AUSTRALIAN FABIAN News
Vol 50, No 1, April 2010 ISSN 1448-210X / Read online at www.fabian.org.au
The Australian Fabians Newsletter: 50 years old in November 2010 Meeting the challenges of the next 50 years means Fabian communications must keep with the times and reach members quickly and economically. Future Australian Fabians newsletters will include information about past and future Australian Fabians Branch events and articles of interest from Australian Fabians and some new contributors. The newsletters will be available online in magazine format on the Australian Fabians website www.fabian.org.au The winner of the 2009 Young Writers Competition for the Race Mathews Award is Timothy Watts. His winning article appears in The Australian 1 May 2010 in the Opinion pages. The runner up is Benjamin Barnett. Read their excellent articles at www.youngwriters.org.au Pauline Gambley, Secretary, Australian Fabians Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
INSIDE A message from the new Australian Fabians Chair John Vineburg
Letter from retiring National Secretary Evan Thornley
FABIAN FORUM DEBATES The benefits and dangers of the proposed federal human rights act John Vineburg 6
The Queensland Fabians Program for 2010 Myra McDonald, Queensland Fabians Executive 8
A real Education Revolution Dr Tony Moore
Social Democracy: The view from Europe Krystian Seibert 12 At the NSW Fabian Forum November 2010, from left to right: Edward Santow, David McKnight and Julian Leeser.
VICTORIAN FABIANS FIRST WEDNESDAY FORUM
The hybrid vigour of social democracy Dr Tim Soutphommasane
OUT OF LEFT FIELD
Self-financing cooling of the planet Dr Shann Turnbull
A message from the new Australian Fabians Chair by John Vineburg
I am very pleased and proud to have been elected as the Chair of the Australian Fabians at the recent Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne 7 April 2010.
I am committed to seeking the views of our members, and ensuring that they are reflected in our strategy, planning and actions.
I would like to pay tribute to outgoing Chair, the Hon. Rodney Cavalier, national Secretary, Evan Thornley, Treasurer, Mounir Kiwan, and Director Youth, Mike Griffiths, for their great efforts in these roles. I also would like to extend the Australian Fabiansâ€™ appreciation to Max Dumais for his continued commitment and work on our behalf.
Most importantly, I want to strengthen the Australian Fabians and help us further our aims of promoting the common good and fostering the advance of social democracy in Australia through reasoned debate.
I see the initial challenge as simply to continue their good work. In the longer term, Australian Fabians face further significant challenges in maintaining our relevance and credibility, particularly to a new generation, and in providing full value to our members.
Weâ€™ll keep you up to date with progress through our e-newsletters.
In meeting these challenges, I am extremely fortunate to be joined by a young, energetic team, including Pauline Gambley as national Secretary (and Editor), Zoe Edwards as Director Young Fabians, Ben McKay as Director of Communications and Media, and Dr Tony Moore as Director of Research. Max Dumais has kindly agreed to continue as Assistant Secretary and to take over the role of Treasurer. There is further depth of experience and expertise in our State and Territory branches. I believe that what we may lack in numbers and fiscal resources compared to others on the Australian political scene is amply compensated for by the commitment, enthusiasm, and sheer collective intellectual capacity of the membership of Australian Fabians.
