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# Theme music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi there and welcome to Big Ideas, two political heavyweights consider Amongst our Short Cuts today, have failed us. whether both the big parties for abortion law reform. Leslie Cannold argues the Anthropocene Plus, are we living in the age of the Earth's ecosystems? where humans shape that we have left the Holocene. This is strong evidence except perhaps yet for temperature, In each case, of environmental stability we have left that envelope

which typifies the Holocene.

we're putting forward Now, this is the case

Geographical Society of London, to the that actually decides which is the body in Earth history we are in. what era or epoch that's studying this now. And they formed a working group in a couple of years And you may find an announcement made that there will be left the Holocene that the Earth has officially and entered the Anthropocene. a little later. More from scientist Will Steffen a fresh take on reconciliation. First up, hundreds of thousands of people During the '90s, to show their support, walked across bridges advisory councils were set up, about moving forward and numerous reports written

most intractable problem. on what many see as Australia's Sarah Maddison is an academic

Beyond White Guilt. and author of the upcoming book Maddison points out to address the wrongs of the past that political add-on solutions haven't worked, so maybe now is the time our outdated institutions. to redesign and rebuild when Phillip sailed the First Fleet So, I want to begin with that moment as Sydney Harbour into what is now known colonists around the world have done and when he did so he acted as both before and since -

of the First People while acknowledging the presence of the territory he was invading, to accommodate or negotiate he did little to comprehend, of the land. with the original inhabitants and those that followed him, Rather he, of building a new nation set about the task that were already here. over the top of those of Indigenous nations The many hundreds prior to the arrival of the British hat existed on this territory were completely invisible to, the invaders. or at least were ignored by, of the continent Nations in the south-east such as the mighty Eora nation, on whose land we stand this evening, of European conquest. bore the full brunt And beginning with a penal system, commerce and industry, followed by agriculture, housing,

eventually there followed of the British system, the elaborate political apparatus on other Indigenous lands soon replicated in other colonies, around the Australian continent. By the time of Federation in 1901, these systems were well developed a constitution and were brought together under the original inhabitants - that made only brief mention of

and anti-democratic terms. and then only in racist

some political advancements While there have been and Torres Strait Islander peoples for Aboriginal in the 110 years since, Australian nation-state the foundations of the remain fundamentally unchanged. Islander peoples Aboriginal and Torres Strait design of our political institutions were ignored and excluded in the and so it should be unsurprising that they have found to be unresponsive those same institutions and ineffective to say the very least to their political demands in responding and their representational needs. contemporary ramifications, This situation has important Torres Strait Islander people both for our Aboriginal and and indeed for the rest of us. As Alexander Reilly notes, is diminished the representation of all of us while Indigenous Australians remain institutions of government. underrepresented in our ramifications? So, how do we escape these And what kind of change is necessary? colonial political institutions Can settler, indigenous rights and aspirations ever successfully accommodate

within their existing structure? be renovated, Can these institutions, in fact, or must we in some fundamental ways

and rebuild? demolish our political house consider in this lecture. These are the questions I want to moves toward improved recognition I want to argue that the current islanders peoples of Aboriginal and torres Strait in our nation's founding document are an important step towards representational challenges addressing some of the experienced by indigenous people. may take will be crucial. But the form that this recognition between what I think is necessary And given the likely trade-off if a referendum is to succeed and what may be possible politically unlikely that any resulting changes I would suggest, that it is in fact to our constitution will be adequate. mere redecoration. At worst they may amount to our political house. At best, to a partial renovation of I think it is conceivable Nevertheless, despite my pessimism, that we may as yet take seriously least part of our political apparatus this opportunity for rebuilding at and this may give some opportunity Islander people for Aboriginal and Torres Strait to achieve greater satisfaction

representation. in other aspects of political And considering these issues, I will be discussing both

extra-parliamentary representation and more fundamental structural reform. before returning to the question of consideration of representation So first to a in our nation's parliaments materials that follows here and if you are interested in the last December's issue you may wish to see my article in

Journal of Political Science. of the The Australian From at least the 1930s and activists many indigenous leaders representation in parliament. have expressed a desire for greater

Despite these aspirations however, poorly represented Aboriginal people have been very or not represented at all Commonwealth legislatures. in the nation's state, territory and Until just last year there had only ever been two Indigenous people in Australia's Federal parliament. Neville Bonner from 1971-1983 and Aden Ridgeway from 1998-2005 -

both of them in the senate. 2010 saw the election of the first Indigenous member of the house of representatives - Ken Wyatt - a man of Noongar, Yamatji and Wangai heritage. In the states and territories around the country representation remains very variable, with neither South Australia nor the Australian Capital territory ever managing to elect and Indigenous member of parliament. This situation is intrinsically problematic for Indigenous people in Australia. As Anne Phillips has argued - 'Without the direct involvement of parliamentary representatives who share a history of subordination exclusion or denial it is likely that the policy process will be inherently paternalistic, and the policy outcomes almost certainly skewed.' And anyone who has looked at the policies of the Northern Territory intervention will find that a very apt description.

