Australian politics, society & culture

Current Issue
A trip to the Philippines reveals the human cost of the war on drugs
By Margaret Simons

It is a quarter to midnight on 4 October. The air is warm like souring milk and it’s raining. The press pack is standing on the steps of the police station in Tondo, Manila, near the port and one of the poorest places in the Philippines.

Water drips from the nearby shanties. They are built from the discards of a broken country – corrugated iron, scrap timber, peeling particle board and old political banners spruiking mayoral candidates, each proclaiming his love for the people. The faces have turned green from sun and mildew.

Current Issue
The Rhodes Scholarship is slowly embracing diversity
By Zoë Morrison
There are police at the gates when I arrive, a line of shiny silver cars in front of me and a gaggle of people on the footpath. I presume it’s all for another event. Then there’s a policeman at my car window. He reads my invitation, smiles.
December 2016
Disparaging protest won’t do much for the parliament’s public standing
By Michael Lucy
This morning, protesters from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance – a pro-asylum seeker group who oppose offshore detention and boat turnbacks and who were behind yesterday’s
It took two weeks and endless bureaucracy to honour a dying wish
Claire Konkes
If you punch these co-ordinates into Google Maps, the icon hovers like a red hot-air balloon over a sea of blue. The Pacific Ocean. No land in sight.
How can the major parties address the rise of populism in Australia?
Andrew Charlton and Lachlan Harris
Anyone who thinks the Donald Trump phenomenon could never happen in Australia should spend some time in Townsville. During the resources boom, the hard-bitten capital of northern Queensland thrived as the epicentre of the fly-in fly-out economy. Commuters in hi-vis flooded the airport, and flash utes choked the Bruce Highway in and out of town.

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Disparaging protest won’t do much for the parliament’s public standing
Michael Lucy

Crisis on high “Deep in the Himalayas sits a remote research station that is tracking an alarming trend in climate change, with implications that could disrupt the lives of more than 1 billion people and pitch the most populated region of the world into chaos. The station...

Evidence of ‘torture’ of children in Darwin detention centre uncovered “Video of the tear gassing of six boys being held in isolation at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin in August 2014 exposes one of the darkest incidents in the history of juvenile justice in...

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November 2016
Join the queue for Tasmania’s most sought-after Japanese
By Josephine Rowe
On Sunday mornings at Hobart’s Farm Gate Market, the queue for Masaaki Koyama’s sushi is as much a fixture as his truck, airbrushed with fish scales and flowers. To attempt a demography via headwear: home-knitted beanies and brand-name beanies; a red-sequinned beret and...
October 2016
Helen Pynor’s bio-art explores life after death
By Rebecca Giggs
The chicken pieces, sold in a plastic tub in Dresden, were still alive. Earlier, Helen Pynor collected the meat from an over-lit supermarket refrigerator, paying the cashier €2.79. “Fine & Juicy”, read the label, though Pynor had no intention of cooking the cuts.
October 2016
The late historian leaves behind a stunning body of scholarship
By Tom Griffiths
Inga Clendinnen (1934–2016) was an eloquent teacher of history and a brilliant scholar who did not begin to talk until she was three and did not learn to read until she was eight.
Current Issue
Image of Patrick White
The author stays out of the picture, and other personal rules of writing
By David Marr
I had a call one afternoon in 1988. Patrick White had collapsed and they needed a hand at Martin Road. I rushed over and found the whole household mustered in his attic bedroom. It looked like a stroke. For the umpteenth time in their lives together, Manoly Lascaris had packed White’s bag for a dash to hospital. The ambulance was on its way.
Current Issue
Is Nick Cleary’s ambitious CLARA project the answer to Australia’s fast-rail question?
By Paddy Manning
It’s the second-last “Joker Poker” raffle night at the Doodle Cooma Arms, and the crowd’s getting happily sozzled. For now the bistro is flat out serving $12 pizzas but next week the only pub in the New South Wales town of Henty, population 900, will close.
September 2016
The new managing director’s vision isn’t clear
By Margaret Simons
Image of Michelle Guthrie
In the early weeks of her tenure as managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie took her executive team “off site”, away from the public broadcasting palace in Sydney’s Ultimo, to think big about the future of Australia’s most important cultural institution. She asked her...
October 2016
The arts funding cuts are just a symptom of a broader malaise in Australia
By Alison Croggon
Image of Force Majeure’s Never Did Me Any Harm
It is difficult to grasp the cultural devastation that is occurring across Australia. Even a partial glimpse is unnerving; surveying the whole is depressing beyond words. Despite the fact that in 2015 Australia’s per capita purchasing power ranked 15th among the 25 wealthiest...
September 2016
Where has demand driven our universities?
By Thornton McCamish
Earlier this year Professor Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, published an essay in which he warned that Australia’s public universities should heed the fate that befell the monasteries in England under Henry VIII.


December 2016
Image of surveillance of David Combe
The third volume in ASIO’s official history confirms infiltration by Soviet intelligence
By David McKnight
I once asked a former ASIO officer to describe what it was like trying to expose KGB agents who operated under diplomatic cover. He recalled that in Canberra in the early 1970s one suspect diplomat would occasionally drive to the top of Black Mountain and sit and wait in his car. “Was he trying to draw us out? Or divert us, while his associate did something else?
November 2016
Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’ is an exuberant, if meandering, trip
By Luke Davies
“I think they want you,” says Star (Sasha Lane), a shy, raggedy teenager with dreadlocks, to Jake (Shia LaBeouf ), a weird guy who wears suspenders over old-man chinos and has a long, thick side plait.
November 2016
JM Coetzee’s ‘The Schooldays of Jesus’ is defined by its strangeness
By Geordie Williamson
Image of JM Coetzee
To paraphrase Wallace Stevens, JM Coetzee is an author whose work resists readers’ intelligence almost successfully. At sentence level, he is, of course, a model of clarity – think of the dry and unornamented perspicuity Coetzee brings to bear in his fiction, the fastidiousness...
December 2016
In Zadie Smith’s new novel ‘Swing Time’, identity is always under construction
By Helen Elliott
Names matter to Zadie Smith. She changed her own from Sadie when she was 14. Yet the narrator of Swing Time (Hamish Hamilton; $32.99) negotiates all 453 pages of the novel without disclosing her name. The other characters are carefully, wittily named, none more so than Aimee,...
November 2016
Australian hip-hop artist Tkay Maidza brings a lifetime on the move to her debut album, ‘Tkay’
By Anwen Crawford
Tkay, the debut album by Australian rapper and singer Tkay Maidza, has a bold disposition. Maidza pulls together elements of hip-hop, pop and contemporary dance music to create a soundscape that is lively but not fussy.