At the NSW AGM from left to right: Shann Turnbull, John Vineburg, Jan Merriman, Nathan Rees and Rodney Cavalier
Letter from the retiring National Secretary by Evan Thornley
It started innocently enough. “Excuse me, Mr Button, I’ve just got back from America and had some thoughts on Industry Policy I’m wondering if you’d be willing to discuss?” The late John Button, a hero of mine, was gracious in giving half an hour of his time to a complete stranger who’d approached him as he left a Fabians’ discussion at a church hall in East Melbourne in 2003. After half an hour of hopefully intelligent dialogue, John asked me what I’d been doing in America. “Oh, you’re the LookSmart fellow?” he said, as a light went on, and he proceeded to quiz me about Silicon Valley for a further half an hour. Shortly afterwards John introduced me to Race who, as we all know, wasted no time in putting an eager young recruit to work. At that time I had “retired” from a successful high-tech business career in Silicon Valley and returned to Australia with a passion for my first love, public policy that might find expression in the bleak reservoirs of Howard’s Australia. Shortly afterwards Tracey and I saw an ad in the paper from the liquidator of Pluto Press – an emblematic example of the challenges to progressive thinking at the time. We bought it and set about trying to revive progressive publishing and shortly after had new books from Lindsay Tanner, Wayne Swan and, for better or worse, Mark Latham among others. Race Mathews asked me to head up the Research Committee – and quickly suggested a range of serious thinkers who might be involved – John Langmore, Tony Kitchener, Dennis Glover and others. Jane Mathews led a terrific effort to produce our first “blue book” after the 2004 debacle – “After the Deluge” with contributions from Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten, Guy Rundle and others. And so began my personal involvement with the Australian Fabians. Looking back now as I finish up as National Secretary and hand over to the capable and energetic Pauline Gambley, there are many highlights and many people to thank for outstanding contributions. • Barbara Norman who led the conference committee for our National Policy Conference in Melbourne. This was a tremendous event with nearly 300 participants from around Australia and, I think, gave many hope that exciting new shoots were emerging from the ashes of the post Hawke-Keating era; • Max Dumais who led an extraordinary team in the production of the Trial of John Howard – surely the largest attendance at any Fabians gig in most of our lifetimes (Race can correct me here if there were “glory days” events years ago that attracted 5,000 or more!); • Emma Dawson, Mike Griffiths and now Zoe Edwards who have and are successively leading the Race Mathews Young Writers’ Award – now cementing itself permanently in the calendar for a fifth year and producing an ever higher standard of work from exciting young thinkers and in doing so helping extend the Fabians’ reach into a new generation of activists;
• Helen Tierney, Max Dumais and Mounir Kiwan who have done the real work as Assistant Secretary’s and Treasurer to keep the place running and, in Helen’s case in particular, help steer us through the long but important process of separating the National Office from the Victorian Branch and ushering in a new Constitution for a truly national organisation; • Pauline Gambley who has brought passion, vigour and professionalism to the recent revival of the newsletter as a first-class publication and to Xavier Williams who began that process as a 19 year old a little earlier; • Rodney Cavalier, Terry Hampson, Ben McKay, AnnaMaria Arabia and Tim Jordan before her, Pauline Gambley and the many others who have sustained the State and Territory branches, and in Rodney’s case, stepped into the National Presidency to further cement our commitment to a national organisation. This list, of course, regrettably fails to mention tremendous contributions from many others that are what sustains the Fabians as a volunteer organisation. We had impossibly large shoes to fill when Race handed over stewardship of the Society and what, in retrospect, appears to have been an almost full-time workload to sustain it. In many ways one of the most important achievements of the Fabians in recent times is also, for me, a cause of some disappointment. The Research Committee gradually evolved into asking the hard question “what would you really need to do to have a significant impact as
the progressive think tank in Australia”. We undertook an overseas study tour, led by Dennis Glover, to visit other progressive think tanks in the UK, Europe and North America and made several important conclusions. Firstly, a membership-based organisation could not sustain a professional research and publications staff with less than about 8,000 members (as our UK cousins have). While our membership continues to increase, this figure seems still a fair way off. Consequently we decided we needed an additional “business model” as we in Silicon Valley would say. With large scale donations from philanthropic sources and a governance model that reflected the needs of such a model, we therefore launched Per Capita. In the great traditions of the British Fabians, we had essentially spawned and then spun off a separate entity (as they famously did several times – not least with the London School of Economics!). My intention had always been that the Fabians and Per Capita would be two sides of the same coin – a membership organisation and a professional think tank – and in many ways they are, but my regret is that their work is now separated and that many Fabian members do not feel the sense of “ownership” that they should over the exciting work that Per Capita has been
doing over the last few years. Per Capita has made substantial contributions to the public debate in important fields like early childhood development and green skills development, but also in fundamental philosophical approaches such as the role of Government as market designer, the marriage of human capital economics with behavioural economics and advances in neuroscience and now into fields like the nature of citizenship and reclaiming patriotism from a progressive perspective. Perhaps most significantly, and in keeping with the Fabian “spin-off” tradition, Per Capita’s thinking on early childhood development was the central motivating force that led to a consortium of non-profit community organisations (Brotherhood of St Laurence, Mission Australia, Benevolent Society and Social Ventures Australia) successfully bidding to take over the remnants of Eddie Groves’ ABC Learning and returning it to a fundamental focus on the outcomes for children and disadvantaged families – what will become Australia’s largest social venture. This recent development is one that all Fabians’ should rightly feel a sense of pride of ownership over because without the Fabian Society and that which sprung from it, none of this would have happened and Australia’s children would now be in the hands of some other private equity
shareholders looking to focus on profit over care and development. For me personally, the time has now come to hand over to the energetic Pauline Gambley. The weight of my other personal commitments including the Brotherhood of St Laurence Board, Per Capita and my new role at Better Place – helping end the world’s addiction to oil – have meant I haven’t been able to devote the time that the role of National Secretary rightly deserves. I am grateful and excited that Pauline has come forward and will provide that leadership. I will, of course, remain a member and supporter of the Fabians, as I do remain a contributor to the ALP. I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing many of you at future Fabian events. I hope that what we have achieved in the last few years will remain enduring additions to the Fabian landscape and of course pay tribute to the extraordinary foundation on which those stand; from Race Mathews’ lifetime of commitment to the cause.
