YOUR VIEW

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

I READ with in­ter­est Ross Fitzger­ald’s re­view of Nick Shim­min and Ge­orge Burchett’s col­lec­tion of Wil­fred Burchett’s writ­ings ( Re­view , De­cem­ber 1- 2). Given that one of the au­thors is Burchett’s son, it can hardly be ex­pected that they ad­dress dis­pas­sion­ately the cen­tral is­sue raised by Burchett’s life: why did he arouse such con­tro­versy in Aus­tralia, and what jus­ti­fi­ca­tion was there in his con­duct for the apoplec­tic re­ac­tions of many to him? This is the crux of where to­day’s read­ers’ in­ter­est lies and re­quires a bal­anced and de­tached view­point, which nei­ther the au­thors nor Fitzger­ald pro­vides. The his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Burchett has long since been sub­sumed within Aus­tralia’s forgotten his­tory war, in which con­clu­sions on his con­duct, writ­ings and pol­i­tics were welded to their hold­ers’ Cold War al­le­giances, and their anal­y­sis was an ide­o­log­i­cal rather than in­tel­lec­tual en­deav­our. Fitzger­ald, Shim­min and Burchett seem in­ca­pable of ac­knowl­edg­ing the many facets of their idol’s com­plex iden­tity. Jamie Miller Dar­linghurst, NSW ROSS Fitzger­ald has con­strued Wil­fred Burchett as a coura­geous, if some­what mis­guided, jour­nal­ist. I at­tended an Aus­tralian Army intelligence corps code of con­duct course in Syd­ney in 1967 while serv­ing in the RAAF. At the course it was al­leged that dur­ing the Korean War Burchett had ac­tively col­lab­o­rated with the com­mu­nist Chi­nese and North Korean forces to the ex­tent that he had vis­ited pris­oner of war camps to as­sist in turn­ing pris­on­ers to the com­mu­nist cause. I pre­sumed this would have been well doc­u­mented by pris­oner ac­counts af­ter the war. At this stage his pres­ence with the en­emy in Viet­nam was no doubt also known to the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment. As some­one who sub­se­quently served in Viet­nam, I can as­sure you I would not be as dis­mis­sive as Fitzger­ald of Burchett’s con­sis­tent readi­ness to as­so­ci­ate with and, it ap­pears, to as­sist, en­e­mies of this coun­try. To me, trea­son is not an old- fash­ioned con­cept. Mike An­drews Clear Is­land Wa­ters, Queens­land THANKS to Deb­o­rah Hope for re­mind­ing me of Charles Spraw­son’s Haunts of the Black Masseur ( Re­view , De­cem­ber 8- 9). I once had this mar­vel­lous quirky book but, like so many of my books, it seems to have been lent to a non- re­turner. I was as­ton­ished to learn that Percy Bysshe Shelley could not swim. I had the im­pres­sion he was in­cur­ably aquatic, but that must have been Lord By­ron. I was sim­i­larly as­ton­ished that you did not men­tion Roger Deakin’s Water­log: A Jour­ney Through Bri­tain . It is one of the few books I have read that left me dis­ap­pointed that it did not go on. Wait un­til you read about Deakin swim­ming over drowned fields be­tween the Scilly Isles and Bri­tain, or tempt­ing him­self to swim through un­der­ground cav­erns. Swim­ming slowly out to sea off Nor­folk and re­turn­ing with the tide . . . that is some­thing else! Con­nie Tout- Smith Shoal­haven Heads, NSW

Wil­fred Burchett

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