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Articles Archive for August 2009

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[29 Aug 2009 | 3 Comments | 43,196 views ]
Nation under the influence

FOR most of European history, the social effects of drunkenness were widely perceived as a problem and the individual drinker was seen as the source of that problem.
Before the 19th century, what is most notable about responses to excessive drinking is its perceived connection with licentiousness, sinfulness and crime. English laws against drunkenness enacted in 1552 and in 1606 repressed what was seen at the time as “the odious and loathsome sin of drunkenness”.
Problem drinking and alcohol-related harms hinted at moral defects in individuals, so remedies focused on punishing sinful …

Columns »

[25 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,562 views ]

In a secular country like Australia it is ironic that Catholic schools are mainly funded by the state. Even in America, where religion pervades politics, state aid to religious schools is constitutionally forbidden. Yet the fact remains that most Catholic school provision in English-speaking countries is fully publicly funded.
Australian Catholic school funding is a complex work in progress. Although socially liberal and committed to serve a public function, Australian Catholic schools are virtually uniquely private sector schools, drawing from the Commonwealth and states funds without which they would be unsustainable.
The …

Speeches »

[23 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 2,185 views ]

Although my mother was an atheist and my father a lapsed Catholic, as a child at home living in the petite bourgeois Melbourne suburb of East Brighton, before our main meal, which during the week we called “tea and which started at exactly 5pm, we always said “grace.
These days, over 60 years later, I still think saying grace is a good idea. This is in part because there is a lot to be said for gratitude , about being alive for starters and for being able to eat a nourishing …

Columns »

[17 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,144 views ]

SOME of Australia’s most successful politicians have come back from opinion poll ratings as dismal as Malcolm Turnbull’s.
Jeff Kennett was an opinion poll cellar-dweller for much of his time as Victorian opposition leader, and John Howard woke up one morning to a 1989 Bulletin magazine cover: “Mr 18 per cent. Why does this man bother?” Both Kennett and Howard, however, needed a second stint as opposition leader to hit their straps, and it’s unlikely that Turnbull would stay in the parliament unless he came far closer to winning next year’s …

Columns »

[13 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,462 views ]

In a relatively secular country like Australia it is ironic that one of the main educational providers is the Catholic Church. And funding by the state allows this religious school system to function, which could be seen as compromising the separation between church and state.
Even rabidly religious America eschews this practice, since state aid to religious schools is constitutionally forbidden. The fact is that Catholic school provision in many English-speaking countries is largely a matter of public educational provision, a product of the Reformation settlement, which favoured an established Church …

Columns »

[10 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,271 views ]

JULIA Gillard is the darling of the Canberra press gallery. This makes some sense: she is erudite and sometimes funny in question time, a welcome break from the tedium of our Prime Minister’s mangled bureaucratese. She is also “the woman most likely”, a potential female prime minister in a city obsessed with the symbolism of such potential.
But increasingly concerns are growing in the education sector that she may be out of her depth when it comes to delivering in her very large portfolio areas. On last week’s Q&A program on …

Reviews »

[9 Aug 2009 | 2 Comments | 6,116 views ]

London-born NSW Rhodes scholar, priest, journalist, volunteer fire-fighter, and parliamentarian, Tony Abbott has been the federal member for Warringhah on Sydney’s northern beaches since 1994.A longtime devotee of B.A (Bob) Santamaria, and a fearless champion of Catholic action and of what he terms ‘the evolving family’, the feisty Abbott has a reputation of being the Liberal Party’s most relentless parliamentary pugilist and ideological warrior.
Yet, apart from a deep commitment to key conservative values, to those who don’t know him personally Battlelines demonstrates an appealing vulnerability in Abbott that is often …

Reviews »

[8 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,507 views ]

AS A student at Melbourne Boys’ High School, I vividly remember our brilliantly wayward British history teacher, Ben Munday, recounting the exploits of the World War I German cruiser the Emden, which in just three months sank 15 Allied freighters.
Captained by the aristocratic Karl von Muller , who deliberately avoided civilian casualties , the Emden daringly attacked the ports of Madras and Penang, in the process setting fire to Allied oil tanks and destroying French and Russian warships.
After the Emden was sunk by the HMAS Sydney off the Cocos Islands, …

Columns »

[6 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 2,382 views ]

When a person has committed a crime so serious that society decides to incarcerate them for it, the main aspect of that punishment is generally a loss of liberty.
Without the freedom to associate, people can’t offend against the general public anymore and hopefully they learn how painful it is to be kept away from society so they will think twice about committing that offence when they get out.
But what is the effect of cutting off all access and information about sex and sexuality to prisoners? This is the key topic …

Reviews »

[5 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 1,598 views ]

ANDREW Fisher was born in Crosshouse, a coalmining town in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1862, and went to work in the mines at 13. He became involved in the union and lost his job.
In 1885 he and his brother migrated to Queensland in search of work. He found it at first in the mines; this staunchly teetotal Presbyterian went on to serve three terms as Australia’s prime minister: 1908-09, 1910-13 and 1914-15. As historian Peter Bastian points out, his 1758 days as a Labor PM would not be bettered until Bob …

Reviews »

[1 Aug 2009 | No Comment | 3,630 views ]

THE designation of William Charles Wentworth as “Australia’s greatest native son” is that of Manning Clark. Nevertheless, Andrew Tink’s use of the phrase as the subtitle for his book suggests this biography is somewhat breathless.
Certainly it is nothing like John Ritchie’s measured The Wentworths: Father and Son, published 10 years ago by Melbourne University Press.
Moreover Tink, who until 2006 was shadow attorney-general and shadow leader of the house in the NSW parliament, is given to overstatement. Thus in chapter 26, Wentworth Demands Self-government, he maintains that his subject “resembled the …