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 on the P & I website, johnmenadue.com
Emails are sent to subscribers daily (Monday to Saturday) or weekly (Saturday).
Please do not reply to these emai ls as we will not receive your response.
There is a manage your subscription link at the end of the email.
To comment on articles, use the link at the end of each post.
Authors should send their posts to the email address provided in the style guide.

DAVID STEPHENS. Lest We Forget again: Anzac Day is an opportunity to confront our violent frontier past and its shadow today.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a young Somali-Australian Muslim woman, was driven out of Australia last year after she implied that the Anzac sacred cow might be ready to graze new territory. ‘Lest. We. Forget.’, she said, ‘(Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …)’. I thought she was on the right track and I said so, copping some of the bilious and vicious response that she herself received. Yet, surely, after a century we can move beyond dead soldiers and broaden the remembrance focus to other weighty matters where Australians bear some responsibility and where they should have some interest in making things right. Such a matter is right in front of us. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Politics | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE Anzacs fought and died at Gallipoli for Britain, not Australia

Conservatives and militarists want us to cling to a disastrous imperial war.  Such a war could never be ‘nation building’ as the apologists for empire suggest. It was quite the reverse.The Anzac myth makers encourage us to focus on how our soldiers fought in order to avoid the central issue of why we fought. We do the same today, highlighting the valour of our military and avoiding the much more important question of why we were  in  Turkey and Vietnam and now in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous affairs, International Affairs | Leave a comment

HENRY REYNOLDS. Remembrance Day in New York: Anzac Day in Tasmania.

I was in New York during May last year. At the end of the month, there was a public holiday. It was their Remembrance Day. Not that much happened in New York. There were no flags, no marches or processions. Apparently, it is a tradition for a naval ship to come into port for the occasion and there were a few white uniforms in the crowds of tourists. On Third Avenue, a woman rushed up to a sailor who was just in front of me and declared in a loud Manhattan voice that she greatly appreciated his service. But I was more interested in the experience of my ten-year-old grand-daughter who was in a junior public school. I asked her what the holiday was for. She had no idea. I asked her if she had any discussion in class about Remembrance Day and she said that no one had said anything about it. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the weekly debates that she and her class engaged in dealing with every aspect of contemporary politics in a way which would have been out of the question for my Tasmanian grand-daughter who was about the same age.When it came to Anzac Day it was quite a different story. Politics was eschewed in Tasmania’s junior classroom but by the middle of primary school the children had been thoroughly inducted into the official version of the central importance of the day. I was somewhat taken aback several years ago when my grand-daughter rushed out of her grade three classroom declaring she wanted to be an Anzac girl. Continue reading

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

SUE WAREHAM. Honouring the war dead means learning from the horror.

This Anzac Day, as on every other, we will hear of the horrors of war to which many of our service people have been exposed, horrors that certainly call into question any notion of us assuming the title “homo sapiens”.  We will “honour the fallen” and utter the hallowed words “lest we forget”, as we carefully forget every lesson that the last century and more of bloodshed could teach us. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Media, Politics | Leave a comment

DOUGLAS NEWTON. Anzac Day: From respectful remembrance to festival of forgetting

Are our war memorials becoming sites for mere flag-waving? Should they feature exhibition halls boosting national pride in our military prowess? If so, Anzac Day itself risks descending into a Festival of Forgetting. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | Leave a comment

DAVID JAMES. The big, bad business of America’s war industry.

The spread of militarism does not just involve creating the specific apparatus of war.

As the Western allies flirt with starting World War III in Syria, it is worth examining some of the financial and business dynamics behind the United States’ ‘military industrial complex.’ Continue reading

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

JULIE P SMITH. Live sheep exports are not worth the moral cost.

Growing up near Midland on the outskirts of Perth during the 1960s and 1970s, I endured the weekly stench from the local abattoir. It was the price we paid to get meat to population centres. My first job was in the local meat processing plant, working with people described as “salt of the earth, working class”, who had historically toiled in appalling conditions because they had no choice.

Pressured by unions over postwar decades, Australian governments eventually stepped in to enforce decent standards for work and wages. Compelled by those who saw the immense cruelty involved, animal welfare laws were also imposed. Meat industry employers objected to red tape and higher labour costs, but community standards were enforced, most operators complied, and the worst operators eventually left the business. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 2 Comments

IAN DUNLOP. Climate Change: The fiduciary responsibility of politicians & bureaucrats. Part 2 of 2.

“Fiduciary: a person to whom power is entrusted for the benefit of another”

“Power is reposed in members of Parliament by the public for exercise in the interests of the public and not primarily for the interests of members or the parties to which they belong. The cry ‘whatever it takes’ is not consistent with the performance of fiduciary duty”  Sir Gerard Brennan AC, KBE, QC

After three decades of global inaction, none more so than in Australia, human-induced climate change is now an existential risk to humanity. That is, a risk posing large negative consequences which will be irreversible, resulting inter alia in major reductions in global and national population, species extinction, disruption of economies and social chaos, unless carbon emissions are reduced on an emergency basis. The risk is immediate in that it is being locked in today by our insistence on expanding the use of fossil fuels when the carbon budget to stay below sensible temperature increase limits is already exhausted. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

ALEX WODAK. Why is the drug policy debate in Australia stuck?

Drug policy in Australia has been debated for decades but doesn’t seem to be getting close to resolution. However some progress is being made. Examples include the Victorian government’s decision in 2017 to establish a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Melbourne and the ACT government’s in principle decision in 2017 to allow a trial of pill testing. Social policy reform is always slow. The drug policy debate has some particular characteristics that make it especially difficult.   Continue reading

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

ALISON BROINOWSKI. Anzackery and the preening peloton.

When John Kenneth Galbraith was Kennedy’s Ambassador to India in the early 1960s, he reported that he had inspected a guard of honour and they seemed to him to be fine. His dry wit was lacking when the Murdoch media reported the safe return from Afghanistan of Pauline Hanson, her  colleague Brian Burston and Labor’s Senator Kimberley Kitching. There they had inspected a Bushmaster MR6 multi-role armoured vehicle (built in Australia by the French company Thales, which makes a counterpart in Canada) and a Chinook helicopter (made in the US by Boeing). They were briefed on the ‘security situation’ and took a three-day intensive training course, including instruction on how to ‘handle firearms’ (The Australian, 20 April 2018: 5).  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 2 Comments

MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison spins some fairy tales

Last week the Sydney Daily Telegraph spent a couple of days playing silly buggers with our beloved Treasurer Scott Morrison, depicting him first as Santa Claus and then as not. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

RICHARD FLANAGAN. Freedom means Australia facing up to the truth of its past. (Part 2 of 2)

We should, of course, question these things more. We could ask why – if we were actually genuine about remembering patriots who have died for this country – why would we not first spend $100m on a museum honouring the at least 65,000 estimated Indigenous dead who so tragically lost their lives defending their country here in Australia in the frontier wars of the 1800s? Why is there nowhere in Australia telling the stories of the massacres, the dispossession, and the courageous resistance of these patriots?  

(Second Extract from a speech by Richard Flanagan to the National Press Club on 18 April 2018)   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Human Rights, Indigenous affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

JIM COOMBS. Crime and Punishment: Who do we do first, the Banks (and “financial advisers”) or “dole bludgers”?

I was horrified today to hear that the coalition government this week wants to step up its pursuit of “welfare cheats”, a few millions of dollars chasing the poor, disabled and ignorant. Then Treasurer Scott Morrison is impelled to say, the government “might” gaol the execs who defrauded bank customers of what may well prove to be billions, not due to impoverishment (quite the reverse), disability (lets grab the loot) and we know it’s illegal (but that’s business, isn’t it ?) A further Memo to Kenneth Hayne: Proportionate punishment, enshrined in law, should mean that if a dole cheat manages a few thousand and gets two years, then a crook banker who engineers billions should get a life sentence. Has anyone even been charged ? Until “equality before the law” becomes a reality rather than a legal fiction, now we know that they knowingly engaged in systematic theft, the managers , if the principle holds, should have a severe criminal penalty imposed, and the bank should have its licence revoked, on the basis of clear breach of trust.  All those shareholders who thought banks were a licence to print money ( i.e., steal), should wear the risk they took in buying the shares. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about ? Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 2 Comments

IAN DUNLOP. Climate Change: The fiduciary responsibility of politicians & bureaucrats. Part 1.

