A tribute to my dad

My father died early this year at the age of 90, after a long but slow slide into dementia. The discussion on another thread about euthanasia and mental capacity has led me to decide to post the eulogy I delivered at his funeral.

My dad was still relatively compos mentis at the time of his death (at least a fair part of the time), but he also had almost no blood circulation in his lower legs. That resulted relatively frequently in bits of his feet becoming gangrenous and needing to be chopped off. It was that which eventually killed him; moreover his life wasn’t very pleasant for a couple of years before that. Often his legs were too painful to let him sleep, and he would just sit up all night in his recliner chair covered by a blanket.

Although he had been a highly intelligent, well-read and curious man throughout his life, my dad was unable to muster the concentration either to read or even watch TV for any significant period of time. His world had shrunk to the dimensions of a disabled recliner chair.. He was just waiting … Hence my own interest in euthanasia options.  Anyway, the eulogy is over the page. I apologise if you find it self-indulgent. I hope some of you might find it worth reading.

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Upcoming event- The 2014 Francis Gurry lecture: “IP in Transition: desperately seeking the Big Picture”



IPKats love a tweet

The lecture will be delivered (in Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane) by Jeremy Phillips. Jeremy (or more exactly a fictional andnotoriouscat: the IPKat) has three times, been named as one of IP’s  “Fifty Most Influential People “. The IPKat is widely read, wide ranging and fun.

The lectures Big Picture theme could be of interest to many:

In the face of accelerating changes in the make-up of the world’s economic, cultural and political structure, IP rights face a stress-test. Pulled back into the past by legislative intent and judicial precedent, they are propelled forwards by new technologies, increasingly specialised laws and creative business structures. And they are subject to the constants of the need for justice, the requirement of legal predictability and the demand of due process.  Is there a Big Picture: a vision that can be shared by legislators, IP owners and their lawyers and attorneys?  If so, what does it look like?


The lecture will  be streamed  , Mon 17/11/2014  at 6:15 PM – 7:45 PM.  Attendance  is free, but booking is required : Melbourne (12 November), Sydney (17 November) and Brisbane (18 November)

Wishing Phil well …

950002-nitschke-to-fight-medical-board-suspensionThe Northern Territory News reports that veteran euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke faces a five-day hearing before the Medical Board starting today. Nitschke’s arguments will include:

Mr Nitschke says suicide is a lawful activity and the appeal was a question of whether rational adults should have access to information to help them proceed.

I wrote quite a long article a couple of weeks ago about euthanasia and Phil Nitschke. Someone on that thread remarked that Nitschke gave them the creeps.

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From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (II)


This is the second of a two part article about Aboriginal affairs policy in the wake of Noel Pearson’s speech last week at Gough Whitlam’s funeral. See From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (I).  Then read on. NB A very long post. I hope at least some will persevere to the end

In the first part of this article I argued that the self-determination policies of the 70s, 80s and 90s were generally perceived to have failed. That perception, along with calculations of immediate partisan political advantage, led to the imposition of the Howard Intervention on Northern Territory Aboriginal communities from late 2007.

The Intervention policies drew on various strands of right-leaning thinking on Aboriginal policy (including the prescriptions of Noel Pearson) which I will outline below. Despite their cynical partisan origins, these policies met with bipartisan acceptance and were implemented enthusiastically by the incoming Rudd ALP government through Minister Jenny Macklin under the Abbott-esque three word slogan Closing the Gap. Seven years after their implementation, the kindest evaluation one can give to these policies is that they have met with very modest success.

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From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (I)

Noel Pearson delivers the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History

Noel Pearson delivers the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History

It didn’t take long for the Aboriginal knockers to start tearing into Noel Pearson in the wake of his delivery of the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History at Gough Whitlam’s funeral.

