Monthly Wire

Best Australian Political Writing of 2013

It’s no simple task to whittle down a dramatic year’s politics to a selection of ten works. There will be debate about it, of course – based on political orientation and style appreciation, depending on whether one values scoops, profiles or commentary.

What’s beyond doubt is the value of political writing like the following. Here are ten highlights of Australian political writing in 2013:


On the road with Julia Gillard (Chloe Hooper, The Monthly)

“Politics is terrain where complexity or ambiguity doesn’t play well. If she mentions sexism, she is playing the victim card, but not to say anything is to collaborate in its denial. In Gillard’s words: ‘You wake up and you’re [right-wing columnist] Janet Albrechtsen, and no one wants to end up there.’ ”


Julia Gillard: Where did it all go wrong (Katharine Murphy, Guardian)

“Gillard appeared to be a hostage because she was forced to bargain for everything. One more week. Five more minutes. An unsettling sort of contingency for Australians unused to their prime ministers living so obviously hand to mouth. There was no time to breathe and grow in a maelstrom. There was no certainty for Gillard to ease into, no time to work on her flaws and limitations, no practice runs.”


Rudd remains a mystery to us all (Annabel Crabb, The Drum)

“Ordinarily, leaders use their parties as loudhailers through which they talk to the electorate. Kevin Rudd, with his knack for structural complexity, has pioneered a much more ornate model; the leader who hopes and trusts that voters will love him despite his party, with which he is terminally at odds. There is little doubt that the Labor Party, as an organisation, has done its best to expel Kevin Michael Rudd, still just 55 years old, still from Queensland and still - apparently endlessly - here to help.”


How Kevin Rudd’s campaign unravelled (Pamela Williams, AFR)

“In the immediate aftermath of seizing the prime ministership back from Gillard, Rudd was high in the polls and high in general. Behind the scenes, the Liberal campaign machine assessed Rudd’s huge poll jump as a honeymoon, relief at the departure of Gillard, and excitement at change. They did not, however, confuse it with voting intent.”


Coalition’s calm as it takes power is a calculated move (Katharine Murphy, Guardian)

“The conundrum for Abbott and his incoming government is how to do less, slow it all down, stop the relentless churn - without handing over the space to your opponents. Sky News and ABC News 24 are not intending to shut down their rolling news operations, the live updates and rolling news blogs will plough on, the crowds that have formed online aren’t going to disperse in deference to a new regime seeking a more manageable national affairs discourse.”


The power and the arrogance (Laurie Oakes, Daily Telegraph)

“The Immigration Minister is not slow to reprimand journalists for publishing or broadcasting inaccurate information. ‘I strongly suggest that the media should more thoroughly interrogate the sorts of claims that are being represented to you,’ he sneered at a recent news conference. But then he poured scorn on the idea that the journalists should be able to check information they receive with the government or its agencies to avoid erroneous reporting.”


The real story behind the Gonski trainwreck (Paul Kelly, The Australian)

“The public gyrations of Pyne sent tremors of distrust across virtually all stakeholders and governments. Abbott’s pledges were being trashed in public. Bill Shorten began to channel the Abbott campaign against Julia Gillard over her broken carbon tax promise as Pyne lost control of the agenda. The deeper key to grasping this fiasco is to realise the Coalition never really sorted out its attitude towards the Gonski school funding issue. At the September election it had two positions, one private, one public.”


Lest we forget: The purpose of war is not war itself (Hugh White, SMH)

“When we look back on the war and see the Afghanistan we are leaving behind, it will be clear that the lives of the soldiers killed there were wasted, and that we should want to understand how that happened. And, looking ahead, our attitudes to Afghanistan may tell us something about our attitude to war in general.”


Quarterly Essay 49, Not Dead Yet: Labor’s Post-Left Future (Mark Latham)
(Read an extract here)

“In September, Alan Jones accused Gillard of contributing to her father’s death, of ensuring he ‘died of shame’... The Jones affair highlighted the moral decline of Australian conservatism: its inability to unreservedly condemn wrongness in public life. As long as its enemies are under attack – no matter how indecently, no matter how far removed from community standards – it defends its own and rationalises away the immorality of the attack.”


Why Australia hates asylum seekers (Christos Tsiolkas, The Monthly)

“We have failed. You can’t rewrite this recent history, centred on the abandonment of a bipartisan agreement on immigration policy and multiculturalism, a reactionary moment that stretches from One Nation to Tampa to the ‘Stop the Boats’ sloganeering to the PNG solution. Those of us who wanted and fought for a just and compassionate response to this issue must now face some hard questions: what are the consequences of this failure for progressive politics? What does it mean for the kind of Australia we are now?”
(Notable mention: Bogans and boat people, Richard Cooke)

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