Portrait of an unlikely heir to Henry Bolte

Portrait of an unlikely heir to Henry Bolte

Dick Hamer: The Liberal Liberal

by Tim Colebatch

Scribe, $59.99 hb, 511 pp, 9781925106138

Rupert (‘Dick’) Hamer proved to be one of Australia’s most innovative premiers. One sign of his unusual prestige is that this history of his life and times has perhaps been publicly praised more by Labor leaders than by his own Liberal colleagues.

Hamer’s family background was in the church, law, business, and politics. His paternal grandfather was the minister of the wealthy Independent Church (now called St Michael’s) on Collins Street, where he was distinguished for his highbrow sermons and the astonishingly high salary he received. Hamer was born in 1916 and was formally christened Rupert after a relative who had died at Gallipoli the previous year. He was a studious boarder at Geelong Grammar, eventually winning first class honours in three languages – Latin, French, and Ancient Greek. A school friend described him as never ‘fussed or flustered’. Those qualities remained with him. He could come home to suburban Canterbury after a turbulent week in parliament and sleep like a rock, then dig happily in the garden next morning.

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Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey, a practising historian for some sixty years, has written on Australian and world history. Long attracted to museums, he was deputy chairman of the Whitlam government's Enquiry into Museums and National Collections in 1974–75. Later, he served on the board of the Australian War Memorial for seven years. His book, The Causes of War (1973, 1988), is debated in military academies and in US universities.

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