Dissent - Issue 26 - Cover

Editorial: The central message of the “Tragedy of the Commons’ written forty years ago is that in a finite world it is impossible to maximise population growth and growth in living standards. Our current ideological preoccupation with a market economy based on short-run profit maximisation is leading towards an uninhabitable planet unless we develop a global governance framework capable of enclosing the commons.

Tony McMichael asks whether recognition of the health risks of global warming will revitalise the debate about ecologically sustainable development. Two undercurrents will have to be countered: the ideology of neoliberalism promoting individualism and consumer culture and our hard-wired, self-serving tendencies via Darwinian evolution.

Joe Isaac says that under the Rudd Government’s IR reforms the appropriate principle for productivity sharing should be nation productivity, the federal industrial tribunal should be empowered to take into account the national interest in certifying agreements and pattern bargaining should be allowed.

Richard Denniss explains how the Rudd government could keep its income tax cuts – and make the budget both responsible and equitable – by making cuts to some $38 billion in tax concessions which accrue mainly to the rich.

Michael Horn points out that unemployment is now below 5% (usually equated with full employment) but the underutilisation rate is about 10% if underemployed and discouraged job seekers are included. Releasing this potential requires additional investment in education and skills-building which recognises the multiple barriers faced by disadvantaged job seekers.

John M. Legge reviews Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism which shows how phoney economic crises have been used as cover for highly unpopular, right-wing social and economic agendas in many countries. Here the technique was used by Hawke and Keating in 1985 and Kennett in Victoria and now the Iemma Government plans to sell off the NSW electricity supply industry.

Ian McAuley shows by reference to Australian and international statistics that the greater the dependence on private health insurance the higher the total level of spending on health without any discernable benefit in terms of health outcomes.

Joanne Knight exemplifies how Australia’s anti-terrorism legislation undermines the rule of law. People are held with little or no evidence against them and police change from enforcers of the law after a crime has been committed to predictors of where and when the next crime will occur.

Paul Pickering discusses why some historical events are remembered, some are not and some grossly distorted. He points out that the Harvester judgement has virtually no place in public memory because neither of the major political parties is prepared to defend it whereas H.R. Nicholls is remembered for a single editorial he published at the age of 82 attacking Justice Higgins.

Marian Sawer contends that the 1907 Harvester award institutionalised wage inequality between the sexes but with the introduction of equal pay sixty years later feminists recognised that women and other vulnerable groups had a lot to gain from centralised wage fixing. The move to decentralised wage fixing has widened the gap again.

Julian C.H. Lee compares the Cronulla riots and the way they were reported and used as a backdrop to the protests in Camden against the building of an Islamic school with the 1969 race riots in Malaysia which have been used as a threat to justify maintenance of the privileged status of Malays in Malaysia.

Peter Hodge argues that donor countries could get better value for their aid dollar by being less ambitious and less prescriptive and using ‘searchers’ (rather than ‘planners’) who can listen to local communities to find out what they need and what they are capable of doing.

Philip Mendes examines two different approaches to illicit drug use – prohibitionists who espouse zero tolerance and those who emphasise harm minimisation. He says the outcome of the debate will depend as much on politics and advocacy as on the demonstrated effectiveness of programs.

NOTE FOR EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: For permission to reprint articles, or for interviews, contact Kenneth Davidson or Lesley Vick on tel/fax 03 9347 7839 or email

D!SSENT is published 3 times a year, is available on subscription and is on sale nationally at newsagents and major bookshops.