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The People's Choice - Volumes 1-3 (set)

Electoral politics in 20th century New South Wales

Edited by Michael Hogan and David Clune

REVIEWS

Published by the Parliament of NSW and the University of Sydney

Australia became a nation politically through the willingness of the existing colonies and their citizens to join together, ceding some of their powers in order to construct something better than the sum of those older political units. Yet the colonies did not disappear; they became autonomous States in the new Commonwealth of Australia. Consequently, to understand the political history of Australia it is not enough to know what happened in federal politics. Each State has had its own significant political history, often influencing developments in other States and at the centre. This work is a political chronicle of the most populous State, New South Wales, during the century since Federation, using the regular State elections as focal points. It fills in some of the important detail necessary to understand how modern Australia has become such a successful democratic nation.

Volume One - 1901 to 1927
This first volume traces the story of NSW through the first years after Federation, when Australia was slowly recovering from the economic depression of the 1890s and adjusting to the new political realities of Federation. It was a period when the political party system was developing a shape still recognisable a hundred years later. With the outbreak of the Great War, Australia and NSW had to face a new set of challenges that placed great strains on the political and social fabric of society. Divisions opened up along lines of ethnicity, class, religion and national identity. During the war the Labor Party split disastrously over the issue of compulsory military service. Even after that, NSW, like most of Australia, remained deeply divided. The politics of the Lang era reflected and added to those divisions, with the arrival of a further crisis in the shape of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Volume Two - 1930 to 1965
This Second Volume relates how NSW and Australia faced the near collapse of the economic system in the Great Depression of the 1930s, followed by the catastrophe of the Second World War. In other parts of the world these events brought empires and nations to disintegration, but moderate and sensible political leadership prevailed in NSW and helped society to emerge from those crises stronger than before. After the war, economic and political management was much easier, due partly to the long economic boom of the 1950s and into the 1960s. The NSW political system experienced an unaccustomed era of stability, with the hegemony of Labor governments from 1941 to 1965, although by the end of the 1960s signs were emerging of challenges to the long accepted orthodoxies of the postwar period.

Volume Three - 1968 to 1999
This Third Volume surveys the transformation of NSW politics and society in the last third of the twentieth century due to technological changes, especially in world communications, and the rise of new political issues such as the environment and the women's movement. Television, of course, changed the nature of political campaigning, as did a thriving culture of public opinion polls, concentration on leadership 'image' at the expense of policy, and a new industry devoted to the manipulation of the media. More importantly, however, the nature of government economic management changed in response to worldwide pressures for conformity to a new model of smaller government, variously described by such terms as 'economic rationalism', 'managerialism' or 'market-orientation'. By the end of the century, however, there were some signs that this orthodoxy itself was being questioned.

Click here for: Volume Four - 1856 to 1898

REVIEWS

Each of [an earlier series of] monographs [has been] put together into volumes so that there is contained a chapter on every general election in New South Wales during the twentieth century – in chronological order. Yet in each case there has been a ‘jazzing up’ effect.

For example, the 1922 Michael Hogan monograph is a straight narrative of 44 pages with tables and maps. However, … it becomes clear how well set out it is. The patterns of maps is the same throughout the whole volume and, in addition, there are inserts with biographies and photographs for leading figures… For every one of the essays, as for 1922, the cartoons are excellent.
…[There is a] consistently high quality of analysis … about the various changes to the NSW electoral system throughout the century.
Because these volumes were sent to me as a ‘freebie’ I have no idea what they would cost to buy …. What would I have been prepared to pay? Let me express it this way: recently I paid $150 for The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia… Would I have paid $150 for these NSW volumes? You bet, I would.

