Saturday’s good reading and listening for the weekend

Dec 12, 2020

What people in other forums are saying about public policy


Vale Mungo: a loss to public life

Mungo MacCallum has been one of the mainstays of Pearls and Irritations. We will miss him dearly.

There are many obituaries – one of the pithiest is in Independent Australia: Vale Mungo MacCallum — a true progressive voice gone.  Tony Smith has written a reflection of his life on Pearls and Irritations Anyone laughing has not heard the news. Vale Mungo.

He wrote his last piece for Pearls and Irritations just last week. We’re sorry he didn’t make it to Christmas, but as a passionate defender of the truth in journalism he would have taken pleasure in seeing the passing of the Trump administration.


Australia’s fragile economy

The World Bank warns about household debt but Frydenberg wants us to go out and spend

If we were to respond to the Government’s wishes, we would be spending like sailors on shore leave and borrowing to “invest” in real estate.  That would suit the Morrison Government just fine: workers up to their neck in debt are submissive to their employers, and when people with little understanding of finance see their real-estate increase in market value they are likely to vote for a government that made them feel richer (not realising that price inflation of illiquid assets has nothing to do with wealth).

In an article first published in The Economist, World Bank Chief Economist Carmen Reinhart warns about The coming Covid-19 credit crunch, that will hurt businesses and households carrying too much debt. In her short article she singles out Australia and Canada as countries with record levels of household debt, and therefore vulnerable to the credit crunch, when it eventually comes.

For a time there was some hope that one of the few good things to emerge from Covid-19 would be a fall in house prices, putting housing more within reach of young people. But that will not happen, for now: the ABC’s Ian Verrender, drawing on house price and loan commitment data, explains how low rates killed the affordable housing dream.

There is a case for keeping our interest rates low, but that case rests on the need to stop the $A exchange rate rising to the point that our industries become uncompetitive, and just in the last few weeks the $A has appreciated significantly.

The loan might have been low interest, but it still has to be repaid

Governments could prevent the collateral damage of low interest rates fuelling a housing boom, but the Morrison Government won office by opposing Labor’s policies aimed at making housing more affordable, and is now trying to push through Parliament a weakening of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, contrary to the recommendation of the banking commission. Perhaps when it first thought about relaxing those controls the Government was over-reacting to early forecasts of a sharp fall in housing prices, but that has not eventuated. Or perhaps the Morrison Government, which consistently sacrifices economic responsibility to political opportunism, simply wants to add even more stimulus to the housing boom. On ABC RN Breakfast the ABC’s Peter Ryan and Sally Tindall from Rate City strongly suggest that the idea of weakening those laws should be abandoned. (8 minutes)

When the housing bust eventually comes people will still have to pay off those loans: it will be cold comfort to know that the interest rate is low when the amount owing is more than the value of the property. All that matters to the Morrison Government, however, is to see the housing boom holding up until the next election.

It’s been tough on the young

The Brotherhood of St Lawrence reports that by June this year youth unemployment reached a 23-year high at 16.4 per cent: COVID the great disruptor: another blow to youth employment. In addition youth underemployment peaked in April at 17.9 per cent, meaning that one in three young people in the labour force could not get enough work. As has generally been the case young men have been faring worse than young women.

The Brotherhood, drawing on ABS data, is reporting on the 15-24 age bracket. This really covers two groups: those aged 15 to around 20, who should ideally be in full-time education and not in the workforce, or in an apprenticeship, and those in their twenties, most of whom would be in the workforce. We can dig a little deeper into those figures.

In November the ABS released its Education and Work survey for 2020. This annual document reports on people’s involvement in study and employment. We have looked at the younger half of the Brotherhood’s group and have produced the following table.

Young people in this age group have certainly found it tough: the proportion not fully engaged in work or study has risen from 13.0 to 14.6 per cent: that’s in line with the Brotherhood’s findings. More specifically, the gender difference is striking, particularly when we consider data about whether people are engaged in study from the same ABS series (it does not differentiate between full-time and part-time study). It appears that young women have adjusted to worsening conditions by becoming more fully engaged in education, while young men seem to have dropped out of both employment and education, widening an already significant gender gap in education participation by young people.

The fact that 16.7 per cent of 15-19 year-olds (19.3 per cent of young men) are not engaged in study should be of concern to policymakers, both in terms of lost economic potential and in terms of the consequences of a growing cohort of young men who have missed opportunities for education.

