August 2006

Essays

Mark Aarons

Beloved companheiros

What happened in East Timor

José Ramos Horta’s appointment as prime minister, on 8 July, has – for the time being, at least – brought a measure of stability to East Timor. There is hope that one of the world’s newest nations will rebuild its political, social and economic foundations, shattered by the events of recent times. The new prime minister has promised to restore the nation’s security, to repair infrastructure damaged during the crisis, and to make it possible for tens of thousands of displaced people to return to their homes.

Most Australians have enormous goodwill towards the people of East Timor. When Indonesia conducted its illegal military operations and then launched a full-scale invasion in late 1975, public opinion instinctively (and overwhelmingly) sided with the Timorese. Over the next 24 years, though the issue might never have changed a single vote at a federal election, opinion swung ever more in favour of the Timorese cause as Indonesian brutality became ever more apparent. This came to a boiling point in the weeks after the August 1999 independence vote, when the Indonesians and their quisling militias laid waste to the country.

In part, Australian anger was born of a visceral understanding of the Soeharto regime’s violence and criminality towards the East Timorese (and the West Papuans). In part, it drew from a wellspring of powerful, almost legendary, stories of Timorese heroism during World War II, when an Australian commando force went in, provoking Japan’s invasion of the neutral colony. The Australians received selfless support from the locals in their guerrilla-warfare campaign; the Japanese brutality, in response, was seared into the consciousness of many Australians, giving rise to a historical debt to the Timorese people, who had helped us in our hour of need.

To the surprise of many federal politicians, the anger of ordinary Australians in September 1999 was such that John Howard was compelled to act in support of the Timorese. Howard put Australian troops at the head of the UN intervention. Public opinion overwhelmingly supported him in this, and the prime minister later called it one of his “greatest achievements”. Australian honour was satisfied. A debt that had long been neglected was finally settled.

All of this has made the recent crisis even more puzzling, painful and disheartening to Australian observers.


The crisis in East Timor became full-blown with the sacking of 600 of the country’s 1400-strong army in March this year. Violence and disintegration of law and order soon followed. The ostensible reason for the sacking was the soldiers’ abandonment of their posts in protest at what they claimed was systematic discrimination against westerners by easterners, who dominate the army. The eastern end of the half-island state was a stronghold of the guerrilla resistance against Indonesia, and the dissident soldiers claimed that promotions and perks had gone to easterners, at their expense.

Provocative actions such as those taken by these soldiers would certainly have led to swift military justice in most armies, including courts-martial, imprisonment and dismissal – a point made by Mari Alkatiri, Timor’s first prime minister, during the crisis. On the other hand, the sacking was an extreme measure and bound to have consequences. The situation required an objective examination of the soldiers’ complaints, and a genuine effort to overcome the problem through negotiation and compromise. The government had a substantial interest in resolving the complaints quickly and fairly if violence and chaos were to be prevented, the more so given the history of bloodshed during the 1975 civil war and under the Indonesian occupation.

There seems little doubt that the westerners’ complaints had some basis in reality, although they were probably not as serious as claimed. There may also have been other issues at play, but Alkatiri, defence minister Rocque Rodrigues and army commander Taur Matan Ruak did not take prompt action to ease the tensions. It is especially revealing that in the aftermath of his country’s virtual collapse, Alkatiri continued to defend the sackings – as late as 31 May, on The 7.30 Report.

At the height of the crisis Alkatiri claimed that he had always had suitable institutional arrangements on security and defence matters with the president, who is the commander-in-chief under the constitution. If this were true, then Alkatiri would have consulted with Xanana Gusmao before sacking the dissident soldiers. That he did not do so is a great pity, because the crisis might thereby have been averted.

