Australian politics, society & culture

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Whatever the politicians say, we can't afford to skimp on education
By Don Watson

Our prime minister says that we must “live within our means”. The treasurer and the minister for finance both say it. As is the custom, having said it once, they have said it again and again. “We must live within our means.” “We cannot spend what we don’t have.” “What is true for families and businesses is true for nations.” Though the former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett said it was a “message” that gave him “a sense of connect”, the Sydney radio broadcaster Ray Hadley told his friend the treasurer it sounded suspiciously like a slogan.

Current Issue
The mystery of a man, a tree and an umbrella
By Leigh Sales
Illustration
I am sitting on a park bench, reading, when a closed umbrella thwacks onto the path next to me, seemingly falling from the sky.
May 2016
‘Batman v. Superman’ v. the internet
By Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens
Batman v. Superman
“Humankind deserves a better blockbuster.” However many times you read Michael Phillips’ lacerating Chicago Tribune review of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, this closing line remains strangely overblown.
Alan Moorehead, Australia’s forgotten literary giant
Thornton McCamish
Every book lover knows the thrilling experience of discovering a writer whose work changes the way they see the world.
A national failure
Sean Kelly
On Tuesday we will have a budget. Months of speculation will end. Wednesday will see a media frenzy. On Thursday, the opposition leader will deliver his reply to the Budget. Sometime in the days following, the prime minister will officially announce an election has been called.

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A national failure
Sean Kelly

Human extinction isn’t that unlikely “The Stern Review, the UK government’s premier report on the economics of climate change, estimated a 0.1% risk of human extinction every year. That may sound low, but it adds up. The Global Challenges Foundation estimates a 9.5% chance of human...

Writer Jenny Diski dies aged 68 “When Diski first learned she had cancer, her initial reaction was one of embarrassment, as the usual responses felt heavily clichéd and scripted … Born in London in 1947, Diski lived with British writer Doris Lessing for four years and...

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April 2016
IBAC investigates the Victorian education department’s failed Ultranet
By Catherine Ford
Illustration
In late February, Dr James Watterston, the director-general of Queensland’s Department of Education and Training, gave evidence to the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). The hearings were further examinations of IBAC allegations of corruption at...
March 2016
The Watson family take on ‘Family Feud’
By Paul Connolly
The set of Channel Ten’s Family Feud has all the subtlety of Las Vegas at night, and as we take our seats within its glow the crowd-warmer fills us in on game-show audience etiquette: in essence, smile no matter what.
February 2016
The language of menus
By Aaron Timms
At LuMi Bar & Dining, a newish harbourside restaurant beloved of Sydney’s crisp white shirt dining set, a carefully stubbled chef presents a dish of crab meat, highlighted, he explains, with puffed rice.
Current Issue
Stan Grant
On Stan Grant’s radical hope
By Anne Manne
Stan Grant strides towards me. It is easy to see why the television camera so loves his face. We meet at the plush Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne, where tea is poured from an elegant pot. Halfway through our conversation, the NSW honorary consul for Mongolia comes up for a chat. He seems in awe of Grant and tells him that his children are great fans: they’ve watched his speeches on YouTube.
Current Issue
When human nature and the law intersect
By Jenan Taylor
At a Saturday farmers’ market, two little girls in floral sundresses gaze up at a tall, red-lipped, ponytailed busker with a guitar.
December 2015
Why have we failed to address climate change?
By Robert Manne
Unless by some miracle almost every climate scientist is wrong, future generations will look upon ours with puzzlement and anger – as the people who might have prevented the Earth from becoming a habitat unfriendly to humans and other species but nonetheless failed to act.
March 2016
The dominance of baby boomers is becoming total
By Richard Cooke
Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales, can’t have been prepared for this. Two months ago he was probably the most popular politician in Australia, presenting a wet Liberal surfer persona that gelled with the state’s better nature. There were travel concessions for asylum...
February 2016
The big fracking mess of resource politics
By Guy Rundle
Big blue sky, wide over red dirt roads and grey-green ironbark and gum, and beneath them, fine grass, shading away into the distance.

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May 2016
Anohni by Alice O'Malley
Beautiful suffering in PJ Harvey’s ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ and Anohni’s ‘Hopelessness’
By Anwen Crawford
English singer-songwriter Polly Jean Harvey, known professionally as PJ Harvey, released her first album, Dry, in 1992. Harvey’s rock songs, formed around her rasping electric guitar lines, bore a superficial resemblance to the then-dominant grunge style. Kurt Cobain admired her, as did his wife, Courtney Love.
March 2016
Doing the right thing in Jay Roach’s ‘Trumbo’ and László Nemes’ ‘Son of Saul’
By Luke Davies
The television series Breaking Bad is held in high regard for many reasons. Over five seasons spread across six years, it attained the quality of a Greek tragedy. The writing sparkled.
February 2016
Survival tactics in ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Big Short’
By Luke Davies
“Is there even a movie here, or is the film just the by-product of a particularly masochistic film crew spending some time in the woods?” This question, posed by American film blogger Devin Faraci, of Alejandro G Iñárritu’s The Revenant (in national release), is not entirely...
April 2016
Helen Garner’s work collected in ‘Everywhere I Look’
By Anna Goldsworthy
In one of the shorter pieces in her new nonfiction collection, Everywhere I Look (Text Publishing; $29.99), Helen Garner celebrates the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould: “JS Bach is God, as far as I’m concerned, and the pianist Glenn Gould was one of his major prophets.” She recalls...
March 2016
Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’ and Future’s ‘EVOL’
By Anwen Crawford
The Barbadian pop singer Rihanna and the Canadian rapper Drake have recorded three duets together.
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