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|Financial and monetary Systems||
In recent decades it has seemed in central countries that the problems of macroeconomic policy was solved - so that sustainable growth was achievable. However this was not so for emerging economies, and financial crises occurred periodically - and required rebuilding confidence through restrictive fiscal / monetary policies which worsened economic downturns. Crises in Russia, Latin America and Asia showed the need to beware of currency crises. In recent decades first world faced no growth limits - except creating domestic demand because external deficits could be financed. The issuers of reserve currencies were the locomotives of world consumption. Emerging economies found that even adopting macroeconomic policy consensus was not enough - as they could not benefit from euphoric expansion of world credit. Growth always had to be export-driven. Domestic demand could not be used as engine of growth encountered external restrictions (ie risk of currency devaluation). Thus accumulating large external reserves became essential for those who did not want to be economically excluded - as shown by China's mercantilist stance. China could develop internal demand only after accumulating a large cushion of reserves - though it has continued to repress demand. Current patterns based on consumption in mature economies with low demographic growth - based on ever higher debt levels - can't continue. The GFC is seen to reflect either regulatory deficiencies or international financial imbalances - though these are complementary. The key question is how to unlock the financial system to allow future growth. In responding to GFC US does not wish to repeat mistakes of 1930s. Property bust merely revealed end of larger cycle (consumption and increasing debt in central countries). Financial system became insolvent as a result. Increasing liquidity by the Fed has not resolved this problem. Keynes had argued that monetary policy might not work in a great recession, and advocated fiscal stimulus which should have a multiplier effect. Using monetary policy to relieve financial institutions of bad debts won't allow financial system to result normal operations if households / firms only want to increase savings. In the 1930s banks collapsed (without support from monetary authorities) with severe economic consequences - but debts were written off so weakened economy could start to regrow. Today's US economy is like Japan's in 1990s when bad debts were not written off and huge fiscal / monetary stimulation produced stagnation for a decade. Fiscal stimulus can only work if debts are written off. Otherwise all new income merely pays off old debts - and there is no multiplier. Irving Fisher showed that neither monetary nor fiscal stimulus could work when excessive debt remains. Deflation is a consequence of excessive private sector debt, just as inflation reflects excessive government debt. Ending great inflations requires some form of default. In private sector has excessive debt, this can only bee seen as sustainable with ever-growing asset prices (ie the process becomes speculative). If rises are interrupted, private sector finds itself insolvent. (and not rescuing it would have an effect paralleling hyper-inflation - ie noting would survive). In 1929 this was not done (as gold standard applied) - and this shows the need to use public resources to rescue insolvent economy. However monetary policy can't work in these circumstances - and using monetary policy to keep heavily indebted economy alive makes fiscal policy unusable. The US must thus face long stagnation. Digesting debt will take years - though stronger aggregate demand would speed the process. Any large demand stimulus must come from exports. The roots of the GFC are international financial imbalances. Central economies' spending was the engine of global growth - supported by growing debts. Neither fiscal nor monetary policy can prevent stagnation. Thus international imbalances need to be reversed (ie by aggressive spending in emerging economies, who adopted mercantilist stance because of fears about financial crises). GFC reveals problems with world's political and institutional framework that emerged from Bretton Woods. Institutional reform is needed to achieve better financial regulation and reverse macroeconomic imbalances. China recently raised question of world reserve currency - and this seems to be needed as past imbalances are due to unrestricted expansion of spending / debts by central countries and conservative export-led stance of emerging countries. The question of credibility (which determines difference between countries issuing reserve currencies and others, is the root of different behaviours. Money now depends only on perceived economic / political / legal / institutional soundness of issuer. The $US has been favoured since Bretton Woods - and attempts to use artificial IMF currency (SDRs) failed. However persistent and growing imbalances affecting US affect this perception - and US is no longer the safe harbour it was. The creation of supra-national currency would reduce the risk of $US collapse (André Lara Resende, 'After the Crisis: Macro Imbalance, Credibility and Reserve-Currency', 2/6/09)
State intervention is meant to be temporary to deal with global recession in much of developed world, but in developing world state's heavy hand on economy signals strategic rejection of free-market doctrines. State owned / aligned companies own 3/4 world's oil and have market power in world's fastest growing economies. Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) indicate large / complex phenomenon of state capitalism. 20 years ago situation was different - as Soviet Union failed and emerging economies were liberalised. But free market tide has no been replaced by state capitalism. State's are leading economic actors and use economy for political gain. During cold war Soviet and Chinese economies had little impact in West, but now state capitalists do. International financial crisis has now challenged advocates of free markets to demonstrate their benefits. State capitalism has introduced great inefficiency and populist politics into economic decisions. state capitalism mainly involves: national oil companies (in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Brazil); state-owned enterprises; privately-owned national champions (private companies dependent on state contracts, credit, subsidies - eg in Russia / China) and SWFs (who invest the proceeds of current account surpluses - eg in Dubai, Libya, Qatar, South Korea, Vietnam, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia - and in one democracy - Norway). There is a close link between those who control enterprises and states. This raises risks for global markets (a) decisions are political / inefficient but backed by large resources that distort markets. State capitalism started with OPEC in 1973 oil crisis. In 1980s developing countries emerged controlled by state centred governments - not all of which had communist origins. Free market principles were only partially embraced. Growth was accompanied by less transparency and weaker rule of law. By 2005 SWF's had started challenging Western dominance of international capital flows. IMF is seeking to mandate more transparency with little success - as financial information is treated as a state secret. Latest wave of state capitalism has come (usually reluctantly) in Western countries as a result of financial crisis. In US financial capital has moved from New York to Washington (with similar shifts elsewhere). SWFs control 12% of global investment - double that of 5 years ago. Governments in China / Russia and other states can blame US-style capitalism for the recession. US needs to promote benefits of free markets, and avoid protectionism or long government control over economy. Populist politics will now obstruct efforts to revitalize global commerce. Protectionist trends are strengthening - which impedes global competitiveness, disadvantages consumers and weakens multilateral system - which global economy needs stimulus. Many in US believe that globalization relocates their jobs, depresses wages and provides shoddy goods. GFC has created a sense of unity - the view that everyone is sinking in same boat. Decoupling from dependence on US demand had been expected until GFC showed that fall in export demand lead to hard landings in developing economies. However decoupling is still apparent in growing BRIC domestic markets; foreign investment by such countries governments; and proposals for creation of regional currencies via Gulf Cooperation Council, ASEAN