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.

DUNCAN MacLAREN. ‘Game On’ as UK Split Looms over Brexit

Just as David Cameron’s idiocy in calling for an EU referendum to appease his rabid right-wing has made him the godfather of Brexit, so May, in treating Scotland like a trinket which the UK has to “keep”, to say nothing of her handling of Northern Ireland, could well be the midwife of the break-up of Britain.   Continue reading

Posted in Foreign Affairs and Trade, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

JAMES O’NEILL. Further developments in MH17 case ignored by our media.

In January 2017 Ukraine issued proceedings against Russia in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. The claim has barely been covered in the international media and not at all in the Australian media.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

JONATHAN PAGE.  Who Pays The Ferryman? Befriending Death.

The human experience is haunted by mortality. It is important to encourage deep discussion of the reality of our own individual death from an early age. The potential psycho-spiritual and behavioural benefits of this discussion are immense.  Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

IAN McAULEY. The National Electricity Market: What happens when economists get involved with electricity

John Menadue has asked me to write about the National Electricity Market – the NEM.  I should be qualified to do that: my first degree and my first years of professional work were in electrical engineering and in my later professional work I taught public economics. Who could be better qualified? But let me apologise to the readers of John’s blog: I’m not up to the task because I cannot make sense of the NEM.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Environment, Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

FRANCIS SULLIVAN. Where to from here?

I don’t think anyone was prepared for the extent of the abuse and the appalling rate across male religious orders and within the priesthood.

The posturing and spin of years past has been seen for what is was – an avoidance of the truth and a failed attempt to divert the public from the scale of the abuse and the depths to which Church officials had sunk as they tried to keep it hidden.   Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

ALAN PEARS. The solution to Australia’s gas crisis is not more gas.

Eastern Australia has plenty of gas. The problem is that most of it is being exported at prices lower than some Australians are paying. And the price volatility resulting from the present shambles is making life difficult for some Australian industries.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

MARK BEESON. WA and the politics of the resource curse. Take on the miners at your peril!

WA is but the most glaring example of the way that Australia’s politics have been directly affected by the politics of the so-called ‘resource curse’, when a powerful economic sector uses its disproportionate influence to shape political outcomes.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics, Vested Interests | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

SUSAN RYAN. Older women need housing too.

In the growing discourse around affordable housing, the federal and some state governments are edging forwards. Recently proposed changes have merit, but they may exclude poorer older women in need of housing.   Continue reading

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

MICHAEL WEST. Gas crisis? Or glut? Why Japan pays less for Australian LNG than Australians do.

It is bizarre that gas customers in Japan buy Australian gas more cheaply than Australians. Some of this gas is drilled in the Bass Strait, piped to Queensland, turned into liquid and shipped 6,700 kilometres to Japan … but the Japanese still pay less than Victorians.  Continue reading

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

JOHN MENADUE. Making miners pay their fair share.

The victorious Labor Party in Western Australia has got off on the wrong foot in its timidity towards the mining sector. Its leader, Mark McGowan, has said that a Labor Government will not support a mining royalty proposed by the WA Nationals because it would drive investment away from WA. This is a very hackneyed line about frightening foreign investment and sovereign risk.   Continue reading

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

CHRIS BONNOR. Selective schools: comprehensively routed?

When you are a school principal there are some days you don’t forget. For me it was the day the government ambushed my school by establishing a selective school down the road. No warning, no consultation – it just seemed like a good idea at the time. It was argued that it was a good idea for the selected, but even then we knew that it wasn’t a good idea for those not similarly blessed. We now know that it has done nothing for overall levels of student achievement.  Continue reading

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

MUNGO MacCALLUM. Will Malcolm Turnbull seize the opportunity?

One Nation also copped a hiding, largely as a result of the Faustian bargain on preferences struck between Barnett and Pauline Hanson and her sinister adviser, James Ashby.   Continue reading

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

ALAN KOHLER. Hell, Elon? It’s Malcolm.

“Cannon-Brookes! That man’s an absolute nuisance. He’s been causing Arthur problems with our 457 visa plans, and now he’s trying to mess up the nice little wedge we’ve got going with Shorten and Weatherill over renewables and blackouts in Adelaide.”   Continue reading

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

QUENTIN DEMPSTER. Michelle Guthrie’s survival strategy for the ABC

ABC MD Michelle Guthrie’s survival strategy for the national broadcaster is to re-invest brutally extracted payroll savings into new “extraordinary” content.

While encouraging staff to come up with exciting new creative ideas to use the $20m available immediately and then $50m a year in a content fund she says her flattened management restructure will deliver, apart from 80 new regional reporting and content staff, the new program strategy remains unspecified.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IAN MCAULEY. Warning from Colin Barnett: Privatisation is on the nose

The WA Government’s proposal to privatise Western Power – the government-owned electricity utility – was one of the factors contributing to the extraordinary anti-Liberal swing in Saturday’s Western Australia election. Privatisation of electricity has also been an issue in the eastern states. While the coal lobby and climate change deniers have blamed South Australia’s blackouts and shortages in other states on renewables, more detached observers, such as John Quiggin, have pointed out the part played by privatisation in raising prices and contributing to electricity shortages.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Infrastructure, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

PETER PHIBBS. we must call governments out on this ‘Game of Homes’.

