Jun 15, 2019

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

ABC’s Saturday Extra (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website  in case you miss it). Yhis saturday Hamish Macdonald will be in the chair.

Last week’s violent military crackdown on protestors has put Sudan’s transition to civilian-led government in peril. Ihab Ibrahim Osman, President of the US-Sudan Business Council, joins us from Riyadh.

From Dark Mofo, a panel discussion about declining trust in the media with New York Times bureau chief Damien Cave, satirist and writer Julian Morrow, and editor of  Quilette Claire Lehman.

Mike Pezzullo is secretary of Home Affairs – the person at the centre of stories about raids, surveillance and national security concerns. But who is he and how does he have so much power? We profile a very public servant.

Dictatorships come and go – but in North Korea they keep on keeping on. So how have the Kim family kept a hold on power for seven decades? Anna Fifield, Washington Post  journalist and author of the new book The Great Successor, looks at the world’s most dysfunctional family.

Longtime Pacific watchers say Australia’s renewed foreign policy focus on the region should be based on hearing from islanders themselves, and understanding their cultures and needs. That’s one of the prompts for Tom Bamforth’s book The Rising Tide: Among the islands and atolls of the Pacific Ocean.

(There may be a live cross to Hong Kong depending on overnight news.)

Other commentary

Our loss of civil liberties: the raids are just the latest instalment

Writing in Open Forum  Johan Lidberg of Monash University reminds us that governments have been eroding our civil liberties ever since the terrorist attacks on America in September 2001. While many have been writing on this issue in the wake of the police raids, Lidberg and his colleague Denis Muller warned about this trend in their 2018 book In the name of security – Secrecy, surveillance and journalism.

Trust in media

Caroline Fisher and her team at the University of Canberra have produced the Australian edition of the 2019 Digital News Report. Among other findings it reveals that many Australians (62 per cent of respondents) avoid news sources, and that urban dwellers are more engaged with news sources than rural dwellers. Many Australians are concerned about fake news and seek verification of news, but that concern is not uniform: it is most marked among those with education and among younger and older people, but less so among the middle-aged.

The ABC’s Eleanor Hall has an interview with Caroline Fisher on The World Today website.

The full report, covering 38 countries, is available from the Digital News Report website.  Its summary report on Australia reveals the importance of the ABC as our news source. (Murdoch’s print media are a long way behind.)

The Liberals really believe they can manage the economy

On the ABC’s Between the Lines Tom Switzer interviews Liberal Party historian Gerard Henderson on his analysis of the Coalition win. Unlike serving politicians Henderson doesn’t fall back on spin and prepared scripts: we can therefore be fairly sure he is sincere in his beliefs and accurate in the way he recounts the way the party faithful see themselves. One of those beliefs is that the Liberal Party is much more competent than Labor in economic management.

(“Most ignorant of what he’s most assured”  Measure for Measure)

At least one Liberal is realistic about his party’s economic management

Writing in the Canberra Times, John Hewson points out that Morrison’s “marketing strategy, rather than policy agenda”, failed to address key economic issues. His strategy was to control the economic narrative “while creating a sense of anxiety, nervousness, even fear, about a Shorten alternative.” It’s little wonder that there has been a fall in consumer confidence since his election and that we seem to be drifting towards another economic crisis.

Advice on economic management

Although our Treasury and Finance Departments may be politicised to the point of economic irrelevance, the Productivity Commission enjoys a degree of independence. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Jessica Irvine reports on an interview with PC Chair Michael Brennan, who calls for productivity-improving tax reforms, including road use charging (to replace fuel excise) and land taxes (to replace real-estate stamp duties), and improved policies on infrastructure funding and workforce policies. (In view of the ACT Liberal Party’s hysterical opposition to land taxes, it’s unlikely that the Morrison Government will welcome his advice).

Transport policy takes us on Argentine road

That’s the title of an article on transport policy, or rather our lack of a transport policy, by Canberra Times journalist Crispin Hull. He reminds us congestion is costing us $17 billion a year, and that “Spain is poorer than Australia and Madrid and Barcelona are significantly smaller than Sydney and Melbourne, yet there is a very fast train service between them (2 hours 30 minutes) 19 times a day over much the same distance.”

Employment and unemployment

Most media covered the ABS  May labour force data, showing reasonably strong growth in part-time jobs and a rise in the participation rate, resulting in no change in the unemployment rate (5.1 per cent). In the two bigger states the rate was lower: New South Wales (4.4 per cent) and Victoria (4.7 percent).

