Articles on Political history

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Niccolo Machiavelli recognised the absolute importance of dealing with necessity – what we know today as ‘reform’. Santi di Tito

What is this thing called reform?

In our modern age, reform means essentially mastering necessity – taking what steps are necessary to ensure that one’s country survives and prospers.
Many features of Australians’ and their government’s current response to the Syrian refugee crisis are familiar. Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

Australia’s resettlement of Syrian refugees is tinged with déjà vu

We need to see Australia's response to the Syrian refugee crisis in perspective – in relation to what's been done elsewhere and to what Australia has done on similar occasions in the past.
Australia’s traditional reliance on multilateralism and alliances won’t be enough to negotiate the geopolitical rivalries of the Asian century. EPA/Barbara Walton

In Australia’s third century after European settlement, we must rethink our responses to a new world

For the past two centuries, Australia got many of the big calls on global engagement right. In our third century, there are worrying signs that we have not fully grasped what the rise of Asia means.
Tony Abbott has flagged a plebiscite, or ‘people’s vote’, on same-sex marriage. AAP/Mick Tsikas

A plebiscite on marriage? Robert Menzies didn’t need it

Every generation in the last 150 years has seen in Australia a contest over marriage which reflects shifting positions on its defining features, and its associated rights and obligations.
B.A. Santamaria (left) is the subject of a new biography by political commentator Gerard Henderson. Wikimedia Commons

Book review: Santamaria, A Most Unusual Man

Gerard Henderson has produced a rounded and at times fascinating portrait of B. A. Santamaria. His broad conclusion is that Santamaria was a compelling, skilled and persuasive man who was enormously devoted to his causes.
Tony Abbott risks having same-sex marriage used against him electorally – just as his Liberal Party once tried to use it against Labor. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Why Australia is so far behind the times on same-sex marriage

As opposition leader Bill Shorten prepares to introduce an amendment on Monday to the Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage, why has Australia lagged so far behind?
Labor has long had leaders, such as former prime minister Paul Keating, capable of speaking the language of Anzac. AAP/Alan Porritt

A legend with class: labour and Anzac

There is a complicated story involving the Anzac legend and the left between the 1920s and the 1960s which historians have barely begun to untangle.
The Whitlam government had a reformist vision whose origins lay in the future prime minister’s own wartime experience. AWM

Gough’s war: making a politician, changing a nation

While serving in the RAAF, future prime minister Gough Whitlam led his first political campaign, agitating among his own squadron in support of the 1944 referendum.
All by myself. AAP/Alan Porritt

Book review: The Latham Diaries, ten years on

The Latham Diaries remains a seminal piece – not only having revealed the ALP's inner workings, but having highlighted policy issues and structural problems which continue to be of concern.
Because their votes may be open to negotiation, crossbench senators often have the final say on the form, and passage, of legislation. AAP/Alan Porritt

Scorn the crossbench, ignore Australian political history

Instead of treating crossbenchers in parliament as a source of chaos and an aberration, we should recognise that they play a crucial role in shaping legislation as the constitution provides.
Lunch with Gough and Malcolm, as guests of Barry Jones in 2008. Brian Dawe

The evolution of Malcolm Fraser was a wonderful thing to behold

Malcolm Fraser used to argue that he had not changed his political position, but he had in significant ways. This personal evolution was a wonderful quality in the former prime minister.

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