EAST Hope Island, about 35km south-east of Cooktown, is one of the prettiest small tropical islands in the world. It is ringed with coral and a white-sand beach with rich bird and fish life. You can walk around it in 15 minutes, which I did on World Environment Day this week.

But something stood out on that pristine beach: a plastic soft-drink bottle. [click to continue…]

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RETIREMENT income has for too long been part of class and political warfare in Australia. The responses to the Productivity Commission’s damning indictment of the $2.6 trillion (and growing) industry suggest it is still alive and well. [click to continue…]

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VERY few inquiries – parliamentary, statutory or independent – get as many as the 16,500 submissions received by the review into religious freedom being conducted by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, whose report was handed to the Government last week. It rather puts the lie to the almost invariable response politicians, particularly those in government, give when questioned about freedoms, human rights and constitutional change – that these are second-order issues and that Australians are really most concerned with jobs and economic growth. [click to continue…]

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THE political equation is clear. On one hand, every year nearly everyone pays rego and third-party and mentally puts it down as a government-imposed charge. On the other hand, only a few hundred in the ACT and a few thousand nationally are injured seriously enough in road crashes to warrant a compensation claim. And thus, to dilute the blame for the former, the rights of the latter are made expendable. It is happening in the ACT. It has already happened in other jurisdictions. [click to continue…]

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WELL, the Liberal Party have certainly looked after their own in this Budget. With scarcely a year left of their wafer-thin 2016 mandate, they will lock in seven years of tax cuts culminating in close to a long-held neo-con dream of a flat tax rate that favours the wealthy. [click to continue…]

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THE revelations of the banking Royal Commission are just another example of what has gone wrong in so many countries since the false dawn of the fall of communism. The rise of unbridled predatory financial conduct and the rise of exploitative populism were not supposed to be the fruits of Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachev” speech. But that is the result. [click to continue…]

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THE banks will behave badly again. The only questions are how long it will take and what form will it take. In the 2011 film “Margin Call” an investment bank CEO played by Jeremy Irons rattles off the years of financial busts from the late 17th century to the 2008 crisis that he is dealing with in the film. [click to continue…]

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THE Treasury-Home Affairs report on immigration seems to have based its evidence and reasoning upon its conclusion that high immigration is a “good thing”. On the report’s own figures, present high immigration will produce an extra 1.1 per cent of total GDP. Given that 190,000 immigrants year is just a tad under 1 per cent, that does not make for very much increase in GDP per person. And that is on Treasury’s optimistic and economics-only view. [click to continue…]

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Low Island

THE future is in plain sight. I saw it over the past two weekends at either end of the country: in a house in Middleton south of Hobart and on Low Island, north-east of Cairns.

A family of five lives in the Middleton house. At Easter, my wife and I made it seven. The house is off-grid and off main water. On Low Island, a caretaker and several volunteers inhabit three houses and research the reef, take weather observations and look after the lighthouse. Again it is off the grid and there is obviously no mains water. The lighthouse is also run off solar power. [click to continue…]

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Published in The Canberra Times on 3 April 1982.

The Franklin River, in Tasmania’s wild south-west, is under threat by a hydro-electricity damming scheme. CRISPIN HULL rafted down river, finding the beauties and ruthlessness of the wild.

Franklin River rafters call it the Masterpiece.

It is a slab of rock the size of a car that sticks out on the western side of the river. The river has taken thousands of years to carve it into a smooth, abstract sculpture, and it has not finished its work. [click to continue…]

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