The Holt Report

Open water

(by John Larkin and Geoffrey Barker) (1968) Yes, Americans can joke about President Taft being eaten by wolves (particularly greedy wolves) but only in Australia could a serving Prime Minister be taken by a shark.  On Sunday 17 December 1967, Prime Minister Holt went for a swim near his beach house at Cheviot, near the Heads leading from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, into the Bass Strait, and was never seen again. Though a shark is The Varnished Culture’s preferred theory (and after all this time, chances of finding traces are approximately nil) there are a number of other possible solutions; kelp…

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Malcolm Fraser – Vale

March 20, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Australian Politics |

Life wasn't meant to be easy

(21 May 1930 – 20 March 2015) Fraser is a rather opaque figure.  Not warm, not particularly consistent, diffident in personal and political relationships, and for all his aloofness and well-heeled background as the squire of Nareen, he was rather a mushy ‘wet’.  He actually stood up for the downtrodden and appeared to mean it, both as Prime Minister (1975-1983) and afterwards, often when it was unfashionable, such as with African poverty and apartheid, Vietnamese boat people, and aboriginal land rights.  He formally broke with the Liberal Party around 2009 but had been a thorn in its side for years…

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Triumph and Demise

(Paul Kelly) An account of the Australian Federal Labor Government 2007 – 2013. Kevin Rudd, his bete noire Julia Gillard, et al, stalk about like characters in The White Devil, passionless and brainless villains. You could play ‘Sortes Virgilianae’ in respect of some of the players, substituting DSM 4R.

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Recollections of a Bleeding Heart

(by Don Watson) A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96).  For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary. Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko….

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Power Without Glory

(by Frank Hardy) Never mind that Hardy was an unreconstructed Commo; this is a great, great-big book, a scandalous roman-a-clef based on a Collingwood Mafioso, John Wren and his rise (and rise).  Blessed with no literary touches but a lot of narrative drive, the book has become, in its unpretentious way, a landmark of Australian literature.  Hardy had to overcome a myriad hurdles to get his work published and only then did his troubles really begin, in the form of various reprisals, including an almost ruinous trial for criminal libel.

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