The unusual case of David Hicks is one of the most spectacular and politically supercharged miscarriages of justice in Australian history. Like the infamous Boer War case of Breaker Morant, Hicks was politically scapegoated and grossly denied a fair trial. Unlike Morant – a war criminal who murdered prisoners of war – even Hicks’s accuser, the United States, n ...
Paul Keating has an enduring allure. He has been out of politics since 1996, yet in the past year or so we have seen the ABC screen an unprecedented series of four one-hour interviews with him by an unusually respectful Kerry O’Brien; a book of his sayings still sells well, his speeches and pronouncements receive wide publicity, and now historian David Day has giv ...
Even the most seasoned political observers would have been surprised at the Palmer United Party’s triumph at the federal election, which saw it claim three seats in the Senate. Was it a stroke of luck or the work of a remarkable political strategist? In any case, the political fate of the PUP’s founder remains undecided ...... (read more)
Neal Blewett reviews 'The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics' edited by Brian Galligan and Winsome Roberts
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 seventy titles at last count – covering everything from Christian thought to jazz to baroque music. The latest addition to the Oxford stable is a doorstopper: The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics (OCAP). Together with its sister volume, The Oxford Companion to Australian History, first published in 1998, it should become an indispensable, if expensive, tome in the library of any thinking Australian.... (read more)
Allan Gyngell reviews 'The Howard Paradox: Australian diplomacy in Asia 1996–2006' by Michael Wesley
Canberra’s week of the two presidents – October 2003 – brought the unprecedented spectacle of George W. Bush and China’s President Hu Jintau speaking just a day apart to joint sittings of the Australian parliament. The coincidence elegantly dramatised the central questions for Australian foreign policy: how we manage our relationships with our superpower ally, how we live with our neighbours in Asia, and how we get the balance right between them. This has been the essential challenge for every Australian government since World War II. In his important new book, The Howard Paradox, Michael Wesley focuses on one side of that balance – relations with Asia – and on the Howard government.... (read more)
Patricia Grimshaw reviews 'Australia’s Democracy: A short history' by John Hirst and 'The Citizens’ Bargain: A documentary history of Australian views since 1890' edited by James Walter and Margaret Macleod
John Hirst faced a challenging task when he set out to write Australia’s Democracy: A short history. In a single monograph, he has traced the story of political rights and practices of citizenship, assessed within a context of social change. Not only does such writing place considerable demands on a historian’s range, but any prominent historian who attempts a short history attracts the sharp attention of all stakeholders. In Hirst’s case, his position as chair of the Commonwealth Government’s Civics Education Group has contributed further to his high profile in recent discussion on the need for citizenship training. Australia’s Democracy was funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training, and made available to schools for the ‘Discovering Democracy’ programme. Few historians write while carrying so much responsibility towards their prospective readership.... (read more)
Judith Brett reviews 'The Ministers’ Minders: Personal advisers in national government' by James Walter
The official myth of the relationship between the elected political leaders and the bureaucrats charged with the administration of their decisions has been that it is for the politicians to set the ends, choose the values, and for the bureaucrats to advise on the means for the implementation of those values. The bureaucratic advice is to be objective and impartial as bureaucrats are there to serve governments committed to very different political values. But the myth has not always fitted the reality; facts and values are not so easily distinguished. James Walter in The Ministers’ Minders: Personal advisers in national government documents the emergence of a new political role in Western parliamentary democracies from this inevitable gap between the administrative and executive arms of government; and he explores the implication of this both for traditional ways of understanding political decision-making, and the range of role options open to political activists.... (read more)