June 14, 2015

Big Ideas

ABC Radio National

Tony Abbott (1957):
Nauru is humane, cost effective and it's proven.
(Nauru turns on charm for visiting Abbott, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 2011)

Gillian Triggs (1940) [President, Australian Human Rights Commission]:
As of February [2017:]
  • 1,400 (approximately) continue to be detained in indefinite immigration detention in Australia.
  • 378 detainees, including 45 children remain in Nauru, [and]
  • 837 adult men remain, and have remained for years, on Manus.
The average time in detention is about 490 to 500 days but many have been detained for years.
When I was at Villawood, just a few days ago, I didn't meet anybody under 4 years in detention and one woman … had been detained for 7 years …
The countries of origin, of most asylum seekers and refugees, are predominantly Muslim nations: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran …
Religious persecution is one of the five grounds on which people can seek protection under the refugee convention. …
It is notable that Australia is the only common law country in the world that does not have a bill or charter of rights.
(Islamophobia and human rights, 18 July 2017)

John Winston Howard (1939) [Prime Minister of Australia, 1996-2007]:
[If] you try to institute a bill of rights, you run the danger of limiting, rather than expanding freedoms …
All you'll do is open up yet another avenue for lawyers to make a lot of money being human-rights … practitioners.
(Jon Faine, ABC Local Radio, Melbourne, 25 August 2000)

David Marr (1947):
[In February 2007, 85 Sri Lankan] men were brought in by barge from HMAS Success and herded onto Christmas Island's only wharf. …
Keeping the press at bay has remained a top priority in all the operations that have followed to scoop up boat people wherever they appear and detain them on Christmas Island.
(p 41)

According to the Australian government these people are not prisoners.
They've committed no crimes. …
(p 42)

The Immigration Department was playing its usual cat-and-mouse game: asylum seekers can only have a lawyer if they ask for one, and they have to ask for one by name.
Holding them incommunicado for as long as possible is about denying them a voice in both the press and refugee processing.
Good people take their careers in their hands to smuggle lawyers' names to asylum seekers.
(His Master's Voice, Quarterly Essay, Issue 26, 2007, p 44)

Lionel Shriver (1957):
My politics … are libertarian …
I don't like being told what to do.
Actually, deep down inside, I'm a 10 year old child with a problem with temper tantrums.
(Lionel Shriver on free speech, identity and the future of the US, 19 September 2016)

Bryan Stevenson [Professor of Law, New York University]:
Each of us is better than the worst thing we've ever done.
(The fight for racial justice in America, 19 March 2015)

Augustine (354 – 430):
The good Christian should be wary of mathematics and all those who make empty prophesies.
The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the Devil to darken the spirit and confine Man to the bonds of Hell.

June 9, 2015

Robert Manne

Green Army: Persons of Interest

John Quiggin (1956) [Professor of Economics, Queensland University]:
The Global Financial Crisis has shown that, for most of the past decade, market estimates of the relative riskiness and return of alternative investments have been entirely unrelated to reality.
(p 190, emphasis added)

In Australia … it has become routine for retired politicians, of all political persuasions, to be offered cushy jobs in the financial sector, provided, of course, that they have followed the right kinds of policies when in office. …
Public office is no longer a goal in itself but a stepping stone to bigger and more profitable goals.
The incentives to promote the interests of the financial sector while in office are obvious.
(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012, p 186)

Robert Manne (1947)

Editor, Quadrant, 1989-97

[At the my final board meeting as the editor of Quadrant] discussion was dominated by the question of … the Aborigines.
It became clear that, for half the board, the way the magazine had treated Aboriginal matters raised serious questions about my suitability to edit a conservative cultural magazine.
On the question of the Aboriginal dispossession in general, and the Stolen Generations in particular, I had crossed over to the enemy camp. …

