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[22 Aug 2015 | No Comment | 14 views ]

Smoking rates are declining in Australia, but not in one community — our prison system. As well as being used for their mood-altering effects, tobacco and other drugs are also widely used as currency in our prisons.
As well as prisoners, other disadvantaged groups are overrepresented among smokers, in particular indigenous people, the mentally ill, and alcohol and drug-dependent people.
While most prisoners already have serious physical and mental health problems, in Australia 85 per cent of prisoners also smoke, even though at least half would like to stop, especially when released …

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[14 Aug 2015 | No Comment | 35 views ]

For the first time in 15 years, tonight Collingwood will head to the SCG to take on the Sydney Swans.
ANZ Stadium has run its course as an AFL venue for ­Sydney.
The fans don’t like it. The Swans — fresh from signing a 30-year deal with SCG Trust — have fallen out of love with a stadium at which Collingwood has regularly beaten the Swans.
That’s not to say ANZ Stadium hasn’t been a good thing for the promotion of Australian football.
The Swans’ use of the stadium has been an important part …

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[8 Aug 2015 | No Comment | 12 views ]

At the beginning of this year, if you stood up in the local pub and suggested the Abbott government would have a chance of winning the next election, you might well have been met with some raised eyebrows by punters before they went back to their game of pool or downed another beer.
Now, only months later, if you did that, many more people might say, “You’re probably right” and possibly even engage you in conversation. If the punter were a tradie, the talk might well turn to how they were …

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[7 Aug 2015 | 3 Comments | 42 views ]

It looks like the Central Queensland University – the official name of the university as constituted by the Queensland Parliament Central Queensland University Act 1998 – is up to its old tricks again.
Back in 2006, CQU students complained about being treated as “cash cows” and former Victorian premier John Cain agreed. He said the university’s Melbourne city campus did not have appropriate facilities for a tertiary institution. “The university is detached physically by some thousands of kilometres from its base, giving its name and blessing to the courses but the …

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[25 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 101 views ]

Article 18 is a section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by every member of the UN in 1948. Written just after World War II, it attempted to find a form of words that would help ease the traumas of global friction. Its terms are included in many treaties, declarations and bills of rights.
Attempting to deal with the belief and religious dimension of that friction, article 18 states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his (sic) religion …

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[11 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 9 views ]

Fiction
Review of The Bandar Log: A Labor Story of the 1950s
By Alan Reid
Edited by Ross Fitzgerald, Connor Court, $34.95.
Towards the end of The Bandar Log, Macker Kalley (“Machiavelli”), the fictional character resembling Alan Reid himself, muses on the role that jealousy plays as a “driving force” in history: “If Stalin hadn’t intrigued Trotsky out of the party he’d never have had supreme power … that simple act of jealousy changed the entire course of the Russian Revolution. And yet we persist with the myth that it is always impersonal …

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[11 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 25 views ]

The rise of the Labor Left — and its expected ascendancy to con­trolling Labor’s powerful national executive committee — could not come at a worse time for Bill Shorten.
The Opposition Leader is already feeling the heat internally from members of the Labor caucus who are embarrassed to go back to their communities and sell Labor’s weak — indeed, virtually non-existent — economic narrative.
Although the fallout from his appearance before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption remains to be seen, Shorten certainly is feeling significant pressure in the …

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[29 Jun 2015 | 2 Comments | 69 views ]

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 …

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[27 Jun 2015 | No Comment | 15 views ]

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 …

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[20 Jun 2015 | 5 Comments | 218 views ]

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 …

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[13 Jun 2015 | One Comment | 27 views ]

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 …