In this groundbreaking essay, Charlton discusses the rift that will shape our future: progress versus planet; rich versus poor. In recent times environmentalists have argued with mounting force that the growth of human activity on our planet is unsustainable. We are, they claim, on a collision course with destiny. But, the developing world counters, environmental threats, dire as they may be, are not the only challenges we face. Indeed, these can seem a distant danger compared to the daily tragedies of life in slums and villages.
Across the globe, economists and environmentalists vie over who has the right response to climate change, population growth and food scarcity. In Australia, this battle has plunged our politics into one of its most tumultuous periods. In Man-Made World Charlton evaluates some of the proposed solutions –renewable and nuclear energy, organic and genetically modified food – and argues that our descendants will only thank us if we find a way to preserve both the natural world and human progress.
“Progress has its price. Each step of human advancement has left a footprint on the planet. Today our two defining challenges are managing climate change and eliminating global poverty. In Copenhagen we learned that these challenges are inseparable.” —Andrew Charlton, Man-Made World
'In Denial is not a book of history. It is a political intervention. By holding an influential section of the Right to account-Manne was exercising the kind of responsibility often demanded of public intellectuals.' --Raimond Gaita
'In complex intellectual conflicts, there will always be argument about whether the antagonists are committed to finding the truth or to winning the battle. This essay tells us that Robert Manne is intent on finding the truth.' --Morag Fraser
'In Denial is a work of both the head and the heart. It is carefully researched and powerfully expressed. It needs to be widely read.' --The Hon. P.J Keating, 6 April 2001
'Robert Manne has made an important contribution to the continuing debate and in doing so has helped launch a new and important venture.' --Henry Reynolds
Since the deregulation era of the 1980s, Tingle shows, governments can do less, but we wish they could do more. From Hawke to Gillard, each prime minister has grappled with this dilemma. Keating sought to change expectations, Howard to feed a culture of entitlement, Rudd to reconceive the federation. Through all of this, and back to our origins, runs an almost childlike sense of the government as saviour and provider that has remained constant even as the world has changed.
Now we are an angry nation, and the Age of Entitlement is coming to an end. What will a different politics look like? And, Tingle asks, even if a leader surfs the wave of anger all the way to power, what answer can be given to our great expectations?
“It is wrong to see the anger of the last few years as a ‘one-off,’ which might go away at the next election. The things we are angry about betray the changes that have been taking place over recent decades. Politicians no longer control interest rates, the exchange rate, or wages, prices or industries that were once protected or even owned by government. Voters are confused about what politicians can do for them in such a world.” Laura Tingle, Great Expectations
In this dramatic portrait, David Marr shows that as a young Catholic warrior at university, Abbott was already a brutally effective politician. He later led the way in defeating the republic and, as the self-proclaimed “political love child” of John Howard, rose rapidly in the Liberal Party. His reputation as a head-kicker and hard-liner made him an unlikely leader, but when the time came, his opposition to the emissions trading scheme proved decisive.
Marr shows that Abbott thrives on chaos and conflict. Part fighter and part charmer, he is deeply religious and deeply political. What happens, then, when his values clash with his need to win? This is the great puzzle of his career, but the closer he is to taking power, the more guarded he has become.
“Since witnessing the Hewson catastrophe at first hand, Abbott has worn a mask. He has grown and changed. Life and politics have taught him a great deal. But how this has shaped the fundamental Abbott is carefully obscured. What has been abandoned? What is merely hidden on the road to power? What makes people so uneasy about Abbott is the sense that he is biding his time, that there is a very hard operator somewhere behind that mask, waiting for power.” – David Marr, Political Animal
In Quarterly Essay 48 Tim Flannery says: we’re often failing nature. In the clash between money and conservation, money usually wins. State governments have begun allowing mining and other incursions into national parks. A new wave of extinctions is taking place. Politically, conservationists and conservatives are at odds.
But why? Surely conservatives and conservationists should be able to find common cause when it comes to preserving our natural heritage? And given that we have never known more about how to protect biodiversity, shouldn’t it be possible to halt the march of extinctions?
This essay is both a wake-up call to the consequences of unrestrained development, and an examination of the underlying thinking – the view of the natural world that sees it as something either to be put to use or traded off. By contrast, Flannery asks, how might we best understand, conserve and co-exist with the natural world?
With wit and insight, Latham reveals an organisation top-heavy with factional bosses protecting their turf. At the same time Labor’s traditional working-class base has long been eroding. People who grew up in fibro shacks now live in double-storey affluence. Families once resigned to a lifetime of blue-collar work now expect their children to be well-educated professionals and entrepreneurs.
Latham explains how Labor has always succeeded as a grassroots party, and argues for reforms to clear out the apparatchiks and dead wood. Then there are the key policy challenges: what to do about the Keating economic legacy, education and poverty. Latham examines the rise of a destructive and reactionary far-right under the wing of Tony Abbott. He also makes the case that climate change is the ultimate challenge – and even opportunity – for a centre-left party.
Not Dead Yet is an essential contribution to political debate, which addresses the question: how can Labor reinvent itself and speak to a changed Australia?
“The grand old party of working-class participation has become a virtual party. In no other part of society ... could an organisation function this way and expect to survive. This is the core delusion of 21st-century democracy, that political parties can fragment and hollow out, yet still win the confidence of the people.” – Mark Latham, Not Dead Yet
In the fiftieth Quarterly Essay, Anna Goldsworthy examines life for women after the gains made by feminism. From Facebook to 50 Shades of Grey, from Girls to gonzo porn, what are young women being told about work and equality, about sex and their bodies? Why do many reject the feminist label? And why does pop culture wink at us with storylines featuring submissive women?
