Our speaker was Melanie Nolan, the general editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB). Here is a short version of her talk, including her answers to questions from the floor. [Photo: ANU School of History]
Melanie began with an acknowledgement of country.
The ADB began in 1957, led by Keith Hancock, with the aim of establishing a federal dictionary project. Hancock had a history of involvement with the UK Dictionary of National Biography. The ADB’s first employee was Ann Moyal. Her work duties included driving round in her car, all over Australia organising working parties and drumming up support for the dictionary project. Douglas Pike was appointed as first editor, not Ann, in 1962. In 2006 the dictionary went online, free. It now gets 60 million hits a year. So far there are 13,000 articles. The ANU continues to be a strong supporter. Files not yet online are all available to be consulted at the ANU archives. The current crop of biographies includes people who died between 1991 and 2000; it will be a decade’s work. Once the articles go online, and then taking into account any feedback, they will be published in book form. Continue reading
Richard is an academic and a member of ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. His topic was “How do we get to abolition?“.
Richard opened his talk with an acknowledgement that we met on aboriginal land, and paid respects to Aboriginal custodians and elders past and present.
He acknowledged the work of Dr Sue Wareham and ICAN, which started ten years ago in Melbourne. Richard has been a member for 5 years and is currently a Board member. He was also the Director of the Nautilus Institute in Australia where he was involved in peace and security issues including work on abolishing nuclear weapons.
Richard outlined the history behind the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (which passed the UN vote on 7 July 2017) and lead to the ICAN Nobel Peace Prize. It was notably not signed by Australia and the USA among others. The world now has 15,000 nuclear weapons and these are being modernised at the moment at a cost of $1 trillion. Richard spoke about the outcome for the entire world if, for example, a local war between India and Pakistan resulted in a nuclear attack – apart for the “local” destruction, there would be decades of increased atmospheric carbon leading to widespread environmental destruction and famine. He argued that the idea of “deterrence” is dangerous as there is every likelihood of these weapons being used in some circumstances. There are now 9 countries with nuclear weapons.
Vintage Reds were delighted to welcome Tony Kevin to talk about
his book, Return to Moscow (University of Western Australia, 2017).
Tony worked for thirty years as a diplomat, including as ambassador to Poland and Cambodia in the 1990s. His first posting was in Moscow in 1969-71, and he made brief visits again in 1985 and 1990.
In 2016 he made a 4-week trip to Russia as an independent traveller. Tony is a Russophile, and gave a strongly pro-Russia talk. He believes that we are completely unaware of how overwhelmed we are by Western anti-Russia news. Whereas in other news story we presume some state of regularity, when the news is from Russia we presume irregularity. In the misinformation echo-chamber of the West it requires a huge effort of will and intellect to judge things from the outside. Continue reading
Helen introduced our speaker, Tony Payne. Tony is a semi-retired professor of politics at Sheffield University who with Colin Hay has co-written Civic Capitalism, a rejection of Anglo neo-liberalism.
They reject the Thatcherite view that “there is no alternative [to the market economy]”; they also reject the Marxist view of capitalism, that it is global, unreformable, and must be overthrown. Hay and Payne want to occupy the sensible centre, which Payne sees to be increasingly unoccupied.
We were delighted to welcome our speaker, Emma Davidson, from the Women’s Centre for Health Matters, who spoke on the topic of housing in the ACT.
Emma noted that housing affordability for women is worse now in the ACT than when she joined WCHM in 2010. There is movement from the government: a housing summit scheduled for September; submissions being sought for an inquiry into housing, due in February; and submissions also being sought for Mick Gentleman’s inquiry into environmentally sustainable housing.
Funding shortages are affecting public and community housing. Women are particularly affected as their numbers are hidden. We need more diversity including models that suit groups and sharing, with a sell-on option. Many women are carers and require courtyard/accessible housing, for example. A non-government brokerage service would be ideal, to place people into appropriate housing. Planning regulations need more flexibility. Capped access to new land blocks (independent of developers) would allow more first home buyers into the market. The Nightingale project and the Women’s Property Initiative, both in Victoria, are good models. Reclaiming of government land by developers (funded by taxpayers) seriously erodes public confidence and housing affordability options. Public housing stock is being lost faster in the ACT than in any other jurisdiction. Negative gearing (a federal issue) is only benefiting big corporations and the wealthy, and must be reformed.
Two speakers addressed the October VR meeting: Pat Ranald, of the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network, AFTINET, and Peter Murphy of the Philippines Australia Union Link, PAUL.
AFTINET is, in the words of its own webpage, “a network of community organisations and individuals that has campaigned since 2000 for a fairer and more democratic global trade system, based on human rights and environmental sustainability.”
With its fifty or so component organisations it has been an enormously influential opposition to the worst of so-called “free trade” agreements like the TPP. As Pat explained, the TPP was not about free trade but was meant to let the US write the rules in this region, rather than China. Big corporations would get more power, and those outside the US would get more access to US markets. In the US, unions and NGOs influenced the Democratic Party, and the TPP didn’t manage to get the numbers in Congress. In Australia, a Senate enquiry found that there wasn’t support for the TPP.
Peter gave us a short history of the Philippines union movement. The KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno, May First Labour Movement) was established in 1980. ACTU president Cliff Dolan made an issue of the gaoling of KMU members in the early 1980s, raising it with the Hawke government, and pressure from the Australians contributed to the release of these people. International links do make some leverage possible.
In 1990 there was a push-back against the unions in the Philippines, driven by US corporations. It became hard to run a union. Philippines union membership is now only at 1%, compared to 13% in Australia. Seventy per cent of Philippines workers are casuals; they are allowed to join a union after working for six months. If they do, the bosses sack them.
Photo: Peter Murphy addresses the Vintage Reds meeting; Pat Ranald looks on.