Private v public: when parental fear comes up against the research

In the anxious race to get our children ahead of others, the local high school is collateral damage. Neoliberalism might be unravelling, but its legacy lives on. What is more important to your child’s educational achievement: keeping your home stocked with books or tipping $250,000 of your after-tax income per child into the coffers of…

A Saintly Affair

On the day the striking chestnut with a giant stride was beaten a neck by Octagonal in the AJC Derby, I stood in the crowded Ballarat TAB and loudly proclaimed, ‘Octagonal will never beat Saintly again.’ TABs are full of unhappy gamblers swearing and moaning through their wallets. In the main, they are not women.…

The year Australia’s newspapers broke me

In 1893, US publisher Sam McClure established McClure’s Magazine, employing a crack team of writers including Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker and Lincoln Steffens. McClure’s Magazine became famous for its in-depth exposés of the dark underbelly of the US during the ‘Gilded Age’. McClure sent his writers on long, well-funded assignments of up to six…

Disabled workers win $100m fair pay case: a 2016 good news story

Despite the government’s extraordinary attempts to defeat it, intellectually disabled workers have won a claim for about $100m in unpaid wages 2016 has been by any standards, an awful year. A volatile and hateful politics swept through the United States and Europe. Neoliberalism fell over and took the left with it. A who’s who of…

Precarious work structures foster parasite economy that cut workers’ pay

In the lead up to the federal election, Woolworths got lucky. On June 26 the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) published a scathing report about Woolworths’ mistreatment of its underpaid trolley workers. The timing of the report – one week out from the end of a marathon election campaign – guaranteed scant press coverage. Woolworths was…

Reclaiming Mutual Obligation

In 1906, the formidable US president, Theodore Roosevelt, wrestled with the dilemma of how to regulate burgeoning monopolies which resisted paying tax, affording decent wages and government regulation. Insisting that corporations provide transparent reports to government on their capitalisation, profits and financial structures, Roosevelt declared that the state “has got to possess the right of…

Alarmism, economic idiocy, and Orwellian appointments: three years of political disaster

How to explain the trainwreck that is the last three years of the federal government? The debacle poses a challenge that will dog journalists, policy wonks and historians for decades to come. The explanations for its dysfunction and sustained under-achievement are complex, but there are at least two distinct theories worth considering. In Malcolm Turnbull’s…

The great Australian superannuation swindle

So you think super is good for the workers? Well, it’s certainly great for the financial services industry. The competition to manage your superannuation is big business. So too is not paying superannuation to workers. Either way, an enormous number of employees are duped and dudded by Australia’s existing superannuation policy. An estimated 650,000 employees…

The ABC is like a victim trapped in an abusive relationship – with the government

2015 ended pretty much like every other year. On 21 December, the Liberal senator Eric Abetz heralded the appointment of Michelle Guthrie, the new ABC managing director, with an injunction to “stop the lefty love-in that has taken hold of the organisation” and restore “editorial balance”. In language eerily familiar to student politicians across the…

Take a bow, taxpayers of Australia

Sadly, the notion that paying tax is both necessary and desirable is modern-day heresy. If the American doctor, poet and academic Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94) time-travelled to Australia in 2015, all hell might break loose. Why? Because Holmes would be regarded as an enemy of the state on the question of tax. Because he once famously…

The great Uber fairness fallacy: as a driver, how do you bargain with an app?

Businesses have been shedding their identity as employers for at least 30 years, profiting from the work performed by ‘independent contractors’ without the cost, risk or aggravation of actually dealing with employees. Whining about cab drivers transcends national boundaries. From New York to Sydney, the complaints are indistinguishable. Sitting among 450 of the world’s leading…

The Catholic church needn’t wait for a national redress scheme. It can act morally now.

By acting unilaterally to adequately compensate victims of sexual abuse, the Catholic church would send a powerful message that is has changed. At first glance, a national redress scheme for victims of childhood sexual abuse, jointly funded by government, churches, schools and other institutions, might seem like a sensible idea. A meaningful form of redress…