Unfinished Business is an original look at role models and available options in the age of social media and sexual frankness. Goldsworthy finds that progress for women has provoked a backlash from some, who wield misogyny as a weapon, whether in parliament, on talkback radio or as internet trolls. With piercing insight and sharp humour, she lays bare the dilemmas of being female today and asks how women can truly become free subjects.
'There is a charmed zone for a girl, shortly before she is ambushed by puberty. At eleven or twelve, she is usually taller than her male peers; more articulate; and more confident than she will be for years. She probably spends a lot of time in front of a screen, words and images flickering in her eyes. Facebook, Slutwalks, Lady Gaga, Girls, Mad Men, gonzo porn, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey. What messages are being broadcast to her, and what messages is she hearing? Are they going to make her bigger, or smaller?' Anna Goldsworthy, Unfinished Business
In The Prince, David Marr investigates the man and his career: how did he rise through the ranks? What does he stand for? How does he wield his authority? How much has he shaped his church and Australia? How has he handled the scandal?
Marr reveals a cleric at ease with power and aggressive in asserting the prerogatives of the Vatican. His account of Pell’s career focuses on his response as a man, a priest, an archbishop and prince of the church to the scandal that has engulfed the Catholic world in the last thirty years. This is the story of a cleric slow to see what was happening around him; torn by the contest between his church and its victims; and slow to realise that the Catholic Church cannot, in the end, escape secular scrutiny.
The Prince is an arresting portrait of faith, loyalty and ambition, set against a backdrop of terrible suffering and an ancient institution in turmoil.
“He knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.” David Marr, The Prince
Linda Jaivin has been translating from Chinese for more than thirty years. While her specialty is subtitles, she has also translated song lyrics, poetry and fiction, and interpreted for ABC film crews, Chinese artists and even the English singer Billy Bragg as he gave his take on socialism to some Beijing rockers. In Found in Translation she reveals the work of the translator and considers whether different worldviews can be bridged. She pays special attention to China and the English-speaking West, Australia in particular, but also discusses French, Japanese and even the odd phrase of Maori. This is a free-ranging essay, personal and informed, about translation in its narrowest and broadest senses, and the prism – occasionally prison – of culture.
“About six years ago, President George W. Bush was delivering a speech at a G8 summit, when, made impatient by the process of translation, he interrupted his German interpreter: ‘Everybody speaks English, right?’ ...” – Linda Jaivin, Found in Translation
Visiting the Indonesian departure points, Toohey tells the dramatic stories of asylum seekers heading from Java to Australia, investigates people-smuggling and witnesses the aftermath of a sinking at sea. He examines the individual policies and outcomes of the Howard, Rudd, Gillard and now Abbott governments. He also interrogates Australian attitudes to boat people, and what politicians have made of these.
This engaging, powerful essay provides the untold personal stories of those waiting to make the dangerous journey, and the long view of this fraught issue. That Sinking Feeling is an unflinching look at people at their worst and best – and most ruthless and most vulnerable – by one of Australia’s finest reporters.
“Any hope for a genuine regional solution rested with Indonesia, the final stepping stone to Australia ... Why did neither Howard, in his better times with Indonesia, or Labor, from 2007, seek a one-on-one solution with Indonesia? ‘The Indonesian Solution.’ Those words would have been the most convincing political statement any Australian government could ever deliver to Australian voters on asylum seekers.” – Paul Toohey, That Sinking Feeling
Paul Toohey is chief northern correspondent for the Australian. He won a Walkley Award for his first Quarterly Essay, Last Drinks: The Impact of the Northern Territory Intervention. He was previously a senior writer at the Bulletin and is the author of three books: God’s Little Acre, Rocky Goes West and The Killer Within. He has won the Graham Perkin journalist of the year award and a Walkley award for magazine feature writing. He lives in Darwin.
China’s rise has been perhaps the most significant economic event in two centuries, occurring 100 times more quickly and on a scale 1000 times larger than Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Since 2000, Australia has been an essential part of this transformation, providing the raw materials to feed China’s frantic manufacture of steel vertebrae for everything from cars and trucks to railways, apartments and office towers. China’s appetite for resources has made us richer than ever before, but it has also drained the competitiveness from many parts of our economy, leaving us vulnerable.
In Dragon’s Tail, Andrew Charlton shows that China’s growth model is now reaching its limit, and the world’s most populous economy faces a challenging transition. Whether China crashes, or crashes through, this will have dramatic implications for Australia, slowing the demand for our resources and forcing us to reassess the foundations of our wealth. Charlton looks at ways to revitalise the Australian economy and secure our prosperity in a changing world.
“Understanding China’s growth model helps explain why Australia has done so well in the twenty-first century. But it also explains why, at the same time, our economic anxiety is reaching a zenith: why Holden is leaving, why the budget is in such an apparent quagmire, why house prices are soaring, why the dollar is so volatile. China’s growth has brought us a windfall, but it is a precarious sort of prosperity.” - Andrew Charlton, Dragon’s Tail
Soon we will all decide if and how indigenous Australians will be recognised in the constitution. In the words of Professor Greg Craven: “We have a committed prime minister, and a committed opposition. We have a receptive electorate. There will never be a better time. We have no choice but to address the question. If constitutions deal with fundamental things, our indigenous heritage is pretty fundamental.”
