LINDA BRISKMAN. Let’s disentangle free speech and hate speech in the media.


We are all seeking answers to the heartbreaking mass murder of Muslims in Christchurch. It assuages consciences if we can attribute blame that absolves us as a collective of non-Muslim Australians. There are many nonetheless who cannot be let off the hook. The media is one. Continue reading

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STEPHANIE DOWRICK. We owe the dead and grieving insight and action as well as unlimited sorrow

The first response of most to the catastrophic tragedy in Christchurch is unlimited sorrow for all those directly and indirectly affected, but most especially for those whose lives have been ended or shattered. “Noor” means light in Arabic. Most of those slaughtered were at al-Noor, the “Mosque of the Light”. Continue reading

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MACK WILLIAMS : The Hanoi Summit and aftermath – a South Korean perspective

Special Advisor to President Moon assesses the Hanoi Summit as not a failure but a setback. China and the ROK continue to agree the need for a US:DPRK agreed roadmap to move past the present stalemate towards the longer term common objective of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. At the same time the ROK has stepped up its working level contacts with the US. Prior to Hanoi, the ROK Opposition worked hard in Washington to urge Congress, the military security lobby and thinktanks to pressure President Trump to maintain a hardline approach in his negotiations with Kim Jong-un.

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HAJO DUKEN. The Brexit crisis – devil’s work and people’s contribution – are the voters to blame?

Britain is in panic. The public realises that the Brexit crisis is self-inflicted and anger and frustration with MPs from all sides is palpable. MP bashing is now in vogue. The collective and individual responsibility of the vast majority of MPs for the Brexit mess seems to be established. ‘House of Fools’ and ‘muppets’ are some of the milder judgments. However, isn’t there an inconvenient question looming: under which circumstances do voters need to accept responsibility in a democracy?

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CAMERON DOUGLAS. Thailand’s military erect a democratic facade

Thailand is about to return to popular elections but the democratic facade will ensure the military remains the country’s fourth branch of government. New rules should confirm the 2014 coup leader as prime minister but will leave him relying on a coalition to govern
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President Trump wants to get US troops out of Syria, and probably out of Iraq as well, and soon. The Pentagon however has said US forces will be out of Afghanistan in five years, a period estimated to allow successful negotiations with the Taliban, while reserving to themselves the right to initiate drone strikes. Five years will take the withdrawal into the next administration, which might decide against it. Continue reading

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DUNCAN GRAHAM Doing democracy differently

Outsiders who propped their eyelids apart to watch Indonesia’s third TV ‘debate’ ahead of next month’s national elections would have concluded the campaign is bloodless.

For 150 minutes – minus about a third for commercials and promos – vice president hopeful and hidebound Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin, shared a platform with challenger and business tycoon Sandiaga Uno.

Amin is coupled to incumbent President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo; Uno supports former general Prabowo Subianto in his bid for the top job. In this show only the VP candidates performed. Continue reading

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CRISTA PONGRATZ-LIPPITT. Renowned reformer: ‘Church has 5 years for a complete turnaround or it’s over’

Father Helmut Schüller of Austria says the sex abuse crisis shows urgent need to ‘desacralize’ the Catholic priesthood and empower the laity. .

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GWYNNE DYER. New Zealand vs. Australia: Terrorism and the difference (Japan Times 19.03.19)

LONDON – Extreme right-wing terrorism, mostly of the “white nationalist” variety, is becoming as big a problem as Islamist terrorism in many places. That’s certainly the case in the United States, where the U.S. Government Accounting Office calculated last year that 119 Americans have been killed by Islamist extremists since the 9/11 attacks, and 106 Americans by far-right extremists. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs, Politics | 4 Comments

MIKE SCRAFTON. Defending against the sacrificial knight errant on an existential crusade

Hopefully the security agencies won’t simply default to the jihadist archetype in their response to the atrocity in Christchurch, as the media has. Distinguishing between motives of the perpetrators of such unpardonable acts and understanding the internal logic by which they justify their actions is important. Marques like far right, white supremacist, white nationalist, neo-Nazi, or Islamophobe occlude the detail in Tarrant’s case and are unhelpful in finding an implementable understanding of these violent phenomena.