And Helen Razer (although not Aboriginal to the best of my knowledge) took the opportunity of tweeting a link to an old article about Pearson by 60s-70s wannabe Black Power activist Gary Foley.  It’s a fairly spiteful and juvenile effort in many ways  (I didn’t, for example, need to know that Pearson is allegedly known by “many in Aboriginal communities around Australia as the ‘Cape York Cane Toad’”), but nevertheless makes some points that are worthy of serious reflection and discussion:

 Noel’s speech launching Prof. Langton’s Boyer book was in part a reiteration of his assertions about what is the way forward for Aboriginal people. The familiar Pearson themes of the importance of individual home ownership and entrepreneurialism were there, as well as the tiresome chastising of those who don’t support these contentions as being ones who are tolerant of domestic violence and child abuse. This latter accusation is particularly disingenuous because it implies that the solitary way one can combat social dysfunction is through the path of individualism, materialism and free-enterprise entrepreneurialism. If that is the case, then it is clear that what Pearson’s ideas are ultimately about is pure and simple assimilationism.

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Storm saga that wasn’t

Ben Eltham’s cheap education funding shot at Tone and Chrissie

John Brumby: deregulated the VET sector while Premier.

John Brumby: deregulated the VET sector while Premier.

Ben Eltham has posted an article in New Matilda about the financial and regulatory travails of Victorian VET private mega-provider Vocation:

Christopher Pyne’s higher education legislation will channel hundreds of millions of dollars to private providers. When it happened in Victoria’s VET system, the consequences were dire, writes Ben Eltham.

The share price collapse of high-flying private education provider Vocation reminds us of the perils of privatising education.

On its website and Annual Report, Vocation asks us to “be extraordinary”.

… Vocation presents itself as high-quality and respectable. It boasts none other than John Dawkins, the architect of the Hawke government’s university reforms, as the chair of its board.

But the performance of ASX-listed private training provider Vocation in recent weeks has been anything but extraordinary.

The problem with a voucher-based portable funding system for VET is that it creates a situation that makes it very difficult to monitor and ensure quality of service provision.

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Dick Hamer: the liberal Liberal

Dick HamerScribe publishing occasionally sends me a catalogue of books it’s publishing asking if I’d like to have one to review. Looking through their long list I picked my friend Tim Colebatch’s biography of Rupert Hamer on which he’s been working for a good while now. It’s a very enjoyable book to read. Well organised with the strictly chronological narrative occasionally being interrupted for some analysis and/or a chapter or two on specific issues, it gives a great picture of an unusually accomplished person of decency, liberality and great, if somewhat aloof grace.

Hamer was a rat of Tobruk who was always a natural leader with a strong sense of noblesse oblige. He came from Toorak (St George’s Rd no less – one of the best for those who don’t know), though Colebatch tells us they were not rich or at least their wealth was earned, not inherited. Rupert’s mum, Nancy had been orphaned at a young age but spent many years as Vice-President of Victoria Women’s Hospital which the Hamer family had spent several decades the previous century helping to build though charity drives. It was the first hospital in the British Empire to be run by and for women.

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Very clever people being … not so clever

I just came across this hilarious story.

Trying to rescue Naomi Campbell from the overzealous attentions of Mike Tyson, the Oxford philosopher A J “Freddie” Ayer – according to Ben Rogers, his biographer – inserted himself between the boxer and the supermodel. “Do you know who the f*** I am?” Tyson objected. “I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.” The 77-year-old Ayer replied: “And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic. We are both pre-eminent men in our field; I suggest we talk about this like rational men.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had about thirty odd years ago with one of Australia’s prominent philosophers John Passmore. I used to go when I could to the seminars put on by the History of Ideas Unit at around 12.00 noon on Wednesdays (as I recall) and went along to one. After each seminar off we all went to lunch across the road at University House. I was sitting next to John Passmore and for some reason the subject of banking came up. He said that he couldn’t understand why Westpac wouldn’t give him better service. I said “John, that’s because you haven’t got any market power. They don’t care about you – they’ve got bigger fish to fry”. He said “But that’s where you’re wrong – I do all my banking through them.” Perhaps he was worth squillions, but I don’t think so.

Self-importance is one of the main engines behind otherwise intelligent people acting not so much.