A daily email of news and analysis.

News

Covid-19 saved Morrison, but climate is the real test

“If the Morrison government were really answerable to the Australian people rather than vested interests, it already would have agreed to a more ambitious climate response. That’s what the overwhelming majority of people have long wanted.”

Having outperformed the world in containing coronavirus, Australia’s lack of action on climate change will precipitate a much greater crisis.

News

News

Trade war: Can the China relationship be salvaged?

“The potential impact on Australia is not merely economic. There is the risk China will become a permanent antagonist … Australia could become Beijing’s target in a renewed ‘Asianist’ campaign for a regional bloc free of Western members.”

As Australia takes the serious step of referring its top trading partner to the World Trade Organization, China watchers wonder whether a truce is now impossible.

News

Fracking on Country in the NT

As a senate inquiry launches a scathing critique of the legislative failures that led to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves, traditional owners in the Northern Territory are fighting a fracking project that threatens water sources and sacred sites.

News

Morrison, Albanese get ready for 2021

As Australia enters what may be an election year, Scott Morrison’s approval is high rather than solid, while Anthony Albanese has strategy rather than tactics.

News

fire moves faster

“south of the equator

the summer
that set the year on fire
              was combustible:

the cotton sweat-slick of shirt-to-back

air so humid, the world turned
in slow motion”

From the trauma of a burning nation, to the desperation of Covid-19, to the united voices of the Black Lives Matter protests, this year called for resilience like few before it.

World

Kamala Harris pivotal as Democrats eye the future

President Joe Biden’s big policy agenda starts with Covid-19. In first 100 days US to rejoin World Health Organization and Paris Agreement. Donald Trump’s legacy is a Supreme Court with a conservative majority.

Opinion

Opinion

Neela Janakiramanan
A health system exposed

“Victoria, a state that had as many as 700 new daily Covid-19 cases at the peak of its second wave, has gone many weeks without community transmission of the virus. Yet it now seems the health system is at risk of being pushed further beyond capacity than ever before.”

Opinion

Paul Bongiorno
Big holes in the Coalition’s pre-election bucket list

“As the year like no other draws to an end, the challenges and crises it presented have highlighted the nation’s strengths and dramatised its weaknesses. Facing up to these realities will be particularly daunting for our political leaders as they ready themselves for the next federal election.”

Diary

Gadfly
Speech day at St Brutes

“Thank you, Reverend Pastor Houston, for those prayers and your message about rich men walking upright through the eye of a needle, with or without a camel. Boys, remember the pastor’s encouraging words about how religion and real estate can work together in the name of our Lord.” 

Letters, Cartoon & Editorial

Cartoon

Read

Editorial
Sliding towards zero

The quality that makes Scott Morrison uniquely equipped to lead Australia in 2021 is his preternatural inability to feel shame. There were hints of this early on – in the treasurer who held aloft a lump of coal in parliament, the Immigration minister with an almost absurd commitment to the phrase “on-water matters” – but since his elevation to the prime ministership, it has become the defining feature of his government.

Letters

Mungo’s sharp wit will be missed

Mungo MacCallum will be missed by all who know the joy of words (Editorial, “Mungo MacCallum 1941-2020”, December 12-18). His acerbic wit in dedicating to Spooner some of his cleverest …

Love of language kindled

Mungo MacCallum put a bright spark into Melbourne’s lockdown for our household. Each week, we patiently, collaboratively and confusingly made our way through his cryptic crosswords (The Cryptic), …

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Culture

Culture

A different hope

The problems that plague Australian arts and culture long predate 2020, but this year's crises have thrown them into vivid relief.

Film

A year without cinema

In 2020 we mostly had to watch films at home, and the most exciting possibilities still emerged from independent cinema.

Music

Music’s year of reckoning

In 2020, the inequities between major-label artists and indie musicians became untenable – and it has led to a surging politicisation of the music industry.

Art

Making sense of a changing world

We must support Australian artists in their most ambitious visions to understand the seismic shifts of our time.

Life

The Horne Prize: There and here

“What am I doing in someone else’s house on the other side of the world, looking after someone else’s mother? I should be home. Every time I hear that word, or even think about it, I’m knocked back with a symptom I haven’t seen in the literature – a kind of vertigo. That’s not it. It’s not in the head. There are no tears, no outward indication of full-blown expatriate failure.”

