The dawn of the new 42nd Parliament is a rare chance to draw a line under certain practices of the previous decade of Parliament, practices that had undermined some of the basic tenets of parliamentary democracy. The new tone has to be set from the outset. What precisely was wrong with our old Parliament? In essence, it has not been a place where ideas or legislation have been open for robust debate. Decisions were made by the Executive in private and Parliament served as a piece of hollow theatre to progress party political concerns in public, instead of serving as the accountability mechanism it was intended to be.
Ross Garnaut, who will report in June to the Rudd Government on its emissions trading system, is a former trade economist now spending a lot of time thinking about how to prevent powerful industries undermining the Government's plans. He has come up with a radical solution. Let's have one target, a carbon budget aimed at a 60 per cent cut by 2050, locked in and shored up by various devices, and let the market sort out how and when it will cut emissions to get there. It would be the ethical judgements of a handful of central bankers that would determine prices. Managing the stability of the money economy is a doddle compared to managing the Earth's climate.
The pressures on teenagers today are immense. Many are convinced that their entire lives will be determined by one number ”” their ENTER score. But, many who do not do well at school or university go on to have highly successful careers. And many who perform brilliantly at school and university somehow end up living obscure and unsatisfying lives. It is well known that a mature-age student whose entry score was so-so will usually outperform the school leaver with top marks. Taking some time off, studying at TAFE or working for a few years may be the best path to university. Mature students know what they want and have the life skills to make sure they get it.
The science is becoming more alarming by the month, and so are the impacts of global warming itself. The demand for decisive action can only intensify over the next three years; it will require far-sighted policies to bring about a wholesale transformation of the nation's energy economy, a structural change on a par with that brought about by the dismantling of tariff protection. The Howard Government has been punished by the electorate for its climate scepticism. Yet the expectation that Labor will take resolute action can only intensify.
Nearly 20 years ago I went through a process that is sometimes referred to as "the dark night of the soul". It is a phase of spiritual life that many people experience. The phenomenon is well known in the Catholic Church in all traditions. Openness is a virtue in public life. What an impoverished world it would be if everyone remained silent for fear of attempts to turn their honesty against them.
Over recent months, Minister Kevin Andrews has been bringing the new Australian Citizenship Test to fruition. This is a policy destined to fail utterly in its stated intention – "to help new citizens to embrace education, employment and other opportunities in Australia", according to the Government – but succeed in sending a message to voters who are concerned about how well immigrants are able to "integrate" into Australian society. What is interesting about this initiative is how a whole policy can actually function as a dog whistle.
Today's little girls aren't tottering around in mum's high heels. These days, nothing could be more daggy for a primary school girl than pretending to be her mum, or any other normal adult. So - at the risk of sounding repetitive - everyone please take note: premature sexualisation has nothing to do with children's creative "dress-up" play, nor any other aspect of their healthy development.
Comments this week by Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggest that the Government is beginning to realise the incompatibility between endless growth in the aviation sector and the prevention of dangerous climate change. Even if Australia adopts a lower target of 60% reductions by 2050, as the Labor Party has proposed, aviation could still gobble up more than half of Australia's emissions allowance by the middle of the century. These projections point to one conclusion: if nothing is done to curb aviation emissions, we won't be able to meet the targets that are necessary to deal with climate change.
The Prime Minister, various ministers and the fossil fuel lobby have for years claimed that cutting emissions would be economically ruinous, cause massive job losses and destroy our international competitiveness. None of these claims is backed by credible evidence and can easily be shown to be false.
Bashing baby boomers is becoming so passe. The Howard Government's Intergenerational Report found that the ageing of the population does not constitute a crisis but rather a fairly manageable transition. Despite this, a number of commentators continue to insist that the age pension claims of a large cohort of boomers will put unsustainable pressure on government finances and place an intolerable burden on younger generations.