In A Rightful Place, Noel Pearson shows how the idea of “race” was embedded in the constitution, and the distorting effect this has had. Now there is a chance to change it – if we can agree on a way forward. Pearson shows what constitutional recognition means, and what it could make possible: true equality and a renewed appreciation of an ancient culture. This is a wide-ranging, eloquent call for justice, an essay of remarkable power that traverses history and culture to make the case for change.
“As long as we have a constitution that characterises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the basis of race, it will always have deleterious implications for their citizenship. It must be removed … This is not just a matter of symbolism. I think this will be a matter of psychology. The day we come to regard ourselves as people with a distinct heritage, with distinct cultures and languages but not of a distinct race, will be a day of psychological liberation. And it will also be liberating for those in the wider community …” Noel Pearson, A Rightful Place
In Clivosaurus, Guy Rundle observes Palmer close up, examining his rise to prominence, his beliefs, his deals and his politics - not to mention his poetry. Rundle shows that neither the government nor the media have been able to take Palmer's measure. Convinced they face a self-interested clown, they have failed to recognise both his tactical flexibility and the consistency of his centre-right politics.
This is a story about the Gold Coast, money in politics, Canberra's detached political caste and the meaning of Palmer's motley crew. Above all, it is a brilliantly entertaining portrait of "the man at the centre of a perfect storm for Australian democracy, a captain steering his vessel artfully in the whirlpool."
In the first half of the year we saw Tony Abbott treated with deference to his values and beliefs, as his chaotic and lying government slid from one side of the ring to the other, while Clive Palmer, ploughing a steady course on a range of key issues, was treated as the inconstant one. No wonder no one could tell what he was going to do next - they weren't even bothering to look at where he had come from. --Guy Rundle, Clivosaurus
Guy Rundle is the author of the Quarterly Essay The Opportunist: John Howard and the Triumph of Reaction. He as a co-founding editor of Arena, a magazine of political and social comment. Formerly a theatre critic for the Age, he has written and produced a number of TV programs and stage shows, and contributes regularly to the Age, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and Spiked, and is currently Crikey's global correspondent-at-large.
Ours is a society in which ageism, often disguised, threatens to turn the elderly into a “burden” – difficult, hopeless, expensive and homogenous. While we rightly seek to curb treatment when it is futile, harmful or against a patient’s wishes, this can sometimes lead to limits on care that suit the system rather than the person. Doctors may declare a situation hopeless when it may not be so.
We must plan for a future when more of us will be old, Hitchcock argues, with the aim of making that time better, not shorter. And we must change our institutions and society to meet the needs of an ageing population. Dear Life is a landmark essay by one of Australia’s most powerful writers.
“The elderly, the frail are our society. They are our parents and grandparents, our carers and neighbours, and they are every one of us in the not-too-distant future . . . They are not a growing cost to be managed or a burden to be shifted or a horror to be hidden away, but people whose needs require us to change . . .” —Karen Hitchcock, Dear Life
In this dramatic essay, David Marr traces the hidden career of a Labor warrior.
He shows how a brilliant recruiter and formidable campaigner mastered first the unions and then the party. Marr presents a man willing to deal with his enemies and shift his allegiances, whose ambition to lead has been fixed since childhood.
But does he stand for anything? Is Shorten a defender of Labor values in today’s Australia or a shape-shifter, driven entirely by politics? How does the union world he comes from shape the prime minister he might be? Marr reveals a man we hardly know: a virtuoso with numbers and a strategist of skill who Labor hopes will return the party to power.
In this crisp, profound and witty essay, Laura Tingle seeks answers to these questions. She ranges from ancient Rome to the demoralised state of the once-great Australian public service, from the jingoism of the past to the tabloid scandals of the internet age. Drawing on new interviews with key figures, she shows the long-term harm that has come from undermining the public sector as a repository of ideas and experience. She tracks the damage done when responsibility is 'contracted out,' and when politicians shut out or abuse their traditional sources of advice.
This essay about the art of government is part defence, part lament. In Political Amnesia, Laura Tingle examines what has gone wrong with our politics, and how we might put things right.
‘There was plenty of speculation about whether Turnbull would repeat his mistakes as Opposition leader in the way he dealt with people. But there has not been quite so much about the more fundamental question of whether the revolving door of the prime ministership has much deeper causes than the personalities in Parliament House. Is the question whether Malcolm Turnbull – and those around him – can learn from history? Or is there a structural reason national politics has become so dysfunctional?’—Laura Tingle, Political Amnesia
Megalogenis outlines the challenge for Malcolm Turnbull and his government. Our tax system is unfair and we have failed to invest in infrastructure and education. Both sides of politics are clinging defensively to an old model because it tells them a reassuring story of Australian success. But that model has been exhausted by capitalism’s extended crisis and the end of the mining boom. Trusting to the market has left us with gridlocked cities, growing inequality and a corporate sector that feels no obligation to pay tax. It is time to redraw the line between market and state.
Balancing Act is a passionate look at the politics of change and renewal, and a bold call for active government. It took World War II to provide the energy and focus for the reconstruction that laid the foundation for modern Australia.
Will it take another crisis to prompt a new reconstruction?
‘Australia is in transition. Saying it is easy. The panic kicks in when we are compelled to describe what the future might look like. There is no complacent middle to aim at. We will either catch the next wave of prosperity, or finally succumb to the Great Recession.’ —George Megalogenis, Balancing Act
What is it like to go to war? How do we decide to go to war? Where might we go to war in the future? Will we get that decision right? In this vivid, urgent essay, James Brown looks to history, strategy and his own experience to explore these questions. He examines the legacy of the Iraq War and argues that it has prevented a clear view of Australia’s future conflicts. He looks at how we plug into the US war machine, now that American troops are based in Darwin. And he sheds fascinating light on the extraordinary concentration of war powers in the hands of the Prime Minister – and how this might go wrong. This powerful essay argues that we have not yet begun to think through the choices that may confront us in years ahead.
‘When you live in a country like ours, the dirty business of war is a stranger. That is the blessed legacy of a place where soldiers are rarely seen, and then only on parade. Where war means Anzac Day, and Anzac Days are all the same. There are few moments in modern Australia when you might pause to ask the most consequential of questions … What is it that we are willing to fight for?’ —James Brown, Firing Line
Travelling in the Midwest, Watson reflects on the rise of Donald Trump and the “thicket of unreality” that is the American media. Behind this he finds a deeply fearful and divided culture. Watson considers the irresistible pull – for Americans – of the Dream of exceptionalism, and asks whether this creed is reaching its limit. He explores alternate futures – from Trump-style fascism to Sanders-style civic renewal – and suggests that a Clinton presidency might see a new American blend of progressivism and militarism. Enemy Within is an eloquent, barbed look at the state of the union and the American malaise.
“If, as seems likely, Clinton wins, it will not be out of love, or even hope, but rather out of fear. She can win by simply letting her deplorable opponent lose. On the other hand, she’s nothing if not adaptable, and she could yet see the chance to lead the nation’s social and economic regeneration … Call it a New Great Awakening or a New New Deal; it would owe something to both, and to Bernie Sanders as well, but also to her need to be more than the first woman president.” —Don Watson, Enemy Within
Yet this flourishing co-exists with the boys of Don Dale, and the many others like them who live in the shadows of the nation. Grant examines how such Australians have been denied the possibilities of life, and argues eloquently that history is not destiny; that culture is not static. In doing so, he makes the case for a more capacious Australian Dream.
‘The idea that I am Australian hits me with a thud. It is a blinding self-realisation that collides with the comfortable notion of who I am. To be honest, for an Indigenous person, it can feel like a betrayal somehow – at the very least, a capitulation. We are so used to telling ourselves that Australia is a white country: am I now white? The reality is more ambiguous … To borrow from Franz Kafka, identity is a cage in search of a bird.’ —Stan Grant, The Australian Dream
In this timely Quarterly Essay, David Marr looks at Australia’s politics of fear, resentment and race. Who votes One Nation, and why? How much of this is due to inequality? How much to racism? How should the major parties respond to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim voices? What damage do Australia’s new entrepreneurs of hate inflict on the nation?
Written with drama and wit, this is a ground-breaking look at politics and prejudice by one of Australia’s best writers.
“This woman went to prison, danced the cha-cha on national television for a couple of years, and failed so often at the ballot box she became a running joke. But the truth is she never left us. She was always knocking on the door. Most of those defeats at the polls were close-run things. For twenty years political leaders appeased Hanson’s followers while working to keep her out of office. The first strategy tainted Australian politics. The second eventually failed. So she’s with us again – the Kabuki make-up, that mop of red hair and the voice telling us what we already know: ‘I’m fed up.’” —David Marr
In this vivid, urgent essay, Anna Krien explores the psychology and politics of a warming world. She visits the frontlines of Australia’s climate wars – the Reef, the Galilee and Bowen basins, South Australia. She investigates the Adani mine, with its toxic politics and controversial economics. Talking to power workers and scientists, lobbyists and activists, she considers where climate change is taking us, and where effective action is to be found.
“This was Turnbull’s moment, and the Liberal Party’s too. Not just the Snowy 2.0, but the whole thing – an ailing and dysfunctional grid, a complex issue, something for the ‘adults’ to take responsibility for. But instead of leadership, Australians got politics as usual. Cheap shots, culture-war baiting, bad and good ideas lobbed like hot potatoes and lost in the trash talk of low-grade politics. After the ten-day policy spree, Turnbull resumed his poker face, continuing with his grim role of negotiating with the vipers in his nest.” Anna Krien, The Long Goodbye
In 2016, the Safe Schools program became the focus of an ideological firestorm. In Moral Panic 101, Benjamin Law explores how and why this happened. He weaves a subtle, gripping account of schools today, sexuality, teenagers, new ideas of gender fluidity, media scandal and mental health.
In this timely essay, Law also looks at the new face of homophobia in Australia, and the long battle for equality and acceptance. Investigating bullying of the vulnerable young, he brings to light hidden worlds, in an essay notable for its humane clarity.
“To read every article the Australian has published on Safe Schools is to induce nausea. This isn’t even a comment on the content, just the sheer volume ... And yet, across this entire period, the Australian – self-appointed guardian of the safety of children – spoke to not a single school-aged LGBTIQ youth. Not even one. Later, queer teenagers who followed the Safe Schools saga told me the dynamic felt familiar. At school, it’s known as bullying. In journalism, it’s called a beat-up.” —Benjamin Law, Moral Panic 101
Benjamin Law is the author of Gaysia and the memoir The Family Law, which he adapted for SBS TV. A columnist for Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine, Law has written for the Monthly, Frankie, QWeekend, the Big Issue, Crikey and Griffith Review.
In this controversial and urgent essay, Hugh White shows that the contest between America and China is classic power politics of the harshest kind. He argues that we are heading for an unprecedented future, one without an English-speaking great and powerful friend to keep us secure and protect our interests.
White sketches what the new Asia will look like, and how China could use its power. He also examines what has happened to the United States globally, under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump – a series of setbacks which Trump’s bluster on North Korea cannot disguise.
