Populism and fake news are here to stay

By CRISPIN HULL

Labor’s excruciating navel-gazing and entrail-picking review this week of its May election loss makes a couple of good points – Bill Shorten was unpopular and Clive Palmer bought a lot of votes – and misses another crucial point – fake news and misinformation are beyond combatting.

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Lost chance to fix tax

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s knee-jerk dismissal of one of his backbencher’s tax proposals was a wasted opportunity and a hypocritical one at that.

The well-respected moderate Western Australian Liberal backbencher Senator Dean Smith proposed that payroll tax – perhaps the most insidious anti-jobs tax ever invented – and property stamp duties be abolished and in their place the GST be widened and/or increased slightly and that a modest land tax be introduced.

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FYI: get rid of big donations

Unsurprisingly, a survey of Australia’s federal politicians published this month did not directly mention the free flow of information, or lack of it, among the attributes of our democracy that they like or dislike.

But indirectly, they rated it as the most important thing to help restore trust in Australian democracy because three-quarters of them want tougher caps on both electoral spending and political donations.

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The not-so-private health and education

Terry Snow’s well-intentioned and generous gift of $20 million to Canberra Grammar School nonetheless highlights the major anomalies of education funding in Australia.

The Coalition Howard Abbott Turnbull and Morrison Governments’ blinkered ideology and Labor being hopelessly wedged has meant that far too much education funding is going to private schools which already educate their children very well, while public and the non-elite Catholic schools struggle for money that would greatly improve the education of their students.

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Globalism is in national interest, despite Morrison

So we have good globalisation and negative globalism, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He is right, up to a point, about the benefits of globalisation.

The IMF warned this week of the dangers of contracting international trade. Since David Ricardo in the early 19 th century it has been basic economics that trade, especially international trade, is “a good thing” because it is a “win-win” in which both parties benefits.

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Anglospheric apoplexy a threat to us all

This week’s events in two of the world’s leading democracies reveal that humans have not quite evolved enough. They also exemplify the tension between the two main survival methods of early humans as they roamed the savannah thousands of years in groups of 50 to 100.

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Lessons from the fast train to Barcelona

This week I travelled at 300km/h on the very, very fast train from Madrid to Barcelona. It covered the 625 kilometres in three hours, an average of 208km/h. This included four or five stops on the way.

The train goes to and from the centre of each city every hour in the main part of the day for $65 with more legroom than Qantas business class, free wifi and a quality dining car. 

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Senate makes four-year terms harder

After next year, the Federal Parliament will be the only one in Australia with a terms of three years. And so this week the chair of the House Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, Andrew Wallace (LNP, Qld) announced a public “roundtable” of constitutional experts to look at the issue in November.

It is very well-trodden ground over more than 40 years that hitherto has hit a series of brick walls. The usual stumbling block has been the Senate.

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Labor puts democracy to test

The best prime minister we never had

These are testing times for Australian democracy. Perhaps the biggest calamity of Labor’s loss in May is that the better policies are in danger of being lost with it.

In democracies we quite wrongly assume that the voters’ choice is always the correct one. But when you look back at some Australian elections and what resulted from them it becomes apparent that the people at least occasionally got it wrong.

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Beware the US jail trend

“Lofty” was in his early 40s in Beechworth Jail when he realised he had wasted his life so far and was determined that when his parole came up he would go straight. It was in the mid-1960s.

In those days prisoners were not permitted to serve their parole in Beechworth. My father, a parole officer and Anglican chaplain of the jail, pleaded Lofty’s case, arguing that the sewerage project had started as was in desperate need of labourers. Lofty was a big, strong, fit man. He would be ideal. And to send him back to Melbourne would make a relapse more likely.

He stayed in Beechworth gainfully employed on the sewerage project.

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