Australia's largest cities are urban planning disaster zones. Two facts in particular bear this out. First is the ongoing housing affordability crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Second is the relentless march of car-dependent urban sprawl, which continues to devour remnant native vegetation and good farming land. You get an eyeful of this latter problem as you approach Perth by plane, by some accounts the second-biggest metropolis in the world by surface area.
In the discussion about Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate and her recent appearance on ABC's Q&A there have been appeals by some commentators to go easy on her because: "She is just saying what a lot of people are thinking". Well, dopey racist ideas need to be condemned for what they are, regardless of how many people share them. This defence of Hanson is like the completely false idea that the degrading treatment of asylum seekers by Labor and Coalition governments is just responding to what the voters want. This of course puts the cart before the horse.
The 2016 federal election has confirmed the continuing decline of Australia's two-party system. The relative stability that characterised the decades after World War II was shaped by a phase of unprecedented economic growth, record low unemployment and mass home ownership. But that is long gone, in fact it was an aberration. Our system of single member electorates helped paper over the current period of rising economic insecurity, but inevitably politics is catching up.
A growing number of local councils and universities are divesting from financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel extraction. This is a great credit to climate change campaigners around the country. It points the way forward towards the even greater shift in investment priorities that we will need to make if we are to stop catastrophic runaway global warming.
Is there anything more wretched and dishonest than the suggestion by pro-capitalist media commentators that any attempt by working people to claw back a fraction of the wealth they create every day represents the "politics of envy"? It is even more poisonous when coupled with an effort to breed resentment towards fellow workers who have managed to fight for and win better wages and conditions that others. An example is the crass attempt to whip up outrage about Victorian construction workers winning a 15% wage rise over three years.
Remember last year when federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, picking up where Joe Hockey left off, declared that we had a spending problem not a revenue problem? That seems like a long time ago now. They did try to increase revenues by floating an increase in the GST but soon after came the revelation that 600 of Australia's biggest companies paid no tax and hundreds more pay less that the 30% they could be paying. This is all the more galling when you consider that the rate has been cut from the 48% it had been in the early 1980s. And then came the Panama Papers!
"Cool fuel" was the groovy title of the Ed! supplement about natural gas in the April 5 edition of The West Australian that gets distributed to all our schools. To be sure natural gas is "cool" when liquefied. But nowhere among the topics covered, such as "Careers in LNG", "Power to You" and "West is best" is there any mention of natural gas as a significant contributor to catastrophic global warming. Nor does it mention that because of fugitive emissions in the production cycle natural gas is up there with coal as a carbon polluter.
The Walyalup-Fremantle branch of the Socialist Alliance announced on April 6 that Chris Jenkins will be its candidate for Fremantle in the federal election. Twenty-six-year-old Jenkins is a nurse at Fremantle Hospital and resident of South Fremantle. He completed his degree at the University of Notre Dame, where he also campaigned for students' right to free speech in the face of stiff opposition from the university administration to students speaking out in favour of LGBTI rights.
The Perth Freight Link (PFL) project ground to a halt on December 16 when Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin ruled environmental approvals for the Roe 8 freeway through the Beeliar Wetlands were invalid. Incredibly, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had argued it was not bound by its own policy when assessing and granting approval. This result comes on top of a 2013 decision that the EPA had bungled approvals for the James Price Point gas processing facility.
On the day Tony Abbott was rolled, one of my family members, who lives in Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth, posted a one line warning on Facebook: "Beware the silver fox." Well, it proved true remarkably quickly. A concerted attack on Medicare is in full swing and it has one clear objective: dismantling public health care and replacing it with a US-style privatised system that costs more, delivers inferior outcomes and leaves the poorest to die.