Remember the Art of Compromise?

By Warwick O'Neill Unlike a lot of people who follow the political and…

What is wrong with our doctors?

By Christopher Kennedy It does not surprise me that young doctors have mental…

Betrayed ... by the mainstream media

What needs to be done for the stinking mainstream media? As I see…

Day to Day Politics: Overlooking politics for the…

Thursday June 22, 2017 Had they really wanted a bipartisan approach the Prime…

Union support: where would we be without it?

I see that some posters on Twitter are pushing the anti-union theme…

Hanson displays her ignorance - again

By Jane Salmon In suggesting that 'autistic kids should be removed from mainstream…

Shooting yourself in the foot

By their own admission, Coalition politicians don’t bother reading reports to inform…

Day to Day Politics: Government and Democracy near…

Wednesday 21 June 2017 1 Why on earth do we not in our…


Category Archives: AIM Extra

Drug-Safe campaigner invites local communities to get involved.

By Craig Hingston

Residents in Sydney’s West are being asked to assist in the reduction of drug use in local work places by the nation’s leading drug testing organisation, Drug-Safe Communities.

“We have an opportunity for local people to become Field Testers and to help us create a community of Drug-Safe businesses”, said Founder and Chief Executive, Michael White.

Mr White pioneered the national drug training and detection service 16 years ago after the business partner from his former company died from a heroin overdose.

“We train and certify Field Testers at our Drug-Safe Academy. They learn how to do pre-employment drug testing as well as random and blanket screening. We organise the bookings and all they have to do is turn up and run the tests on-site.”

“Our drug testing is discrete, safe and hygienic. All of our kits meet Australian Standards and we were the first company of our kind to be accredited by the National Association of Testing Authority.”

“We find the people who enjoy doing this are looking for a regular income where they can choose their own hours…such as mothers wanting get back into the work force, former nurses, part-timers, trainee nurses. Mothers can easily schedule the tests while the children are at school.”

Mr White has initially sent the invitation out to the Fairfield, Parramatta, Blacktown and Hills district communities; more will follow. He says they plan to make Smithfield-Wetherill Park the first drug safe industrial zone in Australia,

“We know that 70 per cent of drug users are employed and that most of them top-up during the day. WorkCover reports that 80 per cent of people injured in work place accidents where alcohol or drugs are involved are themselves not involved in drugs. We want work places to be safer. At the same time, the Australian business community loses $16 billion each year in lost productivity because of alcohol and other drugs. So, there is an economic reason as well. With the help of Field Testers we can change our community one life at a time.”

The public can contact Drug-Safe Communities on 1300 378 472.


The final inspection

The soldier stood before his God
Which must always come to pass.
He hope his shoes were shinning
Just as brightly as his brass.

“Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my church have you been true?”

The soldier squared his shoulders and said
“No, my Lord I ain’t
Because those of us who carry guns
Can’t always be a saint.

I had to work most Sundays,
And times my talk was tough
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

“But I never took a dollar,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve weep unmanly tears.

“I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Expect to calm their fears.

“If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t I understand.”

There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints often trod,
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.

“Step forward now, you soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”

Author Unknown

(Thanks to John Skene for sending in this poem for ANZAC Day).


Western Sydney Airport: many residents not given the chance to say “no”

40% of Western Sydney residents have been denied a voice on Forum On Western Sydney Airport

On 10/4/17 the representatives of FOWSA (forum on Western Sydney Airport) announced, among other things, the proposed flight paths for Badgerys Creek Airport.

I note with great interest that Penrith, Liverpool, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains councils all have representation on this panel but none for Parramatta, The Hills Shire or Blacktown Council residents.

In addition no Federal members were meant to be on this board yet Anne Stanley and Mike Freelander are on it and noticeably absent is any representation for Blacktown, Parramatta or Hills Shires such as Julie Owen, Alex Hawke, Ed Husic or Michelle Rowland.

Camden is represented by their state member Chris Paterson yet Hugh McDermott, John Robertson, Geoff Lee and Mark Taylor who are state MPs in Blacktown, Parramatta  and Hills Shire Council areas aren’t on it.

No residents from these council areas are on FOWSA.

Under the draft EIS the Hills Shire Council residents were affected by these flight paths at heights as low as 4500ft and Blacktown Council residents at 2500ft. Parramatta had flights st around 8,000 – 10,000ft. In addition all areas already have flights from Sydney Airport and could conceivably continue to do so when the airport opens. It defies logic that Blacktown Council, Parramatta Council or the Hills Shire Council residents  have no representation on the board of FOWSA.

It is unacceptable that 800,000 western Sydney residents have no voice on FOWSA. They deserve a voice.

Andrea Grieve
No Badgerys Creek Airport Inc


An open letter to Francis Sullivan

Your ‘Where to from here?’ speech as CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council on 10 March 2017 was admirably frank about the Catholic Church’s causes of the abuse crisis.

It did not, however, in our view, go far enough in its blame or solutions.

It is surprising that, as you claim, no one “was prepared for the extent of the abuse and the appalling rate across male religious orders and within the priesthood”.

But there was plenty of evidence of the abuse.

The culture of denial and secrecy was led from the very top of the Church in Australia over decades. It continues to compound the abuse suffered by victims by denying justice to perpetrators and those who shielded them.

We are surprised that you thought “maybe the Church had up to 100 paedophiles in its history”. This is so far from the reality elsewhere, known even before the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was announced.

It seems extraordinary that you seem unaware of the implication of the thousands of press reports of such abuse from around the world over decades and the billions of dollars that have been paid out in damages in the US, and millions of Euros in Ireland.

Other sources include the 2015 film Spotlight, concerning the exposés of the Boston Globe journalists, the books Double Cross by David Ranan (2007) and Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church by Fr. Thomas Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall (2006).

Also relevant to the scale of abuse is the Holy See’s representative telling the United Nations Human Rights Council on 22 September 2009: “From available research we now know that in the last fifty years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases.”

Worldwide there are about 500,000 male priests and religious which equates to between 7,500 and 25,000 abusers, most of which have abused multiple children or vulnerable adults in their care and on numerous occasions.

At the same time the Vatican’s UN representative sought to excuse such sexual and other violence against minors by clerics on the grounds that most abuse is “ephebophile” not paedophile.

Nevertheless this kind of abuse is normally criminal action and constitutes a serious abuse of trust and misuse of authority that frequently ruins the lives of those abused and their families.

Such abuse has been a problem since the inception of the Church.

As early as 1963 it was brought to the attention of the Pope in an audience by the Order of the Paracletes that had even considered, but eventually abandoned, an “Island Retreat” in the Caribbean for recidivist abusive priests, such was the extent of the abuse.

