Australian politics, society & culture

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Joe Hockey, Mathias Cormann and Kelly O'Dwyer gather around the Intergenerational Report in March. © Mick Tsikas / AAP
How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate
By Richard Denniss

Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

Current Issue
Fancy bottled water is sometimes worth the price
By Richard Cooke
Cape Grim is not the most outlandish gourmet bottled water in the world. The claim that its Tasmanian rainwater is so pure that “even the ice you put in it will pollute it” seems restrained compared to those of some of its competitors.
Current Issue
Rugby star David Pocock says sport and politics are always mixed
By Sam Vincent
On a Sunday at the start of last summer, David Pocock and eight other activists were arrested at the Maules Creek coalmine in north-east New South Wales.
An extract from ‘Dear Life: on caring for the elderly’
Karen Hitchcock
A hospital is a place where a sick individual and their loved ones are taken in and shoved up against a group of strangers – clinicians – with whom they develop a relationship which is hugely intimate and has difficulties on both sides.
The costs and causes of domestic violence
Jess Hill
After decades of ignoring domestic violence, Australians have learnt to condemn it. The statistics are now well known: a woman is murdered at least every week, another hospitalised every three hours. We say we’re horrified, and wonder what could possibly make a man hurt a woman he claims to love. Does he drink? Take drugs? Was he stressed, unemployed, frustrated? Did she provoke him?

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George Brandis sensibly reversed his planned cuts to legal services yesterday, but he didn’t explain why it was Coalition policy for 18 months
Russell Marks

The gangsters of Ferguson "Officer Darren Wilson was innocent. If only the city's cops offered their own citizens the same due process he received."

US calls on Ferguson to overhaul criminal justice system "The Justice Department declared that Ferguson had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could...

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March 2015
Behind the scenes of ‘Maximum Choppage’, a new kung-fu comedy
By Benjamin Law
You wouldn’t have seen many Asian faces on Australian television in the late ’80s and early ’90s, despite the fact that by 1990 roughly a third of all new immigrants were Asian. Soap operas had their moments. Episode 220 of Home and Away broke new ground in 1988, when loveable...
February 2015
In gold-rush California, Aussie diggers were unwelcome boat people
By Peter McAllister
How their spirits must have soared as they sailed through the Golden Gate. After the interminable, vomitous passage from colonial Sydney’s slums, the calm of San Francisco Bay must have seemed heavenly, the sprawling, gold-rush shanty towns the anterooms of a promised land.
January 2015
Love Makes a Way are taking a seat against asylum-seeker policy
By Stella Gray
On the morning of 10 December 2014, an assortment of pastors, ministers and priests entered the electoral office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Perth, rang the bell, and sat down to pray.
Current Issue
What’s next for the perpetual deputy?
By Chris Wallace
It is a late summer evening, and a woman in a silver gown glides towards the Sydney Opera House. Nicholas Milton observes her as he walks to work. He will conduct Puccini’s Tosca for Opera Australia that night, but the regal quayside progress of Julie Bishop and her companion has his attention right now.
March 2015
The meteoric career of Kaiadilt painter Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda
By Quentin Sprague
By any measure, Mrs Gabori’s rise was stellar. When the Kaiadilt artist began painting in 2005 she was aged in her early 80s, already a long-term resident in her community’s old people’s home.
November 2014
Australia has produced only six true rock stars
By Robert Forster
Marc Hunter
April 1981. The Brisbane-based band The Go-Betweens, with whom I am a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, are in Sydney to record a single. We are staying with friends in Darlinghurst, and early on a Sunday morning I go for a walk. The sun is up and the sky is cloudless and pale...
December 2014
Gambler and MONA founder David Walsh has written a book
By Amanda Lohrey
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart is an underground labyrinth, often dimly lit, but its founder’s domestic apartment is a glassy sunlit box, the light so bright I consider killing eye contact and putting on my sunglasses. David Walsh is warm and engaging, quite...
December 2014
Does the future belong to “sharing economy” companies like Uber and Airbnb?
By Linda Jaivin
My introduction to what is now called the “sharing economy” came in the mid ’90s on the road to Byron Bay. My boyfriend at the time was a candle-maker; we were driving up to the first Homebake music festival in a Kombi packed with candles, candelabras and an inflatable boat.

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April 2015
‘Transparent’
By Anna Goldsworthy
The title of Jill Soloway’s new comedy-drama series for Amazon Studios, Transparent, speaks of a desire to be seen as who you truly are. It also refers, literally, to a trans parent. Soloway, a former writer and executive producer for Six Feet Under and United States of Tara, was inspired by her father, who came out as transgender late in life.
February 2015
‘Pop to Popism’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
By Julie Ewington
What goes around comes back differently. Refracted by the times. In 1985 I reviewed the only other substantial exhibition of pop art held in Australia, also at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW).
December 2014
Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne
By David Neustein
It’s too early to judge the success of MPavilion. This is not because its pilot program of events, taking place in and around the first of the architect-designed temporary pavilions that will be replaced each year, is ongoing. Nor is it because we have yet to see whether the...
February 2015
‘James Turrell: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
By Benjamin Law
Deep in the Arizona desert lives a man who has spent half his life creating an observatory at the dead heart of a 389,000-year-old volcano. His motivation isn’t religion or science, but art. After spotting Roden Crater from a plane in 1974, the American artist James Turrell knew...
December 2014
Nick Drake
By Anwen Crawford
Forty years ago, the ashes of the English singer-songwriter Nick Drake were interred in the graveyard of St Mary Magdalene parish church, in the Warwickshire village of Tanworth-in-Arden.