HENRY REYNOLDS. Australia goes fishing in troubled waters.

A few weeks ago Foreign Minister Marise Payne condemned ‘ China’s  actions in the South China Sea’, adding that in recent days the Australian frigate HMAS Parramatta had been conducting exercises with two American naval vessels as they ‘passed through the waters.’ Continue reading

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MARK J VALENCIA. To Reduce Tensions in the South China Sea, the Ball is in America’s Court

The solution to the South China Sea imbroglio lies with the US, not China. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, World Affairs | 3 Comments

JACK WATERFORD. Trump: the man who made America little again

Donald Trump, who campaigned on making America great again has presided over — indeed caused — an enormous fall in American prestige, moral authority and effective power in the world. It may still have, by far, the most military power, and enormous economic resources, but the practical management of the Covid-19 crisis invites only derision. Continue reading

Posted in Politics, World Affairs | 4 Comments

DUNCAN GRAHAM If Bali lets you in – will Oz let you back?

When is a pandemic suppression order not a lockdown? When it’s in Indonesia.

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RAMESH THAKUR. The rise and fall of coronavirus modelling

Will the Great Lockdown’s epitaph be ‘The Greatest Mistake in History’? Continue reading

Posted in Health | 4 Comments

LESLEY RUSSELL. The Next Community Pharmacy Agreement

In normal, pre-coronavirus pandemic times, we would have expected to see the details and funding for the 7th Community Pharmacy Agreement announced in the May federal budget. But the new agreement, expected to cost some $20 billion over five years, is being negotiated behind closed doors and out of public view.

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BRIAN TOOHEY. A star-spangled spanner in the works: how US secrecy controls Australian weapons (SMH 25.5.20)

The loss of Australian sovereignty within the American alliance is rarely raised amid the current alarm about whether the US is a reliable ally.  Continue reading

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JENNY HOCKING supports Pearls and Irritations.

I am a long-time reader, contributor and supporter of Pearls & Irritations. Continue reading

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JOCELYN CHEY. Hong Kong’s Fate in the Balance

A national security bill for Hong Kong will be put to the National People’s Congress (NPC) now meeting in Beijing. This aims to end an impasse in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, which has never passed local legislation to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution, to which the citizens of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) remain adamantly opposed. Continue reading

Posted in Asia | 7 Comments

MUNGO MACCALLUM. The miracle of being two-faced and saving both faces

In the end, it was all about saving face. The dodgy compromise resolution to set up an inquiry over the origins of coronavirus left everyone claiming a win. Continue reading

Posted in World Affairs | 13 Comments

MICHAEL SCRAFTON. Historical amnesia: Great power behaviour and criticism of China

Between 1890 and 1920 the democratic US became a great power. It’s trajectory from western hemisphere state to global power has some economic, military and foreign policy parallels with authoritarian China’s growth in the twenty-first century. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Politics, World Affairs | 11 Comments

JACK WATERFORD. Shooting ourselves in the boot again

The announcement of the international inquiry to be conducted into international management of the Covid-19 pandemic did not achieve any of the particular purposes initially said to justify Australia’s putting its head above the parapets and attracting China’s ire for doing so. Continue reading

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NOEL TURNBULL. Nev Power’s fossil mates still pushing doubt – Part 2

In 2008 David Michaels’ published a book – Doubt is their Product. How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens your Health – which was instrumental in the subsequent exposure of the systematic efforts of various industries to raise doubt about the science relating to areas from tobacco to today’s climate change. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | 1 Comment

RODNEY TIFFEN. Malcolm Turnbull on the Murdochs, his Liberal opponents and the 2019 election

There is an established tradition in Australian politics that those in power or seeking power say nice things about Rupert Murdoch, while those distant from power or whose time has passed are more critical. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

PETER WILKINSON AND GAIL GROSSMAN FREYNE. Historic Church Governance Report locked down by Australian Bishops

On 4 May 2020 the Project Team commissioned by the Australian bishops and religious superiors to review the Catholic Church’s governance and management structures, presented its 200-page final report. Its 86 recommendations include the need for greater transparency and co-responsibility. The decision of the bishops to withhold the report from public view for at least 6 months has shocked many Catholics.

