Judith Brett is emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University. A former editor of Meanjin and columnist for The Age, she won the National Biography Award in 2018 for The Enigmatic Mr Deakin. She is the author of four Quarterly Essays: Relaxed and Comfortable, Exit Right, Fair Share and The Coal Curse. Her other books include From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage, Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People and Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class.
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Australia is a wealthy nation with the economic profile of a developing country – heavy on raw materials, and low on innovation and skilled manufacturing. Once we rode on the sheep’s back for our overseas trade; today we rely on cartloads of coal and tankers of LNG. So must we double down on fossil fuels, now that COVID-19 has halted the flow of international students and tourists? Or is there a better way forward, which supports renewable energy and local manufacturing?
Judith Brett traces the unusual history of Australia’s economy and the “resource curse” that has shaped our politics. She shows how the mining industry learned to run fear campaigns, and how the Coalition became dominated by fossil-fuel interests to the exclusion of other voices. In this insightful essay about leadership, vision and history, she looks at the costs of Australia’s coal addiction and asks, where will we be if the world stops buying it?
Once the country believed itself to be the true face of Australia: sunburnt men and capable women raising crops and children, enduring isolation and a fickle environment, carrying the nation on their sturdy backs. For almost 200 years after white settlement began, city Australia needed the country: to feed it, to earn its export income, to fill the empty land, to provide it with distinctive images of the nation being built in the great south land. But Australia no longer rides on the sheep’s back, and since the 1980s, when “economic rationalism” became the new creed, the country has felt abandoned, its contribution to the nation dismissed, its historic purpose forgotten.
In Exit Right, Judith Brett explains why the tide turned on John Howard. This is an essay about leadership, in particular Howard's style of strong leadership which led him to dominate his party with such ultimately catastrophic results.
In this definitive account, Brett discusses how age became Howard's Achilles heel, how he lost the youth vote, how he lost Bennelong, and how he waited too long to call the election. She looks at the government's core failings - the policy vacuum, the blindness to climate change, the disastrous misjudgment of WorkChoices - and shows how Howard and his team came more and more to insulate themselves from reality.
With drama and insight, Judith Brett traces the key moments when John Howard stared defeat in the face, and explains why, after the Keating-Howard years, the ascendancy of Kevin Rudd marks a new phase in the nation's political life.
What is the Liberal Party's core appeal to Australian voters? Full of provocative ideas, Relaxed & Comfortable will change the way Australians see the last decade of national politics.