Nov 24, 2018

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts covered in other media.

On ABC’s Saturday Extra (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website in case you miss it)

The Sri Lankan constitutional crisis, with Damien Kingsbury, Personal Chair, Professor of International Politics, at Melbourne’s Deakin University.

Saudi Arabia relations, with James M Dorsey senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

The need for trust in a functioning economy, focussing on a speech by the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe with economist Chris Richardson.

American’s political and cultural divide, with writer Barbara Kingsolver whose her latest book is Unsheltered.

A Foreign Affair, with Michael Wesley from the ANU, Elisina Wainwright from the US Studies Centre and Philipp Ivanov, Asia Society.

 Other commentary

Australians going hungry

Were it not for the publicity around the government’s inept handling of its grant to the charity Foodbank, most Australians may not have been aware that it is feeding 700 000 people a month. It’s not just about hard times in the bush; foodbanks have re-appeared in other countries as well because, as explained in an article in The Economist, the nature of poverty has changed because with insecure employment hardship can hit at any time. Economic data guiding policy makers picks up annual income, but it does not reveal the spreading phenomenon of episodic spells of poverty.

There’s no trade-off: we can cut power bills and emissions

It’s not only the Labor Party that’s putting forward policies to reduce greenhouse emissions while reducing the burden of energy bills. Richard Holden and Rosalind Dixon of the University of New South Wales have published a carefully-considered document A climate dividend for Australians. Their plan is much wider than Labor’s modest “resurrect the NEG” proposal. Their carbon tax would extend to all sectors, including transport, and would ensure that trade-exposed industries were not out at a competitive disadvantage, while it would also leave most households better off financially.

On the same theme, the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll finds that Australians want both lower power bills and a cut to emissions. It’s hard to understand why the message from the Morrison Government is that there is some inescapable trade-off.

Our democratic deficit

Fewer than a third of present and former public servants believe that the public service remains frank and fearless. Governments, particularly the Commonwealth, are too influenced by consultants and ministerial advisers. These findings are just part of the first of a five-part series, The future fix, compiled by Fairfax journalist Jessica Irvine. Her work brings together surveys and perspectives across the ideological spectrum including the Institute of Public Affairs, the Business Council of Australia, Per Capita, the Committee for Economic Development Australia, as well as the considered views of independent policy experts. Recurrent themes are a loss of trust in institutions – particularly established political parties – and a belief that almost all the gains of 26 years of economic growth have been seized by the top end of town.

Women fight back

Writing for the Washington Post, Lindsey Bever and Emily Guskin point out that “Democrats won women’s vote for Congress by 19 points, with 59 percent voting Democrat and 40 percent voting Republican – the largest margin seen in midterm exit polls”. Among young women the margin was even higher. Exit polls are subject to biases and sampling errors, but these figures are way outside the range of biases and errors.

Loneliness and populism

Tim Robertson writes in Eureka Street about an epidemic of loneliness. Drawing on the work of Erich Fromm he suggests that lonely people, separated from social connections and suffering a sense of powerlessness and insignificance, can be attracted to populist political movements.

Don’t worry about flat wages: bankers are doing OK

“Flat real wages are diminishing our sense of shared prosperity”. This was part of Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe’s message in his address to the CEDA annual dinner. His presentation gives a far more nuanced report on the Australian economy than is given by Morrison, Frydenberg and their cheer squad in the Murdoch media. His other main message was about Australians’ loss of trust in the finance sector, a message reinforced later in the week as finance company CEOs fronted up to the Commission.

The APEC Summit – rough diplomacy

It was before the summit concluded with a non-communique that Hugh Rimington of the ABC’s Roundtable brought together three foreign policy experts – Ivo Daalder, former US Ambassador to NATO, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, former advisor to the Vice President of Indonesia, and Hervé Lemahieu of the Lowy Institute. Daalder accurately predicted that Pence would see the agenda in terms of “a zero-sum competition with China” and would continue to undermine the Bretton Woods rules-based order, while Anwar diplomatically referred to Morrison’s Israel embassy proposal as “not helpful”. It was “a shame that Australia is lacking sensitivity”.

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