EDITORIAL: D!SSENT argues there is nothing new in Labor's parliamentary representatives under Kim Beazley moving to deny the ALP's egalitarian principles - even in basic areas like health, education and taxation - in order to make the party electable at any price. What has changed is the separation of power between the caucus, executive and party conference - a separation put in place early in the ALP's life to check party careerists. Power is now concentrated in a small, self-perpetuating oligarchy, achieved via factionalism and branch stacks. The power structure of the ALP, as much as globalisation (or Labor's class enemies), is the real barrier to social and economic reform if Labor wins at the next election.

FRED ARGY, former senior Treasury official and OECD ambassador, argues that small government ideology should not be mistaken for economic credibility. Argy sets out socially responsible and economically sensible policies (which would not upset global capital markets), and shows how a progressive government committed to egalitarian ideas would finance them.  

GEOFFREY BARKER explains how John Howard has tried to exploit endemic racism, unsuccessfully in 1988 and more successfully since 1996 when he refused to confront Pauline Hanson. This implicitly gave her racist attacks on Asians and Aborigines a respectability under the rubric of free speech and led to the creation of One Nation.

DAVID HAYWARD and RON ASPIN describe how contracting out prisons and public transport to foreign multinationals (on advice from multinational accountancy and consulting firms) is accelerating the process of globalisation, without the service delivery or cost savings originally promised.

DAVID SALTER argues that, in broadcasting policy, self-regulation is no regulation. Good media law should be drafted from the consumer's standpoint, not the proprietors as it was during the Hawke/Keating years.

IAN MANNING points out the real test of the social security system will come when there is contraction in employment so that the cornerstone of the Howard Government's mutual obligation - the work test - will become irrelevant.

JULIAN DISNEY and RICK KREVER discuss various tax reform proposals whose objective is to protect the revenue base, reinforce environmentally friendly activity, avoid tax competition between countries, and rein in concessions on capital gains, superannuation, and discretionary and off-shore trusts which mainly accrue to the rich.

DAVID YENCKEN asks why Australian governments cannot see that the adoption of pro-environment policies now will put Australia in the best possible position to benefit from the low energy, low material use and low waste economics of the future and why we should be following the example of progressive European countries.

IAN McAULEY points out that unless a future government is committed to restoring Medicare it will be faced with an unsustainable blowout in health costs, which will be even more electorally damaging than doing nothing.

BOB BIRRELL argues that associated with the increasing private costs of higher education is a fall-off in Australian university entrants, particularly in the skilled IT area, and the gap is being filled by full fee paying overseas students.

JOHN M LEGGE and BRIAN ELLIS each outline their vision of an industry policy which a future Australian government might adopt in order to avoid our dependence on commodity exports, because we can no longer sustain first world living standards with a third world export profile.

ARTHUR CROOK agues that Coalition IR policy tries to re-institute the C19th master/servant act. He shows its incompatibility with the needs of a modern industrial state in which competitiveness is based on innovation and quality enhancement (not cost-cutting), and where cooperation and trust (not confrontation) are stressed in employer/employee relations.

BARBARA PRESTON contends that a calculated electoral auction has displaced the national good in setting national schools policy priorities and discusses what the outcome of this might be in the future when teacher shortages are likely to emerge.

BILL RUSSELL points out that the refusal of successive governments to invest in rail, while pouring record amounts into roads, has unnecessarily increased overall transport costs. Wasteful investment in roads undermines Australia's capacity to invest in schools and other high yielding social infrastructure.

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