October 24, 2004


Niner Charlie identifies an unexplored publishing niche:

Consider the achievements of the Australian Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal-led Government after eight and half years. Consider its dexterous handling of issues like fiscal consolidation and economic management, taxation and industrial relations reform, border protection and Australia's role in the liberation of Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and Iraq. Entering the 'Hill of Content', bookshop in Melbourne today, I looked in vain for any decent authoritative books on Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Government. Surely, the soon-to-be second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister might be worthy of a few biographies.

None were available. Niner did locate "shelves full of anti-Howard tomes that appear to be largely ignored", however, including copies of Dark Victory ... reduced from $30.00 to $7.50.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 24, 2004 04:41 AM

Imagine that. The same peculiar phenomenon occurs at US bookstores, if you replace "Howard" with "Bush" -- the local Barnes & Noble put up an impressive display of "current events" titles, 72 volumes in all; of those, only 5 could be objectively "pro-Bush" and about a dozen were not specifically about his presidency, but a full 55 were anti-Bush screeds along the lines of "You have no idea how bad your life is because he stole the 2000 Election!"

Posted by: Spiny Norman at October 24, 2004 at 04:54 AM

Another weird lacuna besides positive books on Howard and Bush is the dearth of post 9-11 war films.

As Lileks has pointed out, in 1942 we had loads of movies, some now considered classics (e.g. "Casablanca").

Someone (Lileks again?) pointed out that "Team America: World Police" is perhaps the first 'Hollywood' film in three plus years that deals, albeit through puppets, with Islamo-fascist terrorism.

PS--I don't know if "Team America" has opened in Oz but it is a must-see. Borderline pornographic and hysterically funny. America. Fuck Yeah.

Posted by: JDB at October 24, 2004 at 05:22 AM

Out in May I believe.

Posted by: DaveJ at October 24, 2004 at 05:44 AM

JDB "You are worfless, Awec Bawdwin and my stock in you is fawwen..." Make sure you stay all the way through the credits for one of the best songs.


Posted by: richard mcenroe at October 24, 2004 at 06:39 AM

ask @ your local Borders

Posted by: cugel at October 24, 2004 at 07:50 AM

It took ages for a good Menzies biography as well.

On the other hand, the totally incompetent Whitlam administration has about five books, even though it only lasted three years.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 24, 2004 at 09:36 AM

On the other hand, the totally incompetent Whitlam administration has about five books, even though it only lasted three years.

His fans want to relive the golden years, don'tcha know...

Posted by: PW at October 24, 2004 at 11:01 AM

Its interesting you should mention Melbourne bookshops.
Have a look at what they are tryin to pass of as works of reference...

Posted by: hm at October 24, 2004 at 11:07 AM

As a fan of biographies I was given keating's biography as a christmas present some years ago.
What a bore!I couldn't finish it.
Howard's biography would have to be even more sleep inducing!
Would there ever be a politician's biograpy worth reading?

Posted by: marklatham at October 24, 2004 at 11:26 AM

The Greens should have something to say about the this waste of resources, publishing tome after tome of books about 'has beens' who have contributed very little except empty rhetoric and no one reads anyway.!!

Posted by: Rose at October 24, 2004 at 12:48 PM

Sounds like Regnery should open an Australian branch.

Posted by: ralph phealn at October 24, 2004 at 01:55 PM

JDB, I don't know about borderline pornographic - struck me as plain old pornographic in several spots. Not that I didn't love it :).

"I need you more than Ben Affleck needs acting schoool...."

Posted by: Sonetka at October 24, 2004 at 02:32 PM

The situation is the same in Australian libraries, (both public and college/university).

Librarians appear to be especially fond of Moore, Pilger and Chomsky.

Posted by: dee at October 24, 2004 at 03:53 PM

Y'know, I'm merely a random US visitor, but I hasten to note...Maybe Whitlam has 5 books about him cuz he provoked (or at least was involved in) a constitutional crisis?

Those are fairly important things, y'know.

Posted by: Penta at October 24, 2004 at 07:07 PM


Not all the books are about the crisis.

And in that case, shouldn't the Fraser government, which lasted more than twice as long, and was also involved in the crisis, have at least as many books?

Posted by: Quentin George at October 24, 2004 at 08:52 PM

Actually, its worse than I thought.

  • Gough Whitlam, On Australia's Constitution, Widescope, 1977

  • Gough Whitlam, The Truth of the Matter, Penguin, 1979

  • Gough Whitlam, The Whitlam Government, Penguin, 1985

  • Gough Whitlam and others, The Whitlam Phenomenon, Penguin, 1986

  • Gough Whitlam, Abiding Interests, University of Queensland Press, 1997

  • Barry Cohen, Life With Gough, Allen and Unwin, 1996

  • Hugh Emy and others, Whitlam Revisited, Pluto Press, 1993

  • Gareth Evans and others, Labor and the Constitution 1972-1975, Heinemann, 1977

  • Paul Kelly, Crash Through or Crash, Angus and Robertson, 1976

  • Paul Kelly, November 1975, Allen and Unwin, 1995

The main reason we have so many books on this three-year government seems to be Mr. Whitlam's ego.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 24, 2004 at 08:57 PM

Actually, one of them has more to do with Barry Cohens ego


Posted by: Andy at October 24, 2004 at 09:08 PM

What a disturbing title Barry has picked as well - "Life With Gough".