[Following my resignation,] Padraic McGuinness was appointed as my replacement. …
Over the next three years Quadrant led a national campaign
  • against the conclusions of Bringing Them Home and
  • against the quest for indigenous-non-indigenous reconciliation.
Two anti-Bringing Them Home conferences were held. …
Keith Windschuttle's revisionist history was launched.
The McGuinness-led campaign was soon joined by the increasingly influential right-wing commentariat in the metropolitan press:
  • Andrew Bolt,
  • Piers Akerman,
  • Ron Brunton,
  • Michael Duffy,
  • Christopher Pearson,
  • Frank and Miranda Devine.
The cultural Right had clearly chosen the question of the Stolen Generations in general, and the apology in particular, as their key battleground in the Culture War. …

The campaign [contended that] these children had, in fact, been rescued [from neglect and abuse] and not stolen. …
Padraic McGuinness argued that the Aborigines who presented evidence to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry were suffering from … 'false-memory syndrome'. …

During the campaign, Sir Ronald Wilson [President of the Commission] was, we were told, [suffering from] "moral vanity" — a condition afflicting those who felt deeply about causes of which right-wing cultural warriors disapprove …
Other prominent white supporters of the Aborigines — like Sir William Deane ("Holy Billy") and Malcolm Fraser ("the sanctimonious prig") — also suffered from this condition.
[Such] white supporters of the Stolen Generations … were, in Michael Duffy's delightful phrase, 'white maggots'.
They fed upon concocted stories of supposed Aboriginal suffering.
They secretly hated their country. …
Was it not weird, Andrew Bolt reflected,
that some Australians wanted to believe racist whites — their own forebears — snatched children from despairing mothers' arms?
The members of the elites who were shocked by the stories revealed in Bringing Them Home were not merely politically correct.
They were un-Australian. …

[The] anti-Bringing Them Home campaign [marked] the emergence under Howard of … an authentic Australian version of an international movement on the Right often known as historical denialism. …

The authors of Bringing Them Home argued that, following Australia's signature of the Genocide Convention in 1951, Australian authorities had committed the crime of genocide in their Aboriginal-child-removal policies.
It is now generally acknowledged that they were wrong. …

[The national apology to the Stolen Generations that] Kevin Rudd delivered to the parliament on 13 February was, in my view and in the view of many others, one of the most important in the history of Australia. …
[He] delivered his speech in the presence of every living prime minister, except John Howard.

(Sorry Business, The Monthly, March 2008)

Just as stagflation fatally undermined the Keynesian social-democratic consensus, so too will the combination of the Great Recession and the growing recognition of the destructive role played by neo-liberalism in inhibiting an effective response to catastrophic climate change eventually discredit the idea at the heart of neo-liberalism: the faith in the magic of the free market. …
[However, there] are two important differences between the circumstances surrounding the end of the Keynesian era in the late 1970s and the present unravelling of neo-liberalism.
When the Keynesian consensus collapsed, a party-in-waiting existed, ready to seize its chance.
No equivalent anti-neo-liberal party exists today.
Old-style socialism is dead.
Left-of-centre neo-Keynesians are far less ideological, far more divided and far more cautious than their neo-liberal adversaries.

Even more importantly, at the moment of the neo-liberal collapse, humanity confronts the diabolical problem of climate change.
Those who inherit the post-neo-liberal world will be obliged not merely to strive to reconcile the hope for renewed prosperity with the quest for domestic and global social justice.
They will also be obliged to reconcile both these ambitions with the gravest challenge humankind has ever faced.
No one yet knows what the new era will look like or what it will eventually be called.
Only one thing seems, at present, reasonably certain.
At the end of the era of free-market faith, we will be in a far better position to turn our attention to the kinds of ethical and environmental questions which, for thirty years, neo-liberalism encouraged us to [ignore.]

