NUMBER 2 AUTUMN / WINTER 2000
reviews the performance of the banks and finds that bank privatisation has
enabled the big four to evolve into a cooperative oligopoly. This situation has
been exploited by the banks to increase bank fees and reduce service so that
their profits per household have risen from $244 per household in 93 to $865 in
99. D!SSENTargues that society confers huge benefits on the banks. A
bank licence allows the banks to create the money which they lend, and the
lender of last resort facility provided by the Reserve Bank (taxpayer) provides
a safety net for banks which is not available to any other form of business
activity. In return for these privileges, D!SSENTbelieves the banks should be required to subscribe to a social charter which
sets service standards -
including the provision of free transaction accounts to poor customers. Capital
adequacy rules should be refined to discourage margin lending against the value
of financial and property assets for the purpose of stock market speculation.
Margin lending by the banks is a major factor in all speculative booms. There is
evidence that the banks have already forgotten the lesson of the 80s when
imprudent lending to paper entrepreneurs like Alan Bond and Christopher Skase
led to the creation of $28 billion “non-performing” loans which were
eventually paid for by the community rather than bank shareholders.
Cocks, a human ecologist with CSIRO, and author of Future
Makers, Future Takers -
which looks at three possible scenarios for life in Australia in the year
assesses the importance of history to useful future gazing.
the growing dependence of state governments on revenue from gaming. He argues
that the states will only be weaned off this highly regressive and pernicious
form of taxing if the revenue lost from reducing poker machine numbers is made
up by federal funding.
Legge reviews Hugh Stretton’s Economics
- A New Introduction for first year economics students and finds it provides a
readable, scholarly, and comprehensive rebuttal of neo-liberal economics. Legge
comments ‘future historians will ponder over the capture of the commanding
heights of the world economy by religious maniacs masquerading as scientists in
the 1980s and 1990s'.
Jupp remembers the original Australian Dissent -
which he co-founded in 1961 -
and its role in helping to push reform of the ALP's administration and policy
platform in the 1960s, which in turn led to the election of the Whitlam
Government in 1972.
McAuley says that the dumbing down of the Canberra bureaucracy endangers
good government. The reforms are not about efficiency or reducing society’s
all that is happening is that public sector bureaucracies are being replaced by
even larger and more costly private sector bureaucracies.
Mees argues that the experience of small European cities such as Zurich
shows that -
with central planning to coordinate modes, routes, and frequencies -
it is possible for Australian cities to develop public transport systems which
are both acceptable to commuters and affordable for taxpayers.
Richardson explains how developers can be made to contribute to the
protection and maintenance of heritage buildings -
by imposing a fine equal to the destruction of heritage values which may occur
as a result of a redevelopment project.
the adverse consequences for Australian science and innovation following the
decision to cut Commonwealth-funded postgraduate places from 25,000 to 21,500.
This cut was announced in David Kemp’s white paper on research in higher
education at the same time as business expenditure on R&D has collapsed due
to the reduction of the 150 per cent R&D allowance to 125 per cent.
the need to empower employees in internationally competitive firms in order to
provide timely feedback to management, and the role of trade unions in this
process. McBride argues that the master/servant relationship favoured by the
Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith, grows out of the neo-classical
economic theory of the firm which has no empirical basis.