Home » Archive

Articles in the Columns Category

Columns »

[8 Feb 2016 | No Comment | 7 views ]

It’s a sad fact that most of the alcohol in Australia is drunk by a small percentage of problem drinkers.
According to a recent report of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, a fifth of all Australian drinkers consume three-quarters of the grog. The heaviest-drinking 5 five per cent – about 1 million Australians – consume more than eight standard drinks of alcohol every day, and the proportion of alcohol being consumed by heavy drinkers is increasing.
The alcohol industry has known for a long time that consumption is very uneven …

Columns »

[6 Feb 2016 | One Comment | 21 views ]

Since his corporate-style takeover of the Liberal Party in September, Malcolm Turnbull has had a charmed run.
He’s doing well in the polls. Progressives in the media see him as one of their own and those on the Right regard him as better than the Labor alternative. Hence, up to now, there’s been little scrutiny of what his government says or does.
All the pundits agree that Turnbull’s rise has lifted the government’s fortunes ahead of the next federal election and it’s tempting to see this as proof that the Coalition is …

Columns »

[25 Jan 2016 | One Comment | 26 views ]

There were only six heroin overdose deaths in Australia in 1964. But by 1997, heroin overdose deaths in Australia had climbed to 1116. Just imagine the number of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters who had suddenly lost a young loved one.
Australia’s first supervised injecting facility began operating in Sydney’s Kings Cross in 2001 in response to the epidemic of heroin overdose deaths in the 1990s.
One in 10 of all heroin overdose deaths in Australia occurred within a couple of kilometres of Kings Cross. So reducing the number of heroin …

Columns »

[23 Jan 2016 | One Comment | 43 views ]

Much has been said and written recently about Tony Abbott’s ­alleged failures of leadership as prime minister. Yes, there were mistakes but the commentariat’s obsession with them obscures a ­record of solid achievement.
In securing our borders, finalising free trade agreements with our major economic partners and ­repealing harmful taxes, he achieved what many thought was impossible.
He was mocked for promising to “shirt-front” Vladimir Putin, but no one else had really taken on the Russian despot — and, short of going to war, a robust dressing down is the strongest response …

Columns »

[21 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 8 views ]

Alcohol industry reliant on problem drinkers, say critics.
“PM”, ABC Radio National and ABC Local Radio, 20 January, 2016
TIM PALMER: The message to drink responsibly tags nearly every alcohol commercial. But research published today suggests that’s a fairly pointless message.
It shows that the majority of drinkers, as the liquor industry likes to point out, already do drink responsibly.
But that 20 per cent of Australian drinkers don’t, and they seem inured to the message – they consume three-quarters of all alcohol bought in Australia and that’s going up.
The heaviest drinkers of …

Columns »

[9 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 17 views ]

Last year my favourite Australian book was Michael Wilding’s ‘Wild Bleak Bohemia’, which shared the Non-Fiction Prize for the 2015 Prime Ministers Literary Awards — of which I was a judge.
Wilding’s finely written and scrupulously researched book deals with the life and work of the three most important writers in colonial Australia — Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall. As it happens, they are my favourite nineteenth century novelists and poets — and in that order.
C.T. Clarke, who worked for the publisher George Robertson, wrote about “The Sorrows …

Columns »

[2 Jan 2016 | 3 Comments | 58 views ]

For many years, even though it was a huge problem, Australia managed to ignore the epidemic of domestic violence. But since Rosie Batty was named 2015 Australian of the Year for placing domestic violence on the national agenda, it has been increasingly difficult to keep on ignoring this issue.
Yet in some areas, ignoring the pivotal role of alcohol in domestic violence remains a national blind spot. This is despite the fact that alcohol is to violence as water is to fish.
Admittedly, we would still experience some violence even if alcohol …

Columns »

[26 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 13 views ]

As many Australians munch on leftover turkey, plum pudding and Christmas cake, liberally lubri­cated with booze, this is the time of year when many people realise they cannot continue drinking ­alcohol at such high and dangerous levels and be effective citizens and members of the nation.
Thus, on or before New Year’s Eve, a lot of Aussies will pledge to cut down their drinking or abstain altogether, while many will also commit to losing weight.
But while many focus on their individual problems, representatives of business argue that the best way …

Columns »

[16 Dec 2015 | 2 Comments | 66 views ]

These days it is increasingly difficult to have a reasoned and thorough public debate about government policy.
So spare a thought for the members of a parliamentary committee who have to come to grips with a complex and important topic that affects all of us and is fraught with powerful emotions and deep divisions.
In Victoria, the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Upper House is examining end-of-life choices, including voluntary euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying.
They (or their staff) have to wade through about 1000 written submissions and …

Columns »

[12 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 18 views ]

Malcolm Turnbull’s efforts to innovate our way into more employment and prosperity are to be applauded. So here’s a really innovative idea to help create more jobs. How about we let completely legal businesses that pay all their company taxes and GST share in government job creation schemes?
This week it came to my attention that the federal government bans certain legal industries from accessing job creation and wage subsidy schemes. They’re doing this simply because the moral values of the industry don’t happen to align with the moral values of …

Columns »

[8 Dec 2015 | One Comment | 15 views ]

Several young people have died recently after taking ecstasy at youth music dance events across Australia.
These tragedies attracted saturation media coverage. However it is important to point out that 15 Australians die each day from alcohol. Tellingly, one in eight deaths of Australians under 25 are caused by alcohol.
The sad reality is that illicit drugs are a helpful distraction for the liquor industry. Some commentators express astonishment that young people want to take drugs. But young people with everything to live for use drugs, including ecstasy, for …