and South American governments. US can no longer rely on strategic partners (Germany and Japan) to buy its debt - but relies on rivals such as China. China now seeks to develop new growth models based on domestic demand - which would make decoupling real. If few want US T-bills, interest rates will rise, and US will lose its role as global reserve currency. US government might believe that it has limited scope to set global economic rules or to take leadership within G20. Also politicians in both developed and developing world design stimulus measures to suit their constituencies rather than reduce macroeconomic imbalances. State capitalism has limited prospects - even in its two leading supporters. China's looming social and environmental challenges can't be managed by bureaucrats. Russia has declining population and excessive dependence on oil exports, and may conclude that free markets are needed in future. US should (a) commit to free trade with EU and growing economic powers; (b) push for new opportunities in state capitalist countries. US companies should invest not only in China but equally in other countries. Foreign investment from SWF's should be welcomed. Future viability of free-market capitalism depends on what US policy-makers do. US must preserve its hard and soft power strengths. State capitalism won't disappear quickly - no matter what walls are created against it. The best way to promote free markets is for the US to lead by example. (Bremmer I., 'State Salvation', Australian Financial Review, 8/5/09)
|South and East Asia||
Truth: People think the world is open to information. But East Asia doesn't believe in telling truth even to own people. Western people in Asia tend to become propagandists for the local system because of rewards / sense of inevitability. Free market ideologies also make understanding hard - and lead to the view that those who deviate from free markets are only hurting themselves - so the US gives others slack. Free trade has been one way - thus Japan took out many US industries. China's Non-Capitalist Economy: China is not converging to capitalism. Also Asian values are not converging on Western political values. China's economy depends on regulation / market rigging. This is seen as problem in West - but is crucial in China. Capitalists don't have same role as in West - and aren't important people. Government has authoritarian role in economy - second guessing outcomes. System started in Manchuria in 1930s under Japanese military; was refined in Japan in 1950s; adopted by Taiwan and Korea in 1960s; and convinced Chinese in late 1970s of system's superiority to capitalism. Suppressed Consumption: East Asian system diverges from Western ideal of free market capitalism. So why does it work so well especially in boosting exports and growth? Suppressed consumption is key - boosts savings. China's savings rate is 40%. Achieved by: small living spaces (thus can't use much electricity / furniture); tight credit; mortgages scarce; import barriers - which give profits for favoured companies; corporate profits are saved. Savings are directed to investment through cartels - to ensure those investing in latest technology earn profits. Cartels also control industrial capacity. Authoritarian systems: China is less authoritarian than 30 years ago - and this is now less obvious like others in East Asia. But the end always justifies the means. Selective enforcement is the key. Laws are strict, but enforced selectively. Taxes can be evaded if one fits with un-stated establishment rules (eg buying foreign cars in Korea could lead to tax audit). Bribery is essential in China - but penalties are draconian. Those who don't comply with system face huge penalties. Laws don't need to be specific. Officials change rules flexibly. Authorities control everything significant. US firms doing business in China do business Chinese way - even in US. China's system was incompatible with WTO - yet US companies lobbied for its acceptance. US Trade Deficit: Chinese people's progress is to be applauded - but this adversely affects others. Suppressed consumption erodes globalization. China is extreme case of this. This forces US to borrow more from potentially hostile rival. US has not even started to understand how the world truly works. This is a turning point in history as West has never had to cope with Eastern authoritarianism. China is manipulative with its own people, and with others. US elites are to blame for failure to ask questions. Japan would prefer to have China as world's superpower, to US. Despite theatrical bickering which gets press attention, there is enormous cooperation (eg Japan has favoured China with foreign aid; technology transfer; educational exchange; trade - and has received benefits in terms of access to China's markets). East Asia believes China will outlast US and other empires. All East Asian societies are isolationist - they doesn't look at others human rights abuses. Japan was China's strongest supporter with WTO. US forces Asian countries to pretend to be democratic - which China doesn't. Tariffs are most plausible economic solution to trade deficits - as there is no easy solution. Western and East Asian systems are incompatible - and have to be kept separate as was done with USSR. No one has looked at East Asian economic models comprehensively (eg at suppressed savings as cause of high savings). US used suppressed consumption during WWII to get savings into armaments. Suppressing consumption was identified as key dynamic in Japan in 1950s. Rising consumer culture in China challenges the Party - but this only applies to elites and is still limited by small house sizes. Falun Gong reflects challenge to authorities. It grew too rapidly for authorities to react, but it has been suppressed as an effective political force. China does not concede freedom of association. China wants to be lead society in world - so leaders believe (a) China needs military leadership; and (b) US to become dependent on larger super-power. Prosperity won't lead too far towards liberalization - because the mindset favours control. (Eamonn Fingleton Discusses 'In the Jaws of the Dragon' , 30/6/08)
Federal Government is considering establishing an ethics commission to investigate misconduct and provide ethics training to MPs and public servants (Denholm M etal 'Rudd eyes ethics watchdog', A, 24-25/5/08).
IEA is revising its oil supply estimates downwards and indicated continued difficulties in keeping up with the supply of oil ('Oil supplies won keep up agency warns', A, 23/5/08).
Infrastructure Minister (Anthony Albanese) rejected suggestions that high powered industry representatives who make up half of 12 member Infrastructure Australia would have a conflict of interest. Members would be expected to step aside when board was considering a project in which they might have a pecuniary interest. Projects might have public or private funding or be PPPs. Federal Treasurer said IA and new $20bn Building Australia Fund showed government was serious about overcoming infrastructure bottlenecks. Fund would be used for roads, rail, ports and broadband. IA will submit guideline for PPPs to COAG in October and a list of priority projects by March. Opposition (Warren Truss) said that IA would slow down the process of uncorking bottlenecks - being unable to look at existing ALP promises, and being unlikely to produce decisions before 2010 (Karvelas P., 'Planning body revealed', A, 20/5/08).
Immigration minister (Chris Evans) wants to boost migrant numbers and gear Australia for new global competition for workers. The question is whether semi- and un-skilled workers need to be imported to meet labour shortages. A guest worker program for the South Pacific is expected to be trialled. The recent federal budget lifted migration (70% skilled) to 300,000 pa (Kelly P. 'Rudd taps global labour pool', A, 17/5/08).
Critics of the 2020 Summit should note the PM's view that politicians are expected to be in the future business - to anticipate and deal with challenges, and to lead towards a vision of the future. He clearly believes in the primacy of ideas is public life - such as those that emerge from gatherings like the WEF at Davos - where business and political leaders, writers, academics and NGOs have met to debate current issues. In Australia it was such meetings that saw global warming migrate from the fringe to the centre of public discourse. This can only happen when diverse views are brought together to prevent people ignoring inconvenient truths. The Future Summit aims to achieve this - and it should be noted that past is a poor guide (Roux Michael 'The great ideas that will shape tomorrow', A, 9/5/08).
