Australian politics, society & culture

May 2015
Terror and the Islamic State
By David Kilcullen

United Arab Emirates, November 2014

My driver pulls up to a resort in the Empty Quarter. It’s after dawn. We’ve been driving for hours across the desert from Abu Dhabi and are near the Saudi border now; past this point the sand stretches hundreds of empty miles. The place is all minarets and battlements – Classical Arabia, as imagined by a designer with grand tastes and an unlimited budget. We cross a causeway between dunes and enter a courtyard past BMWs, a Mercedes and two camouflaged jeeps.

May 2015
Morrissey at Vivid Live, Opera House Concert Hall, Tuesday 26 May
By Anwen Crawford
Nobody loves Morrissey more than Morrissey does, though his fans do try their hardest. “His fans”: who am I trying to fool?
May 2015
Be alert, but don’t hold your breath
By Malcolm Farnsworth
Even before Tony Abbott’s government took office in 2013, speculation was rife about the possibility of a double-dissolution election in its first year. While the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes was delayed by the Senate, they ultimately passed and talk of an election receded.
Why would the Coalition give Bjorn Lomborg four million dollars? It can already ignore his advice for free
Richard Cooke
The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg has been described as many things these past weeks: a minimiser, a denier, a neo-Galileo whose pearls of insight have been scorned by the Academic Inquisition. But most often, he’s been described as a contrarian. In the parlance of our times, this means his ideas run counter to the ideas of many of his academic colleagues.
A life in accidents
Tim Winton
One summer night, after a few hours surfcasting for tailor, my father and I were driving home along a lonely road between the dunes and the bush. I felt snug and a little sleepy in the passenger’s seat, but it was my job to keep the gas lantern from tipping over, so I clamped it tight between my heels and resisted the urge to drift off. We’d gone down at sunset and caught a feed, but at...

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The government reheats some old welfare rhetoric
Sean Kelly

FIFA busts at Baur au Lac: Inside the five-star takedown “As the bust unfolded, Baur au Lac staff did their best to continue offering top service to their guests, even those being hauled off for questioning. At one point a front-desk clerk was overheard on the phone...

Battle for South China Sea enters new chapter as Beijing reveals “active defence” strategy “China has upped its military posturing, issuing a strategy paper saying Beijing would “surely counterattack if attacked” by an enemy amid...

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April 2015
Rugby star David Pocock says sport and politics are always mixed
By Sam Vincent
On a Sunday at the start of last summer, David Pocock and eight other activists were arrested at the Maules Creek coalmine in north-east New South Wales. I started following the rugby player on Twitter that afternoon, and the social networking service surmised that I might also...
April 2015
Fancy bottled water is sometimes worth the price
By Richard Cooke
Cape Grim is not the most outlandish gourmet bottled water in the world. The claim that its Tasmanian rainwater is so pure that “even the ice you put in it will pollute it” seems restrained compared to those of some of its competitors.
March 2015
The BARK program at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre sees prisoners taking care of dogs
By Andrew McMillen
A handful of inmates are gathered in the library of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Wacol, 20 kilometres south-west of Brisbane. The centre of attention is Kia, a boisterous young Staffordshire bull terrier.
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Noel Pearson and Tony Abbott
Ten years of struggle and success in indigenous Australia
By Noel Pearson
I’ve been to many remote places in Australia, but this is entirely new to me. I don’t know the desert. From the air, the vastness of the rolling dunes, green after the summer rain, is beguiling, as is the mild weather when we land. But I’ve been to enough places in the north of the country to know that come October this land is harder than any place I know. I’m travelling to the Pilbara with a...
April 2015
New light on the wreck of the ‘Batavia’ and its savage aftermath
By Jeff Sparrow
At the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Forensic Science in Perth, the skeletons lie on tables, stretched out beside plastic tubs of pelvic fragments, bags of unmatched toes and samples of island sand.
February 2015
How online organisation can give power back to the people
By Tim Flannery and Catriona Wallace
Cincinnatus Abandons the Plow To Dictate Laws in Rome (1806), by Juan Antonio Ribera
In 458 BC, with Rome facing imminent defeat by the combined forces of the Aequi and the Sabines, the Senate declared Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus dictator of the city for six months. The retired statesman, an aristocrat of reduced means, drove off Rome’s enemies. Fifteen days...
March 2015
The costs and causes of domestic violence
By Jess Hill
Tony Abbott presents Rosie Batty with the 2015 Australian of the Year award, 25 January 2015. © Mick Tsikas / AAP
After decades of ignoring domestic violence, Australians have learnt to condemn it. The statistics are now well known: a woman is murdered at least every week, another hospitalised every three hours. We say we’re horrified, and wonder what could possibly make a man hurt a woman...
February 2015
Life outside the detention centres on Manus Island
By Jo Chandler
In December 1928, settling into village life on Manus Island, the anthropologist Margaret Mead sent a gleeful letter home to the United States via the boat that visited every three weeks.

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May 2015
How the television adaptation of ‘Wolf Hall’ transcends the usual Tudor tale
By Benjamin Law
Several months back, the United Kingdom fell victim to an illness so contagious that it tore through the adult population at an average rate of 4.4 million people per week. They had come down with Wolf Hall fever.
April 2015
Xavier Dolan’s ‘Mommy’
By Luke Davies
French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan, who was 20 when he made his bold debut feature I Killed My Mother (2009), has just turned 26.
February 2015
‘Pop to Popism’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
By Julie Ewington
What goes around comes back differently. Refracted by the times. In 1985 I reviewed the only other substantial exhibition of pop art held in Australia, also at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Thirty years later I’m struck by the radically different propositions put...
April 2015
Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie & Lowell’
By Anwen Crawford
Why don’t I hate Sufjan Stevens? He plays the banjo. He plays the oboe. His stage shows have included hula hoops and cheerleaders. He has yet to meet an encyclopaedia entry that he couldn’t turn into a concept album, and he has released two five-disc box sets of Christmas songs...
February 2015
‘James Turrell: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
By Benjamin Law
Deep in the Arizona desert lives a man who has spent half his life creating an observatory at the dead heart of a 389,000-year-old volcano. His motivation isn’t religion or science, but art.