Which is more important, virus or climate change?

By | Other | 31 Comments

Some months ago I received in the email a British cartoon, showing a harassed Pom sitting in front of his TV. On the screen you could see dozens of signs with the word ‘coronavirus’ and someone is lecturing viewers about what they now had to do. His wife was staring out the window at the street, where people are marching with ‘coronavirus’ banners. Husband is saying to wife, ‘Oh, how I wish they’d bring back Brexit!’ It was worth a good laugh then, and perhaps an even bigger one now. But there is touch of real fear in the laugh….

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Preposterous Political Posturing

By | Other | 104 Comments

I just couldn’t believe it. ‘Coon’ is no longer to be the name of a well-known style of cheese. Apparently its use offends people, and one man has been campaigning for twenty years to have the name removed. What’s it to be called now? Why can’t I believe it? Well, Coon Cheese is named after the man who invented it, Edward Coon. It has had nothing whatever to do with racism. Edward William Coon (1871-1934) was an American inventor who used high temperature and humidity to produce cheddar cheese quickly. The process he patented in 1926 is called ‘cooning’. Now…

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Writing to the Queen

By | Other | 14 Comments

For some years now Professor Jenny Hocking, a political scientist who is absorbed with the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, has been trying to get the Archives to  release the letters from and to the Queen at that time, which have been kept from public scrutiny. The Government argued that they were privy to the Queen. Professor Hocking’s FOI requests finally succeeded, and now we can read them all. One side of the dispute, which continues, says that they show how the Queen was deeply involved in the dismissal. The other says that the letters absolve the Palace from…

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The Impossible Claim

By | Other | 55 Comments

A few years ago the ACT Government declared that it would so organise things that the ACT would be carbon-neutral before very long. It was going to achieve this outcome by providing more alternative energy sources. At the time I wrote that this was a most misleading claim. You can see the most recent version of the claim here. No matter what the ACT Government does, ACT consumers are part of the eastern electricity grid, which is supported overwhelmingly by fossil fuels, mostly coal and gas. What the government and the media should have said was that the addition of…

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Three new novels

By | Other | 2 Comments

These three novels are not on the list on my website, and I am changing that soon anyway.  The Innings Biography Nick Carrington, a New York crime scriptwriter, is back in Australia to see his parents. He is intrigued by a request from an old friend, Ben Mitchell, to cast his eye over an almost finished biography of Ben’s grandfather, Sir Arthur Innings, an immigrant who made good in the business world. He agrees, and finds himself taken to a lovely restored house on the Hawkesbury River, where he meets the housekeeper and the research assistant. The biographer is absent,…

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Writing Fiction

By | Other | 5 Comments

I started writing fiction as a teenager, as seems to be the case for many writers. In those juvenile years I also wrote a newspaper (one issue, and one reader, my father), and tried my hand at short stories. I only ever found the skill and nerve to write two poems. One was good, I think, but I’ve mislaid it as well as the other one. No matter. A. D. Hope wrote a little book about writing poetry (The New Cratylus, I think, I no longer have my copy), whose message was that the idea for the poems might come…

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World energy consumption, and its meaning for us

By | Other | 39 Comments

For several years now I have paid attention to the supply and demand factors for the production of energy. It seems to me that the standard of living we enjoy in Australia and developing countries aspire to, is based on an abundance of cheap and reliable energy. I have mentioned in at least one earlier essay the wonderful museum in Ceduna, in South Australia, which offers visitors a working example of every machine, and there are dozens of them, used before the arrival of electricity. A lot of old guys maintain these machines, and they are properly proud of them…

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Another crisis in higher education

By | Other | 26 Comments

In 1947 the universities in Australia were trying to cope with the enrolments of former servicemen, and women, paid for by the Commonwealth Government under a postwar reconstruction scheme. The vice-chancellors, who rarely met, and there were only seven of them, wrote to the Government and declared there was a ‘crisis’. That word was going to be overused throughout the next seventy years. During that time the world of higher education grew and grew, from around 25,000 in 1947, to well over a million today (or before Covid-19). Each time there was a sharp increase in enrolments there was a…

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Erasing history

By | Other | 75 Comments

Some twenty years ago the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan, on the ground that these statues, carved in the rock in the early 6thcentury, were idols. The Taliban weren’t the first, let alone the only, destroyers of culture. In 338 BC Alexander the Great sent his army to Persepolis (‘the city of the Persians’), formerly the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. For those who only dimly remember their ancient history, it was the city of Cyrus the Great and Darius I, and was close to a thousand years old when Alexander decided to knock its central elements…

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Reconciliation and BLM

By | Other | 79 Comments

This essay was originally to be about Reconciliation Day, which appeared in the ACT a week ago, but since then the issue has morphed into worldwide protest about the extent to which black lives matter (BLM). No matter, I’ll combine them. What has fascinated me is the way in which large crowds were organised in Australia, almost overnight, with printed signs and all the rest. Here the demonstrators were combining protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis with protest over the deaths of Aboriginal prisoners in custody. Where did all this suddenly come from? One possible answer is…

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