Mar 16, 2019

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts in other media

ABC’s Saturday Extra with Paul Barclay for the next couple of weeks (Geraldine Doogue is away in Italy)

 (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website  in case you miss it).

  • Christchurch shooting: was New Zealand an “easy target”? – with Jacinta Carroll of the  National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU;
  • Kiev-based journalist Christopher Miller about the absurd political situation in Ukraine where a comedian who plays the President is leading in the polls for the 31st March presidential election;
  • Belgian professor of international relations Jonathan Holslag talks about the current political situation and why we desire peace but very rarely achieve it. His book is A Political History of the World: three thousand years of war and peace;
  • The mammoth digitisation process in our libraries and archives, what challenges do they face? – with David Fricker, Director-General, National Archives of Australia, and Sue McKerracher,  CEO of the Australian Library and Information Association;
  • The failed 1918 revolution in Munich when writers and poets led Bavaria for a brief time, with deadly results,  with Volker Weidermannand, author of Dreamers when the writers took power.

Other commentary

Polls and rumours of polls

Every slight movement in opinion poll results generates a heap of media interest. Most of it is worth ignoring, because almost every reported movement in recent polls is well within the polls’ margins of error. Before the 2016 election Peter Brent of Swinburne University published on the ABC website an excellent guide to opinion polls – including a link to a website giving a statistically formal means of interpreting the meaning of shifts in poll numbers.

Most of the noise of error margins is filtered out on William Bowe’s Poll Bludger website. It reveals a slow recovery in the Coalition’s two-party-preferred vote since the disaster of the Dutton-Morrison putsch, but it’s nowhere near enough to put the Coalition in a winning position by May. Bowe’s website also reports on the betting markets, which, federally, would pay $1.16 for a dollar bet on Labor, and $4.00 a dollar on the Coalition.

Rumours of interest rate rises

With the Australian economy slowing there is speculation about future interest rates. Will (or rather, when will) our Reserve Bank drop official interest rates to provide a monetary boost to a flagging economy and to compensate for higher bank interest rates?  John Hewson, writing in the Fairfax media, and Ian Verrender, on the ABC’s website, both explain the difficulty faced by central banks in an environment where loose monetary policy has contributed to a huge build-up in debt. Any further cut by our RBA could result in a rise in our household debt, already close to twice our household disposable income.

While monetary policy involves inevitable tradeoffs, there should be no tradeoff between environmental and economic objectives.  Speaking at a Centre for Policy Development forum Guy Deeble, Deputy Governor of the RBA, spoke about  Climate change and the economy – both the effects of climate change itself (another factor making for macroeconomic uncertainty), and the adjustment path as industries manage the transition to a low-carbon economy.  His speech was met with less than enthusiasm by those advocating government support for new coal-fired power stations. On Fran Kelly’s RN Breakfast Trevor St Baker said the RBA’s statement was “totally inappropriate”.

Privilege for big business and mortgage brokers, austerity for our common wealth  

ABC business reporter David Taylor, summarises the company reporting season so far. While nominal wage growth over the year has been 2.3 per cent, corporate dividends, in comparison with last year’s autumn reporting period, are up 36 per cent. His report of the view of John Buchanan from Sydney University’s Business School is that  “even a small redirection of funds from investors to employees would go a long way to solving Australia’s low wage-growth problem”.

Jessica Irvine can hardly suppress her justified outrage at the Government’s backdown  on the Hayne Commission recommendation to end trailing commissions for mortgage brokers – a practice the Commission described as “money for nothing”.  It’s a manifestation of the worst of political behaviour: rejection of expert advice and surrender to scare campaigns by privileged commercial interests.

The Australia Institute, in association with Deakin University, has produced a paper, authored by Andres Scott, comparing tax in Australia and the Nordic countries. The paper is not only a factual comparison of tax rates and policies, but also an explanation of the reasons Nordic people generally accept high taxes: “People who live in the Nordic nations receive valuable returns from the higher taxes they pay, which is why they continue to pay them.”

From the Middle East

Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, writing in The Guardian, draws our attention to a UN investigation into the 2018 Gaza protests, which concluded that Israeli officers and their leaders may have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. “There is a legal and a moral responsibility for the international community to take decisive action towards respecting international law, UN resolutions and human rights in Palestine” he writes.

Helena Cobban,President of Just World Educational and CEO of Just World Books, writing on the website Mondoweiss, says of Israel The two-state solution is dead. Let’s start planning for the one state. She states what should not need stating:

“The long-pursued project to build separate Israeli and Palestinian entities in historic Palestine should be ditched in favor of establishing a single democratic state there in which all persons with a legitimate claim to belonging there enjoy full civic equality within it.”

For many months we have been told that ISIS is finally defeated.  Perhaps the final military victory is in sight.  But, writing in the Fairfax press – The Caliphate is dead. For now – Peter Hartcher reminds us “Daesh and its ‘caliphate’ are merely the most recent recrudescence of a much older idea of a vengeful revival of Islamic glory. They will not be the last.”

How much power do billionaires wield in the political process?

That’s the question posed in a discussion between the ABC’s Hugh Riminton and historian Nancy MacLean of Duke University. Right-wing political action groups usually defend themselves on the basis that they are funded by “individual donors”, but those individuals are generally a handful of billionaires with specific agendas, including undermining climate science and weakening or destroying democratic institutions. At their disposal is not only a large amount of money, but also access to databases on individual voter behaviour, derived from social media platforms.

The political right also gets a good run on university campuses, according to the ABC’s David Rutledge. He asks  why university provocateurs lean to the right. He queries our interpretation of J S Mill – does every voice have an equal right to a lectern on our campuses?  “John Stuart Mill said that we need to hear the very best arguments on behalf of views that we reject” he points out.

Jobs for mates

“The smell of death has sent Coalition chicanery off the scale, with jobs for the boys (and the occasional girl) in diplomacy, on well-paid boards, and with judicial and quasi-judicial posts”. So writes Jack Waterford in The Canberra TimesLiberals dig in to their last man and taxpayers’ last dollar. He writes not only about Attorney-General Christian Porter’s patronage appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (which has brought government to the “Caligula class”) but also the practice of binding future governments to contracts and commitments, regardless of their mandate.

Tim Costello on Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and some disturbing figures

On the ABC’s Big Ideasis a program devoted to Tim Costello’s UNSW Gandhi Oration. He takes us through Gandhi’s political philosophy (“the performance of one’s duty should be utterly independent of political opinion: it should be based on a sense of truth”), the idea of “social justice” (it’s not clear-cut), and some uncomfortable data on our government’s pitiful performance on foreign aid (we’re down among the most selfish).

Poor Theresa May

She has been getting a bad press this week, such as this report from Ian Dunt, Editor of on Phillip Adams’  Late Night Live.  But at least the Germans have some sympathy for her and her colleagues in the Tory Party.


Saturday’s Good Reading and Listeningis compiled by Ian McAuley

Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up


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