In Progress

Garth Nix

Garth Nix, one of Australia’s most internationally successful authors, says lying on the couch with his eyes shut is a crucial part of his working life.

Fiction

A saltwater to watch

“The light in Young Tom’s eyes suggested a grand life waiting in the north for any who followed him, if they were game for the adventure. Mulanyin had heard many dagai boast about the fortunes waiting to be made in what they confusingly called the ‘new country’. Everywhere white men gathered, he heard them dream aloud of runs, and gold, and sheep. A land of plenty, they boasted to each other, hoicking their britches up and laughing too loud, to show that no spears and waddies would stop them.”

Poetry

Ideas of travel

“It wasn’t the stars that frightened them. / It was the stairs. / You could climb to the height of the sky / but there were more than a thousand steps / and each one took a year off your life – / you would soon be lost in the time / of your great-great-grandparents / and before you knew it / no one would speak your language. / You would be shovelling snow off a hillside / and hunting for turnips, the unborn image of yourself / spitting curses and alone / in the fiery darkness.”

Books

Fiona Wright
Best books of 2020

Cher Tan
Best books of 2020

Life

Food

Christmas pork

Gardening

Summer in the garden

As the heat of summer starts to bite, the focus of every keen gardener turns to irrigation.

Sport

Demon shows his fighting spirit

A quarter-finals appearance at the US Open was Alex de Minaur’s best on-court performance to date, but the world No. 23 rates making it through the mental challenges and disruptions of 2020 as his biggest achievement.

Puzzles

The Quiz

1. Complete this lyric from “The Christmas Song”: “And so I’m offering this simple phrase/ To kids from one to …”
2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula lived in Transylvania. What modern-day country can Transylvania be found in?
3. In what year was Mahatma Gandhi assassinated?
4. Who was the last Australian tennis player to contest the men’s singles final at Wimbledon?
5. Quires and reams measure quantities of what?
6. Who won the Best Actress Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020?
7. Which of these landmarks was officially opened first: (a) West Gate Bridge, (b) Sydney Opera House, or (c) Wrest Point?
8. Who is known as the Father of Medicine?
9. The star sign Leo falls over which two months?
10. What two primary colours are mixed to make purple?
11. The musical Hamilton was created by Lin-Manuel …?
12. What is 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5?
13. Does the Latin word pax mean faith, honour or peace?
14. What did Bob Marley die of at age 36?
15. According to Greek mythology, the Minotaur lived on which island?
16. Did Jack Kerouac write On the Road or On the Beach?
17. How do you write 2021 in Roman numerals?
18. True or false: Whitney Houston’s middle name is Aretha?
19. What is the chemical symbol for mercury?
20. Who was Australia’s 27th prime minister?
21. In which Olympic Games did the women’s marathon make its debut?
22. Zero degrees Celsius is equal to what temperature in Fahrenheit?
23. Which British singer-songwriter and activist sang, “The revolution is just a T-shirt away”?
24. How many points is a try worth in rugby union?
25. What is Pantone’s 2020 colour of the year: (a) Cashmere Blue; (b) Baby Blue; (c) Classic Blue; or (d) Deep Blue?
26. What is the main vegetable ingredient in the Greek dip tzatziki?
27. Robin Williams has been nominated for how many Best Actor Academy Awards?
28. What colour is the Cat in the Hat’s bow tie?
29. True or false: Melbourne City won the 2019-20 A-League title in August?
30. The disorder plantar fasciitis affects which part of the human body?
31. Who this year replaced Joe Hockey as Australia’s ambassador to the United States?
32. The TV show Friends ran for how many seasons?
33. What is a Moorish idol?
34. N95, P100 and KN95 are all types of what?
35. What homophones can be a unit of weight, a printer’s mark and a vegetable?
36. On her 2020 album Chromatica, Lady Gaga duets with whom on “Rain on Me”?
37. Who is the only Australian to have competed in seven Summer Olympic Games?
38. Which Disney Princess sings, “Some Day My Prince Will Come”?
39. In Norse mythology, what is the name for the hall of immortality into which the souls of heroes slain in battle are received?
40. Who is officially credited as the writer of “Auld Lang Syne”?

Click through for answers.