Some readers have been having problems with the post on Barry Jones’ Michael Kirby Oration. When they click on Read more nothing happens! We are investigating and hope to get it fixed soon.

A living legend pays tribute to another living legend

Two grizzled battlers – picture and caption courtesy of Barry Jones

Barry Jones and Michael Kirby are living legends. Recently Barry gave the 2022 Michael Kirby Justice Oration at Victoria University College of Law and Justice. His topic The Death Penalty, Populism and Democracy.

Barry gave the blog permission to reproduce the speech. It’s a bit longer than the usual blog posts but it’s an important, elegant and profound contribution to Australian and international, legal social and political debate – as well as a deep analysis of why capital punishment is wrong and why Michael Kirby’s career has been so important to Australia. The blog will be back with its own contributions next week. read more

Signs of hope in classrooms

The usual suspects in their regular appearances on Sky News After Dark or on the hustings are horrified by what they think is going on in our schools. Yet seeing what is actually going on is heartening for the rest of us.

Recently I had the chance to see at first hand the reality of a classroom for eight year olds in a government school. It was Grandparents and Special Friends Day when students Grandparents were invited along to have a look at the school, visit classrooms and see what the students were studying and doing. read more

The Optus data breach apology disaster

The Optus data breach has provoked many reactions – from disgust to dismay.

The full page ads the company placed in newspapers around Australia had a cloying insincerity that would have embarrassed Uriah Heep.  It included phrases that could only have been workshopped by a group of people who had no experience in expressing thoughts with any authenticity – or any sense of real contrition- while being overlooked by the company’s lawyers. read more

How bad can climate change impacts become?

For a variety of reasons climate researchers have been reluctant to make predictions of climate catastrophe although the 1988 Toronto Conference declaration did describe climate change as “second only to a global nuclear war.”

Now 11 scientists, including the ANU’s Will Steffen, have produced Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios – a PNAS paper published in August this year. read more

Commemorating 150 years of the Seamens Union

A September 21 2022 address at the commemoration to mark 150 years since the Seamens Union was founded

Today I want to talk about five people who represent what the Seamens Union and its successor bodies have stood for.

First, George Sangster. He was the first Labor councillor elected to Port Melbourne Council. He was also the first Labor member of Parliament for the Victorian seat of Port Melbourne. read more

A few more things on heretics

There is, thankfully, a growing backlash against modern day witch hunts.

The historian Simon Schama, a friend of Salman Rushdie recently asked: “Is nothing sacred? Yes, the right to irreverence. The health of a free, democratic society can be measured by its protection of disrespect, so long as the right to offensiveness does not extend to the threat, much less the enactment, of physical harm.” read more

Innocent II has a lot to answer for

Pope Innocent II has a lot to answer for. After his 1130 elevation to the papacy the church was deeply divided and there were actually two Popes one of whom – not Innocent – had been supported by a majority of Cardinals.

In 1139, after his competitor had died, he called the Second Lateran Council to address the divisions. The Council’s 23rd canon declared that: “We condemn and cast out of the church as heretics those who, simulating a kind of religious zeal, reject the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, the baptism of infants, the priesthood, and other ecclesiastical orders. As well as matrimony and ordain that they will be restrained by the civil power. For their partisans also we decree the same power.” read more

Some more about tanks

It was ever thus with tanks (see earlier blog) according to a friend and former colleague, Peter Hehir.

Peter wrote about the tanks blog: “Researching my father’s army career – 40 years in the Royal Tank Regiment – I discovered some gems. The new British tank they had been demanding in Egypt, when Rommel’s Panzers were able to fire about half a mile further than our British effort, eventually arrived.  It was a shocker. Hardened Tankies could not understand basic interior faults, let along fire power weakness. read more

Why are the Greens opposing the Voice?

As the Greens flirt with a serious loss of electoral support over its policy on the Voice to Parliament the puzzling question is why they are doing it.

The easy answer is that once again – as with carbon pricing – they persist in pursuing perfection even after they have demonstrated before that the perfect is the enemy of the good. read more