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Dennis Altman

Dennis Altman’s new novel, Death in the Sauna, begins with, yes, a death in a sauna. The respected virologist Pomfrey Lister is found lifeless in a London gay venue, days before a major AIDS conference that he is chairing. His naked corpse is transported home and a death certificatepronouncing natural causes is produced. This hasty denouement is ostensibly aimed at concealing the salacious nature of Lister’s demise, which might overshadow both the conference and his legacy.

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Pressure is mounting on the Albanese government to recognise Palestine as a state. Following a resolution moved by Penny Wong, this became ALP party policy in 2021, and it will almost certainly be reaffirmed at this year’s party conference in August. Former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans has written a powerful defence of the policy, which has been assailed, predictably, by the Israel lobby.

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Since the May 2022 federal election, several books have been published seeking to explain the rise of the teal independents. In this week’s ABR Podcast, Dennis Altman, a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University, reads his review of three such books. Altman argues that the media’s concern with the teals borders on an ‘obsession’, blinding them to other cross-currents in the Australian political landscape. Listen to Dennis Altman’s ‘Teal Talk: Exaggerating the independents’ revolution’.

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The Teal Revolution by Margot Saville & The Big Teal by Simon Holmes à Court

by
January-February 2023, no. 450

One of the by-products of every election is the instant analysis, often in the form of small books that read like extended newspaper articles. The success of the teals at the 2022 federal election has already produced extensive speculation about whether this signals a sea change in Australian politics.

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Quo vadis, Australia?

by Joy Damousi et al.
July 2022, no. 444

Following the recent federal election, we invited several senior contributors and commentators to nominate one key policy, direction, or reform they hope the Albanese government will pursue.

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Dennis Altman recently published a slice of autobiography, Unrequited Love: Diary of an accidental activist, addressing ‘his long obsession with the United States’. Now, as if to remind us that his training has been in political science, Altman presents us with this lively survey of monarchies old and new, constitutional and absolute, European and Asian. It has its origins in the Economist democracy index, according to which seven of the ten most democratic nations were constitutional monarchies. The list is dominated by the Scandinavian kingdoms, with Norway at the top, and former dominions of the British Empire, with Australia just scraping into the list at equal ninth with the Netherlands. As a committed republican, Altman was set thinking by this apparent alliance of monarchy and democracy.

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The Boys in the Band 

Netflix
by
12 October 2020

It is hard today to recall the full extent of the furore that surrounded the first productions of Mart Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band. First produced off Broadway in April 1968, a year before the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a new militant gay politics, it quickly became a hit, and was staged in Sydney later that year, where it ran for seven months.

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In 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed that ‘gay rights are human rights’. This statement, which would seem uncontroversial to most readers of ABR, was widely attacked as a symbol of Western neo-colonialism. Combined with the 2015 US Supreme Court recognition of same-sex marriage, gay rights were seen by many religious and political leaders as a threat to tradition, culture, and religion, even when, as in many parts of Africa and the Pacific, laws proscribing homosexual behaviour are the legacy of nineteenth-century colonialism.

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ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.

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The fortieth anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras might have been an occasion for unbridled elation. Held in March of 2018, the celebration came soon after the bitterly fought battle to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia. Dennis Altman, a pre-eminent figure in Gay Liberation, paints a different picture of the Mardi Gras. His new book, Unrequited Love: Diary of an accidental activist, conveys a sense of unease despite the frolicsome charms of such festivities.

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