REMEMBER the good old days when politicians were accused of being poll-driven or focus-group-driven. These were also the days when political leaders who were behind in the polls said, there’s only one poll that counts, imagining that in the time left before the next election they could turn things around. [click to continue…]

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Frank Hurley’s photo in the Ypres salient towards the end of the Battle of Passchendaele. Australian War Memorial Collection.

THIS week marks the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of Passchendaele in which my grandfather, Hartley Stenning, a British soldier, “won” the Military Medal. I was reminded of this by our family historian, my sister Cordelia. Tens of thousands of men died in the ensuing three months, for virtually no gain other than the greater glory of God, King and Country. The Military Medal was created in World War I for “other ranks” – the cannon fodder. [click to continue…]

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The Constitution: It is broke; let’s fix it

by Crispin Hull on July 28, 2017

THE idea of four-year fixed terms has been around a fair while, and is not especially Bill Shorten’s. That is perhaps why Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to discuss it. More importantly, the fact the two leaders are talking about constitutional change is a response to growing disquiet that the system is not working as well as it should and a growing yearning for a bit more cooperation in politics. But the fixed four-year term is a bit like a loose thread on a machine-sewn garment: if you give it a tug a whole lot more thread comes away. [click to continue…]

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Without dog whistles, Abbott is right on two scores

by Crispin Hull on July 21, 2017

Tony Abbott’s conservative manifesto correctly questioned Australia’s high immigration and the build-in-Australia conventional submarine program, but there was some dog-whistling in the arguments. On immigration, the dog whistle was a xenophobic call for a slow down so present immigrants could get time to settle in and assimilate. On the submarines, he wanted an off-the-shelf one, but he thought it should be a nuclear one, which would be the thin edge of the wedge for a nuclear power industry that would in turn undermine renewables. [click to continue…]

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Turnbull should stare down the reactionaries

by Crispin Hull on July 14, 2017

The Peter Corlett 2012 sculpture of Menzies on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin.

ONE morning this week I did an agile, exciting and even innovative traverse of the R. G. Menzies Walk on the northern side of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. What a progressive Menzies was. [click to continue…]

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Political system needs repair work

by Crispin Hull on July 7, 2017

HUMAN nature does not change much. Politicians are as idealistic, selfish, greedy, altruistic, competent, incompetent, foolish, smart and gifted as they ever were. So the explanation for Australia’s decade of political dysfunction must lie elsewhere. [click to continue…]

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The alarming Census: debt and population

by Crispin Hull on June 30, 2017

ONE OF the most alarming statistics to come out of this week’s release of the 2016 census figures was the dramatic decrease in outright home-ownership over the past quarter century.

It was coupled with a large increase in the portion of people renting – mostly from people who have taken out investment loans.

It bespeaks a gluttonous baby-boomer generation stealing from the next generation, egged on by greedy banks and poor monetary policy, and compounded by cowered do-nothing governments. [click to continue…]

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Journalistic confidence trivialised at media ball

by Crispin Hull on June 23, 2017

WHAT does “off the record” mean? When I taught journalism at the University of Canberra I routinely asked my classes this question when covering the treatment of sources. The answers were varied. The question has arisen again in the light of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s speech at the “off-the-record” press gallery mid-winter’s ball and the enlightening Four Corners program on how Chris Masters got his material on the “Moonlight State” that blew apart the systemic corruption in the Queensland Police three decades ago. [click to continue…]

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Marginal tax rates a scandal of unfairness

by Crispin Hull on June 16, 2017

THE minimum-wage earners are knocking at the door and just one more increase like the one this month will push them through it. The door is the second tax rung above which they will pay 34.5 per cent of any additional income in income tax and Medicare levy. It is a scandal of unfairness. These people have very few deductions, so once the minimum wage surpasses $37,000 which it will almost inevitably do after the next rise, they will be paying more than a third of their marginal income (any extra income in the form of overtime or penalty rates) in tax. The same marginal rate as all the people earning up to $87,000. How can that be fair? [click to continue…]

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Diplomacy and science v Trump the barbarian

by Crispin Hull on June 9, 2017

Horsey. LA Times

TWO of the great civilising forces in human history have been diplomacy and science. And that is why President Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Accord on climate change is the act of a barbarian.

In ancient times, barbarians were those outside the civilised worlds of Greece and Rome. In more recent times, it was epitomised by Trump at the G7 refusing to join the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Germany and Canada in a civilised conversational 700-metre stroll to the piazza of the Sicilian hilltop town of Taormina which has been there since at lease 345BC. Trump had to wait for a golf cart to take him just 700 metres. [click to continue…]

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