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[30 Jun 2021 | No Comment | 10 views ]

At the National Press Club in Canberra at the start of the year, Scott Morrison said the government’s main task this year would be getting everyone vaccinated so life could return to normal. Well, the year’s half over yet life is as disrupted as ever; and with scarcely a third of Australians with their first shot, and scarcely 5 per cent fully vaccinated, there’s no end in sight.

Initially, the problem was that we didn’t have enough vaccines. Now the problem is we don’t have enough of the “right” vaccine; …

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[13 May 2021 | No Comment | 14 views ]

There were a heap of euphoric headlines in response to the federal budget. And what’s not to like in a budget that spends more money on just about everything, including much more on aged care, disability care, childcare, and the unemployed? The only noticeable lack of enthusiasm came from a few fiscal conservatives who persist in thinking that budget responsibility is what distinguishes the Liberals and Nationals from the Labor Party.
This really was an extraordinary budget coming from a government that had campaigned against its predecessor’s “debt and deficit stretching …

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[30 Mar 2021 | No Comment | 41 views ]

It’s my observation that most women come at politics from a fundamentally different perspective than men – as they do with career, relationships, sex and even driving cars. Generally, they do it with less rancour, without abusing men and without sexist language. Despite this, many women in federal politics have now come forward with mind-numbing stories of sexist and misogynist behaviour. However, some of the worst behaviour is seen at state and local government level, beyond the scrutiny of the federal parliamentary press gallery. 
After recently casting her deciding …

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[19 Mar 2021 | No Comment | 37 views ]

A Maoist, an anarchist and a Trotskyist walk into a bar. Make that a book. Add communists, socialists, feminists, two lesbians, a gay man, and three Indigenous activists; all appear in Radicals.

Sydney-based Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley are contributing editors of this often intriguing book they have dedicated to “all those comrades who were part of the radical Sixties” and who, “despite their differences, fought for a better world”.
Rather idiosyncratically, this critical decade is defined by Burgmann and Wheatley “as roughly spanning the years between 1965 and 1975”. In …

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[1 Mar 2021 | No Comment | 23 views ]

Like the poor, gambling will always be with us and it’s certainly a huge problem for our nation.
Although gambling undeniably brings pleasure to some,  it also greatly damages the lives of many gamblers and their families.
Hence compulsive gambling is a serious threat to the health and well being of Australians.
The Whitlam’s famously recorded a song about problem gambling aptly entitled ‘Blow Up The Pokies’, Tim Freedman’s response to the destructive affect compulsive gambling had on a close friend.
Gambling has much in common with alcohol and other drugs. Indeed, ‘Gambling …

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[23 Feb 2021 | No Comment | 14 views ]

With Covid jabs now beginning to roll out, my sense is that we’ll soon declare victory over the pandemic and conclude that “Australia had a good war”. At one level, there’s no doubt that we’ve done well. If minimising Covid deaths is the yardstick, our performance has been “world-class”, “gold standard” even. Still, I’m far from sure that our response has justified the self-congratulation now oozing from state and federal first ministers’ every pore.
For one thing, there’s a massive economic downside to the health upside. Sectors like higher …

Columns »

[1 Feb 2021 | No Comment | 24 views ]

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, there were almost 22 million international arrivals into Australia. That’s Australians returning from overseas trips and foreigners coming to this country. Twenty-two million international arrivals in a country of 25 and a half million people shows how much we take global travel for granted – or used to, before the pandemic, and rules designed to prevent COVID from coming to Australia made it all-but-impossible. 
From March last year, international arrivals that had been averaging nearly two million a month have …

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[6 Jan 2021 | No Comment | 19 views ]


Joe Biden’s administration is likely to be more popular around the world than the Trump administration, but it’s far from clear that it will be more effective.

If, as seems probable from the incoming president’s appointments (such as former secretary of state John Kerry), Biden turns out to be Obama lite, there’s likely to be plenty of fine words but not much strong action.
As vice-president, Biden spent several days in Australia in July 2016, and gave an address on the Australia-US relationship at Sydney’s Paddington Town Hall. It …

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[19 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 68 views ]

RADIO GIRL: The story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend by David Dufty. Publisher: Allen&Unwin, 2020, pp 302, $22.99
Florence Violet McKenzie, nee Wallace (1890-1982), usually known as Violet or Mrs Mac, is someone who, up to now, I’d never heard of.
But thanks to David Dufty, an expert in Australia’s military intelligence during World War Two, I now realise how crucial she  was in training our first women code-breakers (initially in signals, not in code-breaking as such) and also, as an early feminist, in persuading the navy to establish the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).
Importantly, Mrs Mac was Australia’s first female electrical …

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[10 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 31 views ]


I’m at risk, but I don’t want lockdowns

It’s hard to credit in a democracy like Australia, but five and a half million Melburnians are set to continue under virtual house arrest almost indefinitely. On Sunday, Premier Dan Andrews‘ roadmap to reopening turned out to be a plan for even more lockdowns. Unless cases in Victoria drop to below current New South Wales levels, the curfew will continue beyond October 26; and restaurants won’t be open for indoor service until after November 23, and then only if there are no …

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[31 Aug 2020 | No Comment | 152 views ]


Cigarettes in Australia have never been subjected to prohibition. Advances in manufacturing, marketing and advertising of cigarettes, starting over a century ago, saw cigarette smoking steadily increase for half a century. Soon after World War II, a majority of Australian men smoked, although smoking rates among women never reached such high levels.

After World War II, shocking research about the dangers of smoking began to appear. First a trickle of research, then a flood. Now we know that up to two of every three long-term smokers will die from …