Judith Brett Quarterly Essay

What is the Liberal Party's core appeal to Australian voters? Has John Howard made a dramatic break with the past, or has he ingeniously modernised the strategies of his party's founder, Sir Robert Menzies?

For Judith Brett, the governmeant of John Howard has done what successful Liberal governments have always done: it has made its stand firmly at the centre and presented itself as the true guardian of the national interest. In doing this, John Howard has taken over the national traditions of the Australian Legend that Labor once considered its own.

Brett offers a lucid short history of the Liberals as well as an original account of the Prime Minister, arguing that, above all, he is a man obsessed with the fight against Labor. She explores both his inventiveness in practising the politics of unity and his great ruthlessness in practising the politics of division. She incorporates fascinating interview material with Liberal voters, shedding light on some of the different ways in which the Liberals appeal as the natural party of government.

Full of provocative ideas, Relaxed & Comfortable will change the way Australians see the last decade of national politics.

Here are four groundbreaking Quarterly Essays on the people and ideas at the centre of Australian politics. In What's Left?, Clive Hamilton challenges the Labor Party to find a new way of talking to affluent Australia. In Relaxed and Comfortable, Judith Brett explores the Liberal Party's core appeal to voters and offers an original account of the Prime Minister. In Groundswell, Amanda Lohrey tells the fascinating story of the Greens and Bob Brown. And in Breach of Trust, Raimond Gaita looks beyond party politics to consider morality, truth and the war on terror. This is a book that gathers in one place some of the finest Australian political writing of recent years.

"Can Labor reinvent itself as a social democratic party, or as a party with a progressive political stance that distinguishes it in a substantive way from the conservatives? Its recent history provides a few signs that it may be able to do so."
Clive Hamilton, What's Left?

"Where Keating spoke to the nation, Howard spoke from it - straight from the heart of its shared beliefs and commonsense understandings of itself."
Judith Brett, Relaxed and Comfortable

"Greenies were no longer bearded backpackers and vegetarian cranks ... Within just a few years The Wilderness Society had succeeded ... in turning 'a minority cause into a mass movement'. A new political sensibility had broken through into the mainstream."
Amanda Lohrey, Groundswell

"I have never met anyone who believes that politicians should never lie ... But of course there are limits. They are not set in the heavens, but in culture."
Raimond Gaita, Breach of Trust

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