Between census collections we have little information at a sub-state level, and we are inclined to believe that such figures indicate that Sydney and Melbourne can be considered as having reasonably healthy labour markets. But writing on the ABC news site, David Ross looks at the differences between regional workforces and jobs available, finding that in our big cities jobs are concentrated in the CBDs. Long and slow commutes are the costs Australians pay for suburban unemployment. It’s a daily commute similar in some ways to the internal migration workers make to cities in developing countries. (Policymakers consistently fail to recognise the significance of regions within our big cities, with the word “regional” meaning “somewhere out in the bush”.)

Deloitte Access Economics has prepared a report on areas of skill shortages and areas of over-supply, based on employers’ responses. The report considers 35 skills (in a strange classification which mixes skills and occupations). Of those 35, there is no shortage of the 3 that require “work of the hand”, a shortage of the 23 that require “work of the head”, and a shortage of the 9 that require “work of the heart” – a classification that includes customer service and conflict resolution.

Australians’ fundamental right: a holiday in Bali

“There is sometimes in the upper-middle class a sense of ‘we are paying too much tax, we are doing it hard’” writes Tim Costello in an article lamenting the meanness of our foreign aid contribution. We “see a trip to Bali as a ‘fundamental human right’” but shut out of our mind real suffering in poor or conflict-ridden countries. Even poorer countries, such as the UK, spend much more.

As revealed in Lowy Institute figures, as a percentage of national income our foreign aid is at an all-time low.

Aid to mates

The Commonwealth may be cutting foreign aid, but it is keeping up its assistance to Australian corporations. During the week the Productivity Commission released its regular Trade and Assistance Review,  revealing that in 2017-18 selected Australian industries received $14 billion in budgetary and non-budgetary assistance (a figure that does not include the $11 billion support for private health insurance.) Much of the growth in assistance has been in the form of financial support for small business, even though the Commission does not find such assistance is really needed.

A who’s who of rent-seekers

Have you ever wondered why 18 per cent of the world’s poker machines are in Australia? Why governments privilege private schools over government schools? Why the coal lobby is so successful? Why retail pharmacists have been protected from competition policy?

Starting this Sunday June 16 at 0800, ABC’s Radio National will be broadcasting a four-art series Who runs the place. Richard Aedy and Eleni Psaltis have an introductory article  on the ABC news website.

Trade under threat

The Productivity Commission’s Trade and Assistance Review, referred to above, warns that the world trading system is experiencing greater stress than at any time since the 1930s. The US policy of protectionism and its assaults on the WTO are major threats.

In an interview with Christina Pazzanese of the Harvard Gazette, Professor Robert Lawrence of the Kennedy School describes the damage inflicted by Trump’s protectionism, not only to the world economy, but also to domestic US industries as international supply chains are disrupted. We no longer live in a world where everything has one clear country of origin. Lawrence, like most economic liberals, and unlike our own government, is a strong supporter of multilateralism.

The Bretton Woods order that did so much for world trade and peace has given way to “hyperglobalization” – the surrender of national economic sovereignty to globalization as an end in itself – argues Dani Rodrik writing in Foreign Affairs Globalization’s wrong turn. He compares the dysfunctions of the present world economic order to the stagnation resulting from historical adherence to the gold standard (an adherence that brought affluence to Australia in the 1850s and misery in the 1890s).

Foreign Affairs has a paywall, but it allows non-subscribers to download one to three articles a month. A full subscription costs around $A50 a year.

America’s plan for Palestinians – indefinite colonialism

Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner is responsible for developing America’s Middle East peace plan. Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, writing in the New York Review of Books, sees Kushner’s plan as a replica of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which disregarded the political aspirations of Palestinians. He writes:

Understandably, almost universally, Palestinians—along with many international commentators—see such an approach as simply paving the way to a normalization of never-ending occupation and creeping annexation under conditions of extreme legal discrimination between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs: a situation resembling nothing so much as apartheid South Africa.

We might remember that during the election campaign former Rudd Government minister Melissa Parke was forced to quit the campaign when she likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South Africa’s apartheid.

Global peace

The Institute for Economics and Peace has released its 2019 Global Peace Index. Global peacefulness has improved in the latest year, but only slightly – there is no reason for arms dealers to fret. This improvement reflects a reduced level of conflict in Syria and Ukraine, partially offset by increasing violence in the Americas.

In country rankings Iceland remains in top place (Nordic noir does not detract from its ranking), followed by New Zealand in second place. Australia has slipped down a place to #13, but we’re well ahead of the UK (#45), China (#110), the USA (#128), Saudi Arabia (#128) and North Korea (#149).

Yet another police raid

At least the police raids on the ABC and a News Corporation journalist were in the public eye, but disturbing evidence is emerging of a recent secret police raid on a media organisation.

Saturday’s Good Reading and Listening is compiled by Ian McAuley

Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up

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