Australian politics, society & culture

July 2014
Elizabeth Pisani’s ‘Indonesia Etc.’ and Hamish McDonald’s ‘Demokrasi’
By Hugh White

In April, the World Bank–affiliated International Comparison Program published figures that compared the size of economies around the world. Its new methods provided a truer picture of the relative wealth of different countries, and the results were sobering – at least for Australia. Indonesia’s gross domestic product in 2011 was calculated to be $2.1 trillion, more than double Australia’s at $0.96 trillion. That meant Indonesia had the tenth-biggest economy in the world, while Australia only came in 19th.

July 2014
Dying with dignity means different things to different people
By Karen Hitchcock
Before I started studying medicine, my grandmother was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. I had no idea what that was. “Scarring of the lungs,” she said. When I announced my plan to become a doctor, she was ecstatic with pride. She’d tell anyone who listened.
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How the end of Gunns cleared a new path for Tasmania
By John van Tiggelen
Ship-loading tower, Triabunna mill wharf. © Mike Bowers
Four years ago, Greg L’Estrange, the chief executive of the Tasmanian forestry behemoth Gunns Ltd, raised the white flag in the state’s so-called forest wars.
How network companies lined their pockets and drove electricity prices through the roof
Jess Hill
In the past few years, our electricity prices have doubled. While the media has feasted on the likes of pink batts, Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, the astonishing story behind these price hikes has been all but ignored. And yet, it may be one of the greatest rorts in Australia’s history.
John Birmingham
It was Winston Churchill who famously refused to cut funding to the arts to pay for more Spitfires and destroyers during the grimmest days of World War II, demanding of his art-hating, penny-pinching advisers in Treasury, “Then what are we fighting for?”
While it may seem overly cynical to do so, we should note the political effect of prime minister Tony Abbott's forthright response to the tragic deaths of 298 people aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine late last week...
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Joko Widodo wins Indonesian presidential election "The national elections commission said Tuesday after days of collating more than 133 million ballots from across the sprawling archipelago that Mr Widodo edged out former army general Prabowo Subianto with 53.15% of the vote."

Bodies from MH17 begin long trip to Netherlands "That grim conveyance, along with the handover of the planes' flight recorders from pro-Russia rebels to a Malaysian delegation, allowed the focus to tighten — both at the crash site and in international diplomacy — on establishing who...

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Current Issue
How the Liberal Party has exiled its last reasonable man
By Amanda Lohrey
During his concession speech after the 1987 federal election, the then Opposition leader John Howard remarked that in the aftermath of a ferocious election campaign it was important to remember that there was more that united Australians than divided them. It was one of Howard’s...
Current Issue
On the road with the librarians who deliver
By Ceridwen Dovey
Two librarians are plotting the most efficient route through North Sydney on a local council map that is two decades old and sticky-taped together. “It’s an old-fashioned map, but then the Home Library Service is a charmingly old-fashioned service,” Laurene says.
Current Issue
Talking about the narcissistic national daily only encourages it
By Margaret Simons
This year the Australian newspaper celebrates its 50th anniversary. Rupert Murdoch will be in town to attend the party on 15 July. Thousands of words of self-congratulation have already been published in its pages, and more will doubtless follow.
Current Issue
Rolf Harris performing 'Jake the Peg' in 1966. © Bill Orchard / Rex Features
Behind the wobbleboard
By Peter Conrad
“Guilty on all counts, Your Honour.” So said Rolf Harris, weeping in contrition.
July 2014
Remembering “the oldest living transsexual in captivity”
By Meshel Laurie
Claudette was one of the oldest transsexual ladies we had on offer in our brothel. One of the oldest, but unchallenged for the title of meanest.
June 2014
Love, death and the Serbian flag
By Lally Katz
I was in Sydney for work, and I was meant to be going to Brisbane with my boyfriend to attend a talk about his book the next day. We hadn’t seen much of each other for a while because of work travel. I was really excited about going with him. And I was really excited that he...
June 2014
Privacy is fast becoming a quaint old-fashioned thing
By Linda Jaivin
A postcard showing the interior of Stateville Correctional Centre, Illinois, modelled on Bentham’s Panopticon. Courtesy of Alex Wellerstein
On a Sunday afternoon in late April, in a grand old ballroom in Melbourne, I read aloud a love letter I’d written to a man I call “my mysterious stranger”. The man, never named in the letter, was not present. I have never shown it to him. I wrote it to share with some 400 other...
June 2014
The distance between us and our rulers is getting bigger
By Richard Cooke
Whatever else people say about Joe Hockey’s unloved federal budget, it does have one irrefutable merit: it kills off the myth that Australian politics is driven by polling.


July 2014
New York Review Books; $29.99
For much of the 20th century, Alberto Moravia’s name was a byword for sexy sophistication. Moravia titillated readers with his highly charged sexual and psychological tales, among them Conjugal Love, The Woman of Rome, The Voyeur and Boredom.
July 2014
Art and artifice in John Michael McDonagh’s ‘Calvary’
By Luke Davies
In the opening scene of John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary (in national release 3 July), an Irish priest settles into a confessional, draws open the screen and waits for the penitent to begin his confession.
July 2014
HarperCollins; $29.99
By Ronnie Scott
Anthony Doerr’s second novel chases two smart, unlucky children across wartime Europe through a vast, untidy plot. Marie-Laure LeBlanc goes blind at the age of six, but she learns to navigate her Parisian neighbourhood by studying a detailed model constructed by her father....
July 2014
1994 might be one of the best years popular music has ever had
By Anwyn Crawford
Hole in Los Angeles, December 1994. L-R: Melissa Auf der Maur, Courtney Love, Patty Schemel, Eric Erlandson. © KROQ-FM
On approximately 5 April 1994, Nirvana’s vocalist and primary songwriter, Kurt Cobain, ended his own life. What I remember most clearly about it – apart from my mum phoning me with the news, apart from hanging up the phone to cry – is a photograph. It was taken with a long lens...
July 2014
The secret history of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s ‘Patyegarang’
By Steve Dow
In rehearsal for Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest production (touring nationally until 6 September), the indigenous dancer Jasmin Sheppard climbs a makeshift hill, and for the first time her character, the eponymous Patyegarang, sees the engineer and astronomer Lieutenant Willi