Xanana’s statement to the nation on 23 March, soon after the sackings, made it clear that he believed there was a basis for the complaints of discrimination which the government needed to address, and that he had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade both the political and military hierarchy to do so. He placed responsibility where it rightly belonged: with the minister and army commander who had exercised their political and military powers to end the dispute by sacking the soldiers. The president rejected calls for his intervention in the growing crisis because he did not have the constitutional power to do so; the soldiers had been dismissed and there was nothing he could legally do about it.

So Alkatiri neither consulted Xanana before taking his drastic action, nor heeded his public advice afterwards. There was no understanding between them, institutional or otherwise, on this vital matter – nor, seemingly, on any other – that has so thoroughly undermined the country’s reputation, damaged its administrative machinery and threatened its very independence.


Among the watching Australian analysts, old divisions soon reappeared. There was the world-weary I-told-you-so of senior members of the Jakarta lobby; on the Left, there were conspiracy theories that saw sinister Western forces manipulating the Timorese opposition to bring about a coup d’état against the democratically elected government.

Since Alkatiri’s fall there has been a stream of claims from some Australian leftists about Timorese opposition forces active in plotting the overthrow of the government. Australia has been criticised for “gunboat diplomacy” and for covertly siding with the forces opposed to Fretilin (the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor), Timor’s governing party. Supporters of such conspiracy theories believe that the crisis occurred only because the Timorese opposition refused to accept the people’s verdict, in which Fretilin won more than 57% of the vote at the 2001 election for a Constituent Assembly. According to these theories, opposition forces, backed by Australian and other Western forces, have ever since used all means, including violence and attempted coups, to overturn the result.

No concrete evidence has been produced to support such claims, which simply reflect the self-serving propaganda of Mari Alkatiri. Nor have Alkatiri or his Australian supporters been able to answer this simple question: who are the people behind these attempted coups? Yet so powerful a hold do the allegations have on the minds of some on the Left that they have been presented as part of a familiar pattern. According to this argument, the whole crisis unfolded like a crude CIA script from the 1950s in Iran or South Vietnam – only now it was the ugly Australians, not the ugly Americans, although the hand behind these sinister events was the Australian–US security establishment.

Such an interpretation has received strong support from John Martinkus, a journalist notable for his brave coverage of the Timor crisis of 1999, his exposé of Indonesian crimes in West Papua and, latterly, for being captured and subsequently released by insurgents in Iraq. In an article published in the New Zealand Herald, Melbourne’s Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Martinkus claimed to have “confirmed” Alkatiri’s allegations of repeated coup attempts starting as early as April 2005. These were said to involve approaches to army commander Ruak and another senior officer to launch a coup against the government. Behind the approaches were senior figures in the Catholic Church, prominent Timorese leaders, and “two foreign nationals” whose nationalities could not be revealed due to “the sensitivity of the information”.

These are serious charges and would involve several criminal offences, including treason and incitement to treason. Yet Martinkus revealed none of the identities of those involved. The sources of the information, those involved in plotting the government’s overthrow, their foreign collaborators: all of these parties are cloaked in anonymity, making it impossible to test the claims.

There is, currently, no credible evidence of such a concerted criminal conspiracy to change the government by force. This, of course, does not rule out such an effort, but it seems strange that nothing concrete has yet been revealed nearly 18 months after the first attempt was allegedly made, and that even Alkatiri still cannot, or will not, name anyone involved, although he has said who was not involved: president Xanana. Some have compiled anecdotal stories that imply a wider pattern, but no one has put together a coherent and convincing case to demonstrate a conspiracy; the dots have simply not been joined.

Somewhat farcically, the best “evidence” of Australian involvement has been offered up by right-wing journalists, notably the Australian’s Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan, who have loudly asserted Australia’s preferences with regard to the fledgling nation. For example, more than five weeks before the event came to pass, Paul Kelly wrote that “Australia’s obvious preference is for the removal of Alkatiri as Prime Minister and a political victory for Gusmao and Ramos Horta,” and urged that Australia “must exert a greater authority” in Timorese politics.

