SATURDAY’s GOOD READING AND LISTENING FOR THE WEEKENDJun 1, 2019
A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts in other media
ABC’s Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website in case you miss it).
The Economist’s health care correspondent Natasha Loder discusses the crisis facing the antibiotics industry, and ideas to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics
A discussion on new developments and ongoing challenges in Myanmar, with Frontier Myanmar’s editor-in-chief Tom Kean and Human Rights Watch legal adviser, Linda Lakhdhir.
English nationalism has experienced a resurgence in recent years. University of Exeter’s Professor of History Jeremy Black explores the history of English nationalism and its interplay with recent events in Britain.
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy with an insider’s view of European politics and the future of that region, and other topics.
Still more election post mortems – the Coalition’s triumphalism
In a triumphal post Power shifts to the right in Coalition the Australian Conservatives point out what most media have so far avoided: “The numerical strength of the conservatives [in the Coalition] has increased at the expense of the moderates, who must be deeply aware that their influence will inevitably be diminished over time”.
A check of the ABC election website confirms the Conservatives’ numbers: of the Coalition’s 77 seats, 23 are held by Queensland’s LNP and 10 are held by the National Party in NSW and Victoria. That leaves the Liberal Party with only 44 seats, a number of which would be held by members on the hard right. Also the Prime Minister, whatever his own ideological convictions, has a large debt to the far-right members who plotted last year’s coup. It must be a lonely place for any remaining liberals.
While Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives sees strength in the far-right’s success, Annabel Crabb sees a risk in the government’s assumption of a mandate for its reactionary policies. Triumph holds an epic warning for Morrison is the title of her article. She quotes a “senior Liberal” who says “In 1993 and 2004, the governments of the day took away the wrong lesson. It was ‘we’re invincible!’ But the real lesson was ‘actually, the people wanted to vote for the opposition, but the opposition scared them off’”.
We’re 14 days into the 2022 election campaign
Two weeks after winning the election, Morrison is already in campaign mode for the 2022 election with a number of independent and Labor seats targeted, according to Paul Bongiorno on Friday’s daily 7am podcast from Schwartz Media – What Morrison did next. Morrison sees his victory not as a continuation of the Coalition Government, but as the first term of a new political era, the Morrison era. (Vielleicht ein tausendjähriges Reich?).
Is this as good as it gets for conservatives?
Most observers would say that around the world conservatism has triumphed. Even where right-wing governments are not in office, social-democratic parties have tended to take on many of the right’s practices such as privatisation.
But is this as good as it gets for conservatives? asks Andy Beckett in a long article ‘A zombie party’: the deepening crisis of conservatism in The Guardian. Conservative parties have lost members, have lost ideas, and when they win office it is most often through clever political stratagems and exploitation of the public’s political disengagement with politics, rather than through any appeal to ideas.
An interview with Ken Wyatt: a model of sound policy process
On Thursday morning Hamish Madconald ran a twenty minute interview with newly-appointed Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Noongar man Ken Wyatt. His policy concern is to find underlying issues and to concentrate on what works rather than trying to impose any pre-determined formula: “Policy won’t be made out of my office: it will be made in conjunction with indigenous Australians”. He covers issues of consultation, constitutional recognition and the problem of youth suicide.
(Wyatt had been sworn in only the day before. Perhaps there hadn’t been time for his minders to prepare a set of speaking notes with boilerplate content about “jobs and growth” and Labor’s incompetence. Or perhaps he did have speaking notes and had the good sense to throw them away.)
Other elections – Europe
For those interested in the hard numbers of the European election, there is an informative official website. (Good, but still not up to Antony Green’s standard). One can drill down into specific countries. For example in Germany the Greens (Die Grünen) have won 21 per cent of the vote and the old communists (Die Linke) have scored 6 per cent, while the hard right AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) have only 11 per cent. In the United Kingdom, while the Brexit Party have 31 per cent of the vote, the more Europe-oriented Liberal Democrats and the Greens have 20 per cent and 12 per cent respectively, while the Conservatives have about 9 per cent.
