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[30 Jul 2021 | No Comment | 3 views ]

The Education of Young Donald Trilogy
By Donald Horne
NewSouth Books, 797pp, $39.99
reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
Donald Horne, who died in 2005 aged 83, wrote more than two dozen books, including The Lucky Country and one of the finest general histories of our nation, The Australian People.

Now, published in the centenary of Horne’s birth, comes a timely revisiting of his entertaining autobiographical trilogy, which enables us to re-evaluate the making of one of Australia’s leading writers and public intellectuals.
The Education of Young Donald Trilogy combines in a single volume The Education of Young …

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[2 Jul 2021 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Semut: The Untold Story of a Secret Australian Operation in WWII Borneo

By Christine Helliwell
Michael Joseph, 562pp, $34.99 (PB)
Reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
Tales of heroism from World War II keep coming and in hindsight they seem more incredible than ever. What strikes me in this age of risk averseness is the courage of so many under duress. Semut is one of those stories, untold until now.
It involves an operation in late March 1945 when eight Allied operatives, in two groups of four, most of them young Australians, parachuted into the Japanese-occupied island …

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[31 May 2021 | No Comment | 26 views ]

Mutineers: A True Story of Heroes and Villains
By Robert Hadler

Wilkinson Publishing, 320pp, $29.99, PB
Reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
Any tale of mutiny on the high seas is bound to get some attention. In fact, one of the most famous stories in maritime history was about a mutiny, the one on the Bounty under Captain William Bligh.
But mutinies didn’t just happen in the days of sail and many people wouldn’t be aware that just after the Great War, we had our own naval mutiny – in Fremantle.
Melbourne-based Robert Hadler’s latest tale of derring-do, …

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[12 May 2021 | No Comment | 20 views ]

The Gypsy Economist: The Life and Times of Colin Clark

By Alex Millmow
Palgrave Macmillan, 396pp, $135 (HB), $80 e-book
Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
The name may not ring a bell but more people should know about Colin Clark. Why? Well, for one thing Clark is the person who pioneered the use of gross national product as the basis for studying national economies, and that alone makes him an important figure.
Author Alex Millmow has produced the first biography of Clark, the Anglo-Australian economist whose work in the area of applied economics, economic theory and …

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[16 Apr 2021 | No Comment | 56 views ]

THE EMPEROR’S GRACE:
Untold Stories of the Australians Enslaved in Japan during World War II
By Mark Baker,
Monash University Publishing, 223pp, $34.95 (PB)

Review by ROSS FITZGERALD

Many of us are aware of the obscenities of the Thai–Burma Railway and of the notorious Sandakan prisoner-of-war camp established by the Japanese in Borneo.
   But until the publication of Mark Baker’s latest offering, The Emperor’s Grace,  little has been known about thousands of Australians who were sent to work as slave labourers in the factories and mines of Japan during World War 11.
   Ideally suited to …

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[26 Mar 2021 | No Comment | 44 views ]

Curious Obsessions in the History of Science and Spirituality
by Rachael Kohn.
ATF Press, 2020.
184 pages, $29.99.
by ROSS FITZGERALD
For author and broadcaster Rachael Kohn spirituality is certainly a broad church.
Even though I am a confirmed atheist, Kohn’s inclusiveness led her to ask me to keep, and then read on air, a ‘spiritual diary.’ That was back in 2012 on her long-running ABC Radio National Program ‘The Spirit of Things.’ This daily diary of mine began on Christmas Day (my birthday) and finished on  Australia Day, which is when, in 1970, with the aid of Alcoholics Anonymous, I finally stopped drinking …

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[4 Feb 2021 | No Comment | 28 views ]

David Kemp,
A Liberal State : How Australians Chose Liberalism Over Socialism 1926-1966
Miegunyah Press, 601 pp, $49.99 (HB)
Reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
There are moments in Australian history when we might have gone down a more radical path.
In the fourth volume of a landmark five-volume Australian Liberalism series,  David Kemp explains how and why we largely rejected it.
A Liberal State: How Australians Chose Liberalism Over Socialism 1926-1966 explores the rise of political liberalism in Australia.
Kemp highlights the sweeping political triumphs of the conservative coalition during the time that Robert Gordon Menzies (1894-1978) founded the Liberal Party of Australia, and eventually became our longest-serving prime minister.
As Kemp explains, …

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[29 Jan 2021 | No Comment | 29 views ]

Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition 
By Edmund Fawcett, 
Princeton University Press, 554pp, $59.99 (HB)
Reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
Since its 19th-century origins, conservatism has represented an important segment of Western political thought and tradition. Especially in Britain, Europe and the US, conservatism, as Edmund Fawcett puts it, has “defied its reputation as a backward-looking creed by confronting and adapting to liberal modernity” from time to time. By doing so, the right has served long periods in office, effectively becoming a dominant force in Western politics.

Yet despite their electoral and political success, conservatives have …

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[11 Jan 2021 | No Comment | 39 views ]

by ROSS FITZGERALD
It has been fascinating to watch how different countries have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. Some nations have been nothing short of inspirational while the responses of others, the United States among them, have been disastrous.
Especially in democratic countries, these responses represent a profound turning point, the impact of which will be felt for decades in Australia and throughout the world.
In a nutshell, this timely book, published by the nimble Brisbane-based Connor Court, addresses the dramatic impact of recent governmental measures on our fundamental rights, particularly freedom of …

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[31 Dec 2020 | No Comment | 26 views ]

John McEwen: Right Man, Right Place, Right Time
 By Bridget McKenzie, 
Connor Court, 180pp, $24.95 (PB)
review by ROSS FITZGERALD
Thirty-seven years a Country Party politician and 23 days the prime minister, John ‘‘Black Jack’’ McEwen was our longest-serving trade minister, where his primary commitment was protecting key elements of the economy.

An orphan who became a farmer, McEwen was born in Chiltern, Victoria, in March 1900. This brief biography of him is written by Bridget McKenzie, a Nationals senator for Victoria since 2010.
And although McKenzie denies it was her intention, this little book is …

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[19 Dec 2020 | No Comment | 40 views ]

Dissenting Opinions
By Michael Sexton, 
Connor Court, 315pp, $39.99 (PB)
review by ROSS FITZGERALD
Michael Sexton has been Solicitor-General for NSW since 1988. A specialist in defamation law, he has published widely, including one of my favourite books, On the Edges of History (2015).

As Sexton notes, the phrase from which his new book takes its title, Dissenting Opinions, is normally used in the law to describe the judgments of those members of appellate courts who take a different view in a particular case from their colleagues who form the majority and effectively decide the question …