Not quite Workchoices but not much better

The Coalition’s bills to weaken labour standards seem to signal the end of a truce between the various parties with a stake in workplace regulation. Much of the dispute is centred on provisions that would allow any business impacted by Covid-19 to vary conditions of employment, to the detriment of workers. That impact does not have to be negative: because any business can legitimately claim to have been impacted, its provisions would effectively apply to the whole economy.

There is plenty of comment available from interested parties. On Wednesday afternoon it was the main item in the ABC’s PM program, which starts with the din of claim and counter-claim by various parties – not very informative but in the tradition of the ABC’s obsession with “balance”.  But five minutes into the program Linda Mottram interviews well-respected economist John Buchanan of the University of Sydney Business school. He criticises the bill on two counts. First, it would not stimulate employment as the Government claims: all it would do is to reduce the pay and conditions for the most vulnerable workers, particularly those in retail, hospitality, accommodation and aged care. And second it would have adverse macroeconomic consequences. He summarises the shortcomings of the bill in economic terms:

Labour standards did not cause this crisis, reducing them will not solve it … It’s a long-standing principle of Australian labour law that if companies can’t operate at community norms then maybe they shouldn’t be in business and capital should be re-allocated to those businesses that can uphold labour standards.

The program’s website has a link to Buchanan’s 7 minute segment, but at the time we prepared this entry it was malfunctioning. You can go into the whole program site and if you want to miss the noise of the claims and counter-claims come in at 5:05 minutes, or let the program run while you prepare a gin and tonic/coffee/wine/beer/joint/cup of tea or whatever.

The timely demise of the National Electricity Market

The National Electricity Market, linking the electricity systems of all states other than Western Australia and the Northern Territory, was established 22 years ago. Along with physical interconnection, a sound idea, came a set of institutional changes taken from a first-year economics text. In the interests of “competition policy”, a policy that prioritises structural design over actual outcomes of price and reliability, the old state electricity monopolies were broken up into four parts – generation, transmission, distribution and retail. This breakup led to high transaction costs as separated businesses had to deal with one another at arm’s length, it boosted profits and executive salaries in now corporatised or privatised businesses, it allowed entities to be driven by gaming to maximise profits rather than competing on price, and it added a whole new bureaucracy of marketers to what had been done in previously integrated systems.  It was a triumph of economic dogma over economic efficiency.

Writing in The Conversation Bruce Mountain, Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre at Victoria University, writes that after two decades, the national electricity market is on its way out – and that’s alright.  States are taking back control of their electricity sectors, partly because the Commonwealth has no energy policy, and partly because the architecture of the NEM, described above, cannot cope easily with the need for system integration when renewables are the most price-competitive sources of electricity. The NEM, designed for a system dominated by a small number of coal-fired generators, is quite unsuitable for a system with thousands of small generators and for markets where there will be much more interaction between users and suppliers as demand-management and storage become more established.

Remember when we used to worry about inflation?

Ross Gittins has a neat piece We’re having trouble learning to live with inflation. It’s not about inflation itself. Rather it’s about the relationship between inflation and interest rates.  (The story about inflation itself is a whole different topic in economics.)

Most people don’t understand the relationship between inflation and interest rates, or the difference between nominal interest rates – the rates you see advertised – and real interest rates – the return to a lender or the cost to a borrower once inflation is taken into account.

The relationship is actually pretty simple

Real interest rate = nominal interest rate – inflation (or, more precisely, expected inflation)

Gittins addresses this relationship from the perspective of people who have a few bob in the bank and are disappointed with the tiny interest being paid. It’s not as bad as it looks at first sight because inflation is low. And don’t blame the Reserve Bank for reacting to low global inflation.


Australian politics and society

A Liberal Party voice of democratic enlightenment: how annoying for Morrison

John Hewson, writing in the Saturday Paper, explains how rorts, mates and marketing took over politics. He illustrates his point with 17 examples of bad behaviour, ranging through specific examples of corruption (sports rorts, land deals), abuse of privilege (use of VIP aircraft), and contempt for democratic institutions (Parliament, the public service). Hewson mentions bad behaviour by both Labor and Coalition governments, but an examination of his list confirms the impression that each successive Coalition administration has taken contempt for democratic institutions and disregard for evidence-based policy to new depths.

