Articles in the Columns Category
RADIO GIRL: The story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend by David Dufty. Publisher: Allen&Unwin, 2020, pp 302, $22.99
Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
Florence Violet McKenzie, nee Wallace (1890-1982), usually known as Violet or Mrs Mac, is someone who, up to now, I’d never heard of.
But thanks to David Dufty, an expert in Australia’s military intelligence during World War Two, I now realise how crucial she was in training our first women code-breakers (initially in signals, not in code-breaking as such) and also, as an early feminist, in persuading the navy to establish the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).
Importantly, Mrs Mac was Australia’s first female electrical …
I’m at risk, but I don’t want lockdowns
It’s hard to credit in a democracy like Australia, but five and a half million Melburnians are set to continue under virtual house arrest almost indefinitely. On Sunday, Premier Dan Andrews‘ roadmap to reopening turned out to be a plan for even more lockdowns. Unless cases in Victoria drop to below current New South Wales levels, the curfew will continue beyond October 26; and restaurants won’t be open for indoor service until after November 23, and then only if there are no …
by ROSS FITZGERALD
Cigarettes in Australia have never been subjected to prohibition. Advances in manufacturing, marketing and advertising of cigarettes, starting over a century ago, saw cigarette smoking steadily increase for half a century. Soon after World War II, a majority of Australian men smoked, although smoking rates among women never reached such high levels.
After World War II, shocking research about the dangers of smoking began to appear. First a trickle of research, then a flood. Now we know that up to two of every three long-term smokers will die from …
It’s time to get a sense of proportion about the virus
One of Scott Morrison’s key innovations, as border protection minister, was to stop the practice of making announcements every time an illegal migrant boat arrived. “I’m not in the business of providing shipping news for people smugglers” he used to say. It certainly helped that government policies, most notably boat turn-backs, were actually defusing the crisis. But by refusing to front the media on a near-daily basis, he avoided elevating the issue and giving a platform to doom-mongers.
It’s hard not …
The so-called National Cabinet
This is no way to produce sensible policy
Last month, Australia’s top bureaucrat congratulated himself on the creation of the so-called National Cabinet, saying that this had made Australia’s response to the pandemic “one of the best, if not the best, in the world in terms of the federations”. Earlier, the Prime Minister had likewise patted himself on the back for making a monthly National Cabinet meeting with the premiers and chief ministers a permanent feature of Australian governance. These National Cabinet meetings would be, Scott Morrison …
by Ross Fitzgerald
Founded in London in January 1884, with the aim of establishing a socialist society by peaceful means, the Fabian Society in Britain speedily evolved into the first modern-style think tank. It did much to craft the policies advocated by the British Labour Party, which was founded in London in February 1900.
The Fabian Society’s early success had its echoes in Australia. Fabian societies sprang into life in several of our capital cities after the Labor Party first emerged as a force to be reckoned with at the state and federal level. …
by ROSS FITZGERALD and STEPHEN HOLT
Serious interest in the voting patterns of Eden-Monaro long predates next Saturday’s by-election. It goes back to the mid-1950s when the study of voting outcomes was starting to take off as a field of research in Australia.
In 1954 Professor Leicester Webb from the Australian National University in Canberra published a study of the failed 1951 referendum campaign to legalise the banning of the Communist Party. In the same year Webb’s colleague Joan Rydon together with Henry Mayer from Sydney University published a study of the …
From The Australian newspaper online, June 10, 2020.
The great characters of the AA movement
by ROSS FITZGERALD
Since it began, Alcoholics Anonymous has saved the lives of millions of people across the globe. That’s something worth celebrating today (June 10), which is Founders Day on the AA calendar.
The inspirational story of AA began in 1935 when a newlysober New York stockbroker, Bill Wilson visited Akron, Ohio on a business trip. Afraid he might drink again, he decided to talk with another alcoholic. The person he found wasa seemingly hopeless alcoholic physician, Bob Smith. Afterlistening to Bill tell the story of his alcoholism he was so …
By Martin Hanson
Every few years around St Patrick’s Day, historian Ross Fitzgerald “reminds” everyone how the Communist MLA Fred Paterson was “bashed” that day in 1948 during a Brisbane street march.
Fitzgerald started out condemning Queensland’s Hanlon government as being of the awful, long-successful, right-wing Labor type. In 2007 he advanced to the allegation that a police officer may have bashed Paterson on the orders of premier Ned Hanlon. Now he links the event to the corruption that was exposed by the Fitzgerald Inquiry after 32 years of Liberal-Country Party …
This cautionary tale of corruption and violence should be told again and again
by ROSS FITZGERALD
Tuesday is Saint Patrick’s Day, which is an occasion to celebrate — but it also marks one of the most infamous incidents in Australian political history.
On March 17, 1948, in Brisbane, Australia’s first and only Communist Party MP, Frederick (“Fred”) Woolnough Paterson, was savagely bashed by a plainclothes policeman — almost certainly on the direct orders of authoritarian ALP premier Edward Michael (“Ned”) Hanlon.
This brutal attack occurred while Paterson was legally observing a march of striking …
by ROSS FITZGERALD
In ten years’ time, what will people say about the Morrison government? The Coalition’s deepest problem is not that the National Party has become a circus; it’s that the government itself has no major mission to carry it through the inevitable storms of parliamentary politics.
The Morrison government’s basic problem is actually the same one that characterised the Rudd-Gillard government. Apart from “more action” on climate change – which Kevin Rudd eventually squibbed and Julia Gillard turned into the electorally disastrous carbon tax – what was the point of …