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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On poverty, in the past, and in the future

By | Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 6 Comments

Bill Gates, he of great wealth, and the classic leader of the world’s English-speaking A-list, has a foundation which he and his wife run. It puts out an annual letter, which came my way a little while ago, and started with a quite up-beat statement about poverty. It went like this: By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how…

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Another Australia Day

By | History, Indigenous, Media, Politics, Society, Sport | 10 Comments

The celebratory bits of Australia Day have a long and varied history. The official celebration on 26 January of the founding of the first of the colonies began in 1818, and was ordained by Governor Macquarie; it was called  ‘Foundation Day’. January 26th is also the date of the arrest of Macquarie’s predecessor, Governor Bligh, in 1808 – an event sometimes called the ‘Rum Rebellion’. Each new colony declared its own foundation day, and it was not until 1935 that the event was celebrated everywhere on that date, and as ‘Australia Day’ – though New South Wales hung on to…

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And a Merry Christmas to all

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 | 7 Comments

This is my last post for the year — a phrase my wife says needs a trumpet call, which would be the case had I capitalised the phrase. Ordinary transmission will resume on Monday 6 January. What a year it has been. What other year saw Australia have three Prime Ministers within a few months? The last was 1945, when John Curtin died, to be followed in an interim way by his Deputy Frank Forde, before the Labor Caucus elected Ben Chifley as the new PM. And there were two similar earlier years in my lifetime, 1941, when Menzies, Fadden,…

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John Howard and the ‘contest of ideas’

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 6 Comments

Former Prime Minister John Howard was the guest speaker at a dinner held a couple of months ago to celebrate the 500th issue of the magazine Quadrant. In his speech, which you can read in the current issue of the magazine, he said this: In the end, politics is not a public relations contest, it is a contest of ideas. I think he is right, and I wondered, as I read, what he thought the contested ideas were. Some examples came later. There were people of unsound thought [who] have preoccupied themselves with other causes [than communism]: the causes of radical environmentalism,…

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The bushfire problem

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Indigenous, Politics, Research, Society | 4 Comments

I have written about bush fires before, most recently here. They are recurring dramas in the lives of Australians, Australian animals and the Australian environment, and they have had that status for many thousands of years. There have been simply dozens of big ones, the same or larger than the present set. Why do we have them, and what can we do about them? A recent ploy has been to blame them on ‘climate change’, but few are doing that this time, perhaps on the ground that the current fires are not yet as disastrous  as those ten years ago….

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‘travel rorts’

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, History, Indigenous, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 4 Comments

It’s ‘travel rort’ time again, and in a week the current fuss will be over. In my view these events should be seen in the context of the ‘abuse of power’, an example of the person’s not having a clear and consistent understanding of what his/her behaviour ought to be. The next example, I think, will be one of the new Ministers’ not having followed the Ministerial guidelines. Every Prime Minister since and including Malcolm Fraser has had to deal with a Minister in such a context — at least to the best of my memory — and I don’t…

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