“Fiduciary: a person to whom power is entrusted for the benefit of another”

“Power is reposed in members of Parliament by the public for exercise in the interests of the public and not primarily for the interests of members or the parties to which they belong. The cry ‘whatever it takes’ is not consistent with the performance of fiduciary duty”  Sir Gerard Brennan AC, KBE, QC

After three decades of global inaction, none more so than in Australia, human-induced climate change is now an existential risk to humanity. That is, a risk posing large negative consequences which will be irreversible, resulting inter alia in major reductions in global and national population, species extinction, disruption of economies and social chaos, unless carbon emissions are reduced on an emergency basis. The risk is immediate in that it is being locked in today by our insistence on expanding the use of fossil fuels when the carbon budget to stay below sensible temperature increase limits is already exhausted.  Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE. The banking royal commission confirms our worst fears about many business executives and crony capitalism

There was a revealing heading in an article a while back by Ross Gittins, the economics editor of the SMH, ‘Faster growth demands better chief executives’. He concluded his article by pointing to the need for business leadership to seize the economic opportunities -‘ Our overpaid and underperforming chief executive officers are getting (it) wrong’.

But it is all much worse than we thought as the incompetence  and greed of  some of our senior business executives  has been revealed in the banking royal commission. 

We also now know why the Liberal Party resisted for so long a royal commission. It was to protect their business mates. It is called ‘crony capitalism’

Continue reading

Posted in Education, Environment and climate, Politics | Leave a comment

RICHARD FLANAGAN. Australians in WWI didn’t die for Australia. They died for Britain. (Part 1 of 2)

And so, the Monash Centre, for all its good intentions, for all the honour it does the dead, is at heart a centre for forgetting. It leads us to forget that the 62,000 young men who died in world war one died far from their country in service of one distant empire fighting other distant empires. It leads us to forget that not one of those deaths it commemorates was necessary. Not 62,000. Not even one.

(The following are extracts from Richard Flanagan’s address to the National Press Club on 18 April 2018. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Human Rights, Politics | 2 Comments

MUNGO MacCALLUM. Girt by Sea – Australia, the refugees and the politics of fear.

Some at least of the South Africans who have come here, and no doubt most of those Dutton is promoting, want to emigrate to get away from blacks.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Refugees, Immigration | 3 Comments

MICHAEL PASCOE. The reality of our ‘scary’ China confrontation.

Fresh on the heels of the Chinese invasion of Vanuatu that wasn’t, febrile minds have been seized by the headline-grabbing story of a Chinese navy “confrontation” with the Royal Australian Navy. The Prime Minister was quickly ready in London to assert Australia’s right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Well, I suppose that’s more fun for Mr Turnbull than talking about his role in the battle against the banking royal commission. But before the usual Sinophobe chorus orders all hands on deck and an issue of rum, it might be worth keeping the “confrontation” in perspective.  Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Defence/Security | 2 Comments

IAN McAULEY. Strong employment growth, until you look behind the figures.

The ABS monthly employment data released last Thursday shows that since the Coalition was elected five years ago the Australian economy has generated one million additional jobs. Does this indicate success of the Coalition’s policies? Continue reading

Posted in Economy | Leave a comment

ERIC WALSH. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

The highly- important upcoming meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and America’s Donald Trump  could hopefully  settle one of the world’s red-hot trouble spots. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments

ROBERT MANNE. How we came to be so cruel to asylum seekers.

This is an edited extract of a talk delivered to the Integrity 20 Conference at Griffith University on October 25, 2016

If you had been told 30 years ago that Australia would create the least asylum seeker friendly institutional arrangements in the world, you would not have been believed. Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 8 Comments

GARRY EVERETT. Importance of seeing the ‘big picture’.

Failing to see or accept the big picture is a condition that is currently affecting many organisations in our world, says Garry Everett, and four particular organisations stand out as having significant problems in this regard. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Human Rights, Politics, Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

EMMA CARMODY. Lack of transparency in irrigation efficiency programs

An article by Kerry Brewster in the Guardian this week reports on a significant fraud investigation by Queensland’s Major and Organised Crime Squad (Rural) into subsidies granted to a landholder under the Healthy Headwaters Water Use Efficiency Program. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | Leave a comment

GREG HAMILTON. Not much ado about a helluva lot.

A stage play that wouldn’t make it into an Australian theatre today caused a helluva stink back in 1962 and said some wise and courageous (aka shocking) things about the ‘most sacred day’ in our national calendar. The reasons it wouldn’t make it today say something tragic about us as a society of people. Continue reading

Posted in Arts and Reviews | 3 Comments

GREG HAMILTON. Dying for nothing, a-la-Australienne.

