Democratic Adventurer: Graham Berry and the making of Australian politics
by Sean Scalmer
Monash University Publishing, $39.95 hb, 349 pp
Australians have a healthy appetite for political memoirs and biographies at a federal level. It is not only the scandal-ridden set of recent prime ministers with juicy details of political assassinations that sparks interest. The popularity of David Headon’s First Eight Project has demonstrated that the lives of Australia’s first national leaders are still a source of deep fascination. Even Earle Page, who only held the top job for nineteen days, is being rediscovered, thanks to Stephen Wilks’s 2017 PhD thesis from ANU. That Barnaby Joyce, one of Page’s distant successors as party leader, could secure a book contract speaks more to popular interest in federal leaders than to the quality of his prose.
The ongoing public fascination with federal actors on the political stage sits in stark contrast to the relative indifference to their colonial predecessors. This is surprising, as the scandals and drama that filled the columns of colonial newspapers were every bit as sensational as the revelations that excite our modern Twitterati. The subject of Sean Scalmer’s rich biography is a case in point.