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 'A Thinking Reed' by Barry Jones

December 2006–January 2007, no. 287 01 December 2006
Neal Blewett reviews 'A Thinking Reed' by Barry Jones
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
Neal Blewett reviews 'Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A portrait of Paul Keating PM' by Don Watson
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
Neal Blewett reviews 'Not for the Faint-hearted: A personal reflection on life, politics and purpose' by Kevin Rudd
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
Neal Blewett reviews 'Evatt: A life' by John Murphy
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)

Neal Blewett reviews 'The Killing Season Uncut' by Sarah Ferguson with Patricia Drum

August 2016, no. 383 21 July 2016
Neal Blewett reviews 'The Killing Season Uncut' by Sarah Ferguson with Patricia Drum
Books have long provided fodder for films and television. Now films and television series, particularly documentaries, spawn books. The Killing Season Uncut is a book version of the television documentary in which Sarah Ferguson dissected perhaps the most dramatic seven years in Australian political history. For personal drama, 2006–13 had it all: three defenestrations of Opposition leaders (Bre ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Universal Man' by Richard Davenport-Hines

December 2015, no. 377 25 November 2015
Neal Blewett reviews 'Universal Man' by Richard Davenport-Hines
John Maynard Keynes has not lacked for biographers – about a dozen at last count. His first, his student Roy Harrod, established the framework of the public life, though providing only a sanitised version of the private Keynes. Donald Moggridge wrote the definitive account of the economic man, while Robert Skidelsky, with his three-volume work, John Maynard Keynes, published over a period of twe ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'My Story' by Julia Gillard

December 2014, no. 367 01 December 2014
Neal Blewett reviews 'My Story' by Julia Gillard
Much like her government, Julia Gillard’s memoir resembles the proverbial curate’s egg. Where her passions are involved, as with education (‘Our Children’) or the fair work laws, we are provided with a compelling policy read. Where they are not, as in large slabs of foreign policy, the insightful competes with the pedestrian, enlivened admittedly with her personal talents in handling the g ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Diary of A Foreign Minister' by Bob Carr

June–July 2014, no. 362 26 May 2014
Neal Blewett reviews 'Diary of A Foreign Minister' by Bob Carr
‘Dear Dr Blewett, I am writing to you ... concerning your intention to publish the diary you kept during the first Keating Government ... Whether any legal action, criminal or civil, is initiated would be entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government and relevant authorities ... Against the background of the expectations of confidentiality with which you are familiar during your time as a mi ... (read more)

Neal Blewett reviews 'Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832' by Antonia Fraser

July–August 2013, no. 353 25 June 2013
Neal Blewett reviews 'Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832' by Antonia Fraser
Over fifty years have passed since I wrote my first tutorial essay in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE), or Modern Greats, as it was known in Oxford. The subject was the Great Reform Bill of 1832, which for the first time in over a century expanded the right to vote and redrew the electoral map of Great Britain. I had planned to read history, but when I told my history don that I was inter ... (read more)
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