“Politics is increasingly attracting the wrong sort of people, those more interested in making a difference for themselves and their mates than for their constituents or our nation” he writes. He presses the case for a democratic reform agenda addressing campaign funding, the proper functioning of parliament, de-politicisation of the public service and above all a genuine, well-funded, independent national integrity and reform commission.

Centrelink’s “robodebt” – an egregious failure of standards

The Centrelink “robodebt” case illustrates many ways in which the standards of public administration have eroded under seven years of Coalition government. In its most savage (and illegal) form it dates to February 2015, when then Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, signed on to the income-averaging scheme which was the root cause of the problem. The averaging scheme, in assuming that Youth Allowance and unemployment benefit recipients had steady fortnightly income was absurd in its concept – an absurdity anyone should understand.  Worse was the way Centrelink, once having accused recipients of overpayment, threw the onus of proof that the accusation was false back on to the individual – a clear breach of basic legal principles.

On the ABC’s Rear Vision program Annabelle Quince interviews Peter Whiteford of ANU’s Crawford School, Terry Carney and Darren O’Donovan respectively of Sydney and La Trobe Law Schools, and Senator Rachel Siewert who chaired the first Senate inquiry into robodebt. (Government ministers were invited, but declined the invitations.) In the program, Centrelink and the Robodebt recovery system, they tell the story of robodebt from its inception to its inglorious demise when the Morrison Government, unwilling to face the scrutiny of seeing its maladministration exposed in court, settled claims in a consent agreement late last year.

Although a case in court would have exposed much more of the Coalition’s maladministration, even the limited exposure of this and other accounts sees no one coming out with honour. The ethical standards of Morrison and the ministers who have had a hand in the scheme are revealed. The public servants who administered the scheme were consciously obeying orders that they knew to be illegal: that relates not only to the behaviour of those public servants (“an egregious failure of standards within the public service”), but also to the Coalition’s politicisation of the public service. More generally the program reveals that this idiocy had its origins in the unrelenting drive for “efficiency dividends” from the public service ( a bipartisan idiocy) and from the Coalition’s ideological obsession with “small government”.

Our part in the Christchurch terrorist attack

The media have covered two important aspects of the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain – the misdirection of security services which failed to assess adequately the risk posed by “white” racists, and inadequate vetting of the terrorist’s application for a firearms licence.

It would be unfair to single out New Zealand for these failings – they are characteristic of many “western” countries.

The report seems to have let Australia off lightly for our part in allowing this individual’s racism to develop. Section 4.2 of the report – “The individual’s upbringing in Australia” – is a non-judgemental story of his Australian life.  While the details are specific to the individual the general situation is not uncommon.  It should be a prompt for us to deal with the conditions that attract young men to far-right movements.

Our criminal justice conveyors

If we were asked to name a prosperous country where incarceration rates have been rising steeply – 50 percent over this century so far – even while serious crime has been falling, and that has an incarceration rate significantly higher than most other prosperous countries, most people would probably nominate the USA. Australia would not immediately come to mind.

But these are some of the main findings of a report Partners in Crime: the relationship between disadvantage and Australia’s criminal justice systems published on Thursday by the Centre for Policy Development. Yes, the USA does have a much higher proportion of its population in jail than Australia, but in some aspects they are ahead of us in reform.

The CPD work goes well beyond prison reform and beyond the treatment of individuals who have been charged or convicted. Rather, it considers the whole criminal justice system – or rather systems because we have overlapping jurisdictions – in its widest social context.  It observes that regions with high crime and imprisonment rates are also areas of broad disadvantage, and goes on to consider how aspects of disadvantage – poor health, homelessness, unfinished education, remoteness and so on – interrelate with one another to lead people to the “conveyor belt” of the criminal justice systems. They describe that conveyer belt as one with “more entries than exits, compounding disadvantage”.

And it goes beyond analysis to provide a suite of recommendations. Public policy should involve “long-term investment in local communities to support vulnerable families and people most at risk of entering criminal justice systems”, and should be guided by much better analysis of what works and what doesn’t work.

The Liberal Party is the party of the nanny state

The Coalition’s bill to establish the cashless welfare card as a permanent part of the social security system failed in the Senate. As a result of amendments in the Senate its trial will now simply be extended for two years. In refusing to support the bill Senator Rex Patrick pointed out that the government has failed to gather and analyse data to assess its effectiveness, and in his travels to remote places in South Australia and the Northern Territory he was unable to see any net benefits from the card.

