Australian politics, society & culture

October 2014
By Mungo MacCallum

Gough Whitlam may have taken great delight in designing his own funeral arrangements – or at least a self-mocking fantasy version of them. But the pleasure of reciting his epitaph rested with a colleague, the acerbic New South Wales premier Neville Wran, although in all probability it was penned by the great speechwriter Graham Freudenberg, who acted as an amanuensis to both men.

October 2014
How outrage at overt racism helps to hide the more pervasive kind
By André Dao
A drunk woman on a train screams abuse at a man of African descent. “It’s my fucking country,” she slurs, gripping onto the hand strap to stop herself from falling over. “This is what us original Aussies fought for,” she yells, “to keep you black cunts out.”
October 2014
Facebook and Google's egg-freezing employee benefit
By Nicole Krzys
Silicon Valley tech companies are renowned for pushing barriers and being ahead of the curve.
Luke Davies
In the book Dispatches, Michael Herr’s virtuoso memoir of the Vietnam War, Sean Flynn – Errol’s son – an actor and photojournalist who went missing in action in Cambodia in 1970, is portrayed as a kind of philosopher-adventurer, bounding like a fearless young pup into the centre of the action while nurturing a keen aesthetic sensibility; he is fascinated by the humanity that
Lindsay Tanner
Many books have been written about the political drama of the Whitlam years, particularly the government’s ultimate dismissal by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975. Yet the actual content of the government’s initiatives also warrants serious analysis.
Prime minister for only three years, Gough Whitlam's legacy is legendary. Universal health insurance; multiculturalism; diplomatic relations with China; no-fault divorce and the Family Court; Aboriginal land rights; the Racial...
Read More

Joko Widodo's first speech focuses on maritime power "He quoted the motto of the Indonesian navy ‘Jales Veva Jaya Mahe’, which means ‘In the water, we are triumphant’, and said that for too long it had turned its back on the ‘bays and straits and oceans’." (Michael Bachelard)

Joko Widodo, 'man of the people', to become Indonesia's president "But before stepping into the role on Monday, Mr Widodo has already been dealt a bruising by the nation's political elite."

Read More
Current Issue
Contesting Paul Kelly’s ‘Triumph and Demise’
By Robert Manne
Paul Kelly and Kevin Rudd laughing together at the launch of The March of Patriots in 2009
Paul Kelly’s The End of Certainty, published in 1992, is probably the most influential book of contemporary Australian political history written in the past 50 years. In it, Kelly married a detailed chronology of the surface politics of the Hawke–Keating era with a compelling...
Current Issue
Remembering a man of letters, and a friend
By Murray Bail
“Dying is so banal,” Pierre Ryckmans said from his bed in Sydney a few weeks before he died.
Current Issue
In central Victoria, locals are taking up arms against the invading wheel cactus
By John van Tiggelen
Pigeon Hill, a granite outcrop just west of Maldon, in central Victoria, overlooks plains that roll out all the way to the Murray. These can look lovely in early spring.
Current Issue
Early examples of gene silencing in transgenic plants
Gene silencing, miracle cures and Balmain’s biggest biotech company
By Michael Lucy
Mick Graham was working at CSIRO’s plant industry labs in Canberra in the 1990s, trying to genetically engineer virus-resistant potatoes, when he had his big idea about RNA interference. RNA is ribonucleic acid, DNA’s less-famous sibling and a fundamental cog in the machinery of all living cells. RNA interference is one of the body’s natural antiviral defence systems.
Current Issue
At home with Rosie Batty
By Helen Garner
One hot afternoon in February 2014, in the pleasant Victorian township of Tyabb, south-east of Melbourne, an 11-year-old boy called Luke Batty was playing in the nets after cricket practice with his father, Greg Anderson.
September 2014
In Port Augusta, an Israeli linguist is helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language
By Anna Goldsworthy
Umeewarra Mission
In a bluestone former school building in Port Augusta, now a campus of the University of Adelaide, four generations of Barngarla people sit conference-style around a table. Harry Dare, a local elder, wears a snug beanie pulled down to his eyebrows: a ganoo-ganoo moona, or “warm...
Current Issue
A trip through the Torres Strait to see the Coming of the Light festival
By Thornton McCamish
Warren Entsch at the Coming of the Light festival on Thursday Island, July 2013. © Aaron Smith
Just before dusk on 1 July 1871, the Reverends Samuel McFarlane and Archibald Murray of the London Missionary Society, together with eight New Caledonian mission teachers, arrived off the coast of Erub, or Darnley Island, in the far eastern Torres Strait. Their vessel, the...
Current Issue
How the Abbott government is funding a high-culture war
By Steve Dow
On a stormy Monday morning in August, the Australia Council released its strategic plan for 2015–19 at the Sydney Opera House.


October 2014
Bloomsbury; $25.99
By Claire Corbett
“Without the bone and sinew of wings, no flight,” muses one character in Stone Mattress, the latest book of stories from Margaret Atwood. This line, a reflection that all we are can only be felt and expressed through the body, also serves as an artistic credo, on the way the detail and grit of the mundane give force to the imagination.
October 2014
Penguin; $29.99
By Robyn Annear
As is often the case in a Sonya Hartnett novel, the kids in Golden Boys know too much.
October 2014
From stick insects to swagmen in Don Watson’s ‘The Bush’
By John Hirst
A young boy holding two dead possums at a trappers camp in the Blackall district, Queensland, 1908
Out of what he calls his “confused and contradictory affections”, Don Watson has written a loving rumination on Australia, the landmass, and those who live on it and from it. The Bush: Travels in the heart of Australia (Hamish Hamilton; $45) is a mix of memoir, travelogue and...
October 2014
Black Inc.; $32.99
By Geordie Williamson
Robert Hughes’s notorious 1988 demolition of the New York art-world darling Jean-Michel Basquiat was called ‘Requiem for a Featherweight’. Erik Jensen’s brief, episodic biography of Adam Cullen could not be further from Hughes’s article in tone: neither lordly in condemnation...
October 2014
Laura Jean’s ‘Laura Jean’ finds the Melbourne singer-songwriter finally feeling at home
By Anwen Crawford
The opening song on Laura Jean is called ‘June’, and is set at Penders Park in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury. “My kelpie doesn’t tire as easily / As in the summer months down by the sea,” sings Laura Jean.