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Posted in Religion and Faith | 11 Comments

JIM COOMBS. Post-virus reconstruction – ‘snap back or snap out of it?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a government that housed the homeless, fed the poor and had a high employment demand driven, suitably regulated, economy. I can dream. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

MUNGO MACCALLUM. Angus Taylor’s thought bubbles: from the second rate to the already discredited

Our current government has become inordinately keen on producing road maps, and its most recent cartographer is our constantly embarrassed and embarrassing energy minister, Angus Taylor. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 7 Comments

JOSEPH A. CAMILLERI. Can we rescue the China relationship from the abyss?

For some time now we have been routinely mishandling our relations with China. Our petulant demand for an international Covid-19 inquiry, whose thinly veiled purpose was to point the finger at Beijing’s misdeeds, is the latest in a long series of missteps.  Continue reading

Posted in Asia, World Affairs | 5 Comments

HAMISH MCDONALD. Journalists on the ramparts (Inside Story 20.5.20)

Another triumph for Canberra and the Morrison government’s deft and resolute diplomacy, it would seem. Support for an inquiry into Covid-19 from more than half of the 194 countries at the World Health Assembly in Geneva was “a major strategic victory for Australia.”

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Posted in Asia, Politics, World Affairs | 6 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Coronavirus data prove Australia is in Asia

Cross-jurisdiction comparisons are notoriously difficult and it’s almost impossible to prove lockdowns have saved lives, except by falling back tautologically on the epidemiological model’s own projections of mortality figures with no lockdown. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, World Affairs | 7 Comments

NOEL TURNBULL. Nev is never in doubt

Reflecting on when the Prime Minister rang to ask him head the Government’s COVID-19 Task Force Nev Power said he couldn’t refuse the PM – reacting as any responsible citizen would. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | 1 Comment

CAVAN HOGUE. Entangling Alliances?

Should Australia take more notice of Charles de Gaulle than Donald Trump? What is the value of an alliance? Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, World Affairs | 11 Comments

ANDREW FARRAN. Brexit Britain – “The lonely little country”

Will Boris Johnson maintain his stance that there will be no extension to the transitional period for completion of the UK/EU Future Relations agreement even though the time remaining is well short of the time required to settle and formalise the myriad of still seriously outstanding matters?

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Posted in World Affairs | 1 Comment

ROY HARVEY. The Anzac spirit and the future of health policy

The policies adopted by the Australian governments to fight the Covid-19 crisis are the opposite of the policies that the Coalition Government has pursued for the past 70 years. Continue reading

Posted in Health, Politics | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE. Thanks to Ramesh Thakur

Many thanks to Ramesh Thakur who has been Guest Editor of Pearls and Irritations for last three weeks. I will be rolling up my sleeves again.

Thanks also to writers and donors

John Menadue

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PETER SAINSBURY. Sunday environmental round up, 24 May 2020

A guide to the Australian government’s plans for the post-COVID recovery and bureaucrats and scientists talk with feeling about Australia’s Climate Wars. Cyclone Amphan hits India and Bangladesh, providing a current example of the increasing frequency of strong tropical storms. Worldwide, animals big and small are going extinct, and Australia is working hard to fuel the trend.

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Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | 6 Comments


What people in other forums are saying about public policy Continue reading

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DAVID SOLOMON. They should have said: No Minister

One of the worst aspects of the sports rorts affair is the way elements of the public service turned a deliberate blind eye to what was known, or assumed, to be a failure by the Minister to be bound by the requirements of the law governing the way the grants could be approved. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 9 Comments

PAUL PERVERSI. Understanding anti-China Bias and other prejudices

Recent articles in Pearls and Irritations, such as those by Paul Malone, James Curran, Ramesh Thakur and Mike Scrafton, have highlighted the nonsensical nature of much analysis, reporting and opinion, particularly in relation to a trenchant and sustained bias against China. A fascinating question is to ask what is behind this trend. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Politics, World Affairs | 30 Comments

TIM HARCOURT. Eight things we need to do for Corona recovery

Bill Kelty, the former Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary (and my old boss) recently praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison in The Conversation and his: ‘Go big, Act fast and keep the lights on’ approach to Coronavirus. Continue reading

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