Writing in Eureka Street Michele Madigan points out the harm that has been done by the cashless welfare card – Cashless cards stymie self determination. She quotes one person subject to the card’s “income management” constraint who summarises its fundamental flaw:

We want to make our own choices and not be treated like children.

Within the Liberal Party there is a deeply authoritarian paternalistic streak, going right against their stated values. This hypocrisy is accentuated by their track record in yielding to lobbying from the alcohol and gambling industries.

The case for public diplomacy

We have embassies around the world, we take part in international negotiations, we have a department dedicated to foreign affairs and trade.

These are all part of our official diplomacy explains Allan Behm on last weekend’s Saturday ExtraReimagining diplomacy.  But we fall down in public diplomacy, which he describes as “everything else” in our relationship with the rest of the world. Public diplomacy is about letting the world know who we are, what values we stand for – something much deeper than marketing campaigns to attract tourists or immigrants. We used to do it through the Australian News and Information Bureau. Other countries do it – think Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institute, the British Council. Our relations with the countries in our region may be far better if we could present ourselves as we are, as a thriving multicultural society, rather than as some “white” remnant of the British Empire.


The pandemic’s progress

Australia

Not much to see here.  Out of 131 cases in the 14 days to yesterday, 129 have been of people in hotel quarantine, and the other 2 are the remnants of two failures in hotel quarantine – fortunately caught quickly. There are still weaknesses in the hotel quarantine system, and there are differences between states in the thoroughness they apply to the task of quarantining returning overseas travellers.

Coping with Covid-19 – we have done well so far but we could have done better

The Senate Select Committee on Covid-19 has tabled its First interim report.  It is worth a glance because while we may congratulate ourselves on having reached a stage where there may be no Covid-19 circulating in the community, we could have done much better in relation to quarantine of returning Australians and in protecting those in aged care. Of 908 deaths from Covid-19, three quarters have been in aged care facilities.

Our death rate from Covid-19 to date is 37 per million population. That’s much better than the UK’s (936) and the US’s (875), but well above the rates in other countries in our region – New Zealand (5), Singapore (5), South Korea (11), Japan (18).

As readers of these pages might recall, in March the Commonwealth seemed to be inclined to let the virus spread – Scott Morrison was urging Australians to head to the “footy” before state premiers and epidemiologists managed to knock some sense into him – and our successful approach of elimination is a credit to state governments, not the Commonwealth. Morrison was never clear on his preferred approach, but he was opposed to elimination, possibly in the misguided belief that there is some optimal rate of virus proliferation that balances “health” and “economic” objectives – the delusion that has guided policy in the UK.

The Senate Committee finds that the Commonwealth, having first become aware of “undiagnosed pneumonia” in China on December 31, was tardy in reacting in comparison with other countries in our region. It took even longer (until July) for the Commonwealth to explain its strategy to the public. And the report specifically draws attention to the Commonwealth’s shortcomings in aged care.

It recommends that advice provided to the government should be more publicly available, that there should be an independent review into the COVIDSafe app, that the Commonwealth establish an Australian centre for disease control to improve pandemic preparedness and our operational response capacity, and that the unemployment benefit (“Jobseeker”) be increased.

Other countries

As predicted, cases in the USA have taken off post-Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving was on 26 November, 15 days ago), and once again on our graph we have had to expand the Y axis to accommodate their daily infection rate (probably understated).

Deaths are now starting to reflect this rise and in view of the lag between contracting and dying from Covid-19 we can expect deaths to go on rising at least until Christmas. To put America’s death rate into perspective, here are some comparisons:

Battle of Antietam 17 September 1862 (the worst day of the Civil War) –  3650 deaths.

Coronavirus deaths 9 December 2020 – 3124 deaths.

Terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon 11 September 2001 –  2977 deaths.

So far the UK still has more deaths relative to population than the USA, but the USA will probably soon overtake the UK because its infection rate is now so much higher.

The lives of others – 700 epidemiologists

How do epidemiologists live in a country where a pandemic is raging?

Very cautiously – much more cautiously than other people – is the answer.

The New York Times has published a survey of how American epidemiologists lead their lives in response to Covid-19: How 700 epidemiologists are living now, and what they think Is next by Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui.

