Australian politics, society & culture

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The Abbott government has achieved only chaos in its first year
By Nick Feik

So what has the government actually done,” asked News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt in early August, “to reassure the party faithful that, yes, this is a Liberal government?”

It was a testament to how badly Tony Abbott’s government was faring, as it approached its first anniversary, that even its most strident ideological supporters were starting to sheer off in anger and disappointment.

July 2014
How network companies lined their pockets and drove electricity prices through the roof
By Jess Hill
Electricity workers in Brisbane. © Tim Marsden / Newspix
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.
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.
False Profits
Bill McKibben
I read it with the mild incomprehension one brings to the politics of any foreign country. I quailed when I saw outraged quotes from various ministers, all of whom were unknown to me, except that I remembered just enough about Australian politics to know Labor was currently in charge, and so these were the rough equivalent of the US Democrats.
Are GPs prescribing too many antidepressants?
Karen Hitchcock
I was at a party. The host stood up, thanked everyone for coming, toasted his family and then told us he had been diagnosed with depression. He turned his head away and pressed his fingers into his eyes. No one moved. “But it’s OK,” he said. “I understand that what I have is a disease, caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain.”
We usually try to avoid taking unambiguous positions in PoliticOz editorials. There are generally at least two legitimate sides to every story. But if there are two positions on the Abbott government's energy policy,...
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NATO weighs rapid response force for Eastern Europe "NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most...

US and Iran unlikely allies in Iraq battle "Should such military actions continue, they could signal a dramatic shift for the United States and Iran, which have long vied for control in Iraq...

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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
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.
August 2014
Catching a ride with strangers is harder than it looks
By Robert Skinner
I stood outside Pakenham a hopeful man, trying to hitch a ride from Melbourne to Sydney. I watched all the sensible people drive past. After two hours I was so sunburnt I looked embarrassed to be there. After five hours they were still roaring past, and when a car did finally...
August 2014
Being a magistrate in the Eastern Highlands is not for the faint of heart
By Alana Rosenbaum
Margaret Inamuka
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. Hundreds of men were planning to charge down the dirt road, setting...
August 2014
Coles, Woolworths and the price we pay for their domination
By Malcolm Knox
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.

New

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
‘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.
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. Waititi’s performance as Boy’s hopeless, fantasist dad, recently released from prison, only...
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
Black Inc.; $34.99
By Michael Cooney
At the end of Born Bad: Original sin and the making of the Western world, James Boyce tells us where he stood at the start. When the Tasmania-based historian began researching this ambitious survey, he was “scornful of a barbaric doctrine”.