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IAN McAULEY. Reframing public ideas Part 3: Economy and society

Many public debates are framed in terms of compromises or balances between “economic” and “social” objectives. Such ordering is confused: economic policies are meaningless unless they serve social ends. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 1 Comment

ROGER SCOTT. 1987 and the “Dawkins Revolution”.

This is part 2 of my response to an invitation to share my memories linked to the release of Cabinet papers from 1987. Here I will focus on the tertiary education reforms instituted by federal Education Minister John Dawkins. Continue reading

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

RICHARD TANTER. Pine Gap and a possible Korean nuclear war A REPOST from December 18,2017

The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap is a huge and controversial US intelligence base near Alice Springs in central Australia. Again the debate is flaring over whether or not the costs of hosting the base — most relevant being its challenge to Australian foreign policy autonomy, as well as being a possible or even likely nuclear target — are outweighed by the benefits. Pine Gap’s role in a possible Korean war raise these issues in new ways. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | Leave a comment

MICHAEL KEATING. Inequality, wages and economic growth- A REPOST from July 31,2017

Changes in inequality and in the relationship between wages and productivity help explain the poor economic performance of many advanced economies in this century. Interestingly the Governor of the Reserve Bank indicated that Australia might be facing the same risks of inadequate wage growth, although he felt that ‘Australia’s monetary policy framework is better placed to deal with this world than some others’. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 6 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. It’s time for a Human Rights Act for Australia

In Pearls and Irritations recently, Elizabeth Evatt (Why not protect all our rights and freedoms?) called for a Human Rights Act to protect all our rights and freedoms and not just freedom of religion. 

The issue of freedom of religion is being examined by Phillip Ruddock and his ‘expert panel’. This issue is also being examined by a Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.   Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | 4 Comments

DOUGLAS NEWTON.  Beersheba – the Scramble for the Ottoman Empire- A REPOST From November 2, 2017

The centenary of the bloodshed at Beersheba this month is being used to bolster a narrow nationalist understanding of Australia’s First World War. Vital truths about the worldwide catastrophe that had enveloped countless millions by October 1917 are being obscured in a flood of media material that focuses almost entirely upon deeds of gallantry and dash.  (Because of technical problems on Tuesday, I decided to repost this important article as some readers may have missed it.) Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs | 11 Comments

JENNY HOCKING. An Australian republic inevitable as Turnbull disappoints again.

The republic is now emerging as a key election issue, with the Prime Minister a mere observer in its wake. In considering the powers of a president in a new Republic it is important to affirm that government can only be formed with the confidence of the House of Representatives. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

RICHARD WOOLCOTT. The Australia – Indonesia Agreement on maintaining security in 1995


The Cabinet papers for 1994/95, released on 1 January this year, made it clear that Paul Keating had sought to develop a security agreement between Australia and Indonesia in 1994. The Agreement was completed in 1995.   Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

MACK WILLIAMS. Breaking the ice at Pyeongchang?

The decision by the DPRK to reopen high level talks with the ROK next week in preparation for the Winter Olympics is monumental for the ROK. Followed by the US:ROK decision to defer major military exercises at the time of the Games it could well provide an opportunity for informal contacts which could lead eventually to direct US:DPRK talks.   Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

ROGER SCOTT. Joh Bjelke-Petersen – 1987 in retrospect.

This is the season for personal nostalgia. In my case, personal perspectives inevitably shade into the political. On 1 January Queensland Cabinet papers from 1987 were released; and as a further reminder of that era, on 4 January a state funeral was held for Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen who had died shortly before Christmas. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

BRUCE LINDSAY. “Anti-corruption”, water and the Basin plan. A repost from October 8, 2017

Water management and decision-making is vulnerable to lobbying by powerful commercial interests, as was illustrated recently by the ABC Four Corners investigation into NSW water management. Even where such conduct cannot be categorised as corrupt in the criminal sense, it can compromise the integrity of public governance of natural resources. Excessive private interest in the exercise of public power needs to be resisted, and may be overcome by reform that ensures stricter standards, accountability and public participation. In water governance, reform based on ‘anti-corruption’ principles, could include increased legal and policy mechanisms such as third party participation rights, administrative hearings and a more prominent role for the public trust doctrine.  Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 2 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. A Human Rights Bill 2009.

As part of our campaign for a national Human Rights Act, a Bill was drafted to ‘respect, protect and promote Human Rights for Australia’.  This model Bill formed the core of our group’s submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, chaired by Frank Brennan SJ OA.  See following draft of Human Rights Bill 2009.  Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE. A campaign from 2005, for a Human Rights Act for Australia.