Also, in its 2014 Concluding Observations  (see in particular paras 43 and 44) the Holy See received the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child’s harshest possible criticism which received worldwide publicity.

The UN Committee noted in para 19 that the Pope’s own Pontifical Commission to sanction bishops covering up abusers was to be “empowered to receive children’s complaints of sexual abuse”.

But, of course, as we know now, the Pontifical Commission was without resources to do anything.

Long before Commission member Marie Collins left in disgust, or indeed before Peter Saunders was quietly ousted from the Pontifical Commission, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child raised alarm bells about this Commission.

The UN Committee’s Observations, just as valid today, continue: “The Committee is, however, concerned that the Holy See has not established a mechanism to monitor respect for and compliance with children’s rights by individuals and institutions operating under its authority, including all Catholic schools, worldwide and in Vatican City State.”

You have rightly acknowledged recent concerns about the Pope’s disinclination to tackle such abuse effectively, but these are simply yet a further symptom of what has been evident from the start of his pontificate.

One of the first indications of this was the refusal to take these UN recommendations seriously; it surely cannot have been without his knowledge that the UN Committee was in effect attacked by the Holy See for its concluding observations.

The Pontifical Commission never had any executive power, and we now learn, resources. It exists to give the illusion of action being taken.

Similarly, the Tribunal the Pope announced to prosecute bishops who covered up abusing priests was abandoned in June 2016 soon after it became evident that these bishops or senior Church figures would con- sequently be vulnerable to secular justice, mainly in the USA. This almost pain-free procedural Tribunal alternative, free from criminal sanctions, never sat.

There have been numerous other accusations of the Pope’s disinclination to act in this area, easily found in the media. The Vatican continues to refuse to instruct, as the UN recommended, that reasonable suspicions of abuse be reported to secular authorities and insists that incriminating information be kept out of secular reach.

You are correct in drawing attention to implications of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine Faith’s refusal to co-operate, even the basic courtesy of acknowledging letters from those alleging abuse far less investigating them.

The combination of a reluctant pontiff and an obstructive curia is a Church, also a nation state, that undermines the rule of law with impunity.

Abusers and their enablers go unpunished by secular courts able to impose realistic punishments for crimes, and many victims go uncompensated.

Despite your mea culpa the Church still ferociously fights both criminal and civil cases, even when there is no doubt about guilt.

We wish we shared your optimism that greater lay involvement would help, given the Curia ignore even requests by the Pope to observe the most basic courtesies.

It would go some way to improve matters for the future if in all countries:

  1. Reporting of institutional abuse were made mandatory;
  2. Statutes of limitation were lifted for child abuse cases where the Australian Commission showed that on average reporting took over 30 years;
  3. No religious organization is in effect immune to being sued because of the nature of its legal persona, which is never a bar to it receiving assets;
  4. ‘One law for all’ with no recognition of parallel legal systems; religious institutions should not be permitted to exempt themselves from the law of the land; Canon law must not take precedence over Australian law.

Mr Sullivan, would you support such proposals?

Signed …

Rationalist Society of Australia, Melbourne

Rationalist Assn of NSW, Sydney

Plain Reason, Adelaide

Humanist Society of Queensland, Brisbane

National Secular Society, London



Does Education Need “The Godfather” – Social Norms And Market Norms?

Two Quotes from The Godfather:

Bonasera: Let them suffer then, as she suffers. How much shall I pay you?

Don Corleone: [shakes his head ruefully] Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, then that scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.

Bonasera: Be my friend. Godfather.

[The Don shrugs, Bonasera bows toward the Don and kisses the Don’s hand.]

Don Corleone: Good. Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.

Bonasera: Grazie, Godfather.

* * *

Michael: Sonny …

Sonny: You’re taking this very personal. Tom, this is business and this man is taking it very personal.

Michael: Where does it say that you can’t kill a cop?

Tom Hagen: C’mon, Mikey!

Michael: I’m talking about a cop that’s mixed up in drugs. I’m talking about a dishonest cop…a crooked cop who got mixed up in the rackets and got what was coming to him. That’s a terrific story. And we’ve got newspaper people on the payroll, right, Tom? They might like a story like that.

Tom Hagen: They might, they just might.

Michael: It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.

* * *

Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1

You’re at a party. You announce your intention to ring a taxi. You than ring. It arrives and takes you to you destination, where the driver asks you for the fare. It’s approximately $26 which is fifty cents more than the last time you took a taxi from the same house.

Scenario 2

You’re at the same party. You announce your intention to ring a taxi. One of the guests you know hears you and says that he’s going soon and he’ll be happy to drive you. You arrive at your destination and the person driving you says, “That’ll be $15”.

Which scenario makes you more annoyed?

Chances are that it’s the second scenario which you find more disturbing because while you were expecting a financial transaction in the first, the second takes you by surprise. In the first case the extra money is mildly annoying, but in the second case, because you were expecting to pay nothing, you’re likely to find it outrageous even though you’re at least ten dollars better off than if you’d taken the taxi.

In “Predictably Irrational”, Dan Ariely talks about social norms and market norms. In social situations, we’re often prepared to help our and do things for no immediate payback. If you ask someone to help you carry something to your car, you’re unlikely to offer them payment or – The Godfather, notwithstanding – expect them to tell you that you now owe them a favour which they’ll one day collect. However, when a someone who runs a removalist business asks you to help him shift boxes and furniture, you’d normally expect payment.

Now, imagine an employee – let’s call him Trevor – approaches the boss and tells them that he needs to leave early because his daughter’s school has just phoned and informed him that she’s sick. The boss tells him that’s fine but he’ll have to put it in as sick leave. Is the boss being fair?

Let’s imagine that Trevor is a teacher. Would your expectation change if Trevor tells the principal that he won’t be able to attend the staff meeting because his child has suddenly been taken ill? To take it one step further, what if he announces that he’s missing the staff meeting because his partner is unavailable and he needs to miss the last twenty minutes of his class in order to pick up his children from school at 3-15 pm? Or what if someone announced that they won’t be able to attend any after school meetings or make morning briefing due to their need to pick up their children?

While some of you may consider it reasonable to dock Trevor’s pay in each situation, I suspect that some people would have thought it wrong to penalise Trevor for missing a staff meeting when an emergency came up, but very few would consider it reasonable for him to miss all meetings in order to pick up the children or to miss his class without it being taken off his leave entitlements.

