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

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RICHARD BEASLEY The Murray Darling Basin Plan – Four Corners v Media Watch

Monday week ago, Four Corners aired “Cash Splash”. It concerned whether government funded water saving schemes (“efficiency measures” in the Basin Plan) have been a waste of money. Since the broadcast, the National Irrigators Council, and other lobby groups, have indicated they will lodge a complaint to the ABC. Subsequently, “Media Watch” suggested that Four Corners ignored “inconvenient evidence”. I disagree, but more of that later. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 5 Comments

DOUGLAS NEWTON. ‘Fine phrases … dark thoughts’. Reflections on the Centenary of ‘Peace Day’, 19 July 1 919.

It is one hundred years since ‘Peace Day’, Saturday 19 July 1919. On that day, celebrations were held across the British Empire to toast the great victory that had been won – supposedly crowned by the Treaty of Versailles. A hundred years later, shall we face up to some of the historic realities of the peacemaking in 1919, and of Australia’s role in the botched peace?

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RICHARD BROINOWSKI. Can Australia Defend Itself?

Since the advent of Donald Trump as United States president, the certainties that are said to underpin Australia’s defence doctrine are less than ever convincing. Trump’s cynicism about alliances underlines the fact that ANZUS is no longer (if it ever was) a guarantee of American military assistance. Neither Prime Minister Morrison posing on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during the latest Exercise Talisman Sabre in July 2019, nor the promise of a state dinner in Washington dispel the uncertainty, although they do increase pressure on Morrison to commit the ADF to join the US in a war against Iran or take a more robust stand against Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea, if asked, as he is likely to be.

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ANDREW FARRAN. Defence ‘culture’ holding back balanced defence force

An analysis of Australia’s strategic culture, as distinct from posture, might have offered alternative or expanded answers to how we have got to where we are and how Australia should be defended in future – comment by Alan Behm on Hugh White’s “How to Defend Australia”.

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BRUCE THOM. Climate Change and Relativity—Some Parallels.

Science can be incomprehensible to many, yet it requires others to help communicate and apply great works such as those of Albert Einstein. Climate change science is also quite complex and those in this field are facing similar difficulties to those who sought to explain relativity to the broader public. It is irresponsible of decision-makers to not trust the science and ignore its implications in today’s uncertain world. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Tributes | 1 Comment

PATTY FAWKNER, SGS. Chittister, Censorship and an Adult Church.

It was decades ago, but I remember the day and the conversation well. It was a Monday morning and I was returning to work at a Catholic adult education organisation after a short break. I was confronted with the news that, during my absence, our newly appointed director had removed copies of Paul Collins’ book, Papal Power, from the organisation’s bookstore.

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Posted in Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

MARK BUCKLEY. Words Have Meaning

When a politician speaks we should be able to decipher what he or she is saying. Most of them, at least these days, have an education of sorts, and presumably when they use words they use them in a way that their listeners understand. So “no” should not have a special meaning; and neither should “yes”. They should mean what most people think they mean. Continue reading

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MACK WILLIAMS : Korea : Just what did the DMZ Reality TV show add up to ?

After the enormous Reality TV coverage of the hastily arranged Trump:Kim meeting at the DMZ and the wads of media commentary afterwards,have the prospects of an eventually peaceful Korean peninsular been enhanced? To a large extent the jury is still out on this but there are a few possible glimmers of hope. The crunch issue remains an agreed definition of “denuclearisation” along with an as yet unresolved roadmap for future negotiations.

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ERIC HODGENS. Missing the Catholic Bus.

The Catholic Church is now in freefall. Vatican II called for adaptation to the modern world. Most of the opportunities for adaptation have been missed. How do we catch the last bus? Continue reading

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JOHN DWYER The crisis in Private Health Insurance arrangements in Australia are a symptom of our public health failures.

“Australia’s private health insurance (PHI) industry fears it is in a death spiral, and politicians need to rethink whether or to what extent taxpayers should continue to subsidise the industry” the Grattan Institute tells us as they call for a review of the purpose of PHI in Australia. The Grattan report emphasises what is already widely appreciated that, “Australians are increasingly dissatisfied with private health insurance, and policy reform is urgent.”
“Premiums are rising much faster than wages or inflation. People are dropping their cover, especially the young and the healthy. Those who are left are more likely to get sick and go to hospital, driving insurance costs up further”.However any review of PHI should start with an analysis of the failure in our efforts to have a public health system providing timely quality health care to all on the basis of need rather than financial wellbeing. PHI arrangements are symptoms of this failure. Continue reading

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GEOFF RABY.  The Problem with China’s Soft Power: It doesn’t have any( AFR 17 July 2017)

Last week the US Pace Gallery announced it was closing its flagship contemporary art gallery in the famous 798 art space and expanding at home.  Also last week, police squads and bulldozers moved in to demolish several more of Beijing’s spontaneously formed art villages. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 2 Comments

BOB DOUGLAS. Changing Australian Refugee Policy: What is realistically and politically feasible?

Is there a new spirit of bipartisanship developing between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese? As well as discussing a bipartisan approach to the legislation of religious freedom and an indigenous “voice”, might they also consider a new bipartisan approach to refugee policy? Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Refugees, Immigration | 3 Comments

BRUCE HAIGH. International Relations are foreign to Morrison

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison appears out of his depth with foreign policy. There is a readiness to follow Donald Trump. From the Middle East to China and the Pacific, Morrison gives the appearance of not having done his homework and of not much enjoying the subject.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 3 Comments

MIKE SCRAFTON. “I’m afraid of Americans”

The opinions to which we should pay most critical attention are those of commentators best placed to influence government. Peter Jennings, Executive Director of ASPI, is one. Now he is claiming a ‘new cold war with China is playing out in all but name’.