(Goodbye to All That?  On the Failure of Neo-Liberalism and the Urgency of Change, 2010, p 36)

The Washington Consensus

Joseph Stiglitz (1943):
[It] is not surprising that policies based on models that depart as far from reality as those underlying the Washington Consensus so often led to failure.
(Nobel Prize Lecture, 8 December 2001)

Niall Ferguson (1964)

… John Williamson's original 1989 formulation [of the Washington Consensus advised policy-makers to:]

  1. Impose fiscal discipline;
  2. Reform taxation;
  3. Liberalize interest rates;
  4. Raise spending on health and education;
  5. Secure property rights;
  6. Privatize state-run industries;
  7. Deregulate markets;
  8. Adopt a competitive exchange rate;
  9. Remove barriers to trade;
  10. Remove barriers to foreign direct investment.

(p 308)

One recent study of [economic output] and consumption since 1870 has identified
  • 148 crises in which a country experienced a cumulative decline in GDP of at least 10% and
  • 87 crises in which consumption suffered a fall of comparable magnitude,
implying a probability of financial disaster of around 3.6 per cent per year.
(p 342)

(The Ascent of Money, Penguin, 2008)

John Quiggin (1956)

ARC Laureate Fellow, Queensland University

The Productivity Treadmill: Doing More With Less

Productivity growth is seen by economic rationalists as a matter of using market forces to squeeze more production out of a given (or, if possible, reduced) number of workers. …
Despite the success of Keynesian economic stimulus in protecting Australia from the impacts of the Global Financial Crisis, economic rationalists remain fixated on the microeconomic reform agenda of the 1980s, centered on a combination of financial deregulation and competitive pressure aimed at forcing people to work [ever] harder.
(p 210)

[The National Competition Policy] was highly successful in bypassing democratic processes [and popular discontent] to introduce market liberal reforms, but it eventually produced a backlash.
The upsurge of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in the 1990s reflected an inchoate mass of grievances among Australians who felt excluded and looked down on by urban elites.
(p 219)

[The Institute of Public Affairs] was established in the 1940s as part of the reorganization of conservative politics that produced the Liberal Party, and was, for many years, primarily a Liberal fundraising conduit for business.
It was intellectually revitalized in the 1980s under the leadership of the former Liberal parliamentarian John Hyde, but maintained its historical role as a paid lobbyist for business interests, notably including the tobacco and, later, fossil fuel industries.
In this role, the IPA routinely attacked mainstream science and propounded pro-cartel views on economics.

[The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS),] founded in 1976, was more libertarian in orientation and, at least in its early years, more intellectually rigorous and challenging than the IPA.
It is the Australian representative of the Mont Pelerin Society, established by Hayek and others in 1947.
(p 212)

A striking feature of [Paul Keating's new deregulated, market-oriented economy of the 1990s] was the rise to prominence of a group of corporate raiders and speculators, notably including:
  • Alan Bond [— Bond Corporation,]
  • John Elliott [— Elders],
  • Robert Holmes a Court [— Bell Group,]
  • Christopher Skase and
  • John Spalvins [— Adelaide Steamship. …]
A couple of years before [their] entrepreneurial empires collapsed in a heap of bad debts, criminal charges and fraudulent bankruptcies, a CIS study concluded that the activities of "raiders" …
"lead to more profitable uses of company assets, and as such they play a vital role in the capital allocation process."
In reality, the entrepreneurs were simply the latest illustration of the adage that "genius is leverage in a rising market."
They relied heavily on borrowed money.
When interest rates rose, their paper empires collapsed, revealing a tangled web of fraud and malfeasance.
Most of the entrepreneurs went bankrupt, and many ended up behind bars or on the run.
Some, like Alan Bond, eventually bounced back, finding mysterious sources of funding that had escaped the attention of their creditors, who were paid fractions of a cent in the dollar.
(p 217)

[In the mid-1990s, economic rationalists seized on] methods of estimating productivity growth that appeared, [at least for a few years,] to reveal a "productivity miracle" unparalleled at any time in our history.
In reality, the apparent increase in productivity arose from the increase in the pace and intensity of work produced by the combination of microeconomic reform and the adverse labor market conditions that followed the "recession we had to have."
[However, these] increases in effort weren't sustainable [and so] productivity growth slowed to a crawl in the 2000s.
(p 220)