Vol 24 No 22

10 November 2014


Richard Flanagan sorts suffering from virtue

20 November 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Book Cover - The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthWinning the prestigious Man Booker prize has given Richard Flanagan's 2013 novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North precious new shelf life. I've long considered Flanagan an alchemist - giving everyday words an unmistakable verve and turning a phrase until it takes flight. But he's also a proud Tasmanian storyteller who now has the world's ear. 


The ABC is not a business

20 November 2014 | Binoy Kampmark

Malcolm Turnbull at the ABCGovernments are  tempted to use budgetary accountability as a neat cover for corporatisation of public utilities. As public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS do not inhabit the same philosophical territory as Sky News or Channel 7. The ABC's cuts are based on an efficiency report prepared by a financial officer from the commercial media. It does not seem relevant that balanced budgets do not deliver educated audiences.

Pope Francis celebrates a homeless man's 50th

19 November 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope Francis in St Peter's SquareLast week the Pope's almsgiver installed showers in St Peter's Square, for people who are homeless. This followed his meeting a homeless man, discovering it was his 50th birthday, and inviting him to dinner in a local restaurant, only for the man to decline on the grounds he smelled. The gesture was seen to have Pope Francis’ finger prints all over it, and it illuminates the differences of perspective between him and other church leaders.


Grieving women rock immutable Islam

19 November 2014 | Tim Kroenert

The sisters and their mother on a sofa in Rock the CasbahThe three recently reunited sisters are immersed in whispered conversation, during the second day of mourning at the house. In the next room, older men in ceremonial garb chant a mourning ritual. Suddenly, the sisters get the giggles, only to be angrily shushed by one of the men in the next room. But grief can't be stage managed, and it seems only natural that the process should be guided by normal human interaction.


Why the rich are getting richer

18 November 2014 | David James

Businessman examining moneyInvesting capital in the production of goods and services may create jobs, but it's not the best way to make money. It's more profitable to manipulate the financial system to create more money from money, which is why the finance sector does so well. The polarisation of wealth is less extreme in Australia, but we have our own capital-driven Ponzi scheme - the residential property market, which has become an exercise in making money out of money. 


Doing good and being happy

18 November 2014 | Shira Sebban

The Pursuit of Happiness in the Declaration of IndependencePeople of faith seem able to find an opportunity for growth, spirituality and meaning in every good deed they do, apparently experiencing true happiness along the way. By way of contrast, emotional happiness is often dismissed as selfish, elusive and unpredictable. But focusing on 'what works for us', and connection through family, friendship and community, also allows us to find purpose, and to savour many happy moments along the way.


Bearing up

18 November 2014 | Fiona Katauskas

Tony Abbott's strategy of weathering the G20 leaders insistence on discussing climate change

View this week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


A faithful woman visits me weekly

1 Comment
17 November 2014 | Ian C. Smith

Man with female companionSupplying food, whisky, news, loving sex. All this on a pine-scented mountain. I trim my stark white beard, shampoo, sweep, spray, squeegee and swipe. The hour you drive up our steep hill I open our front gates like a greeting.


Abbott ready to put G20 behind him

17 November 2014 | Tony Kevin

Tony Abbott at G20Abbott's best G20 moment was his closing media conference, where he gave an outlined the meeting's achievement of a 2.1 per cent global economic growth plan  over the next few years. But on two important matters – climate change and Ebola - the dynamic of the meeting got out of his control and produced outcomes clearly not to his liking. Abbott's counter-strategy – quite successful in retrospect – was to set media hounds running to the side-drama of Vladimir Putin. 


Restorative justice for child sexual abuse victims

16 November 2014 | Vic O'Callaghan

HandsTotal focus on designing the right professional standards policy could be creating a hole, where all that is heard is a droning 'let's move on' message. Where are the stories of people gathering to help mend and heal themselves and the victims of this horrific episode in our history?


Don't let Vlad's side show distract from the G20's purpose

16 November 2014 | Michael Mullins

G20 logoThe Murdoch press was reporting on Friday that Australian warships had been dispatched to 'intercept' the Russian flotilla 'steaming towards the G20 summit in Brisbane'. Serious heads needed to prevail for the G20 to maintain its relevance and Australia its credentials to host important events that do not concern sport. The Brisbane G20 had an opportunity build on the climate change action momentum established at APEC, or yield to the new climate deniers who don't accept that renewable energy is also good for economic growth.


Putting Putin's record into perspective

16 November 2014 | Justin Glyn

Vladimir PutinAmid talk of whether Vladimir Putin would leave the G20 early and numerous reports of frosty encounters between him and other summit leaders, Western media coverage has portrayed him as an erratic and dangerous dictator whose rule damages the once-great country he leads. But it would be foolish to pretend that the West did not take advantage of the weakness of the former Soviet states in the 1990s. Russia was looted of its assets, many of which found their way abroad.


There's no such thing as a free blessing

13 November 2014 | Catherine Marshall

Camel at the Pushkar Camel FairI looked at the Brahmin and felt a cackle rising in my throat. 'You said this blessing was free,' I said. 'The blessing is free, but you must pay for the maintenance of this place,' he insisted, sweeping his arm up towards the ghats and the temples surrounding it. I wondered briefly what the consequence would be of defying the Brahmin's demand.

