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LYNDON MEGARRITY. Rex Patterson and the Whitlam Government


Dr Rex Patterson entered politics in 1966 by winning a by-election for the seat of Dawson as an ALP candidate on the platform of Northern Development. During Whitlam’s time as Opposition leader (1967-72), Patterson and Whitlam worked closely together on Northern Australia policies; Patterson also developed a media and parliamentary profile as Labor’s spokesman for rural affairs and Northern Development. As a federal public servant in the 1950s and 1960s, Patterson had developed expertise in sugar, pastoralism and other primary industries and was therefore well qualified to be Labor’s spokesman for these issues. Continue reading

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RICHARD WOOLCOTT. The American alliance and Vice President Biden’s recent visit.


Vice President Biden’s speech at the Paddington Town Hall on 20 July was by invitation only.

I had met Vice President Biden three years ago in Washington when I was on the Board of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue.  He was friendly and somewhat more impressive than I had expected and certainly had very competent staff around him.

Security at Paddington was intense.  We were asked to arrive at 9:00am.  Although it was raining and we had been advised not to bring umbrellas, invitees were not able to enter the Town Hall before 10:00am and Biden himself arrived nearly an hour later than he said he would at 12:00 noon.  I was sitting beside Tanya Plibersek who was told not to open her bag by a security officer and I was also asked to take my hands out of my pockets. Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Is this the most sycophantic speech by an Australian prime minister? Julia Gillard’s address to the United States Congress, March 2011

‘All the way with LBJ’ has become the cliche that associates Conservative dependence on the US alliance.  But Julia Gillard’s address to the US Congress is hard to beat!  John Menadue. Continue reading

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STEPHEN FITZGERALD. Security in the region. (Repost from Policy Series)

Paul Keating and Gareth Evans used to claim, with justification, that by the mid-1990s Australia had become ‘the odd man in’ in Asia. This was in significant part because of the headway they’d made in Southeast Asia, with ASEAN countries, in gaining acceptance of Australia as ‘one of them’. This was no slogan. Behind it lay a geostrategic idea of Southeast Asian countries as natural partners into the long term future, in a world dominated by competing great powers, and offering the entree to what Keating called ‘finding our security in not from Asia’. Keating and President Suharto’s Agreement on Maintaining Security was a first stage in that direction, flanked by the initiative for a Ministerial Forum with Indonesia. Evans, encouraged by the response of Southeast Asian colleagues, floated a geopolitical definition of Asia that included Australia as a logical component of what he called the East Asian Hemisphere. Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. Health care for aged people is increasingly complex.


From his experience in intensive care in one of Australia’s busiest intensive care units at Liverpool Hospital in Southwest Sydney, Professor Ken Hillman describes the failure of specialised, super-specialised, medicine to deal appropriately and humanely with seriously ill aged persons and those whose life has run its course. (Ageing and end-of-life issues, posted 9/7/2016 in Pearls and Irritations)

Ockham’s Razor (1) is wielded inappropriately when there is not a single biological breakdown but many breakdowns. Ageing causes progressive erosion of the reserve capacity in all body systems; and chronic disease impairs the function of many organs. The aims in preventive medicine and successful ageing are to protect and preserve the function of body systems with advancing age and to prevent the onset and progression of chronic disease. Continue reading

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WALTER HAMILTON. Abdication in Japan?

On July 13, just three days after Japan’s ruling coalition secured a critical two-thirds majority in parliament, a news report emerged that the country’s long-serving Emperor wishes to abdicate ‘within the next few years’. (According to some news media, the abdication story was held over until after the election at the government’s insistence.) On the surface, the two events might appear unrelated; however, various intriguing possibilities are worth exploring. Continue reading

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JOHN McCARTHY. Foreign Policy. Australia, the United States and Asia. (Repost from Policy Series)

In a conversation in October last year with two British foreign correspondents and a former Japanese Prime Ministerial foreign policy adviser, the subject turned to the United States. All three interlocutors argued that in recent years Australia had superseded both Japan and the United Kingdom as the United States’ closest ally.

This view should not have come as a surprise. Continue reading

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JOHN TULLOH. Shrugging off the effects of the Iraq invasion.


 ‘His decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president’.

Professor Jean Edward Smith, eminent US presidential biographer, on George W. Bush.

The other day the Sydney Morning Herald had a cartoon showing John Howard in a military uniform and holding a pop gun. Behind him were the symbolic tombstones of the tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly ‘innocents’, who’ve died since the 2003 invasion. Howard is depicted a shrugging and saying ‘Seemed like a good idea at the time…’ That, crudely, summed up the rationale for the invasion. Continue reading

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JOHN CARMODY. More on Brexit

Dr John Carmody reflects on the historical journey of the European Union.

Continue reading

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ALLAN PATIENCE. Why the debates about Islam have gone off the rails


One of the persistent conceits of modern history has been the growing conviction that rational scientific enquiry will completely remove religious thinking from human consciousness for all time. Positivist fundamentalists like Stephen Hawking or so-called “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have triumphantly echoed the Nietzschean declaration “God is dead” without understanding that this was Nietzsche’s anguished cry in response to modernity’s mindless stampede into what he believed was a ghastly post-mythic abyss. A similar despair engulfed one of the very greatest sociological theorists of modernity, Max Weber, who accused its protagonists of “disenchanting” the human experience by locking it up in an “iron cage of rationality.” Continue reading

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