Reviews »

[6 Jun 2015 | No Comment | 22 views ]

REVIEW
‘Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s’.
By Stuart Macintyre
NewSouth, 596pp, $34.99
Stuart Macintyre’s latest book examines the vast reconstruction and nation-building project in Australia after the end of World War II and throughout almost all of the 1940s.
‘Australia’s Boldest Experiment’ is dedicated to the historian’s wife, Martha — also an esteemed academic — who was born early on August 16, 1945. Martha’s mother, born the year the Great War ended, went into labour as the news broke in Australia late in the morning of Aug­ust 15, 1945, that World …

Columns »

[1 Jun 2015 | One Comment | 84 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, …

Columns »

[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 …

Columns »

[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 …

Reviews »

[23 May 2015 | No Comment | 8 views ]

Review of ‘Operation Chowhound: The Most Risky, Most Glorious, US Bomber Mission of WWII.’
By Stephen Dando-Collins
St Martin’s Press, 272pp, $32.99
The Berlin airlift of 1948-49 has become world famous. Yet three years earlier, in the dying days of World War II, a remarkable airborne operation took place over Nazi-occupied Holland. This involved, in late April and early May 1945, low-flying American and British heavy bombers dropping desperately needed food to Dutch civilians, many of whom were dying of hunger. Across 10 days, more than 10,000 tonnes of food was delivered. Most …

Columns »

[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 …

Reviews »

[9 May 2015 | No Comment | 20 views ]

Review of
‘Windsor’s Way’
By Tony Windsor
MUP, 246pp, $32.99
In the early 1990s Tony Windsor, as the independent state MP for Tamworth, kept Nick Greiner’s minority Liberal government in power in NSW. In 2001, he was elected the independent federal member for New England.
All in all, the likable, plain-spoken Windsor experienced 22 years in two Australian parliaments, and won seven elections as an independent. Moreover, his vote was pivotal in two crucial balance-of-power situations: one favouring Greiner; the other, in concert with the loquacious independent MP for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, supporting the minority …

Columns »

[9 May 2015 | No Comment | 11 views ]

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 …

Columns »

[4 May 2015 | 2 Comments | 34 views ]

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, …

Columns »

[2 May 2015 | No Comment | 22 views ]

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 …

Columns »

[25 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 13 views ]

An astute observer of Bill Shorten’s political and parliamentary behaviour may detect a revealing pattern.
In 2013 Shorten was elected Labor leader under a process that recently has been brought into serious question.
Last year the Opposition Leader opposed virtually every reform proposed by the Abbott government, including $5 billion worth of budget reform that the ALP had proposed when it was last in government. Shorten bragged about this by saying that Labor that year had been defined by its resistance. Yet he promised that 2015 would be full of ideas.
Now, Bill …