Books Australiarss

Tales to tell

14 March 2015
The Best Australian Stories 2014 Amanda Lohrey

Black Inc, pp.288, $29.99, ISBN: 9781863956963

The short story has long been a staple of Australian literature but has had something of a rough ride in the past few years. Many publishers, averse to risk in… Read more


24 January 2015
Quarterly Essay: Clivosaurus: The Politics of Clive Palmer Guy Rundle

Black Inc, pp.$19.95, 116, ISBN: 9781863957014

Not so much striding across the political landscape as huffing and puffing his way through the back rooms, Clive Palmer is an oddity even by the standards of Australian public… Read more

Under the bed

13 December 2014
Australia Under Surveillance Frank Moorhouse

Vintage, pp.298, $33, ISBN: 978085798972

The Spy Catchers: The Official History of ASIO 1949-1963 David Horner

Allen & Unwin, pp.736, $60, ISBN: 9781743319666

The bogeyman of the ASIO agent under the bed has long been an obsession of the Left, and judging from Australia Under Surveillance it will continue to be for a… Read more

Shock jock

29 November 2014
Brenno: The Life and Times of a Media Godfather John Brennan

New Holland, pp.318, $32.99, ISBN: 9781742575728

A senior Minister in the NSW government of John Fahey once told me that there was a vacant metaphorical chair at Cabinet meetings. It may have been unoccupied but everyone… Read more

It’s the Stupid, stupid

22 November 2014
A Short History of Stupid Helen Razer and Bernard Keane

Allen & Unwin, pp.336, $29.99, ISBN: 9781760110543

Ironic Capitalisation of That Which You Do Not Like is apparently A Thing. You’ll forgive me for employing this Irritating Device, for after reading A Short History of Stupid, its… Read more

Genocidal thoughts

15 November 2014
Blood & Guts: Dispatches from the Whale Wars Sam Vincent

Black Inc, pp.272, $30, ISBN: 978186395682

An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? Geoffrey Robertson

Random, pp.294, $35, ISBN: 9780857986337

It takes a certain type of courage for a writer to complete a book and then admit that he does not really know what the conflict it describes is about.… Read more

Lazarus is back

18 October 2014
The Menzies Era; the years that shaped modern Australia John Howard

Harper Collins, pp.707, $59.99, ISBN: 9780732296124

Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley, still quips that John Winston Howard is his nemesis. This does not prevent the ambassador telling perhaps the best story about Prime… Read more

In the big chair

11 October 2014
Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labor Generation Paul Kelly

Melbourne University Press, pp.560, $50, ISBN: 9780522862102

My Story Julia Gillard

Random, pp.512, $50, ISBN: 9780857983909

Even those of us of a conservative bent hoped that the election of the Rudd government in 2007 would constitute a landmark, a welcome change, a new beginning. Looking back,… Read more

Racy reading

4 October 2014
Quarterly Essay: A Rightful Place: Race, Recognition and a More Complete Commonwealth Noel Pearson

Black Inc, pp.72, $19.95, ISBN: 9781863956819

In a field which is often characterised by polemics and hand-wringing, Noel Pearson has emerged as both a considered thinker and an active doer. So when he puts forward a… Read more

Head Beaters

27 September 2014
Not for Greens Ian Plimer

Connor Court, pp.275, $39.95, ISBN: 97819251138191

Optimism Bob Brown

Hardie Grant, pp.272, $39.95, ISBN: 9781742707662

Ah, democracy. The informed will of the majority. If only the practice was as simple as the theory. When it comes to issues such as climate change, one starts to… Read more

Thought bubbles

30 August 2014
The Political Bubble: Why Australians Don’t Trust Politics Mark Latham

Macmillan Australia, pp.291, $33, ISBN: 9781742614076

The Professionals: Strategy, Money & The Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia Stephen Mills

Black Inc, pp.310, $30, ISBN: 9781863956710

It is not really a surprise that political parties produce a certain number of oddballs; the scary thing is that they often rise to senior positions. It is hard to… Read more

Guilt trip

9 August 2014
Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles and Secrets from Timor-Leste Gordon Peake

Scribe, pp.256, $29.95, ISBN: 9781922070685

If you had to pick one emotion to characterise Australia’s attitude towards East Timor, it would be guilt. We are right to feel guilty about 1942, when Australian troops retreated… Read more