Travelling by plane, attending a church service, going to a concert, exercising in a gym, using public transport and working in a shared office are all pretty well off the agenda for this group, as are almost all discretionary indoor activities outside the home. It will take a 60 to 80 percent national vaccination rate to get them to live their own lives as most other Americans are living now.

In various ways they believe the pandemic will have an enduring effect on the way people live with one another.

Vaccine news

There is a great deal of hype around vaccines. We will endeavour to bring links to sources with academic independence and in language that is meaningful to the lay reader. In The Conversation Kirsty Wilson and Magdalena Plebnski of RMIT University write about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, essentially a guide to understanding what is revealed in peer-reviewed results of trials. This is the vaccine for which the Commonwealth has a conditional arrangement for 34 million doses to be available for Australia.

Sources

Sources of generally reliable information and analysis about Covid-19 are on a separate web page. The Economist reveals that the American economy is slowing, revealing the consequences of Trump’s policies of downplaying the pandemic, and of the government’s failure to pass another stimulus package. Norman Swan’s Coronacast has a session about vaccines – we know that vaccines provide symptomatic protection, but we still don’t know if vaccines reduce one’s risk of infecting others. It will be many months before we see results from countries that have been quick to take up the vaccine.


Public ideas from around the world

Pope Francis’s reflection on our times – a message about economic morality

On the ABC Religion and Ethics Report Andrew West interviews Austen Ivereigh, Pope Francis’s biographer – Pope Francis has a dream.

Ivereigh says that Pope Francis sees the pandemic as “a moment of suffering” – a moment of potential change that inevitably requires decisionmakers to make profound ethical choices.

Ivereigh has co-written with the Pope a book Let us dream: the path to a better future. Their joint work is focussed on the pandemic, in the context of other developments at the same time, such as the unrest in the US and the Me Too movement. He comments that it is strange that many Christians have seen restrictions around the pandemic as violations of individual choice, rather than in terms of one’s duty to protect the lives of others.

Although Pope Francis may modestly claim little knowledge of economics, he deals elegantly with the false dichotomy between “the economy” and “lives”.  Paraphrasing Pope Francis Ivereigh says:

We have to put human dignity at the heart of the measures of economic success … A well-organised economy which puts human dignity at its heart allows everybody access to the goods of the earth – land, labour and lodging – and integrates the poor and brings about opportunity.

We need an economy in which price and value are better linked he says, and he goes on to discuss the idea of a universal basic income and the way work may be distributed and rewarded in a world where machines have displaced labour.

The ABC has a link to extracts from Let us dream – short extracts with strong moral messages for our time.

Neoliberalism must die because it does not serve humanity

That’s the title of an article written by Nikolaos Karagiannis of Winston-Salem State University, published in the Real World Economics Review.  Of course there is a long line of critics of neoliberalism, and plenty of people, from the “left” and the “right”, who would dance on its grave. Among all those criticisms Karagiannis’s contribution stands out for the clarity and tightness of his language.  After all we must identify a pestilence before we can destroy it.

He defines neoliberalism in terms of its manifestations – “financialization and hyper-globalization” – and distinguishes it from political liberalism, because it “promotes commoditization of everything and the needs of transnational corporations over those of individuals”. He explains its consequences – “the complete wreckage of economic, social, and political life”. He explains its contradictions: it was supposed to unleash competition, but it has seen the rise of monopolistic mega-corporations.

Those who rightly seek to kill neoliberalism must turn their hands to fashioning a different model of economic relationships – one that does not reject globalization but retains its best aspects.

Please don’t return America to the pre-pandemic normal

After the disruption of four years of a deranged narcissist un the White House, topped off by an uncontrolled pandemic, Robert Reich is looking forward to having a more predictable mob in executive government. Trump’s calling Biden “the most boring human being he had ever seen”, was intended as an insult, but Reich sees it as a reassurance that the administration is once more in safe hands.

In his entry The dangerous seduction of “going back to normal” he warns, however, that the Biden Administration should not return America to a pre-pandemic “normal” That’s a normal of widening inequality, an expensive and failed health care system, the corruption of politics by big money, legitimised racism, neglect of the urgency to deal with climate change, and “a Democratic Party that for years has been abandoning the working class”.

