All posts filed under: Australia

Captain Cook and the Colonial Paradox

On April 29th, 1770, a longboat from the Royal Navy bark Endeavour grounded on Silver Beach at Botany Bay in what is now Sydney’s southern suburbs. Isaac Smith, a young midshipman, leapt out and became the first European to set foot on Australia’s east coast. Four men followed—Swedish scientist Daniel Solander, English Botanist Joseph Banks, Tahitian navigator Tupaia, and the commander of the expedition, Lieutenant James Cook. They had rowed towards an encampment of the Gweagal Aboriginal people in the hope of speaking to the inhabitants. However, all the people had fled, save for two men, who seemed determined to oppose Cook’s landing. Cook tried to speak to them, but to no avail—neither he nor Tupaia could understand the language they called back in. Cook tried throwing some nails and beads onto the shore as a peace offering, but they didn’t understand the gesture, and according to Cook, made as if they were going to attack. He fired a musket between them, and one responded by throwing a rock. He fired a second shot, wounding …

Pell’s Pyrrhic Victory

In an essay published on this site nearly two months ago, I analysed George Pell’s conviction for child sex offences alleged to have occurred in Melbourne, Australia, in December 1996 and February 1997. On Tuesday, Australia’s highest court unanimously ruled—along substantially the same lines as those explored in my argument—that Pell was wrongfully convicted. A short time later the 78-year-old was released from the maximum security prison in which he had been serving his sentence in solitary confinement. The question for the High Court was the same as that presented to the Victorian Court of Appeal which rejected Pell’s first appeal: was it open to the jury, acting reasonably, to convict the accused based on the available evidence? Rarely for a case heard in the nation’s highest court, the judges were concerned principally with factual rather than legal matters. The court reviewed the evidence and concluded that a rational jury could not have convicted Pell on this basis, and that the Victorian Court of Appeal erred in failing to find this. The accusations, briefly stated, …

Convictions and Doubts: The Case of Cardinal Pell

On 9 January 2020, officials at the Melbourne Assessment Prison intercepted a drone flying over the prison grounds. Remotely piloted aircraft are banned within 120 metres of a correctional facility in the Australian state of Victoria to avoid the smuggling of contraband and other security breaches. This drone was not fitted with drugs or weapons or mobile phones but a camera its operator hoped would capture the prison’s highest profile inmate. That inmate was Cardinal George Pell, the most senior member of the Catholic Church ever convicted of child sex offences. Pell was moved to Barwon prison after the drone incident. Barwon houses Victoria’s most dangerous offenders, including serial killers Gregory Brazel and Paul (now Paula) Denyer, terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Barbaro ‘Ndrangheta crime clan leader Pasquale Barbaro. It was Barwon where the leader of a prison gang beat well-known Melbourne crime figure Carl Williams to death with a metal rod extracted from an exercise bike in 2011. From Ballarat to Barwon via Oxford and Rome Barwon is a mere one hour drive from …

Why Is a Top Australian University Supporting Indigenous Creationism?

The Australian recently reported that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is advising its staff to avoid teaching students about the arrival of Australian Indigenous people onto the Australian continent. As part of the development of materials used to guide teaching, the university has produced a diversity toolkit in regard to culturally diverse students. One of these, entitled Appropriate Terminology, Indigenous Australian People, provides guidelines about how staff should refer to Aboriginal people, their culture and events connected with the arrival of Europeans. For instance, it advises staff not to describe Australia as having been “discovered’ in 1788 (when the first fleet of British ships arrived at Sydney), since this implicitly denies the fact that Australia already was occupied by Aboriginal peoples. Such information already is standard for anyone in Australia who has familiarised themselves with the approved form of navigating discussion of Indigenous issues. While the vast majority of the advice contained in the document is cultural in its orientation (albeit with a decidedly political flavour at some points), the guidelines occasionally wander …

At Australian Ballot Boxes, the Left’s Empathy Deficit Came Home to Roost

The result of Saturday’s federal election in Australia is being treated as the most staggering political shocker in my country since World War II. Scott Morrison, leading the Liberal Party, looks to have won a majority government—a result that defies three years of opinion polling, bookie’s odds and media commentary. In the aftermath, analysts on both sides are trying to explain what went wrong for the centre-left Australian Labor Party, and what went right for the centre-right Liberals. Some attribute the result to Morrison’s personal likeability, and his successful targeting of the “quiet Australian” demographic—the silent majority whose members feel they rarely have a voice, except at the ballot box. Others cast the result as Australia’s Hilary-Clinton moment: Bill Shorten, who resigned following Saturday’s loss, was, like Clinton, an unpopular political insider who generated little enthusiasm among his party’s traditional constituencies. In 2010 and again in 2013, he roiled the Labor Party by supporting two separate internal coups, machinations that cast him as a self-promoter instead of a team player. The swing against Labor was …

The Market for Virtue: Why Companies like Qantas are Campaigning for Marriage Equality

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has said he will “be out there strongly campaigning for a Yes vote” in the upcoming marriage equality postal ballot. Dozens of other corporations have signed the Australian Marriage Equality open letter. But companies aren’t being altruistic when they back causes like marriage equality. Research shows that executives pursue ethical behaviour because they think there is a business case for it. This is called the “market for virtue”, in which businesses aim to improve their public image or ward off regulation in exchange for ethical behaviour. But there is little evidence that social responsibility initiatives necessarily result in positive outcomes for businesses. In fact, it may result in worse outcomes for society as a whole, as businesses put their resources behind causes that are already popular and ignore pressing issues such as inequality and stagnating wage growth. The market for virtue Alan Joyce is explicit when he defends Qantas’ support, stating that “there is an economic argument for marriage equality”. Elsewhere Joyce has said there is a business case for supporting …