While these numbers are only a part of the story, it is now a widely held view that a judgement about the quality of representative democracy should include an assessment of the extent to which various social groups are represented. At only 2.5% of the total Australian population - even on a proportional basis - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would not be present in our parliaments in large numbers. Nevertheless, if Federal parliamentary representation were to more closely reflect the Indigenous population, we could expect to see three Indigenous members in the federal House of Representatives and one senator, with a total of up to 17 more Indigenous parliamentarians around the country.

If each state, territory and federal parliament had proportionate numbers of Indigenous representatives. And the rights of individuals and self-determination theory which emphasises the protection of group rights as well as individuals within a group, suggest that Indigenous peoples need some form of guaranteed political representation at both local and national levels.

Despite this, however - and unlike our near neighbour New Zealand. Australia has no measures to secure the election of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our parliaments. Nevertheless, since the mid 1970s in Australia, Aboriginal candidates have contested parliamentary elections in increasing numbers. Achieving representation in Nation's state, territory and Commonwealth parliaments is still seen by many as a means of significantly improving the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders people to have their views and interests heard in the mainstream political sphere. Of course, as I have discussed elsewhere and particularly in my book - Black Politics Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not a homogenous group who's interests can simply be represented, but rather, this is group with multiple identities and interests indeed multiple nations, that form a complex political culture. This fact constitutes one of the not insignificant representational dilemmas for Indigenous parliamentarians who aspire to address the needs and interests of Aboriginal people through parliamentary service. Specifically these dilemmas include - a tension between party identification and Indigeneity, between electoral and group-based representation, and between notions of a politics of presence versus the effective representation of a diversity of Indigenous interests. Almost without exception, indigenous candidates have been elected to Australians parliaments through their membership of mainstream political parties. Around Australia there has in fact never been a coordinated effort by Aboriginal groups, communities or organisations to stand independent candidates in federal or state parliaments and nor has a significant Indigenous political party ever emerged - although this may possibly change, following the Alice Springs based First Nations political party last year. The majority of Indigenous parliamentarians have been elected as members of one of the two major parties - with Aden Ridgeway the notable exception with his election as the member of the Australian Democrats. It has been suggested more broadly that parliamentarians face conflicting pressure from the unholy trinity - of their constituents, their party and their conscience. For Indigenous parliamentarians there is an additional layer of pressure emanating from their identity as Indigenous peoples. Like other interests seeking parliamentary representation Indigenous people have found that the idea of individual representation of these interests

tends to break down in the face of determined party control. The impact of party control over Indigenous representatives has tempered any assessment of the capacity for parliamentary representation to actually deliver meaningful change for Aboriginal people. Indigenous parliamentarians frequently find themselves in a no-win situation,

with party pressures delivering expectations that they support party policy at all times while indigenous people in the wider community pressure them to deliver policy favourable to the Indigenous electorate. Negotiating this pressure is an ever-present challenge. Indigenous parliamentarians take up their role bearing a complex burden of representational expectations raising questions about who or what they represent and in what circumstances. The former Liberal Party Senator from Queensland, Neville Bonner embodied these representational dilemmas Bonner was convinced that the needs and interests of Aboriginal people would best be served by working within the institutions of white society. As Tim Rowse has observed - 'Bonner appeared obliged to defend against a sceptical Indigenous constituency the dignity and efficacy of parliament.' He rejected claims that he was what he termed a 'tame cat Liberal', stressing that he had exercised his right of conscience to vote against his party on 23 separate occasions.

Bonner attempted to balance his representation of Indigenous people and issues with his support for the conservative ideology of his party. But he ended up pleasing nobody. At first, he displeased other Aboriginal people by supporting the conservative state and federal Indigenous Affairs policies, and in the end confounded and alienated his conservative colleagues by becoming more vocal about Indigenous rights.

An a 1995 interview a dozen years after he had left parliament, Bonner reflected that he 'Would not recommended with a clear conscience

that indigenous people join any one of the major political parties.

