Justice isn’t blind, it’s biased

Published in The Sun-Herald, 1 April 2012

Chances are, you’re a criminal. I know I am. Not the bad kind – the benign kind, who just happens to snap a few laws going about my daily business. Jaywalking, maybe dumping a sly coffee cup when I can’t find a bin, riding a bike without a helmet, driving a little bit too fast on some roads. Low-level internet piracy, not buckling up in cabs. Actually the list goes on. But all in all a middle-class kind of a criminal, who doesn’t cause harm to anyone. So why do these laws exist?

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Contribution to expert views on discrimination and freedom of speech

Published in The Australian, Media section, 3 October 2011

A right of reply would have been a more appropriate response than a ruling. There’s some contention over whether the Herald & Weekly Times offered one: either way, the claimants would have done better to seek to address any inaccuracies and tackle any offense through the media, in their own words.

The law cannot effectively answer opinion or change it. Even if Bolt’s claims were ill-founded, malicious or even idiotic, the claimants have lost the argument in practice: Bolt’s opinion will not be altered, nor a single other person’s. The Bolt articles and posts have received attention beyond their natural readership giving them a new opportunity to persuade, but the claimants refutations – and some of their stories are quite moving – will remain largely unheard. For a case with no winner, we risk losing a lot; the right to express an opinion about other people’s conduct, for instance. Everyone will miss that

Welfare recipients get the bad end of the stick

Published Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2011

Each year we spend billions of dollars on helping people in need. Then they and their lobby groups and the politicians who claim to speak on their behalves complain that it’s not enough. We call it a Budget.

This year’s Budget includes money to help people suffering from a disability back into work, money to help families on above average wages manage the cost of a family and money for people who live in remote areas to live better. Are they glad of it? Apparently not. There’s either too little, the targeting is too judgmental or they still don’t ‘feel’ rich.

It’s hard to imagine our society without its unwieldy welfare component these days. As a tax payer it’s easy to feel indignant. But really it’s welfare recipients who get the bad end of the stick.

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Battle of the binge-thinkers

Published in the The Sun-Herald, 30 April 2011

Julia Gillard and her partner attended the Royal Wedding on Friday at Westminster Abbey. With an eclectic guest list of celebrities beyond La Gillardine’s usual social circle, I’m betting she made a lot of pleasant small talk. Here are three things she probably didn’t say:

“I’m a republican.”

“I’m an aetheist.”

“I don’t believe in marriage.”

I presume she judged the context inappropriate. But if she had said what we all know she thinks about religion, weddings and an Australian republic, should the Queen have politely agreed?

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