What’s wrong with the media?

If you are in Melbourne and travel though the CBD along Collins Street on the 109 tram you pass a nondescript building called Collins House.

It looks a bit scruffy and nowadays it is dwarfed by high rise buildings. Yet once Collins House was the centre of a sprawling empire of mining, media and other companies linked through a maze of cross shareholdings. read more

Banned books, manifestos and a new approach to reading

At last weekend’s Victorian Writers Festival three authors – two of them also bookshop owners and one of them an author and enthusiastic supporter of bookshops – talked about books and the threat to reading.

Ann Patchett and her husband own Parnassus Books in Nashville Tennessee. Lauren Groff, another novelist and her husband Clay Kallman, own a Tampa Bay Florida bookshop, The Lynx, which proudly stocks all the books Florida’s Governor Ron De Santis and Florida schools and libraries have banned. read more

Let us learn to talk to each other

In 1946 in the aftermath of World War II the German philosopher Karl Jaspers undertook a series of lectures about questions of guilt and recovery.

He argued that the most effective cleansing of Germans must consist of a profound change in their attitude towards discussion. “Germany can only return to itself when we communicate with each other,” he said. read more

If only – sad tales of missed opportunities

Australia once thought of itself as a country of opportunity and innovation – economically and socially. Like most countries self-beliefs, the thought was not always matched by reality.

Indeed, it would arguably be better to see Australia as a land of lost opportunities with many of those losses being biggest and most damaging in recent decades. read more

UK problems much bigger than Thames Water

England’s sewage problems are not only much bigger than those of Thames Water (see the last blog) but they also characterise broader policy failure across the nation.

Private Eye cartoon

(cartoon copyright Private Eye)

Moreover, Thames Water’s financial and sewage troubles are shared by other UK water companies and are now even creating what some are dubbing a Truss-style borrowing crisis. read more

The great vampire kangaroo and Thames Water

The UK’s Thames Water – infamous for pumping raw sewage into waterways – parent company has now defaulted on its debt.

Why should the failure of a UK water company be of interest to Australia and Australians? First, because it illustrates the failure of many privatisations to improve service and performance. Second, because it is symptomatic of problems throughout the UK not only in the water industry but also other services – from railways to NHS supplies. read more

Some reflections on Anzac Day and military service

As Anzac Day is less than 24 hours away I wanted to reflect on the day – as I do each year.

By the way, the blog doesn’t usually use the perpendicular pronoun, as regular readers would know, but this post seemed to require it.

Having watched my father march a number of times, and once taken the children to see him marching, I’ve only ever participated in one Anzac Day service, and that was as the guest speaker. Although I did participate in the Sydney and Melbourne Welcome Home marches – and also in the anti-war Moratorium marches – as did many other veterans. read more

Bring on the republic and spare us from the tabloids

There is nothing quite like the English tabloids. Vulgar, insensitive, intrusive, partial, guilty of illegal phone tapping and the hiring of private investigator to look at the lives of celebrities, politicians and others.

Insensitivity was perhaps epitomised by The Sun’s headline Gotcha after the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano and its blatant warmongering about the fate of a small island with some sheep farmers. read more

The Age of Eco-Anxiety

Back in 1947 the W.H. Auden poem, The Age of Anxiety, was published a year after he renounced his British citizenship for US citizenship.

Today the title could encompass an omnibus of community concerns and has also now led to awareness of what is being called eco-anxiety. That condition is the subject of significant research much of it summarised by Helen Pearson in a Nature article The Rise of Eco-Anxiety (11/4). read more

Abortion and the Presidential election

It looks increasingly likely that abortion will be one of the defining issues of the 2024 US Presidential election – and probably the Congressional ones as well.

Donald Trump seems to have realised that and is oscillating between claiming credit for Roe v Wade while frantically trying to pretend that states like Alabama have gone too far. read more

An insider’s view of how public relations really works