Because political parties in this country want bottle drawn seats,

hands in the air at the right time, you have no freedom to express yourself against the party.' Ultimately of course, Bonner paid the price of not toeing the party line at the right time effectively dumped by a demotion from first to third position on the Queensland senate ticket in 1983,

with a then Premiere Joh Bjelke-Petersen claiming that Bonner's position on Aboriginal issues 'Had got right out of hand and he had to go.' But the example of Neville Bonner, I think, also raises another representational dilemma for Indigenous parliamentarians. Theories of mirror or micro-cosmic representation rest on an assumption, that similarity between the represented and the representative whether it be similarity of gender, class, race, ethnicity or some other combination will increase the responsiveness of elected representatives. Implicit here are a number of further assumptions,

including the idea that representatives of a particular group in particular a number of minority groups are in some way compelled to speak and act for that group and that there is a homogeneity of ideology, values and opinion among that group. Author and academic Sarah Maddison speaking there at the University of Sydney

for Sydney Ideas. To see that talk in full, head to our website at: Next up, have the old forces in Australian politics lost their way? That's the premise behind a recent IQ2 Debate in Melbourne. The participants included high-profile politicians, past and present. Later, Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong

defends the two-party system. But first, we drop in on former Liberal Party leader John Hewson who argues politics has become a shallow game

played out for the daily news cycle. I think the message of the last campaign to me is that voters didn't really like either candidate. They didn't like the way either of them got there. They certainly didn't like their policies, or their claimed policies. And so, what you saw was a heavy vote for independents, informal votes, votes for the Greens, a general dissatisfaction with the major parties as they presented themselves to that election.

What I want to say to you tonight is that, to me, politics has become a game. It's a game, it's a contest that's played out in, sort of, the 24-hour media cycle. In fact, there are many cycles now within the 24-hour media cycle because if you get on to Sky, for example,

you see breaking news regularly as one or other of the leaders says something which is determined to be breaking news. And in that sense it's become a personality contest - there's a heavy focus on the personalities and certainly not on the policies. There's a reliance therefore on the short sound bite, or the media appearance, or the stunt that will get you the headline and capture that particular media cycle. That you can conclude at the end of the day, 'Well, we won that cycle,' and hopefully that will carry through to the fact that we win in the polls as they unfold in the weeks to come. So much of political reporting now is little better than gossip, you know, Angelina - sorry, Brad leaves Angelina, Tony has a rift with Joe Hockey, then when I dig into the story in the Women's Weekly I find that Brad actually left her inside

while he put the children in the car, the same extent of the rift between Hockey and Abbott and whatever. There is very little substantive reporting because it's little better than gossip, there is little substance to what is said on any day. There's no real policy debate, there's not much debate, in fact, at all, beyond the leaders because the rest of the parliamentary party are confined to deliver the message so they all say pretty much the same thing. I'm fascinated when I look on Sky television and I have an Opposition member and a Government member and they just deliver the message time and time again and so, as Greg has said, they'll often - they use fear as a central element of the delivery of that message as well. These positions that they take are heavily driven, of course, by focus group research, if you can call it that and other...polling. And both sides seem to adopt a few exceptions but generally a small target strategy,

they certainly don't want to repeat the experience of the birthday cake that somebody had early on in their career. And what it's meant is a very significant narrowing of the differences between political parties on most issues. And I think this is one of the great tragedies and one of the ways in which they substantially fail Australian voters. Now, this situation, the contest, is being compounded by a number of other factors. I mean, the tenancy of both parties to pre-select apparatchiks - people who have only ever worked within the political system - as a ministerial advisor, as a local councilor or in local government, in unions and whatever - and so they've never actually had in a sense, a real job, they've never actually managed anything and it's quite significant when these people suddenly become ministers - and, you know, Sir Humphrey has his way in most cases because they have no idea as to how to run a government department. Also a compounding factor is the accommodating media - the media are no longer as investigative and supportive as they used to be.

And, in fact, in some cases the media have become players in the game, they actually predict who is going to win, they support the winner - (Applause)

Thirdly, you've got an accommodating bureaucracy, you know, the bureaucracy has been politicised to a significant extent. The sort of frank and fearless advice that used to be expected of the bureaucracy no longer exists. To some extent, they too become players in the game. And finally, vested interests have a unique capacity in our system to buy support. You see how the big polluters have been able to get their position

in either the Howard government or in terms of the Rudd proposal. It is possible to buy significant support. So the consequences of this are very significant, I think, from the point of view of the Australian voter.

Parliament has become, essentially, a farce. I'm fascinated at how many of my friends have been to parliament, looked at the debate only to find speaker after - very few people in the house - and speaker after speaker just delivering the same message. Apart from the few debates between leaders, and some work in parliamentary committees,

Parliament itself does not reflect the debate you would expect on the significance of some of the issues that are dealt with. There's no longer-term vision or planning in this political system anymore.

There's no real leadership. Very few people are prepared to stand out and argue for a particular position.

They no longer act out of principle or on the basis of ideology and often, as I said, their positions are driven more by the desire to create fear rather than substantive debate. There's no significant policy development, as it's been said, it's predominately confined now to the work done in government departments and when there is substantial policy work, as in the case of the recent Henry review, for example, 138 recommendations - only one of those was picked up. And the rest of them, I guess, have been pushed into some passage of history. Um, there's -

I guess the bottom is, from the point of view of the voter, that the problems are left neglected, they're left to grow and to fester. Service delivery suffers and you can stand there - any person can list for you the way in which the delivery of government services fails to meet their expectations. (Bell rings) I think also our infrastructure is being eroded, there is poor transparency and accountability and I guess the bottom line is the system is not outcomes-orientated. They do not deliver what the average voter expects. So, not surprisingly, voters feel increasingly disenfranchised, disempowered, they become disinterested, even to becoming apathetic about any participation in our political system.