White notes that we have got into the habit of seeing the world through Washington’s eyes, and argues that unless this changes, we will fail to navigate the biggest shift in Australia’s international circumstances since European settlement. The signs of failure are already clear, as we risk sliding straight from complacency to panic.
‘For almost a decade now, the world’s two most powerful countries have been competing. America has been trying to remain East Asia’s primary power, and China has been trying to replace it. How the contest will proceed – whether peacefully or violently, quickly or slowly – is still uncertain, but the most likely outcome is now becoming clear. America will lose, and China will win.’ —Hugh White, Without America
“The time for pitting white against black, shame against pride, and one people’s history against another’s, has had its day. After nearly fifty years of deeply divisive debates over the country’s foundation and its legacy for Indigenous Australians, Australia stands at a crossroads – we either make the commonwealth stronger and more complete through an honest reckoning with the past, or we unmake the nation by clinging to triumphant narratives in which the violence inherent in the nation’s foundation is trivialised.” Mark McKenna, Moment of Truth
In this passionate essay, Richard Denniss explores what neoliberalism has done to Australian society. For decades, we have been led to believe that the private sector does everything better, that governments can’t afford to provide the high-quality services they once did, but that security and prosperity for all are just around the corner. In fact, Australians are now less equal, millions of workers have no sick leave or paid holidays, and housing is unaffordable for many. Deregulation, privatisation and trickle-down economics have, we are told, delivered us twenty-seven years of growth ... but to what end?
In Dead Right, Denniss looks at ways to renew our democracy and discusses everything from the fragmenting Coalition to an idea of the national interest that goes beyond economics.
“Neoliberalism, the catch-all term for all things small government, has been the ideal cloak behind which to conceal enormous shifts in Australia’s wealth and culture ... Over the past thirty years, the language, ideas and policies of neoliberalism have transformed our economy and, more importantly, our culture.”
Richard Denniss, Dead Right
"Appeasing Jakarta is an analysis of what happened in 1975 when we condoned Indonesia's intervention and what happened in 1999 when we stood against it ...John Birmingham is deadly in his disdain for the way a defunct paradigm...was clung to like a dogma...but [this] is also an essay about the human cost...written in flowing colours with a strong narrative streak and a swashbuckling power of dispatch..." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"It was a policy of wilful blindness, made possible only because we were always somewhere else when the trigger was pulled." —John Birmingham, Appeasing Jakarta
This is a brilliant account of John Howard's dominant ideas, his concerted 'dreaming' with its emphasis on unity and national identity that reveals him to be the most reactionary PM we have ever had, the only political leader who would allow ideas like those of One Nation to dominate the mainstream of Australian politics in order to improve his political chances. Rundle puts Howard in the context of the economic liberalism he shares with his colleagues and opponents and the conservative social ideology that sets him apart. It is a complex portrait in a radical mirror which relates John Howard to everything from Menzies's 'forgotten people' to the inadvertent glamour of the government's antidrug advertising. It is also a plea for right-thinking people of every political persuasion to resist the call to prejudice and reaction.
'A portrait of a political opportunist who is also ... a sincere reactionary: putting back the clock because he believes in it, but also fanning the whirlwind of unreason in order to save his political skin.' —Peter Craven, Introduction
'The coincident occurrence of the asylum seeker confrontation and the attack on the U.S. has made visible the most dangerous and damaging thing he has done to the Australian polity...and that is to deepen contempt for such protection as we did have from unbridled executive power, mass hysteria, the rush to surrender our freedoms and offer them up on the alter of crisis.' —Guy Rundle, The Opportunist
"... this is a Quarterly Essay that plays on our most fundamental fears, including the most terrifying of all, that we shall cease to exist because we have never been." Peter Craven, Introduction
"The Australian story does not work anymore, or not well enough ... to hang the modern story on ... The most useful thing is to recognise that ... we took the biggest step we have ever taken towards the American social model. And this has profound implications for how we think of Australia and how we make it cohere." Don Watson, Rabbit Syndrome
"... it will take a long time to recover from the campaign of hate and fear which was deemed to be necessary to return the Howard government in the first year of the new millennium." —Mungo Maccallum, Girt By Sea
"... this most cold-eyed of one time Canberra chroniclers brings to this story all his wit and dryness and power of mind. It's a sad tale...though it is everywhere enlivened by [Mungo] MacCallum's... tendency to suggest that spades really are bloody shovels at the end of the day." —Peter Craven, Introduction
Here is a very cool account of the factions which seem to stand for nothing but their own power bases, and the unions who both give and get little from the ALP. In a withering analysis, John Button looks at the quality of Labor members and the short-sightedness of a party turning its back on ideas. This is an essay by a man who still believes in Chifley's light on the hill but who thinks the only hope lies with New Believers.
"Beyond Belief represents one of the coolest and most disheartening accounts of a great political party this country has seen. This is the Australian Labor Party seen from the perspective of an elder statesman who has an absolute belief ... in the moral superiority of the Labor cause but who seriously doubts whether the ALP will ever achieve government again and who distinctly implies that in its present state it is not fit for it." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"After the election debacle some people blamed the Tampa and September 11. But the simple fact is that the ALP had not built an adequate policy profile or built up sufficient enthusiasm and respect for its style of politics. Without these, it had no hope of differentiating its position on refugees and asylum seekers from the government's when this became the key issue of the election." —John Button, Beyond Belief
"John Martinkus' narrative is as engrossing as it is appalling. It is full of menace and madness and the smell of death." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"The violence in West Papua today ... is being orchestrated by the same figures in the Indonesian military who were behind the events in East Timor ... the whole repressive network of the Indonesian military that laid [it] waste." —John Martinkus, Paradise Betrayed
"Bob Brown in Amanda Lohrey's characterisation is certainly a man for all seasons. She emphasizes the skepticism as well as the spirituality and the kind of personal integrity that can hush a House of Parliament by force not of charisma but of conviction." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"In Australia it is the Green, not the Democrats, who have emerged as the authentic representatives of this developing constituency ... They are not a collection of ersatz Liberals .. [they] are clear on the bottom-line accounting ... There is a crucial sense in which the Greens know where they come from." —Amanda Lohrey, Groundswell
'This essay is written as a thundering no to the characteristic Australian assumption that 'She'll be right' ... This is a Quarterly Essay written in the passionate belief that we need a coherent policy on population ... If we do not have one, we will never be in a position to do justice to ... the dispossessed people of the earth; indeed our children's children will ... think we have dishonoured their birthright.' —Peter Craven, Introduction
'The refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol will almost certainly, in time, be remembered as the greatest failure of the Howard government - Tampa, detention camps and Iraq notwithstanding.' —Tim Flannery, Beautiful Lies
"The world where the CEO is deemed to be a 'genius' at least equal to a great actor or a great sportsman is a world in which ... Gideon Haigh refuses to believe." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"The making of the modern CEO has been a story of more: more power, more discretion, more ownership, more money, more demands, more expectations and, above all, more illusions. More, as so often, has brought less ..." —Gideon Haigh, Bad Company
"[Whitefella Jump Up] is an essay about sitting down and thinking where all the politics start and what kind of legend Australia wants to place at its heart." —Peter Craven
"I'm not here offering yet a solution to the Aborigine problem ... Blackfellas are not and never were the problem. They were the solution, if only whitefellas had been able to see it." —Germaine Greer, Whitefella Jump Up
"... Made in England is ... a case of one of Australia's most eminent novelists allowing himself to imagine, and by imagining to analyse, the hopes and glories, once and future, that were part of this new Britannia." —Peter Craven, Introduction
"Any argument for [the republic] based on the need to make a final break with Britain will fail." —David Malouf, Made In England
"No one ought to pretend that the unanticipated arrival of the Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians did not pose real ... problems for Australia. However these problems arose not because these people were not genuine refugees. They arose, rather, precisely because the overwhelming majority of them were." —Robert Manne, Sending Them Home
In Mission Impossible, Paul McGeough enters the world of key Iraqi tribal and religious leaders. There are vivid portraits of the sheikhs' role in the fall and capture of Saddam, as well as their part in the growing insurgency. There are glimpses, too, of a history that once involved Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell, and which pre-dates Islam, stretching back thousands of years. Combining reportage and analysis in brilliant fashion, this groundbreaking essay is well timed to coincide with the next major phase in Iraq's troubled history.
"Throughout the history of their region, the sheikhs have been the powerbrokers, deciding who would reign between the great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates." —Paul McGeough, Mission Impossible
Gaita argues for a conception of politics in which morality is not an optional extra. He discusses why successful politicians must at times be economical with the truth, but shows a way beyond cynicism on the one hand and moralising on the other. Politics, he says, is conceivably a noble vocation, as well as potentially a tragic one. He looks closely at patriotism and its distortions, and the temptation to betray our deepest values in the act of protecting ourselves. Combining gentle evocation with gloves-off argument, Breach of Trust is a clarion call from one of Australia's leading thinkers.
"I have never met anyone who believes that politicians should never lie ... But of course there are limits. They are not set in the heavens, but in culture." —Raimond Gaita, Breach Of Trust
This is a measured yet unsparing appraisal which interleaves individual cases with compelling legal and moral argument. Hirst takes us deep into the workings of the Court and the domestic apocalypses it sees every day.
He explores the Court's fervour to uphold the best interests of the child no matter what and traces its chilling consequence: a court where malicious allegations regularly go unpunished. He notes the Court's enormous power over individual lives, as well as its self-proclaimed status as a 'caring court', and wonders at its ability to overlook the defiance of its own authority. In closing, he considers how to reform an institution that has bred antagonism and extremism and too often entrenched paranoia and despair. Lucid and urgent, 'Kangaroo Court' is a cautionary tale about the perils of high-mindedness when it comes to dealing with the breakdown of families.
"When Family Court judges talk piously of the 'caring court', I wish they could hear the roar of pain that their piety has caused." —John Hirst, 'Kangaroo Court'
This is a fresh, frank and independent look at the depression culture and the move to medicalise sadness. Bell examines how the prescription culture operates, scrutinising the role of big drug companies and GPs and talking to those who take - and don't take - the new antidepressants, from anxious students to lonely retirees. She finds that drug companies have invested billions in an effort to simplify a profoundly complex mental condition, and that along the way ordinary problems of living have been transformed into medical conditions. She also finds that we, the consumers, have been happy to get on board: the vocabulary of depression - "serotonin", "bipolar", "genetic predisposition" - rolls off our tongues as if each of us had studied it at medical school. In this freeranging and elegant essay, Bell takes the pulse of Australia's "worried well" and looks at alternative cures for what ails us.