Scientists must work harder to make public aware of difference between good science and denialist spin. Some people ('trolls') deliberately post false / controversial messages on the Internet to ferment a conflicting style of debate. Those who enter the debate about evolution vs creationism, for example, style themselves creation scientists or intelligent designers. In global warming the few apparently well-educated people who continue to deny the vast body of scientific knowledge are called sceptics, denialists, contrarians, delayers or delusionalists. They distribute doubt and unscientific nonsense. The scientific process (developing / testing hypotheses; critical evaluation; peer review) is complex. There is no top-down control. Inconvenient findings are not ignored. Good science (evidence / ideas that are supported by observations) gradually emerges. However some people try to hijack science for political purposes. Groups with vested interests will often do so. This may involve drawing selectively on a small part of evidence or 'junk' science (ie discredited ideas). When criticised deniers avoid debates / evidence. Scientists should avoid engaging trolls in debates on their own terms. Good science invariably wins silly debates. Scientists must engage in public debate on such issues (Brook Barry., 'Science must prevail', A, 30/4/08).
There is concern that the introduction of a carbon emissions trading system (a move supported by federal government) could have serious effects on economy. Pushing ahead with a 2010 time frame is seen to be inappropriate when other countries have not committed. This could severely reduce international competitiveness (Lewis S., 'Alarm bells fuel wake-up call', CM, 11/4/08).
|Trade and treaties||
China's exports to US are rapidly becoming more expensive because of energy and labour cost rises - thus ending the era of cheap imports (Bradsher K 'Asian inflation ends cheap US imports', FR, 10/4/08).
Schools are concerned about who will pay the large additional costs required to support the $1bn in computers that the federal government promised to provide to schools (Symonds A 'Crossed wires over funded computers', FR, 9/4/08).
The federal government's preference is to liberalise markets rather than regulate. It has an objection to 'producerism' (involving government support for producers at the expense of consumers). Deregulation is not about government support for business, and at times there is a need for government involvement in markets (eg to increase consumption of health / education services, or to reduce consumption of drugs) The first phase of deregulation to battle 'producerism' resulted in major gains in Australia's economic performance (Tanner L 'Under Labor we're open for business', A, 1/4/08).
|Environmental Management||A checkout levy for plastic bags looks certain - as states have prepared proposals for this (Viellaris R', 'Proposed bag tax to cost millions', CM, 1/4/08).|
Commodity booms result in a large fall in measured productivity - because they are associated with a shortage of supply and a consequent price boom (though little real production). Average incomes are boosted in the short term - but there may be no long term benefits from such booms (Burchell D., 'Forget the blip, we have a real problem', A, 31/3/08).
Removing aboriginal children from the chaos of dysfunctional communities and placing them in boarding schools has been gaining support in indigenous communities - according to federal Indigenous Affairs Minister (Rintoul S etal 'Rescue our kids from chaos', A, 28/3/08).
Arrangement to break deadlock on Murray darling agreement through COAG was very complex - and this means delays. The 'historic' agreement to deal with problems in hospitals also contained a failure - a one year delay in ushering in a new era with interim funding to fill the gap. The PM is discovering that political authority has its limits in dealing with premiers who each have their own political agendas. (Steketee M., 'Not so historic just very complex', A, 27/3/08).
The increased scope of issues being listed for regulatory reform will delay implementation of some that have been recognised for years - as all are being bundled together by federal government (Marris S. 'Rudd to slice red tape', A, 26/3/08).
In history there have been frequent claims that resource limitations have been reached - which have proven false. Such concerns are arising again - as shown by increases in commodity prices. Average people now consume much more, and there is a potential for vast additional numbers to reach those consumption levels - possible leading to shortages and conflict. In the past substitutes were available - but there is no substitute for clean water and soils. Coal is constrained by global warming concerns. Technological advances are vital to overcome these constraints. Economic forces traditionally spur this - but there are political obstacles to this (Lahart J. 'Nearing the brink', A, 26/3/08).
Social and physical disorder is rising in US suburbia. In one starter-home area, 81 of 132 homes are in foreclosure and have often been vandalised / occupied by squatters. There is gang activity, increased burglaries and robberies. These problems are attributed to sub-prime crisis, but started earlier. There has been a structural shift in the way people want to work and live - and this is shifting problem areas from the cities to suburban areas. Arthur Nelson (Metropolitan Institute at Virginia tech) forecasts 25m surplus large lot (ie > 1/6 acre) homes (40% of US total) by 2025. After 60 years of shifting to suburban living, trend is back to urban lifestyles. Low density suburbs may become future slums. Post WWII suburban shift (by families, retail and jobs) left behind inner city poor real estate. By late 1970s those seeking safety and good schools had to go to suburbs. Now urban culture is renewed, and people are disillusioned with suburban sprawl and stupor. Over the last decade, cities have gentrified while sprawl continued. Now most people live in suburbs where they are isolated - and urban life has become more culturally appealing. Now urban real estate commands a large price premium. This applies not only in city centres but in suburban towns with walkable urban centres. Walkable urban neighbourhoods, even if small, are proving very attractive - especially if well served by rapid transit. Builders and developers are noticing this, and starting to provide for urban living. Lifestyle centres (walkable developments that creating an urban feel) are springing up - and replacing suburban malls. 1/3 of homeowners would prefer such areas (though this now only accounts for 5-10% of available housing)., while only 1/3 prefer traditional suburban arrangements (ie large lots and driving). Demographics (ie reduced numbers of families with children) are also working against car-based suburban living., as is increases in petrol and heating costs. Suburban advantages of better schools and safer neighbourhoods are also being lost. Over the next 20 years, builders and developers are likely to provide millions of new smaller dwellings in an around traditional and new urban areas. Single homes on the metropolitan fringes are likely to be sold at low prices and eventually converted to apartments. Not all suburbs will suffer this fate. Those with best prospects will be those with rail access or an urban core (Leinberger ., 'Fringe dwellers', FR, 20-24/3/08).
Problems in US financial system are too big to be handled by Fed, but US Treasury Secretary argues that government should not bail out investors, lenders or speculators (Uren D. 'Financial crisis too big for Fed', A, 18/3/08).
Government policy makers started financial system problems. Current policies assume that housing boom / bust are the source of the problem. This assumes that the problem results from greedy home buyers and lunatic lenders. But out-of-control government regulation started the mess. Historically house prices have risen with inflation. But growth management regulation constrained land supply and forced prices higher. Low interest rates and and credit for less-qualified borrowers also played a part. But regulation that limits land supply is the primary problem ('Regulations Are at the Root of U.S. Housing Mess', 17/3/08)
PM's election promise to end blame game was in trouble as: Tasmanian Premier accused PM of political blackmail (requiring focus for increased funding in marginal electorates); Queensland blamed waiting lists on federal lack of emphasis on boosting GP numbers; and NSW sought funding to match its state population share (Denholm M and Ryan S 'States in revolt on health funding', A, 28/2/08).
UK hopes that property value can never fall. But spectacular property crashes have occurred on Pacific rim on crowded islands. UK economy has been mismanaged for 5 years. Its current account deficit is 5.7% of GDP - approaching banana republic status. Housing borrows 4% of GDP. Basing economic growth on an unsustainable asset bubble is a recipe for disaster. Fiscal deficits are 3% of GDP - and has no scope for fiscal liberalization. It may be necessary to raise taxes in a recession - as the IMF forced Latin America's big spenders to do. A recession would have catastrophic effect on public finances. State share of UK economy has risen from 37% to 45% over past 8 years. This is the opposite to what has happened in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. UK household debt is 103% of GDP. Home equity withdrawals are 4% of GDP. 58% of home loans in UK have been sub-prime, buy-to-let or other forms of specialist lending. If house prices fall significant, the outcomes are unpredictable. Getting into the EMU would not be a solution - as it lacks clear lender of last resort and so ECB had to shower banks with cash (accepting rubbish as collateral) to rescue euro-zone banks ('Basket case Britain must rebuild its credibility', 19/2/08)
|Science and Technology||
Discoverer of structure of DNA was forced to resign a position because of 'racist' comments - when he suggested that he despaired for Africa because all policies are based on the assumption that they have the same intelligence as others - and testing shows this to be incorrect. While there is no difference in intelligence, there is a greater degree of genetic difference between different peoples than previously thought - with 99.5% of DNA common (compared with the 98.5% of DNA which humans share with chimpanzees). Differences in DNA are emerging as people adapt to local conditions (Pagel M 'Our world is growing apart as people adapt to their environment', A, 16-17/2/08).
Vulnerable regions face famine over the next few years - as rising energy costs affect food production. Global oil output has been stagnant for 4 years - and has not kept up with rapid growth in China's demand. Biofuels are drawing away food supplies while world adds 70m to global population annually. A crisis is likely in 18-30 months. China is terrified of the situation - as it has real physical shortages. Governments are giving subsudies for the production of bio-fuels ('Why the price of 'peak oil' is famine', 9/2/08)
|Water resources / catchment management||
The world faces a water supply crisis. Many common products require large much larger quantities of water to produce them (eg fuel, clothing, food). Crop switching to biofuels and drought can have an inflationary impact on food. Unlike issues with climate change, there is no alternative product to promote. International Water Management Institute predicts a crisis in coming decades without major changes in practices. Climate change will speed up the crisis ('A world united on water', A, 21/1/08).
|Inflation / Deflation||
The US will experience a hard landing as result of financial instability - which will result in a global slowdown because it delivers a huge negative demand shock. Stagflation (which some worry about) can only occur when growt slows as a result of a supply shock. Deflation will result when downturn results from a demand shock (Will the U.S. Recession be Associated with Deflation or Inflation (i.e. Stagflation)? On the Risks of “Stag-deflation” rather than “Stagflation”, 21/1/08)
Us has entered severe recession due to: housing recession; liquidity / credit crunch; high oil prices; falling corporate spending; low job creation; and consumer exhaustion. There is also a risk of systemic financial crisis, as losses spread from subprime to prime mortgages / consumer debts / commercial real estate loans / leveraged loans - and soon rising defaults on corporate bonds. Total losses could be over $US1tr. Europe hopes to be sheltered. It will be affected because (a) US is still 25% of global economy and will be in severe difficulties (b) the ECB is still worried about inflationary risks which will soon disappear (c) Europe has already been affected badly by financial contagion - and this will have bad effect on business because of its high dependence on banks (d) housing booms / bubbles occurred in Spain, UK, Ireland, France, Portugal, Italy, Greece - and some are starting to deflate (e) rise of euro to 1.50 relative to $US is eroding competitiveness - even in Germany and France (f) consumer purchasing power is eroding due to high oil / commodity / food prices; investor / consumer sentiment is weak. Spain is headed for recession. UK / Ireland seem to be following US after 3 month lag. Italian growth is slowing sharply. In the Baltic countries / Hungary / Romania / Bulgaria / Turkey global credit crunch could see sudden halt to capital. There is limited room for fiscal stimulus as the major European economies exceeded the 3% fiscal limits recently - and need to recover. The ECB believes that financial crunch will be temporary and is targeting inflation - whereas it should cut its policy interest rates immediately. Waiting will increase the economic shocks Europe will experience (Europe Will Be Hard Hit by the Recessionary Storm Now Sweeping the U.S., 15/1/08)
|Mineral and energy futures||
The commodities super-cycle will not be derailed by a US recession, because so much infrastructure is being built (especially in China) (Walls M 'Recession will not derail commodities supercycle: analyst', A, 20/12/07).
US troop surge in Iraq has proven a success. Violence has been reduced. Country will now have time to establish itself. US Democrats are no longer talking about immediate withdrawal. Iraq could really become some sort of beacon for the Middle East (Hames T. 'Hope looms in Iraq thanks to surge', A, 19/12/07).
|Western values: new debates||
Australia's constitution prohibits the formation of a state religion - and supports the notion of individuals being free to have their own beliefs. However while secularism strictly means 'without denomination' it has become synonymous with atheism, agnosticism, humanism and anti-religious sentiment. Some view secularism as a political goal that would not coexist with religion but would seek to eliminate it from public life (so that hopefully it would disappear altogether) (Frame T. The voices of religion must be respected', A, 11/12/07).
Kevin Rudd is attempting to codify for politicians a set of moral standards through defining a code of conduct. But why is there a need to spell out such ethical standards? Shouldn't ministers automatically recognise conflicts of interest. However there has been a political credo at state and federal level that anything not specifically prohibited in allowed. Opposition Deputy Leader (Julie Bishop) supported the new code, but new shadow minister of state (Michael Ronaldson) was cynical - dismissing the code as point scoring because there were many ways to get around its provisions. The real test for politicians is that they know how to behave without a set of commandments set in stone (Sweetman T 'Raising standards and questions', SM, 9/12/07)
Declining value of $US has left central banks everywhere with large losses - and this will give rise to political / military tensions (Bet your bottom dollar tensions will follow, 5/12/07)
Obesity is more dangerous than smoking and will dramatically shorten lives. Smoking cuts life expectancy by 10 years, while obesity reduces it by 13. Modern life with an easy availability of cheap unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles encourage obesity. Over 50% of Australians are obese (Martin D etal 'Obesity link to life loss', CM, 18/10/07)
Immigration minister (Kevin Andrews) has quoted problems with Sudanese refugees (fighting, forming gangs, congregating in parks to drink) as reason for reducing refugee intake from that country - and has been accused of playing Tampa-style race card for political advantage (Heywood L etal 'Black list', CM, 5/10/07).
The only republican model Australians will support is one where they directly elect the president. In 1999 Australians were asked to vote on, and rejected, a republican model in which an Australian head of state would have been appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament. The republic option has since received little attention. The parliament-appointed option was sensible, but Australians didn't understand the role of a future president - perhaps because they had something like the US system in mind. A republic model in which Australians vote for a president would invite a constitutional crisis - eg in a contest between an elected president and elected prime minister. However, if the Opposition leader proposal to revisit the republic question involves a republican model with a directly elected president, this would almost certainly be accepted (Williams P., 'Australia's path to a republic is a rocky road indeed', CM, 28/8/07).
|War against terror||
A study, Radicalisation in the West: The Homegrown Threat, considers how terror cells form, plan and execute attacks. While al Qa'ida has shrunk, its goal of world-wide jihad has spread at an exponential rate. Members of radical groups start out unremarkably - often as children of 2nd or 3rd generation middle-class immigrants. Often they have university education, and little interest in religion. They are not motivate by religion or oppression, but by a search for identity and a cause - which radical Islam provides. They start process of radicalization as individuals, and are then drawn to those of like mind. The stages involved include (a) frustration with life / politics and a search for meaning in life. Middle class men in Diaspora communities are most vulnerable - as such groups tolerate extremist culture (b) Salafi-jihadist ideology is discovered which seeks to create a pure Islamic life based on literal view of Koran. Complex political issues are thus perceived as just a conflict between believers and non-believers. Many of those attracted to this view are politically naive. Those who identify this way become alienated from former lives, wear Islamic clothing, grow beards and become involve in social activism - and gravitate to extremist incubators such as radical mosques, prayer rooms and bookstores. (c) indoctrination - where individuals views intensify and become all-consuming. Unbelievers become the arch-enemy. Individuals then withdraw from prior contacts, as these were not sufficiently radical. The internet then becomes echo-chamber to reinforce their views. (D) jihadisation - when individuals identify as holy warriors. Group-think increases radicalization. They psych themselves up for glorious death as jihadists. Europe's failure to integrate its immigrants into society makes it particularly vulnerable. The US faces a reduced 'homegrown' risk because of greater economic opportunities and less reliance on welfare culture. US Muslims are better educated, have better jobs and are more integrated into society. Australia is less at risk than Europe, but more at risk than US. A key to reducing the problem is communication with Muslim communities - allowing them to air grievances. (Neighbour Sally., 'Self-made terrorists', A, 17/8/07).
Social inclusion can act as a powerful inoculating agent against religious and racial conflict. The divide between Muslim world and West offends good order. It is possible to be Australian and a Muslim (though not all find this). Australian values can accord with dictates of Koran. Terrorist attacks have changed this dynamic. In growing up it was possible to reconcile Lebanese origins, Muslim faith and newly adopted land. War on terror is not a figment of George Bush's imagination - but it is a war against terrorists, not against Islam. Australia faces major challenges including: rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China as world powers; tension between Western secularism and Muslim world; arc of instability to near north; and global terrorism and various forms of religious fundamentalism. A linking agent across these issues is the idea of social inclusion. The diversity and dynamism of communities in Melbourne was inextricably linked with social harmony. Business, sports and education are all part of the inclusive mechanisms in Australian society. Learning a second language also helps. In a world racked by religious and racial conflict, various fundamentalisms and the debilitating effects of poverty and civil unrest, social inclusion as in Australia can help protect against such disturbances. Issues of race, religion, cultural heritage etc must have no place in politics (Fahour Ahmed, 'Out of diversity, harmony', A, 8/8/07).
US resident Bush declared in 2002 that US's actions against terrorism were not based on exporting any utopia - but on maximizing other's freedom. However the ideal of exporting democracy proved as unrealistically utopian as many others. John Gray, in Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia calls for a a return to realism.. However while realism is needed to correct for utopian idealism, unchecked realism will lead to inappropriate narrowing of political possibility. Jay Winter, in Dreams of Peace and Freedom, speaks of the idea of minor (as compared with major) utopias (Dworkin A 'Utopia is not a worth objective, nor is unchecked realism, FR, 20/7/07).
Worldwide low unemployment rates (<5%) are common with low inflation. It is common to attribute the latter to the low cost of manufactures coming from China. But the rapid increase in global labour force is more likely responsible. Where one factor of production becomes more readily available returns to others (eg capital) will increase. This contains seeds of social discontent. Business is using its new-found profitability to fund investment - but the increasingly global nature of business keeps a choke on wages (Uren D 'Real wages falling or flat as profits rise', A, 25/6/07).
For 20 years US long bond yields have been falling steadily - reflecting confidence that inflation had been beaten. There were peaks and troughs, but always peaks were below a falling line. Now there has been a breakthrough on bond yields above that trend-line - sparking sale of bonds (Authers J 'Bond sell-off puts bull run to test', A, 11/6/07).
IR reforms proposed to Work Choices (involving creation of a fairness test) will significantly increase government regulation - and are of serious concern to those who advocate deregulation (Crowe D 'The man in charge of the monster', FR, 2-3/6/07).
|Islam in Australia||
Saudi Arabia should be prevented from financing selected imams in Australia (according to Islamic Council of ACT) because doing so has the effect of spreading a hardline version of Islam (Stewart C 'Block Saudi cash for imams', A, 17/5/07).
State governments are under renewed pressure to privatise their electricity assets as a result of Energy Reform Implementation Group's final report (Tingle L 'Review urges energy asst privatisation', FR, 16/4/07).
There is a narrow but powerful system of patronage surrounding the Russian President (Skidelsky R 'Vladimir Putin, a tsar in democrat's clothing', FR, 9/3/07).
Sale of emission trading permits could generate a $20bn windfall for states over two decades, and allow other taxes to be reduced (Grigg A 'Windfall for state in emissions trading scheme', FR, 19/2/07).
There is a strong link between business engagement (ie employee loyalty and commitment to the organisation) and business performance (eg shareholder return and EBIT) (Abernathy M 'Know how to measure corporate engagement', FR, 2/2/07).
Australia could potentially be the destination for hundreds of boat-people refugees from failing nations on the Pacific rim (Pasquarelli J 'We must be redy for exodus', A, 5/12/06).
|Third Way politics||
30 years ago the CIS published lectures by Hayek - who since then has had a large effect on the West generally. His ideas became orthodoxy in the UK under Thatcher, and were carried into US by Friedman's influence under Reagan. Three issues need attention (a) Hayek's claims about unfettered markets and state regulation (b) social democrats' response to this market fundamentalism - which maintained support for markets without discarding social justice commitment (c) the split in the right which market fundamentalism has caused between conservatives and liberals. In practice in Australia, this has affected (a) IR and family (b) failure to respond to climate change and (c) failure of US and Australian neo-cons in Iraq. Hayek's views about the minimalist state have contributed to failure of nation-building in Iraq. Australians are concerned that PM's political project has gone too far. In 'The Atavism of Social Justice' Hayek argued that altruistic feelings that human beings have for one another in small tribes, are redundant in more complex societies - where market determined prices are better. Treating men as neighbours would have made it impossible to create an extended order. Hayek does not believe that we should be passive about such outdated moral codes. Rational behaviour is not assumed as a precondition for markets, but as being forced on them by competition. This is quite different from Adam Smith from whose views social democrats draw their inspiration. Smith suggested that human beings are both self- and other-interested. Hayek recognises both natures - but regards one as primitive and the other as modern. Christians enthusiastic about Hayek's agenda should consider this. The centre of this intellectual system has core idea that the market is an internally regulated system that maximizes individual liberty. Markets are seen to create a spontaneous order that is regulated from within. Outcomes within this 'game' are regarded as the only determinant of the just allocation of resources. Government's main role is seen as protecting the market. Hayek's markets, unlike Smith's, should be detached from politics. Hayek concedes the existence of public goods, but does not define their extent. Smith's list of public goods includes education, Hayek's does not. Hayek also excludes the family from his self-generating order - as morality in the latter is seen as different to that in market. He does not however suggest why family values are any less primitive than those within society generally. An unrestrained market is capable of sweeping away and marginalising all human relationships that impede its progress - including the family - an issue that is of concern in relation to IR. Social democrats identify seven objections to Hayek's ideas (a) altruism is not a primitive value that should be purged - as properly developed the latter can be market enhancing (b) social justice is not simply determined by 'the game' of the market - reflecting a random combination of skills, strength and luck. All human beings have an equal intrinsic value beyond that which a market may apportion them (c) liberty and equality are not mutually incompatible - as argued in the Hayekian market order. If equity means equity of opportunity, then this doe no violence to market competition, and if education and training are the engine room of equity, then this will enhance overall productivity (d) education, health and the environment must be seen as public goods - though there can be a mixture of public and private provision (e) family, community and social relationships should not be insulated from market. These human relationships are incubators of human capital. Families must have higher legal protection - especially in labour market (f) Hayek's technocratic concept of politics is untenable. Politics must craft constituencies able to deliver market-friendly outcomes - tempered by social responsibility (as Hawk and Keating did for many years). Hayek's alternative, to leave defence of market to a council of the great and good, is unrealistic. (G) tempering the market with such interventions does not lead to totalitarianism. Hayek's writings in 1944 and later implies that market-enhancing social democracy and state socialism are related. This is not supported by evidence as social democracy has moved in the direction of Blair-ite enabling state. Hayek overlooks the fact that social democracy is shaped by Smith not Marx - and has always respected the market, but not been blinded by market fundamentalism. They have always recognised a positive role for the state to prevent market capitalism tearing itself apart. There are many examples of markets not working perfectly. Social democrats favour an approach shaped by Smith, Keynes and Samuelson, rather than Hayek, Friedman and the fundamentalists. Social justice is an essential component. Hayek's world view is not only challenged by social democrats, but by many in centre-right. Hayek's attack on conservatism was addressed in 'Why I am not a conservative' (1960). He argues that liberals and conservatives only agree about opposing fascism / communism. Conservatives are seen to be constrained by sentimental commitment to tradition, and uncommitted to markets. Menzies failed by this standard. Some have seen Menzies' concern for justice being attacked by later liberal leaders. The moderate / social justice stream in Liberal Party are seen to have become extinct. There is an irreconcilable conflict between market fundamentalism, and those who wish to protect community life in general. Orwell criticised Hayek's Road to Serfdom by highlighting that collectivism could be anti-democratic but free competition can create a greater tyranny for most. Australians are concerned about the impact of market fundamentalism (eg in relations to impact of PM's IR changes on families). They are also concerned about government's failure to identify climate change as a classic market failure - which needs government intervention. They are also concerned about the folly of following neo-cons' policy in Iraq. (Rudd R., 'What wrong with the right', FR, 17/11/06).
Kevin Rudd argues that the history wars are a fraud, and that they were merely a front for PM in imposing unrestrained market capitalism which has damaged family relationships and community. He relies on work by David McKnight in Beyond Left and Right who in turn quotes out-of-date feminist sources. Australian families are, in fact reviving. The total number of families increased 15% from 1995-2005. The divorce rate is down. Women's employment has improved - mainly in part-time work and men have significantly increased their child-care tasks. The percentage of families with no parent with a job has fallen. People are volunteering more. Christianity is reviving in outer suburbs. Economic prosperity is fostering happier families. Problems for families soared in 1970s and 1980s because of (a) 1960's sexual revolution (b) radical feminist movement (c) divorce law revolution (d) welfare provision for single mothers (e) rapid rise in unemployment. Rudd's solution is social democracy. The European variation of this gives low economic / population growth; high unemployment and a highly regulated society (Windschuttle K 'A liberal inheritance', A, 13/11/06).
|Employment, Education and Skills||
Rogue employers may be exploiting many workers brought to Australia to fill skill gaps (Heywood L etal 'Unlucky country', CM, 17/10/06).
The Middle East dominates attention - but Africa's problems are so huge that people fear to get involved. Many areas of NE Africa are extensions of Middle East - such as Sudan with Islamist extremism, genocide, a gangster government. Sudanese authorities continue to sanction mass murder, rape and destruction - partly because China and Russia continue to block UN action on the basis of ignoring what governments do within their own borders. Also the UN is already overloaded with problems. Zimbabwe is another example, where economy is collapsing, life spans have dropped to 34 from 64 seven years ago, inflation is officially 1200% and millions have fled. But there are encouraging trends - war crimes tribunals, truth and reconciliation commissions. Democracies increase. Some African campaigners now risk their lives to tell the truth. Most Africans live under tyranny - while those responsible blame colonisation and capitalism. Aid has been effective, due mainly to corruption. There is a need to move away from a leader-cantered system to one based on institutions that can provide protection against dictatorships (Barrett G 'Protection from dictators is the best aid', FR, 14/9/06).
Former Supreme Court judge said that stacking courts with political favourites was the main evil disrupting the administration of justice in Australia (Houghton D 'Politics eroding judiciary: QC ', CM, 1/9/06).
Rich countries face financial strife if they don't address aging. IMF has supported Standard and Poors conclusion that pension, health and long-term care costs will rise dramatically - and stress global financial system 9eg reducing credit ratings). G20 research shows the problem will have wide effects. Payment imbalances between US and Asia could be reversed. The relative value of bonds and equities may change - while housing undergoes a prolonged slump. By 2050 there will be 500m people over 65 in Asia - where aging is much faster. Jeremy Siegel (Wharton Business School) argues that asset values will fall 50% as baby boomers try to sell them to a smaller cohort. But research by Robin Brooks (IMF) suggests that people keep accumulating wealth in older age. There is uncertainty about how far lifespans will continue to increase (Uren D 'Economic crunch of aging', A, 17/8/06).
Humanity's ability to feed itself through steeply rising food demand depends on something that is often thrown away - nutrients. In Australia 50% of nutrients applied in growing food is wasted; food processors spend a great deal to dispose of wastes; much food is thrown away; and cities waste 97% of their sewage effluent and its nutrients (Cribb J 'Nutrient recycling on humanity's menu', A, 12/7/06).
US defence planners are working towards replacing human soldiers in combat with machines able to be operated by remote control (Graham S 'Send in the machines', FR, 16/6/06).
Differentiating between speeds available on the internet could be one of the means whereby Telstra funds the $3.4bn cost of a fibre optic network. This is the first sign of network owners moving beyond a utility pricing model - a step which have proven controversial in the US (Boyd T 'For richer or poorer: Telstra eyes two speed internet', FR, 8/6/06).
Peru has fabulous resources but the rich and middle class live in fear of the poor because of wealth disparity, 50% unemployment. 30 years ago regions' governments were neo-fascist, or pretend socialist that ran countries into the ground through corporate policies. Now most are (often fragile) democracies. In 1900 Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were richer that NZ, Canada or Australia. Protectionist, nationalist policies whereby the rich gained privileges / subsidies; government by big business / churches / unions / politicians ruined this. The West often supported military dictators, which in turn encouraged others to turn to communism (and those involved were often drug gangsters). Democratic / market reforms have produced major gains only in Chile - because of its solid social democratic institutions. But democracy has empowered people and regimes in Argentina and Chile follow moderate policies similar to Chile's. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has great influence in the region because of oil wealth. He supported rise of Morales in Bolivia where oil industry was nationalised (for the third time). These prescriptions don't work - as history shows. Similar support for Humala in Peru - who promises to stop globalization- is leading to problems. South American countries suffer a constitutional problem that presidents can only have one term - and this distorts the system. Trade liberalisation is on hold in the region, and candidates now suggests that after they win there will be no more need for elections. (Moore M 'Populist promises beguile South America', FR, 1/6/06).
There remain huge problems in doing business in Indonesia (business cronyism and corruption) (Mellish M., FR, 31/5/06).
Declining birth rates have led to a 700,000 pa decline in Russia's population - which is inconsistent with maintaining future strength. Many other countries are in a similar situation (Samuelson R 'fertility blues: many countries just fading to grey', FR, 24/5/06).
The reduced role of the state has given rise to medieval techniques for maintaining order in society (eg local criminal Dons) particularly in the third world (Rapley J 'Ye olde times are here again', FR, 19/5/06).
2006 federal budget provided targeted support for first time to biotechnology - from discovery to commercialization. But a skills shortage in science and engineering is a threat. Keeping scientists is critical through initiatives like research fellowships scheme. But there is a need for a long term strategy to attract students to these areas. Development transitional skills for shift from science to business and support for venture capital is also vital. There is also a need for investors to be informed about biotechnology - as addressed in Lockheed review of cloning and embryo research legislation (Lavelle A., 'Skills crisis in science, engineering', FR, 16/5/06).
The creeping paternalism of government is generally seen as a bad thing - but proposals to force welfare recipients to devote part of payments to cover basics such as food, rent etc are worthwhile (Syvret P. 'Welfare with handcuffs', CM, 2/5/06).
Market incomes of Australian workers (before taxes and transfers) are more unequally distributed than in most comparable countries - due to relatively low full-time employment and high earnings dispersion. However tax system does an excellent job of redistributing income to least affluent 20% - though this comes at a cost of work disincentives and welfare dependence. Are income inequalities due to the need to reward education, or a result of market imperfections? Those from low socio-economic backgrounds face formidable barriers to upward income mobility (eg worse childhood environments; health care; education; housing; employment; location disadvantages; poverty traps; less ability to borrow; and less financial literacy). Since mid-1990s transfer payments have continued but inequalities in education, health, infrastructure etc have increased because poorest have received a declining share. Governments invest heavily in passive welfare, yet little in active social programs to improve human capabilities - because they worry about their economic viability. People's achievements are only partly related to genetic endowments. They are affected at least as much by parental environment. Even deregulated markets suffer market failures. Because of information asymmetries, capital markets put too much risk premium on those who are asset poor, or have low incomes. Free-markets will spend too little on merit goods such as: preventative health care, education, remedial training and public transport. Active social programs alleviate market imperfections - though they worry economists because initially increased costs lead to concerns about effect of increased taxes on incentive. To overcome these problems (a) ensure new programs are well targeted (b) seek revenues that don't distort economy (c) use income-contingency loans (d) use borrowing when social program can be expected to increase future human capital stock. International evidence is that free markets and lightly regulated labour markets do not lead to good social outcomes (Argy F., 'Help needed to escape income basement', FR, 2/5/06).
The air in eastern Sydney tunnel makes people sick. Is this a risk for Brisbane? (Clarke S 'Will we choke on tunnel sickness?', CM, 22-23/4/06).
Three years after the invasion of Iraq, the country is a nightmare of daily bombings and shootings. Once a secular state, Iraq's constitution now recognizes Islam as the source of its laws. A corrupt dictatorship has been replaced by a corrupt government with close ties to Iran's Islamic revolutionary government. Policymaking weakness in the decision to commit are clear: willingness to act without normal professional advice; a casual disregard of prohibitions on invasions; confused and changing rationale for using force; cherry-picking intelligence for political purposes; and the lack of skeptical media. Advice was not given to ministers on the strategic pros and cons, but merely what to do if told to go (Toohey B 'How shock and awe turned to fear and loathing', FR, 18-19/3/06).
Queensland's opposition believes that state crime figures are alarming. Yet the way to deal with this is seen as increasing penalties. However in committing crime people only assess risks of being caught, not level of penalties. Thus to reduce crime need to increase numbers of police, not penalties (Bagaric M 'Set the penalty to fit the crime', CM, 6/3/06).
|Bill of Rights||
Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission suggests the need for a charter of human rights in Australia. Common law has protected rights since Magna Carta. Government was assumed to reflect the interests of the community. First generation political and civil rights are all negative - in that they require governments to refrain from certain actions. Individuals were free to be left alone. Economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand are positive - in that they require certain policies of government. Statutory action has increasingly constrained common law rights. Initially statutes were read in terms of expected compliance with common law principles - but now courts assume that where parliament has directed attention to a subject its words should be given effect. This has diminished notion of common law - and of ministerial responsibility. Common law rights are no longer a strong protection. Judges have been unsympathetic to idea of bill of rights - because it would transfer power from elected legislature to unelected judges. Now judges believe (eg because of failure to protect human rights in migration cases) that there is a need for a charter of rights (Von Doussa J. 'The time has come to better protect our rights', FR, 4-5/2/06).
