An affable, informative portrait of the people down under from the author of 800,000. 000: The Real China and The White Boned Demon: A Biography of Madame Zedong. Australian-born Terrill has never been afraid of large projects. He's made a name for himself as a reliable popularizer of Chinese culture, and now puts a handle on Australia, that huge, culturally ""western"" country geographically situated in Asia. Terrill quite capably describes a nation that began as a dumping site for British Empire criminals, evolved into a Commonwealth entity, and more recently has come under the growing influence of Asia and the US. Here's a country with a fondness for its disobedient ancestors that at the same time exhibits strong paternalism in social services and a ""safety. net"" approach to government and business. Though the country has drifted considerable distance from an original British influence, Terrill points out that it was still possible in 1975 for the Governor General, officially representing the Queen of England, to dismiss Australia's Labor Party Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, on the strength of a parliamentary technicality. And, as Terrill notes, Australian politicians routinely hurl abuse at one another (""The honorable member for Burrumburra is a screeching galah"") with characteristic gusto within the framework and decorous tradition of an English-styled parliament. Apart from one section unnecessarily detailing the author's experiences growing up in Australia in the 40's and 50's, this is an engaging, revelatory social graph that builds strongly on Terrill's vivid conversations with everyone from cab drivers to prime ministers.