(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Early in Margaret Simons' Passion and Principle, there is a long excursion into the history of the Hakka people in Borneo, the "notoriously political" and "rebellious" group from which, on her father's side, Senator Penny Wong is descended. Simons concludes: "the Hakka are strong, hardworking outsiders ... through talent and determination they end up at the centre of history. They initiate change, and refuse to only be victims. In these characteristics ... Penny Wong is surely Hakka".

Putting aside the strikingly old-school linking of ethnicity to character (even in such grand and positive terms), the passage says something about the book in which it's found.