Quarterly Essay 5 Girt By Sea
Australia, the Refugees and the Politics of Fear
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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.
‘… it will take a long time to recover from the campaign of hate and fear which was deemed to be necessary to return the Howard government in the first year of the new millennium.’ —Mungo MacCallum, Girt By Sea
‘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.’ —Peter Craven
‘A document of immense power … MacCallum's essay will stand as a record of Australia's shame and depravity. It will haunt us. ’ —Julian Burnside, Australian Book Review
‘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.’ —Geoff Parkes, Journal of Australian Studies
Mungo MacCallum has long been one of Australia’s most influential and entertaining political journalists, in a career spanning more than four decades. Mungo has worked with the Australian, the Age, the Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald and numerous magazines, as well as the ABC, SBS, Channel Nine and Channel Ten. His books include the bestselling Mungo: The Man Who Laughs, The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely: Australia's Prime Ministers and The Whitlam Mob.
- Schwartz Publishing Pty. Ltd, March 2002
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