Andrew Tink’s superb book tells the story of Australia in the twentieth century, from Federation to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
It was a century marked by the trauma of war and the despair of the Depression, balanced by extraordinary achievements in sport, science and the arts. And it witnessed the emergence of a mainly harmonious society, underpinned by a political system that worked most of the time.
Tink’s story is driven by people: prime ministers, soldiers, shopkeepers, singers, footballers and farmers, be they men or women, Australian-born, immigrant or Aboriginal. He brings the decades to life, writing with empathy, humour and insight to create a narrative that is as entertaining as it is illuminating.
Air Disaster Canberra: The Plane Crash that Destroyed a Government
At 11am on August 13, 1940, with Australia having been at war for almost a year, a dual-controlled Hudson bomber, the A16-97, crashed into a hillside near Canberra airport. In what is still Canberra’s worst disaster in terms of loss of life, all ten aboard died, including the chief of the general staff, Cyril Brudenell White, and three of Robert Gordon Menzies’ closest cabinet supporters: minister for the army Geoffrey Street, minister for air James Fairbairn and information minister Henry Gullett.
NewSouth, 309pp, $45 (HB)
Lord Sydney: The Life and Times of Tommy Townshend
Just who was the man whose name is proudly borne by Australia’s oldest city, and by another city in Canada? A John Bull figure, full of bumptious ambition and self-confidence, Sydney had a remarkable political career, largely in opposition. He had sympathised with rebellious American colonists while holding true to British interests, and in 1782 he led in settling the peace between Americans and Britons. As a peer he chose the name Sydney for his barony in memory of his distant uncle Algernon Sidney, beheaded in 1683 for writing ‘the people of England… may change or take away kings’. This very fine biography is a story to savour.
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2011
William Charles Wentworth, Allen & Unwin in 2009.
This is the story of the man Manning Clark described as ‘Australia’s greatest native son’. Best known as one of the first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains, Wentworth led a life full of firsts. One of the first born Australians of European parents, the first Australian author to be published and co-founder of Australia’s first independent newspaper, Wentworth gave the colonists an Australian voice. One of Australia’s first barristers who fought for trial by jury, for the first Parliament in Australia and for self-government in an Act the British called ‘a legislative declaration of independence’ Wentworth was a physical and intellectual giant. Ruthless when it suited him, he purchased the South Island of New Zealand for a pittance until a furious Governor made him give it back. With his rough charm, colonial cunning and English education, Wentworth was equally at ease addressing a rowdy meeting of ex-convicts as he was lobbying Ministers in the corridors of Whitehall.
Following eight years at the Bar, Andrew Tink spent nineteen years in the New South Wales Parliament, including eleven as a Shadow Minister and three as Shadow Leader of the House. After stepping down in 2007, Andrew became a Visiting Fellow at Macquarie University’s Law School, where he concentrates on his writing.