By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Australian Prime Ministers
Edited by Michelle Grattan (New Holland Publishers, $39.95, hardback, 544 pages)
In her introduction, Michelle Grattan claims, and accurately so, that “Australians are largely ignorant about their early prime ministers, and frequently cynical about their more contemporary national leaders”.
That should no longer be the case. This authoritative book proves that in the 110 years since Federation, Australia’s prime ministers have been as diverse as the nation they have served.
Australian Prime Ministers has been revised and updated: 22 historians, biographers and political analysts discuss and profile the men and woman who have attained Australia’s highest public office together with the forces that shaped them.
What are the qualities of a ‘good prime minister’?
Opinions will vary, but Grattan says: “Intelligence, imagination, nous, stamina, guts – these are what it takes to handle this unique job successfully – and, usually, a dash of luck”. Realistically no single leader has all these qualities, but with the reign of each prime minister unfolds a part of our history with significant impacts.
Originally prepared to coincide with the Centenary of Australia’s federation, extensive research has resulted in information that is vital on leaders from our first PM, Sir Edmund Barton, right through to the current PM, Julia Gillard.
There are chapters on the end of the John Howard era, the brief reign of Rudd and Australia’s first female prime minister, installed through toppling her predecessor and then being confirmed in an election. For the first time in 70 years, it was this election that produced a hung parliament and a minority Labor government.
Australian Prime Ministers is an enlightening examination of the people who have led the country and through individual profiles, it also tells the story of a great nation.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.