Helen Kroger mentioned the famous Menzies speech of The Forgotten People. I suggest to you that in our political system, the way the major parties are running it, it's the voter that are the forgotten people. (Applause)

If you want to consider the topic tonight - Major Political Parties are Failing the Australian People - with which I do not agree -

I think there are two things I'd ask you to consider. The first is - what is the role, what is the job description of a major party? And I say it is to govern for all but also to govern for the national interest. And second, in judging success or failure, I'd ask you to consider this - success or failure is not popularity nor is it disagreement with you, nor even your disappointment. The reality is, criticism of the major parties is really a great Australian tradition. You know, we enjoy poking fun at our political leaders, we enjoy discussing all of our respective policy failings. People curse our names when the nightly news comes up, certainly my mother does - not mine but others'. And in many ways that might be one of the good things about the Australian political system because it certainly means that scrutiny is applied. But I'd ask you to consider this - don't allow this tradition and this criticism to overlook some of the ways in which the major parties have changed the country in which you live. Just some of the things that you might take for granted today that the Labor Party has delivered -

universal health care through Medicare, anti-discriminatation legislation to address inequality, superannuation for working Australians - the first time working people had access to that retirement savings, the opening up of the economy - much of that with bipartisan support - that has grounded the prosperity that Shaun spoke of today.

More recently - paid parental leave, the largest dollar increase in the aged pension, the apology to the Stolen Generations and averting the worst aspects of the Global Financial Crisis. And if you don't think that has a social justice component, remember who it is that is most harmed by a recession - it is those people who are young and who are low-skilled, it is the poorest who pay the most if we go into recession. It is true that major parties are not perfect, I think tonight, from the reaction, we have demonstrated that many of you believe that.

But our job is to do what we believe is in the national interest and the reality is, sometimes that is not going to be popular and the reality is, that that course of action will inevitably disappoint some. But this is not failure, it is the nature of government, and that, of course, is not meant to be easy. What are the major political parties? Well, we are a diverse people

from a range of different views and a range of backgrounds coming together behind a shared vision for the future and turning those visions into workable policies. And I believe we do carry a heavy burden, a great responsibility, as well as a great privilege. A responsibility of governing - not just for those who vote for us but for the whole country. For those who might be regarded as being on the left and on the right. For employers and employees. For those who are elderly and those who are young. For this generation and for the next. We cannot be all things to all people.

Governing requires prioritisation, it requires hard choices, it demands the building of agreement and the persuasion of those who do not agree and this requires far more than compromise. It does demand both the courage to hold firm and the capacity to convince. And when we get it right, we can inspire. And conversely, when we fall short, we can leave some disheartened. Compromise and prioritisation can often be viewed with cynicism but the simple fact is that governing a country as complex and as diverse as this Australia

requires difficult choices. In contrast, minor parties and independents have a different role. Unburdened with the responsibilities of governing, they can stand on the sidelines, they can claim purity. Minor parties, in a similar way to particular interest groups, can focus on a handful of issues, directing their energies to a narrow range of outcomes. This is valuable in any polity but it should not be mistaken for, nor confused with, a platform for governing the country because in government - and let me tell you, in my new job this is very present, this issue - in government, a decision in Health needs always to be considered

against other decisions, for example, decisions in infrastructure.

Decisions in education need to be weighed against decisions in agriculture and so it goes on. And most importantly, we also know that taking any decision today could close off a decision tomorrow. What you would call the opportunity cost of decision making, whilst it might not be at the front of the public's mind, needs to be at the forefront of our mind in government. Minor parties, independents can demand more spending in health or education or infrastructure,

safe in the knowledge they never have to make a budget balance, nor cut an unsustainable program. And just some of these difficult issues, for example health costs, we know are growing at around 9% per annum - faster than the economy is growing. That requires some difficult decisions, some hard choices. For example, there are some in the community, and some in the parliament who have demanded - who have asked - that we index Commonwealth civilian and military superannuation by a different index. Certainly a worthy ask. The fiscal cost of that is $11.95 billion

between 2011/12 and 2014/15. If we were to promise that, that is the money we would have to find. Major parties are required

to act in the interest of the country as a whole. Major parties need to appeal and inspire the majority because only the major parties ultimately have the capacity to deliver change. In government or opposition, we have to engage the community in a debate about the future of this nation and to act accordingly. I want to just read from some reports of a meeting Mr Abbott held in Adelaide not long ago. And this is what was reported of the community forum. ''I'm not a racist,' Irene told the gathered faithful, I'm an immigrant but we came legally. We got patients lining the hospitals on stretchers outside

waiting for beds

whereas you've got the detention centres - when they were given beds they burned them and trashed the whole detention centre they were in. What are you gonna do to stop this money being spent?' The Opposition Leader was cheered equally in his response.

'There's only one way to avoid spending more money on detention centres and that's to stop the boats.' At the same forum, he also said, 'The electorate -' he also described the climate change policy the Government's put forward as, and I quote, 'A conspiracy of the Parliament against the people.' Our job, as a major party, is to speak to both this audience and to that audience. And it is not to agree with anyone in particular but it is our job to speak to both of those rooms. This room and that room. And to seek to convince them. We have to advocate reform, we have to build sufficient support to carry that reform, we have to build the agreement. And when we do that, we speak not only to this audience and to that audience but to all the audiences in between. Thank you very much. Federal Finance Minister, Penny Wong, arguing against the proposition

that the major parties are failing us. At the IQ2 debate in Melbourne. Next up, an argument for changing Australia's abortion laws. Academic, author and commentator, Dr Leslie Cannold, argues there's no good reason why, in this day and age, abortion is still technically a crime, everywhere, but the ACT and Victoria. In most States in Australia, including the popular states of Queensland and NSW, women do not have a right to choose. They are not lawfully empowered to decide for themselves whether they will continue or terminate their pregnancy. Instead, the law places the decision in the hands of one, or even two doctors. In all places but Victoria and the ACT, all or part of the law governing abortion is found in the Crime Act or Criminal Code.

In Queensland and NSW, it appears in a near identical form to that found in an 1861 English statute, reformed long ago in that country. That wording specifies that abortion is a crime punishable by jail. It is a crime for a woman to intend to abort her own pregnancy, for any person to intend to abort her, using a wide range of means, and for someone to unlawfully supply or obtain for someone else, the means to induce an abortion knowing that these means are intended to be unlawfully used to procure an abortion.

Anyone doing any one of these things - and I am now quoting from the Queensland Criminal Code - is guilty of a crime and liable to imprisonment for 7, 14 or 3 years respectively. And in NSW, the figures are 10, 10 and 5. That's the law today. 'But wait a minute', you might say. 'I've had an abortion.

'Or a friend or a cousin or a sister has had one, just there down the street, the local clinic. So how can abortion be a crime?' There are a number of explanations

for this extremely confusing state of affairs, but here I will confine myself to just one. That is the excuses, either written into the criminal code itself and/or developed as a consequence of judicial rulings made in cases where a medical practitioner was charged with procuring an unlawful abortion and hauled into court. These excuses tend to focus on the word 'unlawfully' in the criminal statute, so that word is in there,

you can't procure an unlawful abortion. So the common law, the judicial rulings,

or the codes that speak in this way focus on that word 'unlawfully', and they say 'Well, if there's an unlawful then there must be a lawful abortion. What's a lawful abortion?' They focus on that word in the criminal statute and they go about prescribing the sorts of reasons that a person charged with the crime of intending to procure an abortion, must have to render their action lawful. These vary from state to state, but in essence come down to a claim by the abortion provider, that she or he formed a reasonable belief that the abortion was necessary to preserve the woman's life or her physical and/or mental health. What the medical decider can consider informing his or her judgement about the impact on the women's physical and/or mental health of being forced to come to term, varies between jurisdictions. I can see all those furrowed brows out there,

and I should say that I spent a fair bit of time trying to make some general statements about the law in Australia that were comprehensible to a lay audience. So, what I just tossed off to you, I actually took some time to do it. It's still bloody confusing. It's just not easy to say anything, and I'm going to get 10 lawyers jumping on me later, you just watch it. So it's really not easy to say what even the law is, it's confusing. Now what is most likely to happen, at the end of the talk, some lawyer's going to jump up and they're gonna say I've misunderstood

one or another aspect of the law, and anothers going to leap up and say that lawyer's incorrect

and that actually what the law says is something entirely different to what I have said or what the other lawyer has said and the whole thing's going to remind me of a Jewish joke, which of course I'm Jewish so I can tell - Which is that if there's four Jews in a room, there's seven opinions. This is really what abortion law is all about. All this does, the fact that someone's going to jump up and say that and that and that, is just underscoring my point.

And the point I'm trying to make, is that the law of abortion in most parts of Australia is as clear as mud. OK, we will have arguments about it,

no one really knows what it says. Now there are a few things worth pointing out about the laws of abortion I have just attempted to describe. One thing worth pointing out, is that a woman charged with unlawful abortion has no recourse to the excuse that I've just described and tends to be known as the necessity defence. So remember that the defence that the provider has is that they claim that the abortion was necessary to preserve the woman's physical and/or mental health. The woman herself, she's named in the criminal code, she's subject to the sanctions, that excuse is not available to her. OK, it's not open to her to say 'I formed a reasonable belief that the abortion was necessary to preserve my life, my physical, my mental health.' That would be a right to choose. She doesn't have that. The excuses were constructed and they appear only available for use by the providers.

