of year when many people realise they cannot continue drinking ­alcohol at such high and dangerous levels and be effective citizens and members of the nation.
Thus, on or before New Year’s Eve, a lot of Aussies will pledge to cut down their drinking or abstain altogether, while many will also commit to losing weight.
But while many focus on their individual problems, representatives of business argue that the best way …

Reviews »

[19 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 12 views ]

Top 2 books for Summer – Gerard Henderson’s Media WatchDog No 300
1. How To Be Liked By Others by Fr Harry H.W. Wade C.SS.R. (Liguori Publications, Missouri, Circa 1960) [This provides important skills for dog owners who need to have a few inter-personal skills in order to undertake canine driven walks – and return home without being attacked on, say, Bay Road by the savage Dipsey.]

2. ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’ by Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen (Hybrid Publications, Melbourne, 2015). ‘Going Out Backwards’is also available as an …

Columns »

[16 Dec 2015 | 2 Comments | 66 views ]

These days it is increasingly difficult to have a reasoned and thorough public debate about government policy.
So spare a thought for the members of a parliamentary committee who have to come to grips with a complex and important topic that affects all of us and is fraught with powerful emotions and deep divisions.
In Victoria, the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Upper House is examining end-of-life choices, including voluntary euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying.
They (or their staff) have to wade through about 1000 written submissions and …

Reviews »

[15 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 18 views ]

The captain may have been replaced but for the second year in a row the $600,000 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have been marked by split decisions.
However, it is understood the first awards under Malcolm Turnbull do not include any “captain’s picks”, as with Tony ­Abbott’s tendentious intervention last year.
While the key history and non-fiction prizes were shared at the awards ceremony in Sydney last night, this was the unanimous decision of the three judges, which was accepted by the Prime Minister, who has the final say in all six categories.
Each …

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[12 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 7 views ]

It is a great thing when you discover an early and long unpublished novel by a writer you like in other genres. Malcolm Muggeridge is, I think, the supreme memoirist of the 20th century. I liked all his journalistic books. A few years ago I came upon a 1987 edition of an early novel, ‘Picture Palace’, which he had written in the 1930s. It was a satire of the famous ‘Manchester Guardian’ editor CP Scott and had been suppressed as libellous.
The satire on Scott had elements of brilliance and was …

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[12 Dec 2015 | 3 Comments | 145 views ]

Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott
By Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen
MUP, 234pp, $29.99
This hastily put-together book is unambiguously focused on the failure of leadership of the 28th prime minister. It relies heavily on anonymous sources. However, it is worth pointing out that Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin both refused to be interviewed by authors Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen.
The title has echoes of Abbott’s 2009 memoir ‘Battlelines’, also published by Melbourne University Press. Intriguingly, Abbott’s book was published while he was a …

Columns »

[12 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 18 views ]

Malcolm Turnbull’s efforts to innovate our way into more employment and prosperity are to be applauded. So here’s a really innovative idea to help create more jobs. How about we let completely legal businesses that pay all their company taxes and GST share in government job creation schemes?
This week it came to my attention that the federal government bans certain legal industries from accessing job creation and wage subsidy schemes. They’re doing this simply because the moral values of the industry don’t happen to align with the moral values of …

Columns »

[8 Dec 2015 | One Comment | 15 views ]

Several young people have died recently after taking ecstasy at youth music dance events across Australia.
These tragedies attracted saturation media coverage. However it is important to point out that 15 Australians die each day from alcohol. Tellingly, one in eight deaths of Australians under 25 are caused by alcohol.
The sad reality is that illicit drugs are a helpful distraction for the liquor industry. Some commentators express astonishment that young people want to take drugs. But young people with everything to live for use drugs, including ecstasy, for …

Columns »

[5 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 15 views ]

I think most of us can agree that the standard of public debate in Australia has declined during the past few decades.
Under Liberal prime minister John Howard, we had a considered and rational response to the Port Arthur massacre. We also had considerable elements of maturity in the 1998 discussion of the GST.
Under Labor PMs Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, we had tax summits that actually meant something. Moreover, we had an informed debate about what fundamental economic and fiscal changes could mean for families, for business and for the …

Reviews »

[3 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 29 views ]

‘Going Out Backwards’, by Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen.
Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen
Hybrid, $26.95.
Kingsley Amis and his repulsive hero “Lucky” Jim Dixon have a great deal to answer for, not least an enduring strain of fiction writing devoted to charmless, sexist, self-indulgent, academic anti-heroes.

GOING OUT BACKWARDS belongs in this tradition, the fifth of historian Ross Fitzgerald’s books featuring the hapless Grafton Everest, with this one co-written by actor and writer Ian McFadyen.
Grafton is, as ever, preoccupied with his own appetites. He’s obsessed by his penis, which after prostate surgery …