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.
Graham Freudenberg said yesterday that the occasion of Gough Whitlam's passing was not so much sad as memorable. After years of terribly divisive politics and awesome nastiness, Parliament yesterday convened to honour one of its...
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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)

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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
What drives Edward Snowden, the world’s most wanted whistleblower?
By Robert Manne
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” proclaims the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, adopted in 1792, “shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon...
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
Macmillan Australia; $32.99
By Richard Cooke
“The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. The political theorists of the past fantasised about what governance could solve in conditions of universal learning and material abundance.
October 2014
A century of Dylan Thomas
By Kevin Rabalais
The young Dylan Thomas
It sounded like a hoax. In June, more than half a century after the poet died following yet another marathon binge, the Guardian reported the discovery of a drinking song “dashed off in pencil by Dylan Thomas while seated at a London bar” in 1951. The impromptu “song”, found in...
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
A journey through time and mind in Hugh Sullivan’s ‘The Infinite Man’
By Luke Davies
“You want blood and guts?” says Dean (Josh McConville), an intense, over-thinking brainiac who seems to be in the process of losing his girlfriend, Lana (Hannah Marshall), to her ex-boyfriend, Terry (Alex Dimitriades). “I’ll give you blood and guts!”