In Australia, book banning is thankfully rare, especially at public libraries. That’s why it feels so shocking that a western Sydney council has just banned all books depicting same-sex parenting in its eight public libraries. Councillor Steve Christou, who spearheaded the move, argued these books “sexualised” children and he doesn’t think toddlers should be “exposed” to same-sex content.

Sarah Mokrzycki provides fascinating context about how book bans work in Australia in her article on the affair – and argues banning books about same-sex parenting relationships implies they are “unnatural or strange”. In fact, book bans often tend to focus on LGBTQI+ books, which suggests they are a veil for homophobia. This latest Australian attempt follows last year’s efforts to implement a national ban on the young adult graphic novel Gender Queer, the first book in ten years to be taken to the Australian Classification Board. The ban didn’t stick: the board classified it as “unrestricted”, with an M rating, meaning it was not recommended for readers under 15.

In the US, book bans are a big problem – and escalating. Attempts to censor books at public libraries there increased between 2022 and 2023 by 92%. Just this week, current-affairs comedian John Oliver revealed US public library staff are facing increasing harassment – and even accusations of paedophilia for allowing certain books to be checked out.

It can feel easy to breathe a sigh of relief that cultural life in Australia is far less fraught – and I often do. But as the Cumberland Council example proves, this can happen here too. And when it does, it’s important to pay attention.



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Jo Case

Deputy Books + Ideas Editor

A Sydney council has banned books with same-sex parents from its libraries. But since when did councils ban books?

Sarah Mokrzycki, Victoria University

Cumberland City Council’s ban of books depicting same-sex parents from its libraries implies such relationships are unnatural or strange. What’s happening?

The government wanted to avoid an inquiry into its deportation bill. Given the findings, it’s easy to see why

Daniel Ghezelbash, UNSW Sydney

The bill, which aims to force people to cooperate in their own deportation, was subject to an inquiry. The government wants to proceed with the bill unchanged, despite widespread community concerns.

Yes, Australia’s big supermarkets have been price gouging. But fixing the problem won’t be easy

Bree Hurst, Queensland University of Technology; Carol Richards, Queensland University of Technology; Hope Johnson, Queensland University of Technology; Rudolf Messner, Queensland University of Technology

A Senate enquiry has found both suppliers and customers of our supermarkets are struggling. Regulators have to find a way to rebalance the market, which doesn’t make these groups bear the cost.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: James Paterson on prospects for passage of the government’s deportation bill

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senator James Paterson, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security joins us to discuss the Coalition's position on the bill, as well as the issue of handling the former detainees.

Gaza war: as ceasefire talks break down the humanitarian crisis continues to escalate

Sarah Schiffling, Hanken School of Economics; Foteini Stavropoulou, Liverpool John Moores University

The US is redoubling its efforts to complete construction of an aid pier off the coast of Gaza, but with road crossings closed, this will not be enough.

Could Biden stop Netanyahu’s plans? A national security expert looks at Israel’s attack on Rafah

Gregory F. Treverton, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

The US put a pause on an arms shipment to Israel as it launched a Rafah offensive. This is not the first time the US and Israel have publicly disagreed, despite their strong diplomatic relationship.

What a second Trump presidency might mean for the rest of the world

Christopher Featherstone, University of York

Trump is sending mixed messages about his planned foreign policy decisions, if he becomes president.

Gas is good until 2050 and beyond, under Albanese gas strategy

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The new strategy sees gas as crucial to the new Future Made in Australia policy, which includes support for manufacturing and refining critical minerals.

Australia’s Eurovision entry this year is the first to sing in First Nations language: meet Electric Fields

Myfany Turpin, University of Sydney; Jodie Kell, University of Sydney; Patricia Nja-wakadj Gibson, Indigenous Knowledge; Sasha Wilmoth, The University of Melbourne

While they may have fallen short of Eurovision glory, Electric Fields still blazed a trail for First Nations representation.

Photos are everywhere. What makes a good one?

T.J. Thomson, RMIT University

I identified six dimensions which will impact the quality of photographs. Here’s what I learnt – and what you can apply to your own photos.

Paris in spring, Bali in winter. How ‘bucket lists’ help cancer patients handle life and death

Leah Williams Veazey, University of Sydney; Alex Broom, University of Sydney; Katherine Kenny, University of Sydney

Travel is often linked to the idea of a life well-lived. And when diagnosed with cancer, the search for adventure, memories and meaning takes on a life of its own.

Rishi Sunak claims the UK is heading for a hung a parliament – let’s check his maths

Paul Whiteley, University of Essex

The prime minister is being optimistic at best with is reading – but these results to suggest Labour’s win might not be as decisive as polls currently suggest.

Our new vaccine could protect against coronaviruses that haven’t even emerged yet – new study

Rory Hills, University of Oxford

A new type of vaccine using nanotechnology protects against a range of coronaviruses – in mice.

Heat is coming for our crops. We have to make them ready

Mohan Singh, The University of Melbourne; Prem Bhalla, The University of Melbourne

Humans and animals can hide from extreme heat. But plants have no escape. To protect our crops from the heat to come will likely mean modifying them.

AI companions can relieve loneliness – but here are 4 red flags to watch for in your chatbot ‘friend’

Dan Weijers, University of Waikato; Nick Munn, University of Waikato

AI chatbots offer unconditional support, but this could lead users to develop an inflated self image – and impede their chances of positive social interactions with real people.

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