In May and June this year, Kelly crowed that Australia’s military intervention “should end the romantic and unrealistic view of East Timor that has shaped Australia’s public debate since the 1975 Indonesian invasion”. Kelly also played to leftist conspiracies, claiming that Australia’s intervention in Timor was not just “military” in nature, but also “highly political … in its impact, atmospherics and consequences”, demonstrating that Australia was now a “potential hegemon”, and that domestic Timorese politics “is conducted against the backdrop of our unstated pressure”.

For his part, Sheridan diagnosed the “catastrophic failure of the East Timorese Government”, emphasising that the country was now a “failed state”. He even suggested that it would be better if Australia permanently stationed soldiers in “the most troubled micro-nations of our region”. This fed into left-wing fears of an “imperialist plot” to run Timor’s affairs permanently from Canberra.

Kelly’s claims of Australian involvement in the pressure to remove Alkatiri and install Ramos Horta are similarly unproven. While it is probable that the Australian government, for its own reasons, is happy to see the end of Alkatiri and the victory of Ramos Horta, there is no evidence that Australian pressure contributed to that result. It is probable that Ramos Horta was always the best candidate for prime minister, and therefore he was the most suitable replacement for the failed Alkatiri.

Kelly and Gerard Henderson (who has disputed Indonesia’s crimes in Timor) have also highlighted divisions between westerners and easterners that have supposedly “been in existence for generations”. This analysis is particularly shallow. Contrary to such claims, little evidence exists of a “traditional divide” between westerners and easterners in East Timor. As Jim Dunn told ABC Radio National in late June this year, this phenomenon is very recent. (Dunn was Australia’s consul in Dili in the 1960s, and he wrote a seminal history of the country.) He was adamant that in his 45 years of involvement with Timor he had not previously encountered such west–east antagonism.

Both Left and Right analyses of East Timor are superficial and biased, which perhaps helps to explain the widespread sense that Australians are only getting part of the story. In fact, the origins of the crisis are complex, and they depend neither on a pessimistic view of the country’s long-term viability, nor on a siege mentality that sees Fretilin as the victim of malign and shadowy forces. The crisis has its origins in Timorese history: in particular, in the blood-letting of the Left-versus-Right civil war of 1975 and Fretilin’s own crimes against “counter-revolutionary” forces during the Indonesian occupation.


Modern Timorese politics began soon after the fall of Portugal’s right-wing Caetano dictatorship, in April 1974. A new association intent on East Timorese independence was formed by Left-oriented, educated Timorese, including José Ramos Horta. Soon after, it took the name Fretilin and modelled itself on the revolutionary Marxist liberation-movements of Portugal’s African colonies, notably Mozambique (Frelimo) and Angola (the MPLA). But in the beginning, Fretilin was a broad front that included Marxists, social democrats such as Ramos Horta, and nationalists who simply wished for independence and an end to colonialism.

Other parties quickly emerged, the most important being the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), a more conservative group backed by traditional chiefs and businessmen, many from the rich coffee-growing regions. 1975 was a particularly dramatic year, as the educated town elites competed fiercely for the loyalty of rural villagers in the sleepy and backward colony. Fretilin emerged by March 1975 as the most popular party, as its leaders and key supporters travelled widely throughout the rugged countryside, organising at the grass-roots level.

It was clear that Indonesia would not accept an independent East Timor. It did its best to destabilise the country through subversive intelligence operations, also warning that Fretilin aimed to establish a Cuba in South-East Asia. By mid-1975 domestic Timorese politics was polarised and, following Fretilin’s victory in local government elections, the UDT leadership abandoned its goal of independence.

Instead, its leaders met with Indonesian intelligence and were encouraged to launch a pre-emptive coup to seize control. Jakarta calculated that this would lead to bloodshed and prepare the ground for a takeover as Timor descended into chaos. The August coup was defeated because the majority of Timorese members of the Portuguese Army sided with Fretilin, and the UDT fled into the waiting arms of Indonesian intelligence.