In 2005, Susan Ryan, Spencer Zifcak and others, in association with New Matilda, launched a campaign for a Human Rights Act for Australia. This campaign is outlined in the following. It formed part of a submission to Frank Brennan SJ who was Chair of the Commonwealth Government, National Human Rights Consultation.

As a result of the campaign, a draft Human Rights Bill 2009 was developed. This has been posted separately.   Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | Leave a comment

JUDE McCULLOCH, JANEMAREE MAHER, KATE FITZ-GIBBON AND SANDRA WALKLATE. Finally, police are taking family violence as seriously as terrorism.

Victoria Police recently announced that family violence perpetrators will be treated as seriously as terrorists and murderers.  This strategy represents a major milestone in the evolving police approach to family violence. Though family violence results in far more death and injury, terrorism is nonetheless considered Australia’s leading security threat. The Victoria Police strategy represents an opportunity to reset security priorities by recognising family violence as the foremost contributor to the preventable death and injury of women and children.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Human Rights | 1 Comment

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE. The US has a massive military presence in the Asia-Pacific.

We are warned about Chinese island building for military purposes in the South China Sea. But all this is quite minor compared to the US military bases that encircle China and provoke the DPRK.

Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | Leave a comment

ANDREW FARRAN. India riding roughshod in commodities trade.

India’s decision on 21 December to slap overnight a 30% tariff increase on Australian imports of lentils and chick peas is just not what a stable, orderly trade system needs. But even so, do we need another discriminatory bilateral so-called ‘free trade’ agreement with yet another country (India) when all these taken together are a recipe for future trade wars as occurred in the 1930s.  Continue reading

Posted in Asia | Leave a comment


A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America – the Guardian.

Australia’s least competitive industries are earning super-profits Ross Gittins  – Canberra Times.

Michael Lewis writes on Trump’s campaign against Department of Agriculture scientists in Vanity Fair.

Americans can spot election meddling because they’ve been doing it for years – the Guardian

A quarter of the World’s land will be permanently drier if Paris climate goals not met: Study

NBN expert, Paul Budde laments ‘second-rate’ network – Newcastle Herald

Trump and the liar’s paradox from The Washington Post

In the Fairfax Media John Hewson’s New Year contribution warns that we should not repeat squandering policy opportunities as we did in 2017. “In almost every area of public policy the real challenges have simply been kicked down the road by an obsession with short-term, opportunistic, mostly negative, point scoring and blame shifting.”

In a re-broadcast of an ABC Religion and Ethics Report from May 2017, essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra examines the worldwide sources of popular rage that have led to phenomena such as Brexit, Trump’s election, the re-emergence of right-wing nationalism, religious dogmatism, civil unrest, and a general rejection of cosmopolitanism and liberal secularism. He frames his analysis in terms of the competing philosophies of Voltaire and Rousseau, and concludes that a path to reconciliation lies in a rediscovery of the values of solidarity and compassion.

Posted in Links | Leave a comment

ALISON BROINOWSKI. War on the cheap.

It’s unlikely that the Army will commission a further report following Albert Palazzo’s account of the ADF’s operations in Iraq. We have years to wait for Professor Craig Stocking’s official history. What Australia urgently needs is a full independent inquiry into our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Defence/Security, International Affairs | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE. The Ausgrid decision and the growing power of security and intelligence agencies. A REPOST from August 2016


The Ausgrid decision on Chinese investment raises two important issues.

The first is how do we get a proper balance between security concerns and the wider benefits of the relationship. Our major strategic ally the US sees China our major economic partner as a rival and threat. Read about a recent discussion between Hugh White and Geraldine Doogue on this issue.

The second is how good are our security/intelligence agencies in advising the government? It is this second issue that I discuss here.

In his press conference to announce the veto on the Chinese investment in Ausgrid, the Treasurer was asked ‘what was the security concern?’. He replied that ‘the only person security-cleared in this room to answer that question ,is me’. That is hardly reassuring but it is a continuing feature of Morrison’s ministerial career. Remember the need for ‘on water secrecy’. He loves being smarter and better informed than other people and telling us about it. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Infrastructure, International Affairs, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JOHN QUIGGIN. Why 2017 was a good year for climate

On the face of it, there was plenty of bad news for the climate in 2017. Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 2105 Paris agreement and promised to reverse the decline of the coal industry. The Turnbull government rejected proposals for an efficient transition to a low-carbon energy sector, instead announcing a half-baked National Energy Guarantee designed as a lifeline for coal-fired power. Globally, CO2 emissions appeared to rise by around 2 per cent, after remaining stable for three years in a row. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | Leave a comment

JEFFREY SACHS. The fatal expense of US Imperialism.

