LETTERS News Weekly
Expatriate Australian intellectuals
, December 7, 2013
I read Warren Reed’s Trafalgar Day address (News Weekly, November 23, 2013) with interest.
It is a necessary corrective to those who have alleged that early Australia was nothing but a penal hell hole.
The late Robert Hughes, for example, in his best-selling book, The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding (1987), completely distorted the nature of the settlement at Sydney Cove.
Hughes did not appear to have conducted archival research, or he would not have arrived at the conclusions he did.
I almost despair sometimes that Australia’s image overseas is constructed by intellectual lightweights-cum-journalists such as Hughes, Clive James and Germaine Greer.
Even Tim Flannery, hardly a rightist, pointed out in a recent review in the Sydney Morning Herald (November 9, 2013) that Greer’s latest book, White Beech: The Rainforest Years, is riddled with inaccuracies.
I have no particular bone to pick with Greer — she is a controversialist who is no doubt occasionally bemused at the seriousness with which her offhand comments are taken in Australia — but rather with the credulous Australian opinion-forming class.
Clive James, the Kid from Kogarah, would be modest enough, I’m sure, to class his works as journalism, but his offerings are seemingly elevated to the status of belles lettres, instead of a few paragraphs tossed off about the latest book he has read, as his stories usually are.
In all, I am amazed at the lack of intellectual seriousness shown by Australia’s international standard-bearers. But I doubt that they are fooling themselves. They are not that dumb.