Australian politics, society & culture

April 2015
On opinion polls and other props of political theatre
By Malcolm Farnsworth

Take four examples of politics as ritual and performance.

This week we’ve had Tony Abbott sitting on children’s play equipment, delivering a homily on his “no jab, no play, no pay” vaccination policy.

In New York, we saw Joe Hockey ringing the bell to close trading on Wall Street. He joked about being more of a dingo than a wolf, as the cameras captured the requisite images of jostling traders.

February 2014
By James Brown
Extract from Anzac's Long Shadow: The Cost of our National Obsession by James Brown, published by Redback. Available in bookshops now.
The breathless Irish voice on the end of the phone had been singing for four minutes straight on the majestic scale of the Anzac centenary. ‘It will be the biggest thing you’ve ever seen,’ she said.
April 2015
What exactly is our navy for? Not even the top brass seem to know
By Claire Corbett
“I can’t wait to hear what that lunatic is going to say this year,” said one of the journalists at my table.
An encounter with the former High Court justice
Chips Mackinolty
I’m of an age when getting messages about people dying is commonplace. News of former High Court Justice John Toohey’s death came by text message from Australia, a long way from the ancient market district in Europe where I’m living.
What modern politicians could learn from Alfred Deakin
Judith Brett
One-term governments, more independents and minor parties winning seats, the rapid draining of the federal government’s popularity: how are we to understand the current instability in Australian politics? Is it because a complacent electorate resists the tough measures needed to rein in government spending and punishes any government that tries to introduce them?

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The government has said a lot of things on tax, most of them in the past month. Not all of them match up.
Sean Kelly

States spoiling for fight at COAG over schools, hospitals, and GST “Relations between the commonwealth and states have sunk to their lowest level in years going into the meeting, with Western Australia initially gaining qualified...

Islamic State: Hundreds flee Iraq’s Anbar province as militants seize village of Albu Ghanim “Resident Abu Amar said the jihadists had declared their victory via loudspeaker in the village mosque. He said his son, a policeman, was missing, and he had heard the militants had a list of...

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March 2015
The BARK program at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre sees prisoners taking care of dogs
By Andrew McMillen
A handful of inmates are gathered in the library of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Wacol, 20 kilometres south-west of Brisbane. The centre of attention is Kia, a boisterous young Staffordshire bull terrier. As the dark-brown dog does laps of the group, sniffing at...
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.
February 2015
Cultures clash over pipis at Venus Bay
By John van Tiggelen
On the last Sunday afternoon of 2014, Victorian police officers blocked the one long road out of Venus Bay, a hodgepodge surfside community in South Gippsland of about 600 permanent residents.
Current Issue
New light on the wreck of the ‘Batavia’ and its savage aftermath
By Jeff Sparrow
At the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Forensic Science in Perth, the skeletons lie on tables, stretched out beside plastic tubs of pelvic fragments, bags of unmatched toes and samples of island sand. Daniel Franklin, the forensic anthropologist, gestures at one of the skulls, which is grinning at me on its small pillow. “Just here.”
March 2015
The costs and causes of domestic violence
By 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.
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...
February 2015
Life outside the detention centres on Manus Island
By Jo Chandler
In December 1928, settling into village life on Manus Island, the anthropologist Margaret Mead sent a gleeful letter home to the United States via the boat that visited every three weeks. She was living in “a primitive Venice, the streets are waterways, the houses set on high...
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.


April 2015
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
‘No Cities To Love’: The triumphant return of Sleater-Kinney
By Anwen Crawford
People were cheap,” writes George Packer in his book The Unwinding: Thirty years of American decline (2013).
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
The Gothic horror of Bennett Miller’s ‘Foxcatcher’
By Luke Davies
“I want to talk about America, and I want to tell you why I wrestle,” says a very awkward Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to a class of bored, bemused but polite primary schoolers, in Foxcatcher (in national release), Bennett Miller’s largely compelling dramatisation of a strange...
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.