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Ken Turner

For a reform politician, these three books should be compulsory reading. They are not, for such a reader, heartening. But they do ‘serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate’.

Brian Dale’s Ascent to Power, very much less than fair to Neville Wran, is an unintended expose of the nature of political journalism in this country and its practitioners.

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A couple of anniversaries explain the occasion of this collection: one hundred and fifty years of responsible government in New South Wales, and the bicentenary of Lachlan Macquarie’s arrival as the governor who, Brian Fletcher argues, has had the most ‘persistent hold over public consciousness’ in reflecting the ambiguities of a convict colony. The volume is framed by Rod Cavalier’s foreword, which encourages a sequential reading of these thirty-seven essays, each part-biographical study of a governor and part-analysis of the evolving office. Such a course, Cavalier suggests, will show the position to be no sinecure but a ‘constant’ in the flux of politics. Even so, as civics tests regularly show, it is a position in need of rehabilitation if it is to rise above being a misunderstood curiosity.

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The Premiers of New South Wales Volume 1 edited by David Clune and Ken Turner & The Premiers of New South Wales Volume 2 edited by David Clune and Ken Turner

September 2006, no. 284

The problem with many ‘big occasion’ publications is that they are written for the occasion rather than for an audience. This collection – the first reference work to cover all the premiers of New South Wales from 1856 until July 2005 – has been published to coincide with the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of responsible government in New South Wales. Happily, however, The Premiers of New South Wales displays none of the failings typical of other ‘landmark’ volumes. On the contrary, this is a valuable and relevant work that merits the interest of non-specialist readers. The authors have profiled the premiers in their social and personal contexts, as well as in their political environments. This extends the appeal of the collection and adds considerable interest. Together, the two volumes provide valuable insights into the evolution of New South Wales from a colony to a state.

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