Pearls and Irritations is influential and widely read, with outstanding authors writing about important current events. There are no sponsors and subscriptions are free – our editors and authors are independent, dedicated and generous. Please encourage your friends to subscribe. We have over 5,500 subscribers and would welcome more.


MACK WILLIAMS. Korean Peninsula – just where are we right now?

So much is going on in the different channels between the US and China, China and the DPRK and by now maybe US and DPRK that reading the tea leaves is an almost impossible – if not frantic – task. The situation remains extremely high risk and crystal ball gazing is near to fantasy.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JUDITH CRISPIN. Indigenous Elders to Tackle Youth Suicide Using Mobile Technology

A groundbreaking collaboration between Walpiri Elders, cultural historians, technologists and a clinical psychologist aims to tackle youth suicide using traditional knowledge and mobile technology.   Continue reading

Posted in Health, Indigenous affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE. The unfairness and waste of private health insurance and the threat to Medicare.

History is repeating itself.

Medicare was created by the Whitlam government because of the abject failure of private health insurance or, as it was then called voluntary health insurance. 

As a result of the growth of private health insurance (PHI) since 1999 under the Howard government, Medicare is now seriously threatened. Government subsidies for PHI will take us back to the pre Whitlam and pre Medicare era.  Continue reading

Posted in Health, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

BEN NEWELL, CHRIS DONKIN, DAN NAVARRO. worried about shark attacks or terrorism?

The recent terrorist attack in Paris will attract a lot of attention. However, whilst terrorist attacks are very vivid, the risk is quite low.  John Menadue

The world can feel like a scary place.  Today, Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Level is “Probable”. Shark attacks are on the rise; the number of people attacked by sharks in 2000-2009 has almost doubled since 1990-1999. Travellers are at a high risk of getting the Zika virus in places where the disease is present, such as Brazil and Mexico.

Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

QUENTIN DEMPSTER. With talk of war, what should Australia do?

As the United States Trump administration now confronts North Korea, there is talk of war. Also confronted, but more indirectly, is China itself with President Donald Trump’s declaration that the US would go it alone to disarm North Korea if China and President Xi Jinping did not help in that objective.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

TIM COLEBATCH. Yes, there is such a thing as too much immigration

Adjusting the intake in response to shifts in employment makes long-term sense.  

Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Immigration | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

ALLAN PATIENCE. It’s time for Labor to think big about policy – a people’s bank!

Tony Abbott is not the only one anticipating a change of government at the next election. Voters across the board are increasingly fed up with the Coalition and there are even signs that some of its most devoted cheer leaders in the media are beginning to give up on it. Dear old Alan Jones has certainly given up on it. So what does Bill Shorten have in store for us if the ALP wins the next election?   Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Economy, Infrastructure, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

DAVID JAMES. Deconstructing the privatisation scam

It is increasingly evident how pernicious the privatisation myth is. Two recent examples have underlined it: the failings in Australia’s privatised energy grid and the usurious pricing in airport car parks. Both examples demonstrated that it is folly to expect a public benefit to inevitably emerge from private profit seeking.   Continue reading

Posted in Health, Infrastructure, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

TED TRAINER. Oil wake-up call.

Almost no one has the slightest grasp of the oil crunch that will probably hit them within a decade. When it does it will literally mean the end of the world as we know it. Here is an outline of what some recent analysts are saying. We had better think carefully about their claims. Nobody will of course take any notice.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

TREVOR COBBOLD. How has education come to this?

For a country that prides itself on the egalitarian ethos of a ‘fair go’ for all, the latest results from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are a distressing reminder that many are not getting a fair go in education. The egalitarian label is a self-indulgent delusion as far as education is concerned. It hasn’t fitted for some 40 years or more.   Continue reading

Posted in Education, Taxation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

RICHARD BROINOWSKI. Still demonizing North Korea

Following recent North Korean missile tests and American declarations that they have run out of ‘strategic patience’, the Western media and the governments they serve, are busily repeating time-honoured myths about North Korea.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

DUNCAN MacLAREN. UK General Election: clever cunning or miscalculated folly?

