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[30 Aug 2021 | No Comment | 4 views ]

Memoirs of a Cold War Warrior
by Keith Harvey
Connor Court, 2021, 258 pages, $34.95
This is an important book, particularly for those of us interested in Australian history and politics.
Ever since 1970, when he was a student at my alma mater, Monash University, Keith Harvey has consistently fought for the well-being of workers and for decades staunchly opposed communists and those pro-communists who supported them.
Harvey’s first-hand account of his long-time, courageous involvement in the anti-communist movement, especially in our trade unions, has national implications for the Australian labour movement and …

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[12 Aug 2021 | No Comment | 14 views ]

Australia & the Pacific: A history
By Ian Hoskins
NewSouth Books, 476pp,
Author of a brilliant book about Sydney Harbour, Ian Hoskins has now considerably widened his gaze to write a captivating general history of Australia viewed in a Pacific context.
To do so, he effectively has plundered the huge Pacific collections housed at the State Library of New South Wales. As well, Hoskins has conducted extensive research at the State Library of Queensland, the National Library of Australia and the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney, all of which …

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[3 Aug 2021 | No Comment | 13 views ]

Australia in the Pacific
By Richard Marles
Monash University Publishing, 89pp, $19.95
Political speeches can be self-serving and tedious in the extreme, but one recently captured my attention. In the House of Representatives, deputy opposition leader and Labor member for Corio, Richard Marles gave a moving insight into his life growing up in Geelong and the real and symbolic importance to his childhood of the Corio oil refinery and its twinkling lights.
How many childhood memories do you know that include an oil refinery? I was so touched that I rang Marles’s office …

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[30 Jul 2021 | No Comment | 25 views ]

The Education of Young Donald Trilogy
By Donald Horne
NewSouth Books, 797pp, $39.99
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 | 21 views ]

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

By Christine Helliwell
Michael Joseph, 562pp, $34.99 (PB)
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 | 32 views ]

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

Wilkinson Publishing, 320pp, $29.99, PB
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 | 21 views ]

The Gypsy Economist: The Life and Times of Colin Clark

By Alex Millmow
Palgrave Macmillan, 396pp, $135 (HB), $80 e-book
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 | 62 views ]

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


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 | 51 views ]

Curious Obsessions in the History of Science and Spirituality
by Rachael Kohn.
ATF Press, 2020.
184 pages, $29.99.
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 | 31 views ]

David Kemp,
A Liberal State : How Australians Chose Liberalism Over Socialism 1926-1966
Miegunyah Press, 601 pp, $49.99 (HB)
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 | 35 views ]

Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition 
By Edmund Fawcett, 
Princeton University Press, 554pp, $59.99 (HB)
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 …