Australian politics, society & culture

July 2014

Few contemporary Australians are as controversial as pro-euthanasia doctor and activist, Philip Nitschke. Philip talks about his journey from student activism to his ongoing battle for legal recognition of the right to control one's own death.

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.
July 2014
By James Boyce
Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene in 1976, the book that established his reputation and which, his closest supporters maintain, ‘takes pride of place among his achievements’.
How the end of Gunns cleared a new path for Tasmania
John van Tiggelen
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. Environmentalists had triumphed, and Gunns, he announced to the stunned audience at an industry conference in Melbourne, was finished with old-growth forests.
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.
Hockey: Not Your Average Joe is the biography by Brisbane ABC radio presenter Madonna King that's making things difficult for the Coalition this week – and unnecessarily so, according to many in the party. While it's not authorised in...
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Malaysia's risky talks with rebels in Ukraine paid off "As attempts to retrieve the bodies and flight recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 dragged on over the weekend, prime minister Najib Razak risked a gambit that European leaders wouldn't: sending officials into a war zone to...

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."

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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
The distance between us and our rulers is getting bigger
By Richard Cooke
Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott at the opening of parliament, November 2013. © Gary Ramage / Newspix  
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. For more than a decade now, there’s been a persistent idea that the state of Australian politics is...
June 2014
Have we lost control of what we eat?
By Gail Bell
A sugar-cube replica of Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment (2005) © The Art Fund
As a young wife in the early ’70s, cooking coq au vin from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook to impress dinner guests, I bought my ingredients village-style: the bacon and whole roasting chicken from the butcher; garlic cloves, fresh parsley, button mushrooms and small white onions...
June 2014
Privacy is fast becoming a quaint old-fashioned thing
By Linda Jaivin
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.


July 2014
Jasmin Sheppard as Patyegarang. Photo by Greg Barrett, courtesy of Bangarra Dance Theatre
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 William Dawes. They dance around each other, but his movements lack the finer fluidity of hers.
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.
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
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
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.