Category Archives: Reviews

What’s the point of Labor?

As the Labor Opposition jettisons policies on negative gearing, capital gains taxes, franking credits and climate change policies that don’t embrace coal you have to ask – what’s the point of Labor?

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Upturn: all too familiar ideas but an advance on Coalition’s limited offerings

An eclectic set of essays, the book Upturn: A better normal after Covid-19 tries to put forward a serious reform agenda. While there is a wealth of enthusiastic ideas, Upturn is unfortunately stronger on identifying problems than solutions. This post concentrates … Continue reading

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Inspirational heroes abound – discover and promote them

Gellibrand MP Tim Watts draws on his family experience – his children, Hong Kong Chinese wife and in-laws – for his book “The Golden Country: Australia’s Changing Identity”. A modern response to Donald Horne’s 1960s “Lucky Country”, Watts see our … Continue reading

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There’s nothing entrepreneurial about Rentier Capitalism, as it sucks up more of the wealth pie

‘Rentier Capitalism’ is a cracking thesis on a cruel economic order. Read it and you’ll start seeing rentiers everywhere, hearing them in every news bulletin, all involved in massive anti-competitive behaviour and impoverishing the rest of society.

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Humanity in medicine. The life of physician Dr Stanley Goulston

Proverbs 22.v.6 states: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I suspect Stan’s character was shaped by his deeply ingrained Jewish faith, the character of … Continue reading

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Review: Cruelty or Humanity by Stuart Rees

Cruelty or Humanity  by Em.Prof. Stuart Rees, is essential reading in our present tumult and bedlam of human cruelty.

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P&I ISSUES in Stuart Rees’ Cruelty or Humanity , Bristol: Policy Press  2020

Regarded by international jurist Richard Falk as ‘A road map for humanity’ and by Noam Chomsky as ‘a wonderful guide to the challenges we face’, Stuart Rees’ ‘Cruelty or Humanity‘ identifies world-wide threats to freedom and democracy and displays the humanitarian … Continue reading

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What can possibly be done with our political and policy malaise.Part 1.

Two new books are available or soon will be; (“How to Win an Election” by Chris Wallace and “What is to be Done?” by Barry Jones). Both focus on the state of the nation and the state of the ALP.

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Exposing the Hidden Hand

Clive Hamilton’s new book Hidden Hand: “Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World” is a diatribe. We do not need this hysteria when we are trying to maintain a modicum of practical relations with the People’s Republic … Continue reading

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Book Review: “Hidden Hand” – Exposing how the Chinese communist party is reshaping the world (The Conversation 10.7.20)

In Hidden Hand, China scholars Clive Hamilton and Marieke Ohlberg examine the Chinese Communist Party’s influence in Europe and North America in a similar way to how Hamilton dissected the CCP’s influence in Australia in his 2018 book, Silent Invasion.

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KIM WINGEREI. My week with Malcolm and a faltering democracy.

Otto von Bismarck (in)famously said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”. It is a sentiment I abhor.

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JUDITH WHITE. The Australia Council latest funding – the arts betrayed.

The latest round of The Australia Council funding, announced on 3 April, marks a new level of government interference in the arts. The council was never meant to police the arts on behalf of government, but under the Coalition that … Continue reading

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GREG LOCKHART.- Quarantined in the Jazz Age

A friend mailed me recently to ask if I was well and safely distanced socially. He also pasted the following letter and asked me if I’d seen it. I hadn’t. 

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MARK BUCKLEY. Rita Hayworth via Graham Green

I started to cull my books recently. As old age approaches I routinely decide that I need to gain more space, and to really get rid of what I will never get around to reading, sort of like “use it, … Continue reading

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JUDITH WHITE. Whatever happened to Whitlam’s vision for the arts?

