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The higher education bill opens up government subsidies to anyone who can call themselves a university. But can anyone call themselves a university? AAP

Bill opens door to putting private and public universities on same footing

There’s a devil lurking in the detail of the higher education reform bill presented to parliament. As expected, the bill, introduced yesterday, proposes to open Commonwealth subsidies for undergraduate…
Let your local book folks know you have their back. Literature Wales

Gobsmacked by Aldi’s Revolting Rhymes ban? Try this instead

The discount supermarket chain Aldi has come under fire in recent days for removing Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (1982) from its shelves following a complaint from a customer on its Facebook page. The…
Recent debate about the government’s school chaplaincy program has been informed by deficient understandings of what ‘secular’ is. AAP/Alan Porritt

School chaplaincy debate ignores what ‘secular’ actually is

Despite recent calls for its elimination and the High Court (again) finding that it was funded unconstitutionally, the Abbott government announced this week that it would continue its school chaplaincy…
Tony Abbott may have planted a few trees, but he’s also sought to bury many of Australia’s environmental safeguards. Britta Campion/AAPImage

Abbott’s environment agenda is even harsher than he promised

Before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott gave us fair warning that he would turn the clock back on the environment. As promised, his government has devoted itself to short-term economics and the sort of hardline…
Vision loss causes 11% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Rusty Stewart/Flickr

A vision for preventing blindness in Indigenous communities

The tragedy of vision loss and blindness in Indigenous communities is striking: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have six times more blindness than non-Indigenous adults and nearly three times…
Denis Napthine hasn’t been able to rebuild the Victorian Coalition government’s support since replacing Ted Baillieu as premier. AAP/Joe Castro

Victorian Coalition has three months to change voters' minds

Victorians will head to the polls in exactly three months to elect their new state government. Like New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, Victoria has fixed parliamentary terms. Since…
A dead coral reef in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. superqq/Flickr

In Conversation with environment journalist Elizabeth Kolbert

Scientists are coming to the conclusion that we are on the brink of a mass extinction — the sixth known in the history of the Earth, and the latest since an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million…
The veil serves to entice and intrigue and not necessarily to hide. Faizal Riza MOHD RAF

The big players in the growth of Islamic fashion online

Islamic veiling is a global political issue and the debate tends to move in two different directions: it’s framed as either a matter of the freedom of female self-expression or as emblematic of gender…
Shifting from one policy to another has disrupted the NBN rollout, so how does NBN Co report its progress? Floris van Lint/Flickr

Mixed tech, mixed messages: NBN reports unravelled

NBN Co, tasked with building the National Broadband Network (NBN), yesterday released its 2014 Annual Report, showing a three-fold increase in activated premises (210,000 up from 70,000) and a doubling…
A cloud is hanging over Australia’s renewable energy industry after the government’s review recommended that the Renewable Energy Target be scaled back. Leon Brooks/Wikimedia Commons

Renewable Energy Target review – experts respond

The review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has recommended deep cuts to the scheme. If implemented by the government, the changes could mean closing off the scheme to new large-scale wind…
The real issue in the Australia-Indonesia relationship is not what SBY has just done, but rather what incoming president Joko Widodo will do. EPA/Tanaya Pramudita Raras

Spying pact is SBY’s last foreign policy gasp – now for Jokowi

It’s not a good sign when parties cannot even agree on what they have just put their signatures to. On Thursday, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa…
Robert Menzies may be a Liberal hero for John Howard and his successors in the current government, but his budgets fit their definition of ‘disaster’. AAP/Alan Porritt

Menzies, a failure by today’s rules, ran a budget to build the nation

Robert Menzies left Australia in far worse financial shape than he found it, at least according to current treasurer Joe Hockey’s favourite debt and deficit benchmark. Having inherited budget surpluses…
If the Abbott government is clearing the way for a bold reform agenda, the shape of the new direction remains shrouded in mystery. AAP/Dan Peled

Abbott government health policy needs a sharper focus

The Coalition entered the 2013 federal election without a health policy. After a year in government, it remains without one. While there has been activity in the health arena, there’s been little coherent…
It’s likely children will come across child-unfriendly content online, regardless of parental control. ransomtech/Flickr

Kids with Google accounts: how parents can keep them safe

You might have seen reports that Google could offer children under the age of 13 years a simple and safe way to access their internet services, including Gmail and YouTube. But will this new strategy really…
Is assuming houses are like bananas making us look like apes? Michael Lokner/Flicker

Going bananas over affordable housing

A poster in the head office of a state planning agency claims: “Highest Housing Approvals in a decade: Keeping homes more affordable”. Indeed, the latest figures show national housing approvals rose 16…
Tasmanian forests will be opened for logging for “special timbers”. Ta Ann Truths/Flickr

End of Tasmania’s forest peace deal heralds more uncertainty

Tasmania’s parliament yesterday passed new forestry laws to undo the state’s forest “peace” deal. The laws are the most significant step so far in delivering the Liberal government’s pledge to “tear up…
‘I wouldn’t call it a miracle, I’d call it an accident’ – Gessen on Putin’s formative experience with the KGB. Christchurch City Libraries

Speaking with journalist Masha Gessen

Russian-American writer and LGBT activist, Masha Gessen has covered every major development in Russian politics and culture of the past two decades. She is the author of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion…
While MOOCs are free, their value lies in providing information about how students learn. Flickr/Ilonka Talina

MOOCs: learning about online learning, one click at a time

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, took the world by storm in 2012. After years of experimentation at the fringes of higher education, prestigious universities from around the world progressively surged…
The signing of the code of conduct closes the rift between Australia and Indonesia over spying. AAP/Office of the Foreign Minister

Intelligence code of conduct saves face for SBY with added benefits

Australia and Indonesia have agreed on a code of conduct on intelligence co-operation, with Australia pledging never to use its spy agencies in ways that could harm Indonesia’s interests. Today’s signing…
The government wants your movements online to be retained by ISPs and other companies. Flickr/Envato

What metadata does the government want about you?

With the leaking of a discussion paper on telecommunications data retention, we are at last starting to get some clarity as to just what metadata the Abbott government is likely to ask telecommunications…
Research that found links between abortion and breast cancer also found men who had ‘much opportunity to participate in parties’ were more likely to have stomach cancer. burningmax/Flickr

Abortions don’t cause cancer any more than parties do

The purported link between abortion and breast cancer is based on research that’s no longer accepted as valid because its methods are so flawed. But that hasn’t stopped politicians such as Fred Nile and…
The Liberal government didn’t need a fully-functioning cultural policy at the last election. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

OzCo has a new strategic plan – where’s Abbott’s cultural policy?

As with other emissions of choice opacity – horoscopes, Bible stories, RBA economic forecasts – cultural policy announcements invite construal of their mystical meaning. Nothing is quite as it seems. On…