When politicians say supply will fix the problem, ask them why it hasn’t worked yet. And also send them a copy of the graph from Chapter 1 of any first-year economics text book showing that price is the result of the interaction of supply and demandContinue reading

Posted in Housing, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

LESLEY HUGHES. Angry summers are the new normal. Our climate is on steroids.

The occurrence of the extreme summer experienced in NSW, for example, was at least 50 times more likely than would have been the case without climate change.   Continue reading

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

LUKE FRASER. The ‘Big Picture’ in infrastructure: even more depressing than the little picture?

As news broke recently that the Sydney Metro project would necessitate the closure of Sydney’s Bankstown rail line for a few months each year until well into next decade, the latest State Transport minister urged everyone to ‘look at the bigger picture’.  Continue reading

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

GEOFF MILLER. Too Nuclear to Fail?

The North Korean launch of four missiles towards the west coast of japan, reportedly accompanied by boasts about a coming ability to hit the continental United States with an ICBM, has raised the level of tension in North East Asia.   Continue reading

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

JOHN MENADUE. A little bit of honesty would go a long way in energy policy.

We really do need some honesty from the media on energy policy. The fact is that Coalition policies have failed for at least eight years and are largely responsible for our pending crisis. Media cover-ups for failed Coalition policies will not change that fact.
Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Economy, Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

RICHARD BUTLER. Contemplating the Use of Nuclear weapons?

A nuclear arms race between the US and Russia has resumed. The US is increasing the power and effectiveness of its weapons threefold, President Trump has indicated that he is prepared to contemplate using nuclear weapons to achieve some of his stated objectives.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs and Trade | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

PAUL BARRATT. Howard’s War – a continuation of politics by other means

For the discerning reader the Palazzo Report, the classified internal report on how we got into Iraq and how we fared, prepared by Army Historian Dr Albert Palazzo and now released in redacted form, is a remarkable document. Although heavily redacted in places, it offers a rich store of information about how the Howard Government conducted itself in the lead up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Government’s intent, and the state of the Army it sent to war.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

OLIVER FRANKEL. Victoria’s recent housing affordability initiatives.

Victoria’s Labor Government has made clear its determination to do something about housing affordability, recently announcing a suite of reforms – many aimed at first home buyers. The changes are for the most part designed to boost supply of homes both for purchase and rental. However, they also attempt to lower the barriers to purchase for those on lower incomes. Although well intentioned, and attracting some support from none other than Scott Morrison, they are not without their critics.  Continue reading

Posted in Housing, Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

IAN McAULEY. South Australia’s Electricity Problems: Jay Weatherill Should Follow The Coalition’s Example

Spare a thought for the people of South Australia. Large parts of Adelaide blacked out for up to 18 hours without notice. Trams stopped in their tracks across busy intersections. A bitter and partisan debate in state parliament about responsibility for the chaos – the electricity supplier, the federal government, other states putting their own energy needs ahead of South Australia’s? A heated argument about energy sources – coal or alternatives? Firms threatening to shift to other states because of unreliable electricity supply. Bitter complaints from consumers and businesses about electricity prices.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Infrastructure, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

ERIC HODGENS. The Catholic Dilemma.

Clerical privilege took a heavy blow when Catholic bishops were summoned to appear at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse (RC).  The             church answering to the state.   Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

DOUGLAS NEWTON. The “Political Correctness” – of the Right

In a recent speech to CEDA, John Howard denounced an “avalanche of political correctness”. In fact, Howard has helped promote a stifling version of political correctness – on the Right of Australian politics.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

FAZAL RIZVI. What students learn about Asia is outdated and needs to change.

While we readily recognise the new Asia to be culturally dynamic, and changing rapidly, we have yet to develop a more sophisticated understanding of Asia-Australia relations – and indeed also of the discourse of Asia literacy.   Continue reading

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

GEOFFREY ROBINSON. The Royal Commission.

I am convinced that there must be a full and open discussion of all aspects of the Church if we are ever to put this scandal behind us. Quite simply, we need a different church. The Royal Commission was not constrained by any Church laws or teachings and so came much closer to the heart of the problem.  
Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

CAVAN HOGUE. Why do we hate President Assad of Syria?

The US opposes Assad because he is not their son of a bitch and so supports a motley bag of groups with little in common who are probably no better than Assad. The elimination of ISIS is certainly desirable but it will not solve the mess that is the Middle East. Australia trots along behind the US because of the insurance policy argument.   Continue reading

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

FRANK STILWELL and CHRISTOPHER SHEIL. The IMF is showing some hypocrisy on inequality

The IMF should practice what it preaches when it comes to inequality.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments