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).

'Politics by other means: Enlarging our diminished sense of political leadership' by Frank Bongiorno

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
'Politics by other means: Enlarging our diminished sense of political leadership' by Frank Bongiorno
Earlier this year, Ray Hadley was interviewing Scott Morrison on 2GB when the subject turned to the internal preselection battles of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. ‘And so it’s time for those who, you know, don’t do this for a living, to really allow those who really need to get on for the sake of the Australian people here,’ Morrison declared, none too coherently. It is impossible ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas' by Noel Pearson

December 2021, no. 438 24 November 2021
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas' by Noel Pearson
The brief and unpretentious biography of Noel Pearson on the dust jacket of Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas describes him as ‘a lawyer, activist and founder of the Cape York Institute’. Although surely accurate, this gives little indication of the stature this remarkable man has assumed in Australian public life over the past thirty years. If Pearson is an activist, it is of an unusual kin ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Rush that Never Ended: A history of Australian mining, fifth edition' by Geoffrey Blainey and 'The Fuss that Never Ended: The life and work of Geoffrey Blainey' edited by Deborah Gare et al.

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Rush that Never Ended: A history of Australian mining, fifth edition' by Geoffrey Blainey and 'The Fuss that Never Ended: The life and work of Geoffrey Blainey' edited by Deborah Gare et al.
‘He looks a bit like Marty Feldman with two good eyes.’ So wrote a journalist of Geoffrey Blainey in 1977. In The Fuss That Never Ended, a collection of essays on Blainey arising out of a Melbourne symposium, Bridget Griffen-Foley no less irreverently compares the historian to a character played by Steven Seagal in a movie she saw on television – not because he shares Seagal’s ‘fake tan, ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent' by Gideon Haigh

July 2021, no. 433 22 June 2021
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent' by Gideon Haigh
To write of Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965) is to venture into a land where opinions are rarely held tentatively. While many aspects of his career have been controversial, his actions during the famous Split of 1955 arouse the most passionate criticism. Evatt is attacked, not only on the political right but frequently from within the Labor Party itself, for his alleged role in causing the catastr ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966' by David Kemp

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966' by David Kemp
David Kemp, formerly professor of politics at Monash University and minister in the Howard government, has a fairly simple thesis about Australian politics in the years between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s. Put crudely, Australians were offered a choice between socialism and liberalism. The Australian Labor Party offered them socialism. Kemp doesn’t much like it. It is one of the remarkable ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Factory 19' by Dennis Glover

January–February 2021, no. 428 17 December 2020
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Factory 19' by Dennis Glover
In the mid-1990s, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade paid me to research the year 1948. Although a little narrowly conceived for my liking, it wasn’t a bad job for a recently graduated PhD in history. I lasted a year. Most days I would head to the National Archives of Australia, then nestled among the panel beaters and porn shops of a Canberra industrial estate. My task was to work thro ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Watsonia: A writing life' by Don Watson

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Watsonia: A writing life' by Don Watson
In the frantic days after the recent US presidential election, Donald Trump’s team – led by his attorney Rudy Giuliani – held a media conference in a suburban Philadelphia carpark. The establishment that formed the backdrop to this unusual performance is called Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Neighbouring businesses included a crematorium and an adult entertainment store (soon translated on ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The making of the modern Labor Party' by Liam Byrne

June–July 2020, no. 422 26 May 2020
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The making of the modern Labor Party' by Liam Byrne
John Curtin and James Scullin occupy very different places in whatever collective memory Australians have of their prime ministers. On the occasions that rankings of prime ministers have been published, Curtin invariably appears at or near the top. When researchers at Monash University in 2010 produced such a ranking based on a survey of historians and political scientists, Curtin led the pack, wi ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia got compulsory voting' by Judith Brett

May 2019, no. 411 18 April 2019
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia got compulsory voting' by Judith Brett
In July 1924, a Tasmanian senator from the conservative Nationalist Party, Herbert Payne, introduced a bill to bring about compulsory voting in Australian national elections. His proposal aroused little discussion. Debate in both the Senate and the House of Representatives – where another forgotten politician, Edward Mann, saw the measure through – was brief. Few spoke in opposition. The House ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'City Life: The new urban Australia' by Seamus O’Hanlon

October 2018, no. 405 25 September 2018
Frank Bongiorno reviews 'City Life: The new urban Australia' by Seamus O’Hanlon
Afew years ago, while taking a tram through Melbourne’s inner-northern suburbs, I decided to visit the Northcote factory – an industrial laundry – where my father worked as a storeman between 1973 and 1982. Or rather, I thought I’d check to see whether the business was still there, for I hadn’t been anywhere near the place in the more than thirty years since his death. ... (read more)
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