Australian politics, society & culture

October 2016
Does the PM know what his job is?
By Sean Kelly

In an interview with Neil Mitchell this morning, the prime minister was asked about his poor polling. We have been delivering and implementing our economic plan, said the PM. “So is it not getting through to the public?” asked Mitchell. The PM responded, “I’m sure the public have a very keen understanding of the fact that the government is getting on with the job.”

October 2016
A new initiative teaches doctors how to help patients plan for their deaths before it’s too late
By Kate Stanton
Death is not always sudden. Most of us will die slowly, not always peacefully, in an uneven series of ups and downs until it’s over.
October 2016
By Kieran Finnane
Cover of Position Doubtful
In her second book of memoir, Kim Mahood delves into the “fundamental displacement” of someone with “an almost cellular affinity to a place that has been constructed by a different cultural imagination”.
How can we make housing more affordable? The answer will make a lot of people unhappy
Jamie Hall
Recently I met an economist friend after work in the city. We had a few refreshments, and then the conversation turned to the housing affordability problem in cities like Melbourne, Sydney, and San Francisco. We agreed it had gotten crazy. “And you know,” he said, “when you walk through these really expensive neighbourhoods, they’ve got one obvious thing in common.”
Lovatts Crosswords gave its profits to employees. What went wrong?
Richard Cooke
“The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left,” wrote the libertarian conservative economist Thomas Sowell, “is that they do not work.” Before writing this off as a typically abrasive overstatement, we must make a small concession: most of the time the purer egalitarian models of the harder left haven’t worked very well in practice.

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Does the PM know what his job is?
Sean Kelly

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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Current Issue
Welcome to the Collingwood English Language School
By Ingrid Laguna
There is a New Student folder in my pigeonhole. I flip it open and scan the enrolment form. From her listed date of arrival, Kafa* has been in Australia for less than two months. She has come from Ethiopia, speaks Oromo and lives with her aunt. She is 15. Years of schooling: two...
Current Issue
Video artist Heath Franco is making a name as a provocateur
By Darryn King
A few years ago, Australian video artist Heath Franco made a work designed to be displayed in the toilet. The video, installed on the back of the cubicle door, starred Franco himself, naked from the waist down, applauding and congratulating the water-closeted viewer.
September 2016
A cat-detection team are doing important work on Dirk Hartog Island
By Nicole Gill
The stars are bright over Western Australia’s Dirk Hartog Island, which sits within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Zoologist Sue Robinson shovels muesli into her mouth without enthusiasm, wipes dew off her quad-bike seat and corrals her gear for the morning’s work.
Current Issue
Homelessness has reached crisis levels in Melbourne and Sydney
By Paul Connolly
It’s a cold, wet Monday night in Melbourne, but the confluence of Flinders Lane, Degraves Street and Centre Place – the centre of “the world’s most liveable city” – is swirling with activity. In the shadows, just beyond the clip of foot traffic, Peter slumps in his brown woollen poncho on a thick square of cardboard.
Current Issue
Billion-dollar burnouts keep emissions rising
By Richard Denniss
Between 2009 and 2015, the Adelaide-based oil and gas company Santos and its international partners spent $10,000 per minute on a $25 billion mistake.
July 2016
The Arrernte Women’s Project is preserving vital songs and culture
By Rachel Perkins
Rachel Perkins
I am standing in a supermarket in Alice Springs, comparing the width of my upper arm to a frozen, foil-wrapped kangaroo tail. I’ve been instructed that this is a good guide for selecting a suitable size. Any fatter and the meat will be too muscly; too skinny and the meat is...
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...
August 2016
A region returns to earth
By Hamish McDonald
To get the optimistic view in Port Hedland, 1600 kilometres north of Perth, you go to the little park at the end of Wedge Street and look out to the harbour channel at high tide. That’s when it’s deep enough for ships fully loaded with iron ore.


November 2016
Image of JM Coetzee
JM Coetzee’s ‘The Schooldays of Jesus’ is defined by its strangeness
By Geordie Williamson
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 of thought that emits from his creations the way a dot matrix printer unspools.
October 2016
‘Mike Parr: Foreign Looking’ brings the anti-institutional artist to the National Gallery of Australia
By Fiona McGregor
The people of the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific had a tradition of tattooing their bodies repeatedly until the designs were barely perceptible, the skin a black ink monochrome. The process took years, each application having fresh importance.
September 2016
Matt Ross’ ‘Captain Fantastic’ is a portrait of a family in the wilderness
By Luke Davies
Still from Captain Fantastic
The opening moments of Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic (in national release 8 September) introduce us to the rugged, pine-forested world of an ideal – or idealised – family living far off the grid in the woods of Washington State. The father, Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), rules over...
November 2016
Lynette Wallworth’s ‘Collisions’ brings virtual reality to the Western Desert
By Quentin Sprague
Still from Collisions
Nyarri Nyarri Morgan was a young man when he witnessed the atomic plume rise above the Western Desert in the 1950s. Like many Martu, he was at the time yet to meet a European, so what he saw unfolded with neither context nor warning. As he recalls in Collisions, a new immersive...
October 2016
Celebrated short-story practitioner Joy Williams turns to micro fiction in ‘Ninety-Nine Stories of God’
By Barry Hill
Joy Williams writes word-perfect stories. They are often wretchedly funny; she makes you laugh even when you don’t want to. She writes out of a damaged or wild or ecstatic or even a divine madness.