EDITORIAL: The Howard Government’s policies are predicated on the myth that low government debt leads to low interest rates. In fact Australia has one of the lowest levels of net government debt and the highest interest rates in the industrialised world. Official debt reduction has been achieved by assets sales (directly or indirectly financed by foreign debt). Coalition economic mismanagement has made our tax burden higher than at any period since WW11.

NIXON APPLE explains how and why State and Federal Labor leaders have facilitated the Macquarie Bank, the AMP, and other leading exponents of the 5% Club in schemes called Public Private Partnerships. PPPs rip off taxpayers in order to keep public debt off the balance sheet.

JOHN M LEGGE argues that merchant banks and asset strippers who gained from privatisation and tax burden redistribution are now targeting the welfare state. They see opportunities to get their snouts into the $100 billion social insurance trough, claiming that they can offer choice (at far higher cost). Choice is neither needed nor wanted in circumstances of social risk.

IAN MCAULEY discusses the nature of leadership and the difficulties leaders have in getting people to face up to difficult issues which cannot be resolved without a shift in public opinion. He cites the example of the ABC, whose role is to provide a forum for discussion about issues like aboriginal reconciliation and environmental degradation, and how those who do not like to hear these messages dismiss them by accusing the ABC of left wing bias.

CLIVE S KESSLER and TONY WALKER draw on their personal experiences to analyse the Israel-Palestine conflict. They argue that the intensity and duration of the conflict has corrupted both sides' perspective on reality to the point where the dispute can only be resolved by the US, which unfortunately seems bent on policies that are exacerbating the problem.

TIM METCALF describes the impact of economic rationalism on rural emergency rooms.

TED MURPHY examines the latest proposal from politicians like Mark Latham to marketise health and education services by introducing individual health care and education accounts in place of the present system where governments are still accountable for the provision of these services. He compares these proposals with alternative methods of provisions via hypothecated taxes like the Medicare levy.

BARBARA PRESTON examines the report on Australia’s schools to the Menzies Research Centre by neoliberal educationists, Brian Caldwell and John Roskam (Australia’s Education Choices, April 2002). Behind the rubric of ‘choice’, most Australian students in low to medium fee paying non-government schools, as well as government schools, would be disadvantaged to benefit students in high fee non-government schools if its recommendations were implemented.

MARIAN SAWER celebrates a century of women’s suffrage in Australia, examines the party affiliation of women in our parliaments, and compares the Australian experience of women's parliamentary representation and leadership positions with Canada and New Zealand.

BOB GREGORY traces the economic progress of women over the last 35 years and shows that women have had lots more education, but no more full time jobs (although many women are receiving higher pay), lots of part time work and a spectacular increase in welfare support.

PAUL COLLINS says the real crisis in the Catholic Church stems from its centralised authoritarianism, based on the papacy. This is incompatible with the spiritual needs of an educated and independent laity whose financial contribution is vital to the ongoing operations of the church. The church’s corruption is seen in its failure to develop contemporary spirituality and its retreat into simplistic and negative moralism.

PETER MOORE explains how the introduction of the new tax system based on the GST has disadvantaged public transport compared to the private car and led to a 3 per cent decline in public transport usage in the major capital cities.

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