Frank Bongiorno

Frank Bongiorno

Frank Bongiorno teaches at the Australian National University, where he is Head of the School of History. His Dreamers and Schemers: A political history of Australia will be published by La Trobe University Press, an imprint of Black Inc., in November 2022. His most recent book is The Eighties: The decade that transformed Australia (Black Inc., 2015) and he is co-editor, with Benjamin T. Jones and John Uhr, of Elections Matter: Ten federal elections that shaped Australia (Monash University Publishing, 2018).

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Pivot of Power: Australian prime ministers and political leadership 1949–2016' by Paul Strangio, Paul ‘t Hart, and James Walter

January–February 2018, no. 398 19 December 2017
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Pivot of Power: Australian prime ministers and political leadership 1949–2016' by Paul Strangio, Paul ‘t Hart, and James Walter
Has the Australian prime minister’s job become impossible? The authors of The Pivot of Power: Australian prime ministers and political leadership 1949–2016 ask this question at the very end of their book. They conclude on an almost utopian note, one rather out of keeping with the otherwise judicious tone maintained over 300 pages: ‘a new dawn will arrive’. Sadly, the optimism of Paul Stra ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975' by Jenny Hocking

December 2017, no. 397 23 November 2017
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975' by Jenny Hocking
Paul Keating claims that he wanted to arrest John Kerr. There were perhaps two points at which Kerr might justly have been taken into custody. There was the critical moment just after he handed Gough Whitlam the letter sacking him. Margaret Whitlam wondered why her husband had not simply slapped Kerr across the face ‘and told him to pull himself together’. But if you are one of the dwindling b ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Fear of Abandonment: Australia in the world since 1942' by Allan Gyngell

May 2017, no. 391 27 April 2017
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Fear of Abandonment: Australia in the world since 1942' by Allan Gyngell
In 2004 the Indonesian foreign minister, Nur Hassan Wirajuda, learned that Australia had established a 1000-mile maritime exclusion zone as part of its asylum-seeker policy. It had not consulted Jakarta. ‘You are blessed with a country that is rich in ideas and initiatives, declared Wirajuda. ‘Unfortunately, we seem to be on the receiving end of most of them.’ Allan Gyngell’s new history ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Battleground' by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen

March 2016, no. 379 23 February 2016
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Battleground' by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen
The Abbott era already seems a far-off time of jihad on the ABC and the Human Rights Commission, death cults, three-word slogans, celebratory cigars, royal knighthoods, raw onions, and helicopter jaunts. To be reminded of it is to relive the 'tawdry nightmare – a male buddy film of singular fatuousness', to borrow Pankaj Mishra's dismissal of the West's post-Cold War political élite. Mishra cou ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Trendyville' by Renate Howe, David Nichols, and Graeme Davison

June-July 2015, no. 372 29 May 2015
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Trendyville' by Renate Howe, David Nichols, and Graeme Davison
In the Melbourne suburb where I spent my childhood, a café was a place where ethnic men played cards and backgammon, puffed on cigarettes, and looked up from time to time to watch through the window the passing parade on the footpath outside. Now, when I return to Northcote, I am often served in hip cafés by boyish men with Ned Kelly beards and stylishly informal young women who call me ‘mate ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Bush: Travels in the heart of Australia' by Don Watson

October 2014, no. 365 01 October 2014
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Bush: Travels in the heart of Australia' by Don Watson
Late in 1986, the Australian Bicentennial Authority took sixty celebrities off to Uluru to make the television advertisement containing the jingle ‘Celebration of a Nation’. Just as the shoot finished, a heavy storm broke, prompting the stars to run for cover. ‘Oh, darling,’ cried Jeanne Little, a popular television personality at the time. ‘The real Australia’s quite frightening, isn ... (read more)

Dreaming Too Loud

February 2014, no. 358 16 January 2014
Dreaming Too Loud
If the London Australian expatriate community has an aristocracy of sorts – as it clearly does – then Geoffrey Robertson QC and the novelist Kathy Lette, his wife since 1990, would be among its leading nobility. Robertson and Lette mix with royalty, both real and literary (‘our daughters had been flower girls at Salman’s wedding – I can’t remember which one’). I would love to have be ... (read more)

Push and shove

November 2013, no. 356 31 October 2013
Push and shove
Tony Moore’s engaging account of Australian bohemians begins with Marcus Clarke and takes us through to Julian Assange. Along the way we encounter Australian bohemia in its diverse expressions, from the art of the Heidelberg School, writing of the Bulletin, high jinks of 1920s Sydney bohemia to the Sydney Push, Melbourne Drift, 1960s counterculture (in both its local and London expatriate manife ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A History of Australia' by Mark Peel and Christina Twomey

April 2012, no. 340 01 April 2012
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A History of Australia' by Mark Peel and Christina Twomey
‘The product under consideration is Shist.’ So began New Zealand historian Keith Sinclair’s discussion of short histories in 1968. His irreverent diminutive is still occasionally heard among professional historians of a certain age. It is less often recalled that Sinclair was defending the worth of the short history against those who might think ‘Shist beneath their dignity’. After all, ... (read more)
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