NUMBER 16 SUMMER 2004 / 2005

EDITORIAL: argues that far from being good economic managers, the Howard government has jerry-built the economy on a mountain of foreign debt. This will lead to rising interest rates and the opportunity for Labor to win the next election if it can couch its traditional egalitarian concerns in a credible alternative economic policy.

JOHN M LEGGE shows how the Howard government’s budget deficit phobia has drained liquidity from the economy, suppressed investment in physical and human infrastructure, promoted speculation and stifled genuine entrepreneurial innovation necessary to avoid a financial crisis.

DECOY SPOON views morning television and asks why, in a time of international turmoil, the news segments have degenerated into glorified variety shows, treating viewers with contempt and reinforcing our insular modern detachment.

DENIS KENNY discusses the rise of religion and the decline of democracy. He suggests that religion has become an increasingly powerful force, not just in the Muslim and Hindu world, but also in the Christian world allegedly dominated by the techno-scientific rationality of the European Enlightenment.

DOUG COCKS asks what we can learn from John Burton, former head of Foreign affairs in the Chifley government and, for the last 50 years, a leading world scholar in the area of conflict avoidance and conflict resolution.

BRIAN ELLIS wants to develop the Aristototelian conception of eudemonia (human flourishing) to fill the ideological gap that left the welfare state so defenceless when it came under attack by neoliberal ideologues in the 1980s. He spells out a new social contract which defines the system of government, institutions, procedures, customs and values in all societies.

PAT RANALD shows that AUSFTA fails to deliver any significant benefits for Australia’s agriculture, manufacturing and service industries. AUSFTA undermines Australian laws, regulations and the capacity to provide and regulate essential services, and it imposes US laws and regulations insofar as they advantage American trade and commerce.

BRYN DAVIES focuses on AUSFTA’s implications for Australian intellectual property and communications industries. He shows AUSFTA’s intellectual property ‘harmonisation’ provisions are identical to proposals the US failed to get approved within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation because of their bias towards US interests.

PAUL MEES argues that Melbourne and Sydney rail networks are operating well below capacity. Melbourne’s city loop built in 1969 ensures the city had enough capacity to absorb any conceivable increase in demand and Sydney’s urban rail system carries fewer passengers than half a century ago, despite additions to rolling stock and additions to the network.

JULIE WELLS says it is widely understood that spending on education is a sound social investment and yet government spending on education is static or falling because of an ideological commitment to competition and private provision. 

CHARLES LIVINGSTONE examines the Howard government’s enthusiasm for Medicare and points out that while it was prepared to spend more money on health than the opposition, the big issues – whether the resources are going to improve the health care of the needy or the problem of cost shifting between the commonwealth and states – still need to be addressed.

IAN MANNING argues the so-called Australian miracle economy is built on a mountain of household debt financed by foreign borrowings by the banks against the security of a property bubble. The question is whether the fallout can be managed to minimise interest rate rises and unemployment or whether there will be a repeat of the 1990 or even 1890 recessions.

JOHN BRADFORD contends that the political survival of Howard, Bush and probably Blair is a sign of democratic un-health because the lies told to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq confirm the ‘larger truth’ – that sectional and selfish interests come first. Voters do not want information that makes them confront the gulf between the facts and their moral values.

AURIOL WEIGOLD discusses the Community Development Employment Program and argues that it can be judged a success if it is seen as a welfare program rather than an employment program.

From his perspective as research officer for the ACTU, GRANT BELCHAMBER looks at the breakdown in relations between the industrial and parliamentary wings of the ALP and discusses the implications for social democracy.

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