Reviews »

[20 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 40 views ]

‘The Nashos’ War: Australia’s National Servicemen and Vietnam’
By Mark Dapin
Viking, 470pp, $39.99 (HB)
DURING the Vietnam War almost 64,000 young Australians were drafted into national service across a seven-year period. Beginning on March 10, 1965, the “‘nashos’’ were chosen by chance, their birth dates drawn from a lottery barrel at the Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne. As journalist and author Mark Dapin points out, not all of these conscripts were sent to Vietnam, but their random fate came to symbolise the war and divide a nation.
This fine book …

Columns »

[20 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 12 views ]

AS an alcoholic teenager living in the petit-bourgeois Melbourne suburb of East Brighton, my idea of a good Saturday night was to go on my own, armed with a flagon of claret, to the Brighton Cemetery.
There I would sit in front of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s obelisk reading his best-known verse: “Life is only froth and bubble / Two things stand like stone / Kindness in another’s trouble / Courage in your own.”
These days I find it revealing that, of all the people buried in the cemetery, I wasn’t attracted to …

Books »

[14 Dec 2014 | One Comment | 69 views ]

WHEN the nonfiction prize at the 2009 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was awarded to two books, Kevin Rudd “went apeshit”, to quote someone who was a judge at the time, and ordered there never again be joint winners. If we needed further evidence that we’re not in Rudd-land any more it came at the 2014 awards this week, the first under a Liberal prime minister, when three of six prizes were split.
Tony Abbott, who was in good spirits at Monday night’s awards dinner at the National Gallery of Victoria, made …

Reviews »

[6 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Private Bill: In Love and War
By Barrie Cassidy
MUP, 192pp, $29.99
WRITERS often hit their straps when they tackle subjects that have deep emotional resonance. So it is for Barrie Cassidy with his third book, Private Bill, a testament to his father.
Best known as press secretary to Bob Hawke when he was prime minister and now as host of the ABC’s Insiders program, Cassidy is also an accomplished author and this book is his best yet.
The hero of this beautifully conceived and multi-layered tale is his beloved father, Bill, who arrived on …

Columns »

[1 Dec 2014 | One Comment | 35 views ]

Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities are all in capital cities. Victoria and NSW each have two Go8 universities, while the other states and territories, except for Tasmania and the Northern Territory, each have only one. Tasmania and the NT have none.
The richest pickings for universities are in the large capital cities where most Australians live. This will be even more the case following fee deregulation. Several regional and smaller universities have sought to cash in on the big city market with mini-campuses. Central Queensland University, for example, has mini-campuses …

Reviews »

[30 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 48 views ]

David Horner, The Spy Catchers. The Official History of ASIO, Volume 1, 1949 – 1963, Allen & Unwin: Sydney, 2014, pp 710, $59.99;
Val Noone and Rachel Naughton (eds), Daniel Mannix: His Legacy, Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission: Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 2014, pp 178, $20;
Ann Moyal, A Woman Of Influence: Science, Men & History, University of Western Australia Press, 2014, pp 201, $34.99
In 1943 the United States Army’s Signal Intelligence Service began intercepting and then decrypting Soviet cable traffic between KGB headquarters in Moscow and KGB officers …

Reviews »

[22 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 22 views ]

William Heinemann, $49.99
Award-winning journalist and prolific author Peter FitzSimons has an enviable ability to bring history to life. In this, his 27th book, FitzSimons takes us deep into the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and spells out in detail the fateful steps that led Australian and New Zealand soldiers to utter devastation, if not absolute despair.
When the Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in what is now Turkey, at dawn on April 25, 1915, the plan was to secure the Dardanelles, thus allowing the Imperial Fleet to go all the …

Columns »

[22 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 33 views ]

VICTORIANS go to the polls next Saturday to elect a new government and the bookies have Labor as odds on favourites to win. However an even shorter-priced bet is that neither the Coalition nor Labor will have control of the Victorian upper house. This may well reside with a small party and possibly a religious one.
Saturday could be one of the most crucial upper house state elections that Australia has seen for many years. This is because it comes at a time when a clutch of progressive social issues are …

Columns »

[17 Nov 2014 | One Comment | 20 views ]

In the US mid term elections on November 4, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC, like voters in Colorado and Washington states back in 2012, passed ballot initiatives to start taxing and regulating recreational cannabis. Also in the 2014 elections, voters in California supported a very important ballot initiative to reduce the severity of penalties for drug offences. This initiative is expected to substantially reduce the very high incarceration rate in the most populous state of the union. It is now clear that voters in the US are growing …