1: Cancer, Science and Society (2019)

The Federal government has announced that it will, if re-elected, channel half a billion dollars into the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to make the latest breakthrough – chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy available to those afflicted with various cancers. The Opposition then upped the ante by declaring it would subsidise cancer treatment with an extra $2.3 billion. Suddenly, cancer treatment has become a live issue in the forthcoming Federal election.

2: Terror in Christchurch (2019)

When a terrorist incident or mass killing occurs, emotions boil over and our social media erupt in anguished or indignant commentary. Even much of the mainstream media settles for the sensational or the emotive. But the great need is to get a clear sense of perspective. In the case of Christchurch this means three things: grappling with the question of white supremacist terrorism, seeing it in global perspective and heading off irrational responses to it. Let’s look at these one by one.

3: Would a bit of ‘epistocracy’ improve our democracy? (2019)

Today is Federal Election Day. I assume almost everyone reading this piece will be voting. In Australia, such voting is compulsory. In the United States it’s voluntary. Opinions differ about which system is better. But suppose someone was to say to you, ‘You have a moral obligation to not vote.’ How would you respond? I suspect with puzzlement, perhaps cynical amusement. You might assume they meant that not voting would be a form of protest – of some kind.

4: Five Principles of Religious Freedom (2019)

The release of Philip Ruddock’s report to the prime minister into the principles that should govern religious freedom in this country has been long delayed. It was commissioned at a time when record numbers of Australians declare on census returns that they are not religious and in a climate of considerable social tension over the relationship between religious institutions and sexual morality.

5: Prisoner of the State in China (2019)

The arrest and imprisonment of Australian citizen and democracy activist Yang Hengjun by the Chinese authorities should surprise no-one. After six months in prison without charges or access to lawyers, he is now charged with endangering state security. This, too, should surprise no-one. This is what the regime in China does – again and again. It isn’t an aberration and it’s time to make clear that the problem lies with the Communist Party, not with Yang Hengjun and certainly not with Australia’s behaviour in the matter.

6: What do we mean by ‘freedom of speech’? (2018)

There seems to be an extraordinary amount of confusion around these days regarding freedom of speech, both in our universities and more generally. But civil society and constitutional government require freedom of speech. And freedom of speech requires sound meta-rules regarding the way it is conducted. Suppress freedom of speech and you move towards authoritarian government. Without sound meta-rules you move towards anarchy and violence. Around the world right now we can see a disturbing drift in each of these directions.