Theresa May’s snap general election decision can be seen as hypocritical in that she ruled this out consistently (and as recently as 20th March) until, the Anglican vicar’s daughter hinted, God told her while hiking in Welsh Snowdonia over Easter to go for it since there was ‘no unity’ in the Westminster Parliament to allow her to obtain the best deal for the UK out of Brexit. No unity? For a Government which hasn’t a clue where it is going and is regarded as incompetent by the international community and national political class alike, how can it command unity? That requires knowledge of the possible outcomes from the Stygian political journey the UK is about to take with a hard Brexit.   Continue reading

Posted in Foreign Affairs and Trade, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TIM LINDSEY. Jakarta elections a very bad look for Indonesia

The decisive defeat of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as ‘Ahok’) in Jakarta’s litmus-test gubernatorial election is a triumph for hardline Islamist mob agitators. It comes after years of pressure from the Muslim right and may flag a shift in Indonesian politics that will not help Indonesia’s fraying reputation for religious pluralism and tolerance.   Continue reading

Posted in Australia and Asia, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PETER BROOKS. Specialists gaps and anaesthetists.

The article from David Scott and Peter Seal (‘Medical specialists – maintaining a high standard and duty of care‘) is not an unexpected response from the organisation they represent – the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. However one is minded of those words of Adam Smith who said of ‘craft ‘ groups “ People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”   Continue reading

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. Health Ministers may be in office but health providers are in power. Think medical specialists fees!

The special pleading of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists (ASA) is not surprising for a group that represents the interests of medical providers. (DAVID M SCOTT and PETER SEAL. Medical specialists – maintaining a high standard and duty of care.) The power and influence of providers is seldom challenged, least of all by ministers.   

In this article, I will do two things. First, whilst acknowledging that many specialists act responsibly and ethically, there is a minority that charge excessively. Secondly, I will examine the particular issue of anaesthetists.   Continue reading

Posted in Health, Vested Interests | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

IAN McAULEY. Capital gains taxes: Keating got it right in 1985

Most commentators on the crisis in housing affordability correctly attribute the problem, in part, to the Howard Government’s decision in 1999 to “halve the taxation of capital gains”. But that was only one aspect of the 1999 change: the other was an end of indexation. The combined effect was to shift investors’ incentives to favour speculation in high-growth but risky assets such as housing while penalising more conservative investments. Labor proposes to reduce the discount on capital gains, from 50 per cent to 25 per cent, without restoring indexation, but this would retain some of the worst aspects of the Howard changes.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Taxation | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

JULIAN CRIBB. When political fantasy trumps scientific fact

During the 1930s, around ten million Russians and Ukrainians starved to death in a horrific event known as Holodomor. Historians have attributed this disaster in part to the quack theories of Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s hand-picked boss of Soviet agricultural science. It was the world’s first big case of politics distorting the objectivity of science, for its own ends.   Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Environment, Politics, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

RICHARD BUTLER. DPRK: The “New Cuban missile crisis”?

The DPRK nuclear weapons programme does not constitute a new Cuban missile crisis. Any military attack upon DPRK would be disastrous. A new political negotiation must be constructed. This is not a problem to be solved by the US alone.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE. 457 visas and our temporary residence system.

In light of government announcement on 457 visas, I have reposted below an article originally posted on 18 November 2016.  See also at end, a link to an article by Joanna Howe in The Canberra Times yesterday.  John Menadue.

Oversight of the management of work rights of temporary entrants into Australia is broken and needs fixing. 

Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Immigration, Industrial relations, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

MUNGO MacCALLUM. Malcolm Turnbull on superannuation and housing.

But that means nothing to the ideological right, which is now shamelessly defying Turnbull on every level. Naturally Tony Abbott is front and centre of the rebellion, with most of the usual suspects on the backbench.    Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

OLIVER FRANKEL. Sydney house prices – an increase of 18.9% in one year!