The big difference in how you perceive the situation will probably depend on whether you see the school as operating as part of a social norm or a market norm. While it’s obvious that a teacher is being paid, and is therefore expected to be present as part of the market norm, there are many occasions when social norms operate within a school. Apart from things like running classes out of scheduled times or volunteering to help out on various activities, teachers form social relationships with their colleagues and help each other out, not because of their salary, but because they see themselves as part of a group or sub-group within the school. When the chairs need to be stacked, some people will offer to help out. When going to get a coffee, some will ask if anyone else wants one. When the sets need to be painted for a school production, some will offer to help. They’ll be helpful, not because they see it something they’re paid to do, but because it’s part of the social norms of the school.

Of course, it’s when the line gets blurry that the trouble arises. While few people would think that a principal should just ignore someone missing their classes to pick up a sick child, many teachers would see missing the staff meeting as different because it doesn’t require extra work from anyone else and they can always read the minutes later. Yes, it’s part of the working week, but did the principal really have to be such a tight-arse as to take an hour off Trevor’s sick leave. After all, wasn’t Trevor here all day Saturday helping out with the working bee? It’s just not fair. I don’t see why we should do anything that’s not in our contract, if the administration is going to be like that!

It can be argued that the sick child situation is relatively clear: Trevor is expected to attend staff meetings and unless the expectation is that anyone is allowed to simply apologise and miss them, then he’s missing part of the school day. However, there are a number of situations where the teachers are fluctuating between the two norms.

Consider the following and think about how you’d deal with each of the situations:

Jim steps over the line with his jokes during a Maths meeting, and you object. Later someone says to you “Hey, we don’t want to be all politically correct about it, do we, because, well, Jim’s a really good bloke and there’s no need to make a formal complaint, I’ll have a word to him, ok?”

Tina loses her temper in the English meeting and swears at you because you said that the work that Tina prepared on the text was too complicated and you won’t be using it in your class. Tina later tells everyone that she just can’t work with you and she won’t attend any meetings if you’re there.

You thank Sarah in the staff meeting for her help with a recent event and you present her with a bottle of wine. You’re later told that Natalie, who also helped with the project, feels unappreciated and ignored.

Danny, who’s recently had a relationship breakup, has been arriving late and looking like he’s slept in his clothes. As you have the office near his first class, some days you’ve been covering his class till he arrives.

Hayley has asked you to stay behind and supervise the deb ball practice. It’s fairly easy because a group of people come in and run the whole thing. You take the chance to do some marking. Two weeks later, she asks you to do it again. You say yes. Then somebody tells you that she gets a payment for organising the deb ball.

Think about how you responded to each case. Did you respond according to a social norm or a market norm? Did this vary depending on the situation? Consider how it would have been different if you’d used the other one.

Do you think you would have responded differently depending on whether you were a teacher on contract, a teacher with a position of responsibility, or a member of the principal team?

Of course, different members of the school community will see the circumstances in which they work differently and this has the potential to cause irresolvable conflict, because the different participants aren’t operating from the same assumptions.

For teachers and administrators who see the school as primarily something that exists through a social norm, the subtext goes something like: “We give you payment so that you have the opportunity to come here and do what you love, but we all know that the salary is just incidental”. However, for those who see it primarily through a market norm, then there’s a core set of expectations and, while it’s inevitable that they’ll occasionally be caught up by social norms, their subtext revolves around, “Hang on, I didn’t sign up for this and it’s not in my job description!”

This is not to disparage the second group. In the real world, people will often fluctuate between the two mindsets, depending on who’s asking and what’s being expected. Indeed, if teachers don’t occasionally pull back and embrace the attitude of the second group from time to time, then they run the risk of being totally exploited. The point, however, is to recognise the different mindsets and to ask if the problem isn’t really a clash of norms rather than something more complicated.

Obviously, ideas such as performance pay for teachers belongs with people who think of schools as operating under market norms, yet anyone who’s read most of the research on motivation will know that money as an incentive is only effective in a limited number of circumstances. Performance pay is like asking people to help you weed your garden for free, while the person next to them is being paid.

The best schools will be the ones where positive social expectations dictate people’s behaviour, so the difficult question is how to ensure these without making members of staff feel exploited. It’s a difficult question, but one worth asking.

Searching for affordable housing in Toowong, Brisbane

Denis Bright invites discussion on social impact of the attrition of affordable housing in the inner suburbs of metropolitan and regional centres. This local perspective is from Brisbane’s thriving inner western suburb of Toowong. Is the slowing local property market shaping a fairer Australia or promoting more economic apartheid in our cities?

The inner western suburb of Toowong is a hub of thriving commercial activity. Retail and residential choices abound in this riverside setting. Public transport links Toowong to the Brisbane CBD by bus, train and Citycat ferry. The campus of the University of Queensland is just two kilometres away.

Previous conservative governments in Queensland have shown little interest in defending both the architectural heritage and affordability of inner suburbs like Toowong.

The Bjelke-Petersen Government used the Toowong Railway Station Development Project Act 1985 to over-ride opposition from the Brisbane City Council (BCC) to the construction of the Toowong Village shopping and office complexes.

Positive precedents

Even a century ago, the problems of affordability in both housing prices and rents were highly topical issues. Before the sedating effects of constant eyewitness news coverage, public participation in politics demanded real solutions.

A time-traveller from 1917 would have been very conscious of the challenges to housing affordability a century ago (High Street Toowong in 1917 from the Toowong and District Historical Society).

Elected in the electoral landslide to Labor in 1915, Premier T.J. Ryan responded to these concerns through the Workers’ Homes Act 1919.

In nearly forty years of state Labor Administrations before 1957, families with up to twice the average annual wage were assisted with the acquisition of home sites and affordable houses.

This social market arrangement for affordable housing loans shaped suburban development in Brisbane near popular transport hubs like Toowong.

Land subdivisions for new housing were still the responsibility of the private sector. The state assisted buyers with access to well-constructed dwellings from a network of registered builders with a preference for unionized labour.

In a presentation to the Royal Society of Queensland in 1993, Judy Rechner noted that the amended Workers’ Homes Act 1919 permitted affordable loan advances of up to four years of average salaries. Repayments could extend to 20 years. The means test for housing loans was liberalized to twice the average annual wage rates.

Loan conditions were modified throughout the inter-war period to respond to changing wage rates and housing prices. Successive state Labor governments were mindful of the importance of middle class voters:

Judy Rechner for the Royal Historical Society Journal 1994


Constituents from all backgrounds appreciated this commitment to affordable housing.

Most electorates across Brisbane returned Labor members during the inter-war period apart from the single term of conservative government in 1929.

Even during the spikes in Labor Party support, Toowong always remained a conservative seat along with a sprinkling of hillside and riverside electorates across Brisbane. Little has changed as the state election approaches in the redistributed local state electorate of Maiwar.

