Books in review

By Colleen Cook

In this issue:

In God they trust?

Cover illustration of In God they trust?

Roy Williams
Bible society $15.99

Australians don’t seem to learn about their leaders in the way people from other countries do. That makes this book a revelation, not just because it is an interesting examination of our prime ministers’ religious beliefs, but because it tells us something of their backgrounds, as well as their moral and philosophical attitudes to politics and life.

Author Roy Williams (BA ’84 LLB ’86) is not afraid to give his own opinions along the way. His leanings for or against politicians and their policies are guided by his understanding of the gospels. He never takes predictable Liberal or Labor stances, and that makes for interesting reading.

Williams interviewed both John Howard and Kevin Rudd, and concluded with Julia Gillard, just prior to the last election. He places the 23 prime ministers into categories according to a level of belief, and he rates their political performance using religious principles such as moral courage, abhorrence of war, compassion and the absence of racial bigotry. Williams is reluctant to label any as atheist, though he classifi es several as agnostic. He also observes that the best Christian person is not the same thing as the best Christian prime minister.

Limgbang Rebellion

Cover image of Limbang Rebellion

Eileen Chanin
Newsouth Publishing $34.99

In the early 1960s Brunei was a British territory of North Borneo, rich in oil and natural gas. It had no public debt and its revenue was three to four times greater han its expenditure. Britain and Malaya planned to combine this and other British territories into a Federation of Malaysia but in December 1962 rebel forces rose up against the sultan and his colonial officers, the government and all high-profile foreigners.

Author Eileen Chanin (BA ’72) is the daughter-in-law of two Australians, Richard and Dorothy Morris, who were captured and held hostage during the Brunei Revolt. She has meticulously researched the events surrounding the rebellion, and has been able to give us first-hand accounts of Dick and Dorothy’s ordeal over this brief but tumultuous time. In spite of constant gunfire outside their small cell, they experienced much kindness from brave locals who risked their lives to bring them food and some comfort.

The Royal Marines executed a daring rescue without which the Morrises would probably have been executed. It’s this personal story unfolding amidst the facts of political upheaval and violent conflict that makes this book such a gripping read.

Dreaming too loud

Cover image of Dreaming too loud

Geoffrey Robertson
Vintage $34.95

This collection of insightful writings by Geoffrey Robertson (BA ’67 LLB ’70 LLD ’06) begins with a quiz that exposes how much we don’t know about our own country – but should. Robertson is entertaining as well as thought-provoking, and many a distinguished person has asked this leading human rights lawyer to speak or write on his passionately held views.

Many of these pieces have made it into the book: an insider’s view of Julian Assange; a speech about teaching human rights in schools; a lecture given in memory of writer and intellectual Christopher Hitchens, and another on the ‘Right to Know’ campaign; an introduction to a book on Michael Kirby. He talks about the first Australians, our founding fathers, war stories, the media, republicanism, human rights and free speech.

The title of the book is what Ned Kelly said to a country schoolteacher, Tom Curnow, who saved many lives by thwarting one of Kelly’s terrorist atrocities. Ned told Tom he was free to go home and straight to bed but warned, “Don’t dream too loud”, or he might be shot. The observations in this book show us that a
number of Australians (and others) have been brave enough to “dream too loud”, fortunately for us.