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ANDREW GLIKSON. At a climate tipping point

According to Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate advisor to the European Union, “We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet”. As fascism and the horror of murderous hate crimes are spreading around the world, governments are presiding over runaway climate change which is leading toward a mass extinction of species, costing the lives of billions and the demise of much of nature, while children are protesting the betrayal of their future.

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ALAN PEARS. Electric vehicles thrill school children

My grandchildren were too young to go to the ‘school strike’ last Friday. But on Saturday they experienced the excitement and reality of a zero carbon future at the Electric Vehicle Expo.

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TIM WOODRUFF. Out of Pocket Costs: Who is missing out on health care?

One of my patients has epilepsy. She sees a neurologist for that and he charges $200 out of pocket per visit. He has controlled her epilepsy very well. She is on a disability support pension. She believes she will get better care seeing him privately despite the fact that he also works in the public system. 

Out of pocket (OOP) costs have been in the news particularly since 4 Corners exposed huge costs impacting significant financial hardship on many sick Australians. As a result of a Ministerial Committee report the Health Minister has proposed tackling the issue with a website of specialist charges and an education campaign for patients. The Committee consisted of ten health care provider representatives and one consumer representative. My suggestion to the Minister that more consumer representatives might be appropriate resulted in an intensely angry response. Continue reading

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ANDREW FARRAN. PM May’s Brexit blind-sided by Parliamentary Speaker

Prime Minister May’s Brexit was on course to be delivered on 29th March as scheduled until the resubmission of the previously thwarted Withdrawal Agreement was blocked by the Speaker John Bercow, citing a 1604 convention last used in 1920 to the effect that legislation previously rejected cannot be resubmitted in the same Parliamentary session unless in a fundamentally different form.

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NICK DEANE. Thoughts on the Schools Strike for the climate.

NICK DEANE. Thoughts on the Schools Strike for the climate.

Concerns about climate change and the environment cannot be separated from concerns about militarism and war. All military activity is polluting. Climate change increases the likelihood of war. Environmentally damaging activities are, ultimately, protected by armed force. Preparation for war runs in parallel with climate change.

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COLIN HAWES. Why Defamation Lawsuits Are Crucial for Protecting Rule of Law: A Comment on the Chau Chak Wing Case

Following the recent success of Dr. Chau Chak Wing’s defamation lawsuit against Fairfax and John Garnaut, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie stated that the judgment will be “carefully analysed”: “The ability to report freely and fairly on national security is a vital part of our democracy,” and “we are concerned about the impact that defamation laws in Australia are having on responsible journalism that informs Australians about important national security issues.” One can only hope that Hastie and related national security hawks do actually read the Federal Court’s 100-page meticulously reasoned judgment before jumping to conclusions about protecting “democracy” and “responsible journalism”.

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MUNGO MACCALLUM.  The mob will always work you out.

It is not clear who said it first, but it quickly became a catchcry of the long-lived government of Bob Hawke: the mob will always work you out. Continue reading

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BOB CARR. Disaffected electorate knows the real score (The Australian, March 18 2019)

Why in a sports-mad nation, with football as an overarching religion divided into different denominations, has the promise of two new stadiums been such a vote loser? Continue reading

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ALEX MITCHELL. Gladys clings on in NSW

Liberals and Nationals will vote in all kinds of weather and in all circumstances. They will show up in coaches, hire cars and even wheelchairs. Some dress up in their Sunday best as if they are going to the races.

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ALEXANDER HOLDEN and HEIKO SPALLEK. Laying Out the Road Map for an Australian Universal Dental Scheme

Can you imagine an Australia where visiting a dentist was as simple as visiting a GP? The Grattan Institute has released a report: Filling the dental gap: A universal dental scheme for Australia, that does just this. The report begins by highlighting the disparity between a routine health check with a GP and visiting the dentist; those visiting the dentist might expect it to hurt more, but usually in the pocket more than anywhere else.