The civil war has left deep scars. As documented in the report of Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, the UDT committed crimes against Fretilin supporters. Hundreds were detained in inhumane conditions; many were tortured and killed, and the methods included beheading, hacking to death with machetes and evisceration. Fretilin and its supporters responded with their own crimes on an even wider and more brutal scale. The political lines had further hardened: brother against brother, father against son, in a civil war that has never been reconciled.

By September 1975 the Marxists within Fretilin were becoming dominant. After the Indonesian invasion of December that year, this faction took control and by mid-1977 Fretilin’s policy was that the war of liberation should simultaneously be carried out with a “people’s” revolution inspired by Mao Zedong’s model in China. Under the pressure of fighting a relatively modern army, which routinely carried out mass crimes against humanity, and isolated from outside assistance and abandoned by the West, the besieged Fretilin leadership based its ideology closely on Mao’s concept of a “pure”, fundamentalist form of Marxism-Leninism, in which even other Marxists were to be treated as counter-revolutionaries and “class traitors”, while others were deemed collaborators with the enemy merely for disagreeing with the party’s line.

Over the following years of the late 1970s, Fretilin turned not only against its domestic enemies (real and imagined) but also against its own supporters, as allegations of treason and counter-revolution became commonplace. The recent commission report highlighted the crimes perpetrated in the revolution’s cause. Arbitrary detention and execution of civilians suspected of supporting the opposing parties, or of collaborating with the Indonesians, was widespread. Fretilin members suspected of failing to follow the “revolutionary line” were sent for “re-education”, where they were detained in unbelievably cruel conditions, tortured mercilessly and, in many instances, executed. “Revolutionary justice” mimicked the practice of Mao’s Red Guards: criticism–self-criticism, corrective justice and popular justice, the latter mostly reserved for “traitors”, who would be brought before large crowds of Fretilin militants. After a “show trial” the crowd would pronounce a guilty verdict and senior Fretilin officials would announce the sentence – mostly death – which was usually carried out immediately.

The purges reached frenzied proportions after the denunciation of Fretilin’s president, Xavier do Amaral, in the second half of 1977. Several hundred of his supporters were rounded up and executed. The revolution devoured the nationalist struggle.

Worse was to follow. Supplied with American counter-insurgency weapons and training, the Indonesian Army finally destroyed the guerrillas’ defence bases. Agent orange and napalm, delivered by sophisticated US warplanes, accompanied by constant bombardment of the civilian population – which was being deliberately and systematically starved – inevitably cracked the resistance. As its fortunes waned, rather than re-appraise its flawed strategy of defending bases containing hundreds of thousands of civilians and adapt to the new reality, Fretilin saw traitors around every bend.

The ultimate “plot” was uncovered in October 1978, when Fretilin’s interior minister, Alarico Fernandes, was denounced as a traitor for defecting to the Indonesians, although others believed he had simply been captured and forced to assist Jakarta’s efforts. José Ramos Horta, accused of being Fernandes’s collaborator, was detained in Mozambique by Rogério Lobato, who is now on trial for his alleged role in arming Fretilin militias during the recent crisis. Some believe that Ramos Horta was lucky to escape alive from Lobato’s prison, especially as Lobato allegedly was trained by the murderous Khmer Rouge.


1978 saw the final collapse of the original resistance movement. Xanana, a middle-ranking commander and Fretilin Central Committee member, emerged as the new leader. Over the following two years Xanana walked the length and breadth of the country, meeting with the people and their leaders, re-establishing contact with surviving guerrilla groups and organising a more effective fighting force.

As a result, in the early 1980s the guerrillas launched attacks against the Indonesians throughout the country. It was at this time, too, that Fretilin re-affirmed it was a Marxist-Leninist party. Both events had enormous impacts on Xanana, who soon discerned an almost total disjunction between revolutionary ideology and the realities of the struggle against Indonesia. The patriotic war required the support of all elements of Timorese society, even those who had fought Fretilin and those who were collaborating with Indonesia out of necessity. Most importantly, it required partnership with the Catholic Church: it was the only organisation able to provide effective cover for the clandestine resistance movement.

