- Book reviewer
- History - general, Book reviews, History - post WWII
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By David Marr and Marian Wilkinson
Allen and Unwin: Sydney, 2003
Pp 350. Price $29.95 pb
Reviewed by Tigger Wise
One man’s singleminded determination to preserve the integrity of Australia’s borders lies at the heart of this story and carries it along with the grip of a pit bull terrier. Turning its pages, we are amazed as we watch Prime Minister John Howard using all means in his power to achieve his end. Muzzle the press. Bully the Navy. By-pass the courts. Flout the laws of the sea. Bribe impoverished nations. Offend friendly nations. Denigrate innocent individuals. Dissemble. Manipulate. Threaten. Anything – just don’t let ’em in – and, amazingly, virtually no-one in the chain of command stood up to him.
Marr and Wilkinson begin Dark Victory with the MV Tampa episode, linger on the children overboard incident and finish, significantly, two and a half months later with Mr Howard’s victorious night of the 2001 Federal Election.
Many of the events are still fresh in the mind, but naval readers will enjoy the fleshing out of some of the seminal maritime moments, and will further enjoy (over a tot of rum perhaps) arguing the finer points that arise. Were Admirals Barrie and Shackleton ultimately ‘dills’ (p.291)? Is traditional Navy loyalty to the government allowed to become loyalty to one man without question? Did Tampa’s Captain Arne Rinnan exceed the definition of the universal distress call when he put out a MAYDAY? Was Able Seaman Laura Whittle a heroine to jump 12 metres into the sea? What would I have done in the shoes of Commander Norman Banks of HMAS Adelaide? What does it take to make a sailor cry?
The book is an angry read for Mr. Howard’s opponents. On the other hand, Mr. Howard’s supporters may well toss it aside as a polemic. No matter. In the end, it stands as a fine piece of investigative journalism.