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Posted in Defence/Security | 6 Comments

HAJO DUKEN. Brexit, preservation of the UK union and a deep and special relationship with the EU – two out of thre e ain’t bad (but far from certain)

Whenever we think that the level of absurdity in this drama cannot be exceeded, we are proven wrong. It appears that England (not the whole of the UK) has virtually decided that the earth is flat. Is a no-deal horror scenario now inevitable or is there a way out for the new Prime Minister?

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PERCY ALLAN. How to Avoid a Recession – why QI should replace QE

Both the IMF and the OECD say that monetary policy is largely exhausted so fiscal policy should now be used to ramp up economic growth held back by the triple Ds of high Debt, ageing Demographics and disruptive Digitisation (including robotics). Australia’s Reserve Bank has come to the same conclusion. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 4 Comments

STUART REES, Trump/Kushner Deal of the Century: ‘Money, Money, Money, It’s A Rich Man’s World’


The Trump/Kushner Israeli/Palestinian Peace Plan, ‘the deal of the century’, was presented in a workshop held in the Manama Hotel, Bahrein on June 25. The authors emphasised economic proposals not political considerations, but their deal had a more sinister policy objective: the crafting of every conceivable cruelty towards Palestinians. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 2 Comments

JENNIFER DOGGETT. Interpreting Medicare data and bulk billing figures (Croakey)

New Medicare data, released today, has prompted a statement from Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, claiming that “nearly nine out of 10 Australians visit their GPs without paying a cent” and a media interview where he played down the impact of out-of-pocket costs on consumers, attributing any problems to a small group of specialists explaining that “the overwhelming majority of specialists do the right thing, but there are outliers.” Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Professor White, the bomb can endanger but not defend Australia.

Nuclear weapons have dubious operational utility and discarding treaty obligations would leave the stench of hypocrisy. Continue reading

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JACK WATERFORD. Have Australians the heart for the Uluru statement? Losing the referendum would set back indigenous affairs by decades

There are many good reasons to support the latest plans to find a constitutional referendum question to encapsulate the principles of the Uluru statement from the heart. There’s the fact that it represents a good idea and good ideal – perhaps one, as some say, that is essential to a mature nationality for Australia and a reconciliation with indigenous Australia, so cruelly displaced, to this day, by white settlement. Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous affairs | 2 Comments

LAURIE PATTON. Barbarians at the gate – don’t let them destroy Murray Valley national park

The New South Wales deputy premier wants to allow logging in a national park in the state’s RiverinaJohn Barilaro says he intends removing statutory protection of the 42,000 hectare Murray Valley National Park – either by de-gazetting the entire area or reducing its size. Continue reading

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STEPHEN DUCKETT.  Private health insurance needs a rethink

Australians are dissatisfied with private health insurance. Premiums are rising and consumers are dropping their cover, especially younger people, who are less likely to need health services. Those who are left are more likely to use services, driving insurance costs up further. Government subsidies for private health insurance and private medical care – currently running at more than $9 billion every year – and financial penalties to encourage people to take out private insurance are becoming less effective. The industry fears a death spiral. Continue reading

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MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison wants Wyatt to shut up on Indigenous Australians

Scott Morrison really likes quiet Australians – as quiet as possible. So it was really no surprise that his response to his minister, Ken Wyatt’s modest and tentative proposal to consider reviving an Indigenous Voice through the Uluru Statement from the Heart was simple and direct: bloody well shut up and do what you are told. Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Trump’s strategic incoherence on India policy Part 2

In an editorial to mark Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit, The Times of India alluded to US policy incoherence in urging Washington to make up its mind between dealing with India as an ally or a frenemy. Earlier, in February Washington broke from its traditional non-committal stance on India–Pakistan skirmishes to side openly with India’s narrative on the Pulwama militant attack and retaliatory missile strikes on Balakot. This was followed by the successful pressure on China to lift its hold on designating Pakistan-based Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.  Continue reading

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HUGH WHITE. Australia needs to give up its South Pacific dream (AFR 13-14.7.2019)

What can Australia do to restore and preserve our sphere of influence in the South Pacific, and deny it to China?  

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MARTIN WOLF. Legacy of Bretton Woods is under threat (Financial Times 11.7.2019)

Trumpian populism is destroying 70 years of global economic co-operation. What can we put in its place?  Continue reading

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MUNGO MACCALLUM. Supreme Court sets Albanese a real test.

The muffled roar of applause last week was coming from Scott Morrison and the coalition, cheering,, of all things, the Supreme Court of Victoria.  Justice Peter Riordan reserved his decision over the maverick union leader John Setka’s appeal to block Anthony Albanese’s attempt to expel him from the Labor Party. Continue reading

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MELISSA CONLEY TYLER. Will Hugh White Change How We Defend Australia?

Australia’s options for defending itself are in the news with the release of Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia. Will it shake up thinking? Or is it too hard to change the way we do Australia’s defence because there is no appetite for change? Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Trump’s strategic incoherence on India policy Part 1

The distance from hubris to delusion is short and the Trump administration is bent on covering it in a sprint in its India policy. Diffuse reciprocity is the diplomatic glue that holds international relationships together. A healthy and long-lasting bilateral relationship rests upon a history of shared interests and values that embody common expectations, reciprocity, and equivalence of benefits across different domains rather than equal benefits in every single sector individually.  Continue reading

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