The attrition of housing affordability and some alternatives

Increases in the prices of houses and rents in Toowong are usually perceived as a healthy sign by the business sector and investors generally.

Taxation concessions through negative gearing reward Australian property investors. These concessions cost $11 billion in the current federal budget.

For overseas investors in property here in Toowong, there are opportunities for new cash flows and asset accumulation in a strong Australian currency.

Future policy options should be available to channel some of this new investment to assist in the delivery of more affordable housing and other community development goals. Overseas investors would be more than welcome in these projects and not just through ad hoc current market ventures.

In Sydney’s Central Park redevelopment on Broadway near Central Station, major companies like Sekisui House and Frasers Property have been involved in the successful redevelopment of old industrial sites. The resources of these construction firms could still be at the service of progressive housing policy initiatives.

Some new financial incentives might be needed for these companies if they are to become more interested in the delivery of affordable housing and community development options in their investment mix.

Corporate investment inflows through a future public sector Urban Investment Fund might assist with the delivery of this new investment mix in a manner which is now impossible from the resources available to government authorities. This Fund would need to be the agent of a public sector business investment fund with commitments to affordable housing and other community development options from funds invested by the corporate sectors in Australia and overseas.

Some problems like a decline in housing affordability and traffic gridlock on major arterial roads are challenges which have increased with a reliance on the market model for the provision of housing.

Traffic gridlock is evident on arterial roads in Brisbane’s inner west (Brisbanetimes Online 2011).

Removing commercial ribbon-development adjacent to Moggill Road along the approaches to Indooroopilly Plaza would be a multi-billion public investment if new tunnel thoroughfares were added to divert traffic.

In place of commercial ribbon development of service workshops and specialized retail outlets along Moggill Road, opportunities would exist for new integrated development projects including some affordable housing.

This type of integrated re-development would be beyond the resources of most companies and loans might be available through an Urban Development Fund with a capital base injected by the corporate sector. Dividends would be paid on the mix of investments undertaken by a Queensland Fund as the co-ordinator of the Urban Investment Fund.

There are fewer options for some well-established predominantly residential areas. Here the re-development projects might cover only two or three adjacent properties but an affordable housing mix and other initiatives like a better storm-water drainage system might be added.

Sylvan Road precinct in Toowong: Opportunities and Problems        

Join me on a walk up Sylvan Road from the Regatta Hotel Citycat terminal in search of the remnants of affordable housing.

Despite many years of buoyant returns from the property market, some affordable rental options still remain in Toowong.

During any future down-turn in the property market, owners might be willing to sell their properties to construction companies for medium-rise housing ventures with some ground-level commercial activities. Even home-owners benefiting from rising property prices are concerned about the social consequences of declining housing affordability.

The current plateau in the property market prevents an easy exit from the market in favour of more affordable properties for holders of investment loans and mortgages.

At 1/20 Croydon Street just off Sylvan Road, a room for rent was available for $130 weekly with access to a shared kitchen and other facilities. A broken window pane comes as an included extra.

Next door at 1/18 Croydon Street, a house is available for rental with a downstairs yoga studio. This site is too dilapidated to appear on online real estate sites.

BMC International is the owner of both properties which have a combined market value approaching $1.2 million. Asset values of this magnitude invite redevelopment on a combined area of over 1,000 square metres. Opportunities also exist for the acquisition of nearby properties but this is a challenge while property prices remain high.

A former nursing home, known as Sylvan Lodge, next to Toowong Memorial Park and Wests Districts Rugby Club has been protected from gentrification by its sprawling internal lay out. Under the current Brisbane City Plan, the owner can redevelop the site.

The style of accommodation offered includes some access to shared kitchens and other facilities. At a rental of $130-150 weekly plus $520 for the security bond, this is a highly affordable facility by Brisbane standards (Asset plus Rentals Online 2017).

Further up Sylvan Road some existing redevelopments have a good aesthetic appearance (Google Maps 2017).

The Corner Café is popular as a social meeting place during the week and at weekends.

Next door, Elizabeth and Co. is a residence upstairs and a hair and beauty salon downstairs in attractively landscaped surrounds.

At 137 Sylvan Road, a former workers’ dwelling is a busy accountant’s office with a highly presentable appearance.

Other former suburban stores or trade service offices are vibrant additions to the street-scape as a clothing and needlework store or an alternative health centre.

The current Brisbane City Plan (BCC Plan) restricts development because of the Character Residential Infill Classification. Older residential structures must be incorporated into any proposed redevelopment to obtain re-developmental approval.

It is a different matter opposite on the corner of Sylvan Road and Milton Road with an industrial classification under the Brisbane City Town Plan.

An administrative office of Hutchison Builders has a popular car wash service at street level. The neighbouring sales office of Subaru attracts customers from a wide catchment.

No Dogmatic Fixes

The precinct covered on this walk along Sylvan Road and some adjacent streets shows that the supply of sustainable affordable houses and rentals is becoming exhausted. New storm-water run-off networks are urgently needed.

It would be a pretentious exercise to offer detailed specific solutions to the presenting problems in this precinct. The finer details would draw upon the multi-dimensional skills of a team of financial and legal experts, architects and engineers with appropriate consultation with the community and its elected representatives at all levels.

Our veteran time-traveller from 1917 might be perplexed that the constituents of Toowong are still so committed to market forces as the cure-all solution when earlier generations sought solutions to housing affordability problems through the Workers’ Dwelling Scheme.

Changing times call for new approaches.

Opportunities are knocking for a new generation of leaders with a commitment to housing affordability which is still as daringly different and responsible as the initiatives once taken a century ago when our veteran time-traveller first walked the streets of Toowong.

Hopefully the constituents in this precinct of Maiwar will want to challenge the Miracle of the Market myth as their surrounds dry out from recent local storm-water which has once again presented its ongoing challenge to quality of living on one side of Sylvan Road.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.



Positive response to “world’s biggest users of Ice” announcement

Anti-drugs campaigner Michael White has responded to this week’s breaking news that Australians proportionally use more “Ice” than any other country in the world.

“Having been involved in making work sites drug-safe for the past 16 years this news did not come as a complete surprise to me, as I have seen all types of drug use in the business world, with the worst example being a company with over 70 per cent of its employees involved in alcohol and other drugs.”

“I welcome the launch of the police Local Drug Action Teams”, said Mr White who is the founder of Drug-Safe Communities, “And, I look forward to working with them to tackle our nation’s drug epidemic.”

Mr White was replying to the announcement of 40 LDAT’s being formed as part of a united police offensive with community organisations to confront the epidemic of methamphetamine (Ice) use.

