Australian politics, society & culture


Top Monthly Essays of 2012

In 2012, the media struggled, news suffered and ephemera triumphed, while the Monthly maintained its dedication to essays and long-form journalism. From Wayne Swan’s broadside at vested interests to Catherine Ford’s expedition with Cape York’s Family Responsibilities Commission, the Monthly told the stories and argued the issues that made the year.


The thinking behind the Family Responsibilities Commission was to help bring those people willing to confront what was going wrong in their towns back from the brink, and thus provide their children with some semblance of normality. Says David Glasgow with considerable understatement, “This kind of change is hard work.”

Great Expectations: Inside Noel Pearson's social experiment by Catherine Ford (November)


More than one startled reviewer has commented on Wolf’s blithe assumption that her prescriptions for a happy vagina are based not on highly culturally specific preferences – “perhaps shaped by romance novels and Laura Ashley bedroom sets”, as one Feministe blogger tartly suggested – but in our evolutionary past.

The Vagina Dialogues: Do women really want less sex than men? By Cordelia Fine (November)


If there is a more sober and serious figure behind the pizzazz, it has not often been shown to the public. This apparent superficiality makes Tony Abbott vulnerable. By simplifying his politics to the tabloid level, he gives credibility to tabloid accusations.

Junk politics: The pursuit of character over substance by Mungo MacCallum (October) 


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.

A Dark Victory: How vested interests defeated climate science by Robert Manne (August)


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".

The Forgotten Ones: Half a million lost childhoods by Christine Kenneally (August) 


If you are an older person who has fallen down and can't walk, someone who's had a faint, has a fever, is dizzy or delirious or looks starved to death, you are considered a Category 4 or 5 on the triage scale. This means that by dinner time you may still be lying on the trolley, perhaps in the corridor of the emergency department if things are really frantic, waiting to be seen by a doctor.

Last Resort: How the rebirth of general medicine will save lives by Karen Hitchcock (July) 


If the Parliament runs its full term under Julia Gillard, Roxon will have around 15 months in which to transform the Federal Court system, codify contract law, review digital copyright laws, oversee two referenda, criminalise forced marriages, tighten laws on sex trafficking, review the $1.3 billion legal aid system and modernise security laws - to mention just some of the items on her docket.

The Protector: Nicola Roxon by Anne Summers (June)


Gina Rinehart's hatred of being labelled an "iron-ore heiress" is well known, precisely because she regards herself as a self-made businesswoman. Similarly, she never describes her father as the 'King of the Pilbara', because it implies hers is a privileged inheritance. She is nobody's princess.

What Gina Wants: Gina Rinehart’s quest for respect and gratitude by Nick Bryant (May)


When I heard José Ramos-Horta respond to the first questions I knew he was finished. And I was not alone. He radiated a kind of negative energy. He looked as if he wished he were a long, long way away ... I suddenly realised he really didn't want this job any longer.

Autumn of the Patriarch: Four Days with José Ramos-Horta by Peter Robb (April)


'Greed is good. Trample the weak. Hurdle the dead.' These brutal words seemed to encapsulate ... a growing sense of unease in Australia.

The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia by Wayne Swan (March) 

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