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This Gauche intruder into the Australian book scene is sure to annoy many readers. Their annoyance, even disgust, will be various and peculiar to their own preoccupation with what they consider a good read, good literary criticism, good Australian cultural identity. Jennifer Rutherford presents us with a passionate, scholarly, rude and uncompromising discussion about Australian culture, reading identity at both individual and collective levels. She is a Lacanian (sure to annoy some), an unapologetic deployer of psychoanalytic insights into Australian identity fantasies; she is an astute and forthright literary and cultural critic (critics past and present, quake!) who offers a range of non-partisan and theoretically consistent readings of the novels of Catherine Spence, Rosa Praed, Henry Handel Richardson, George Johnston, Tim Winton, David Malouf, and Patrick White; and she is a canny, amusing, serpent-toothed reader of the broader Australian culture, from Hansonism, to the streets and suburbs of Canberra, to contemporary academia. She bites hard.

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The memoirs of Australian war leaders have not enjoyed the commercial success gained by American and British commanders. Monash’s The Australian Victories in France in 1918 is possibly the only book of its sort which has ever had any real success. In the last few years the Australian Trenchard, Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, could not attract a commercial publisher for his autobiography, though it covered the entire creation of the RAAF. Public interest apart, the fact is that Australian generals, admirals and air marshals do not tend to be literary. We just cannot imagine an Australian Slim. The only classic works produced by any Australian connected with the armed forces and aviation in general have been P.G. (Sir Gordon) Taylor’s finely wrought books.

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Don Dunstan’s Australia by Don Dunstan, photography by Julia Featherstone

October 1978, no. 5

State Premiers are usually required to be articulate; to be literate and civilised as well is an unexpected bonus.

After almost nine years in office, one of our most literate Premiers since or before Federation, has set down in urbane, often oratorical prose, his observations on the way Australia is going.

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Ronald Anderson’s latest book explores the potential for deer farming in Australia, and gives at least the initial information to someone wishing to establish a deer farm. By page eight of the book the profit potential of deer is already apparent. Their costs of production are relatively low, while product prices are extraordinary. For example, at the time of writing, New Zealand farmers were receiving $4.75 per kilogram for venison, some six or seven times the price of beef. As if this were not enough, there is the annual crop of velvet or immature antler, harvested without slaughter from the stags. Used as a component in Asian medicines, this returns no less than $110 to $150 per kilogram to the farmer or at least $300 per stag per year. Not satisfied? Then try the ‘by-products’ also obtained when the deer are slaughtered for venison. These range from mature antler (for jewellery) to frozen deer tails at $6 each (for culinary use) and from deer foetuses ($3 to $45 depending on stage of pregnancy) to deer penises! The last, which must be ‘...complete with testes and a tassel of hair…’, are graded (by length!) and frozen and return about $9 each to the farmer. In exploring the reasons for farming deer, Anderson raises one important issue early in the book and returns to it in several places. This is the hunter’s ‘...ambivalent attitude to deer…’ and to deer farming. To the hunting fraternity, says Anderson, deer are to be shot, not farmed. Unless, of course, they are farmed to provide stocks for shooting. The problem is that strong lobbying, based on such an attitude, would make it even more difficult than at present to obtain enough deer to stock a farm. The same attitude, prevalent in West Germany, led to a virtual embargo on the import of farm venison from New Zealand, in favor of ‘real venison’ shot in the wild, with obvious consequences for New Zealand’s deer farmers.

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