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,
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.

RICHARD ECCLESTON. The housing divide

House prices may have finally peaked, at least in Melbourne and Sydney. But a slight cooling in some overheated cities makes little difference to overall housing affordability in Australia, which has declined significantly over the past two decades.We need a new, nationally coordinated approach to housing policy in order to ensure that the vast majority of Australians have access to the suitable, affordable and secure housing they deserve.

Continue reading

Posted in Housing | Leave a comment

CHRISTINA HO AND CHRIS BONNOR. ‘Hubs of concentrated advantage’: selective schools need a rethink

In the debate about selective schools personal stories and beliefs can drown out evidence, especially when that evidence challenges the status quo. So we hear plenty of anecdotes about the successes of selective school students, but relatively few about the students and schools they leave behind. Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE Why are Australian defence correspondents so quiet about complaints to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the use of Australian and Latin American mercenaries by UAE in the war against Yemen (Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK)

ANCILE Avocats French law firm filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the use of an army of mercenaries trained in the UAE and sent to participate in the ongoing war in Yemen. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Human Rights | 3 Comments

PATTY FAWKNER. How power has hijacked the parable of the Good Samaritan.

We can easily highjack the parable of the Good Samaritan, says Sister Patty Fawkner, if we don’t see it within the context of the overarching message of the Bible. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

ANTHONY HOGAN. Law and the seal of Catholic confessional.

I continue to be concerned by the public positions taken by various Catholic Arch-Bishops (Prowse, Canberra Times, June 7, 2018; Coleridge Canberra Times, 11 July, 2018) with regards the Catholic confessional and the mandatory reporting of child abuse. The Church’s position against such laws is based on the arguments that:

  • people basically don’t confess such sins anymore so there is no issue
  • that children would not be safer
  • the priest has taken a holy vow to keep confidential what is heard in the confessional, and that
  • the practice of confession is a religious freedom and as such, that what occurs within the practise of religion is somehow outside the law of the land.

Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

DENNIS ARGALL. In a changing world, who are we, where are our eyes and minds?

In what is perhaps a fantasy endeavour – to find Trump’s objectives in recent travel and assess outcomes – I suggest three. And in this essay, I look further into global and perceptual actions and needs… and the lack of decent vision in Australia. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

MARTIN WOLF. How we lost America to greed and envy (The Financial Times 18 July 2018))

The US president is hostile to the core values the country used to stand for. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un says “Me too”

I meant “wouldn’t” denuclearize.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | Leave a comment

CAVAN HOGUE. Putin, Trump. Morals and Australia

Trump has shown little political savvy and even less powers of analysis. However, it is hard to see the USA as having the moral high ground to justify the hysterical moral outrage generated by Trump’s incompetence when it has done exactly the same thing many times in many places. Syria is a case of double standards. Great powers always promote their own interests irrespective of their domestic arrangements. Americans don’t care about MH17 because lots of Americans were not involved so Trump was not going to raise that with Putin – if he was even aware of it. Australia would be well advised to keep out of this but we won’t because MH17 is important to us.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments

STEPHEN BELL. How rising inequality is stalling economies by crippling demand (The Conversation 17.07.18)

Aggregate demand is being hit by the concentration of income growth among the top earners and is now a drag on economic growth. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PATRICK LAWRENCE. What’s going to happen when Assad wins the war in Syria? (Asian Times, 17.07.18)

Given the unexpected pace of events in recent weeks, the end of Syria’s seven-year agony appears to be very near. It is now all but certain that Bashar al-Assad’s government will win its long war against Sunni jihadists and their foreign supporters. The focus in Syria is already turning from conflict, casualty counts, and displacement to reconciliation, resettlement, and reconstruction. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

ALISON BROINOWSKI. A law to end all wars?

Hamlet was depressed about the law’s delay. To this day, legal processes take a notoriously long time, and international ones take even longer. International lawyers, and the world, have been waiting at least since 1998 for the crime of aggression to be activated.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | Leave a comment

JAMES O’NEILL. Australian Government silent on OPCW Report

On 7th April 2018 an incident occurred in the Syrian city of Douma, 10 km North east of the capital Damascus. It was alleged, initially by the jihadi extremists occupying the city that a nerve gas attack had been carried out by Syrian government forces. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 3 Comments

GILES PARKINSON. Bad news for coal-huggers: Renewables at 50% by 2030.

 “King coal to rule for 20 more years” screamed the front page lead headline in The Australian, following the release of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 20-year blueprint for the future of energy, known as its Integrated System Plan. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

JOHN GEHRING. Catholic evolution on L.G.B.T. rights (New York Times International Edition 07/07/18)

Pope Francis has struck a more welcoming tone, but the church still needs tangible institutionalized reform. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 1 Comment

RICHARD BUTLER. Trump/Putin : Finnish Rhapsody

In a most unusual Trump/Putin media conference in Helsinki it seemed that the notably absent participant was Robert Mueller. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments

TONY KEVIN. Trump-Putin Summit 16 July: an assessment

This was a most unusual summit, preceded and followed by a torrent of mostly negative Western MSM comment on the theme that ‘Putin will win this, and Western interests will lose’. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs | 5 Comments

BRAD CHILCOTT. It’s not size that matters, it’s what you do with it.

