Australasia

The woman asking the hard questions at the banking royal commission

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Rowena Orr, QC, one of two silks assisting the landmark banking royal commission headed by former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne, offered a blunt assessment of the task confronting the inquiry on Monday. Michaela Whitbourn The Sydney Morning Herald “The terms of reference … are broad and the time to report is short,” Orr told Hayne in Melbourne. “We embrace the challenge involved in assisting you.” Orr and her fellow counsel assisting the commission – Brisbane-based silk Michael Hodge, QC, and junior ... Read More »

Religious freedom must not be a green light to discriminate

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As it ponders the role of religious freedom in Australia, the Religious Freedom Review headed by Philip Ruddock would do well to reflect on the real-life scenarios where belief collides with the rights of individuals. Hugh Harris The Canberra Times Should independent schools be able to expel students with gay parents? Should it be lawful for bakers, photographers or florists to refuse same-sex weddings? Yes? No? And why? Providing answers would provide clarity as to the consequences of any proposed ... Read More »

The problem record immigration is supposed to solve doesn’t exist

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Population is “the everything issue”. It affects all aspects of public policy and our daily lives. William Bourke Brisbane Times It is essential to get population policy right if we are to achieve critical public policy outcomes like secure jobs, affordable housing, better planning and a sustainable environment. That is not to say that it is the only reform required in order to achieve these outcomes, but trying to achieve these goals while engineering record population growth is like walking up ... Read More »

Ai Weiwei: Chinese dissident artist critiques Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers ahead of Sydney Biennale

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He is one of the world’s most famous artists and China’s best known dissident, and 60-year-old Ai Weiwei has a message for Australia when it comes to the treatment of asylum seekers. Philippa McDonald ABC “I struggle with Australia’s record towards refugees,” he said. “Australia is a nation of migrants and its culture accepts and tolerates difference. “But Australia’s refugee record is quite poor internationally. This is a very bad position for a state because people judge states on their ... Read More »

Hero’s welcome for East Timor border negotiator Xanana Gusmao

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Dili: Thousands of East Timorese have lined the road to the capital’s international airport to cheer independence hero Xanana Gusmao after he led negotiations that settled the sea border with Australia. Oki Raimundos The Canberra Times Gusmao, whose party lost power in parliamentary elections last year, was greeted at Dili’s tiny airport on Sunday with cries of “Viva Xanana Gusmao”. He’d been abroad for the previous eight months leading the final stretch of maritime border talks. Australia and East Timor, one of ... Read More »

2018 Adelaide Biennial: Difference as the natural order of things

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It is a time-honoured tradition that large museum surveys of contemporary art should have titles so vague and all-encompassing as to be effectively meaningless. John McDonald The Canberra Times Yet it may be that with Divided Worlds, Erica Green, the curator of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial, has found a title that actually feels relevant. Two decades into the 21st century the world is a long way from the Age of Aquarius, becoming ever more riven and tribalised. In the west there was ... Read More »

Servant or partner? The role of expertise and knowledge in democracy

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Should expert knowledge be limited to providing a servant role in democracies, or elevated to that of a partner? Darrin Durant The Conversation Most of us respond with ambivalence to this question. We desire expert input into democratic deliberation and decision-making, but not so much as to dominate the discussion. As a result, most of us are tempted by the quest for a Goldilocks principle that establishes “just enough” expertise. But it can be unclear whether the servant or the ... Read More »

Asia-Pacific trade deal signed by 11 nations

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Eleven Asia-Pacific countries have just signed the trade pact formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Tim McDonald BBC Although the US pulled out last year, the deal was salvaged by the remaining members, who signed it at a ceremony in the Chilean city of Santiago. Chilean foreign minister Heraldo Munoz said the agreement was a strong signal “against protectionist pressures, in favour of a world open to trade”. The deal covers a market of nearly 500 million people, despite the ... Read More »