“We are aware of the scale of the problem. The 70 per cent increase in Ice usage since 2014, the 12 tonnes of Ice seized since 2013 and the two tonnes discovered by police already this year. This is why Drug-Safe Communities is dedicated to removing drugs from communities one life at a time – through early intervention classes, drug education workshops, assisting employers with writing their drug policies and pre-employment drug testing. Our teams visit all types of businesses across all business sectors from small-to-medium enterprises up to nationals companies.”

“We work on the coal face where people are exposed to drugs or using them and we are gradually reducing the number of Ice users in society. We have a mammoth job ahead of us but with 16 years experience we do know that our programs work and we have seen so many lives turned around.”

“Early intervention, education and identifying users are definitely working and I agree wholeheartedly with the Health Minister Greg Hunt when he said this week that we cannot arrest our way out of the Ice problem, we must work to reduce the demand for it”, added Mr White.

Drug-Safe Communities is expanding its national team and is calling on interested parties to contact head office on 1300 378 472 to help turn the problem around.

The LDAT announcement followed the alarming report from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report last week – which analysed chemical compounds in wastewater from 51 treatment sites – that Australia is second only to Slovakia in the use of stimulants, which include Ice.


Twenty years ago Michael White went to work on a day like any other and waited for his business partner. He soon discovered he would never see his friend and colleague again. His partner was found dead in an alley way at Kings Cross with a needle stuck in his arm. He had died of a heroin overdose. Michael was dumbfounded. He had no idea that his partner had a drug addiction. The shock of this tragic discovery worsened when he found out that over $300,000 had been stolen from the business to pay for it. “I was left with no business, no friend and almost no finances.” Michael embarked on an extensive education process to learn everything he could about drugs and drug addiction and then launched Drug-Safe Australia with a mobile drug testing clinic. He offered early intervention workshops, training, policy writing for employers and pre-employment testing and grew to a fleet of 15 vehicles and 60 staff. Now, as a national franchise, Drug-Safe Communities has the capacity to reach many thousands of people.

“We have so many success stories. We are changing communities one life at a time.”


Marching for a better Australia

A joint statement from march organisers

Members of the March Australia movement have declared today’s March in March rallies a success, with at least 2,000 people in eight locations coming out to protest the failures and poor governance of the Turnbull government.

“We’re all delighted at today’s turnout” an organiser said. “People exercised their democratic right to unite in protest and made it crystal clear that they’re angry.

Our nation is suffering today because our government is failing us. Australians came out today to reclaim the Fair Go and demand government in the public interest.

Bewitched by its own desperation for power at any cost, this government is pursuing an agenda which divides society, erodes human rights and disenfranchises many. The people feel forgotten.”

March Australia rally organisers have each contributed to this joint statement outlining why they marched today.

The combined statements of these activists for positive change are a clear articulation of the progressive perspective shared by members of this grassroots people’s movement:

Jessie-Lee Peacock (Sydney)
“Marching matters and activism matters because change happens when people make it happen.
Marching in March gives people an opportunity to find their voice and power and realise that governments crack and systems fall because unity is powerful.
When the people of western Sydney start protesting, that’s a sure sign of a government not governing for the people.“

Susan Prince (Cairns)
“We march because one day it all just got too much.
We were shaking with anger and in despair at the unfair, hateful, lying tyrannous, treachery of OUR Government.
We had to do something; when March Australia set the date we just put our stakes in the ground and the ground swelled with constituents like us appalled at our government’s behaviour…
We will march until the tyranny treachery & appalling behaviour ends.”

Jeff Sundstrom (Gosford/Central Coast)
“With a world wide trend towards uncaring and deceitful government, we must stand up for ourselves, we must stand up for those without the capacity to do so for themselves and we must stand up for the environment.
We must march!
When the gap between the haves and have nots is widening and when the health of the less than fortunate is deteriorating because health services are being handed over to the profit-takers, we must march!
And when homelessness is on the rise, affordable housing is on the decline and land banking is considered a good and just economic strategy… We. Must. March!”

Vee Ness (Armidale)
“Armidale has participated in the National March In March events since the beginning.
While our political leaders come and go, the standard of living for most Australians has not improved.
Being an educational and agricultural district, we are a resourceful and active community.
Uniting today to find our common strength, we raised our voices in solidarity for justice, while promoting local services and grass-roots solutions.
As our representatives seem to ignore us, we will not be silenced. Generation after generation, we are the continuous current for change.
People power is the true renewable energy resource and Australians everywhere are tuning in.”

Liz Tearii (Brisbane)
“We march for many reasons… We have watched this Government attack, demonize, criminalize people on Welfare.
We have watched this Government attack and criminalize Unions and workers Rights.
We have watched this Government flaunt their travel entitlement spending while accusing people on Welfare benefits of not managing theirs.
We have watched this Government encourage and utilize the “fear” campaign to criminalize minority groups and implement more intrusive laws on citizens.
We have watched this Government change laws to suit their agendas…eg. Native Title and Adani.
We are sick of this Government, their lack of accountability to the People, their lack of humane governance, their lack of understanding and concern for the average Aussie.
There are many many reasons to march….but we march with others “United for better Government” “

Leigh Shears (Newcastle)
“The people of Newcastle strongly feel very little has changed from Abbott to Turnbull.
From stripping Medicare and the treatment of the unemployed to supporting the penalty rate cuts and the introduction of the ABCC there’s little surprise this Government offers no support to the people in our community.
The treatment of Asylum seekers, the lies about marriage equality and leaving vulnerable women, children and families out in the cold has ensured that we will do all we can to make to get this mob out of Government.”

Kathryn Wilkes (Brisbane, Stand Up Australia)
“It is important to march to stand up for our rights as equal citizens.
We must stand up against the government constantly attacking the ordinary people of Australia while lining the pockets of every multinational.
The Australia people don’t matter anymore, only the taxes raised and profits made from the poor through the job agencies, card trials and the like.”

Susan Jenvey (Nambucca Heads)
“People in Nambucca don’t want their local concerns taken for granted. They want a future based on community well being.
We don’t want privatisation.
We don’t want the destruction of regular work and the ability to bargain collectively.
We want energy-efficient towns using green technology.
We want education from preschool to uni, we want control over our services, over housing affordablity and population.
We don’t need the answer to all our problems to be a law to make racially spiteful comments about other Australians.”

Sarah Pinkie (Adelaide)
“Today Adelaide came together to demand that this Government see the 98% that are struggling.
We stand in solidarity because we have compassion, empathy and hope.
We stand with the First Nations people, the vulnerable and refugees to demand that they are recognized and treated as human beings. We stand with our workers – the back bone of this country to demand respect.
We stand with the environmental protectors who fight to keep our country beautiful.
Standing together, united, to demand better government.”