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Fabian Forum debates
The benefits and dangers of the proposed federal human rights act by John Vineburg, New South Wales Fabians Executive
Is the best way to protect human rights in a democratic society through a human rights act or through existing institutions and common law? This important question came under the spotlight at the NSW Fabian forum on 25 November 2009 on the benefits and dangers of the proposed federal human rights act. NSW Fabian executive member, Associate Professor David McKnight, chaired the speakers, Edward Santow, Director of the Charter of Human Rights project at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and Julian Leeser, Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre. As a proponent of the Act, Mr Santow pointed to the widespread support for the proposal.
“The US Bill of Rights has not prevented slavery, segregation, Hurricane Katrina, and Guantanamo Bay,” Mr Leeser said, pointing to the important protections already existing under common law in Australia. “The classic common law position is–if it’s not prescribed by law, you can do what you want. The human rights act risks being window dressing with unintended consequences.”
“We are considering a human rights act that would be very different from the US constitution. The Brennan human rights act model is correct for Australia – and similar to human rights legislation already existing in other Australian and Commonwealth jurisdictions,” Mr Santow said.
Mr Leeser claimed that the majority of responses to the act were “campaign submissions” that had been generated as a result of lobbying by pressure groups. He pointed to opposition from both liberal and conservative camps as evidence that Australians were generally sceptical, and concerned about the potential implications of the proposed act.
He argued that cases of discrimination were not isolated, and cited cases where people such as health care patients and nursing home residents had suffered at the hands of bureaucracy.
“People who don’t agree on transubstantiation agree on a bill of rights,” he joked.
“There are significant gaps in the regime – for example the treatment of asylum seekers.
“This is no ordinary Act of Parliament; it is quasi-constitutional legislation that alters the relationship between Parliament and the judiciary,” Mr Leeser said.
The review, headed by Fr Frank Brennan, generated over 35,000 written responses, with close to 30,000 in support of a human right act, and just over 4,000 against. Mr Santow said the responses showed that Australian want a human rights act.
“We recognise that public servants do not want to do harm, but we need to provide individuals with a tool to protect their rights and dignity.” Mr Santow said that there was scaremongering over the implementation of a human rights act which echoed the “dire prognostications on the GST”. “The reality is that there is very little evidence of a lawyers’ picnic or of a shift in power from elected representatives to non-elected officials. “The visions of judges roaming the street frightening poor MPs in their beds do not reflect the fact that judges will continue to undertake their roles with detachment, caution and understanding the limits of their role. The legal system also allows for any bad decisions to be corrected on appeal,” Mr Santow said. Finally, Mr Santow pointed to the lack of any “credible alternative” to the proposed act as the best measure of its worth. On the other hand, Mr Leeser put the reverse side of the equation: Does a human rights act make an improvement to our system? Does it change the welfare of citizens? 6
Mr Leeser posed three major concerns about a human rights act: 1) Uncertainty and vagueness of language made it hard to comply with – for example, the right not to be detained for more than three hours without charge, versus the right to a fair trial. 2) Unintended consequences. 3) A changed role for unelected judges – who currently base their decisions on the plain meaning of legislation, or the intent of the legislators.
His final query was: “Name a fundamental right that hasn’t been addressed or that a bill would protect?” Both speakers proved themselves to be knowledgeable experts in their field, with a mutual respect and joking camaraderie borne of having previously debated the issues together. Clearly, both shared much common ground in agreeing on the importance of the democratic and human rights ideals to be protected, but of course differed on the best vehicle to achieve these aims. The spirited debate continued after the formal presentation, as the speakers fielded questions from the floor.
Participants left the well attended event in the NSW Parliament House Theatrette armed with both sides of the case for this landmark proposed legislation. Thanks go to NSW Fabian Executive member Piers Grove for attracting such effective speakers, and to the indefatigable NSW Fabian Secretary Jan Merriman for once again securing a great venue.
