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‘Now is the Psychological Moment’ — Earle Page & the imagining of Australia

Stephen Wilks’ lively look at one of Australia’s most imaginative, ideas-driven politicians — who was briefly Prime Minister — unearths an underrated public figure who dared to dream. Wilks himself dared to come to grips with an almost forgotten figure and by dint of his disciplined efforts has elevated Page’s contribution and made him the subject of renewed appreciation.

Launched late last year by Professor Nicholas Brown, ANU School of History, the book is the first-ever study of the life and thoughts of Earle Christmas Grafton Page (1880–1961) – surgeon, Country Party leader, treasurer, prime minister, and perhaps the most extraordinary visionary to hold high public office in twentieth-century Australia. Over decades, he made determined efforts to seize ‘the psychological moment’, and thereby realise his vision of a decentralised, regionalised and rationally ordered nation. Effervescent, intelligent and somewhat eccentric, Page was one of Australia’s great optimists.

As Brown noted — “He was treasurer by 1923, leading a newly-formed party, pushing through or past tensions in the established parties, marshalling a distinct. mobilised constituency of rural and regional interests, and with a suite of policies that both reflected that base but also gestured towards ideals of national building that were very much of their time, and of enduring significance.”

Dr Stephen Wilks spoke of his book on Page in the Parliament of Australia’s Seminars and Lectures Series in February 2021: