All posts by Noel Turnbull

The wrong way to make political – or any – decisions

The Morrison Government’s decision-making is about to get worse – if that’s possible – as Cabinet submissions are apparently to be replaced by PowerPoint presentations.

Presumably the full Cabinet submissions will be available and a few Ministers may read them but the reality is that the use of PowerPoint (PP) will discourage the rest from even attempting to read the executive summary. read more

A significant moment in history

There are many significant moments in history – local, national and international – but it is often difficult to recognise them except in retrospect or as part of some invented tradition.

In Port Melbourne one of those moments was memorialised more than four decades ago but the memorial was almost lost and has only now been reinstated. read more

The Earth gets its day in court

Last month the Earth got its first day in court in cases against ExxonMobil lodged in New York and Massachusetts in which it was alleged, among other things, that the company misled the public about its product.

In 2010 Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, in their book Merchants of Doubt detailed how a group of people obscured the truth on issues from tobacco to climate change – with, in some cases, the same people being involved in both denialist campaigns. Now, nine years later, the story may be coming to a conclusion with the issues litigated in court rather than the more hospitable theatres of the US Congress, the Murdoch media and the Australian Liberal-National Government. Not that Congress is entirely neglecting the issue, of which more later. read more

Kamikaze Kounzil

If you were a municipal council what would you do if: ratepayers were outraged by massive rate increases and a bloated overpaid bureaucracy (despite Government rate caps); faced a newly-formed, well-organised, well-resourced activist group; and, another activist group who had been trying to get you to adopt better governance systems and policies for a decade or so? read more

The political limbo rock – how low can you go?

One of the best ways to determine how history will judge a politician is not to tot up what they achieved but to try to evaluate the depths they sometimes sank to as they pursued their careers.

John Howard was enormously electorally successful, after and before he wasn’t, but the depths of his deviousness and cynicism were exemplified by his conscious decision to import to Australia the wedge tactics the George W. Bush administration had developed to prise blue collar voters from the Democrats. read more

Whittaker annual commemoration and the new face of unionism

Despite the efforts of the Morrison Government – and parts of the media – the Australian trade union movement is not, and never was, a collection of thugs. Indeed, what is most remarkable about contemporary Australian unionism is that it has a very female face.

If you see a female teacher, a nurse, a social worker, a child carer you are almost certainly seeing the face of today’s union movement. Indeed, at the annual Alan Whittaker commemoration event on Princes Pier Port Melbourne on November 1 it was exemplified by the presence of the ACTU President, Michele O’Neil. read more

The productivity paradox solution – it’s business wot dunnit

In the age of secular stagnation – although the age’s dawn has not yet dawned on the Australian government – one of the central economic questions is: what has caused productivity growth to decline?

As far back as 1987, Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics, said: “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” This failure of massive investment in information technology to boost productivity growth became known as the productivity paradox. read more

Halloween hex for Trump

While it will probably solidify Trump support in the minds of some Christians – for instance the US versions of Australia’s Sydney Anglican Archbishop and Southern snake handlers – a campaign is being conducted by Michael M. Hughes to ‘bind’ Donald Trump.

In essence binding is a magical ritual related to witchcraft. While witches have had a very bad rap (as Donald would say) in the past, and alleged ones still get far worse than a bad rap in parts of India, they tend these days to be more counter-cultural and probably no more odd than Mary Lincoln’s White House séances following the death of her and Abe’s son. read more

Blunders of our governments

What would you include in a list of Australian government blunders if you were preparing a book like Anthony King and Ivor Crewe’s 2013 book Blunders of our Governments ?

King and Crewe looked at British governments both Tory and Labour and came up with a long list including the Millennium Dome (Blair); the poll tax (Thatcher); Private Finance Initiatives; IT disasters and others. read more

Yearning for a new Saladin

Over centuries – when faced with adversity, invasions and threats – much of the Arab world has often yearned for a new Saladin.

The newest English language biography, The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin by Jonathan Phillips, recounts not only the story of Saladin’s great victories, including the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusader invaders, but how he has been regarded down the years and how figures as diverse as Nasser and Saddam Hussein have been seen as potential new Saladins. read more