On 28 October the Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a speech at the launch of the White paper on Australia in the Asian Century. “History” she said “asks great nations great questions”.
As we look forward to the Asian Century we might also want to reflect on the way Australia sought to define its place in the world 100 years ago: a century marked by the global process of decolonization.
In the 1920’s the sun never set upon the British Empire but it was a rapidly changing world.
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Listening to ABC Local Radio a few weeks ago, I heard the former Minister John Brown saying John Howard should take a leaf out of the book of his predecessor Stanley Bruce who, when he lost his seat and lost government simultaneously in 1929, “had the decency to go and hide under a rock for the rest of his life”.
Now Mr Brown – a man who must sometimes be frustrated that his own political career tends to be summed up by the average punter as “had sex on his Ministerial desk with his wife, didn’t he?” - really should have known better.
The National Archives of Australia are opening an exhibition about Bruce this week, and I hope it will do something to change the public awareness of a man whose post-political career was if anything more distinguished than his time at the head of government.
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