James Walter

James Walter

James Walter is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Monash University, and has published widely on leadership, biography, and political ideas. Volume two of his history of the Australian prime ministership (with Paul Strangio and Paul ‘t Hart),The pivot of power: The Australian prime ministership 1950 –2016 (Miegunyah Press), was published in 2017.

James Walter reviews 'Leadership' by Don Russell and 'A Decade of Drift' by Martin Parkinson

July 2021, no. 433 22 June 2021
James Walter reviews 'Leadership' by Don Russell and 'A Decade of Drift' by Martin Parkinson
In 1958, the Australian political scientist A.F. Davies (1924–87) published Australian Democracy: An introduction to the political system, one of the first postwar attempts to combine institutional description with comment on the patterns of political culture. It introduced a provocative assertion: Australians have ‘a characteristic talent for bureaucracy’. Disdaining the myth of Australians ... (read more)

'Minding the Minders' by James Walter

August 1986, no. 83 01 August 1986
From The Ministers’ Minders by James Walter, published in June 1986 by Oxford University Press. Prof. Walter's book was reviewed by Judith Brett in the September 1986 issue. This book is about the role played by ministerial staff in Australian federal government. It is particularly concerned with the potential influence on policy making that this group may have through their capacity to ad ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Malcolm Fraser on Australia' edited by D.M. White and D.A. Kemp

September 1986, no. 84 01 September 1986
James Walter reviews 'Malcolm Fraser on Australia' edited by D.M. White and D.A. Kemp
There have been two major cycles in Australian political rhetoric since the war. The first occurred during the postwar reconstruction period, from 1943 until 1949, when contest over a new social order impelled an unusually clear articulation of philosophy and policies by the contenders for influence – represented in public debate by Curtin and Chifley on one hand, and Menzies on the other. The e ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Lionel Murphy: A political biography' by Jenny Hocking

November 1997, no. 196 01 November 1988
James Walter reviews 'Lionel Murphy: A political biography' by Jenny Hocking
Lionel Murphy was a prominent and colourful figure in the ALP renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s, and a significant legal intellectual. The extraordinary saga of his final years, when he was hounded by political foes and the press, created a farrago of misunderstanding and innuendo that clouded his reputation. Jenny Hocking has set out to recover Murphy’s public life and to correct the record. C ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'The Insider: The scoops, the scandals and the serious business within the Canberra bubble' by Christopher Pyne

August 2020, no. 423 24 July 2020
James Walter reviews 'The Insider: The scoops, the scandals and the serious business within the Canberra bubble' by Christopher Pyne
In a long career talking to and about politicians, I have learned one thing. While many fantasise about being prime minister, the key driver is to get close to the centre. Christopher Pyne captures this immediately in The Insider, comparing the political world to the solar system in which the skill is to know one’s place relative to the sun (the prime minister), and the aim is to get as close to ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Inside the Greens: The origins and future of the party, the people and the politics' by Paddy Manning

November 2019, no. 416 23 October 2019
James Walter reviews 'Inside the Greens: The origins and future of the party, the people and the politics' by Paddy Manning
In 2016 John Kaye was dying. Once leader of the Greens in New South Wales, he had a final message for his party. ‘This isn’t and never has been about changing government … This is about changing what people expect from government.’ In our era, dogged by chronic distrust of parties and government, it might have served as a rallying cry for people to transform politics by demanding more of t ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Tiberius with a Telephone: The life and stories of William McMahon' by Patrick Mullins

January-February 2019, no. 408 18 December 2018
James Walter reviews 'Tiberius with a Telephone: The life and stories of William McMahon' by Patrick Mullins
Billy McMahon, Australia’s twentieth prime minister, held the post for less than two years (March 1971–December 1972). In surveys of both public esteem and professional opinion, he is generally ranked as our least accomplished prime minister. He is also, until now, the only prime minister for whom there has been no serious biography published. No one, perhaps, thought it worth the effort. ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'John Curtin’s War: Volume I' by John Edwards

April 2018, no. 400 22 March 2018
James Walter reviews 'John Curtin’s War: Volume I' by John Edwards
John Curtin may be our most extensively documented prime minister. He is the subject of many biographies (including one by the author of the volume reviewed here) and countless chapters and articles, and is necessarily a central figure in war histories of the 1940s. John Edwards ventures into a well-populated field. The publisher’s claim in promoting the book that Curtin is one of our most under ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Incorrigible Optimist: A political memoir' by Gareth Evans

November 2017, no. 396 25 October 2017
James Walter reviews 'Incorrigible Optimist: A political memoir' by Gareth Evans
Gareth Evans is one of the more interesting figures from the Hawke–Keating governments, not alone as a high achiever in a talented team, nor in the tenacity that saw him remain so long in the inner circle, but unusual in forging a cosmopolitan career of such substance thereafter. His political memoir demonstrates the continuity of his principal concerns – identified in the thematic chapter hea ... (read more)

James Walter reviews 'Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader' by Troy Bramston

March 2017, no. 389 22 February 2017
James Walter reviews 'Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader' by Troy Bramston
Paul Keating has been much written about; his trajectory is familiar. His is a story of leadership and the exercise of power, about a man who led from the front and – like Gough Whitlam – was willing to ‘crash through or crash’ when following his convictions. No prime minister since has displayed a similar propensity. Troy Bramston’s biography conforms to that account. There is new mater ... (read more)
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