Issue 36 - Spring 2011

Editorial: tax expenditures for private health insurance, home ownership, private education and compulsory superannuation cause inequality by ‘crowding out’ spending on public infrastructure and first home buyers in favour of investors. Plus: Gillard’s small, but significant, action on climate change.

Paul Tranter points out that the ‘effective speed’ of motoring must take into account the direct costs paid by the motorist (depreciation, fuel, insurance, registration, parking tolls).When the time spent earning the money is taken into account, the travel time compares far less favourably with the alternatives.

Mark Diesendorf says that nuclear energy is a very dangerous, complicated and expensive way of boiling water which is not a sensible alternative to renewable energy in the production of base-load electricity.

Graham Palmer argues that because base-load electricity cannot be stored and wind and solar power are dependent on the wind and sun, renewable energy must be backed up by fossil or nuclear base-load capacity.

Simon Marginson points out that the rationale for the introduction of full university fees for humanities and social science subjects by the UK’s Cameron Government is that all the benefits of these studies accrue to the individual—i.e. that possession of an Arts degree is useless to society.

Trevor Cobbold shows that students in low socio-economic status (SES) government schools are on average three to five years behind the learning of students in the highest SEC government and private schools and yet, for the most part, they have less than half the funding per student of high SES private schools.

James Rowe states that a drugs policy focussing on health as distinct from a punitive response would shift the disproportionate consumption (approximately 80%) of the drug budget invested in supply reduction towards harm minimisation strategies.

Jane Martin explains that obesity cost Australia $58 billion in 2008 and that the powerful societal and economic forces which profit from this situation must be confronted.

Jennifer Doggett describes how the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, one of Australia’s most successful welfare policies, has come under political pressure because of rising costs—even though the scheme remains cost effective because it leads to reduced costs elsewhere in the health system.

George Seymour notes that 90% of farmed animals are raised intensively in factory farms. He sees this as an ethical issue and argues that animal rights should be recognised in law.

Andrew Johnston contends that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has largely become a PR exercise to enhance the ‘brand image’ and shareholder value of companies when real CSR should be the assumption of corporate responsibility for the social and environmental costs their economic activities create.

Ken Coghill & Julia Thornton are ALP members who articulate what they believe are Labor’s core values and measure these against Julia Gillard’s policy record in education and industrial relations policy.

Kelvin Rowley canvasses the problems exposed in the new UN doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) and how NATO intervention in Libya under this principle has played out in practice. 

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.