Archive | The Drum

A week our leaders will want to forget

When voters walk into polling booths in roughly one million years time, by which I mean on July 2, they will be thinking about their houses, and not just because they may well resent being asked to leave them in order to head down to a polling booth.

As I’ve already argued on this august website, the choice of housing policies provides an unusually clear contrast between the two major parties on one of the most fundamental and tangible of subjects.

Our houses matter to us. They’re the stage on which we live out our lives, and are generally the most important investment we’ve made for the future.

The same is true for our politicians, except that the houses in which they live at least part of their lives are often owned by their spouses, meaning that the mortgage is helpfully paid off by us taxpayers. Continue Reading →

Why’s Australia ruining Eurovision?

Today, Australia rejoices, because for the second year in a row, we are in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Our contestant, Dami Im, smashed it in the semi-final, and will go on to potential Eurovisual glory later this weekend.

I hope she does well. Her song is ideal – it sounds like she assembled scientists in some high-powered audio lab and asked them to blend Adele with Stock Aitken and Waterman, plus a twist of ABBA. Perfect for Eurovision.

But even more sincerely, I hope that her performance in the final achieves another landmark for our proud, musical land. I hope it’s our last-ever appearance in the Song Contest. Continue Reading →

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.” Continue Reading →

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. Continue Reading →

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. Continue Reading →

How I invented the Asiavision Song Contest

Some things are worth waiting for. This week, Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in 88 years. Scientists saw the shockwave from a supernova for the very first time. And SBS announced plans to host an Asia-Pacific version of Eurovision.

I called for this in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald way back in 2003, and obviously my wise counsel set the ball rolling, albeit extremely slowly.

And yes, I am taking credit for this; and no, I don’t care how many other people suggested it, nor how incredibly obvious it might seem. Continue Reading →

How to avoid tweeting your way to unemployment

Free speech is a fine thing. Unfettered self-expression is a precious gift. Some might say that in a democracy such as ours, it should have no limits whatsoever.

But in this era where we all carry portable publishing devices in our pockets, it should definitely have limits, and even if your employer doesn’t impose them on you the way the ABC does on people like me, it makes good sense to impose similar rules on yourself.

So, with that in mind, here’s some advice about how not to screw up on Twitter, the premier platform for laying social media landmines that explode beneath you at the most inopportune moments. Continue Reading →

Say hello to election mania – and I do mean mania

Guessing what’s in Malcolm Turnbull’s head. That’s what anyone with a passing interest in Australian politics will be doing for the next three months or so. In fact, it’s recently overtaken Pin The Appropriation On The Responsible Subcommittee as Canberra’s favourite parlour game.

No doubt the PM’s head contains many things – public transport maps of our major cities, including photogenic selfie locations, and more Thucydides than anybody outside of a university classics department could possibly need. I suspect there are more tasty stories about Kerry Packer in there somewhere, too.

But if you searched long and hard enough, peeling back the layers of legal arcana and shimmying around the complex corporate structures contained therein, you would find an election date. Continue Reading →

If crooks can communicate securely, why can’t we?

If we learned one thing from the drama surrounding Edward Snowden and his revelations about the National Security Agency, it’s that Russia is still the best place to go if you have US secrets to peddle.

But if we learned another, it’s that governments are able to access far more of our personal information than we previously thought.

Even before we heard about PRISM and the rest, we were on notice that what we keep on our phones can be vulnerable. Way back in 2005, Paris Hilton (remember her?) had the contents of her T-Mobile Sidekick (bet you don’t remember them) uploaded all over the internet.

It’s happened to a litany of celebrities in the years since – Paris always was at the cutting edge of fashion. Continue Reading →