Hun Sen's Cambodia a mirage on the Mekong

1 Comment
13 November 2014 | Tony Kevin

Cover of Sebastian Strangio's Hun Sen's CambodiaPhnom Penh is a lively, bustling, often happy city of energetic and industrious people, with amazing growth statistics. In 2004 half of Cambodians lived in poverty, and by 2011 the figure had dropped to 20%. But this belies the terrible state of public health, the corruption in education, the abuse of human rights, and much more.

Pope's G20 hospital pass to Abbott

13 November 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope Francis writes letterThe news that Pope Francis has written a letter to Tony Abbott makes one pause. It is usual for Popes to write such letters, and luckily this one is no shirtfront. Instead it will probably be treated as a hospital pass. The trouble with swerving away from hospital passes, though, is that the watchers may see you as cowardly.

Slain El Salvador Jesuits paid price for their advocacy

12 November 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Slain El Salvador JesuitBefore the killing of five Jesuits and two of their employees in San Salvador exactly 25 years ago, the Jesuits had been advised to hide from the death squads. They decided it would be safe to stay at the University because it was surrounded by the army. But it was an elite army squadron that had been entrusted to kill them. The Salvadorean defence minister later described the decision to kill the Jesuits as the most stupid thing the Government had done. 


Male spirituality in Kiwi portrait of mental illness

12 November 2014 | Tim Kroenert

'Dark Horse' stillNew Zealand filmmaker Robertson’s latest feature has been described as a cross between modern antipodean classics Once Were Warriors and Shine. Like Warriors, Dark Horse considers masculinity, violence and spirituality in the lives of urban Maoris. Like Shine, it offers a moving portrait of a character whose mental illness appears to be the dark reflection of esoteric, obsessive genius.


Tonti-Filippini's intellectual quest undaunted by physical pain

12 November 2014 | Zac Alstin

Nicholas Tonti-FilippiniUtilitarian philosopher Peter Singer paid tribute to his friend and intellectual nemesis Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, who died last Friday after suffering pain and discomfort for much of his life. The majority of Tonti-Filippini’s influence on bioethics in Australia took place out of the public spotlight, including has work as chair of a govenment committee on the care of people in an unresponsive or minimally responsive state.


The honourable and quirky Wayne Goss

11 November 2014 | Frank Brennan

Wayne GossWayne was a no nonsense fellow with a real commitment to justice for Aboriginal Australians during the difficult Bjelke-Petersen days in Queensland. He put himself on the line, and would always come back to the office with a smile and a joke about the latest put down he suffered at the hands of the unforgiving magistrate not much given to pleas invoking past dispossession. He was irrepressible. He knew there had to be a better way.

The masala stone

11 November 2014 | Bernard Appassamy

Masala StoneFamilies, like mine, that are born from migration are reborn punctually through the scent of their cuisine. It's the 1970s and a grinding rhythm from the garden is audible through my window. Leaning over the ros kari, Jessie, our family cook, is crushing spices for the evening curry. With her two hands, she holds flat a cylindrical stone, the baba, and rolls it with her wrists back and forth, on its large rectangular base.


Which bishop is challenging the bank on fossil fuels?

11 November 2014 | Jill Sutton

CBA logoThere has been an avalanche of divestment, including from the Rockefellers and the ANU, as they discern a lack of concern for environmental, social and governance issues. Shareholders attending Wednesday’s Commonwealth Bank AGM will hear a resolution requesting more transparency about the bank’s fossil fuel investments. But the bank’s response can seem like a game whose rules only become clear to its participants as they play it. Banks and other powerful organisations can still exploit any lack of clarity. 


Tough talking Tony

11 November 2014 | Fiona Katauskas

Fiona Katauskas' cartoon Tough Talking Tony depicts the likely reality of Tony Abbott's promised shirtfronting of Vladimir Putin which is taking place behind closed doors

View this week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


Meeting a fish

1 Comment
10 November 2014 | Yan An

Carp with mouth openThe fish, ferocious like the eerie bird … challenges me to take it out of the water. … The thought of chucking it down from the heights, and sinking it into the unknown abyss, causes me to break out in a cold sweat. … Its mouth open … as if it had broken its vocal cord, reminding me of one night, when a kid, lost on the road, was crying, imperceptibly, in the darkness, half-visible, walking alone.


The Vatican's Francis Revolution gains pace

10 November 2014 | Paul Collins

Archbishop Paul GallagherAn important power shift occurred in Rome at the weekend, and it has a genuine Australian connection. The nuncio in Canberra Archbishop Paul Gallagher was named Secretary for Relations with States, which will put him third in charge at the Vatican. He has been popular here because he has kept in touch with pastoral life, having volunteered to help out in the far-flung western NSW of Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes during his first Easter in Australia.


The Americanisation of Australia's universities

09 November 2014 | Sarah Klenbort

US student in debtThe US, whose citizens owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards, is the land of deregulation. Australia’s Education Minister Christopher Pyne has the support of university management in his desire to see Australia to follow the US path. But it is clear to lecturers, tutors and researchers that this will only create more inequality, mainly by forcing people without money to either miss out all together on higher education or go into a huge amount of debt.


West Africa needs more international help to defeat Ebola

09 November 2014 | Robert Vitillo

St. Joseph Catholic Hospital de Monrovia (Liberia) in July before it was closed.There is a general sense of psychological trauma and anger among the people, and a fear of social unrest and a return to civil war. In the communities in which quarantine has been imposed, people do not have access to food, clean water, and other necessities. The countries are depending on increased international assistance will prevent further spread of the virus and a reduction of irrational fear, stigma, and discrimination in local communities.