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BOOK REVIEW: The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely

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Keith Van Driel takes a look at a book written by respected political journalist Mungo MacCallum.

MUNGO MACCALLUM’s bringing together of the entire panoply of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia since its inception on 1 January 1900 in his book, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely’, has made a valuable contribution to our recorded history. Spanning almost 120 years, it gives a broad outline of the political environment as it was during the time of each incumbent.

The first five decades saw 11 Prime Ministers steer the ship of State through two World Wars and a devastating financial/economic depression, bearing in mind that one PM’s term was as short as eight days. Robert Gordon Menzies, still remembered by many today, served a second term (1949-1966) which made him the longest-serving Prime Minister. He retired in 1966 after 17 years at the nation’s helm. The next six years proved a very rocky time for the Liberals, also referred to as the “Born to Rule’’, having three Prime Ministers in that time — Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon.   

After 23 years of Liberal Government, which always did its best not to rock the boat, Gough Whitlam as the Labor PM introduced some much-needed changes including universal health care. His bold approach proved too much for the conservatives and led to his dismissal by Governor-General John Kerr and the subsequent return of the Liberals under Malcolm Fraser.

This was the beginning of governing parties serving longer terms. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating for Labor brought in many much-needed changes which saw our nation becoming more versatile in the international trading scene. John Howard’s 11 years as Liberal PM saw more of the steady-as-she-goes style of governing the nation and was followed by more shorter-term Prime Ministers to this very day.

Author MacCallum’s thorough research into this extended period has resulted in a meticulous recording of those years, spiced with humorous snippets of the personal foibles and characteristics of these 30 persons that make up the leaders of our country for its existence as the Commonwealth of Australia.

One cannot help but gain the impression that advances leading to a more equitable society almost always occurred under a Labor Government.

Essential reading for the student or hobby historian.

‘The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely’ is available from Booktopia for $45.25 (paperback) or $21.50 (eBook) RRP.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely

Keith Van Driel takes a look at a book written by respected political journalist ...  
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