It's the end of the political year, and this is our last 2013 dispatch. We'll leave it to others to make sense of the dramas of the year – and wish them luck, for theirs is no simple task.
Instead we'll present some final, forward-looking observations. Not ours, but from the infinitely more qualified Ross Garnaut, whose Dog Days thesis has come to permeate Australia's political culture since the book was published last month.
The boom is ending, he says. What lies ahead? Dog Days.
"Excellent economic policy will look ordinary, and ordinary policy abominable. Good policy has to begin with a huge readjustment of community expectations."
But a changed political culture presents political leaders with an awful choice, he says: between easy short-term political gains and the risk inherent in explaining and seeking to advance the difficult solutions the nation requires.
The government has the opportunity "to occupy the centre ground" and govern in the public interest. If it does so, it may conserve most of the gains of the past 22 years of growth.
Alternatively (and we paraphrase), "If it seeks to govern in the interests of its most powerful supporters, it will not be able to lead Australia away from rising unemployment, large falls in living standards, social tension and growing dissatisfaction with our institutions."
Our apologies, reader, for ending on such a note. Like Garnaut, we offer it in a spirit of constructive criticism.
Seasons greetings, and many thanks for your attention. May everyone, especially our political leaders, benefit from the break. See you in 2014.
"A group of doctors has revealed the shocking standard of medical care they are made to provide asylum seekers at the Christmas Island detention centre in a 92-page “letter of concern” given to their employer in November. The forensic report, written by 15 doctors and obtained by Guardian Australia, is the most comprehensive document yet on the failings of medical procedure inside detention centres."
Also: Julie Bishop under fire for praising conditions on Nauru (David Wroe, SMH)
"The Federal Government will recruit about 400 truancy officers to improve school attendance in remote Aboriginal communities. Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says $28 million will be spent targeting 40 remote communities."
Also: Indigenous organisation to defy Tony Abbott funding cut (Dan Harrison, The Age) "The leaders of the national representative body for indigenous people have vowed to continue as a ''fearless'' voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, despite the Abbott government indicating it is likely to cut its funding. The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples was set up in 2010 with an initial Commonwealth funding allocation of $29.2 million over five years."
"Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that last financial year there were 339 children adopted in Australia; 129 from overseas and 210 locally. It shows there has been a 77 per cent decline in the number of adoptions over the past 25 years. Mr Abbott has established a committee on overseas adoption to report by March."
"There was, of course, a brief hiatus in the outrage cycle when Tony Abbott thought he might govern by keeping himself off the front page. That proved impossible, sadly. Abbott has been forced to step forward and he’s still developing his modus operandi for the more offensive play. One component of the “front-foot” toolkit is, of course, culture war – an oldie but a goodie – and the attorney general, George Brandis, is taking to the task of Coalition troll-in-chief with predictable panache."
Also: Tim Wilson's appointment to Human Rights Commission has nothing to do with 'rebalancing' (Richard Ackland, SMH)
"(Opinion polls) confirm the Abbott Government is the first in 40 years to immediately go backwards, with not the hint of a honeymoon. The challenge for the Coalition is to figure out why that is so. Had the polls reflected a new government introducing tough policies to energise the economy, then the slump would be understandable. But the first three months were not about that; neither will the next three. None of that will happen until the budget next May."