Oz Islam: Eid 2014, Lakemba Mosque, Sydney

Muslim integration

2 August 2014
Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren

Allen & Unwin, pp.189, $18.99, ISBN: 9781743312926

Growing up is hard enough at any time; coping with additional cross-currents of race and religion is a whole new world of hurt. The autobiographical essays in this book provide… Read more

Battered and beaten down

26 July 2014
Stop the Presses: How Greed, Incompetence (and the Internet) Wrecked Fairfax Ben Hills

ABC Books, pp.400, $39.99, ISBN: 9780733331930

It’s surely a fancy, the conviction that my first memory of newspapering came as a three-year-old, but I swear the smell of the business has been in my nostrils ever… Read more

Bronwyn Bishop: personal attack

Unfair and unbalanced

19 July 2014
The Rise and Fall of Australia: How a Great Nation Lost Its Way Nick Bryant

Random, pp.320, $35, ISBN: 9780857983787

The thesis of this book is that there is something wrong with politics in Australia. Bryant is right, but not in the way he thinks, and his book is more… Read more

Labor partisan’s economic tale

12 July 2014
Quarterly Essay: Dragon’s Tail: The Lucky Country After the China Boom Andrew Charlton

Black Inc, pp.74, $19.99, ISBN: 9781863956567

The old saw about economics being a dismal science turns out, on the evidence of this short but interesting piece of work, to be half-right. The field is pretty dismal:… Read more


Perils of activist judges

5 July 2014
Democracy in Decline: Steps in the Wrong Direction James Allan

Connor Court, pp.198, $24.95, ISBN: 9781925138184

Democracy in ancient Athens was often criticised by the aristocracy for not showing significant respect for them and their superior qualities. However, it was Socrates who came up with the… Read more

Labor renewal?

28 June 2014
Rudd, Gillard and Beyond Troy Bramston

Penguin, pp.165, $9.99, ISBN: 9780143571797

Ben Chifley once spoke about a shining light on the hill. By the time that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard arrived, the light was that of a fast-food outlet by… Read more

2016… will she or won’t she?

Hawkish Hillary

21 June 2014
Hard Choices: A Memoir Hillary Rodham Clinton

Simon & Schuster, pp.688, $49.99, ISBN: 9781471131509

If you were contemplating running for President of the United States, a national book tour would be a handy pointer to what lies ahead: towns that blur into one, set… Read more

Out of his depth

14 June 2014
The Independent Member for Lyne Rob Oakeshott

Allen & Unwin, pp.380, $32.99, ISBN: 9781743319314

There are individuals who, when fate hands them the opportunity for greatness, have risen to the challenge. Rob Oakeshott was not one of them. On the evidence of this book,… Read more

Rupert Murdoch: a newspaperman at heart

With enemies like these…

17 May 2014
Rupert Murdoch: A Reassessment Rodney Tiffen

New South, pp.384, $34.99, ISBN: 9781742233567

Rupert Murdoch is not simply a great newspaperman; he is also one of the greatest businessmen of the second half of the 20th century. For 50 years he has taken… Read more

Australia: a land with news

Bold history

17 May 2014
The Cambridge History of Australia Ed. by Alison Bashford & Stuart Macintyre

Cambridge University Press, pp.636/644, $325, ISBN: 9781107011557

This is a bold attempt to write the history of Australia in 1,200 pages of narrative. A huge team of almost 70 authors come forward, mostly armed with fresh research… Read more

Long goodbye: Malcolm Fraser with Jimmy Carter

Radical nationalist

17 May 2014
Dangerous Allies Malcolm Fraser (with Cain Roberts)

Melbourne University Press, pp.360, $65, ISBN: 9780522862652

Many of Australia’s former prime ministers have been content to spend their political afterlife stoking the embers of their own legacy or feathering their own fiscal nests. Not Malcolm Fraser.… Read more

Incoming: anti-Vietnam war protests during President Johnson’s visit, Sydney, 22 October 1966

A noble cause

10 May 2014
Australia and the Vietnam War Peter Edwards

New South, pp.304, $49.99, ISBN: 9781742232744

I supported Australia’s Vietnam commitment in the decade between 1965 (when the Menzies Coalition government deployed combat forces to South Vietnam) and 1975 (when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese… Read more

‘Qui, moi?’

26 April 2014
Diary of a Foreign Minister Bob Carr

NewSouth, pp.502, $49.99, ISBN: 9781742234175

In 2008, Bob Carr was on an ABC panel show, pontificating about the wisdom of decisions of the US Supreme Court on racial issues. Another panellist, Christopher Hitchens, a guest… Read more