Protesters to March In March again

Media Release

Three years on from the first March in March protests in 2014, the grassroots March Australia movement will host rallies on Saturday 25 March 2017 protesting the policies and decisions of the Turnbull Coalition government.

“The 2014 rallies were a response to the regressive Abbott government”, said spokesman Loz Lawrey. “People thought the Fair Go was under attack, and over 100,000 of us took to the streets nationwide. Since then, progressive Australians have endured an ever more divisive and abusive agenda from an ultra-conservative Turnbull government more interested in its own ideology than in true public service.”

Under the banner of “The People United For Better Government”, March Australia is a network of citizens with shared progressive views. Their rallies offer advocacy groups a platform to come together and air multiple issues of concern at the one time.

“We are ordinary Australians” Mr Lawrey said. “We just want our country to be an inclusive and productive nation. We want work. We want mutual respect. We want to embrace our multicultural society and learn to reconcile our differences.”

“We want a government that respects human rights and works in the public interest. We expect accountability and transparency from the governments we elect.”

“The Coalition’s unconscionable policies around Centrelink debt, the welfare card and the incarceration of refugees have driven some individuals to suicide. The corrupt job network gives private enterprise control over the very lives of some Australians. This government stuffs up everything it touches, from the NBN to the ABC.”

“We invite all citizens and activist groups to join us on Saturday to raise your concerns”, he said. “There are so many areas in which this government is failing, such as health, education, environmental management, humane treatment of refugees. It’s a huge task to even try to list them all. The placards at the marches will tell the story.”


Loz Lawrey, Candace Wirth, email:

Leesa Little, email:


Rallies will take place in nine locations on Saturday 25 March, as listed below:

For details visit the March Australia Activist Interchange Facebook page.



11:30am – 2:00pm, Victoria Square, Adelaide

Facebook page

Contact Sarah Pinkie, email:


2:00 – 4:00pm, Central Park, Armidale

Contact Vanessa Peterson, email:


12:00 – 2:00pm, Queens Gardens, Brisbane

Facebook page

Contact Ewan Saunders, Sally Dodds or Kathryn Wilkes, email:


3:00 – 5:00pm, The Lawns, Wharf One, Cairns

Facebook page

Gosford/Central Coast

10:45am – 1:00pm, Carrawah Reserve

Facebook page

Contact Jeff Sundstrom, email:


1:00 – 4:00pm, Parliament House, Darwin

Nambucca Heads

11:00am, Nambucca Plaza

Facebook page


1:00 – 4:00pm, Pacific Park, Newcastle

Facebook page

Contact Leigh Shears, email:


1:00 – 4:00pm, Belmore Park, Sydney

Facebook page

Contact JessieLee Peacock, email:


Peace Be Upon All

By Khaled

This post has two objectives. It addresses two audiences:

1. Non-Muslims, and

2. Muslims

For argument’s sake, let me give you a bit of background information first, thus leading to the purpose and reason for this post.

On an international scale, we all agree that Islam is and has been the ‘flavour of the month’ or the ‘Hottest Topic’ for almost 25 years. It started with the first invasion of Iraq, which lead to all sorts of false/mass hysteria and fictitiously associating Islam with terrorism. Twenty five years down life’s pipeline and we are still dealing with the same issues but only on a larger and more exacerbated scale.

With the awakening of the Alt-Right extremists groups; actually let me rephrase that; with the ‘cleaned and polished’ facade of the old time racism, bigotry and xenophobia the attacks on Islam and Muslims has reached an unprecedented state. And if you ask me who was the subject prior to Islam, my answer would be Communism, but that is a separate topic.

For those who know me, I have been on the activist trail fighting racism, bigotry and anything that demoralises and denigrates humans and humanity for only a short 9 months. I am ashamed of myself for not starting this part of my life at a much earlier age or phase. My ‘feel good’ response to this dark spot in my mind and heart is “better late than never”. But that only lasts for a few seconds.

I have also been advocating Islam for the better part of my 43 years through different and various means. May Allah swt (Arabic words “Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala,” or “Glory to Him, the Exalted”) help me to continue on with this path until the day I lose my amanah (life).

During the last nine months I have come across thousands of people, other than Muslims, of different walks of life, different backgrounds, different cultures, different faiths, different genders, different ages and different sexual preferences. The noted variances are absolutely enormous but just as much, rather gorgeous. They all seem to share the one single commonality; and that is an acknowledgment and belonging to the human race. They see and know the differences, but through the sheer power and strength of the mentioned commonality, these differences are overshadowed thus rendering them rather insignificant. These people have an objective and that is to end Islamophobia and protect Muslims by any means necessary.

Now that I have covered my first objective, which is the non-Muslim addressee, I shall proceed onto addressing my second objective and that is the Muslim addressee.

In the last nine months I have seen far more non-Muslims working tirelessly at abolishing Islamophobia and protecting Muslims than Muslim people. The scare and fear mongering campaign of the Alt-Right extremist groups only works if we submit to it and run away in fear of retribution and retaliation. Our ill-actions or little-action, plays into their hands and makes their task much easier to implement and complete. Consequently, our lack of action makes the task of the first addressee of my post, i.e. the non-Muslims, far too difficult to achieve.

So I can’t help but ask, where is the cohesion that our Prophet Mohammad pbuh (“Peace be upon Him”), ordered us to have for each other including all of mankind? Where is the sense of solidarity and camaraderie for your brothers and sisters? Did the Prophet not order us to stand beside one another like a solid object? Out of 1.7b Muslims around the world, there are over 500,000 in Australia. Imagine if we all stood together along with our non-Muslim brothers and sisters, how quickly we could diminish Islamophobia. Imagine how easy it would be to remove that false facade off the face of racism and bigotry.

I remind myself and you of two stories from our Prophet pbuh. Two of great significance and teachings.

1. Narrated by Qais ibn Sa’d reported: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah pbuh, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew”. The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1250, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 961

2. Narrated by Anas: The prophet pbuh said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

So I make this oath and declaration before Allah swt; that I will keep fighting for humanity. And when Islam isn’t the hot topic nor the flavour of the era, I will keep on this path fighting for humanity and fighting for what is right irrespective of who is or are being oppressed. And if the oppressor are Muslims for some type of unscrupulous reason, I will stand besides my non-Muslim brothers and sisters in the face of oppression. Let’s find the bond to unify humanity and mankind. Let’s drive this fight together to end disgraceful, inhumane and immoral acts against mankind. This is our obligation. This is our duty. #changestartswithme #istandwithhumanity #FU2Racism

Peace, love and respect to All,



Brisbane school continues dominance of 4×4 STEM technology competition

By Craig Hingston

Representing Australia at World Finals for third year in a row.

