05 April 2012

Tim Fischer's book

Tim Fischer's book Transcontinental Train Odyssey is described on one web-site as, "Train enthusiast and former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia's very personal guide to the great transcontinental railways of the world. Full of colourful anecdotes, descriptions of the greatest stations in the world, as well as enough rail history and technical specifications to satisfy the most ardent trainspotter".

Well, the book certainly does contain a lot of interesting information, especially about interesting trips the author has taken and out-of-the way places he's been.   BUT interposed at regular intervals are expressions such as the trip arranger "had worked closely with our ambassador....",  the "...diplomatic officials who travelled with me..." etc.  True, there also are some anecdotes from his pre-parliamentary days, but it does indeed seem that many of the impressive journeys described were in fact undertaken in the course of parliamentary travels - at taxpayers' expense!  Nice work if you can get it.  In fairness, the book does state that part of the royalties are to be donated to good causes (the Fred Hollows Foundation, Frontier Services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and "the South Australian government" -- not sure about this one!)

It's also apparent that he had a big role in the decision to build the Alice Springs to Darwin railway.  I guess that deserves to be commended as a "nation-building" exercise, but I wonder about the economic rationality of it, at least in the short term and given that other possible rail improvements may have resulted in a better return.

It does indeed seem that, one way or another, Fischer  has been to a number of interesting parts of the world.    But hardly a mention  of Mongolia!    To overcome this deficiency, here's an image of the trans-Mongolian rail line, alongside the Ulan Bataar rail museum.  

No comments:

Post a Comment