Archive for January, 2014

Contesting the mumbo jumbo of sustainability

January 28th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sustainability, a religion that hardly existed 40 years ago, is becoming the dominant faith of the 21st century. 

As I write in The Australian today, this dispiriting, unimaginative dogma must be contested:

Sustainability is Malthusianism for the 21 century; the fallacy that population is growing faster than the available resources and that ruination is just around the corner.

The world viewed through the prism of sustainability is a deeply depressing place in which dreams are discouraged, imagination is restricted and the spirit of progress frowned upon.

It is tempting to dismiss sustainability as harmless mumbo-jumbo, but it is dangerous to do so. As Ayn Rand wrote in 1972:

 The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow.  They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.


Daniel Hannan in Australia

January 27th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There are many insights into the origin of Australia’s lucky culture in Dan Hannan’s new book, Inventing Freedom: How The English-Speaking Peoples Made The Modern World.

I am looking forward to hearing Dan speak in Perth on February 24 and Melbourne on February 28 at events organised by the Centre for Independent Studies.

The British, says Hannan, ‘developed and exported the most successful system of government known to the human race.’

The reason that a child of Greek parents in Melbourne is wealthier and freer than his cousin in Mytilene has nothing to do with race and everything to do with political structures.

Hannan, a Conservative Euro-MP who trained as a historian, sees ‘the English-speaking peoples are tiptoeing away from their own creation.’

Britain’s intellectual elites see Anglosphere values as an impediment to assimilation into a European polity. Their equivalents in Australia see them as a distraction from their country’s supposed Asian destiny.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 1.44.10 PM DETAILS:

Truthiness at the ABC

January 27th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

On Catallaxy today I pursue the case of the Iranian woman who was reported by the ABC to be pregnant with twins in detention on Nauru in October last year.

I suggest this is an example of what Stephen Colbert called truthiness – a story the reporter wants to be true, rather than one that is known to be true


Australia’s lambassador draws out the muttonheads

January 25th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This year’s Australia Day award for muttonheaded thinking goes to academic Peter Chen who attacks Sam Kekovich’s “homophobic response to a same-sex couple…  and his willingness to feed a child meat against their parents’ wishes” in his latest lamb commercial.

Chen writes on ABC’s The Drum (where else?):

It is important to recognise that it is not just state power that can be mobilised to instil national myths and identity, but also the hegemonic power of the private sector through their role in the development and distribution of popular culture.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 1.38.27 PMCorrelation is not causality of course, but on Seven’s Weekend Sunrise this morning I ask if there is a link between declining consumption of lamb in Australia and a marked decline in our sense of humour.


Now The food police are beating up on sugar

January 25th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

In The Australian this week I wrote:

IT can be a long time between global flu epidemics if you work at the World Health Organisation, where the struggle to fill the working day must seem interminable.

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 12.23.04 PMNo wonder director-general Margaret Chan is constantly looking round for the next big thing. “It’s not just Big Tobacco any more,” Chan told a health conference in Finland last year. “Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol.”

Gone are the days when the WHO would justify its existence trying to control Big Malaria or offer relief from Big Malnutrition.

Today’s pressing task is to eliminate the scourge of sugar and bring an end to the pandemic of podginess now sweeping the globe.

The nanny state has been recast as the nanny planet and the WHO has assumed responsibility for our diet as it seeks to turn back what Chan calls “the globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles”.

The increase in global obesity, says Chan, “is not a failure of individual willpower,” but “a failure of political will to take on big business”.



The Curriculum must acknowledge the Enlightenment

January 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Australian Curriculum is a dismal and defective document that sucks the lifeblood out of learning, I argue in The Australian this morning.

Illustration: Sturt Krygsman Source: The Australian

Illustration: Sturt Krygsman
Source: The Australian

But conservatives will have to muscle up if they want to drive a stake through its heart.

Kevin Donnelly is on the right track – sort of- when he draws attention to the omission of teaching about Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

It is an imprecise argument, however, and an invitation to misinterpretation which his critics have gleefully taken.

