Columns »

[18 Apr 2015 | 2 Comments | 22 views ]

The recent bid by commercial television interests to increase alcohol advertising during prime time television, and in particular to allow more alcohol ads during major sporting events, deserves our vigorous condemnation.
As we should all know by now, to protect our children and their vulnerable developing brains, such TV alcohol ads should be substantially reduced, and preferably banned altogether. Unsurprisingly, peak health bodies are also outraged by plans by the liquor industry to make it even more difficult for us as citizens to complain about ads that we regard as breaching …

Reviews »

[11 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 16 views ]

Memoirs of a Slow Learner: New Edition
By Peter Coleman
Connor Court, 190pp, $29.95
Writing a memoir doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts. Sometimes what is left unsaid can be as interesting and even more intriguing than what is revealed.
When this book was first published 21 years ago, some reviewers complained Peter Coleman was far too reticent, especially about his personal life. This, it seems to me, is a misunderstanding of the nature of his memoir, which is neither a confession nor a listing of his individual achievements but essentially a …

Columns »

[11 Apr 2015 | One Comment | 35 views ]

The British established a prison colony in Australia in 1788 because they ran out of prison capacity in Britain, and America was no longer available after the 1776 revolution. But the fact incarceration had failed to dent Britain’s huge social and economic problems has not stopped successive Australian governments trying to solve our own problems by imprisoning more people.
It’s an admission of failure and a national disgrace. Recently in Australia, incarceration rates increased from 158.8 per 100,000 in 2004 to 185.6 last year. This is an area where growth is …

Reviews »

[4 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 35 views ]

Review of
‘Let My People Go: The Untold Story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959—89′.
By Sam Lipski and Suzanne D. Rutland
Hybrid Publishers, 273pp, $29.95
Meeting Jews who had been persecuted in Russia inspired Melbourne-born Sam Lipski to write about their struggle. In 1987 the distinguished journalist visited Moscow and was confronted with the brutal reality of Soviet totalitarianism through lengthy interviews with Soviet Jews who had applied to immigrate to ­Israel but were refused permission to do so.
As a proud Australian Jew, Lipski was sympathetic to the cause of these “refuseniks’’. …

Columns »

[4 Apr 2015 | One Comment | 12 views ]

One of the casualties of modern life in a technological age has been our attention span.
Some scientists maintain that our attention spans have halved during the past three decades. Instead of someone being able to pay attention for an average of eight seconds, it is now estimated to be four. Instead of paying attention for four minutes, it is now two. Instead of spending 30 seconds on a website, it’s 15 seconds. So what does this mean for politics and governments?
It means our attention span and consequently our tolerance of …

Columns »

[28 Mar 2015 | One Comment | 24 views ]

In Australia, domestic violence is universally recognised as a serious and widespread problem with massive social costs. But we wouldn’t know this from the way most of our politicians have responded to this crucial issue. Surely all our major political parties and their apparatchiks could find a way for an effective, consensus-based approach supported by all Australians?
Domestic violence was firmly back on the agenda with the announcement by Tony Abbott of family violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, as the 2015 Australian of the Year. Abbott also announced the formation of a …

Reviews »

[14 Mar 2015 | No Comment | 34 views ]

Review of ‘The Compassionate Englishwoman: Emily Hobhouse in the Boer War’
By Robert Eales
Middle Harbour Press, 298pp, $29.95
IT was a terrible war with atrocities, war crimes and concentration camps but it had nothing to do with the Nazis. This was the Boer War, 1899-1902, and the camps were set up by the British, of whose empire Australia was an integral part. It was also a war that blooded Australians for the catastrophe to follow.
The British Army, led by the likes of Lord Horatio Kitchener of Khartoum fame, not only burned most …

Columns »

[14 Mar 2015 | 2 Comments | 234 views ]

BEFORE last year’s Victorian election I predicted in this newspaper that the Australian Sex Party’s Fiona Patten would win a seat in the Legislative Council. This occurred and the feisty Ms Patten is now one of those Upper House MPs who hold the balance of power.
With the Sex Party not standing in this month’s NSW election there is another minor party that deserves attention.
Formed nationally in 2013, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (NSW) has endorsed Shayne Higson as its lead candidate for election to the NSW Legislative Council on March 28, …

Reviews »

[7 Mar 2015 | No Comment | 32 views ]

Review of ‘Still a Pygmy’
By Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest
Finch Publishing, 234pp, $27.99
THIS is one of the most unusual and fascinating memoirs I have read in many years.
Written with the aid of Michael Nest, a freelance researcher with a PhD in African politics, ‘Still A Pygmy’ documents how Isaac Bacirongo — a BaTempo Pygmy from the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — moved to Sydney with his wife Josephine and their 10 children.
The only member of his extended family to go to school and also for a …