May 30th 2020

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COVER STORY Why success has eluded our automotive industry

EDITORIAL Will survival instincts drive new industry policies?

CANBERRA OBSERVED What's China's beef with our barley?

MANUFACTURING Reversing a bad trend

PUBLIC HEALTH Inquiries needed into major covid19 outbreaks

NATIONAL AFFAIRS ABS makes employment figures bend over backwards

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Green 'charities' continue to undermine development

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Royal commission denies Principle of fairness to Cardinal Pell

REFLECTION Woman is ... the answer to a question

ECONOMICS Breaking the shackles of deep globalisation

TRADE AND INDUSTRY Alarm bell is ringing loud on China's trade threats

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan an island of sanity in a sea of contagion

COVID19 LOCKDOWN Should churches be the first to reopen?

HUMOUR Troubling sino-signs at batflu press conference

MUSIC Let's be thankful for small mercies: No Eurovision!

CINEMA Onward: Recovering the everyday magic




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A Lawless Life

Doug Morrissey


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Book details

The books on Kelly multiply without adding to our understanding. Instead the mythologising becomes more intense and uncritical. Doug Morrissey has something new to say on Kelly and his world. Ned Kelly was very ready with excuses and justifications for his actions. His admiring biographers endorse them. In this book Doug subjects them to close scrutiny. They all fall over and a different Ned emerges – a man who had embraced a lawless life. Doug Morrissey is an expert on life in Kelly country. His previous writings have annoyed the admirers of Australia’s most famous bushranger. This book will cause heated debate. It includes a criticism of the best known Kelly books and a line by line annotation of the errors and misrepresentations in Ned’s own Jerilderie Letter. – John Hirst, Historian and Author


From the book:

Ned’s iconic status as Australia’s premier bushranger rests on the undoubted success of the Kelly myth in whitewashing the bushranger’s criminal action …

In a recently published work on Ellen Kelly, she is portrayed as the quintessential rural selector woman greatly admired for her tenacity and perseverance in the face of police harassment, crushing poverty and the vagaries of bush farming life. Her flexible morals and her shanty culture lifestyle are extolled as representative and a shining beacon of womanly virtue and propriety, undermined of course by the cruel intentions and bad faith actions of others. It is as, if today, we would offer as a role model the proprietoress of a seedy motel on the edge of town, the haunt of the local crims and prostitutes renting its rooms by the hour. But the romantic illusions of respectable people today about disreputable people in the past knows no bounds …

To understand Ned Kelly’s world, the police and the criminals have to be seen as sharing a common life, in constant play with each other. The police had to catch the criminals and so wanted to be close to them; the criminals wanted to outwit the police and use them in their quarrels to damage each other. That fluid relationship was at the heart of the Fitzpatrick incident that sent Ned into the bush …

Kennedy’s police party went in search of Ned and Dan not out of spite or malice, but because the Kelly brothers were fugitive criminals, notorious horse and cattle thieves who some months earlier had fired on a policeman. There were warrants out for both crimes and the police had a legal duty and a moral right to seek out the offenders …

Ned Kelly was a man of many extraordinary capacities, among them self-justification and self-publicity. For reasons that can’t be pursued here, Australians have made him their national hero. The mistake of the historians and biographers has been to believe what Ned said about himself …

The latest Kelly biographer is journalist Peter Fitzsimons, whose ''Ned Kelly: The Story Of Australia’s Most Notorious Legend'' appears to be a weighty tome extensively researched. In fact Fitzsimons has written yet another Kelly book that is pure fantasy, misleading his reader at every point of Ned’s dramatic story...


About the author

Doug Morrissey grew up on a dairy farm in Gippsland. As a mature age student he attended La Trobe University, where he researched land settlement in north-east Victoria and Ned Kelly. He successfully completed an Honours thesis on Ned Kelly's sympathisers in 1978 and was awarded a PhD for his dissertation: Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves in 1987 where he examined the social and economic history of Kelly country. The late Dr John Hirst, Emeritus Scholar La Trobe University, was a mentor and supervisor throughout Doug's university career and acted as editor for Ned Kelly: A lawless life.

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