Posted by: Quentin George at October 24, 2004 at 09:15 PM

Then there's his myriad of other books "Yartz" "Why I'm a pompous old fart" "I built this wildlife sanctuary and all I got was sniggers behind my back" and other assorted titles.

Damm living on the Central Coast.

Posted by: Andy at October 24, 2004 at 09:21 PM

Must be a slow news day.

Everyone is hanging out in bookshops.

Readings - in lefty Carlton - is the worst, however.

Despite their banner out front - a veiled reference to Borders - Bookshops Sans Frontieres.


Makes it almost worth squeezing past the pasty-faced, chin-whiskered, narrow-oblong-spectacled, purple-lipped browsers haunting the anti-America new release section. And the blokes.

Posted by: ilibcc at October 24, 2004 at 10:13 PM

Sadly, my book 'Tips for a Saner World' has now been relegated to the comedy section at Dymocks, and the science fiction section in Angus & Robertson.

And to think I went to all the trouble of having it printed on hemp paper. Do you know how hard it is to talk an entire community of peaceniks into foregoing a weeks worth of hooch so that I can run off a quick 500 copies of my latest memoirs?

It's a tragic day for Australian book retailers.

Posted by: Bob Brown at October 24, 2004 at 10:38 PM

Aaah! "Dark Victory"
Sweet scented pages, soft as a baby's bum, the gentle touch of aloe vera, bio-degradable, and cheaper than Sorbent.

Would have been perfect if I didn't have to drill the hole in the corner for the nail on the back of the dunny door.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at October 24, 2004 at 11:47 PM

my blood pressure is rising, with all this talk of gough whitlam. Please, can someone supply an antidote in comments, something to settle my nerves, I have some shocking memories of the whitlam years..... *sob*sob*

Posted by: Steve at the pub at October 25, 2004 at 04:44 AM

Steve, this may help you sleep at night.

Gough is an old man, and now likely to never see his little protege Marky ascend to the Lodge.

That's enough for me.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 25, 2004 at 07:47 AM

$7.50? Isn't that expensive for something to prop up a table with?

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 25, 2004 at 09:08 AM

Gough Whitlam said the other day the States should cede their industrial laws to the Federal Govt. I nearly fell off my chair.

Posted by: ilibcc at October 25, 2004 at 09:41 AM

Surely Margo's book is on remainder by now?

Posted by: walterplinge at October 25, 2004 at 10:08 AM

Truly, a joyous thread to read - keep asking the question folks, "why, why, why?"

What is a Borders staffer going to do when you keep buggin' on 'em for a good right-wing read? What, are they going to write one for you?

And the habit lately of spinning off Andrew Bolt columns is double joy with cream and jelly on top.

Ilibcc, I'm always curious to know the state of play Readings versus Borders - got any insight? I just assume as Readings is usually rammed, and Borders pretty deserted, that the former is comfortable. But looks can be deceptive..

Posted by: chico o'farrill at October 25, 2004 at 11:24 AM

Readings vs Borders?
I visited them early this year when on work in Melbourne. The writer I was meeting chose Readings as the rendezvous point. Later he pointed me to Borders for the magazines, and I toured both.

My conclusion is that booklovers will go to Readings first because the whole store communicates love of books and depth of thinking. The titles in the window flatter our vanity as well as pique our interest.

After browsing for ages and buying in Readings we will zoom into Borders too, but now time is shorter and there is no self-flattery for bibliophiles in the Borders brand.

Posted by: Chris at October 25, 2004 at 01:02 PM

The hagiography of Howard by David Barnett and Pru Goward would surely meet Charlie's needs. If it's out of print that's presumably because not enough people bought it.

Posted by: John Q at October 25, 2004 at 02:18 PM

Letter sent to GUARDIAN

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?"

I never thought the English would disgust me. Your pretension to civility is very disarming. But, if this is the way you think then America has no need for you ONCE AGAIN. If Bush wins it doesn't disprove God's existence. It just proves that he answers AMERICAN PRAYERS FIRST.

Posted by: jim at October 25, 2004 at 04:27 PM

I'll write the Howard hagiography.

Chapter 1 - Waterfront Reform
Chapter 2 - GST


Hawke-Keating had already made the hard yards -- the ones that Frazer-Howard had squibbed.

Posted by: Alan at October 25, 2004 at 05:12 PM

Don't you mean Allen, hard yards made by someone else. Hawke-Keating had pinched all the reforms Howard had outlined and wanted to put forward in the "Campbell Report" in the late 70's/early 80's, but autocratic Fraser was the one that squibbed. Howard allowed all the reforms unimpeded through the Senate when put forward by H & K pretty much guaranteeing continued Opposition status. The overriding reason for this was that they were his own reforms and he agreed with them. Flattering of the ALP to put forward Howard's own reforms don't you think?

Posted by: Gordon at October 26, 2004 at 02:23 AM