I think the biggest mistake is thinking times were good under Howard. He made a lot of mistakes and his take on Tampa and climate change has crippled Australian politics ever since. He won by giving out HEAPS of money. He was bribing people to follow him and this can be especially seen during the utterly wasteful debates between him and Rudd. So many billions of dollars wasted that would have been good to have in the coffers during the GFCThe Rise and Fall of Australia: How a Great Nation Lost Its Way (3/5)
This is by the same author of 'When America Stopped Being Great,' which is another work I've reviewed (I think?) in this thread. TL, DR, that's easily the stronger of the two works, in part because what happens in America is far more important than what happens in Australia, in part because Bryant's thesis runs through that work, where his thesis here runs through some of it, then he turns his mind to other matters. Furthermore, although it was published relatively recently, RFA already feels dated, in that the issues it looks at have largely evaporated, whereas new issues that the book touches on have become bigger. Anyway, I'm going to sum up some of his main ideas:
The titular rise and fall refers to (at least as far as "the fall,") refers to the period of politics that came after John Howard lost his prime ministership to Kevin Rudd. What happened then was basically politics spiralling into mendacity. Canberra became known as "the coup capital of the world" as both the ALP and LNP kept switching leaders, both while in government and outside it. In Labour, we had Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd again. For the LNP, we had Abbott, then Turnbull, then Morrison. And all the while, a lack of any real policy from either party, but rather a "race to the bottom." He attributes this to two key factors. First, because Aus has had uninterrupted economic growth for over two decades at this point, it's an example of "good times create weak men." Little reason to change anything, so why bother with bold visions when you can snipe at your opponents? Second, because so many MPs are "career politicians," they're out of touch with the regular people. He also looks at the pros and cons of the above-mentioned PMs.
I certainly can't disagree with a lot of this, as I watched the years in question with dismay, as politics devolved into a farce. Whether he's correct in the causes for this is something I can't answer. That said, I mentioned that this came off as outdated, because at least with Morrison, a new political feeling seems to have settled over Canberra. It's less the LNP and ALP being brats, and more that the LNP is governing, the ALP is facing an ideological split, and the states are dealing with Covid. As for his assessment of the PMs in question, I'm of course biased, but I broadly agree with his assessment of Abbott (good opposition leader, useless as prime minister), Turnbull (I've always respected Turnbull, but then, part of the reasons I do is why so many people on the right dislike him), and Morrison (competent, but uninspiring). In contrast, disagree with his assessment of Rudd (weasely, backstabber), and Gillard (not really up to being PM), but again, bias. Me, being on the left, so of course I'm going to be more favourabe to Rudd and Gillard, and respect Turnbull).
Another thing that arguably makes the work outdated is its take on the Australia-China relationship. There's no specific "take" per se, but it's outdated in the sense that since the book was written, Australia-China relations have plummeted.
There's certainly other theses that the author brings up, but the problem with them is that they're mainly incidental to the core theses as to what caused the downfall of Australian politics, and I won't waste your time with them here. Overall, the book's okay, but as far as its core thesis goes, it isn't really new information.