Pine Rivers State High School from Brisbane has totally dominated the National Finals of the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge in Adelaide by taking out every award.

Two student teams, Fair Dinkum 4×4 and Mud Ruts, claimed all seven engineering, innovation and marketing awards after two days of intense judging. Fair Dinkum 4×4 tool out five of them and were crowned National Champions

This means for the third year in a row Pine Rivers State High School will be competing at the World Finals of this STEM competition, in Abu Dhabi.

The same school won the World Finals in 2016 and came third in 2015.

The students had to design and construct a remote controlled off road vehicle which could tow a trailer through an extreme 4×4 course in the least amount of time.

They learned about suspension, electronics, centre of mass and other engineering principles.

Teacher Corey Geiskens who has been responsible for introducing the school to national STEM programs (they were also World Champions of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge) was honoured for his work by being made a Fellow of Re Engineering Australia Foundation, the not for profit organisation which has spent 19 years encouraging students into technical career paths via its hi-tech STEM activities.


Girls and STEM go together

By Craig Hingston

Whilst the traditional education system in Australia has found it challenging to encourage female students to want to take part in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects there is a privately operated organisation which is defying the national trend.

Thirty eight per cent of high school students engaged in STEM programs established by the not for profit Re-Engineering Australia Foundation are girls. In one state, Tasmania, the female to male ratio is an amazing 67 to 33 per cent. And, more than half (58 per cent) of all girls say that as a result of REA they have changed their career direction to one which involves STEM.

REA tapped into the psyche of young students almost 20 years ago when it launched a series of hands-on applied learning STEM competitions. They were based on the premise of giving teenagers a highly technical challenge and providing them with real-world technology to solve it. It wasn’t a case of learning from a textbook. They had to be self motivated and pursue the knowledge they needed.

The most well known competition, which attracts upwards of 40,000 students each year, is the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge. Others include Subs in Schools, the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge and Jaguar Primary School Challenge.

Founder Dr Michael Myers OAM confirmed the effectiveness of his unique methodologies with an extensive national survey of thousands of students which revealed their key drivers. Interestingly, the girls gave similar answers to the boys…

“I liked learning about cars. I liked being part of a team.”

“Designing the cars and racing them with other teams.”

“Teamwork designing the car.”

“Designing the car…manufacturing…everything!”

“I enjoyed the new experience it gave me and the hands on part.”

“I now have a much clearer understanding of STEM as a career.”

“Liked the fact that they use the same technology as industry.”

“I thought the project was cool.”

Girls of all ages have found a ‘perfect fit’ in many of the team roles, predominantly those of team manager, marketing manager and graphic designer. A number of teams feature female engineers and car designers.

The trend of female participation began early. When REA sent their first team to the F1 in Schools World Finals in England it was an all-girl team (Brisk In Pink). Since then female students have managed four teams to the World Finals competition resulting in three World Championships, a second place and a world speed record. Girls led both Australian teams to the 4×4 World Finals in 2015 and ’16 and returned with a World Championship and third place.

The first National Champions of the Subs in School program were all-girls and the newly crowned National Champions of F1 in Schools (Golden Diversity) are five girls from a high school in Launceston.

The F1 in Schools National Finals in Adelaide was a good indicator of just how well girls are embracing STEM. More than half of the teams (17 out of 30) included girls. Four were girls only and one had four girls and a lone boy. Nine teams were led by female managers and four had female design engineers.

A closer look at Golden Diversity – four 15 year olds and a 14 year old – reveals that although these young female teens weren’t aspiring to become engineers or technicians they were still intrigued by science and maths.

Their name comes from the diverse family origins of each member: Iraq, India, Vietnam, Scotland and England (plus Greece and Afghanistan for two original members who have since left).

“We saw it as a opportunity to extend our learning. Our school always taught us to take every opportunity offered to us so we decided to take a chance”, said team manager Yara Alkhalili about their simple beginnings back in 2015. They had no idea that 12 months later they would be runners-up at the National Finals and a year after that named the team that will represent their nation at the 2017 F1 in Schools World Finals.

Golden Diversity believes that women and men should receive equal opportunity in the area of STEM employment.

“Coming into such a male dominated competition, as an all girls team, we felt that we were underestimated because of our gender by other teams”, added Yarra, “The attitude towards us from other girls has been extremely positive with many young women coming up to us and saying that we have inspired them to pursue STEM opportunities. One example was the first development class team from the Illawarra to make it to the National Finals. They came up us to say that they met us at the last Nationals and we inspired them to take part in the competition. And here they are.”

The five girls aren’t yet certain which careers they will choose but they do say that exposure to STEM has opened an unimaginable number of doors.

“Through F1 in Schools we have gained important life long and transferable skills that will aid us in any career we want to pursue. It has had a considerable influence on how we approach the areas of careers we will pursue by giving us the practical and authentic learning environment in which to advance our skills and abilities. As well as giving us more opportunities within our schooling.”

Dr Myers, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, says the holistic platform of REA Foundation’s programs  address a breadth of key learning areas as well as ‘soft skills’ to maximise students’ employability,

“We link Schools, Industry, TAFE, Universities and parents in a collaborative and experiential learning environment focused on changing the metaphor of the education process. The challenge is multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. It encourages students to collaborate with industry partners within the context of their projects to learn about engineering principles such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, leadership/teamwork, media skills and project management, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive and exciting way.”


March to show you have no confidence in the Turnbull Government

On the weekend 15th – 16th of March 2014, a group of concerned citizens called out for people to take to the streets in a show of “No Confidence” in the policies of the current government. Up to 150,000 people responded, joining 30 marches and rallies around Australia. An estimated 40,000 in Melbourne alone.

Unfortunately, the time has come to call out again. We were promised better government, and not only has this not been delivered, it appears that daily, the elected members of this government find new levels of abhorrent behaviour, and out of touch policies to inflict pain and distress on workers, families, low income earners and welfare recipients.

March Australia (formerly March in March) will be holding a weekend of peaceful assemblies, nonpartisan citizens’ marches and rallies around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.
 This signifies a people’s vote of “no confidence” in the Coalition government policies and their budget, that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness, social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage.

In Melbourne, the March will take place on Saturday 25th March, 2017 at 1.00pm., starting at the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street.

March Australia, Melbourne would like to invite your organization and its members to march alongside other concerned citizens and groups in a show of concern and “No Confidence” in the current Australian government.

