Australian politics, society & culture

November 2014
By Nick Feik

We hardly need to be reminded of it, but the ABC funding cut demonstrates the utter political ineptitude of the Abbott government.

It’s not just that it’s an obvious broken promise (one that Coalition members compound foolishly by denying).

Nor is it merely that the government is picking a fight with the most wide-reaching and respected media organisation in the country. Or that Coalition partners the Nationals will bleed votes as a result of cuts made to regional coverage. 

Current Issue
Tanya Plibersek plays it cool
By John van Tiggelen
In her recent autobiography, the former prime minister Julia Gillard conceded that back in 2006, when she was manoeuvring to install Kevin Rudd as the leader of the ALP, she’d mistaken Kim Beazley’s “more nuanced understanding of electoral politics” for a “lack of interest in the work of oppositi
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.
How World War One came to Broken Hill
Nicholas Shakespeare
Even in Australian terms, Broken Hill – 850 kilometres north of Melbourne, 1150 kilometres west of Sydney – feels a long way from anywhere. Yet in its boom days, the sweltering main street boasted more hotels than any city in Australia. From the ironwork verandah of the Palace Hotel, I look out at the gigantic slag heap that dominates every street like a frown.
Sometimes a doctor can’t help but kill a patient
Karen Hitchcock
A few weeks ago I killed a patient. The patient wasn’t someone I’d met a few times on a ward round, them in extremis, their personal characteristics all out of focus. I’d known Jim since I was a registrar.
Annabel Crabb’s ‘The Wife Drought’
Anne Manne
It took me many months to complete my recent book, hunched over the keyboard, eyes glazed with concentration, fingers flying – except, that is, when I paused to sip a cup of tea made by my husband. The final drafting was made infinitely easier by the fact that he stepped back from his own work and took care of every aspect of the domestic empire.

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Current Issue
As captain of Team Australia, Tony Abbott has plunged us into war without debate
By Judith Brett
I happened to be in London the day the British prime minister, David Cameron, recalled the House of Commons to request its support for British air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq. I went to listen to the debate, and although I missed the big beasts I caught the three-...
Current Issue
Choosing an aged-care home is not easy
By Sarah Day
On the other side of the glass doors, a dozen or so women with the same length neat, bobbed white hair are looking out like a welcoming committee. I pass through the doors, preparing to smile and offer greetings, but rather than meet my eye they look right through me.
October 2014
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
The poor face onerous rules while rich corporations avoid tax with impunity
By Richard Cooke
Australian politicians love the idea of mutual obligation. But the disparities underlying it are becoming more and more extreme. Welfare recipients are painted as getting “something for nothing”, and pushed into more and more restrictive versions of the social contract.
October 2014
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.
October 2014
How the Abbott government is funding a high-culture war
By Steve Dow
The Sydney Opera House lit up during the Vivid Sydney festival, May 2014
On a stormy Monday morning in August, the Australia Council released its strategic plan for 2015–19 at the Sydney Opera House. Heavy, angled rain battered the panorama of bridge and harbour visible through the wall of windows as everyone in the northern foyer of the Opera House...
October 2014
Truth, fiction and psychotherapy
By JM Coetzee & Arabella Kurtz
JMC “The stories we tell about ourselves may not be true, but they are all we have.” I am interested in our relations with these stories we tell about ourselves, stories that may or may not be true. Let me select three cases. (a) I have a story about myself which I sincerely...
October 2014
A trip through the Torres Strait to see the Coming of the Light festival
By Thornton McCamish
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.


November 2014
Bloomsbury; $29.99
By Kevin Rabalais
He introduced himself in one of the most memorable and direct voices of contemporary American fiction: “My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.” Readers first met Bascombe, recently divorced and aged 38, in The Sportswriter (1986).
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The perverse attraction of autobiographical fiction
By Ceridwen Dovey
“I was ruthless,” Karl Ove Knausgaard, the now infamous Norwegian author of the volumes of autobiographical fiction, My Struggle, said at last year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival. “All writers are ruthless.”
November 2014
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s ‘Two Days, One Night’ and Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’
By Luke Davies
“I don’t exist,” says Sandra (Marion Cotillard) to her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione). “I’m nothing. Nothing at all.” She’s been off work on sick leave, and has just learnt that the boss at the small solar-panel factory where she works has made a proposal to her 16 colleagues...
November 2014
Vintage Australia; $32.99
By Brenda Walker
Joan London’s third novel, The Golden Age, is about the love between Frank and Elsa, two polio-stricken children at a rehabilitation facility in suburban Perth in the early 1950s. Frank, or Ferenc, is a Hungarian refugee who makes the connection between illness and his time as a...
November 2014
Virago Press; $29.99
By Gretchen Shirm
The first two instalments of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series, Gilead (2004) and Home (2008), won her the Pulitzer and Orange prizes respectively.