The scale of US military operations is remarkable. The US Department of Defense has (as of a 2010 inventory) 4,999 military facilities, of which 4,249 are in the United States; 88 are in overseas US territories; and 662 are in 36 foreign countries and foreign territories, in all regions of the world. Not counted in this list are the secret facilities of the US intelligence agencies. The cost of running these military operations and the wars they support is extraordinary, around $900 billion per year, or 5 percent of US national income, when one adds the budgets of the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, homeland security, nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy, and veterans benefits. The $900 billion in annual spending is roughly one-quarter of all federal government outlays. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Economy | Leave a comment

ERIC HODGENS. Melbourne’s New Archbishop.

2018 will be a fateful year for the Catholic Church in Australia as Melbourne gets a new archbishop. This appointment, if successful, offers some hope for the Church; if a failure, it will hasten the Church’s decline into insignificance. Here’s why. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 12 Comments

MICHAEL LAMBERT. Overweight and Obesity Part 2: The indigenous Australians Impact

Part 1 of this two-part post provided a global and broad Australian perspective on the pandemic of overweight and obesity. This part sets out the position for indigenous Australians and argues that this pandemic is a significant part of the health gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and that the way forward must involve interventions to address the problem at childhood and adolescent stages. Continue reading

Posted in Health, Indigenous affairs | 4 Comments


Kim Jong-un’s offer to re-open the hotline with South Korea cannot be seen as merely a ploy to wedge ROK and the United States, as so readily claimed last Tuesday by Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations.   Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 1 Comment

IAN McAULEY. Reframing public ideas Part 2: The role of government

We tend to think of a “left” seeking bigger government and the “right” seeking smaller government. But such a framework can see governments simultaneously neglecting important areas while interfering where they shouldn’t. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 3 Comments

MICHAEL McKINLEY. Australia and the wars of the alliance: fragments for a coronial inquiry – Part 4: A REPOST The finding: a disordered national mindset and body politic

Australia’s alliance wars – their respective causes, conduct, and consequences – are overdetermined by the politics and strategies of the United States. In general, though they consist of few battlefield successes, the overall record is one of failed campaigns informed by repeatedly failed – indeed, ‘dead’ – ideas that for various reasons maintain their currency.  The purpose of this post is to conclude a limited coronial inquiry on the basis of the three previous posts – that is, to establish the mind-set existing up to the time the death occurred.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs | Leave a comment

PATRICK MCEACHERN. What is Kim Jong Un’s intention with nuclear weapons?

Unlike his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un began his reign as the top leader in North Korea with an unambiguous and tested first generation nuclear device.  He showed early signs of doubling down on the nuclear program as fundamental to national security.  Contrary voices publicly articulating the trade-offs associated with varying approaches to the nuclear issue observable during his father’s term evaporated under Kim Jong Un.  His regime would be unified in word and deed at least publicly as it advanced its nuclear weapons capabilities.  Though Kim Jong Un’s North Korea oscillated between boisterous nuclear threats and relatively quiet nuclear development that included offers for diplomatic engagement on the nuclear issue, the nuclear program has continued to progress.  This is not simply a quantitative growth of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, rather Kim Jong Un has articulated and his regime has pursued a more advanced nuclear deterrent. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 1 Comment

BERNARD KEANE. No politician has the spine to stand up to Australia’s intelligence state

It’s standard in an end of year piece to attempt to identify some unifying theme in the events of an arbitrarily selected period of time. Sometimes themes and commonalities really do emerge. Other times, they’re the author’s confection. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

CAVAN HOGUE. The ambassadorial minnow and the whale.

Australian angst about the failure of the US to send an ambassador to Australia reflects the nature of our relationship. Tim Fischer is right to see it as an insult but it should not surprise us.  Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | Comments Off on CAVAN HOGUE. The ambassadorial minnow and the whale.

ALLAN PATIENCE. In an untrustworthy world, whom can we trust?

Three political heavy weights loom threateningly over 2018: Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. All three lead dangerous nuclear-armed states. All three have elephantine egos squashing their intellects. As ultimate narcissists, each believes that his nation is embodied in himself (“L’état c’est moi!”). In this respect they are political dinosaurs because the problems that imperil their countries today – and the entire globe – require of today’s leaders a truly global vision. Their political extinction is much to be desired, but is depressingly unlikely. Whom among this ugly triumvirate can Australia trust as the New Year unfolds?  Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 4 Comments