Peter Mares

Disaster movies tend to follow a similar arc. Our band of heroes not only has to survive flames engulfing the skyscraper or sea water flooding the cruise liner, but must also triumph over the calculated selfishness of others who are also scrambling for salvation. The implication is that, with few exceptions, Thomas Hobbes was right. Amid the upheaval of the English Civil War, Hobbes declared that our natural human condition is a war of all against all, and that order can only be secured by a powerful ruler, a Leviathan, that keeps our naked urges in check. The social contract of considerate behaviour and thoughtfulness towards others is a thin veneer. Under pressure it peels away, and we are soon at one another’s throats in a life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

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In Australia, debate about population runs in well-worn grooves. The focus is on size – ‘big Australia’ versus ‘not-so-big Australia’ – and the tool used to regulate numbers is immigration. When politicians link population growth to excessive house prices, traffic congestion, unemployment, or crime, they call for immigration cuts, not for birth control.

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In his analysis of Australia’s growing urban inequality, Peter Mares recounts a conversation with a homeless man outside a train station while Mares was walking his dog. The dog is well fed and has a warm place to sleep, but Mares can only give the man a few coins. These are implicit priorities we all share. Why, asks Mares, do Australians unhesitatingly spend $750 million annually on ...

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Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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Migration is widely regarded as one of the most important policy issues on the global agenda. Not only does it have economic implications for states, it also poses certain challenges for ...

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This month marks a grim anniversary: four years ago, in August 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard re-introduced a policy of offshore processing for asylum seekers ...

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Does a law change the way people behave and think? Can it accelerate a shift in cultural norms? These are some of the questions that emerge from this reflection on Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act (1975).

Tim Soutphommasane is hardly a disinterested commentator, since he owes his current job as Racial Discrimination Commissioner to the very a ...

Confessions of a People-Smuggler by Dawood Amiri & The Undesirables by Mark Isaacs

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October 2014, no. 365

Peter Mares reviews two memoirs which offer new perspectives on the problems faced by asylum seekers.

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Usually, significant books are revisited on significant anniversaries. By these lights, Mike Berry’s critical re-evaluation of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society should have appeared in 2008, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its original publication. In this instance, we can be grateful that normal publishing practice has not been followed, ...

Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It by Andy Lamey & Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political by Anne McNevin

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April 2012, no. 340

Australian advocates of a harsh line against asylum seekers arriving by boat often base their arguments on a concern for the protection of human life. Unless we deter boat people, so the reasoning goes, ever greater numbers will set out on the dangerous voyage from Indonesia, and more and more lives will be lost at sea ...

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