Kieran Pender

It is a damning – if not altogether surprising – indictment on our public discourse that the average Australian knows far more about political and social developments on the other side of the world than about those occurring in our ‘near abroad’. It takes just fifteen minutes to travel in a dinghy from the northern most island in the Torres Strait to Papua New Guinea. The flight from Darwin to Timor-Leste lasts barely an hour. If visitors were permitted in Indonesian-controlled West Papua, the trip from Australia to Merauke, by plane from Darwin or boat from the Torres Strait, would not take much longer. Yet judging by the sparse coverage these regions receive in our press and by their minimal prominence in our politics, they might as well be on Mars.

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There is a senior partner at my firm who famously harasses young women particularly when he has been drinking at social events. I was groped on two separate occasions. Nothing was done about it the first time I reported it. I did not report it the second time.

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As with many authors, Covid-19 forced Catherine Bond to cancel the launch event for her new book. But unlike most authors’ work, the contemporary relevance of Bond’s latest book has been considerably heightened by the ongoing pandemic. Indeed, in the midst of this crisis it is hard to imagine a historical text timelier than Law in War: Freedom and restriction in Australia during the Great War. A century later, lessons from that era are still instructive today.

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Whistleblowing has a long history. The Ancient Greeks had a term for it: parrhēsia, or fearless speech. In the seventh century, a British king introduced the world’s first whistleblowing law, encouraging his citizens to report those who worked on the Sabbath. Ever since the phrase ‘whistleblower’ was coined in the 1970s, the concept has gained renewed salience. In an era of widespread fraud and corruption, those prepared to speak up perform an essential service to society.

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Cass Sunstein, a noted American constitutional scholar, once lamented: ‘The notion that the government may control information at its source is at odds with the idea that the purpose of a system of free expression is to control the conduct of representatives.’ In a liberal democracy – supposedly of the people, by the people, for the people – political opacity is inconsistent with the central premise of government.

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The war on journalists and whistleblowers

Kieran Pender
Monday, 21 October 2019

It is a famous parable. If a frog is dropped in boiling water, it will immediately leap out. But if placed in tepid water that is gradually heated, the frog will not notice the increasing temperature until it is boiled alive. The parable may be biologically inaccurate, but it remains instructive in the context of civil liberties ...

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This is an unusual book. It is, so the title indicates, about guns and firearm regulations in Australia, with some comparison to the United States. But, as a prefatory note to readers cautions, ‘this book is less about guns and more about the continuing tension between the authority and power of the state and the responsibilities and entitlements of citizens ...

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The world, according to writer Oliver Bullough, has a problem. One unexpected consequence of globalisation and the liberalisation of financial policy has been an increasing flow of money across borders. This has given rise to a new global élite. Aided by seemingly respectable lawyers, bankers, and real estate agents ...

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‘To me,’ Shane Warne once said, ‘cricket is a simple game.’ Australia’s best-ever bowler may not be a renowned sporting philosopher, but his words echo throughout Gideon Haigh’s latest book. In recent years, governing body Cricket Australia and an army of corporate consultants have sought to ...

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Winston Churchill once famously said of Russia: ‘It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ The aphorism is still cited regularly today by analysts and commentators confused by the opaque Russian state. Regrettably, the sentences that followed have been largely consigned to history ...

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