Australian politics, society & culture

Current Issue
Joe Hockey, Mathias Cormann and Kelly O'Dwyer gather around the Intergenerational Report in March. © Mick Tsikas / AAP
How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate
By Richard Denniss

Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

Current Issue
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.
Current Issue
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.
An extract from ‘Dear Life: on caring for the elderly’
Karen Hitchcock
A hospital is a place where a sick individual and their loved ones are taken in and shoved up against a group of strangers – clinicians – with whom they develop a relationship which is hugely intimate and has difficulties on both sides.
The costs and causes of domestic violence
Jess Hill
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 he claims to love. Does he drink? Take drugs? Was he stressed, unemployed, frustrated? Did she provoke him?

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George Brandis sensibly reversed his planned cuts to legal services yesterday, but he didn’t explain why it was Coalition policy for 18 months
Russell Marks

The gangsters of Ferguson "Officer Darren Wilson was innocent. If only the city's cops offered their own citizens the same due process he received."

US calls on Ferguson to overhaul criminal justice system "The Justice Department declared that Ferguson had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could...

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March 2015
The Adelaide Zoo has a chequered past
By Anna Goldsworthy
When we visit the Adelaide Zoo, I usually have a destination in mind, but my two-year-old has his own agenda. It begins with the capybaras, the world’s largest rodents: doleful, improbable creatures, like guinea pigs re-imagined by Lewis Carroll. The zoo has a fraught history...
February 2015
In gold-rush California, Aussie diggers were unwelcome boat people
By Peter McAllister
How their spirits must have soared as they sailed through the Golden Gate. After the interminable, vomitous passage from colonial Sydney’s slums, the calm of San Francisco Bay must have seemed heavenly, the sprawling, gold-rush shanty towns the anterooms of a promised land.
January 2015
Love Makes a Way are taking a seat against asylum-seeker policy
By Stella Gray
On the morning of 10 December 2014, an assortment of pastors, ministers and priests entered the electoral office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Perth, rang the bell, and sat down to pray.
Current Issue
What’s next for the perpetual deputy?
By Chris Wallace
It is a late summer evening, and a woman in a silver gown glides towards the Sydney Opera House. Nicholas Milton observes her as he walks to work. He will conduct Puccini’s Tosca for Opera Australia that night, but the regal quayside progress of Julie Bishop and her companion has his attention right now.
March 2015
The meteoric career of Kaiadilt painter Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda
By Quentin Sprague
By any measure, Mrs Gabori’s rise was stellar. When the Kaiadilt artist began painting in 2005 she was aged in her early 80s, already a long-term resident in her community’s old people’s home.
November 2014
Australia has produced only six true rock stars
By Robert Forster
Marc Hunter
April 1981. The Brisbane-based band The Go-Betweens, with whom I am a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, are in Sydney to record a single. We are staying with friends in Darlinghurst, and early on a Sunday morning I go for a walk. The sun is up and the sky is cloudless and pale...
December 2014
Road freight is expensive, dirty and dangerous. Why are our governments addicted to it?
By Paul Cleary
The reach of the billionaire trucking magnate Lindsay Fox extends far beyond the distinctive red and gold Linfox trucks that operate on the nation’s highways in ever increasing numbers. His influence can be seen in the office of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, where a model Linfox...
December 2014
The president of Kiribati goes on a fact-finding mission in the Arctic
By John van Tiggelen
In the late 16th century, the Dutch mariner Willem Barents spent three consecutive summers in the Arctic Ocean, scouting for a shortcut to the East Indies. The midnight sun, he figured, would surely blaze him a path.

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April 2015
Xavier Dolan’s ‘Mommy’
By Luke Davies
 
February 2015
The Gothic horror of Bennett Miller’s ‘Foxcatcher’
By Luke Davies
“I want to talk about America, and I want to tell you why I wrestle,” says a very awkward Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to a class of bored, bemused but polite primary schoolers, in Foxcatcher (in national release), Bennett Miller’s largely compelling dramatisation of
December 2014
Nick Drake
By Anwen Crawford
Forty years ago, the ashes of the English singer-songwriter Nick Drake were interred in the graveyard of St Mary Magdalene parish church, in the Warwickshire village of Tanworth-in-Arden. Drake grew up in the village, in a comfortable country house named Far Leys, and, after a...
February 2015
‘No Cities To Love’: The triumphant return of Sleater-Kinney
By Anwen Crawford
People were cheap,” writes George Packer in his book The Unwinding: Thirty years of American decline (2013). “They’d never pass up a rock-bottom price.” Packer is writing of Walmart from the perspective of its founder, Sam Walton, whose retail empire made him the richest man in...
December 2014
Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’
By Robert Manne
There is nothing in history even remotely as momentous as what humankind is now doing in full knowledge of the facts – gradually destroying the habitability of large parts of the Earth for humans and other species by burning fossil fuels in ever-increasing quantities to meet o