In 1972 Gough Whitlam’s election campaign promised “to promote a standard of excellence in the arts, to widen access to, and the understanding and application of, the arts in the community generally, to help establish and express an Australian identity … Continue reading

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DAVID SHEARMAN.-Doctors urged to engage with water policy concerns and a timely review

he climate and health emergency must remind doctors and the community that water is one of our life support systems and its scarcity in Australia will bring human misery, displacement of individuals and towns, and failures in food production.

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GREG LOCKHART. David Walker’s Stranded Nation

Professor David Walker’s Stranded Nation: White Australia in an Asian Region is a work of great and very readable erudition, which does something new: places Australian cultural, political and diplomatic history in its regional context at the time of Asian … Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. ‘Things you learn along the way’.

Occasionally friends suggest to me that I should write my autobiography.  Ruefully I explain that I wrote ‘Things you learn along the way’ twenty years ago. The book sold about 8,000 copies but as far as I know is no longer … Continue reading

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JUDITH WHITE. NSW arts policy officially in ruins

Arm’s length funding of the arts is the hallmark of a government attempting to work in the interests of the people. It prevents the arts being used as a political football, and together with peer assessment fosters the development of … Continue reading

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No Australian adorned the professions of politics and journalism like Evan Williams.  He was much more than a beautiful writer.  He was a beautiful man, who brought a shining light and grace to thousands of lives. He died a few … Continue reading

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KATE McDOWELL. Together or not in the performing arts.

The way the performing arts is funded in Australia hasn’t changed since the 1990s, but the Australian cultural landscape has changed dramatically. 

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GRAHAM ENGLISH. Virtue signallers, the left wing, and the politically correct

I try to follow the advice of one of my old teachers that if you cannot write as well as Jane Austen or one of the greats you can at least aim to be intelligible. Avoiding clichés and popular catch … Continue reading

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ANDREW FROST. Alternative Histories, the ANZAC legend re-imagined on canvas

The assumption of ANZAC as the foundation of conservative Australia has been used to mobilise popular sentiment into dubious alliances in wars of questionable purpose. In this context, Rodney Pople’s latest exhibition, Shell Shocked, has urgency. His paintings are a vehicle … Continue reading

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CLAIR WILLS. Prodigal Fathers (The New York Review of Books).

More than twenty years ago, writing about Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland, Colm Tóibín recalled what it was like to study history in Ireland in the 1970s—to be on the cusp of the revisionist wave, questioning all the old narratives. “Imagine … Continue reading

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MICHAEL MULLINS. Abstract thinkers living in bubbles.

During the Christmas break I read Rick Morton’s One Hundred Years of Dirt, which is one of the more acclaimed Australian memoirs published during 2018. It details the wretched life he’s led and also challenges the culture warriors of the … Continue reading

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ROBERT KUTTNER. The crash that failed.

Review of “Crashed: How a decade of financial crises changed the world” by Adam Tooze, Viking. The historian G.M. Trevelyan said that the democratic revolutions of 1848, all of which were quickly crushed, represented “a turning point at which modern … Continue reading

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GREG LOCKHART. On reading Peter Stanley’s review of Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget.

I’ve just caught up with Peter Stanley’s review of Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget: The war for white Australia, 1914-18, which was posted on Pearls and Irritations on 15 November 2018. I mention this, because it provoked a response that … Continue reading

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ANTHONY PUN. A response to Kim Wingerei -. It’s Time for Ethical Politics”

Lord Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is still valid today. Man is born innocent and in his acquisition of power, goes astray when unguided by morals and ethical principles. True wisdom is the ability to … Continue reading

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LIONEL ORCHARD. Hugh Stretton in retrospect and prospect: reflections on Graeme Davison’s selected writings.

Graeme Davison has edited a new selection of Hugh Stretton’s writings. Stretton’s work is widely admired but how relevant is it now? Davison presents an assessment. A response follows.

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SUSAN CHENERY. The Scribe: portrait of Freudenberg, author of the speech that changed Australia (The Guardian 9.10.2018)

Legendary Labor speechwriter Graham Freudenberg was at the centre of power for more than 40 years.  A new film sheds light on the man who wrote the script.  

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