GOOD READING AND LISTENING FOR THE WEEKEND

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

On ABC’s Saturday Extra this weekend (in case you missed it):

7.30 am New York Timesjournalist Carlotta Gall reports on the reasons behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tense state visit to Berlin.

7.45 am A tumultuous week at the ABC has posed serious questions about the role and responsibilities of the Chair of an institution under great political pressure. Guests are Simon McKeon, Chancellor of Monash University and former Executive Chairman of Macquarie Group, Wendy McCarthy, current chair of Circus Oz and former Deputy Chair of the ABC, and Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre.

8.05 am Investigative journalist Bethany McLean, author of Saudi America, argues that America’s fracking boom might just be sitting on a very unstable economic footing.

8.20 amA Foreign Affairdiscussion with experts on the deadly attacks last week in Iran with Anthony Bubalo from the Lowy Institute; whether or not we are seeing the beginning of a new style in politics with Jacinta Carroll from the ANU’s National Security College; and Bruce Dover, consultant on international broadcasting argues the Asia-Pacific region needs an independent foundation to broadcast to the region, and not the ABC.

8.45am The Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions has won an award for its work on the level of carbon emitted from cement and how the construction industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse emissions.

Other commentary

Island off the coast of Asia is the title of a book by former army officer and Professor of International Studies at UNSW, Clinton Fernandes. In an interview with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live Fernandes takes us through a geopolitical history of Australia’s relations with south and east Asia – a history reaching back to colonial times. Our dominant and enduring foreign policy has been to be “part of a bigger power”. (He also reminds us how businesspeople involved in the Caribbean slave trade established our sugar industry.)

In Britain Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations seem to be headed to a “no deal”, or at best a messy “Canada-style” arrangement with a hard Northern Ireland border and  weak economic ties with the rest of Europe. Writing in the UK Spectator, James Forsyth describes her as “horribly isolated: both in her own cabinet and in Europe she has few allies.” The best she can manage, for both the pro- and anti-Brexit factions, is to say “I tried”.

While the Tory Party is tearing itself apart, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has a renewed confidence to promote a social-democratic agenda. The BBC reports on his speech to the Labour Party Conference – a speech denouncing “the edifice of greed-is-good, deregulated financial capitalism”, and promising to bring back “fairness and humanity” into public services. At the same conference shadow chancellor John McDonnell set out plans for re-nationalising rail, water and energy utilities, and Labour has not ruled out another Brexit plebiscite.

Many contributors to Pearls and Irritationshave written on the ABC’s issues of political interference and governance. governance issues. They include Quentin Dempster, Anne Davies, Jocelyn Pixley, Peter Manning and Paul Collins. Writing in Fairfax media, Waleed Aly provides a wider context. He cites other cases involving the ABC and commercial media, and says “we’re in an age of increasingly aggressive, emboldened political interference in journalism”. Political interference in the ABC is “about a civic culture that is slowly falling apart: a political class with fewer civic boundaries, less concerned with the independence of institutions, and a muscular intolerance of dissent.”

Ross Gittins summarises the essence of government economic and financial management. The approach of Treasury and Finance is so “no brainer”. It is “Just Say No. Just tell every department to find savings, and cut their admin costs by yet another 2.5 per cent, then look the other way while they make short-term savings at the expense of our future.” It’s about a monomania with fiscal figures, rather than any serious concern about the nation’s economic structure.

Few people will disagree with Danielle Wood and Kate Griffiths of the Grattan Institute who point out that “Powerful groups have triumphed over the public interest in some recent debates, from pokies reform to pharmaceutical prices, to toll roads and superannuation governance.” Their report Who’s in the room? Access and influence in Australian politics is rich in data showing not only who has influence but also that by international measures of corruption Australia has been slipping in the last ten years, from a rank of 8 out of 15 “developed” countries to a rank of 13. Property developers and highly-regulated industries feature strongly in their findings. (Some specific findings are in separate posts on Pearls and Irritations.)

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