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  • Abbotts ill-judged crusade against red tape

    Abbott's ill-judged crusade against red tape


    The Prime Minister has been forced to announce a proposal to toughen food labelling laws after the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A was linked to 'Nannas' imported berries. This goes against his resolve to remove red tape that represents 'unnecessary' compliance costs for business. The government has fervently derided red tape and presented regulation as the enemy, without distinguishing between regulations that are redundant and those that are needed to protect the consumer.

  • Negotiating climate deniers and plovers

    Negotiating climate deniers and plovers


    Call me paranoid if you like, but as I walked away, affecting a nonchalant strolling gait, I knew, I just knew, that she was a climate change denier and was daring me to argue the point. Had I hesitated one more moment, I would have been regaled with statistics about the mild coastal summer and other utterly benign climatological phenomena.

  • What drives young Australian Muslims to join IS

    What drives young Australian Muslims to join IS


    I fear for those Muslim young people driven into the arms of ideological extremists so unnecessarily. I'm prompted to recall my school years, when Soviet troops were invading Hungary to put down the brief revolution. I wondered uneasily whether it was not perhaps my duty to go to Hungary to fight for freedom there. For an idealistic young man whose Catholicism was tightly intertwined with anti-communism, the thought was natural.

  • Edward Snowdens lessons for a secure Australia

    Edward Snowden's lessons for a secure Australia


    Snowden is both passionate and highly articulate, wanting nothing less noble than to see the delineation between those with power and the people over whom they wield it redrawn. The real meat of the matter is not the revelations themselves, but how in their light governments and societies desiring security will move to decide just how much freedom they are willing to surrender in order to acquire it.

  • Unmasking Australias boat-stopping deal with the Sri Lankan devil

    Unmasking Australia's boat-stopping deal with the Sri Lankan devil


    Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has claimed Australia's silence on the country's appalling human rights record was the price for its government taking extra measures to prevent people fleeing the country and arriving in Australia on boats seeking asylum. This is a problem on many levels, including our government's seeking to remove human rights issues by reframing them as national security ones.

  • The case for defending children and their advocates

    The case for defending children and their advocates


    Children have always suffered and been exploited. Only recently have been regarded as being children at all, rather than mini-people. Reformers like Dickens raised consciousness beginning in the 19th century. Bombs are raining on children in Syria and elsewhere. Not so Australia, but many are being damaged nonetheless. The Australian Human Rights Commission is having to defend its report on Immigration Detention from critics that include the Prime Minister.

  • Britains Bahrain bid triggers human rights alert

    Britain's Bahrain bid triggers human rights alert


    Britain's recent drive to establish a naval base in Bahrain has only widened the rift between the UK's foreign policy and its respect for human rights. Bahrain will now potentially play host to a British military presence for the long-term, despite the Gulf state's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests over the past several years. This may be yet another instance of political expediency taking precedence over all else.

  • Allow Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumuran to flourish

    Allow Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumuran to flourish


    While people are alive there is the possibility, admittedly sometimes remote, that they will respond by reflecting on their lives, becoming deeper and more generous as human beings, making connections with others and contributing even in small ways to the happiness of others and to society. Capital punishment brutally excludes possibility and leaves all of us the smaller for it.

  • Ciggie butt brains indict Aussie middle class elitism

    Ciggie butt brains indict Aussie middle class elitism


    When Damo and Darren's 'Train Station' - Michael Cusack's animation of an obscene 'part derro, part yobbo, part bogan' duo fighting over a lighter - was published on YouTube, it clocked 2 million views in its first month, and made people very happy. I showed it to a friend who had grown up in England's north under Margaret Thatcher. He was not amused. 'Why are Australians laughing at poor people?' he asked.

  • Why Selma needs no Oscars

    Why Selma needs no Oscars


    It is hard to escape the impression that even in 2015 the only black characters that the American film industry can reward are maids, slaves or dysfunctional urban archetypes, in stories where there is an identifiable white saviour. Any triumphs are of the spirit, of personal fortitude, nothing that compels social responsibility, invokes political will or even a sense of historical reckoning.

