Drought, we’re told, touches the national psyche.

We all know about The Australian Legend, Russel Ward’s seminal 1958 classic of our history. Ward wrote that national character was a people’s idea of itself, that while it could often be romanticised or exaggerated, it connected with reality as it sprang from people’s experiences and coloured their ideas of how they ought to behave. So he talked about the bushmen – and how the ethos of “the bush” had a disproportionate influence on the whole nation. From the 1890s onwards, the vast majority of Australians lived in the cities, but most liked to identify with a legendary set of attitudes.

And that’s why John Howard’s been off on a drought tour. But what’s with his clobber. He looks like an Australian legend, alright – but that legend is Barry McKenzie.


Peter Fray

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