The Emerging Politics of Climate Change

Published in Arena magazine (Melbourne) No.92, Dec-Jan 2007-08

One of the enduring puzzles about the political response to climate change is the polite behaviour of those who are most aware of the impending problems. For many years activists have undertaken well behaved demonstrations, eloquent public statements and respectable lobbying but little beyond this range of polite political action.

Family values and the renewal of social democracy

[The following article appeared in the British journal 'Renewal' (Vol 15, Nos 2/3, 2007.]

Why worry about the family? To many in social democracy and the Left, issues surrounding the family are of secondary importance to those of the economy and equality. Moreover, public debate around the family is part of the discourse of social conservatism and the Right.

Libertarian capitalism is unsustainable

This talk was given at a community forum in Coledale on the NSW south coast. It is also on Youtube at

Today I want to look at some of the issues that go beyond the current election and look at the future of Australia, long term. Certain issues won't go away whatever side wins the current election. And unless you identify those long term issues and deal with them, then politics just becomes small scale tactical fights in which nothing of substance is achieved, and politics becomes spin and PR.

Right and Left and 'human nature'

There was a time on university campuses when you could provoke a violent argument if you mentioned 'human nature' as an explanatory factor in human affairs. Marxists, postmodernists, liberals and common-or-garden sociologists would tell you emphatically, that the world is socially constructed. Some would argue that ideas of 'human nature' are merely rightwing code for excusing racism or a justification for a belief in the natural superiority of males or of the 'naturally' violent or selfish actions of human beings.

Ideas and strategy in progressive politics

(This short paper was circulated to the Progressive Ideas Network, a group of trade unions, think tanks and community organizations which has met several times in Sydney in the last 12 months.)

I believe the progressive movement is at a critical moment. On a global level the Right has foundered. The debacle in Iraq speaks for itself; the refusal by the advanced industrial countries to deal with climate change is frightening; the war on terror increasingly results in the demonisation of all Muslims and the revival of religious and race based hatred. On many of these issues the instincts and values of the progressive movement have been proven more reliable and more humane than those of the Right.

The utopia of economic liberalism

A talk to a forum on the government's 'Workchoices' law in Newcastle,

26 May 2007.

Ideas are the foundation stones in politics. And as with a house or building, the foundations are often hidden. Being aware of the foundations and examining their weaknesses and strengths is crucial to understand the more visible political superstructure.

What happened to the Left?

(This article appeared in the April-May issue of Arena, 'the Australian magazine of left political, social and cultural commentary'. Arena can be found at )

Though battered and bruised, the Left in Australia has good reason to be optimistic, or at least feel vindicated. The invasion of Iraq, as predicted, has turned into a murderous folly. Instead of being the seedbed of democracy, Iraq has sprouted toxic forms of inter-Islamic terrorism. Global warming, which the Left warned about more than 20 years ago, is now accepted as a major threat confronting humanity.

The Invisible hand is crushing the social heart

When John Howard and Peter Costello were pushing their new laws on industrial relations through parliament, they discovered they had an unlikely opponent. Senator Steve Fielding of the conservative Family First party told parliament that he opposed the new laws because they undermined the family. The new laws, he said, were market friendly, not family friendly. Senator Fielding was like the boy in Hans Christian Anderson's moral fable who punctures the Emperor's vanity by pointing out that he has no clothes.

Idealistic Terrorists

A classic mistake in conflict is to underestimate your enemy. In the conflict with Osama Bin Laden and his followers, this underestimation takes the form of seeing only the violence of Islamic terrorism and not its idealism.