Another right-wing hypocrite caught out

Why is it that those who use their positions of political office to condemn and proscribe others’ sexual practices often get caught out for their own sexual behaviour? Perhaps, as some suggest, it’s about psychological projection (attributing one’s own behaviour to others), or perhaps there a just god determined to expose hypocrites.

The latest victim is Jósef Szájer, a founding member of Hungary’s governing Fidesz Party, which established itself as an illiberal theocracy. Szájer has been responsible for entrenching “family values” into Hungary’s constitution, depriving homosexuals and others of basic human rights.

He has been caught in an orgy in Brussels. You can hear the salacious details in Geraldine Doogue’s interview with Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi on last week’s Saturday Extra. (16 minutes)

A Chinese Marxist exposes the banality of the CCP 

There would be few with better Marxist credentials than Cai Xia. Born in 1928 in a military family dedicated to Mao’s revolution, she moved up through the ideological ranks to become a professor at the Central Party School – the West Point of the Chinese Communist Party. Such was her dedication to Marxism that she read Das Kapital twice, as well as immersing herself in the works of more recent Marxists such as Gramsci and Marcuse.

She followed with enthusiasm the reforms of Jiang Zemin, and dedicated herself to reconciling his ideas with those of Marx – a task that would challenge the intellectual flexibility of even the most accomplished Jesuit. It was in this endeavour that she came to see “that the highly centralized, oppressive version of Marxism promoted by the CCP owed more to Stalin than to Marx himself. I increasingly recognized it as an ideology formed to serve a self-interested dictatorship”.  Observing the Party’s intellectual rigidity, she saw that “The CCP, having come to power in 1949 through violence, was deeply wedded to the idea that it had earned a permanent monopoly on political power.”

She traces her intellectual journey through Chinese politics in an essay The party that failed, published in Foreign Affairs. That journey led to her profound disappointment with Xi. It’s the intellectual journey of one who sees Marxism as a flexible and progressive ideology, capable of adjusting to changing circumstances, slowly morphing into an observation of the banality of a ruling class dedicated to maintaining its own privileged position.


A business success in tough times

Yesterday’s peacemaker – wait till you see the replacements we have on order

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that 2019 was another good year for armaments manufacturers. In 2019 sales by the sector’s largest 25 companies were $US361 million, up 8.5 per cent on 2018.  In the top places are the usual suspects – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics, all from the US. Chinese, UK, Russian, Italian and French firms are also on the list, and a newcomer in 2019 is EDGE, based in the United Arab Emirates.


Polls and elections

Elections in Romania and Venezuela – no surprises

Romanians went to the polls last Sunday – or at least 33 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls, in a historic low turnout. There was a swing to the Social Democrats, who have secured top place with 30 per cent of the vote, while the governing centre-right National Liberal Party came in second with 24 per cent. As reported on Deutsche Welle, the National Liberal Party will probably retain government with support from other parties.

On the same day in Venezuela, in an election described by the EU as failing to comply with international standards, President Nicolas Maduro secured his grip on power, with 68 percent of the vote. The opposition officially boycotted the election, but there were some opposition candidates who won 18 per cent of the vote.

USA – Biden had a clear win on the popular vote, but a narrow one in the college

Adrian Beaumont has drawn our attention to the Cook Political Report’s 2020 National popular vote tracker.  Biden clearly won the popular vote – 51.3 per cent to 46.9 per cent.  But his wins in “battleground” states were slim. Click on the “Swing vs 2016 margin” to see how Biden enjoyed a swing across almost the whole nation, but the result was still close in key states.


Coming events

We need to talk about New Zealand

Malcolm Turnbull and Laura Tingle will be talking about Malcolm Turnbull’s A Bigger Picture and the intersections with Laura Tingle’s latest Quarterly Essay The High Road: what Australia can learn from New Zealand. What can these parallel but divergent nations learn from each other on relations with China, climate change, terrorism, indigenous representation and the nurture of democratic institutions?

It will be held at 11.00 am AEST on Thursday 17 December. To view it in real time you will need to register your email with Schwartz Media.


A reflection on 2020

A little whimsy from Phillip Adams and his mates

Phillip Adams and his panel of sharp-eyed reviewers dedicate their final show “at the end of a very bad year” to the memory of Mungo MacCallum with “at least a hint of humour”.  It starts with an insightful review by Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton: Pomeranz points out that 2020 was not meant to be taken seriously.


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

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