The second is the law's paternalistic flavour. The laws that I've been discussing in which apply in most jurisdictions around the nation, do not give Australian women the right to choose, instead what they do is direct doctors to gate-keep. To dole out abortion services on their sometimes mistaken reading of the complex laws that govern the procedure in their state or territory, or with the exception of Victoria, their religious views on abortion. Moreover, nowhere in Australia does the law address the refusal of Catholic Hospitals to provide abortion services. As the churches episcopal Vicar for Life and Health, Anthony Fischer, made plain in 2009,

'Catholic healthcare institutions, whatever legal, financial or other pressure they are under, may not cooperate with abortion.' The situation is disturbing

because 21 of the nations tax payer funded public hospitals, are run by Catholic Heath Australia. In some rural and regional areas, Catholic hospitals are the only game in town. Even more sobering when you understand that the refusal of Catholic Hospitals to provide abortion services is not something disclosed to women when they arrive in casualty or book in as a maternity patient. One Catholic response to this complaint, - 'cause I have made it before - is that the disclosure and consent is unnecessary. Why is it unnecessary? Well, because everybody knows what the Catholic stance is on abortion. C'mon, everybody knows it. Know, I question this, I would question it. Can we really be sure that every new migrant, every teenager, knows the Catholic hierarchies position on reproductive choice? I think not. And anyway, informed consent doesn't really work that way. You don't get to go, 'Oh I don't need to give the patient informed consent, I'm sure they absolutely know.' It doesn't work that way. So those are two arguments straight away. But here's another thing. Even if everybody did know, where the Catholic hierarchy stood on abortion, I bet they didn't know that the ban means that one, women with a wanted pregnancy that have just had a catastrophic foetal abnormality diagnosed,

often by the Catholic hospital responsible for pre-natal care will not be given the option for abortion, nor have a request for one honoured. Two - rape victims bought into casualty in a Catholic hospital, will not be told about the availability of emergency contraception. Nor offered it even after a request, because they consider emergency contraception to be abortifacient If the woman is believed to be pregnant, she will not be referred to a rape crisis center because it will discuss emergency contraception with her. And that is the extended meaning of 'cooperation'. Women whose membranes rupture too early and whose foetuses are consequently doomed - so these are women who've booked in to Catholic hospitals to have a baby - if their membranes rupture too early and their foetuses are doomed -

so the foetus isn't dead yet, but the foetus is doomed - it's too early, the membranes have ruptured, the pregnancy is doomed - when that happens, they will be denied surgery to remove the foetus. They will also be denied drugs to speed delivery of the baby

until sepsis is diagnosed and the woman's womb or life is at risk. Why? It's considered an abortion. You tell me that every woman who decides to have her baby at a Catholic hospital knows that. I don't think so. While, as you can probably tell, I'm quite incensed by all of this

I want to make clear where I am directing my anger. I am not directing it at the medical profession, who have no choice but to operate within the paternalistic framework of the law, I hold them accountable when they don't try to change the law,

when they don't join us when we try to change the law, I hold them very accountable. But I don't hold them accountable for following the law,

they didn't make it, they just have to live under it, just like women do. They have no choice but to seek the personal reasons of each and every woman when she presents

seeking a surgical termination or a course of pills that induces miscarriage. Doctors have no choice but to step outside

their rightful role as health practitioners, focused on providing best practice medical care based on the informed decisions of competent adult patients, so that they can interrogate women - young women, old women, single women, married women, school drop-outs, women with doctorates - about their reasons, to insist these women give account of themselves of their records,

records that they will be forced to rely on should they end up in court. And women, how ever much they might feel, correctly, that their reasons are none of the doctor's business, and they are irrelevant to his capacity to provide a medical assessment of her suitability for termination, well, too bad, they must offer them up if they want to pass muster and to qualify for a lawful abortion. I am also not blaming Catholic healthcare institutions, who are pretty plain about the religious limits placed on their ability to offer gender egalitarian healthcare and ethical best practice healthcare to women. I think they're pretty plain about it. To me, blaming them for this is like blaming a leopard for having spots. To me, it seems clear that the onus of responsibility for the shocking abortion laws that prevail in most jurisdictions, shocking in what they contain and fail to contain, lies clearly and squarely with our elected representatives.

They are the ones who refuse to remove abortion from the criminal law so that it can be regulated like all other medical procedures. They are the ones who allow religious providers to run public hospitals, knowing full well that while the money to run these hospitals comes from all of us,

it will not be used to provide essential healthcare services for all of us. Ethicist, Leslie Cannold, with the 2010 Pamela Denoon Memorial Lecture at the Australian National University.