Xanana had analysed the previous decade and concluded that the Maoist-inspired revolution had hindered the independence fight, not the least because its violence and excesses were crimes against the Timorese people. In 1986 Xanana left Fretilin and turned the guerrillas into a non-party force, as part of a longer-term process to build a national convergence of all patriotic forces. He had decided that the unequal guerrilla war he now led was about liberation and democracy, not a fundamentalist Maoist revolution.

On 7 December 1987 Xanana repudiated Fretilin’s revolutionary mistakes and outlined his vision for the liberation struggle: “During 12 long, hard years of war … we have committed enormous and excessive political errors,” he wrote in a message to his people. “But we cannot simply ignore these errors, or worse still, put aside considering their consequences.” Fretilin’s weaknesses started with “political infantilism”, presuming “ourselves to be ‘heroes’ of a … popular revolution that would destroy all the opposing forces like an avalanche”.

For Xanana:

This senseless radicalism paid no attention to our concrete conditions and limitations. It made us intolerably overbearing and led us to put many compatriots on the same footing as the criminal aggressor. We have committed crimes against our own brothers and, during this difficult war, we have spent more time in arresting and assassinating compatriots than thinking effectively about capable defence of the Homeland …

The message was clear: Xanana now rejected the “fatal divisiveness” that had arisen from the “political blindness” of conducting a revolution “during a war we could not sustain”. His conclusion was unequivocal:

1. I publicly declare my total and wholehearted rejection of those doctrines that promote suppression of democratic freedoms in East Timor.

2. I publicly declare that the Falintil aswain [guerrilla warriors] will not permit the installation of a leftist regime that not only intends to provoke internal disintegration, but also to destabilise the whole area in which East Timor is situated.

The guerrilla commander could not have known it, but this was a pivotal turning point in Timor’s history. Harried by vastly superior Indonesian forces, moving constantly from mountain hideout to mountain hideout, and depending ever more on the clandestine civilian network to survive, Xanana must have wondered if even this new direction could save the independence movement. We now know that without his new direction the struggle would have foundered on its own increasingly destructive ideology.

Some dubbed his statement Timor’s perestroika. Others muttered darkly about the treason committed by anyone who abandoned Fretilin. In the exile community a new division opened up, one between those who endorsed Xanana’s new direction and those who held fast to the previous narrow and sectarian approach. This was underlined in 1990, when Ramos Horta became Xanana’s special representative abroad – not under Fretilin’s direction (which he, like Xanana, left), but as part of Xanana’s umbrella front, the National Council of Maubere [Timorese] Resistance.

In distant Mozambique and Portugal, the Fretilin comrades who had solidly supported the line over the previous 15 years resolved to continue with their course. Led by Abílio Araújo, Mari Alkatiri and others, they denied that Fretilin had committed crimes, and re-affirmed their commitment to revolutionary war to liberate Timor. They rejected Xanana’s new direction, and resented Ramos Horta’s growing closeness to the guerrilla leader. This schism, based on one side adhering to the past and the other looking to the future, spread throughout the Timorese-exile world.


Since 1999 and independence the division between Xanana and Ramos Horta, on the one hand, and the Alkatiri faction, on the other, has been apparent in several ways. First was the return to Timor of the well-organised Fretilin leadership from Mozambique, Portugal and Australia. They brought with them the legacy of a mindset developed in the hothouse of exile politics. During these 24 years the party line had changed only in emphasis, although by 1999 it was apparent that a Maoist revolution and a socialist economy were no longer relevant.

The exiles’ first act was to use their superior organising abilities to team up with other fundamentalists, those who had remained in the country during Indonesian rule. The Alkatiri faction effectively took control of Fretilin and built the new nation in its own image. In this, Alkatiri proved himself more capable and strategic than Xanana or Ramos Horta, taking control of the party that would win any free election due to its symbolic role during the independence war.

