Articles on Political history

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Malcolm Fraser has passed away at the age of 84. AAP/NAA

Malcolm Fraser’s life and legacy: experts respond

In his time in office, Malcolm Fraser oversaw the acceptance of southeast Asian refugees and led economic and social welfare reforms.
Australian and Canadian prime ministers Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper operate in political cultures where all-out warfare is now the norm. AAP/Steve Christo

Canada and Australia share a political culture of conflict

In recent years, a political "state of nature" has replaced what had been the civilised practice of political life in Australia.
Could former Florida governor Jeb Bush (right) join his brother George (left) and father in having held America’s top office? EPA/Shawn Thew

Family ties: why political dynasties rule in America’s democracy

Political dynasties have played a significant role throughout America's history. Their ongoing existence and prominence convey a level of inequality in access to political influence.
Unlike early 20th-century prime minister Alfred Deakin, Tony Abbott has no language for reaching out to the Australian people. Library of Congress

Alfred Deakin provides a contrast to an Abbott lost for words

Alfred Deakin knew what he believed in; it helped him to believe in himself, and to survive three terms as prime minister.
Joe Hockey’s 2012 ‘age of entitlement’ speech was unusually candid, but as treasurer he has shied away from tackling the tax perks that burden the budget. AAP/Lukas Coch

Calls for clear political narratives ultimately demand greater honesty

Whenever an Australian government runs into trouble we hear calls for a clearer narrative. The latest contribution comes in a thoughtful article from Waleed Aly. Aly points to the similar undermining of…
John Howard sealed his fate by going too far with WorkChoices, but he got the balance right and succeeded with the GST reform. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Why not listen to the people for a solution to the reform stalemate?

The distinction between the global and the local is collapsing under the pressure of climate change, economic restructuring, global migration and jihadism on the one hand and the populist and information…
If Tony Abbott loses his job as Liberal leader, the two major parties will have changed their leaders seven times since the 2007 election. AAP/Nikki Short

Leadership crises turn short-term thinking into long-term failure

As the public awaits the result of a motion to spill the Liberal Party leadership, MPs, political observers and the public alike should seriously consider what the never-ending spill culture means for…
You never know what you’ll find when you rifle through a box of war diaries. PA

Digital records take something precious from military history

Digital networks and databases appear to crush historical distance. Archives of war increasingly come to us. A simple YouTube search throws up a chaotic mix of official and unauthorised, user-generated…
Tom Uren gave a lifetime of service to his country: first in war, then as a campaigner for peace, a government minister and, in his later years, a mentor to many. Australian Information Service 1983/National Archives of Australia

Tom Uren, a ‘Big Man’ in his political vision and in person

Tom Uren was a “Big Man” not only in stature but in his public life. Uren, who has died at the age of 93, was born into a working-class household. Typical of the 1920s and ‘30s, he had a limited formal…
Any discussion of ‘mateship’ in 2015 will inevitably exist in the shadow of the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli. Australian War Memorial

Book review: Mateship – A Very Australian History

In late 2007, a couple of months after our last HSC exam, one of my best friends punched me. In hindsight, I probably deserved it. We were 18, liberated from school and newcomers to alcohol. To make a…
The protagonists are different in this political reincarnation of Pauline Hanson and One Nation, and so is the lay of the land in Australian politics. AAP/Dave Hunt

Hanson gets the band back together – can she make an impact?

Pauline Hanson has reunited with One Nation to contest the seat of Lockyer in the upcoming Queensland election. The reunion is an acknowledgement that neither Hanson nor her former party has fared so well…
In an otherwise fraught policy landscape, ‘cheapness’ has been one of the cold hard facts of Indigenous affairs. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Cheap in the deep sense: the sorry business of Indigenous affairs

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a bold move in September when he ran the country for four days from a tent at Gulkula in far northeast Arnhem Land in remote Australia. While there, he observed that although…
Christopher Pyne argues that the government is on the side of history in reforming higher education, but it is a bad history that he evokes. AAP/Lukas Coch

The big reforms that prevail fuse the best of left and right

After the defeat of the Abbott government’s higher education bills in the Senate, Education Minister Christopher Pyne invoked the legacy of past “reforms” that had been violently contested at the time…
Politicians would deny that wealthy people buying time with them and donating to parties influences decision making. EPA/Steffen Schmidt

Integrity in politics

Below is the text of Michelle Grattan’s Accountability Round Table lecture, November 18, 2014. Most of us who’ve been around politics for a while in one capacity or another can remember the time when misleading…
Politics was very much on display during last week’s memorial service for former prime minister Gough Whitlam. AAP/Brendon Thorne

Booing at a memorial: politeness and political ritual

Last week, I was one of a sea of Australians who rose to remember Gough Whitlam. Fitting its subject, the Whitlam memorial was sweeping. It was as much a grand story of Australia’s evolution since the…
A campaign pro before his time: Benjamin Disraeli. Wikimedia Commons

Why do we care about politicians’ personal lives? Blame Disraeli

We have become used to politicians talking about their emotions and their domestic lives. Indeed, it sometimes seems you can’t get anywhere in politics until you’ve been photographed with your arm wrapped…
Gough Whitlam took principled revisionism to the very top of Labor politics. AAP/Sergio Dionisio

Whitlam’s hard fight for reform holds lessons for Labor today

There was nothing inevitable about Gough Whitlam’s rise to the top. He had to fight every inch of the way. The fight was not only against born-to-rule Liberals who thought he had betrayed his class but…
In office, the late Gough Whitlam sought to fulfil, rather than to end, the promise of capitalism. AAP/Alan Porritt

Political limits of today intensify rosy memory of Whitlamism

The popular response to Gough Whitlam’s death tells us more about the politics of the present than the past. Whitlam has been cast as a messiah; as Labor’s saviour; and as the slayer of what Paul Keating…

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