It is particularly fitting that the launch of Cane toads: a tale of sugar, politics and flawed science by Nigel Turvey coincides with this time in the seasonal calendar of the tropical north of Australia, when the wettest months will soon be upon us, which while bringing respite to many, are those months in which the cane toads are most active.
When cane toads were released in Australia in 1935, they were seen as the latest innovation for biological control of pests in sugar cane. Cane toads were promoted widely by sugar cane scientists but the science was flawed, and these flaws were magnified by the political necessity of supporting the sugar industry. It was the same in the Caribbean, Hawai‘i and Queensland when cane toads were introduced.
With France becoming the fourteenth nation in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in May this year, rallies have exploded over Australia urging our parliament to do the same. Despite a clear and growing majority in support of same-sex marriage, our government seems unable to comfortably adapt, signalling some level of enduring commitment to the traditional Christian view of marriage. In a fascinating collection of essays titled Politics and religion in the new century (published in 2009) faith is explored practically, rather than theologically, in order to understand religious influence on political and social life.
In a recent report by Lateline on the “aged care crisis” in Australia, revelations arose about the quality of care in facilities around the country. Common complaints included “being left in faeces and urine, rough treatment, poor nutrition, inadequate pain relief, verbal abuse, and untreated broken bones and infections”. With accusations of neglect and even abuse in our aged care system, questions arise as to who is best able to provide adequate care for our ageing population. This ongoing discussion is the focus of Debra King and Gabrielle Meagher’s book, Paid care in Australia: politics, profits, practices.
For the emerging settler nation, the nexus between race and land had to be radically redrawn in order to enable a sense of belonging. Race, in its connection to physiology, lent a crucial – and often unspoken – biological dimension to this endeavour. In this way sex and sexuality functioned to both affirm and transgress the colonial structures, ambitions and attitudes of early 20th-century Australia. In her new book Made to matter, Fiona Probyn-Rapsey unpacks and explores Australia’s colonial past through an investigation of relationships formed between white men, Aboriginal women and the children they produced during the assimilationist era. She focuses her lens on the figure of the white father and the highly controversial role he played in the forced removal policy which resulted in the Stolen Generations.
Animals are represented in all aspects of our day to day lives. We debate inhumane abattoir practices, whaling, and live cattle export in the newspapers, we watch the births of baby elephants and pandas in zoos on the news, and we love, care for, feed, abandon or abuse our pets in our own homes. Despite this seemingly overarching interaction with animals, we take little time to reflect on animal death, and its meaning for us and nonhuman animals.
The history of Australia’s foreign policy has often been neglected in political study and debate. Many have thought of Australia as a passive recipient to orders from London and Washington throughout our short history. Associate Professor Neville Meaney of Sydney University has spent a career deconstructing that myth and this year the Sydney University Press has published a festschrift titled Australia and the World in his honour.