Today the High Court of Australia ruled (Williams v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 23) for the second time that Commonwealth funding of school chaplains was unconstitutional. This is in direct contradiction of the Abbott government's recent budget moves to totally defund secular counsellors in favour of a $244M school chaplaincy program[me]. [more inside]
A case currently before the International Court of Justice has Australia (supported by New Zealand) seeking to either stop the flagrant abuse of a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's rules by Japan, or a nasty cultural imperialist "moral crusade" attempt to suppress a sustainable, ancient tradition of killing whales with factory ships around Antarctica. You can watch Court arguments here.
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, AC DBE, wife of Sir Keith and mother of Rupert, was an outspoken philanthropist. She died overnight in Australia, aged 103.
Following recent revelations about apparently systematic cover-ups and a deep failure to cooperate with police by the Roman Catholic Church, the Australian Prime Minister last night announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse to investigate the matter.
Influential Australian art critic Robert Hughes, author of The Shock of the New and The Fatal Shore, has died aged 74.
Yesterday Australia joined many developed nations in putting a price on carbon pollution (fixed at $23/tonne CO2e for three years) (prev). Despite extensive compensation, this moderate economic reform has proved enormously unpopular ("based on a lie") and is expected to be repealed if/when the Federal Opposition are returned to government.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation recently announced a two site approach, in Australia-NZ and Southern Africa, a move that was applauded by the Australian team. Once fully operational in 2024, SKA's one square kilometre collecting area should lead to major advances in astronomy. [more inside]
Writing in The Monthly, Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan makes a cogent case for ongoing economic reform to deliver equity, contrasting Australian with US outcomes, and slamming three modern robber barons, Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart for their increasing political influence.
US President Barack Obama is in Australia today. The main policy announcement is a new, permanent US Marine Corps presence on Australian soil. This is interpreted unambiguously as a 'containment strategy' for China and other Asian nations, with Australia playing the loyal deputy Sheriff. Most Australians don't think we should be forced to choose.
Nancy Wake AC GM, nicknamed "the White Mouse", was an heroic resistance fighter in Occupied France in the period 1940 - 1944 and reportedly the Gestapo's most wanted person. She died yesterday. [more inside]
Clean Energy Future. Australia has embarked on a tradeable carbon permit system, covering about 60% of emissions, beginning on 1 July 2012, and mixing in substantial progressive tax reform, putting a line under a very long debate on this matter indeed.
You probably haven't heard of Gina Rinehart. However, she's Australia's richest person and will quite possibly be the world's richest person in a few short years. Her currently limited political activity appears primarily directed at maintaining profitability, avoiding taxes and stopping a price on carbon pollution.
The Australian Government has committed to a price on carbon from 1 July 2012, prior to a likely full emissions trading scheme within three to five years. The Opposition are outraged, predicting a people's revolt. This should clearly define the next election.
Australia, already a leader in tobacco sales restrictions, is seeking plain packaging for all cigarette packaging, forcing a fight with Big Tobacco. Other governments around the world watch interestedly, as arguments revolve around intellectual property rights and spill-over effects. An astro-turf group has been formed to protest "on behalf of retailers". Meanwhile, the Federal Opposition maintains it's links to the tobacco industry. (previously)
On 12 February 2009, soldiers from the ADF 1st Commando regiment crept through the dark near the village of Surkh Morghab, in southern Afghanistan. What happened next will be closely scrutinised, however grenades were used and five children were killed. [more inside]
Victoria (Australia) had moderate flooding last week, which journalists were keen to report. Perhaps too keen. Full story here.
In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, in 1997 Australia implemented a gun buyback program that reduced the stock of firearms by around one-fifth, and nearly halving the number of gun-owning households. Leigh and Neill (2010) find that the buyback led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80%, or about 200 lives per annum (with no significant effect on non-firearm death rates). This translates into an annual benefit of $500M, or $800 000 per weapon destroyed. However, Baker & McPhedran (2006) have previosuly concluded that there was no impact on homicides.
The people have
spoken mumbled a bit. The Australian Federal election held last Saturday has produced an extraordinary result. A minority government with the support of 1 Green and (maybe) 4 very independent independents will should result, but which way will it fall, left or right? Every Westminster-style government, claimed to produce strong stable majorities, now has a hung parliament.
Even though results may not be known for several days yet, we can acknowledge the outstanding work of the Australian Electoral Commission. (Previously).
Australia's emissions trading scheme, the "Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme", is being debated in the Senate today. [more inside]
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating provides some observations on the GFC, including suggestions that the USA could become a defaulter, and identifying a need for a new international settlement to replace Bretton Woods. [more inside]
The draft Garnaut Climate Change Review was released last Friday. This is the most comprehensive look so far at the economic implications of climate change and emissions trading for a developed country (Australia). Essential (but weighty) reading for those interested in the economics of the issue, a useful localisation of Stern (2006). [more inside]
The Australian Federal election is winding its desultory way towards resolution on 24 November. So far, it has failed to catch much of the electorate’s imagination, and the centrist Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, retains his comfortable lead in the polls, indicating a change in executive government after 11 years of John Howard’s big-government conservatism. Rudd’s “me too” strategy suggests that ideology is dead in Australia. (Previously) [more inside]
The 18th Commonwealth Games are about to be opened by the HM the Queen of Australia, in Melbourne. Formerly the British Empire Games, from the days when much of the world was coloured pink, the Games may mean little , with few world class performers, and the usual list of questions and run of controversies, but there's nothing like circuses to keep the plebs entertained. At least Australia will thrash Sierra Leone in the althletics.