Members of the Australian Parliament are rich. All of them – from the $200m Prime Minister down to the backbencher earning $203 020 a year and regardless of political affiliation – are in the top 0.5% of the richest people in the world. Although Senator Lucy Gichuhi believes her annual income is “not a lot of money” it’s still four times Australia’s median salary ($55 063) – which means that 50% of Australian adults live off less than a quarter of the Senator’s earnings. She’s not doing it tough. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

DAVID VAUX, PETER BROOKS, SIMON GANDEVEA. Weakened code risks Australia’s reputation for research integrity (The Conversation, 29.06.18)

In 2018, Australia still does not have appropriate measures in place to maintain research integrity. And recent changes to our code of research conduct have weakened our already inadequate position. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ROBYN MOLONEY. Learning languages early is key to making Australia more multilingual (The Conversation 3/7/2018)

Simon Birmingham recently announced the government will invest an additional A$11.8 million in a successful preschool language learning program.

Some 300 languages are spoken in Australia. In the Greater Sydney area alone, nearly 40% of households speak a language other than English and many children of these households attend weekend community language learning.

But, in New South Wales for example, less than 10% of secondary students make it through to a final end of secondary school examination (Higher School Certificate) in an additional language. A report of Chinese learning shows of all the learners who start Chinese study 96% have dropped out by senior secondary level.

The additional funding for pre-secondary school language education is a step in the right direction to making Australia a more bilingual country. Starting early is the key to making sure students continue with their language education.   Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

PEPE ESCOBAR. China’s silky charming of Arabia (Asian Times, 11.07.18)

President Xi Jinping has promised more than $23 billion in loans and aid to Arab states, as Beijing ramps up ties with the Middle East; this includes aid for Palestine; Beijing foresees importing a whopping $8 trillion from Arab states up to 2025. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

ANDREW FARRAN. Special Forces: The Downside – Impossible missions out of country and out of culture

The Australian Special Forces are again in the firing line for alleged misconduct in combat, in relation to which the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force is expected to hand down a report in the near future. The number of alleged incidents are more than previously believed, though relatively small overall. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 2 Comments

MUNGO MACCALUM. ACCC Report ignites squabbling.

Just when you might have thought you were getting a grip on the tin full of worms masquerading as the government’s energy policy,  along comes yet another authoritative report. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | Leave a comment

GEOFF RABY. Lessons from China’s 40 years of reform – a very personal reflection

 I am delighted to have been asked to open this conference [the China Economists’  Conference] which is occurring on the 40th Anniversary of the launching of China’s reforms and open-door policies, policies that have changed China and the world. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

JOHN QUIGGIN. Australia’s failed energy policy needs more than just a Band-Aid (the Guardian 13.07.18)

The ACCC report is a mishmash of cognitive dissonance and half-baked suggestions for fixing the unfixable. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Environment and climate | 1 Comment

KARL WILSON with Steve FitzGerald – Opening-up: The view from down under (China Daily 12/07/18)

Stephen FitzGerald (right) and former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam meet Chairman Mao Zedong on Nov 2, 1973, in Beijing.

Australia’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China reflects on decades of transformation

Editor’s note: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of China’s reform and opening-up policy. China Daily talks to some people from overseas who have experienced or witnessed the important drive. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

PETER DAY: The Endarkenment

“God is dead, God is Dead!”

A new Enlightenment has dawned.

Bow to its three pillars: Reason, Science, Humanism. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 4 Comments

MUNGO MACCALLUM. Three Stooges ride again.

Our older readers – the really old ones – may remember The Three Stooges, Larry, Curly and Moe. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 10 Comments

KATHRYN KELLY. Armed Neutrality for Australia?

The talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un give some reason for a glimmer of hope for the Korean Peninsula, but given Donald Trump’s predilection for middle of the night tweets, that could come unstuck at any moment.  The international situation continues to be uncertain, with China and the US still facing off over the South China Sea and war in Syria continuing. US power is waning and there is an urgent need for Australia to rethink our security strategy for the future.  I think it’s timely to revisit the concept of armed neutrality. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 4 Comments

KIM WINGEREI. Democracy is not just about elections!

A flood (by my modest standards) of social media comments to my recent post – We have to talk (about) Turkey – was a poignant reminder that so many believe that democracy is mainly about free elections. The way many local commentators (and politicians) respond to President Trump’s actions also indicate the same misapprehension among those that should know better. Democracy is a system of government designed to protect and uphold the rights of the people. And to protect the people from government. In that sense, the case of the ‘Canberra Two’ is both scary and illuminating. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments