Politics

The leaked draft judgment in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito proposed overturning the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, has returned abortion rights to the headlines. In this week’s episode of The ABR Podcast, Linda Atkins reads her essay, ‘Shouting Abortion’, which sets women’s right to terminations within the broader context of intergenerational poverty and the class lines of the medical profession ...

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Bob Hawke by Robert Pullan & Hawke by John Hurst

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October 1980, no. 25

Success may not always have come easy to Robert James Lee Hawke, but it has come often. In 1969 he became President of the ACTU without ever having been a shop steward or a union organiser or secretary; he had never taken part in or led a strike. His experience at grass roots or branch level in the ALP had not been extensive when he was elected Federal President of the party in 1973. Now, untested in parliament and government, his jaw is firmly pointed towards achieving what has always been his ultimate ambition – the prime ministership.

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Shon Faye, trained as a lawyer before moving into advocacy work, brings her multi-disciplinary background into an unflinching look at where trans people in the United Kingdom are now, what lead them here, and where we go next. Consciously forgoing memoir, Faye takes a systematic approach to learning from history, clearly laying out the case for trans liberation.

In the opening pages, we learn of the suicide of Lucy Meadows, a young teacher and a trans woman. As Faye unpicks the immediate and circumstantial paths that lead to this event, we glimpse a tapestry of transphobia that, by the conclusion, is thoroughly unravelled. The introduction presents a litany of trans people (both alive and dead) bearing the brunt of endless scrutiny. The next seven chapters give voice to the conditions faced by trans people, and how we might glimpse liberation through the muck of a transphobic society.

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Our Members Be Unlimited by Sam Wallman & Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastian Verdier, translated by Edward Gauvin

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June 2022, no. 443

Sam Wallman’s graphic novel Our Members Be Unlimited – ‘a comic about workers & their unions’ – recalls the past victories and the present importance of unions but is haunted by an increasingly attenuated spirit of collectivism. These ‘good ghosts’ of unionism appear halfway through the book during a conversation between two friends, both union members but engaged at different levels of activism. The sequence ends as they watch a fellow worker, oblivious, push his trolley through the trailing ectoplasm of one of these ghosts of collectivism. The two friends look on, bug-eyed, willing him to turn around and notice. So do the ghosts.

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When I was launching my book Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga story in 2016, one of the guests put it to me that the name Maralinga should be just as recognisable in Australian society as Gallipoli. This comment suggested that the British tests had a broader meaning that spoke to a national mythology and were not just interesting historical events.

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I performed my first abortion when I was twenty-five years old. I didn’t want to: I had seen abortions performed before and knew the procedure was messy and brutal. The women were lightly anaesthetised, unparalysed, not intubated. Sometimes a woman would twitch, even flinch, under the anaesthesia as her cervix was dilated and her uterus evacuated. I wondered if any of the women knew in a visceral sense what was being done to their bodies. Being pregnant, and then not; afraid, and then less so, the immediate problem solved, the deeper concerns of poverty and violence left untouched by my team. I would see them afterwards. No complications. No, you don’t need to pay. Yes, you can go. By the way, would you like a script for the pill?

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In the chaos that opened the Trump administration in 2017, foreign governments were looking for any and all insiders for information. Australia turned to Joe Hockey, who turned to golf. In this very readable account of the former treasurer’s four years in Washington (2016–20), Hockey tells us how he navigated ‘TRUMPAGEDDON’. This is a story replete with funny anecdotes and unsettling observations. Diplomatic leaves the reader convinced that diplomacy is more about art and luck than about science and process. It is also oddly reassuring about the vicissitudes that the Australia–United States relations can weather, even under the most weird leadership.

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When Scott Morrison called the federal election in early April, he did so on an apologetic note: ‘I get it that people are tired of politics.’ This was a predictable gesture from the prime minister: his term has been marked by a series of controversies that have raised many questions about his capacity to lead on some of the country’s most pressing issues, though relatively few about his skill in internal party politics.

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I don’t know why some people seem to think voting is a great imposition. I love lining up and watching the person behind the table pick up the ruler and find my name. There’s a little warm glow of being one tiny thread in the great muddled ball of string that is the democratic process. Always, in the queue there’s a particular feeling: pleased, proud, everyone hugging to ourselves the little secret of how we’re going to vote. When my kids were at primary school, I loved helping to person the stall churning out the Democracy Sausages.

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Class in Australia edited by Steven Threadgold and Jessica Gerrard

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May 2022, no. 442

To contemplate class in Australia is to be confronted immediately by paradox. Australia has over the past forty years become much more unequal, and yet those institutions formed to contest class inequality – the trade unions and the Labor Party – have become weaker and less militant. The labour movement has largely avoided a language of class as divisive and old-fashioned, and yet right-wing propagandists have successfully deployed a rhetoric of ‘battlers’, ‘aspirationals’, and ‘élites’ to draw support and win elections. The university system has been transformed, so that its leadership is akin to a corporate class of ‘change agents’ and much of its workforce is insecurely employed. Within the halls of learning, class analysis has not for some time been an area of vigorous research; in the humanities and social sciences, the action (and the research funding) has long been elsewhere.

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