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Neal Blewett

Neal Blewett

Neal Blewett has had a varied career as academic, politician, and diplomat. A Tasmanian Rhodes scholar, he taught successively at the Universities of Oxford and Adelaide and became Professor of Political Theory and Institutions at Flinders University. He has written books and articles on British and Australian history and politics. As Health Minister in the Hawke government he was responsible for the introduction of Medicare and Australia’s Aids policy. His diary of the Keating government was published in 1999. From 1994 to 1998 he was Australian High Commissioner in London as well as a member of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. He now writes, gardens, and walks in the Blue Mountains.

Neal Blewett reviews 'The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics' edited by Brian Galligan and Winsome Roberts

December 2007–January 2008, no. 297 01 December 2007
Quite when the figurative usage of ‘companion’ as ‘a work of reference ... that is presented as a friend to be consulted with whenever needed’ came into fashion is uncertain. I well remember my first companion, the third edition of the invaluable Oxford Companion to English Literature, from my student days in the 1950s. Oxford University Press now has a large stable of companions – some ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Goodbye Babylon: Further journeys in time and politics' by Bob Ellis

December 2002-January 2003, no. 247 01 December 2002
Bob Ellis is the quintessential Labour groupie, and Goodbye Babylon the latest instalment in the saga of his love affair with the ALP, which began with The Things We Did Last Summer, a slim and evocative volume, published twenty years ago. By contrast, Goodbye Babylon is a fat book; rather like Ellis himself, it is sprawling, dishevelled, undisciplined but likeable, witty, and gregarious. His pros ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Gough Whitlam: A moment in history (Volume One)' by Jenny Hocking

February 2009, no. 308 01 February 2009
Edward Gough Whitlam bestrode the Australian political stage like a colossus for over a generation: first as federal Opposition leader, then as prime minister, and finally as martyr. A legend in his own lifetime, this last role threatens to turn him into myth. More books have been written on aspects of his short and turbulent government than on any other in Australian history. There are already th ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Power Trip: The political journey of Kevin Rudd' (Quarterly Essay 38) by David Marr, 'Rudd’s way: November 2007–June 2010' by Nicholas Stuart, and 'Shitstorm: Inside Labor’s darkest days' by Lenore Taylor and David Uren

September 2010, no. 324 01 September 2010
The political assassination of Kevin Rudd will fascinate for a long time to come. As with Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s play it was done, as Lady Macbeth cautioned, under ‘the blanket of the dark’, literally the night of 23–24 June 2010. The assassins heeded Macbeth’s advice: ‘if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.’ And as in Macbeth, the assa ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Thoughtlines: Reflections of a public man' by Bob Carr

August 2002, no. 243 01 August 2002
As W.H. Auden observed more than forty years ago: ‘To the man-in-the-street, who, I’m sorry to say, / Is a keen observer of life, / The word ‘Intellectual’ suggests straight away / A man who’s untrue to his wife.’ Perhaps such popular attitudes explain why intellectuals as politicians are rare in the bear pit of modern Australian parliaments, and why they have left little imprint on th ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'A Thinking Reed' by Barry Jones

December 2006–January 2007, no. 287 01 December 2006
Gough Whitlam is idolised, Bob Hawke respected, and Paul Keating admired, but Barry Jones is undoubtedly the most loved by the Labor party rank and file, a lovability which puzzled many of his colleagues in the Hawke government (1983–91). Insofar as they recognised it, they qualified it – labelling him ‘a loveable eccentric’ – a characterisation of which Jones himself is aware. There is ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Losing It: The inside story of the Labor party in opposition' by Annabel Crabb, 'Loner: Inside a Labor tragedy' by Bernard Lagan, and 'The Latham Diaries' by Mark Latham

November 2005, no. 276 01 November 2005
Although you might not guess it from media comment, The Latham Diaries (MUP, $39.95 hb, 429 pp, 0522852157) is the most important book yet published on Labor’s wilderness years. It provides a pungent characterisation of Labor’s post-1996 history; conveys a profound understanding of the challenges facing a social democratic party in contemporary Australia; and its damning account of Labor ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A portrait of Paul Keating PM' by Don Watson

June–July 2002, no. 242 01 June 2002
What is it about Paul Keating that so fascinated his retainers? Six years ago, John Edwards wrote a massive biography-cum-memoir taking Keating’s story to 1993. Now Don Watson has produced an even heftier tome. Narrower in chronological span – 1992 to 1996 – Watson is broader in his interests, more personal, more passionate. While not the masterpiece it might have been, Recollections of a Bl ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Not for the Faint-hearted: A personal reflection on life, politics and purpose' by Kevin Rudd

April 2018, no. 400 05 March 2018
It has already become a cliché: Kevin Rudd’s memoir, Not for the Faint-Hearted, is not for the faint-hearted. More than 600 densely packed pages long, it contains some 230,000 words and over 1,000 footnotes, but by the end of the volume Rudd is yet to be sworn in as the twenty-sixth prime minister of Australia. Yet the work was ‘intended to be a letter of encouragement’! ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Evatt: A life' by John Murphy

November 2016, no. 386 24 October 2016
John Murphy opens his magisterial study of Herbert Vere Evatt – the fourth major biography of the good doctor – with an essay on the challenge of writing biography in general, and of writing one on Evatt in particular. He prefaces this discussion with a short description of one fateful and illuminating incident late in Evatt’s political career. On the evening of 19 October 1955 in the House ... (read more)
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