"If the number of prescriptions truly reflects the numbers who are depressed, then we may need to re-design our tourist brochures. The sun-bronzed Aussie optimist with his no-worries attitude to calamity might be an outdated caricature." —Gail Bell, The Worried Well
"Where Keating spoke to the nation, Howard spoke from it - straight from the heart of its shared beliefs and commonsense understandings of itself." —Judith Brett, Relaxed & Comfortable
"It being an RSL, we would stand each night at six o'clock for the prayer of remembrance. It was always a moving occasion, a strange suspended moment when the pokies and racing channel, the piped music and the drunken bullshitting all fell away ... Friends from overseas who witnessed the quiet ceremony never failed to be impressed. One, a poet from Czechoslovakia, had always thought Australians to be a shallow, soulless, materialistic people, but she changed her mind after her first experience of the ode to the fallen among the half-empty schooners and chip packets." —John Birmingham, A Time For War
According to Hamilton, Labor and the Left must acknowledge that the social democracy of old - with its strong unions, public ownership of assets and distinct social classes - is dead. Prosperity, more than poverty, is the dominant characteristic of Australia today. Given this, should governments confine themselves to stoking the fires of the economy and protecting the interests of wealth creators? Or is there room for a political program that embodies new ideals but can also withstand economic scare tactics? This is an original and provocative account of our present political juncture by a man of the Left who accuses the Left of irrelevance. Any new progressive politics, Hamilton argues, will need to tap into the anxieties and aspirations of the nation, find new ways to talk about morality, and thereby address deeper human needs.
"The Australian Labor Party has served its historical purpose and will wither and die as the progressive force of Australian politics." —Clive Hamilton, What's Left?
"[W]hen Peter Costello waved his arms in the Hillsong auditorium and Steve Fielding was catapulted into the Senate, Christian spokesmen were quick to claim that Australia was undergoing a religious revival, though no-one thought to relay this information to Pope Benedict XVI. In August 2005, the Pope issued a dire warning: mainstream Christianity was dying out more quickly in Australia than anywhere else in the world." —Amanda Lohrey, Voting For Jesus
For Clendinnen, historians cannot be the midwives of national identity and also be true to their profession: history cannot do the work of myth. Clendinnen illuminates the ways in which history, myth and fiction differ from one another, and why the differences are important. In discussing what good history looks like, she pays tribute to the human need for story telling but notes the distinctive critical role of the historian. She offers a spirited critique of Kate Grenville's novel The Secret River, and discusses the Stolen Generations and the role of morality in history writing. This is an eloquent and stimulating essay about a subject that has generated much heat in recent times: how we should record and regard the nation's past.
"Who owns the past? In a free society, everyone. It is a magic pudding belonging to anyone who wants to cut themselves a slice, from legend manufacturers through novelists looking for ready-made plots, to interest groups out to extend their influence." —Inga Clendinnen, The History Question
In a time of environmental peril, Davidson argues that the nomadic way with nature offers valuable lessons. Cosmologies such as the Aboriginal Dreaming encode irreplaceable knowledge of the natural world, and nomadic cultures emphasise qualities of tolerance, adaptability and human interconnectedness. She also explores a notable paradox: that even as classical nomadism is disappearing, hypermobility has become the hallmark of modern life. For the privileged, there is an almost unrestricted freedom of movement and an ever-growing culture of transience and virtuality. No Fixed Address is a fascinating and moving essay, part lament, part evocation and part exhilarating speculative journey.
"I watched him out of the corner of my eye. A man unused to sitting still, restless hands, darting eyes. Looking for water, feed, camping places, villages for food and medicine, thinking '... when will the cotton here be harvested, should we risk that jungle area ...' - calculating, observing, comparing, deducing, holding massive amounts of information in the head, juggling it around - the paradigm of human intelligence. This was what nomadism required - resilience, resourcefulness, versatility, flexibility." —Robyn Davidson, No Fixed Address
"More than any law, any failure of the Opposition or individual act of bastardry over the last decade, what's done most to gag democracy in this country is the sense that debating John Howard gets us nowhere." —David Marr, His Master's Voice
In this engrossing and persuasive essay, Ian Lowe discusses his one-time belief in the benefits of nuclear power and explains why that belief has faltered. He engages with the leading environmentalists, like James Lovelock, who advocate going nuclear, as well as with the less savoury aspects of the Australian politicking. He discusses whether other countries might need to use nuclear power, even if Australia doesn't, and offers an authoritative survey of Australia's energy alternatives - from solar and wind power to clean coal. Above all, he explains why taking up the nuclear option would be a decisive step in the wrong direction - economically, environmentally, politically and socially.
"Promoting nuclear power as the solution to climate change is like advocating smoking as a cure for obesity. That is, taking up the nuclear option will make it much more difficult to move to the sort of sustainable, ecologically healthy future that should be our goal." —Ian Lowe, Reaction Time
In this definitive account, Brett discusses how age became Howard's Achilles heel, how he lost the youth vote, how he lost Bennelong, and how he waited too long to call the election. She looks at the government's core failings - the policy vacuum, the blindness to climate change, the disastrous misjudgment of WorkChoices - and shows how Howard and his team came more and more to insulate themselves from reality.
With drama and insight, Judith Brett traces the key moments when John Howard stared defeat in the face, and explains why, after the Keating-Howard years, the ascendancy of Kevin Rudd marks a new phase in the nation's political life.
"It is when a leader's grip on political power starts to slip, when his threats and bribes miss their mark, when he starts to make uncharacteristic mistakes and when what had once been strengths reveal their limitations, that we can see most clearly the inner workings of that leadership. This essay is about John Howard's leadership, seen through the prism of its failings." —Judith Brett, Exit Right
This is an essay that ranges widely and entertainingly across contemporary culture: it casts an inquisitive eye over the modern marriage of Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein, and considers the time-bind and the shadow economy of care. Most fundamentally, it is an essay about pressure: the pressure to balance care for others and the world of work.
