Taxes and transfers

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 45 Comments

I seem to be caught up in a variety of conversations and readings that focus on the sort of society we actually have in Australia. An artist preparing a large piece for the Sydney Biennale said, if I remember his words correctly, that our policy with respect to asylum seekers gave ‘Australia a bad image internationally’. In comparison to which country, I wondered (there is more below). Dick Smith wants us to stop immigration entirely, or almost entirely. Another speaker described Australia as one of the last outposts of ‘capitalism’. Again, I wondered where the other outposts were. I came…

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On diversity

By | ABC, Education, Health, History, Media, Music, Politics, Society | 63 Comments

In earlier essays I have written about the virtues of optimism versus pessimism,  on multi-ethnicity rather than multi-culturalism (for example, here), and on the nation-state versus internationalism (for example, here). I remain firm in my preferences there, but in this essay I retreat a little from a related past position. I have come to see some further virtues in ‘diversity’, or perhaps some further justifications for it, which had previously passed me by. ‘Diversity’ today is mostly code for people of different ethnic origins, religions and gender. But it can and should apply to cultural styles as well. I start with…

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2017 — What’s to Review?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics | 136 Comments

2017 was not at all my happiest year, though I can feel strength coming back in the sixth week of my recovery from double pneumonia. And while I was ill Australia’s industrious electors discharged their duties in Queensland and in the Federal seat of Bennelong, about which I wrote nothing at all. So perhaps I should venture a comment or two there. All I really observed with respect to the Queensland election result, and that from television, was that the Labor Government had been returned, with a massive swing against the Liberal-National Party Opposition. I thought I ought to have…

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Climate change and electric vehicles

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 128 Comments

I’ve put the dual citizenship essay on hold for a week, partly because yet another person has decided that he might be at risk. He is only the President of the Senate, but there you are. There may be more, and the issue is getting more important by the day, because of the manner in which the High Court chose to decide the question. Instead I have my eye on a report presented to the relevant Minister in the ACT about the State of the Environment (in the ACT) in 2015. The Commissioner is Professor Kate Auty, and she formerly…

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Optimism or Pessimism?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Society | 140 Comments

This is a shortened version of an address I gave to the Boobooks club in Melbourne earlier this week. The Boobooks is a dining club, the oldest in Australia, founded in 1902 by some young men who later became Sirs, in Fred Eggleston and John Latham. It was an honour to have been asked to speak. The title was ‘Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future?’, and in it I revisited ideas that have been rehearsed on this website before. I am not sure whether optimism and pessimism are part of our make-up or the result of upbringing…

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How much progress has there been in Australia since 1950?

By | Books, Economy, Education, Health, History, Society | 40 Comments

I have been thinking about this topic for some time, and foreshadowed this essay last week. ‘Progress’ is one of those protean words, changing its meaning according to the needs of the user. It comes from the Latin, pro meaning forward, and grado meaning stepping, walking, going. So, there is thought to be progress when things go forward. My Shorter Oxford gives its sense for this essay as ‘continuous improvement’. And at once there is some reservation, for ‘improvement’ in a human life and in social life is rarely continuous. There are usually steps backward as well as forward. And…

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On turning 80

By | Health, History, Society | 129 Comments

My 80th birthday yesterday came rather more quickly than I had expected. As we get older our sense of time speeds up if only because we have experienced so much ‘time’ already. A double Latin class on Friday afternoon in the early 1950s seemed to last forever, while last Christmas seems only a few weeks ago. Mind you, my life expectancy at birth was only 63, so there’s been some luck along the way. At 80 you certainly do wonder how long you have. According to the life tables, I can expect (on average!) another eight years. If that is…

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What does the future hold?

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, Politics, Society | 35 Comments

What sort of future we are likely to enjoy, or have to put up with, has been a regular subject on the Internet for some time now. Being unsure of how much future I personally have left, I’m not totally consumed by the subject. But I saw a comprehensive list the other, and I thought it was worth reflecting on. The list was the work of Shelly Palmer, who has written a couple of interesting pieces on innovation. I have numbered the sections below for ease of comment, and done some minor editing as well. One thing to note at…

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The Alternative and the Real Trump

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 57 Comments

When an elected political leader get into office, the media wait to see if he fulfils any of his campaign promises, and will often needle him or her about an  apparent slowness to do so. With President Trump it is rather the office. He said that if elected he would withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and he has now done so. Instead of saying,’Well, he’s done what he said he would do’, there seems to be a chorus of incomprehension. ‘But surely you only said those things to get elected’ seems to be one theme. ‘How…

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Can blog posts be better than journal articles?

By | Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 98 Comments

The Dutch experimental psychologist Daniel Lakens asked this question on his website, and I thought it was worth distilling for mine, since I have had a lot to do with journals and more recently with websites. There has been a deal of discussion recently about the lack of effective replication in both the medical area and others, so the rules about publication are worth thinking about. Before the ‘peer review’ cheer squad starts to chant, I should tell you that Lakens’s goal is to improve the quality of journal articles, not to replace articles with blog posts. He offers five reasons…

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