With only a month to go to the federal budget, the news that Sydney’s median dwelling prices rose by 18.9% in the 12 months to March is sobering. It is surely enough to jolt the Turnbull government into finally adopting bold measures to curb speculative demand in the housing market. Calls to reform negative gearing and/or the overly generous 50% CGT discount are coming thick and fast. David Murray is the latest heavyweight to add to these calls. The Coalition ignores them at its political peril.   Continue reading

Posted in Housing, Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DAVID M SCOTT and PETER SEAL. Medical specialists – maintaining a high standard and duty of care.

In recent times, several articles have appeared in the print and electronic media about the alleged ‘high fees’ and ‘poor accountability’ of medical specialists. A few weeks ago on his ‘Pearls and Irritations’ blog, John Menadue posted one such piece titled ‘Medical specialists – high fees and poor accountability. The Australian Society of Anaesthetists (ASA) believes that some of John Menadue’s strongly asserted claims merit a measured response, and wishes to address some misconceptions that have arisen. There are almost 5000 specialist anaesthetists in Australia, and they comprise approximately 4.5% of the nation’s medical workforce. The ASA has been supporting, representing and educating anaesthetists in this country since 1934.  
Continue reading

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Our misguided wars of choice.

In this article in the Boston Globe of April 16, JEFFREY D SACHS speaks of the risks that the US and the world are running.  He speaks of the US ‘wanton addiction to war’.  John Menadue.

“There is one foreign policy goal that matters above all the others and that is to keep the United States out of a new war, whether in Syria, North Korea or elsewhere.  In recent days President Trump has struck Syria with Tomahawk missiles, bombed Afghanistan with the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, and has sent an armada towards nuclear-armed North Korea. We could easily find ourselves in a rapidly escalating war, one that could pit the United States directly against nuclear-armed countries of China, North Korea and Russia. …

America has developed a level of wealth, productivity and technological knowhow utterly unimaginable in the past. Yet we put everything at risk through our wanton addiction to war.”

Jeffrey D Sachs is University Professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

MUNGO McCALLUM. Turnbull’s Passage to India.

He may not have landed any concrete results, but he continues to give the myths and legends a good workout.  
Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JAMES O’NEILL. Scientific evidence exposes the falsity of US government claims about Syrian gas attack.

The irresistible conclusion is that those same senior politicians know that the White House claims are false and misleading and therefore highly dangerous to Australia’s national security. That they should maintain their silence on this while continuing to perpetuate a barrage of lies and half-truths about the ongoing Syrian tragedy raises serious questions about their fitness to govern.    Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

ALLAN PATIENCE. The seduction of pessimism.

It seems that the end is nigh of much of what we know and love about our planet as climate change intensifies across the globe. Climate change science is painting a depressingly pessimistic picture of the future. Is there no hope?  Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Environment, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

BOB DOUGLAS. Are humans headed for early extinction?

Observing the national and international political scene, one could be forgiven for believing that all we need to do is promote economic growth and jobs and everything will be okay. We have become besotted with the idea that money and markets will solve all of our problems.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, our commitment to endless economic growth and  denial and ignorance of its ecological consequences is an integral part of the problem, which must urgently be addressed if our grandchildren are to survive.   Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Donald Trump is more believable and moral than Putin – Seriously?

Instead of cheering US resort to increasingly robust use of military firepower as the first response to international crises, Western leaders should be ring-fencing Trump’s instinct to reckless behaviour in order to avoid a catastrophe.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Trump is Ignorant of History and So is His Chump Sean Spicer

This article by Middle East expert, ROBERT FISK, was first published in The Independent on 12 April 2017.

Fisk comments ‘Gas, cruise missiles, barrel bombs, Hitler and the American media. Mix them all up and I suppose you get Trump’s new policy in the Middle East.’  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments