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Editorial: The scientific consensus is that the world can only burn 20% of the known global fossil fuels if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. This means the coal and gas industries which are still seen as the basis of Australia’s wealth are about to become a burden rather than a boon.
Robbie Swan reports that the Global Commission on Drug Policy has recommended that all western governments should immediately legalise cannabis. At the same time, state and federal governments have enacted over 50 laws criminalising synthetic cannabis because these new illegal drugs can be easily manipulated into new, legal chemical structures.
John M. Legge examines the National Energy Market and concludes that the players are successfully gaming the market, even though the demand for fossil fuel generated electricity is being displaced by solar and wind power. This means that the NSW and Queensland governments cannot sell their public generators at their book value, making their sale even more unpopular.
John Quiggin finds that the two main arguments for privatisation of electricity assets – that sale of the assets will improve the financial position of state governments and allow the National Electricity Market to work more efficiently to the benefit of consumers – are highly misleading.
Richard Denniss argues that Australia could make the tax system more efficient, as well as equitable, by reversing Howard’s decisions to tax capital gains at half the rate of income tax and reversing measures which have made superannuation a highly regressive vehicle for tax avoidance. Denniss also explains how to shift the burden of taxation towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Andrew Macintosh examines the Tasmanian forest industry and finds that, while the industry blames the conservationists for its problems, the real explanation lies in the contraction in domestic and international markets since the mid-2000s, compounded by an increase in the supply of softwoods due to the massive expansion of plantations.
Elizabeth Cham explains that one of the major reforms of the Labor Government has been the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission which, in part, will target non-profit tax concessions more effectively. (The Coalition has promised to abolish the Commission if it forms government after the next election). She also discusses important areas not yet addressed.
David Richardson shows that, despite bank deregulation, the ‘big four’ operate as a de facto monopoly through synchronised pricing. This is not surprising given their high degree of common ownership which is reflected in their share of lending which has risen from 67% to 83% of total lending between 1991 and 2012.
Hans Paas reflects on Gillard’s record as Labor Prime Minister from his perspective as an advisor to the Democrats and when they held the balance of power in the Senate. Now active in the Greens he argues that most of Gillard’s best policies have resulted from pressure from the Greens whose policies are consistent with what the ALP stood for in the past. Gillard’s recognition of this is the reason why she feels so threatened by them.
John Greenwell looks at the implications of capitalism and the rise of consumerism which has evolved from an ethic directed to satisfying wants to one which approved the creation and multiplication of wants in the context of a world which is approaching physical limits to growth.
L. W. Maher argues that freedom of expression is essential in a free and open society, even where the exercise of that right may give offence to individuals or groups within that society.
Matthew Ricketson says the media industry’s claim that the Finkelstein enquiry’s recommendation for a News Media Council was an attack on free speech was deliberately misleading in that it only differed to the existing Council in one crucial respect – namely, it would be funded by the government to ensure that it had the resources to carry out its work.
DISSENT magazine’s thoughtful and critical discussion of public affairs includes social and economic policy, education, politics, science and the environment, cultural matters, media and the arts. Read More