Australian politics, society & culture

Current Issue
Portrait of Tony Abbott by Neil Moore
The brief life and quiet death of Tony Abbott’s love of liberty
By David Marr

In Tony Abbott’s Australia, a young woman faces jail because word got out that one of his daughters was given a $60,000 scholarship to study at the Whitehouse Institute of Design. This scholarship was never advertised. Students at the college in Sydney had no idea such largesse was available. News of Frances Abbott’s win provoked a two-month investigation by the New South Wales Police and a charge of accessing restricted data without authorisation. Penalty: imprisonment for a maximum of two years.

Sharia Law
By Sally Neighbour
Women celebrates the Eid al-Adha festival at Lakemba Mosque, 2003. © Ben Rushton / Fairfax
Meanwhile, in a tiny office in Lakemba, south-western Sydney, with prayer beads hanging from the bookshelves and Islamic texts stacked to the ceiling, the Muslim minister and police chaplain Sheikh Khalil Chami quietly and methodically administers sharia law.
August 2014
The science is clear, but the way forward is not
By Judith Brett
In April this year, Fiona Stanley told ABC’s Radio National that she was “anxious and angry” because the politicised climate-change agenda had led to the denigration of climate science and scientists.
Our Intelligence Services
Sally Neighbour
This grand edifice is to be the new home of Australia’s premier spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Costed at a staggering $585 million, the building has been called a “monster” by the architect of Parliament House.
Asylum seekers and freedom of speech
André Dao
“You understand that your life is in our hands. Your death is also in our hands because we won’t let you die.”
Restricting freedoms to pre-emptively save lives is a philosophical formula the Abbott government uses almost instinctively. We first saw the formula applied to Operation Sovereign Borders: whatever freedoms asylum seekers...
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Among the marchers "Six months ago, when we started asking people to come to New York for a ‘People’s Climate March’, we were hopeful that we could stage the largest rally about global warming in history." (Bill McKibben)

John Key seeks coalition despite party's parliament majority "John Key is set to lead New Zealand for a third consecutive term after official results showed his party garnered 48% of the national vote, and would likely end up with 61 seats in a 121-member Parliament."

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Current Issue
Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews keeps his head down
By John van Tiggelen
It’s tempting to surmise that Daniel Andrews acquired his hunched appearance by keeping his head down so much. The polls rate him a clear favourite to lead Labor to victory in Victoria’s November election, yet he has about as much brand power as, say, the deputy prime minister,...
Current Issue
Sydney's CB radio scene is a battlefield
By Richard Cooke
Listen,” my friend said, “to this.” He’d taken some walkie-talkies with him on a beach holiday and idly switched one on when he came back to Sydney. “Ready?” A male voice, so gravelly it was chilling, let fly a florid, minute-long insult into the ether.
Current Issue
Medieval records show that attitudes to suicide have changed little
By Ceridwen Dovey
In 1254, Walter Beche of Essex, England, drowned himself in a well. Four men later testified to a jury that Beche had killed himself “for fear because he thought that they would seize him on suspicion of theft”.
Current Issue
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 probable cause, supported by Oath and affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or
Current Issue
In Port Augusta, an Israeli linguist is helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language
By Anna Goldsworthy
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.
August 2014
Coles, Woolworths and the price we pay for their domination
By Malcolm Knox
Marco and Nick Nikitaras
The Nikitaras brothers’ corner store has a hallucinatory shine, like a set from a period movie. Staff in navy blue uniforms and white net caps smile from behind jars of preserved clementines and glacé peaches, pineapples and cherries. Glass cases present dioramas of stuffed...
August 2014
Adventures in the artefact business
By Peter Robb
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
When you approach the entrance to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) on the edge of Sydney’s Domain, you see exactly what the local establishment had in mind when they commissioned its design in the last decade of the 19th century.
August 2014
Being a magistrate in the Eastern Highlands is not for the faint of heart
By Alana Rosenbaum
Early on a Monday morning, Margaret Inamuka woke to the sound of her mobile phone ringing. “The boys are on their way,” the caller confided, and then hung up. A raid on Inamuka’s village, Aseoka, was imminent.


September 2014
Justin Timberlake performing in New Orleans, February 2013. © Christopher Polk / Getty Images
The everyman charm of Justin Timberlake
By Anwyn Crawford
Justin Timberlake, who tours Australia this month, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s the city where Elvis Presley began his musical career, and, like Presley before him, Timberlake is besotted with the sounds of black American music.
September 2014
Taika Waititi’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows’
By Luke Davies
Taika Waititi’s Boy (2010) was a simple tale, beautifully told. Eleven-year-old James Rolleston was raw and authentic as the eponymous Boy: fierce at times, a vulnerable child at others.
September 2014
Random House; $35
By Kevin Rabalais
His name carries a cultural cachet rarely granted writers today, much less those of the literary variety. As a brand, Haruki Murakami infiltrated the West with the English translation of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997), but in his native Japan he had been a celebrity since...
September 2014
Helen Garner’s ‘This House of Grief’
By David Marr
Robert Farquharson leaves the Supreme Court in Melbourne, 30 December 2005. © Joe Castro / AAP
On Father’s Day 2005, Robert Farquharson drove his car into a dam on the flatlands west of Geelong, Victoria, and drowned his three young sons, Jai, Tyler and Bailey. To this day, Farquharson claims he blacked out at the wheel, but after two trials and two appeals over eight...
September 2014
‘The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece’ at Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria
By Bill Henson
The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece (until 9 November) contains some of the greatest pieces of classical sculpture from the British Museum.