Articles

Freelance writing for SMH.com.au, The Glebe, Cleo, SundayLife and elsewhere

Court throws Manus overboard, so what’s next?

As someone who was briefly detained after the botched execution of a Chaser prank, I’m a fan of the rule that people shouldn’t be locked up without a good reason. This notion, which goes back to the Roman principle of habeas corpus, is the crux of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the detention of asylum-seekers on Manus Island.

Reading section 42 of the PNG constitution, I wonder why we ever thought it would permit the detention of people who have committed no crime. It prevents detention except under specific circumstances – although it’s unclear whether that covers pranks involving public nudity.

Shouldn’t arbitrary detention bother Australians, too? We often throw up our hands when an Aussie’s locked up overseas even after being convicted, but we’re fine with locking up non-Australians who’ve dared to seek asylum. Which is not only no crime, but protected by a treaty to which we’re a signatory.Read More »Court throws Manus overboard, so what’s next?

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Cheaper houses, or secure investments? We can’t have both

We Australians are simple folk. All we ask of this world is a successful cricket team, an internet connection fast enough to pirate Game of Thrones, and a little patch of the earth to call our own. Ideally with a two-car garage, if you’re asking; and a rumpus room, backyard pool and maybe water views.

Our enduring dream of home ownership is why so many elections have been fought over the sacred turf of the Aussie backyard. John Howard was most explicit about it, campaigning in 2004 with the emotive slogan “Who do you trust to keep interest rates low?”

The former PM understood that his “battlers” in places like Western Sydney were mortgaged to the hilt and feeling precarious, and even though his opponent was one of them in Liverpool’s own Mark Latham, Howard prevailed.”Read More »Cheaper houses, or secure investments? We can’t have both

How to survive Election 2016

Brace yourself, Australia. The 2016 federal election is roughly seventy days away, and if you want to know how long that is, it’s several weeks longer than your longest holidays in high school – even if you went to a private school.

It’s going to be gruelling even if you adore politics – even junkies can overdose. Several respected political reporters will be reduced to gibbering heaps by campaign’s end, and several commentators will be transformed from gibbering heaps into reasonable people.

If you aren’t into politics – that is, if you’re normal – it will be like being slowly having your teeth pulled, without anaesthetic, while the world’s most boring person reads statistical manuals to you. And because the Commonwealth for some reason doesn’t fund dental care, you’ll have to pay for the pleasure.Read More »How to survive Election 2016

Think before you snatch and grab

The would-be abductors have walked free. After several dramatic days of blanket media coverage, Sally Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team have been treated with more civility and process than they intended to utilise themselves with their ill-conceived plan to snatch Faulkner’s children from their Lebanese family.

And while they still face charges from the Lebanese state, and have paid bail accordingly, they must be incredibly relieved to be en route back to Australia, presumably just in time for an exclusive presentation this coming Sunday night.Read More »Think before you snatch and grab

Why are we still paying for stuff with pieces of plastic?

Cash is king, the old saying goes. Well, it’s time that particular monarch was overthrown. How is it that in 2016, when we carry the internet in our pockets, we still conduct transactions by exchanging brightly-coloured pieces of plastic with numbers written on them? And how is carrying a jangling bunch of metal coins around in any way efficient?

Coins and notes were useful instruments in their day, but that day is over. Increasing numbers of us no longer carry notepads and pencils wherever we go, or look at the mechanical hands of a wristwatch when we want to know the time, and it’s time for the practice of carrying cash to follow these devices into the dustbin of history.Read More »Why are we still paying for stuff with pieces of plastic?

How would Australia deal with President Trump?

  • Blog, SMH

Somewhere in Canberra, in a bunker that requires a retina scan for entry and is swept hourly for bugs, experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Defence Force and the Advanced Hair Studio are undoubtedly war-gaming a scenario that was once unthinkable, but is now looking increasingly likely: President Trump.

Once best known for fake-sacking fake employees and writing his name on garish buildings, the billionaire’s candidacy has gone from enacting a joke from The Simpsons to becoming the Republican frontrunner, while remaining no less amusing.Read More »How would Australia deal with President Trump?

A ridiculously slow road to a fast train

For years, I’ve dreamed of sauntering down to Melbourne’s Southern Cross station and sliding into a comfortable seat on board a shiny new Very Fast or even Extremely Fast Train. I’d sit and work on my laptop, or read a book, or recline my seat to take a nap while the landscape whizzed by, faster than a Saudi diplomat being pursued by the AFP.

Occasionally, kind people would come past with coffee and snacks, and perhaps an in-seat massage. And then, less than three hours later, I’d alight at Sydney Central, and get on with my day.Read More »A ridiculously slow road to a fast train

If our homes are our castles, can we smoke them up?

Every year, it gets a little harder to be a smoker. Successive governments have ratcheted pack prices further upwards – another hike is on the way if Bill Shorten is elected, and the Coalition may follow the same path.

The way things are going, future treasurers and finance ministers will indulge in a decadent puff on a cigarette instead of a cigar before handing down a federal budget.Read More »If our homes are our castles, can we smoke them up?

The piece on procrastination I’ve always meant to write

I’ve always been a procrastinator. I’ve been meaning to write about this problem for a while, but never quite got around to it. And then, out of the blue, Daily Life suggested it – presumably after several years’ experience with my work habits.

And yes, it’s true – my approach to any task is to work out how late before the deadline I have to start, and then start considerably later.

At uni, I got to the point where my standard approach to any essay was to start the night before – even the 6000-word ones. As the years passed, I began them later and later, until I wasn’t starting until dawn on the due date.

From the outset, let me be clear – this is a really bad idea.Read More »The piece on procrastination I’ve always meant to write

Is it too hard to be prime minister in 2016?

In the future, Andy Warhol said, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. In Australia’s future, everyone will be prime minister for 15 minutes, before being brutally rolled.

We’ve had five prime minsters since John Howard powerwalked away after 11 years, and not one has served a full term. Our political system’s become as volatile as Kanye West on Twitter.

Voters are realising they rejected Labor’s musical chairs only to sign up for the Coalition version. Polls recently hit fifty-fifty and the PM is running against both the Opposition leader and his predecessor, who’s been dubbed “Tony Rudd“.Read More »Is it too hard to be prime minister in 2016?