Finally today, a long-term view on humans and climate change. Professor Will Steffen heads the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute and spends his working day measuring the profound changes humans have wrought on the planet since the Industrial Revolution. In fact, Steffen argues, our influence is so all-encompassing that we should consider ourselves to be in the Age of Mankind,

or what he likes to call, the Anthropocene. About 10,000 years ago we saw the beginning of agriculture. Very interestingly, it appeared pretty much simultaneously at four different places on the planet.

Most people associate it with the Middle East - with present-day Syria, Mesopotamia, and so on. That was one of the places. But on of the other places was just next door to us -

and that was New Guinea. The New Guineans also invented agriculture about 10,000 years ago. The other two were in the Americas. In Mesoamerica and up along the east coast of North America. Pretty much simultaneously. Then we started living in villages, because we had a food supply. We grew towns and cities, we developed civilisations in Africa, like in Zimbabwe, in the Americas, and, of course, the ones we study in school - in Europe. Like the Romans, and so on. And the Greeks before them. So, all of this occurred in this unusually warm and stable 10,000-year period. Now, are we set to go into the next ice age?

Absolutely not. By a quirk of the earth's orbit around the sun,

this nice, steady period of 10,000 years

will stretch to at least 20 and perhaps 30,000 years - if we don't interfere with it. So humanity is really set for a very long period of equable climate on the planet, in which to further develop.

However, this is where the anthropecene comes in. Let's see what's been happening. We have been changing remarkably through this 10,000-year period. But something different happened around 1750 to 1800. We've always affected the environment. In fact, there's some evidence that Indigenous Australians as well as Asians, and so on, led to the extinctions of some very big fauna - giant kangaroos, wombats, in our case, woolly mammoths, and so on, in Asia.

There's still debate in the scientific community, but there may be a human imprint there. We certainly learned to use fire and to modify landscapes. But we basically relied on our own energy and the energy of animals that we might be able to use, and a little bit of wind and water. But around 1750 or 1800 something new occurred. We were able to access fossilised energy that'd been built up over millions of years under the surface of the earth - coal, petroleum products, gas, and so on. That led to an absolute unleashing of what we call a human enterprise. So what we tried to do here

is to look at the human enterprise from 1750 to pretty much the present. And look at several different aspects -

population, going from less than a billion up to between 6 and 7 billion now. Total real GDP, direct foreign investment, they capture aspects of the economy. Damning of rivers, water use, fertiliser,

these are resource uses. Look how the values are going up and up and up in each of those. Urban population going up, paper consumption. We had to have an indicator for globalisation, and what better - well, we heard a bit about Coca Cola -

that would have been a pretty good one too. But we went for McDonalds restaurants, and there you see, in terms of the numbers, thousands of McDonalds restaurants around the world. Then we look at transport and communication. There's motor vehicles. We all live with motor cars, we accept them as normal.

There were virtually none before 1950, around the world. Communications, telephones, that's land lines, they're disappearing now in favour of mobile phones. International tourism. Now, notice something remarkable about those graphs? That's the year 1950. Something, a second event happened in 1950. It was, as you probably know, World War II, which not only knocked off quite a few people - although you don't see much of a blip in the population -

what it did do was break down old institutions - particularly economic institutions - old ways of thinking and it led to a massive increase in connectivity. Networking financially, information flows, and so on. That led to what we call the Great Acceleration,

the period from 1950 to the present. Some of the things we take for granted - foreign direct investment - we just heard that 25% of our mortgage money is actually brought in from overseas. We are tightly linked with the global financial system, as we found out. But look at international tourism. Look at motor cars, look at McDonalds restaurants. They virtually didn't exist before 1950. So we've seen a massive change in the way we organise ourselves, in the way we live, since 1950. So, those of us who are studying the anthropocene say that the beginning was probably around 1750 to 1800,

when we started accessing this new energy source - fossil fuels. But stage two of the anthropocene started in 1950, when we reorganised ourselves, population exploded, economy exploded, resource use exploded, and so on. Why do we say this was really a new geological epoch? You actually have to prove that this is doing something to the earth. And indeed we do. So in the very same scale, from 1750 to 2000 we look at what's happening to planet earth. The top three graphs are the famous greenhouse gases - the one in the upper left is carbon dioxide, and I showed you that elegant Vostok Ice Core of CO-2 going up and down. During the time we've been on the planet, it's oscillated between 180 and 280. And it's maxed out at 300 parts per million.

It is now 387.2 - I believe - parts per million. And going up at about 2 parts per million, per year, unprecedented in the geological record. There's nitrous oxide, methane - two other greenhouse gases. Depletion of ozone in the stratosphere, rocketing up again since 1950. New chemical compounds. These next two -

Northern Hemisphere surface temperature, and great floods, are the only two climate ones on this set of 12. So that captures climate change. But look at direct human impact on ocean ecosystems, coastal zone. Coastal biogeochemistry, that's nitrogen flowing through the coastal zone. Look at the massive changes to the nitrogen cycle. You see? 1950 again - appearing there. And direct impact on land - loss of tropical forest and woodland, again, going up, amount of domesticated land, that's land that's been completely made over

and used for crop planatation, forestry, and so on - again going up. Biodiversity, the extinction rate, shooting up - again.

