NUMBER 4 SUMMER 2000-2001

Dissent - Issue 4Editorial: In the 1996 election, the Coalition ran the debt truck showing foreign debts of $280 Billion. Since then, foreign debt has increased by over $100 billion and the value of the $A has declined by more than a third against the $US. The debt truck is now garaged, apparent concern has given away to benign neglect, and Australia appears destined to follow New Zealand as a once-rich state unless industry policy is directed towards improving the balance of payments.

Barry Jones says that the old fault lines in society between left and right, rich and poor, and which once defined the differences between the major political parties in Australia are giving away to a cultural divide based on elitist and populist beliefs and priorities. This has led to the introduction of US-style 'wedge politics' which emphasises poll-driven policies and appeals to 'Howard's battlers' as the Coalition attempts to capture traditional labour voters.

Geoffrey Whitehead, ABC CEO from 1984-86, reviews Death Struggle by ABC Reporter Quentin Dempster. Whitehead points out that the threats to the ABC described by Dempster are typical of the worldwide shift in policy against public broadcasters. This has further upset the balance between communications systems designed to meet our wants as consumers and our needs as citizens. It is wishful thinking on the part of politicians that the market will meet our needs. It is not its job or that of the 'invisible proprietors', the advertisers to do so.

Martin Feil defends the S11 protesters against the WTO which, by promoting globalisation on US, European and Japanese terms, protects the rights of their multinational companies at the expense of the interests of other nation states, including Australia.

John Legge discusses the role of economists as myth makers who created the intellectual climate in which the rollback of the welfare state, and the single-minded pursuit of profit by the corporate sector, was not only seen as respectable, but necessary for national survival.

Eric Aarons argues that Communism failed because Marx's fully rational society could not be brought about even when backed by the coercive power of the state. He asks what should replace communism as a counterweight to capitalism which is running riot in the absence of a powerful opponent.

James Jupp traces the post war history of Australian multiculturalism and argues that Australia will remain multicultural, however much assimilationists deny that reality.

Ian McAuley bemoans the recent public service obsession with the bottom line which has obliterated traditional concerns associated with nation building and national values. Public service reform now means downsizing, outsourcing, and emulation of an imaginary private sector.

John Quiggin points out that serious apologists for privatisation have now retreated to the argument that public ownership exposes the government to unnecessary risks. But Quiggin argues that where the risks are associated with economy-wide fluctuations, risk can be reduced by government ownership.

Julie Wells reviews the Enterprise University by Simon Marginson and Mark Considine, which examines how academic values have been subordinated to market values as universities have to rely increasingly on their own sources of revenue.

David Hill shows that contrary to popular belief, road transport is subsidised by the general community when the costs of accidents, congestion, noise and pollution are taken into account. He concludes that more investment in urban rail at the expense of roads is the only way Australia will achieve livable, sustainable cities.

George Reeves argues that the proposed VFT from Canberra to Sydney would waste nearly $6 billion (1% of GDP) which could be better spent on alternative infrastructure. To be viable, the VFT would require nearly a third of the Canberra population to travel to Sydney by VFT each week, even though there are excellent road and air connections available already.

Brian Martin points out that most whistleblowers suffer personal hardship as a result of their public spiritedness, and that most legislation ostensibly designed to protect whistleblowers is a hindrance designed to discourage people from seeking media publicity which is the most effective protection for whistleblowers.