The curriculum’s central error is its failure to acknowledge the influence of the Enlightenment on the history of modern Australia.

As I argue in The Lucky Culture, Australia was the scene of the Enlightenment’s most audacious experiment: an attempt to build a civilisation from scratch by applying scientific knowledge and liberal thinking.

European settlement makes no sense unless it is considered in the context of the European Enlightenment, yet the curriculum mentions the Enlightenment three times over 699 pages, and then only in passing.

By contrast, the words sustainable and sustainability – expressing sentiments hostile to the Enlightenment’s spirit of progress – are mentioned 139 times.

Here are some other debating tips for the curriculum’s conservative critics:

  • Drop the argument about the cultural Left’s alleged march through the institutions. The cultural drift in our universities and elsewhere is self-evident, but the marching Marxist imagery is misleading and easily ridiculed.
  • This is not a culture war, and if it was, you’re the last people capable of winning it. Think of this as a cultural mercy mission or an act of cultural restoration.
  • Neither is this a contest between Left and Right. Many who would claim to be on the Left are as unhappy as you are with the curriculum; the task is to unite the middle ground and push the curriculum’s supporters back to the fringe lands.
  • In fact this is not a political contest at all. The task is to de-politicise the curriculum.
  • An appeal to conservative values appeals only to conservatives. An appeal to common sense appeals to everyone. And common sense is on your side in this debate.








A copper’s instinct or cognitive conceit?

January 13th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 11.40.51 AMBrett Christian’s engrossing book, Presumed Guilty: When cops get it wrong and courts seal the deal, examines two miscarriages of justice 50 years apart to suggest reasons why police may be pre-disposed to getting it wrong.

Christian, a reporter who established the highly-successful Post Newspapers in Perth’s western suburbs, uncovered the evidence that cleared Darryl Beamish of murder, 39 years after he had been sentenced to death.

He draws parallels to the case brought against lawyer Lloyd Rayney for the murder of his wife Corryn, Rayney was acquitted in 2012, a verdict upheld by three judges on appeal.

Christian draws from on the psychology of the confidence illusion, or as Christian calls it, cognitive conceit – the propensity to think we know more than we do.

‘The legendary and much-prized notion of a “copper’s instinct” has been proven catastrophically wrong too many times,” writes Christian.

‘Sadly, science and hindsight have shown that copper’s instinct is nor more than cognitive conceit dressed up in blue.”

Bret Christian, Presumed Guilty: When cops get it wrong and courts seal the deal, Hardie Grant Books (Richmond Victoria), 2013.

Ron Burgundy and the birth of ‘newsiness’

January 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 5.45.19 PMI would have happily skipped the chaotic last 20 minutes, but until that point, Anchorman2 is a seriously funny film. 

“I’m going to do the thing God put Ron Burgundy on this earth to do,” proclaims Burgundy.  “Have salon quality hair and read the news.”

It is a satire on 1980s TV and the birth of what Burgundy calls “newsiness,” sometimes called infotainment or churnalism, a product that has come of age with the digital era.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 7.38.51 AMAmusing and cheap to produce, it is clearly part of a balanced news diet. But as I argued on Seven Weekend Sunrise this morning, journalism has a higher civic purpose.

Flawed as the craft may be, journalism actually does hold the powerful to account. New media, social media and citizen journalism are all well and good, but only diligent, professional journalism can truly protect our interests.

All aboard the social mobility escalator

January 10th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

HOW many dreams of Olympic glory have been shattered by the ludicrously restrictive admissions policy of the Australian Institute of Sport? 

As I write in The Australian this week, The demand-driven funding model for higher education introduced by the Gillard administration stopped short of including the Australian Sports Commission, where a somewhat unfashionable notion of excellence still prevails.

The descent of higher learning into a branch of mere consumerism is complete, thanks to the Higher Education Support Amendment (Demand Driven Funding System and Other Measures) Act 2011.

The university serves up tempting fare and students line up at the cafeteria of higher learning. [FULL COLUMN]