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Budget for a post trickle down theory world

17 April 2016 | Fatima Measham

Banner says Dear 1 per cent, we fell asleep for a while, just woke upPeople are sensitised to government-enabled corporate excess and doubt elected officials are capable and willing to serve their interests. The lesson from the 2014 federal budget is that there are non-negotiables around the function of government: to provide the conditions that ensure the flourishing of all citizens. Yet in terms of future-proofing living standards, the Coalition has so far presided over an ideas bust rather than boom, unless boom is the sound of something spontaneously combusting.

Patrick Dodson's Senate mandate

14 April 2016 | Frank Brennan

Frank Brennan and Patrick DodsonThe royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, which signed off on its final reports 25 years ago this Friday, definitely improved the systems for supervision of persons in detention, reducing the risk of deaths in custody. It also led to better coronial procedures. But it failed to reverse Indigenous imprisonment rates and it did little to counter the underlying causes of Indigenous imprisonment. Back then, Patrick Dodson saw police as the main problem. Now, he thinks it's the legislators.

Homeless Persons Union holds state to account

14 April 2016 | Ellena Savage

Homeless Persons Union houseWhen we talk about the 'housing crisis' we are often referring to the plight of young working people and migrants struggling to tap into a property market that has been made a prestige market. This has been incentivised by tax breaks for investors, and is symptomatic of the culture of hoarding family wealth for the purpose of passing down class privilege. The Bendigo Street occupation reminds us that the 'housing crisis' is one and the same as the homelessness crisis; not a crisis of scarcity, but of policy.

New radicalisation on display at fundraiser protest

12 April 2016 | Lyn Bender

ProtestThe chants were thunderous and sustained, as the suited and elegantly coiffed guests began to arrive for the Liberal Party fundraiser at Docklands. Initially there did not seem to be a significant police presence, as if the need for security was not considered high. As the chanting rose to a crescendo, chaos ensued. The mounted police arrived; but there seemed no plan of crowd control. It was a small protest but it was locked into a contained area with only one entrance. Then the wounded started to emerge.

Don't fall for Humpty Dumpty politics

10 April 2016 | Justin Glyn

Humpty Dumpty style caricatures of Bill Shorten and Malcolm TurnbullWe got a lesson in the art of language from the Minister of Immigration, Peter Dutton, whose redefinition of the word 'detention' was reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty's remark in Alice Through the Looking Glass: 'When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' We are social creatures who make real decisions based on the representations of others. Once we know we cannot expect the truth from each other, especially those who govern, society can no longer function.

Bob Ellis the gifted troublemaker

04 April 2016 | Binoy Kampmark

Bob EllisEllis' work is a prime example of the notion advanced by the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: that committed literature, and the act of writing, are political and ethical acts. Even in a film script, one can ponder social political change. Always of the left, but never formally the structured party man of faction and following, the dishevelled, sometimes wild Ellis proved contrarian even to Labor stalwarts. There were never pious reflections, or unqualified praises.

System must work for victims, not against them

31 March 2016 | Fatima Measham

Woman with bruised faceFor victims and survivors, the royal commission report into family violence comes as catharsis. For activists and advocates, it is vindication. Perpetrators thrive on impunity. Impunity is built on uncertainty of punishment, cultures of silence, victim-blaming and perceived collusion with figures of authority. Dismantling this is central to violence prevention and ensuring the safety of women and children in the home. The royal commission addresses this goal across 227 recommendations.

The value of protest lies in ritual not results

30 March 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Protestors at the Victorian State Library on Palm SundayThe Palm Sunday Refugee Marches have come and gone; the travails of people who seek asylum continue. In a recent article that reflects her rich experience, Moira Rayner was right to say that marches are not effective in changing policy. Where they are, as in the Vietnam War marches in Australia or in Manila under Marcos, the fortress was already crumbling. Yet even when they are not effective, marches are not a waste of energy. Their value lies not in their effectiveness but in their ritual.

The bleeding obvious about homelessness

29 March 2016 | John Falzon

Cardboard houseThe Prime Minister wants us to be clever. Well how about we make sure everybody's got a place to call home? The problem of homelessness and the shortage of social and affordable housing is so huge that we need a massive solution and a massive financial commitment if we want to lay claim to being civilised and fair, let alone smart and innovative. This is why, among things such as reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax, we need a $10 billion social and affordable housing fund.

Jailing fine defaulters punishes poverty

29 March 2016 | Kate Galloway

Ms DhuAround half of Indigenous prisoners in Roebourne Regional Prison are there on driving offences. Many Indigenous Australians do not have birth certificates and therefore cannot get a drivers licence. Yet those who live in remote areas often have no means of transport other than by car. When they are caught driving unlicensed, they receive a fine, and since many are unable to pay, they are consequently are jailed. And as we all know, jail is a particularly risky place for Indigenous Australians.

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