Taking a break part 3

The future of water in Australia

The US journalist, novelist and historian Jon Talton has been reporting on the impacts of gross over-development, corruption and right wing obsessions in the state of Arizona for many years.

In particular he has highlighted the creation of heat banks by massive suburban development; the destruction of trees, historic buildings and waterways; and, most importantly – the failures of water policy. read more

Taking a break part 2

Who will we be frightened of next?

For all of the tough talk about Australians, the ANZAC spirit and our record as brave warriors we are – as a nation – very easily scared.

A correspondent recently remarked to the blog that Muslims must now be very pleased that the Chinese have replaced them as the most to be feared in Australia. Indeed, Muslims arguably got very short shrift as Public Enemy Number compared with other Australian bogey men. read more

Innovation and inequality – not as simple as the tech titans make out

If you were told that an Australian politician had published a new book, backed by a solid evidence base, with a highly original take on a major problem the normal response would be to wonder if Barry Jones had a new book out.

If you were told it was actually by a sitting Federal MP you would probably puzzle away for a while, laugh uncontrollably or suspect it might be by the Member for Fenner, Dr Andrew Leigh. read more

Australian right wing religious fury over The Economist

The Australian right wing seem to be embarking on another cultural crusade – this time against what is probably the best weekly news magazine (which the editors insist on calling a newspaper) in the world, The Economist.

The Economist’s crime: reporting Australia and Australian politics in an objective manner. First out of the blocks was The Australian’s Paul Kelly with a ponderous piece on how The Economist didn’t understand Australia and how it was dreadfully unfair to the statesman and visionary, Scott Morrison. That’s not quite what he said but you get the gist. read more

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

An insider’s view of how public relations really works