As with our election, it’s hard to get much early interpretation that is any more than gut feeling. Writing in Vox, Jen Kirby lists key messages: the Greens’ success, the levelling of the far-right vote, the loss of support for traditional social-democrat and Christian-democrat parties, and the increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit for the UK. She also points out that there is a great deal of difference between member states.
Among the more contrarian opinions is Steve Bannon’s. Writing in The Observer Davis Richardson reports that Bannon, a supporter of Alternative für Deutschland, manages to claim that Europe’s Jews also support nationalism and far-right movements.
In a short interview on Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live, Stan Grant offers his interpretation. There is no grand narrative, says Grant. A left-right framework makes little sense: rather the issues are more to do with cultural differences around climate change, liberalism, immigration and trade, and they harden around national identities. The tension is between cosmopolitan universalists and nationalists – the people who believe that “where they come from matters”. Europe is “a continent that has torn itself apart with conflict rooted in the arch-nationalism of the twentieth century”: the EU project is about putting that era behind it, but cracks are appearing in the project. In the Parliament pro-EU groups are still in a majority, however.
Other elections – Israel
Many Australians may be encouraged when they see a hard-right party having to return to the polls only seven weeks after a narrow election win.
It’s hard to get a clear description of anything happening in Israeli politics – not for want of interest but for want of relatively unbiassed sources. Josef Federmann and Ilan Ben Zion, writing in the San Diego Union Tribune provide a reasonably plain account of the conflict leading to Netanyahu’s failure to cobble together a coalition. The issue centres on privileges granted to the ultra-orthodox – privileges that are becoming too burdensome for the rest of the population to support. (On the Media bias/fact check site, the San Diego Union Tribune is rated as reasonably neutral.)
The Australian economy
Next week there will be significant economic news, with the Reserve Bank announcing its interest rate decision (Tuesday) and the ABS releasing the March quarter national accounts (Wednesday).
On the ABC’s program The Economists Peter Martin and Gigi Foster interview Warren Hogan (now with the UTS Business School ) and Nicki Hutley of Deloitte Access Economics on how they expect the economy to perform in coming months. (The first eight minutes of their session is a basic Eco 1 outline of the theories of monetary and fiscal policy.)
Ross Gittins also addresses the fiscal and monetary measures that may be employed to boost a flagging economy: Our new economic worry: Reserve Bank running out of bullets. Although one may have expected the opposition to have made political capital out of the economy’s worsening performance, both the government and the opposition had an incentive to over-state the health of the economy, so that they could forecast budget surpluses. (Such has been the triumph of fiscal bookkeeping over economic management.)
One economic indicator that came out this week was the Financial Review Rich List (paywalled). We’ve come a long way since the list was first produced in 1984, when Kerry Packer topped it with a fortune of $200 million. This year the top place is occupied by the Pratt family, with $16 billion. The ABC’s Michael Janda provides aggregated historical data on the number of billionaires and the total financial wealth of the top 200, with a comparison of how the other 24 999 800 Australians have prospered.
Joseph Stiglitz on the world economy
Nobel Prize-winning Joseph Stiglitz has a short video on what will cause the next recession (bear with the lead-in advertisement). His focus is on the US and its weaknesses – Trump’s irresponsible fiscal stimulus and his belligerent attitude to trade – but he also mentions problems in Europe and China.
Writing in Project Syndicate Stiglitz takes a longer-term view, addressing the question “What kind of economic system is most conducive to human wellbeing?” Neoliberalism has failed, but what should replace it? He doesn’t think that the centre-left’s idea of “neoliberalism with a human face” addresses underlying structural problems. Rather he advocates what he calls “progressive capitalism” which “restores the balance between markets, the state and civil society”, “severs the link between economic power and political influence”, addresses the problem of increasing market power, and encourages real wealth-creating investment rather than rent-seeking and wealth-extraction.
Long-term weather forecasts
Tree-hugging greenies, overpaid scientists and left-leaning businesspeople have raised anxiety among farmers, insurers, tourist operators, and people living in coastal zones and fire-prone areas about the possibility of climate change. Energy Minister Angus Taylor has assured the electorate that over the next three years of the Coalition Morrison Government there will be no change in the climate.
Saturday’s Good Reading and Listening is compiled by Ian McAuley
Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up