Category

Society

The sad, sad story of the NBN

By | Economy, History, Media, Politics, Society | 38 Comments

The High Court’s decision on the citizenship woes of several members of our federal parliament came out too late for this week, so I’ll have time to work through the Court’s reasoning. In any case, I had spent some time looking at the NBN, a burden to us all, whether we are connected to it or not. The National Broadband Network (NBN) has reappeared to the public gaze in the past ten days, as stories of an astonishing level of complaints about the service have been aired in televised news and in Parliament. These stories have at once produced a…

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NEG: the energy policy you have when you aren’t having an energy policy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Politics, Society | 46 Comments

Getting real details about the New Energy Guarantee is really difficult, because so much of the hard work on details has not yet been done. But apparently the media thinks it ticks all the right boxes. The carbon tax has gone, the emissions trading scheme is dead, as is the emissions intensity scheme. According to the economics editor of The Age, Peter Martin, the NEG will do more or less what each of the other schemes would have done. It will make the electricity system cleaner (in accordance with the Abbott government’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement) while giving…

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Optimism or Pessimism?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Society | 138 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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The future for Australia’s Aboriginal people

By | Environment, History, Indigenous, Politics, Religion, Society | 129 Comments

My trip to the Kimberley has rekindled my interest in looking at what might be the case in 2067 with respect to our Aboriginal people. I’m using the ‘A’ word rather than ‘indigenous’, for two reasons. The first is that in the Kimberley and later in Perth it became clear to me that we in the East use ‘indigenous’ because it embraces both Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, and somehow it has become the politically correct term. There are only a few thousand Torres Strait Islanders on the islands themselves, the great majority of the rest living in North…

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A road trip in the Kimberley

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Society | 6 Comments

For much of September I have, with twenty other people, been in the Kimberley, the northernmost region of Western Australia, 0n an Outback Spirit tour. We used Outback Spirit to explore Lake Eyre when it was fullish in 2010, and enjoyed the experience. Our fellow passengers on the Kimberley tour were a pleasant and enjoyable bunch, while our driver Martin was resourceful, dependable and funny. The trip was carefully planned, and Outback Spirit did it all in style. What more could you ask for?  There was so much to see and experience that what follows is only a tiny sketch….

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Books that have been important to me #7 Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Music, Politics, Research, Society | 20 Comments

In the middle 1990s I was asked to give a plenary address at an education conference, and you can find its text here, or if the link doesn’t work, by going in the masthead to my Writings, then to Educational, then to ‘Who Counts?’ What follows here is based on that speech. The beginning of my speech was based on a series of questions that had troubled me throughout my working life, as to just what ‘intelligence’ was, and why it was so important. I was usually near the top in my classes at school, but rarely at the very…

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Books that have been important to me #6 A. E. van Vogt and science fiction

By | Books, History, Language, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 11 Comments

The travails of reading English literature as an undergraduate pushed me away from reading good books for pleasure. I found an outlet in science fiction, the text versions of the comics I had enjoyed, like Buck Rogers. I had started as a boy with Jules Verne, and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Then came C. S. Lewis’s science fiction yarns, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. They were, like W. E. Johns’s Biggles stories, rattling good yarns, imaginative tales that gave you a sense of a much wider and grander world. The war was just over, ‘our scientists were…

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Australia Day and other Great Issues

By | History, Media, Politics, Society | 43 Comments

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we are having a few tiny issues magnified into Great Ones, gay marriage being one. Now we are having another one, about Australia Day’s being on 26 January. For those who haven’t had a recent dose of Australian history, this is when Governor Arthur Phillip planted the flag on land somewhere near the present Government House at Sydney Cove. He had actually been there for a day, having arrived from Botany Bay, where he left the rest of the fleet, on the 25th, which was to join him on the 26th. No…

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Making sense of the same-sex marriage survey

By | History, Politics, Society | 192 Comments

Depending on when the materials arrive, I may or may not be able to take part in this postal survey (it is not a true plebiscite, a vote of the citizens), because of a likely absence from home. There are a number of options if I am there, and indeed for all citizens. One is to support the proposal; one is to oppose it; another is to write back saying what you think of this method of obtaining the opinion of Australians; another is to feed the materials to our worms, who like paper as well as vegetable scraps, or…

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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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