Speech and the balance of intimidation

Many Australians have the misguided idea that we have freedom of speech in Australia. They have been watching too many American movies.

The recent plea by leading media figures and others for greater freedom of expression; Israel Folau’s fight against his employer’s restriction on his speech and the latest of a string of court defamation rulings once again reinstating the speech restrictions of Victorian England just simply would not be necessary or not happen in the US. 

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Look out Australia, military disruption on way

Concern is growing that the US military budget is being squandered on merely improving the small numbers of large, expensive, heavily manned, and hard-to-replace systems and not looking at disruptive military technology of swarms of intelligent easily replaceable often autonomous machines. Australia seems to be going the same way.

Australia will spend $200 billion in the next decade, mainly on new submarines, frigates and jet fighters – just a few hundred of them. Each would be very expensive to replace yet will become very vulnerable to emerging technologies which by comparison will be quite cheap – in the millions rather than billions of dollars – expendable, and numerous.

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Tax system still rotten, despite election

There are about half a dozen reasons why Labor and the crossbench in the Senate should block the Government’s tax package next month. 

First, upper and upper-middle income earners already got a generous tax cut last year. Second, the all-or-nothing approach amounts to blackmail. Third, it is bad economics and risk management. Fourth, in these says of fake news, election lies, and massive spending, who knows if a government has a mandate to do anything? And fifth, the cuts will undermine more than a century of a progressive Federal income-tax system which imposes higher rates of tax on higher incomes.

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Transport policy takes us on Argentine road

Transport should not be a hostage to politics and ideology, but in Australia it has been since before the rival colonies of NSW and Victoria decided to have different railway gauges in the 19 th century and it is likely to continue and get worse with the re-election of the Coalition Government.

It goes well beyond the usual sod-turning and ribbon-cutting of wasteful new roads in marginal seats. Now questions are arising which will determine whether Australia remains among the top economically prosperous nations or, whether like Argentina a century ago, we squander our advantages and drop on the scales of international performance.

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Freedom opens a pandora’s box

Freedom of religion is firmly back on the agenda. But it is a Pandora’s box. Oddly enough, Barnaby Joyce got it almost right this week when he said that Rugby Australia’s sacking of Israel Folau “got a lot of people annoyed. People were a little bit shocked that someone could lose their job because of what they believe. It made everyone feel a bit awkward and uneasy.”

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And the winner is . . . bread and circuses

Two thousand years ago, the satirist Juvenal said of Romans whom he thought had abandoned the moral and noble: “Two things only the people anxiously desire – bread and circuses.”

Not much has changed. Except we might translate “bread” as “the hip pocket nerve” and the “circuses” are the showmanship so brilliantly displayed in the election campaign by Scott Morrison wearing a baseball hat and kicking footballs.

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Loony right’s foot-shooting exercise

Clive Palmer has done Australia a big favour in entering this election. He, along with the National Rifle Association of the US, will most likely deny One Nation any Senate seats.

Palmer’s United Australia Party’s Senate how-to-vote-card has six preferences on it in each state. None are for One Nation in any state. Similarly, One Nation has not put UAP in any spot on its Senate how-to-votes cards.

The two strongest loony right party’s have shot each other in the foot.

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Population woes: left right and centre

Presentation to Sustainable Population Australia. Brisbane. 27 April 2019.

Nearly everyone at this Sustainable Population Australia* event is most likely utterly perplexed as to why far more people are not seeing the obvious: that Australia’s population trajectory spells worsening lives for most Australians; extinction for many of our species; a falling capacity to help feed the world’s people; and a lot of other adverse consequences.

Having worked in and observed the Australian media for more than 40 years I might be able to shed some insight as to why. 

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