Category Archives: Social Science and Society

Henry: politicians fail while Australia burns

That was the title of Phillip Coorey’s article in the AFR about Ken Henry’s withering speech to the Committee of Economic Development. For those who came in late, Dr Ken Henry was secretary of treasury from 2001 to 2011, appointed originally by Peter Costello and served during the Rudd/Gillard years. He is now chairman of the NAB board.

I think it was the news story of the week. Continue reading Henry: politicians fail while Australia burns

Teflon-coated politicians – no heart, no brains, no ethics

I must admit I didn’t know in advance that on Tuesday there were rallies all around the country in protest against the overpayment recovery system used by Centrelink which has seen thousands of people wrongfully issued with overpayment notices until I heard the Radio National report in the evening.

Googling, the only other report I’ve found was of the Melbourne rally, which, inter alia, said that over the last five years Centrelink staff have seen 5,000 of their colleagues lose their jobs. Also this item about strike action by staff last December. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said:

    “Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support staff are frustrated and worried by the Turnbull Government’s mean and illogical public sector bargaining policy. These working mums and dads are asking us if they can go on strike again to bring some attention to this unfair situation, as they face their third Christmas without a pay rise.” Continue reading Teflon-coated politicians – no heart, no brains, no ethics

Vale Zygmunt Bauman

Zygmunt Bauman, sociologist and philosopher, died on 9 January. He had a particular place in my life, which I’ll contextualise later. My introduction was in 1999 through his book Work, consumerism and the new poor.

The message of the book can be simply stated. With the industrial revolution work was deemed intrinsically good, and more was better. It was preached from the pulpits. The poor had utility as a reserve workforce, to keep the cost of labour down.

The modern world, however, is shaped by consumption rather than production, and production could be automated or moved offshore. So the poor no longer have any utility, they are simply defective consumers.

Political ideology and the left-right divide

In the comments thread of the post How Trump won, but what does it mean? I made the comment:

    I don’t think we’ll ever get a just and decent society in the US or Australia from the right wing of politics. The question is whether we can make it on the left.

In Ootz’s rejoinder, he suggested that the old left-right dichotomy is not practical nor applicable anymore, and linked to an article Understanding the Determinants of Political Ideology: Implications of Structural Complexity, by Stanley Feldman and Christopher Johnston. Continue reading Political ideology and the left-right divide

Murray Darling Basin perspective

Back in November 2010 I did a post on Climate change and the Murray Darling Basin at a time when a plan for the Basin was proposed, but not yet settled. The post still gets a steady trickle of visitors.

The Murray Darling Basin Plan was passed into law in November 2012, when Julia Gillard was prime minister, and Tony Burke the minister responsible. There has been a recent kerfuffle, when Barnaby Joyce said an extra 450 GL of water probably would not be forthcoming. Yhe reaction from SA premier Jay Weatherall and his ministers, and Senator Nick Xenophon seemed to imply the South Australia would be left high and dry. Turns out that’s not really the case. Continue reading Murray Darling Basin perspective

Saturday salon 3/12: late edition

1. Kazakhstan beats us in maths and science

Kazakhstan has beaten us in maths and science taught in schools – again. We should be aware that Kazakhstan was the home of the Soviet space program, as well as the apple, and has a futuristic capital designed by a Japanese architect:

kazakhstan_8079494-3x2-700x467_600 Continue reading Saturday salon 3/12: late edition

Saturday salon 26/11

1. Australia trails only Switzerland in wealth table (pay-walled)

    AUSTRALIA’S lofty status as the world’s second richest nation remains intact, new figures reveal, despite household wealth stalling this year.

    In the seventh annual Global Wealth Report from Swiss bank Credit Suisse, the “lucky country” posted an average wealth of $US375,600 ($508,900) for every Australian, second only to banking hotbed Switzerland, with an average net worth of $US562,000.

Continue reading Saturday salon 26/11

ABCC: a better plan for union governance?

cash_michaela_image-20161121-4515-2juc76_250The Senate has passed the so-called ‘registered organisations commission bill’, with only Jacqui Lambi joining the Greens and Labor to vote against it (see also Michelle Grattan). Now the game moves to proposed legislation to restore the Australian Building Construction Commission, which I’ll examine below.

Essentially the government succeeded with the registered organisations commission bill by doing deals with The Nick Xenephon Team (NXT) and Derryn Hinch on whistle-blower provisions. Hinch reckons the whistle-blower provisions are the best in the world, and the Government has agreed to extend them to the corporate and government sectors by 2018. Continue reading ABCC: a better plan for union governance?

Mob rule on the intertubes

There are a few topics I currently feel passionate about, and if I don’t do this one now it will slip off the list.

shame_jennifer-jacquet_capture_550

Last week Richard Fidler did a re-run of his interview with Jon Ronson on what it’s like to be publicly shamed and Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Twitter and Facebook have become places where people can be mercilessly attacked and threatened. Many lose their jobs, are afraid to go outside, and their lives forever change. Some, says Ronson, commit suicide. Continue reading Mob rule on the intertubes

Saturday salon 19/11

1. Visions of infinity from Aboriginal women artists

I suspect that in 50 years time the best of Australian Aboriginal art will be seen as some of the most significant in the world during our time.

An exhibition of art by nine Aboriginal women, Marking the Infinite, is running at the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University, New Orleans. This is from the blurb: Continue reading Saturday salon 19/11

Trump an exemplar of American masculinity?

Donald Trump was born in June 1946, and would have turned 17 in 1963, the year Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique was published, which I gather fired up ‘second wave feminism’ in the US.

Back in early August, James Hamblin in The Atlantic identified Donald Trump as the climax of American masculinity.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

That referred to his aggressive style. Now Paul McGeough’s article ‘Formal’ vulgarian Donald Trump evokes Mad Men, Playboy and the Rat Pack looks at the origins of his attitude to women. Continue reading Trump an exemplar of American masculinity?