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[27 Jan 2020 | No Comment | ]

From humble beginnings, Alcoholics Anonymous has saved millions of lives
Yesterday, on Australia Day, I was sober for 50 years.

Since I stopped drinking and drugging on January 26, 1970, Alcoholics Anonymous has continued to teach me that for an alcoholic one drink is too many and 100 is not enough.
Indeed, the trick for an alcoholic like me is not to pick up the first drink, and to keep attending AA meetings.
The stark reality is if I hadn’t stopped drinking and drugging aged 25, I wouldn’t have made 26.
Yet had …

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[25 Jan 2020 | No Comment | ]

The Basis of Everything: Rutherford, Oliphant and the Coming of the Atomic Bomb
By Andrew Ramsey. HarperCollins, 384pp, $39.99
Probing the secrets of the universe sounds like a noble endeavour but when the result is a world armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons it makes you wonder. This book tells the compelling story of two friends, two devoted scientists born and educated at opposite ends of the British Empire, who helped bring humanity to the brink, albeit unknowingly at first. These intellectual heavyweights were Ernest Rutherford, the …

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[20 Jan 2020 | No Comment | ]


Joe Hockey didn’t get the credit he deserved as a reforming treasurer so it’s good that he’s being credited as an outstanding ambassador to the US.

At his farewell party in Washington there were glowing tributes from former prime minister Tony Abbott, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Australian businessman Anthony Pratt. All said Hockey not only had done a fine job over 25 years of public life but was one of the most likeable and straightforward of people.
Australia has always appreciated that Washington is one of those …

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[7 Jan 2020 | No Comment | ]

Long after the fires are out we’re going to need these valuable Asian neighbours
It’s understandable that Scott Morrison cancelled his trip to India and Japan after the abuse he received over his holiday in Hawaii. But it’s an error of judgment. There’s a world of difference between an overseas holiday taken while most people are still working and when there’s a bushfire crisis, and, on the other hand, an official trip to deepen co-operation with two key regional partners. Provided the Prime Minister had fully announced the government’s response …

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[28 Dec 2019 | No Comment | ]

A satirical ascendance to The Heights of silliness
The Dizzying Heights
Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen
Hybrid, 248pp, $24.99
review by Ed Wright

Detail of The Dizzying Heights, by Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen.

The Dizzying Heights, the seventh in Ross Fitzgerald’s Grafton Everest series, begins with Grafton examining his penis in the mirror through the lens of its (and his) senescence. It’s a curiously blunt self-examination, exacerbated by a failure of focus that provides a counterpoint for the far more whimsical satirical confection that follows, a political romp that thoroughly disavows itself of the restrictions …

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[23 Dec 2019 | No Comment | ]

Prime Minister’s holiday — and honeymoon — are over
Scott Morrison and his government need to get busy on policy and performance

Prime ministerial holidays are often contentious: where they go, who they stay with, what they cost and, most importantly, what they’re not doing while they’re away. After media intrusion had made his traditional family holiday at Hawks Nest almost impossible, from 1997 on John Howard just went on light duties from Kirribilli House. Given that you could hardly beat the setting, Scott Morrison would be well advised to …

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[21 Dec 2019 | No Comment | ]

Project Rainfall: The Secret History of Pine Gap
Tom Gilling
Allen&Unwin, 306pp, $32.99

Pine Gap just outside Alice Springs, arguably Australia’s most secret place.

At the height of the Cold War in 1966, at a remote site in central Australia, three operatives from the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology met the head of the Scientific Intelligence Group of Australia’s Joint Intelligence Bureau. This meeting celebrated the beginnings of a top-secret ­project known in US intelligence ­circles as Rainfall.

Pine Gap is the commonly used name for the pivotal US satellite surveillance station …

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[9 Dec 2019 | No Comment | ]

Winning a federal election the pundits thought he would lose makes Scott Morrison a first-rate politician. So far, though, he’s been much better at politics than policy. If he wants to be a first-rate prime minister, he’s going to need an agenda for government and it can’t just be modest tax cuts and prudent budget management. He has to tackle some of the big problems the country faces — and there’s none bigger than persistent drought.

Right now, the federal government is doing what it can to help struggling …

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[23 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Convict Colony
By David Hill. Allen & Unwin, 369pp, $32.99
Why are convicts so much more interesting than respectable folk? Being related to one of the poor sods who was transported to the early colony is a badge of honour now, which is just one of the reasons David Hill’s latest book is so fascinating.

‘Convict Colony’ is a well-researched and clearly expressed populist history of early British Australia. In it, Hill, author of the bestselling ‘1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet’, concentrates on colonial Sydney to chronicle …

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[15 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Review of Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen, THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS, Hybrid Publishers: Melbourne, $24.99

   Culture Club by Phil Brown

It’s not often that an author apologises for writing a book. Frankly I think there should be more of it, considering some of the dross which crosses my desk.
The apology in this case was by comedian and writer Ian McFadyen and was also on behalf of his co-author, the historian and author Professor Ross Fitzgerald.
They are the authors of the newly released novel ‘The Dizzying Heights’, the seventh in Fitzgerald’s landmark satirical …

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[13 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Where to now for Tony Abbott?

Former prime minister Tony Abbott. Picture: AAP

    Tony Abbott’s colleagues ignominiously ended his prime ministership after just two years and his constituents humiliatingly ejected him from parliament with a 20 per cent swing; so why is the Liberal Party this week honouring his contribution to public life with a testimonial dinner even bigger than John Howard’s? Perhaps it’s because a politician who’s never lost is one who’s never really tried to make a difference.

READ MORE: Rock star reception for Abbott
Starting from his days …