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[25 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 76 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 | 7 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 | 23 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 | 58 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 | 14 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 | 187 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 | 25 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 …

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[1 Jun 2015 | One Comment | 83 views ]

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, …

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[30 May 2015 | 2 Comments | 41 views ]

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 …

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[24 May 2015 | 6 Comments | 69 views ]

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 …

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[23 May 2015 | One Comment | 29 views ]

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 …