on 26 January 2011
Accuracy is key for a book of this sort, and "Living and Working in Australia" (the 3rd Edition) by David Hampshire comes up short in this area. Now, to be fair, there are newer editions of this work, as I have seen a 6th edition which was published in 2009, so the issues I have with this book may have been addressed. However, the buyer must be careful when selecting a book of this type.
The 3rd edition was published in 2005, and I first travelled to Australia in late 2006, so I would have expected the book to be much more accurate than it was. Note that I am not so concerned about differences in prices and that sort of detail, because clearly such things can change quickly, and any book could be rendered inaccurate simply in the time it takes to publish and appear in bookshops. No, it is the oddities which are mentioned in this book as fact, and yet completely differ from anything I have ever seen which are of concern to me.
To pick a somewhat trivial example, there is a paragraph included on Traffic Lights in the motoring section, where the author goes out of his way to mention the sequence of traffic lights being red -> yellow -> green -> yellow -> red and that yellow is a warning to get ready to go. I've been in four states in Australia, and I have never seen a traffic light that operates that way. I have asked people who have lived in Australia their whole lives, and they had never heard of traffic lights with that sequence. Only one person thought that perhaps older traffic lights may have had a flaw where they would flash amber just before green, but that it wasn't part of the sequence by rather a mechanism issue. At any rate, there haven't been lights like that in some time, certainly not in 2005, nor even when the 1st edition of this book was published in 1998.
It would be unfair to totally discount a 500+ page book based on a single paragraph, but there is quite a bit more. A more important example is what they wrote about the telecommunications systems here, of which they write "...it (Australia) has one of the highest standards of telecommunications in the world, employing the latest broadband cable, digital technology, fibre optics and satellite systems." My personal experience is that Australia was rather behind Europe and the U.S. in this area, and in fact the Australian government is now trying to do a massive upgrade of their systems for that very reason. Australia also suffers greatly from a lack of bandwidth into and out of the country, which is another area being addressed. In short, while they statement is somewhat subjective, I consider it to be inaccurate, and frankly a good portion of the Telephone section of the book reads like an advertisement for Telstra (the largest provider in Australia) rather than a guide.
For political parties, they fail to list the Greens (7.7% of the vote in 2004) under the main political parties, and instead include the Independent Party (there is none, but there is a very small party called the Independence Party), and the Country Liberal Party which is limited to just the Northern Territories where the fewest number of people live. The CLP probably was bigger than the Greens in 1998, but certainly hasn't been for some time. The same would be true for the Australian Democrats, which they also listed as a main political party even though they only had 2.1% of the vote in 2004.
As I indicated before, I did have some people who have lived in Australia their whole lives look at a few areas of the book, and their response was that the book was very out-dated, not just for today (2011), but even for the time it was published (2005). My personal experience agrees with what they told me, and the few examples I have provided are by no means exhaustive of the areas of this book which have issues. As a result, I cannot recommend this book (i.e. the 3rd edition) to anyone and I would be very skeptical of later editions as well. I know that there is quite a bit of accurate material included, but the problem is that there is no way for the reader to know what is valid, what is out of date, and what is simply wrong.