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KATHERINE McKERNAN. Sydney’s rough sleeping problem – no rest for any of us!

Sydney’s incidence of rough sleeping, just the extreme manifestation of the broader problem of homelessness, remains on the increase and has been so for a number of years. Set against the backdrop of a booming NSW economy, ironically riding the stamp duty boom of a rampant property market, it is a sad indictment on the effectiveness of government responses to homelessness. As the people of NSW once again head to the ballot box, it is time that politicians of all persuasions showed determination and unity in solving this problem.

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ALAN KIRKLAND. Government gives in to mortgage broking lobbyists

“Unintended consequences”. It’s the clichè consumer groups like CHOICE are used to hearing from industry groups every time a major review recommends a change that would put people before profits.

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PETER DAY. To Light a Candle or Curse the Dark: The Cardinal Dilemma

‘Foolishly, indulgently’, Christian mercy does not depend on remorse, repentance, or even whether it is deserved. It takes the initiative in willing the good of the other.

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RAMESH THAKUR.  New Zealand’s Loss of Innocence (Project Syndicate, 17 March 2019)

Like the assassination of Olof Palme in Sweden in 1986, the 9/11 attacks in the US, and the murderous rampage of Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011, March 15 will mark the day New Zealand lost its innocence and entered the age of postmodern mass terror. Fortunately, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response has so far been pitch perfect. Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. The crazed Brendan Tarrant did not operate in a vacuum. (See Postscript)

We now see the dreadful consequences in Christchurch of Islamophobia. There has been widespread hate speech against Muslims promoted not just by white extremist groups but also by politicians and the media.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 9 Comments

LINDA SIMON. NSW election candidates Stand Up for TAFE

NSW goes to the polls on 23 March and the outcome is not clear at this time. There are many programs being highlighted and funding promised by the major parties, with TAFE an area of concern. The TAFE Community Alliance asked candidates to ‘Stand Up for TAFE’ and were overwhelmed with the strength of the responses from many candidates and not surprised at the lack of interest from others.

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MUNGO MacCALLUM. Students’ strike for climate action – and good on them for it.

The conservatives have got themselves into a terrible lather about last week’s climate change protest.   Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | 3 Comments

GARETH EVANS. Asian Australians: Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling (2019 Asialink Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Lecture, Sydney, 13 March 2019)

The award of this year’s Weary Dunlop Asialink medal to one of our most distinguished Asian-Australians seems to me an opportune moment to revisit the question of whether we as a nation are making the most – in terms of both our external relations and our internal national development – of the vast store of talent that exists in the multiple Asian-Australian communities that now make up such a large proportion of our overall Australian community: the Chinese-Australians, Indian-Australians, Vietnamese-Australians, Malaysian and Indonesian and Cambodian and Filipino-Australians, Afghan and Sri Lankan-Australians, Korean-Australians and all the rest who have done so much to enrich the life of this nation, intellectually, culturally and socially, over the last few decades. Continue reading

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ALISON BROINOWSKI Beware the Ides of March in Christchurch


It is better when a terrorist is not shot dead but arrested. So we eventually learn what is his – usually male – motivation, and governments and the courts are then able to respond rationally. But Brenton Tarrant made his motivation quite clear, documenting his crime in Christchurch with a 74-page manifesto, as well as filming his running online commentary. Few would care if police had shot him, taking to 50 the total who died on the Ides, Friday 15 March.

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GREG BAILEY. An oldie at the climate march.

After travelling for an hour from outside of Melbourne, I reached the Treasury Gardens at about 12.05pm to concerted cheering from thousands of young voices. On the train teenage boys and girls from various local high schools in the northeast suburbs of Melbourne were working on signs they had made from pieces of cardboard, and discussing with each other what they should write.  At least they were thinking more cogently about climate change and its causes than many of their elders ever have. All twenty-three students from my daughter’s year 10 class attended with their teacher’s blessing.  Continue reading

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