So this is strong evidence that we have left the holocene, in each case, except, perhaps - yet - for temperature. We have left that envelope of environmental stability which typifies the holocene. This is the case we're putting forward

to the Geological Society of London which is the body that actually decides what era or epoch in earth's history we are in. They formed a working group that's studying this now and you may find in a couple of years that there will be an announcement made that the earth has officially left the holocene and entered the anthropocene. This is some of the evidence we're putting forward. Interestingly, climate change isn't the strongest argument. The strongest argument's biodiversity. Why is that so? Many of the earth's epochs are defined by sharp changes in the fossil record. Something happened to the biology of the planet. Classic example - when the dinosaurs went extinct, relatively rapidly. It's thought that was caused by a meteorite strike on the planet, and so on, but in many cases, periods of the earth's history are defined by abrupt changes in the biological part of the planet. We're seeing it now -

extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times background level. That's due to us, of course. And that masks even more changes, in terms of moving species around the planet, range contractions of many species who aren't extinct yet, but they're functionally extinct, and so on. That's expected to increase by another factor of 10 this century, as climate starts to shift. What do we do about this? Do we accept the anthropocene and try to live in it? Or can we recover the holocene in some way or another? This brings me to the last point I want to make.

There's a group of us who published a paper

in Nature about a year and a half ago. that we call 'planetary boundaries'. And we were proposing something

We all understand boundaries. It's a very simple concept. a boundary right behind him. This bloke here obviously has He doesn't want to step across that for him. because it won't be very good And he has to respect that. We teach our children boundaries. on busy streets, We don't let them play from other dangerous things. we keep them away as important parts of our life. We accept boundaries

at the planetary scale. But we don't do that yet thinking about planetary boundaries. So we think it's time to start planetary boundaries? How might you define What we attempted to do system actually works. was to look at how the planetary

How does our environment function? environment that could shift, Where are parts of the planetary or irreversibly perhaps even shift abruptly

human activity pushes them too hard? if we push them too hard, if

We can look at the ice cores other so-called paleo-evidence, and we can look at

some really good clues and it gives us we've seen abrupt shifts because back in the earth's history of why those abrupt shifts occurred. and we're starting to get an inkling towards some of those, And we may be pushing the planet societies. for homo sapiens or for our which would not be healthy at all ANU's Climate Change Institute Will Steffen from the speaking there at TEDx Canberra. talks you've seen on the show today Remember you can find all of the and more besides at the Big Ideas website. on News24 - Saturday, Sunday at 1pm. And look out for more of our shows

I'm Waleed Aly, I'll see you then. (Closed Captions by CSI)

.. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean,

from the South American mainland, over 2,000 miles away imagination of people the world over lies a wonder that has caught the for hundreds of years. on Easter Island The giant statues, or Moai, on Easter Sunday 1722, were first seen by Europeans giving the island its name. Locally, it's known as Rapa Nui. didn't know what they were At first, the explorers or who had created them. is powerful and disturbing. The story of the Moai The Moai are believed to represent the souls of dead ancestors,

and face inwards towards the island, protecting their descendents. There are 400 Moai still at the Rano Raraku Quarry, almost half the total ever carved. The Moai were quarried directly from the volcano, but many are unfinished. It's a mystery why so many of Easter Island's 900 Moai were never put in position or mounted on their plinths.

Around the quarry there are dozens of Moai left abandoned, looking in different directions. Something dramatic seems to have happened, and in a short space of time, the sacred tradition of making Moai was abandoned. Some are still attached to the rock. Normally after completion in the quarry

the Moai would have been dragged, using ropes and log-rollers, down to their platforms by the sea. Here the finishing touches would have been applied. The statue would be placed on its ahu,

and eyes of obsidian volcanic rock and coral were put in place. And those eyes, it is said, brought the Moai to life. Long ago, the cult appears to have been ended by some cataclysm. Many Moai have been left face down. It is believed they were toppled by rival clans when the island descended into civil war. The people had cut down most of the island's trees to move the Moai and, ironically, didn't have enough timber left to build fishing boats or even to leave. It's said they may even have turned to cannibalism. Perhaps the disaster of Easter Island holds a message for us about the fate of those who over-exploit their resources. ..

The carbon debate gets new

heat from the man who shelves

the ETS. You make mistakes and

public life, that public life, that was a big

one. I made it. The Pike River Royal Commission gets under way. Our job is way. Our job is to find out what happened, why and what

must change for the future

good. Congestion revives a project that still doesn't have

lift-off. That is why we need a

second airport for Sydney

sooner rather than later. And a dangerous word a dangerous word in their shell-like. It's acidification.