August 2012

In this Issue: 


The strange thing was that the academics didn’t see it coming. Then again, the monks in that quaint little abbey on Lindisfarne didn’t see the Vikings coming either – or did, and thought they wanted to be baptised.

In the Monthly Comment, Don Watson charts the demise of our universities at the hands of a flurry of cost-saving, performance-enhancing, outcome-focussed education reforms. As university administrations continue to chase revenue, academics bemoan the loss of intellectualism among a new generation of thinkers.


Plus, in ‘The Australian Solution’, Waleed Aly finds the asylum-seeker debate in dire need of rescuing; in ‘Cape Tribulations’, John van Tiggelen revisits Noel Pearson’s welfare reform trial in Cape York; in ‘Higgs Mass 125.3 ± 0.6 GeV’, Michael Lucy joins a posse of physicists for a moment of universal discovery; in ‘Tatts Lotto’, Fiona Harari observes the delicate business of tattoo removal; and in ‘Switching Clubs’, Peter Sutton turns his eye from anthropology to classic car restoration.



A once nearly bipartisan issue [in American politics] had been transformed into contested territory … In 2008, President Barack Obama pledged that he would lead the world struggle to combat climate change. The words ‘climate change’ now rarely pass his lips.

In ‘A Dark Victory’, Robert Manne charts the success of the climate change denialist movement in undermining the alarming scientific evidence of human-caused global warming. The fossil fuel industry and other vested interests – for whom so much is at stake – have been victorious in the manufacture of doubt.


Many archivists do not believe state governments are serious about helping care leavers to find their personal records. If they were, one archivist told me, “an enormous amount could be done really fast”.

In ‘The Forgotten Ones’, Christine Kenneally uncovers the history of the half a million children who were raised in institutional care last century. Following the 2009 official apology to these ‘Forgotten Australians’, there has been little progress in helping those affected to discover their history, let alone find redress for their suffering. For many, time is running out.  


From Washington’s perspective, Gough Whitlam had done the unthinkable. He had put the United States on the same level as its communist enemy.

In ‘Dear Mr President’, James Curran uncovers White House tapes in the Nixon Library that reveal a diplomatic faux pas of the first order. In 1972, an urgent letter penned by Prime Minister Whitlam to President Nixon led to a series of tense exchanges (and profanity-ridden phone calls) that briefly threatened the Australian–American alliance.


Also, in ‘Small Fry’, Ruth Balint tells the complex story of a young Indonesian fisherman currently serving a five-year sentence in an Australian jail, and reflects on our punitive laws in relation to people smuggling.



Well, my attempt at being a Man About Town failed badly in a number of ways. Firstly, when the drinks were served, Jeffrey said his Manhattan was the worst he had ever drunk.

In Vox, Frank Moorhouse takes Jeffrey Eugenides on a tour of hard liquor and rock oysters across Sydney.  



Martin Amis’ sentences sing and thrum and send off so many reverberations and harmonics that everyone else’s sound flat. Perhaps this is why he provokes such critical rage.

In ‘Top Dog’, Anna Goldsworthy reviews Martin Amis’ new novel, Lionel Asbo: State of England. In this “fairy tale” – a satirical portrayal of English society that combines high style with low subject matter – Amis spins a disorienting tale that both confounds and rewards the reader.


Hugh White’s argument is based on the premise that, without a formal agreement, the US and China are going to drift into a serious conflict. But how worried should we really be? 

In ‘Power Shift’, Malcolm Turnbull examines the changing power dynamics between the United States and China, as outlined in Hugh White’s The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power.


Plus, in ‘Plenty o’ Nuttin’, Peter Conrad heralds the morale-boosting revelry of the Cape Town Opera; in ‘Sacrificial Pawns’, Kate Jennings falls under the spell of the intrigues (and crumpets) of Game of Thrones; and in ‘Spreading the Groove’, Richard Guilliatt discovers Melbourne’s thriving funk revival.