Australia turning out to be the biggest meddler in the US election

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Remember when President Trump had his first conversation with Australia’s prime minister and, inexplicably, the conversation turned into a slam-down-the-receiver fight? Moica Showalter American Thinker Maybe Trump knew something. The ostensible issue at the time was refugees and a stanky little deal President Obama made for America to take in Australia’s high-risk illegal refugees from Islamic hellholes who had paid smugglers to bring them to… The illegal entrants were being awarded for their illegality with American residence and citizenship, something they will ... Read More »

Hazing and sexual violence in Australian universities: we need to address men’s cultures

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The esteemed residential colleges of Sydney University have recently gained intense public scrutiny for fostering cultures of sexual harassment, rape and hazing. Ben Wadham The Conversation The Red Zone Report, produced by independent journalists for End Rape on Campus Australia, presented a harrowing account of men’s tribalism, and elitism in Australia’s universities. The report focused on 12 universities including all the Group of Eight universities. Across all 39 Australian universities there are 216 residential colleges or halls. The colleges are… ... Read More »

Reserve Bank leaves rates on hold at record low 1.5 per cent

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The Reserve Bank of Australia has left the cash rate at a record-low 1.5 per cent, as sluggish wage growth and inflation put the board in a holding pattern for the 17th meeting in a row. Eryk Bagshaw The Sydney Morning Herald Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe used the word “gradual” to describe Australia’s economic recovery three times in his short statement on monetary policy on Tuesday, indicating the bank is in no rush to raise interest rates from their ... Read More »

Why the gun debate needs to move away from simplistic ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’

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In the lead-up to the Tasmanian election, one issue proved particularly incendiary. Right before the vote on Saturday, the incumbent Liberal government was accused of having a hidden plan to “water down” the state’s gun laws. Dr Samara McPhedran The Conversation Much was made of the long-running Firearms Consultative Committee’s perceived role in shaping the policy. Suddenly, the Liberals were cast as being in cahoots with the “gun lobby”, leaving only Labor and the Greens to stand up against that ... Read More »

Australian gun lobby invests in rightwing parties in push to weaken reforms

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Exclusive: Cashed-up firearm groups are using ballooning memberships to flex their political muscle Michael McGowan The Guardian Australian gun lobby groups pumped more than $500,000 into helping minor rightwing parties win seats in last year’s Queensland state election as part of a growing push to weaken the nation’s strict firearm control laws. As Australia’s gun laws are again held up as an example to the US following the Florida school shooting, election disclosures reveal the pro-gun lobby is pumping thousands ... Read More »

Close up: the government’s facial recognition plan could reveal more than just your identity

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A Bill to set up the federal government’s biometric identity system is currently going through Parliament. Jake Goldenfein The Conversation But there are concerns over just how much information the system would be allowed to gather, and how that might be used to establish more than just the identity of a person. Strongly based on the FBI model in the United States, the Identity Matching Services Bill and its Explanatory Memoranda prescribe what data can be collected, shared and processed, ... Read More »

Franchise failure fix urgent as staff suffer

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Australia’s $170-billion-a-year franchise industry is rotten. It is riddled with companies that gouge their retailers, some of whom in turn underpay and exploit many of the sector’s 460,000 employees, most of whom are vulnerable students and immigrant workers. Opinion – Editorial The Age The issue is not whether there is an endemic problem, but how best to deal with it. The malfeasance has been widely documented, primarily because of whistleblowers and years of investigative work led by The Age’s Adele ... Read More »

Revealed: the extent of job-swapping between public servants and fossil fuel lobbyists

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Last month Australia slipped further down the rankings in the international corruption index. Among a wide range of factors cited by Transparency International was Australia’s “inappropriate industry lobbying in large-scale projects such as mining”, as well as “revolving doors and a culture of… Adam Lucas The Conversation As several high-profile cases have recently revealed, the close ties that continue to exist between senior politicians, former political staffers, and the big end of town have had a real and lasting impact ... Read More »