Next, the Alkatiri faction implemented its preconceived vision for Timor, insisting on a Portuguese-style constitution, political structure and legal system, including the use of Portuguese as the official language. Up to August 2000 Fretilin had participated in an umbrella group encompassing all political parties involved in the struggle for independence. Although Fretilin had pledged to support this broad coalition and form a government of national unity, the decision to withdraw and go it alone indicated a return to sectarian politics.

In the 2001 election for the Constituent Assembly, Fretilin won more than 57% of the vote. The assembly’s role should have been to adopt a constitution and to prepare democratic elections for a new government. Instead, Fretilin used its numbers to transform the Constituent Assembly into Timor’s first parliament, which appointed the first government with a five-year mandate, not from the 2001 election but from the date of independence, 20 May 2002. Parliament appointed Alkatiri prime minister, even though this outcome had not been clearly put to the electorate.

These developments soured the political climate. Worse, the Alkatiri faction pursued its sectarianism towards the two outstanding leaders of the resistance struggle, Xanana and Ramos Horta, who had almost single-handedly kept the cause alive in international forums through indefatigable diplomacy. This had won Ramos Horta the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with the leader of the Catholic Church, Bishop Belo. Alkatiri, however, challenged the church about the role of religion in the education curriculum. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, this, too, indicated that Alkatiri had not learned the lesson that Timor would only be united if there was dialogue with the dominant religion. Instead, he used the police to try to prevent church supporters from demonstrating against his education policies.

Rogério Lobato’s appointment as interior minister was another ominous development. He was widely known to be corrupt, and the Angolan government had jailed him on diamond-smuggling charges. Rogério blackmailed his way into Alkatiri’s cabinet by using disaffected former guerrillas as a private force. He then turned the police into his private fiefdom and, according to Xanana, used it to line his pockets. The police were also used as a political force against the opposition and the church, gathering intelligence for use by the government and crushing demonstrations.

A further example of Alkatiri’s authoritarianism was the adoption of draconian libel laws to silence critics who interpreted the constitutional guarantees of free speech too literally. The government had taken on many of the forms of a dictatorship, all the while pointing to its overwhelming mandate in democratic elections.

The resort to overtly Stalinist tactics was demonstrated at the Fretilin Congress in mid-May this year, just before the country spun out of control and Australia was asked to help restore calm. The arrogant way in which Alkatiri and Lobato orchestrated the change in the voting rules for Fretilin secretary-general – from a secret ballot to an open show of hands – shocked even some hardline Alkatiri supporters.

During the congress Lobato is alleged to have begun organising the secret arming of Fretilin militias, supposedly for use against the opposition. Lobato, who has since been promoted to Fretilin vice-president after resigning his ministerial post, has been charged with various offences relating to his activities, and has reportedly implicated Alkatiri in the conspiracy. The 19 June episode of Four Corners produced compelling evidence that, at the very least, Alkatiri knew about Lobato’s activities in arming civilians: something that he had repeatedly denied. These revelations sealed Alkatiri’s fate. Xanana threatened to resign and foreign minister Ramos Horta did so, ultimately forcing Alkatiri’s hand.


On 14 July Xanana gave a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new government. He stressed that everything that had been done during the crisis was strictly in accord with the constitution, which, in the end, is a victory for democracy. Alkatiri’s fall and replacement by Ramos Horta was not a coup d’état. While admitting that his nation “was blemished once again” and that they had walked the “razor’s edge”, Xanana dismissed his country’s critics:

Many things have been said and written about Timor-Leste as of late. Some hastened to announce that we would become a “failed State”. Others shed “crocodile tears” insinuating that we had become prisoners of powerful global, political, military or economic interests. Yet, many continued to believe in us because they know that a people like ours who resisted against all forms of intimidation – from the most brutal domination to the most malicious seduction – for over two decades never gives up!