According to the oldest surviving veteran of The Great War, Sgt Ted Smout, dead at 106, our war dead died in vain. In his words, ‘they died for nothing’. He must have known something most of us don’t know for him to make such a terrible claim. What could he possibly have known? Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 10 Comments

GOOD READING AND LISTENING FOR THE WEEKEND …

Australia gets a mention in The Atlantic, but probably not the kind we wanted.  It’s a review of the work of Terry Hughes (of James Cook University) and others who have had a paper published in Nature on the effect of global warning on the Great Barrier Reef. Atlantic staff writer Robinson Meyer writes:  “The Great Barrier Reef will continue to collapse and die until humanity stabilizes the amount of greenhouse-gas pollution in the air. But fixing that problem will require remaking the energy system, moving away from oil and gas and to solar, wind, and other renewable sources.”

Katie Acheson, Chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, writes in the Canberra Times about a war being waged in Canberra. It’s a war against young people, subjected to unaffordable housing, high unemployment, expensive education and inaction on environmental damage that will become manifest over their lifetimes.

Foreign Affairs allows non-subscribers to access one free article per month. In an article “Eastern Europe’s Illiberal Revolution: The Long Road to Democratic Decline” Ivan Krastev,  of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia analyses the decline of liberal democracy in Eastern Europe.  “A new illiberal consensus is emerging, marked by xenophobic nationalism and supported, somewhat unexpectedly, by young people who came of age after the demise of communism. If the liberals who dominated in the 1990s were preoccupied with the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, this new consensus is about the rights of the majority.”

On the ABC’s  Rear Vision Annabelle Quince has assembled an  impressive collection of gambling experts  in her program Australia: the world’s biggest gamblers.  It’s a history of gambling in Australia, leading to the post 1970s fiscal pressure on the states to raise funds through taxes on poker machines.  By now Australia has 76 per cent of high-intensity poker machines (200,000 machines) and we spend $23 billion a year on gambling ($3000 a household). (29 minutes)

Whichever way you cut it, Turnbull’s climate policy is still a sham – Giles Parkinson, RenewEconomy

Senator Rand Paul suggests the chemical weapons attacks in Syria  could have been false flag, unless Assad is the dumbest dictator on the planet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=K4V3jQCi8-o

And Admiral Lord West wonders the same thing in the UK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIA_dNkscsw

In Syria, the fog of war, Ross Burns

Scandal pursues Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe – New York REview of Books.

The President Is Not Above The Law. The constitutional order may soon be at stake in the investigation of Donald Trump – The New York Times editorial.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: “Clive Hamilton and Richard Rigby on Chinese influence in Australia

Clement Atlee, the mouse that roared – New York Review of Books.

On Saturday Extra this 21st April, Geraldine Doogue speaks with James Eyers from the AFR on this week’s Royal Commission into the banks and a discussion on the default life insurance built into our superannuation funds with minister for financial services, Kelly O’Dwyer as one of the guests.  The disturbing rape stories coming out of India but is this more about a growing division between Hindus and Muslims in that country and navigating freedom of the press in this era of fake news with foreign correspondents Peter Greste and Salil Tripathi. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/saturdayextra/

 

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

MARILYN LAKE. ANZAC from a Turkish point of view.

As Anzac Day comes round once more so we must prepare for the accompanying bombardment of nationalist myth-making. Our sense of national consciousness, so the story goes, was born on 25 April 1915. A nation was born on that day of death. The Anzacs fought for ‘freedom and democracy’. They died so that we might live. 

Mythologies serve to comfort and console. They smooth contradictions and reduce historical complexity. They make meaning of events that might otherwise be senseless or unbearable.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

MICHAEL PASCOE. The banking royal commission – it’s even worse than it looks

If you think the banking royal commission is big, you’re wrong. It’s much bigger. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. The facts don’t show that Liberals are better economic managers.

Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear that his mantra of ‘Jobs-and-Growth’ will be at the forefront of his campaign in the next election. This week he will be talking about the growth of a million jobs in 5 years, but there is nothing really remarkable in that on average over the last 15 years about 200,000 new jobs have been created each year. Further, it is less impressive because our population is growing by about two million every five years.  Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

JOHN STAPLETON. Abbott and Turnbull’s Assault on Freedom of Speech.

The Abbott and Turnbull governments have mounted the greatest attack on freedom of speech in Australian history. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments