August 31, 2017

Imagine you are the Vice Chancellor of an Australian University, an extremely demanding job. You are approached by the Australian Human Rights Commission because they are concerned that a rape culture is prevalent in Australian Universities. They seek your commitment to a survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment to measure the extent of the problem. How could you possibly decline?

When the survey is done, it reports that “around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasi...

November 27, 2016

Last Tuesday I had the honour to address the Adam Smith Club on the topic 

Taking Responsibility for Ourselves and our Children: A Defense of Bill Leak's Message and his Right to say it.

My address concluded as follows:

I would now like to return to the point where we started – the Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. To be effective, any solution must consider why so many indigenous teenagers are in the prison system and how to reduce the numbers entering it. We cannot ignore the fact that fractured communities and poor parenting are a major cause.

Over the past cen...

October 15, 2016

In July 2016, following the expose on Four Corners, Prime Minister Turnbull announced a Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.

Many of our indigenous citizens live appalling lives in fractured communities. Far too many indigenous teenagers are incarcerated. Their treatment there is horrific, brutal and inhumane. It is morally unacceptable. Something must be done.

How effective will a Royal Commission be? Is it the appropriate solution? Has the real problem been identified?

To be effective, any solution must consider why so many indigenous teenagers are in the prison s...

Tolerance is an important virtue in a modern liberal democracy. This has been highlighted by the current brouhaha about ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refusing to sit next to women on planes.

 

Formerly, many societies shared common cultural and religious beliefs. Nowadays most societies are pluralist. The political culture of such democratic societies is marked by a diversity of opposing and irreconcilable religious, philosophical and moral disciplines. It is important to realise and accept that such views can be reasonably held.

 

Consequently there is a need to embrace often conflicting values. You...

April 24, 2015

The reform of the welfare state is going to require courage, intellectual honesty and a willingness to admit that cherished beliefs were wrong.


Politically, many of my friends are a little left of centre. I observe them having great difficulty coming to grips with the moral failures of the welfare state and its financial unsustainability. This is quite understandable. Their beliefs about social fairness are deeply held but seldom subjected to rational debate.


The following quote from Yuval Levin, Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington clearly articulates what is wro...

March 29, 2015

Noel Pearson is admired as one of Australia’s great political leaders and thinkers.  Last week, he released a 165-page document Empowered Communities: Empowered Peoples recommending radical changes to government policies for Indigenous Australians.

 

Instead of policies being determined by bureaucrats in our capital cities and delivered by a largely non-indigenous support industry, the report calls for the decision making and its execution to be devolved to empowered communities.

 

The idea is that is the principle of subsidiarity should apply.  As Craig Ingrey of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal L...

March 22, 2015

I wonder why the focus of our solutions for social problems seems to be to ask strangers to deal with them and government to fund it.

 

The incidence of family violence in Broken Hill is met by calls to restore funding of a legal aid facility. The incidence of vandalism by 12-year olds in Kununurra is met by calls for improved juvenile detention facilities.

 

In both cases, attention to the root causes of the problems might be more effective – minimizing or preventing the problems rather than treating the consequences. In both cases, one wonders what family, friends, neighbours and workmates were...

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