It is hard to disagree. The Timorese have shown themselves extraordinarily resilient. We should not judge them as though they have a developed political culture, and advanced social and economic conditions. It took centuries for the West to achieve democratic forms of government; this small nation cannot be expected to magically transform itself in a few years.

Much will depend upon whether the dominant Fretilin faction is willing to subject itself to the kind of honest and deep analysis that Xanana went through in the 1980s. If it does, then the Alkatiri faction may yet change its political mindset and contribute to the development of democracy. Fretilin also has many democratically inclined members who strongly favour a new direction for their party, and they will also play a significant role in the country’s future. The appointment of Fretilin dissident José Luís Guterres as foreign minister is a promising indication that change may be possible.

Much more, however, depends upon José Ramos Horta and Xanana. The new prime minister’s ambitious program for the poor, and particularly youth, must be delivered, or he, too, will risk failure. New housing, electricity, water, roads, schools, hospitals and health clinics are all desperately needed. Agriculture is still basic and hunger widespread. More of the oil and gas royalties already received by the government need to be diverted to such programs, although Ramos Horta will need to balance these needs against the temptation to use this source of revenue as a quick fix for what is a long, hard road to a sustainable economy. At least Ramos Horta knows how to lead and how to engage with people, capacities sorely lacking in Alkatiri. But he must also work constructively with Alkatiri’s faction to assist them to find a new direction. If he fails at this task then he may have to challenge them at next May’s election.

Finally, Xanana Gusmao needs to remain at the forefront of his country’s public life; he is a powerful symbol of unity and hope for the East Timorese people. It is to be hoped that he will change his mind and run for a second term as president. If not, then he must be persuaded to take on another role that will help his nation to find stability and achieve reconciliation so that it can move on from the terrible events of the past months.

Mark Aarons
Mark Aarons is the author of The Family File and War Criminals Welcome: Australia, a Sanctuary for War Criminals Since 1945. From 1996 to 2006 he was a senior adviser to the NSW Labor government.

Cover: August 2006

August 2006

From the front page

Pub test: the republic

First things first, say punters in Matt Thistlethwaite’s electorate

Image from ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’

‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’, an incomplete portrait

This nostalgic documentary about the eminent designer raises more questions than it answers

Still from The Old Man and the Gun

‘The Old Man and the Gun’ and the outlaw Robert Redford

David Lowery’s new film pays too much tribute to the Sundance Kid

Image from ‘House of Cards’

The magnificently messy ‘House of Cards’

The show that made Netflix a major player comes to a satisfying and ludicrous end


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Situation ethics

God save his soul

The Sleepy Jackson’s ‘Personality: One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird’

A word from Deakin

Rembrandt 1606–1669: From the Prints and Drawings Collection

NGV International, to 24 September

More in The Monthly Essays

Image of Scott Morrison

Looking for Scott Morrison

The rise, duck and weave of Australia’s no-fault prime minister

Image of Nauru

I left the immigration department to speak out

An insider breaks ranks on offshore detention

Coloured transmission electron micrograph of a cross-section through a cancer cell

A new theory of cancer

After billions spent for little benefit, it’s time to look at the disease in a different way

Image of Nakkiah Lui

A golden age of popular Indigenous storytelling

Against the blinding whiteness on Australian stage and screens


Read on

Image from ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’

‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’, an incomplete portrait

This nostalgic documentary about the eminent designer raises more questions than it answers

Image from ‘House of Cards’

The magnificently messy ‘House of Cards’

The show that made Netflix a major player comes to a satisfying and ludicrous end

Image of Scott Morrison and the ScoMo Express

The ScoMo Express backfires

The PM’s farcical bus tour cements spin over substance as his brand

Image from ‘Suspiria’

Twisted sisters: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’

Sentimentality ruins the magic of this otherwise unsettling and actively cruel film


×
×