We would be grateful if you would help us spread the message among your workers, friends and networks.

The Melbourne March event and page can be promoted on your social media or web page by attaching the link: RSVP to our event

A flyer has been attached (see below) for you to print out and put up in your lunch rooms, local businesses, clubs or  any other place that will help people to see that we are calling out to March in March.

More information about March Australia can be found here: or at

The Melbourne March Australia team will be happy to answer any questions you may have via

The March Australia organizers request that all participants respect the non-partisan, lawful, peaceful and family-friendly nature of the march.

Andrea Gorman
Event Coordinator, March Australia, Melbourne

Longer Life, Healthier Life?

Courtesy of

The average human being is living longer than ever before. Nearly every country on the planet has seen an increase in life expectancy since the beginning of the 21st century.

But though we are living longer, not all of us are living healthier.

Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE), or healthy life expectancy, is a metric used by the World Health Organization to measure the number of years a person can expect to live in good health, taking social and economic factors into account alongside disease and disability rates.

When we deduct healthy life expectancy from actual life expectancy, we see the average amount of years someone can expect to live in bad health – or ‘Bad Health Years‘.

This infographic takes a country-by-country look at the change in bad health years since 2000 to see where people are living a longer, healthier life.









Life Expectancy changes since 2000

Besides Bad Health Years, we also made some interesting findings regarding life expectancy.

The Price of Conflict

Only two nations did not register an improvement in life expectancy: Iraq and Syria.

Life expectancy in Iraq stagnated, while in Syria it has decreased by 3 years.


Healthier, longer lives

A number of countries have witnessed a startling increase in life expectancy since the year 2000. The top 10 can all be found in Africa.

Working for Peace

By Robert Wood

Our international response must to the most vulnerable, those people who experience scarcity and difficulty on a daily basis. We can feed the poor, dig a well, help construct roads, provide basic access to medicine, help with environmental safeguards and clean up pollution.

In short, by being an activist state we must intervene in the affairs of other nations in a way that replicates the best work we have performed in Australia. That is what diplomacy is about because it is about the people, not about canapés and cocktails in fancy houses making secret deals with offshore powerbrokers.

There are the cost-effective programs in international development that Australian agencies need to participate in and enable. The specific requirements for what is good growth need to be determined by experts in those fields as well as on the ground and by communities with ideas of self-governance. The way to improve the world then, to change it, is not necessarily through compromise but collaboration, which is to say, a new project that exists out there must be agreed upon by everyone involved.

Development needs to be co-ordinated by the government. Which is to say, governance in NGO, the state and corporation, needs to be brought together to plan and implement the best possible good for the greatest number of people. This is about caring for people, which is what Australia should aim towards, as it continues to be a valued world citizen.  This is the opposite of Manus Island and the Pacific Solution.

This means we must keep our gaze firmly on global poverty. In speaking of Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo’s book Poor Economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, Pranab Bardan argues:

The poor often lack basic information about the benefits of children’s immunization and nutrition, the dangers of over-medication, the risks of HIV infection, how much fertilizer to use, and the quality of politicians vying for election….In response, Banerjee and Duflo suggest nudging poor people in the right direction by establishing various default options: savings accounts in which money is easy to deposit but somewhat difficult to take out, simple chlorine dispensers at drinking water collection points, and easy availability of salt fortified with iron and iodine. Of the various Randomised Control Testing findings, the two most cost-effective programs seem to be de-worming children in areas where intestinal worms are rampant and providing remedial education for poor children who fall behind in class.

But these are simply examples from specific cases that we can learn lessons from as well. This means the government must engage with international actors, prime among them, the United Nations.

Before the government backbench scuppered his candidacy for Secretary General, Kevin Rudd claimed there were ten essential elements in his plan to reform the UN. They were:

1. Integrating missions and agencies.
2. Planning policy that looked to the future.
3. Creating prevention rather than being simply reactionary.
4. Creating better crisis response.
5. Prioritising field operations over head office.
6. A Team UN that is multi-disciplinary.
7. Real results not conference halls.
8. ‘We the People’ partnerships with civil society and private sector.
9. Centrality of women.
10. Operations that are efficient, effective and flexible.

Although Rudd does admit that ‘these 10 basic principles are not exactly rocket science’, he leaves aside the fact that there are similarities between his principles (1, 5 and 7; 2 and 3). What is perhaps most galling however is that there is no agenda in terms of key problem areas.

The United Nations is a complex organisation just like any government, multinational corporation or international NGO. It has its own culture, its own history, its own metier. If outsider Jim Yong Kim’s difficulty in leading the World Bank is any guide, reforming the UN takes more than bureaucratic language and willpower.

In that way, it is salutary to return to when it was created and invest in its original purpose as a body devoted to peaceful co-operation. The United Nations is essentially a pacifist organisation, hence it has peacekeepers rather than soldiers.

The biggest change that the United Nations needs to make is to reform the relationship between the permanent and non-permanent members. That the division is essentially a Cold War one (USA and UK vs China and Russia, with France mediating discussions), reflects the fact that the UN was founded in an era before decolonisation, which is to say, before the independence of many of its member states.

The representation these countries continue to have, particularly the UK and France, does not adequately reflect the geopolitical conditions, now let alone, what they are predicted to become. Brazil, India and Nigeria each have greater claim than the faded European nations, but perhaps we would do better if there was no veto power because there was no permanency.

That is to say the method by which the Security Council is elected, with each of the world’s regions having a representative, has a better chance of creating consensus, stability and democracy in today’s world. Only when there is reform at this fundamental level might we see a truly democratic process in the diplomatic world.

Australia, as an activist state, must learn to interpret what is good in our own society and adapt and apply it to people elsewhere. I am thankful for our relative material equality, our emphasis on the natural environment, our toleration of religion and diversity, our hope.

These are all qualities we cannot take for granted at home and about which we must continue to fight. But it is also something we must learn to cultivate in pockets overseas. We must make our peacekeepers and diplomats ambassadors of non-violence, people who can take our enacted and embodied definition of the good life to the four corners and seven seas.

That is not about inventing a new plasma screen tv, but about sharing our Indigenous football codes, our paintings, our stories, our culture, as services that can build community no matter where we find people. That means treading new paths and re-invigorating old ones, it means changing with the times as well as being mindful of what has worked well in the past.

The key to good relationships is not the same type of knowledge, but it takes practice to learn how to get on with people. When we search for familiarity we will find it, and familiarity, as that starting point for connecting, is part and parcel of feeling good, and as Australians, we could feel better about our role and place in the world if only we saw through to our very best nature.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Scroll Up