A study of executive pay in Australia showed that between 1989 and 2004 executive pay in BCA companies grew 564% - and that there was a much faster rate of growth of executive pay than of return to shareholders (thus disproving arguments about the need to reward performance) (McConvill J 'Flaws in pay for performance', CM, 31/1/06).
Claims about racism in Cronulla riots fail to acknowledge reality of inter-communal strife. (Burchell D 'Both sides of political divide stoop to playing the race card', A, 27/1/06).
Australian schools need to place more emphasis on teaching about Australian history - according to PM (Heywood L., CM, 26/1/06).
Proposals to limit regulation of Telstra - to improve share prices - are an example of putting private interests above community. Consumers have benefited from introduction of competition in telecommunications (eg with lower prices) (Healy M etal 'Telstra has no monopoly over policy', FR, 16/1/06).
New Zealand's electoral outcome under mixed member proportional voting system has been a muddle - which risks paralysis (Bassett M 'Rudderless Kiwis drifting in political limbo', FR, 10/1/06).
Australian companies are finally achieving useful additions to their profitability from offshore expansion (Hooper N 'Going global finally pays dividends', FR, 23/11/05).
John Holden (Demos) will argue for a strong culture, rather than a grants' dependent, bureaucratically minded arts sector. He would like to see DDG of Arts Queensland required to articulate her expertise, rather than acting as government cipher. Holden's paper, 'Capturing Cultural Value' argues that at present culture is measured by governments defining requirements which arts community must prove they measure up to - and this stifles innovation. The tick boxes mentality is not new - but Holden suggests how to fix it. But doing so would take a lot of political will, courageous public servants and a cooperative / skilled arts sector. To solve the problem there is a need to recognize that administrators are not just rubber-stamping bureaucrats - but are people whose expertise is crucial to creating culture in community. But Arts Queensland is the opposite of an organization where administrators are required to articulate their vision. (Sorensen R 'Breaking the chains', CM, 22/11/05).
|Islamism (political Islam) in SE Asia||
Southern Philippines, with its radical Islamist separatist groups, holds the key to SE Asian terrorism (Sheridan G 'Triangle of terror', A, 20/10/05).
Johan Norberg, of Timbro think tank and author of In Defence of Global Capitalism, is an international leader in advocating free trade, open borders and immigration as the best path to eradicate poverty and increase human happiness. All countries started off as under-developed and with low living standards. It is only by responding to dynamic creative forces that this situation was turned around (Symons E 'In defense of a global about face', WA, 17-18/9/05).
Australia's clean and green image with respect to food (which is believed by farmers and governments to provide competitive advantage) does not actually do so. Australia's agricultural market share has been losing ground to many other producers (McKinna D 'Our clean and green image is a myth', FR, 27/7/05).
UK has sought to focus rich countries on plight of poor - but little is likely to happen because of polarization of debate about aid and development Some blame the poor and others blame the rich for the plight of poor. Some suggest (wrongly) that poor will thrive as soon as they are liberated from markets, trade and the need to balance budgets. Expanded engagement with trade has characterized all countries whose positions have improved since WWII. However assistance can be valuable if institutions and policies are tolerable (Wolf M 'The one size fits all approach to fighting poverty won't work', FR, 8/7/05).
UN has issued new warnings about AIDS - because of risk that it could overwhelm future generations. Much more is needed to reach goal of stopping spread by 2015. Only 12% of those in poor countries get drugs needed for AIDS. Some organizations are making drugs available in poorer countries. There is a need for poor countries to have comprehensive HIV / AIDS programs. AIDS needs the same level of attention as terrorism (Couturier H 'UN losing control of HIV/AIDS pandemic', CM, 4-5/6/05).
The ordeal of Vivian Solon is part of a pattern of federal government political and administrative wickedness that is trashing Australia's reputation for respecting human rights. The federal government lacks any commitment to extending even minimal dignity and respect to different people. And when problems are exposed, the government shelters behind inadequate closed inquiries. The assault on human rights started with the Tampa incident. Australia's mandatory detention arrangements were soon criticized by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Claims that asylum seekers had thrown children into the sea was a paradigm case of politicians defaming powerless people for political ends. The federal government claims it did nothing about abuse of prisoners in Iraq because it lacked the power. The government needs to be held to account - because it is shaming Australia by its selective, qualified and politically motivated approach to human rights (Barker G., 'Moral credibility all at sea', FR, 16/5/05).
Australia is an over-managed and under-led country. Managers ask what the future will be like - which implies that they do not shape it themselves. Leaders identify preferred options. We might, for example, see China as dominating the global economy and seeking to ride on its coat tails. But most future jobs will not be like those of the past. Unfortunately in thinking about this, people envisage a different China in future but an unchanged Australia. A better alternative would involve imagining a 21st century Australia. Some futurists try to predict the future. others are visionaries - dreamers. There is a need for more willingness to explore the future as a leader does. Management is about taking change and the future. leaders walk into the future in their imagination seeking a preferred future (Ellyard P 'Dreams could turn us into whatever we want', A, 5/5/05).
If economy goes into recession, this will end corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR). This is appropriate as environment and social responsibility needs to be approached by a more market focused approach which sees this as a source of competitive advantage. Saying that companies should focus on more than profit creates problems as many CSR initiatives do not create profits. Companies won't really embrace sustainability out of a sense of moral guilt - but would do so out of a sense of beating their competition. Sustainability can be a great business strategy. The best employees want to work for companies who build on this. Energy security and concern about climate change is driving companies towards more efficient cars. The world is going to change towards sustainability over the next 50 years - but this will be the result of capitalism's creative destruction - not because companies believe that it is a good thing (Gilding P 'The profit motive is pure enough', A, 8/3/05).
A system to protect against identity fraud has been proposed (involving allowing governments to cross-relate birth certificates, drivers' licenses and passports). There is concern about lack of privacy (Riley J 'Privacy risk in national ID plan', A, 21/1/05).
|Early human society||
Human beings underwent a period of very rapid brain growth which pushed mental capacities beyond responding to basic instincts according to work at university of Chicago. The process of change was much more rapid that occurs as a result of steady adaptation to circumstances (Kotulak R 'Brain's huge leap forward pushes us beyond instincts', CM, 7/1/05).
|Cultural issues and migration|
|Freedom of expression|
|Government owned corporations|
Changes in the global financial system appear to have created opportunities for, and a new dynamism in, Islamic banking institutions (More - 6-7/10/01)
|Third Way Politics in UK|