Australia at the Crossroads: Reflections of an outsider
Melbourne University Press, $17.95 pb, 262 pp
B.A. Santamaria is given to self-dramatization. His autobiography (1981) was subtitled Against the tide but he was not metaphorically explicit as to whether the tide was going out or coming in. For myself I do not want to think of Santamaria behaving with Canute-like megalomania; I prefer to envisage him backstroking towards shore with a rear-vision snorkel, spouting against the undertow of inevitable social change, and praying for some apocalyptic dumper to preserve him from the future agoraphobic shock of an ever-widening ocean.
Much given to citing ‘authorities’, Santamaria had his foreword written by that profound observer of Australian life; Malcolm Muggeridge, who spent a few imperial days here in 1958 and whose protracted entry into the Church kept some local Catholics breathless for a further generation. In his wizened, feline way Muggeridge mewled dogmatically that Australia had only fifteen years before facing extinction. The sage was quoted continually by Santamaria against the unbelievers until 1973 after which (and particularly with the parliamentary demise of the DLP in 1974) he, unlike innumerate millenarians, had to settle for a more indeterminate doom. Nevertheless, even this can be a comforting gloss for a lack of constructive, pragmatic thought.