Megalogenis, George: The Longest Decade

George Megalogenis

The Longest Decade, Scribe, Melbourne, 2006; revised and updated edition 2008

Economics and politics under Keating and Howard from 1991 to the mid noughties. Megalogenis describes them as ‘the twin architects of the revolution that has taken Australia through a period of trauma and recovery, and then on to an era of unprecedented affluence’. (blurb)

Under the chapter heading, ‘Australians as warmongers’, the author describes how ‘the electorate literally demanded Australia go to war with Indonesia [over East Timor] in September 1999… Australians don’t mind fighting wars that don’t directly involve them, provided the cause is just.’ (p. 135) Megalogenis wrote:

Politics sometimes misses changes in public attitudes if there isn’t an argument to immediately capture the feeling. We can say it now, looking back: Australians were becoming more militaristic in their outlook in the early 1990s. But it wasn’t apparent at the time when the crowds at Anzac Day began to swell, and the backpacker pilgrimage to Gallipoli went from word-of-moth to a mass movement, that something more assertive in our character was also stirring. Perhaps it was the absence of action overseas, the end of the Cold War, or the rise of Australian nationalism under Bob Hawke in the 1980s that facilitated the change. Either way, Australians had a new take on war, and it continues to shape our self-image today.

We didn’t march as the previous generation had, with medals pinned proudly, or defiantly, or both. We went to the dawn services instead, which transformed Anzac Day from the divisive event it had been in the 1960s and 1970s to a ceremony more in keeping with its original purpose: remembrance. The mood shift was driven by the youth of deregulation, the teens and twenty-somethings who were born after Australia’s involvement in Vietnam had ended in 1972, and who took their first job after Paul Keating’s recession had ended. Who would have picked it? (p. 134)

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