CANBERRA'S CANNABIS CRITICS NEED TO FIND BIGGER PROBLEMS TO WORRY ABOUT
This week, the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The change is a modest one - Chief Minister Andrew Barr describes it as ‘evolution rather than revolution’. But you wouldn’t know it to listen to Scott Morrison and his Coalition colleagues, who have described the changes as ‘dangerous’, ‘madness’ and ‘unconscionable’. So let’s bust four myths about cannabis in Canberra.
Myth 1: Cannabis is currently criminalised in Canberra. Since 1992, people possessing small amounts of cannabis are not charged with a crime. Instead, they are issued with a ‘Simple Cannabis Offence Notice’, which typically involves a $100 fine. The same system applies in some other parts of Australia, including South Australia and the Northern Territory. The aim is to ensure that police can focus on violent crime, rather than having ACT law enforcement tied up prosecuting people caught in possession of a single joint.Read more
WHY AN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE OF FIVE PER CENT ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH ANYMORE
The Canberra Times, 10 September 2019
If you’ve ever been jobless, you know the truth: unemployment sucks. It’s not just the lack of money, but the hit to self-esteem. Being asked ‘what do you do?’ can be almost as dispiriting as the uncertainty of applying for job after job. Unemployment increases rates of depression, diabetes and even death.
Yet it has become commonplace to regard ‘full employment’ in Australia as an unemployment rate of 5 per cent, or even higher. That’s effectively saying that at any point in time, 700,000 of our fellow citizens will have to put up with joblessness.Read more
WE SHOULD LISTEN TO INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVES THIS FATHER'S DAY
The Canberra Times, 27 August 2019
A few weeks ago, I spent time in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, meeting with people in remote communities like Bidyadanga, and learning from my Labor colleague, Senator Patrick Dodson.
Hearing their stories, I was struck by the way in which parenting and place are interconnected in Indigenous communities. In those places, your ancestors are part of the land, and the land is part of you. To be a good father is to take your children onto country, teach them the traditions, and listen to what they have to say. I asked Damien Crispin, a Broome-based stevedore who was part of the Indigenous Marathon Project last year, whether he’d ever consider living elsewhere. ‘No way - this is home’, he replied.
This Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what Indigenous traditions can teach non-Indigenous people like me about being a better dad. Living near the base of Mount Majura, I’m struck by the fact that when my three sons take a walk or a bike ride in the bush, they immediately become more animated, less focused on themselves. It’s like a switch has been flicked, and they become more engaged, gentler, and even more fun to be around.Read more
TIM FISCHER’S LEGACY
Herald Sun, 24 August 2019
‘G‘Day Andrew, Tim Fischer here’.
As a Labor politician, it’s not every day I get a call from a former National Party parliamentarian, but when he phoned me a few years ago, I was delighted to hear from Tim. I admired his military service, and shared his passion for trains. But the issue we most connected on was sensible gun control.
With hindsight, political reform often looks easy. But when the government of John Howard and Tim Fischer set about reforming Australia’s gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, there were plenty of opponents. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley gave his full support, but Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson criticised the National Firearms Agreement. As Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer recalled being ‘hung in effigy, complete with Akubra’. To his credit, Fischer went out to regional communities to explain the policy.Read more
AUSTRALIA'S UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS
Crikey, 2 August 2019
In 1932, at the peak of the Great Depression, Australia’s unemployment rate hit 20 percent. Today, that’s about the unemployment rate in Fairfield, where around one in five people who want a job can’t find one.
When we hear about unemployment, the picture too often focuses on the national rate, currently 5.2 per cent. This hasn’t changed much over recent years, so it’s easy to miss the fact that other countries are doing much better. When she visited Australia, Jacinda Ardern was polite enough not to mention that New Zealand’s country’s unemployment rate is around 4 per cent. That’s also the rate in Britain and the United States. Countries that underperformed Australia during the Global Financial Crisis are now outperforming us – and by a significant margin.
