Don Watson


48 ENTRIES Don Watson is an award-winning author. His books include Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, The Bush and Watsonia, a collection of his writing. The Passion of Private White will be published in November.


George Pell, Anzac service, 24 April 2009. © AAP/Jenny Evans

Richard Dawkins

A New Opium

The Anzac cult

Clive Palmer, entrepreneur. © Glenn Hunt/Fairfax Syndication

Global financial crisis

Comment: Blessed are the Wealth-makers

In 1848 a drover named O’Shaughnessy, the son of a convict, came across a man living in a gunyah in the reed beds of the Lachlan River with a few cows. O’Shaughnessy faded quickly from history, but the man in the reeds, also the son of a convict, …

John Howard under advisement. © Andrew Meares/Fairfax Syndication

Comment: Attack of the Clones

People who watched the first series of Yes Minister might remember a fringe character called Frank Weisel, a young man of little apparent promise much loathed by Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby. For Humphrey, finding Frank in the minister’s …

Mates don't let mates slide into decadence and decay. IMAGE: Commonwealth of Australia

Julia Gillard


Address to the US President

Primitive educational techniques, Sydney, 1965. © Hopwood / Fairfax Syndication


Phoney education

With our Android phones at the drop of a hat we can see whether it rained in Auckland yesterday; what won the third at Bendigo and the winner’s five-generation pedigree; the names of all those who served in the Dardanelles; a map of Nunawading or Cairo, …

Would-be US Republican presidential candidates still trying to win one for the Gipper, 11 October 2011. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP


Palin politics and the Tea Party

Three or four years ago a monster storm swept across the centre of the united states and wrapped the land in a coat of ice. From an aeroplane a few days later, the country looked enamelled. Beneath the creamy porcelain the patterns of life in Oklahoma …

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.


The Book Show and Ramona Koval

For Tolstoy, art was not a place to look for pleasure, but for communion  with each other. Art was one of the conditions of our existence, “necessary for life and for the movement toward the good of the individual man and of mankind, uniting …

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.


Riding high

The Toyota HiLux and the tradie’s new world

Paul Keating in 2007. © Idpercy/Flickr


Political leadership in Australia

It is now all but universally agreed that the Australian Labor party is a near-ruin, ruled body and soul by factional bosses and opinion pollsters. To the public the party presents the spectacle of governance either by faceless men, or by men with unappealing …

Barack Obama takes one last look in the mirror, before going out to take oath, January 20, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)


From the chrysalis

The young waitress in the restaurant said Obama scared her. She just didn’t like him. It was scary what would happen if he won, she said. The guys in the kitchen had told her his father was a terrorist. And a Muslim. Three hours later, in the south-eastern …

Barack Obama at campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio. Image: TonyTheTiger at en.wikipedia


Once upon a time in America

Getting elected in Zanesville, Ohio

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.


After Katrina

Sixty-eight-year-old Lloyd Griffin sits on the verandah of his new house in New Orleans' once notorious Ninth Ward. The house is painted in startling deep orange with white trim, and the two-metre stilts on which it stands give Lloyd a view of the new …

Anzac Day match, April 2010. © Gavin Anderson/Flickr



A moral equivalent to Anzac Day

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.


Society of birds

EE Cummings prayed that his heart would always be open to little birds. My family, the maternal side especially, has always shared some of his sentiment. It goes back to the clearing of the forest. As the trees went, the little birds came and dwelt in …

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.



Imagine for a moment that George Orwell was right when he said that words have precise and specific meanings and we should do our best to stick to them when we speak or write. Orwell argued that "slovenly" language made it harder to think clearly, and …