Reviews »

[7 Oct 2016 | No Comment | 34 views ]

BIOGRAPHY
Phillip Schuler
MARK BAKER
ALLEN & UNWIN, $32.99
Two books, both entitled ‘Gallipoli’, have stood the test of time. The first, published in 1956, is by Alan Moorehead. The second, published in 2001, is by Les Carlyon, who breathed new life into Moorehead’s magnificent account of the ill-fated campaign.
Now we have a third excellent book about Gallipoli that takes the form of a biography of one of the finest war correspondents Australia has produced and who eventually died as a soldier, aged 27, on Flanders Fields on June 23, 1917.
This remarkable human being …

Columns »

[2 Oct 2016 | 3 Comments | 85 views ]

A former Liberal premier of NSW used to tell confidants that his state was basically Labor and the only way for the Liberals to win was to have Labor values but Liberal competence. I doubt that Prime Minister Turnbull has thought that deeply about this but the only way he will win the next election is if his NSW ex-colleague’s dictum applies to the whole country.
The Turnbull government is said to have had its best fortnight yet but its three cited achievements: a superannuation compromise, some modest savings measures and …

Columns »

[22 Sep 2016 | 2 Comments | 52 views ]

Ever since having seen my late mother suffer so much when all she wanted was to slip away peacefully, I have been a strong public advocate, for others and for myself, of Dying with Dignity.
After a long struggle in the 1990s with a series of hospital physicians, my mother, Edna Fitzgerald (nee Beecher) of 41 Charles Street, East Brighton, in suburban Melbourne, eventually died in her mid-80s.
A few years before her death, due to a combination of glaucoma and cataracts, my mother went blind. She was then hospitalised in Melbourne …

Columns »

[15 Sep 2016 | 2 Comments | 50 views ]

The best Malcolm Turnbull could say of his first anniversary as prime minister was “so far so good”. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement. So far, his only real achievement is not quite losing the election to Bill Shorten. And this week, for the first time, the Labor leader’s net Newspoll unpopularity was better than the Prime Minister’s.
Along the Parliament House corridors, Labor MPs are now displaying in their office windows caricatures of a glum Malcolm Turnbull with the caption “fizza”. As a gay-marriage, climate change and republic-supporting man of …

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[10 Sep 2016 | No Comment | 44 views ]

Evatt: A Life
By John Murphy
NewSouth, 451pp, $49.99 (HB)
Deeply flawed but intellectually brilliant, yet often foolish, grandiose and out of control, former federal Labor leader Herbert Vere “Doc” Evatt is one of 20th-century Australia’s most puzzling, complex and contradictory political figures.
Written with the aid of research assistants Carla Pascoe and Bill Garner, Evatt: A Lifemakes excellent use of many archives, in particular the voluminous Evatt collection at Flinders University in Adelaide, which perhaps surprisingly contains few private papers. However, as previous biographers of Evatt have noted, he rarely wrote or replied …

Reviews »

[3 Sep 2016 | No Comment | 44 views ]

The Drowned Man: A True Story of Life, Death and Murder on HMAS Australia
By Brendan James Murray
Echo Publishing, 384pp, $32.95
One of the highlights of Mike Carlton’s magnificent naval history ‘Flagship’, which I recently reviewed in these pages, is its exploration of the murder of a young, homosexual crew member that took place on board HMAS Australia in March 1942. Now an entire book, although not quite as fine a work as Carlton’s, has been written on the subject.
In many ways a 70-year-old naval mystery, the details of which have never …

Columns »

[3 Sep 2016 | 2 Comments | 199 views ]

When Robert Menzies lost power in 1941 after having headed an ineffective federal government for just two years, no one gave him a chance of again being prime minister. Yet in 1949 Menzies was not only re-elected, but remained in power for 18 years – a record term.
Bearing this in mind, what are the odds of a comeback by Tony Abbott?
If Liberal MPs weren’t loyal to a leader who won eight seats from Labor at his first election and a further 17 seats at his second, they’re quite capable of …

Reviews »

[27 Aug 2016 | No Comment | 44 views ]

Review
1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings
NICK BRODIE
HARDIE GRANT, $29.99
In many history books, including some of my earlier works, the time before European settlement of Australia is often presented as a prefatory chapter that begins 50,000 years before the present. In such accounts it is only when the so-called “Dreamtime” finishes that a history proper is seen to begin.
As a result, a great slab of past human experience is, as Nick Brodie explains, “relegated to archaeology and hermetically sealed by the founding of a British colony”. But, as Brodie maintains, …

Columns »

[24 Aug 2016 | One Comment | 67 views ]

Malcolm Turnbull’s friends and supporters thought that once he was prime minister in his own right, all would be well. The dithering and the waffling would stop and he’d be the leader everyone hoped for when he seized the prime ministership from Tony Abbott.
Maybe the narrowest of wins has shattered Turnbull’s self-confidence. One Liberal campaign insider is now describing him to confidants as a “broken man”. Effective leaders learn from setbacks; they’re not overwhelmed by them. But, on the evidence so far, our country is in for three years …

Columns »

[11 Aug 2016 | No Comment | 33 views ]

Australia could learn a lot from the fact that a number of American cities are successfully reducing the role of criminalisation in their drug policies.
This is something that should be addressed at the Drug Summit in Sydney today.
This cross-party summit, to be held at Parliament House in Macquarie Street, will consider the context of the illicit drug policy and evaluate its efficacy. In particular, the summit will debate the merits of harm-minimisation and highlight new strategies to deal with the scourge of drug misuse and addiction.
Seattle and King County in …

Columns »

[2 Aug 2016 | One Comment | 30 views ]

There were three items for the first meeting of the new Turnbull cabinet: the cliff-hanger federal election, the response to Four Corners’ teenage detention revelations, and Kevin Rudd. And so the Coalition government has started as it seems doomed to continue: reacting badly to events and to other people’s agendas.
It’s increasingly obvious that Malcolm Turnbull’s desperation to be prime minister was not matched by any particular vision for the country. After deposing his predecessor, he spent nine months raising subjects before ruling them out; and the “economic plan” he referred …