Australasian Parliamentary Review, Vol 17 (1), Autumn 2002

All history is barren without politics, and all democratic politics are sterile without a narrative of electoral history. For editors Hogan and Clune, a history of New South Wales elections also relates a social, economic and cultural story. This, roughly speaking, is the editors' logical, and sensible, starting assumption in compiling this excellent three volume series on twentieth century elections in New South Wales. Indeed, readers would be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive account in Australia than this, with other States and the Commonwealth crying out for similar coverage. The volumes' chapters, titled by election year, flow easily through a quasi-journalistic style that, with no encumbered theory, remains accessible to a lay readership. The volumes can be read systematically or thumbed like a ready-reference directory.
While its primary audience is the historian and political scientist, journalists, public servants and students will also profit from its purchase. The range of the series' eighteen contributors is a strength: historians, biographers and political scientists specialising in elections and public administration are balanced by former politicians and ministerial advisers. Yet, despite the authors' diversity, the volumes boast a tight consistency in format and style that assists in their encyclopaedic function. Each chapter, ranging from thirty to fifty pages, opens with an historical note framing the political and economic context of the day (e.g. 1901 begins with the tariff debate; 1932 the Great Depression; 1988 economic rationalism) and is then divided into digestible sections marked off by common sub-headings. This provides for impressively comprehensive detail, including intra-party squabbles, campaign themes and events and, of course, results tabled uniformly in terms of votes won, percentage shares, seats contested and seats won. By-elections, too, are covered.
Volume One begins at 1901, perhaps a logical and expedient date that will lend itself to other States and the Commonwealth should the exercise be replicated. But a post-Federation account might also be a weakness; some readers will no doubt miss the rich history of the late colonial period in which the party system took root. Other, more minor, drawbacks include a lack of textual referencing. Attempts to track down colourful quotes of contemporary actors are therefore frustrated. An index of names separated from a general index might also have been useful. An asset far outweighing these, however, is text liberally punctuated by short biographical notes of key figures and, most pleasingly, countless black and white photographs, maps, cartoons and party advertisements reproduced from contemporary newspapers, including from unusual sources such as The Worker.
The flavour of New South Wales politics and elections in the twentieth century is truly captured.

Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol 50(1), March 2004

This is a well-presented three volume set, with each volume covering approximately 30 years. For students of political history in 20th century New South Wales, these volumes are a mine of useful information. Contained within each chapter are summary tables of voting statistics for each election. The last chapters have additional statistics such as information for party political spending and pre-election opinion surveys. There are short biographical sketchs, together with black and white photographs, for many of the more important politicians and party officials. Electoral maps are included The bibliography is extensive and suggestive of considerable extra research material for interested students. All three volumes are profusely illustrated with an excellent collection of cartoons and they provide a detailed picture of the changing parliamentary electoral process over the century. The comprehensive nature of this publication is its strong point. Readers who seek an introduction to the politics of each period will find considerable information on the leading political identities. The list of social issues covered is again conmprehensive. This work is a valuable introduction to its topic. Its individual chapters provide detailed research into 34 elections. It would be a worthwhile acquisition for your own or your local public library.

Tony Laffan, Labour History, Nov 2004

Readers would be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive account in Australia than this, with other States and the Commonwealth crying out for similar coverage. The volumes' chapters, titled by election year, flow easily through a quasi-journalistic style that, with no encumbered theory, remains accessible to a lay readership. The volumes can be read systematically or thumbed like a ready-reference directory.
While its primary audience is the historian and political scientist, journalists, public servants and students will also profit from its purchase. The range of the series' eighteen contributors is a strength: historians, biographers and political scientists specialising in elections and public administration are balanced by former politicians and ministerial advisers. Yet, despite the authors' diversity, the volumes boast a tight consistency in format and style that assists in their encyclopaedic function. Each chapter, ranging from thirty to fifty pages, opens with an historical note framing the political and economic context of the day (e.g. 1901 begins with the tariff debate; 1932 the Great Depression; 1988 economic rationalism) and is then divided into digestible sections marked off by common sub-headings. This provides for impressively comprehensive detail, including intra-party squabbles, campaign themes and events and, of course, results tabled uniformly in terms of votes won, percentage shares, seats contested and seats won. By-elections, too, are covered.
A text liberally punctuated by short biographical notes of key figures and, most pleasingly, countless black and white photographs, maps, cartoons and party advertisements reproduced from contemporary newspapers, including from unusual sources such as The Worker. The flavour of New South Wales politics and elections in the twentieth century is truly captured.

Paul D Williams,Australian Journal of Politics and History, March 2004

   

Published January 2001
Publisher Parliament of New South Wales
Paperback
ISBN 9780909907389
Australian RRP $93.50
International Price $84.00
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Government / Political Studies
Politics
Australian History / Studies
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