Manne argues that devaluing motherhood - still central to so many women's lives - has done feminism few favours. For women on the frontline of the work-centred society, it has made for hard choices. Eloquently and persuasively, Manne tells what happened when feminism adapted itself to the free market and argues that any true definition of equality has to take into account dependency and care for others.
"It is falling fertility ... above all else, which gives women a political bargaining chip of a new and powerful kind. Policy makers, formerly deaf to mothers' needs, will have no choice but to listen." —Anne Manne, Love & Money
Toohey argues that the real issue is not sexual abuse, but rather a more general neglect of children. He criticises the way both white courts and black law have viewed violent crime by Aboriginal men. He examines the permit system and the quarantining of welfare money and argues that due to Labor's changes to these, the intervention is now effectively over - though the crisis persists. In Last Drinks, Paul Toohey offers the definitive account of how the Territory intervention came about and what it has achieved.
"What if the greatest threat to a home came not from outside its walls but from within? Such was the charge levelled against Aborigines on 21 June 2007, the day the intervention was announced." —Paul Toohey, Last Drinks
This landmark essay by Tim Flannery is about sustainability, our search for it in the twenty-first century, and the impact it might have on the environmental threats that confront us today. Flannery discusses in detail three potential solutions to the most pressing of the sustainability challenges: climate change. He argues that Australia has a special responsibility when it comes to climate change, and that our prime minister could be a critical player on the global stage in Copenhagen in December 2009 - but only if we take swift and effective action and make sharp cuts in emissions. Brilliant and terrifying, Now or Never is a call to arms by Australia's leading thinker and writer on the natural world.
"Throughout the latter part of 2007 and into 2008, I found it increasingly hard to read the scientific findings on climate change without despairing ... I think that there is now a better than even chance that, despite our best efforts, in the coming two or three decades Earth's climate system will pass the point of no return." —Tim Flannery, Now Or Never
American Revolution is a dazzling and perceptive look at the United States between hope and despair: an election-year kaleidoscope. Jennings describes how and why the US economy fell off a cliff and how an apparently endless run of primaries and an increasingly rancorous campaign culminated in a world-changing victory. She surveys the characters - Obama, Palin, McCain and the Clintons - and conveys the concepts - derivatives, bailouts and moral hazard. This is an essay that shows America in fascinating flux: it is witty and poetic, acute and evocative.
"The television networks are justifiably in raptures about the historic election of an African-American as the president. All the same ... to reduce Obama to a label, to 'African-American,' does him - and us - a disservice. He wasn't elected for the colour of his skin; he was elected because he offered the hope of a wise, steady and healing leadership to a country bullied and battered in the name of patriotism, plundered and pillaged in the name of free markets, neglected and abandoned in the name of small government." —Kate Jennings, American Revolution
In this powerful essay about the national interest, Guy Pearse discusses the future of the coal industry and argues with the economic orthodoxy. He exposes the shadowy world of greenhouse lobbyists; how they think, operate and skin cats. "Quarry vision," he argues, is a carbon-laced trap and a blind faith and a mentality we can no longer afford.
Based on extensive interviews with Turnbull as well as those who have worked with him, this is an essay full of revelations. Crabb delves into young Malcolm's university exploits - which included co-authoring a musical with Bob Ellis - and his remarkable relationship with Kerry Packer, the man for whom he was at first a prized attack dog, and then a mortal enemy. She asks whether Turnbull - colourful, aggressive, humorous and ruthless - has what it takes to re-invigorate the Australian Liberal Party in the wake of John Howard. She discusses his vexed relationship with Kevin Rudd, and the looming presence of Peter Costello. This is a scintillating portrait by one of the country's most incisive reporters.
"How would Australia be different if he were prime minister? What are his most closely held policy convictions? I asked dozens of Malcolm Turnbull's political colleagues this question, asking them to name three. Many of them had to pause before responding. 'You'll have to excuse me. I'm eating some chocolate,' was the best initial response, from a Liberal on the other end of a phone line." —Annabel Crabb, Stop At Nothing
In an essay that is personal and philosophical, wide-ranging and politically engaged, Pearson discusses what makes a good teacher and recalls his own mentors and inspirations. He argues powerfully that underclass students, many of whom are Aboriginal, should receive a rigorous schooling that gives them the means to negotiate the wider world. He examines the long-term failure of educational policy in Australia, especially in the indigenous sector, and asks why it is always “Groundhog Day” when there are lessons to be learned from innovations now underway. This is an essay filled with ideas and arguments and information – from a little-known educational revolutionary named Siegfried Englemann, to the No Excuses ethos and the Knowledge Is Power program, to Barack Obama’s efforts to balance individual responsibility and historical legacy. Pearson introduces new findings from research and practice, and takes on some of the most difficult and controversial issues. Throughout, he searches for the radical centre – the way forward that will raise up the many, preserve culture, and ensure no child is left behind.
“It is time to ask: are we Aborigines a serious people? ... Do we have the seriousness necessary to maintain our languages, traditions and knowledge? ... The truth is that I am prone to bouts of doubt and sadness around these questions. But I have hope. Our hope is dependent upon education. Our hope depends on how serious we become about the education of our people.” —Noel Pearson, Radical Hope
"A work of universal significance in which Pearson once again shows himself to be Australia’s most powerful contemporary thinker. His essay is essential reading for all who care about the true nature of the society we have created in Australia. For the first time in my life I encountered here a mature insight into the private hells produced by the very kind of failed education I received as a boy growing up at the bottom of a class ridden culture in London after the war." —Alex Miller