NUMBER 31 SUMMER 2009 / 2010

D!SSENT - Issue 31

Editorial: The National Water Initiative is based on the lie that water use efficiencies and water licence buybacks can save the Murray-Darling-Goulburn basin which supports the production of 22% of Australia’s GDP. In fact state and federal governments’ real aims are to create a water market fit for privatisation rather than focusing on security of supply at the lowest possible cost to users and the environment.

Clinton Fernandes questions the John Howard version of Australia’s role in bringing about East Timor’s independence in 1999. Howard’s view is used as the basis for Paul Kelly’s interpretation of events in his latest book The March of Patriots.

Trevor Cobbold describes how the Rudd Government is undermining public education by subjecting schooling to the market forces of competition, choice and privatisation, even though, thanks to the GFC, markets are under question now as never before.

Joanne Knight applies a human rights framework as a counterweight to neoliberal market amorality which is frustrating the right to adequate housing for households whose low incomes exclude them from the market.

Dirk Baltzly reviews Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice. Sen advocates a historical and comparative approach to political philosophy to discover which system offers more justice, as compared to John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice which offers a thought experiment that would reveal an ideal system of justice to which society should aspire.

John M. Legge reviews Simon Jenkins’ Thatcher & Sons: a revolution in three acts to show that Thatcherism was built around a false view of human motivation that voters are driven entirely by self-interest. This was used to coerce people into acting like greedy automatons of economic theory but Blair went further when he trashed the conventions of cabinet government, the separation of powers and the independence of the civil service.

Jeff Richardson dissects the three myths which underpin the powerful private health lobby, namely that private health insurance is a major factor in financing total national health expenditure, that a health crisis is looming because of the ageing population and that public hospital queues are evidence of inefficiency in the public system.

Margaret Swieringa points out the hypocrisy of Australia’s complaints to the Chinese about their incarceration of Australian citizen Stern Hu on national security grounds without due process when the Rudd Government has made no effort to revoke similar laws passed by the previous government to counter perceived terrorist threats.

Melody Kemp discusses the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation’s role in planning the development of a dam in Western Nepal. The growing local opposition to the project on social and environmental grounds looks likely to cause the Asian Development Bank to withdraw funding support for the project.

Stanley Schaetzel looks at human development through the prism of the history of science and finds that despite the unprecedented expansion of scientific knowledge in the last half of the 20th century the period has been characterised by growth in uncertainty because the new knowledge has generated more questions than answers.

Julia Thornton argues that if ordinary people are to deal positively with climate change they must be given a picture of a sustainable future with a detailed path to it and not be depressed into inaction.

Dianne Proctor looks at the connected issues of sustainability and population growth from the perspective of her life time involvement in NGOs dealing with family planning and women’s health and reproduction. One of the biggest barriers to a sustainable population is organised religion while the best solution involves investment in reproductive health and the education of women and girls as a development priority.

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.