editorial January 23, 2021

A useful excuse

The iconic image is of Kenneth Hayne in an office with Josh Frydenberg. The former High Court justice is presenting the treasurer with the final report of his royal commission into banking. A photographer asks if the two men might shake hands. Hayne does not break eye contact with the table. He says, simply: “Nope.” Two years on, this grim photo opportunity is perhaps the most lasting outcome of the banking royal commission.

editorial December 19, 2020

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.

editorial December 12, 2020

Mungo MacCallum (1941–2020)

What made Mungo MacCallum special, one of the things, was that for all the bewilderment and dismay he felt looking at politics he never lost his sense of clarity. If John Howard was the most effective politician of the past two decades, Mungo’s preferred description of him was the most enduring: “an unflushable turd”.

editorial December 5, 2020

Blueprint for failure

Australia faces an inevitable crisis, led by a government that couldn’t be less capable of its handling. It wasn’t impossible to plan for this moment. As its power grew, China was always going to chafe against the presence of Australia, the United States’ most loyal ally, in Asia.

editorial November 28, 2020

No pants, no target

Scott Morrison’s response to climate change is to take off his pants. It is not yet summer and his office has released pictures of him dressed for press conferences from the waist up. Below his jacket are a pair of shorts and rubber thongs.

editorial November 21, 2020

Genie in the subtle energy lamp

It’s not only Pete Evans. He’s just the untreated symptom of a politics that cannot deal with complexity. It is a politics without any real constituency, stretching and searching to find something that might give it power.

editorial November 14, 2020

What rhymes with colonial theft?

It is striking that this week, NAIDOC Week, the most substantial government discussion of Indigenous rights was the New South Wales premier proposing we change the word “young” to “one” in the national anthem, as if the legacy of colonial theft could be solved in half-rhymes.

editorial November 7, 2020

Often a truer word spoken

Democracy is fragile, just as truth is. Donald Trump has no respect for either. He has set about dismantling both. Scott Morrison surely must value at least the former, although he utterly failed to defend it this week.

editorial October 31, 2020

Killing a culture

“We need to be proud today,” Premier Daniel Andrews told Victorians as he announced an end to 111 days of lockdown. But there were no celebrations at the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy, where for more than two years, those camped at the site have peacefully guarded hundreds of sacred trees and protested their planned destruction. On Monday, as the premier spoke, one of these trees was felled to make way for the expansion of the Western Highway.

editorial October 24, 2020

In our Defence

The Australians had seven prisoners. Afghans, captured during a drug raid in the country’s war-torn Helmand province; hogtied, hands bound behind their backs. Their mission complete, the soldiers were awaiting a United States aircraft to pick them up. What happened next remains unproved, but the recollection of one US soldier is chilling.

editorial October 17, 2020

Taylor’s super grass

Imagine a federal minister who has a stake in a company alongside other members of his family. Imagine that company is accused of illegally poisoning more than 28 hectares of critically endangered grassland. Imagine the minister talks to senior officials in the office of the future treasurer.