Articles in the Columns Category
Reflecting on his incumbency, former American President George W. Bush has made clear that he has learnt that “shock and awe” is not a good recipe for waging war or running government. Many Australian voters, it would appear, are also learning this lesson.
Although Labor leader Bill Shorten is currently on the ropes, polls show that the two-party vote, unlike in 2013, is neck and neck. Rather than “shock and awe”, these days voters are looking for more thoughtful government.
The wider electorate has little confidence in the current crop of …
The people who run universities bang on about excellence but the fact is university standards are plummeting. And it’s a national disgrace.
This is connected to the fact an increasing number of students, from Australia and overseas, are functionally illiterate in terms of their use and understanding of English. This is exacerbated by the fact that, once they are accepted for tertiary study, students are no longer required to think for themselves and often have no passion for the subjects they are studying. Add to this the fact there are far …
Alan Reid (1914-1987)
Alan Reid was one of the most influential political journalists in 20th century Australia. Working for most of his long career as Canberra correspondent for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, he not only reported key events in Australian politics, but also from time to time actively participated in them.
As far as can be ascertained, Reid’s roman a clef about the 1950s Labor Split, The Bandar-Log, holds the dubious title of being the only Australian novel legally judged defamatory without having been published.
As myself and Stephen Holt point out in …
The reality is that, in recent years, no political party in Australia has won a federal election without the backing of small business. It is also true that a disunited government is extremely unlikely to be returned to office.
Led by the Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, the Abbott Government’s comprehensive small business package is proving to be an important vote winner which is now giving the Coalition the best possible shot at winning the next federal election.
It also shows the power of positive teamwork. As Billson, Abbott, Joe Hockey and …
Over the past couple of months we’ve seen two of Australia’s most established minor political parties deregistered by the Australian Electoral Commission. First there was the Australian Democrats and then the Democratic Labor Party.
Like many people I was quite surprised to hear that neither of these parties had a minimum of 500 members – this being the magical number that the Electoral Act defines as indicative of enough public support to register a party. But when it was announced that one of the rising stars in the political firmament, …
Who suffers most from drug prohibition? The conventional wisdom is that Western countries pay a very high price for illicit drugs originating from and transiting through some developing countries. But the truth is the highest price for our failed “war on drugs” is paid by those relatively few countries where the drugs are produced or through which they move.
This perspective was usefully analysed in a recent report from the United Nations Development Program, headed by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark. Entitled “Perspectives on the Development Dimensions of Drug …
As elsewhere in the West, the churches here have long been fighting a rearguard action to maintain their dominance and hegemony. But this is no easy task with an ever-growing list of clerical retreats and regroupings in response to an increasingly secular but nonetheless conservative Australia.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is making clear that the right of churches to operate above the secular law is no longer acceptable.
For decades, abortion law reform has liberated women from backstreet abortionists. Contraception and sex education are now …
Our drink-driving laws have been successful because the focus is on road safety, not prohibition. That approach makes clear sense to everyone. But, above all, this game-changing legislation is grounded in rigorous science, including the epidemiology, pharmacology and physiology of alcohol.
Because they target road safety rather than prohibition, our drink-driving laws have fundamentally changed attitudes, too. These days it is utterly unacceptable to drive when intoxicated. Now mates, more often than ever, step in and take away a drunk’s car keys, as they should.
If only it were the same for …
When John Howard said in 1996 Australians should aspire to feel “comfortable and relaxed”, he captured the aspirations of vast swathes of middle Australia. After more than a decade of Labor rule under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, most Australians aspired to such a way of life.
Nearly 20 years later, we as a nation need to work out how we want to feel. Does “comfortable and relaxed” capture the aspirations of the modern Australian household in 2015? In many ways, it still does.
In the time since Howard, some things have …
Today’s educators could learn a lot from Britain’s reformist Liberal prime minister, William Gladstone.
Four times PM, Gladstone had some fine ideas. In 1870 he introduced compulsory written examinations for recruitment to the British civil service. This was to avoid and overcome corruption and to ensure that candidates had the appropriate skills.
He succeeded admirably, and with drastically lowering academic and entry standards in our universities we might want to think about adopting similar measures. But these days, written exams seem very much out of fashion.
In 1970, …
The compulsory treatment of patients for alcohol and other drug dependence is a prime example of how seemingly good intentions often can lead to unfortunate human results.
The reality is that alcohol and drug treatment is very poorly funded in Australia. Bearing this in mind, it is important to understand that compulsory treatment is much more expensive than treating people who voluntarily choose to seek help.
Another problem with compulsory treatment is that it is often people with the least chance of doing well who are treated. This means the many people …