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

Interns – sadly yet again

University public relations and communication programs work hard to make their undergraduate intern programs valuable to both students and employers.

In contrast, after graduation some students find themselves embroiled in a deeply exploitative internship system. So it must be galling to them that the industry organisation, the Public Relations Institute of Australia, has recently run an ad saying: “Photographer call out! PRIA is currently seeking an aspiring, fun and awesome photographer to capture the essence of the impending NSW Golden Target Awards.” read more

Something big – but very different – is happening in Texas

In the 43 years since the last Democrat Presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, won Texas there has been increasing speculation that it could happen again.

A growing Hispanic vote reflected in blue voting majorities in counties along much of the border from El Paso to the south east; and, demographic change which is making parts of Texas more like its liberal heartland in Austin (even if that will never amount to the 74.3% vote Beto O’Rourke won in Travis County Austin in his Senate bid against Ted Cruz) are indicators of what could happen. read more

Max Weber’s Politics as a Vocation in 2019

A century after Max Weber’s Politics as Vocation was published – and 101 years after he delivered the speech on which it was based – it is fascinating to use the speech as a yardstick against which one can evaluate politicians like Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

Whenever people think of the great German sociologist’s work on politics they instantly default to his comments about charisma and whether contemporaries either do or don’t appear to have it while ignoring the rest of his views. read more

181 CEOs take on Milton Friedman

When 181 US chief executives, organised by the Business Roundtable, issued a “collective statement on the purpose of the corporation” it caused fury among some investors and economists; joy among some activists; cynicism among other activists; and, horror among conservative commentators.

The problem was that for the critics – since 1962 Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom argued among other things now in the dustbin of history that the sole obligation of companies was to maximise shareholder value – it had provided a convenient justification for the wave of neo-liberal policies implemented by Thatcher, Reagan and Australian governments which have resulted in the mess we are now in. read more

An insider’s view of how public relations really works