The changing Australian culture

By | Books, Economy, Education, Food & Wine, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society, Sport, Theatre | 22 Comments

To write a new website essay is now a challenge, but I feel up to it. And I’ve wanted to write about this subject at a little length, rather than as a series of asides. It is built around a most interesting book by the always interesting John Carroll, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University. Land of the Golden Cities is published by Connor Court, and my copy took me a month to acquire. And then I got ill. But reading it brought back a platoon of memories. Here are three. Late 1950s. Two of us, senior undergraduates,…

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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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Sport, academia, climate change and health, with a bit of humour thrown in

By | Climate Change, History, Humour, Society, Sport | 73 Comments

I was going to write an essay on Australia’s fate at the Olympic Games, perhaps in the hope that the Rio Games might mercifully be the last ever, but as I thought it over I began to worry that I had actually written such a piece four years ago, at the time of the last Games in London. Well, it wasn’t quite the case, but I did write about the Games then, and made similar points in another later essay. The truth is, I think, is that we’re not as good as we think we are in anything, but some of our…

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Managing comments on the website

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Language, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 43 Comments

I’ve had to think hard about how best to moderate the comments on this website. A number of the recent posts have had more than 100 comments, and one has passed 200. Just following them is a decent amount of work, and it gets in the way of other writing important to me. My own practice has been to respond to anyone who I think is seeking a real answer to something, or who has found a weakness in what I have written, or who seems to have misunderstood what I wrote. I learn from such encounters. If I find I…

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What sort of conversation do you get on The Conversation?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 22 Comments

Another of my resolutions for the New Year was to get rid of unwanted  regular emails. It’s not as easy as you might think. I’ve tried blocking, and that works, to a degree, for anything generated in Australia. But those from overseas are immune. I looked at sites I’ve subscribed to, such as purveyors of goods of various kinds, like clothes. It seems that if you buy something you are offered a goody if you subscribe, and one does. But I’ve got rid of most of those, too. And that leaves The Conversation, which claims 2 million unique hits a month, and seems…

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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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What sort of political system do we have? I

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Society, Sport, Theatre | 11 Comments

This the first of a two-part essay on the current Australian political system. When I was first interested on politics in the 1950s, it all seemed pretty simple. There was Labor and Anti-Labor, with the Country Party serving as the rural tail of the Liberals. You were Protestant or Catholic. You left school at fifteen,  or you went on (in consequence you were blue-collar or white-collar). You were probably a union member if you were a worker. Your sympathies were to the Left or to the Right. Republicans were just about invisible. You probably inherited your family’s political sympathies, as…

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Advertising motor vehicles

By | Economy, Environment, Health, Media, Road Safety, Society, Sport | 6 Comments

Throughout the summer I will watch cricket on television if I am able to, and this summer I have seen a lot of it — and very good it has been, too. And I was perforce the victim of innumerable ads for motor vehicles. Since I have a longstanding road-safety connection I viewed these with a critical eye, and decided that most of them failed my own test: they showed drivers behaving badly. Anyone connected with road safety will feel from time to time that he or she is simply on the losing end of a game against humanity. Something…

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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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