But when we look across regions, it becomes clear that averages can conceal as much as they reveal. Fairfield’s unemployment rate may be the worst in NSW, but it isn’t the worst in Australia. In Victoria, unemployment in the Geelong suburb of Norlane is 22 per cent. In Queensland’s Logan Central and the Hobart suburb of Gagebrook, unemployment is 28 per cent. In South Australia’s Elizabeth and Western Australia’s Halls Creek, it’s 34 per cent. On Palm Island and the Torres Strait Islands, unemployment is 46 per cent.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 1 AUGUST 2019
Twenty years ago, David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a seminal study showing that incompetent people are peculiarly unaware of their own incompetence. They drew on the example of McArthur Wheeler who, starting from the premise that lemon juice can be used as invisible ink, covered his face with lemon juice and went in to rob his local bank, thinking it would make him invisible.
The Dunning-Kruger effect could have been designed for this frontbench. We have a Minister for Health who gives an MRI licence to the vice-president of the South Australian Liberal Party and says no to 443 other applications. We have a Minister for Families who pats herself on the back for the ‘generous amount of money’ that pensioners get. We have an Assistant Minister for Homelessness who wants to put a ‘positive spin’ on homelessness, rather than doing anything about the problem. We have an Assistant Treasurer who knows nothing about tax havens, yet persists with the mistruth that we on this side of the House voted against the multinational anti-avoidance law. We have a Minister for Energy who won't admit that emissions are up.Read more
TACKLING INEQUALITY MEANS CRACKING DOWN ON TAX HAVENS
One of the world’s most reputable not-for-profit groups is urging the Coalition to crack down on tax havens, saying Australia is “falling far behind” on tax transparency.
New research released by Oxfam today estimates that governments around the world are losing $190 billion a year in tax revenue as multinational tax avoiders conceal funds.
An estimated $15 billion is being ripped away from the African continent, home to half of the world’s people living in extreme poverty. While billions of dollars is being hidden from their governments, 40 per cent of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa still don’t have access to clean drinking water.Read more
A PROGRESSIVE AGENDA FOR TACKLING AUSTRALIA’S PRODUCTIVITY CRISIS
Inside Story, 29 July 2019
At the start of June, the Productivity Commission quietly dropped a bombshell. Australia’s productivity growth had basically stalled. Labour productivity — output per hour worked — was more or less flatlining. After a generation in which labour productivity had grown at almost 2 per cent a year, it had tumbled to just 0.2 per cent.
The commission called the results “mediocre” and “troubling,” but for some sectors they were downright appalling. In farming, mining, construction, transport and retail, labour productivity went backwards. In other words, workers in those sectors were producing less per hour than they had the year before. The latest numbers continued a trend of weakening productivity growth that the commission dates back to 2013.Read more
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A WALK ON THE WISE SIDE
Review of Jono Lineen, Perfect Motion: How Walking Makes Us Wiser
Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2019
Around the world, many people use fitness trackers to target 10,000 steps a day. The goal has its origins in the 1960s, when a Japanese company marketed a pedometer called a manpo-kei, which translates as ‘10,000-step meter’. There isn’t much science behind the number: a study this year found that you get about as much health benefit from 7,500 daily steps.
Walking isn’t just good for the body – it nurtures the soul. Wordsworth, Thoreau, Austen, Aristotle and Brahms are among the many creatives who have found that the muse comes to them when strolling. Religious pilgrimages are about the journey as much as the destination. Stride through a big city and you see things you’d never notice from a car window. Can anyone say that they truly understand Australia if they haven’t gotten lost in the bush?Read more
REMEMBERING CANBERRA'S SPACE LEGACY
The Canberra Times, 15 July 2019
Every baby boomer recalls where they were when they first heard Neil Armstrong say ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ (or the more poetic words that preceded them, ‘Tranquility base - the eagle has landed’).
Too few people know the crucial role that Canberra played in communicating those words to millions of people around the world.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings this month, it’s worth honouring the role that the Australian tracking stations played in that momentous event. There were four tracking stations across Australia – Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla in the ACT, Parkes in NSW and Carnarvon in Western Australia. Together, they played a pivotal role in relaying sound and images from space back to NASA.
While Parkes starred in the movie, it was Honeysuckle Creek and its 26 metre antenna dish that received and relayed the first images of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon to 600 million people on Earth.Read more