  • Chris Kennys Don Quixote moment

    Chris Kenny's Don Quixote moment


    Columnist for The Australian Chris Kenny's insistance 'that Tony Abbott has provided the best 16 months of government Australia has seen in more than seven years' evoked the image of a captain on the bridge, proclaiming the sea-worthiness of his ship, and saluting as the sea rises to meet his nose while the lesser mortals below die into silence. Such magnificent gestures of defiance are not to be despised.

  • Living and dying for Martin Luther Kings dream

    Living and dying for Martin Luther King's dream


    The theme song from Selma references Rosa Parks and Ferguson in the same breath. Indeed this is a powerful period drama that resonates loudly in a modern age where the injustice against which Martin Luther King raged continues to haunt Black America. Oyelowo's King is charismatic and proud, but plagued by doubts and capable of great sadness when even one of his followers falls in the midst of the struggle.

  • A brief history of not drawing Muhammad

    A brief history of not drawing Muhammad


    Why ban an image of Muhammad? Why is he an image-free zone? The answer is not primarily political or artistic but theological. The clue is in a statute of a meeting of bishops called the Second Council of Nicea. This may seem obscure and unimportant, but the bishops weren't obscure and the issue was whether or not humans can make an image of God. The outcome was decisive in the history of world art.

  • Defending Gillian Triggs

    Defending Gillian Triggs


    A group of 50 academics has pointed out that 'Independent public office holders are an important part of modern democratic societies.' The Australian Bar Association and the Law Council of Australia have similarly argued that the personal attacks on Triggs amounted to an undermining of justice and the protection of human rights. It is a point the Abbott Government neglects to its peril.

  • My mother often used to say

    My mother often used to say


    Although a country atheist, my mother often used to say, she rather hoped there'd be a heaven, where one day I would have to pray, forgiveness for my voting record, my sell-out to the 'other side', by telling my large-looming grandpa, what made me cross the 'great divide'.

  • Making a difference in the age of high-speed politics

    Making a difference in the age of high-speed politics


    The ancient Chinese text the Zhuangzi tells of a kingdom where the people rose up and killed their ruler three times in succession. Australia has seen two of its rulers 'killed' in succession since 2010, with a third now perilously close to extinction. Are we approaching a point where the highest expression of political wisdom would be not to run for leadership at all?

  • Oil and gas redraw world strategic alliance map

    Oil and gas redraw world strategic alliance map


    Sanctions against Russia have pushed Russia and China much closer together. Russia is set to provide two fifths of China's gas needs after the completion of two massive pipelines. This will easily replace what they have lost in supplying Europe and deliver what the Chinese most crave: security of supply. Meanwhile, Russia has cut off 60 per cent of its supplies of gas into Europe, re-routing it to Turkey, and saying that Europe will have to build its own infrastructure to transport it to the Continent.

  • Governments mixed report card on taking responsibility

    Government's mixed report card on taking responsibility


    Last week two reports exposed the limits of Australian responsibility to people who have suffered as a result of historical or present Government actions. The Closing the Gap Report revealed more failures than successes, and Tony Abbott's response to the Report was exemplary in taking responsibility. Not so with the Human Rights Commission Report into children in detention. He denied responsibility and accused the messenger of deliberately distorting the facts.

  • Strong leadership misses the mark

    'Strong' leadership misses the mark


    Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman prided themselves on strong leadership. They assumed voters would think the country was in good hands if it was ruled by a strong-willed leader who gives priority to pushing through programs rather than signalling, explaining and defending them. A more effective way forward in politics could be to forget slogans and will-power and instead give priority to communication and action that is based on reason.

  • Oscar Romeros cinematic sainthood

    Oscar Romero's cinematic sainthood


    The late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who as of this month is one step closer to beatification, has long been regarded as one of modern history's great champions of the poor. In 1989 he was 'canonised' on celluloid. The production has not aged well but is elevated by the late Raul Julia, whose conflicted, heroic portrayal of Romero is surely as iconic as the man himself.

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