Sunday, 15 September 2013

Book Review - His Excellency's pleasure : a satire by Donald Horne

His Excellency's pleasure : a satire by Donald Horne

Melbourne : Nelson, 1977                               ISBN 0170052109

The Dismissal stands high in the long catalogue of political dramas that have beset the Commonwealth of Australia. It has certainly generated a huge amount of print over the years since 1975, mostly from the left side of Australia's politics.

This little entertainment comes from the period soon after the dismissal of Whitlam - Donald Horne is probably best known for coining the phrase "The Lucky Country", which was the title of a book he wrote in the 60s, bemoaning the inability of Australia to move beyond providing food and minerals for the rest of the World. In His Excellency's pleasure, he has extrapolated the crisis of 1975 by creating a fictional future where Australia is run to the letter of the Constitution, and where a new Governor-General wants to make his mark. The Governor-General's butler is of great assistance in his project, and as he works his way through various sections of the Constitution, the Governor-General gradually takes control of the armed forces, creating legislation, and finally of Parliament itself, all by sticking strictly to the "black ink" of the Constitution.

At first this small tome reads like a grab-bag of all the concerns the Left had at the time with the Dismissal, but Horne is no idealogue, and there are a few twists and turns in the story that leave most of the Australian polity tarred with the same brush. Whilst skewering the Conservatives, Horne also gets stuck into the Union movement as well, especially their propensity to change into "one of them" when power comes their way.

Just when the Governor-General thinks he has the whole thing sewn up, who should pop in for a visit but the English Monarch, who throws a huge spanner in the works (and provides for a slightly pompous and disappinting ending to the book).

This little light-hearted book can be knocked off in an hour or so: if you have an interest in Australian politics, it's not a waste of 60 minutes.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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