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Girt By Sea
Australia, the refugees and the politics of fear
In Girt By Sea Mungo MacCallum provides a devastating account of the Howard government's treatment of the refugees as well as delineating the factors in Australian history which have worked towards prejudice and those which have worked against it; ranging from Calwell's postwar immigration policy to the recent revelations of beat-ups and distortions in the 2001 election campaign.
This is a powerful account of how the government played on what was ultimately the race issue. In an essay which is, by terms, witty, dry and bitingly understated, Mungo MacCallum asks what epithets are appropriate for a prime minister who has brought us to this pass. He also raises the question of whether Australia's contemporary treatment of refugees has anything in common with the sane and decent policies that have characterised the better moments in our history.
Correspondence discussing Quarterly Essay 5, Girt by Sea:
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This most cold-eyed of one time Canberra chroniclers brings to this story all his wit and dryness and power of mind. It's a sad tale ... though it is everywhere enlivened by MacCallum's ... tendency to suggest that spades really are bloody shovels at the end of the day.
A document of immense power ... MacCallum's essay will stand as a record of Australia's shame and depravity. It will haunt us.
Mungo’s assertion that Howard is a man with no vision, only division, to his name and his recognition that Howard will never have the approval of those elites he so gratuitously desires, is a blistering strike at the Liberal man.
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