What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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Where does our responsibility stop?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 61 Comments

Some readers will have come across a cry from the heart with the title ‘I’m 73, and I’m tired’. I read it with some sympathy, and an appreciation of why someone who served as a State Senator in Massachusetts and had been a Marine would write such a piece. Because I like to be sure that what I’m reading is the real thing, I did some research, and discovered that the author Robert A. Hall is real, and he did write it. He also wrote an earlier version when he was 63, with much the same message, but different details. It has been…

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The primary school then and now

By | Climate Change, Education, History, Indigenous, Music | 63 Comments

Since my wife and I are now in the category of ‘grand friends’, we see the schools of our grandchildren from time to time, and are made most welcome there. Today’s primary schools seem to have a strong sense of community, and quite a few parents, mostly mums, give an afternoon or a day as teachers’ helpers. We went to the Friday assembly of our Frankston grand-daughter last week, and I was at once taken back to my own primary education, at Ainslie Primary School in Canberra, in the 1940s. The first contrast was the traffic jam around the Melbourne school, and…

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What sort of election campaign are we having?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 9 Comments

I was a young (in fact the youngest) member of the political science department when I was invited to join a senior colleague in commenting on the ABC’s 1966 election night extravaganza; James Dibble was the anchorman. I had not appeared on television before, and it was all new and somewhat forbidding. Once it started, though, I forgot about the cameras. I did know a lot about elections and vote counting, where seats were, who the candidates were, and so on. There were a couple of politicians on our panel, but I can no longer remember clearly who they were. Perhaps…

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What is Australia Day for?

By | ABC, Education, History, Indigenous, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 41 Comments

As Australia Day approached I kept getting new messages about what it was about. One was that it would cause the largest number of claimed ‘sickies’ every recorded by Australian employers on Monday, because the holiday fell on Tuesday. Another was that I would show myself as a true Australian by having a barbecue in the backyard, having bought the right tools from a hardware store. Another said I should be eating lamb on Australia Day. Yet another, from Adam Gilchrist, a former Australian of the Year, was that I could do almost anything (I think), as long as I stopped…

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The ABC in deepest, darkest doo-doo land

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 30 Comments

I’ve twice watched the Q&A section on Zaky Mallah, and can’t come to quite the same level of indignation as our Prime Minister. But two things stand out. First, the Q&A host fed a question to him designed to provoke or embarrass the Government representative on the panel (who I thought did very well), and second, after that Mr Mallah was uncontrollable. Mr Mallah was not a great choice by the ABC for whatever role he had to play. At best he is a muddled, mixed-up young man who has a great deal of growing up to do. He did spend…

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The last essay for this year

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 26 Comments

Even websites need a holiday, and mine starts tomorrow. I’m back at work in the week beginning 12 January, and wish all my readers a relaxing, safe and enjoyable holiday break too. I started this website in June 2012, so it is now two-and-a-half years old. Over that time it has attracted about 27,000 unique readers, who have in total visited the site more than 70,000 times, and read nearly 150,000 pages. Readers have made nearly 3,700 comments to my 608 posts, and of course to one another’s comments. Before I get carried away with such success, I should mention that my…

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On ‘homelessness’

By | Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Media, Politics, Society | 11 Comments

When I was young, housing was in short supply, and some of my classmates at high school boarded with friends of their parents, or with relatives, so that they could be close to school. There were quite a few hostels, too, for kids from far away. Young couples waited to marry when they could get somewhere to live, or lived with in-laws, not an ideal option. The depression of the 1930s and the second world war had reduced domestic house-construction to nearly zero, and it took a decade before the necessary materials were available again. But I don’t remember ‘homelessness’…

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Inequality and poverty

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 38 Comments

We will have budget talk for another week, and then attention will shift to the new Senate and negotiations between the Coalition and the minor parties in the new Senate. But throughout the past week there has been a lot of talk and a lot of complaint about the ‘inequality’ said to be part of the Treasurer’s approach to the deficit. Who really is doing the ‘heavy lifting’? I wrote a piece about the improvements in the level of poverty in the world some time ago, and said in it that inequality and poverty are not the same thing at…

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Free Speech

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 26 Comments

Many years ago I came across A. P. Herbert’s Misleading Cases, a collection of legal spoofs written by Herbert and originally published in Punch. Most concerned a litigious chap called Albert Haddock, who took offence at pretty well anything to do with the Government of the day, and essayed into court to have his say. The judges all had outlandish names, and one of them gave an opinion as follows: the only right of the subject in a public street is to pass at an even pace from one end of it to another, breathing unobtrusively through the nose and attracting no…

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