From left to right: Edward Santow, David McKnight and Julian Leeser
Australian Fabians: 2010 Renewals The Australian Fabians is the oldest, progressive, left think tank in Australia and its mission to provoke and generate leading edge thinking has never been more critical. For more than half a century we have been at the forefront of research into political ideas and public policy debate and reform. 2010 is an election year and will be no exception. This year should have been a tipping point in climate change and the exploration of new ways of gathering grass-roots opinion and commitment. In all of this the Fabians are committed to make a contribution and to making a difference. To achieve this we need you back. Don’t put it off.
Next 100 renewals only Free copies of the Fabian sponsored
Power Crisis: the self-destruction of a State
Labor Party by Rodney Cavalier An insider’s explosive account which asks the question “What went wrong?” in a State where there have been four changes of Premier in five years
Guy Rundle’s UK election campaign report Save paper stamps and our scarce volunteer energy just go to www.fabian.org.au to join online. (Cambridge University Press, saving $34.95) and
The Queensland Fabians Program for 2010 by Myra McDonald, Queensland Fabians Executive The Queensland Branch of the Australian Fabians began their year somewhat unusually this year by holding their Annual General Meeting in February. This was decided on the grounds that 2009 had to have been the worst weather year in the entire history of the Queensland Branch. Not one but two major events, months apart, were cancelled due to flooding and surely such history was not humanly possible two years in a row even with global warming! Traditionally the AGM, which this year was hosted by Deane Wells MP, Fabian and a former Attorney General of Queensland, sets the discussion agenda for the remainder of the year. However the Committee had already formulated its plans for at least a half dozen events including speaker’s nights and will round out these activities with member’s suggestions for other interesting and topical issues from the floor of the February AGM. The Committee will also be looking this year not only to shore up its membership base but also to bolster somewhat depleted finances since we have maintained our tradition of only raising funds to donate them back into community causes like the Queensland version of the Choir of Hard Knocks which is locally known as the Transformers. With this in mind, the Committee ran a fund raising film night to the indigenous musical “Bran Nue Day” early in the year. Joff Lelliott from the Committee will refresh his already established reputation as a quiz master and conduct a fund raising Trivia Night, later in 2010. On more intellectual issues, the Committee are already in process of organising a speaker’s night on socialism and its relationship to traditional Labor values with Queensland ALP Secretary Andrew Dettmer. We will also advise of a speaker and date for an evening’s discussion on social, community and ethical investment projects.
Queensland Fabians President, Senator Claire Moore, has long been a hard working member of the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In 2009 she had the chance to undertake study tours to Africa and South East Asia to see the progress being made on the Millennium Development Goals which particularly relate to maternal and child health and the international effort for the elimination of HIV AIDS, education of women and alleviation of global poverty. She has indicated her willingness to talk in the first half of 2010, about progress and barriers to progress in these areas, particularly on the African sub-continent in very poor countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. So we hope this year, weather permitting, to be able to keep up this level of activity.
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A real Education Revolution by Dr Tony Moore
The last budget made clear that the Rudd Labor Government has honoured its promise to maintain funding to private schools, to the tune of approximately $6.5 billion dollars, compared to $3.5 billion for public schools. While the Howard Government’s seriously flawed funding formulae must ultimately be revamped to divide this money more fairly between nongovernment schools, and commonwealth investment in state schools will increase, there should be no doubt that Federal Labor will continue the provision of ‘state aid’ that it has supported since Whitlam. The debate about the right of non-government students to Commonwealth funds appears to be over in the ALP, however the new government should think laterally about what the community gets for its investment in private schooling – roughly equal to its funding of higher education.
Here’s a thought. Rather than setting up competition between Public and private as occurred under the Howard Government, why not use Commonwealth funding of schools to bring the two rival sectors closer together, to encourage them to cooperate in the one ‘public’ system? After all, both sectors receive public money and are regulated by government in terms of curriculum and standards in teaching. That the Rudd Labor Government is beginning to move in this direction can be seen in its ‘Local Schools Working Together’ program that provides $62.5 million in the Budget to help government and non-government schools cooperate at the local level between now and 2011.  Originally announced as Labor policy in March 2007, the initiative involves government and non-government schools sharing scarce facilities such as science labs and libraries.  The funds provide for pilot projects in both new growth areas where facilities need to be built in both sectors, for new or upgraded facilities in existing schools and special projects that address needs in science, language or technology.  Writing in the The Weekend Australian, Kevin Donnelly is critical of this initiative as indicative of creeping bureaucracy and a Labor prejudice against private schools that will cruel what is unique about some private schools.  I believe it is a creative response by the government to the social reality that students move between public and private schools, and make friendships across this artificial divide. It bodes well for education reform that marries the pursuit of excellence with the Australian values of mateship and egalitarianism. With the launch of the My School website, the Minister for Education – Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, made explicit that the Rudd Labor Government wanted to move beyond the old public versus private debate that has marred the policy responses of both major parties for so long. Rather than wanting to socialise private schools, as Donnelly implies, Gillard explained in an essay last year that
‘[t]here are examples of excellence, and of unacceptable underperformance, in schools of every sector. There is no point in putting labels on schools in the government, independent and/or Catholic systems. It is part of the old education debate.’  I contend that each sector has much to learn from the other, and public funding could be used to encourage cross-fertilisation and reduce current inequities and social, ethnic and religious division. Private schools need to jettison vestiges of elitism and state schools need to try methods used in private schools that improve teaching, student performance and accountability. There is a creative, productive and social inclusion dividend from mixing children of different backgrounds, outlooks and abilities, so best practice reigns. Closer collaboration would match reality on the ground. Many families use both sectors at different times, at different stages of their kids’ life. Increasingly, busy, so-called working parents have children scattered between a public primary, a private comprehensive and a selective state high – depending on what works best for their child in terms of a school’s specialisation, how they did in entrance exams, what they can afford at the time, religious conviction and whether they want co-ed or not. Some of the greatest defenders of public education attended Catholic or Protestant schools and follow an enthusiastic embrace of public primary for their children with non-government schools in the secondary years.
Why are parents prepared to pay for what the public system offers for free? It’s not just that the Coalition (and now Labor) provided so much money to the private schools. Some parents, especially those with tertiary education themselves, appreciate that more teachers have academic subject specialisations and higher degrees due to staffing freedoms in many non-government schools, and offer alternatives in languages, the classics or extra-curricula arts and sports. Other parents value the superior (and inequitable) material resources (playing fields, equipment, and smaller class to teacher ratios), a perception of greater discipline, and accountability of teachers to parents (via homework diaries that must be signed, phone calls and regular meetings). However, contemporary twentyfirst century parents seeking academic or cultural specialisations can be disappointed when they encounter the old fashioned elitism and ‘rugger bugger’ exclusivity that persists in too many nonGovernment schools, especially the older, higher fee paying institutions – despite the reality that most non-government schools are now ethnically and religiously diverse. Just as the Howard Government tried to promote flag waving and graded plain English reports in state schools, a Labor government should use the carrot of Federal funding to wean private schools off this Edwardian snobbery and into contemporary Australia. Private schools who wish to receive public money would be encouraged to be responsible citizens by a variety of funding conditions. Building on the fine example set by the indigenous scholarships offered by Cranbrook and Geelong Grammar (among many private schools), they should increase the number of scholarships offered to less well-off students and have to show good cause for turning 10 www.fabian.org.au
away students with learning difficulties. Team sport should be played with local state schools, comprehensive and selective rather than those deemed part of an antiquated (and elitist) GPS rating. This would also have the environmental dividend of getting private school parents ferrying their kids to sport out of the traffic jams on weekends. Private schools should cooperate with local state schools in extra-curricula projects, such as music tuition, drama, debating, the Duke of Edinburgh awards and cadets. As a state school student in Wollongong in the late 1970s I participated with private school students in the NSW government sponsored State Youth Theatre, where I saw the horizons of both groups raised by this crash course in social reality. Private schools could also cooperate with local state schools in some core curricula lessons where a local state school might lack expertise, for example ancient languages. Private schools wealthy in facilities should have no difficulty sharing them with local state schools, especially sports equipment, playing fields or technology. Despite generous increases in federal government funding some of the larger independent schools continue to crank up their fees each year, suggesting they are seeking to maintain distinction for their core customers for whom money is no object. Those private schools receiving public money should agree to cap their fees for a stipulated period to allow access to a greater proportion of the public. By such measures the Federal Government can demand good citizenship for its investment. Although it will review the criteria of the current inequitable socio-economic funding model, the Rudd Labor Government has made clear that state aid to private schools will continue.
It’s important Labor does not hand over our money without seeking
some mutual obligation to the community in return. Independent schools wishing to avoid these community obligations and maintain an elitist course are free to not accept public funding. Most low-cost non-government religious schools are already doing the right thing by local communities, and those schools that do not wish to associate with the public need not bother the taxpayer. In relation to the additional funding made available in the Local Schools Working Together program, Kevin Donnelly seems to be arguing that private schools should be given public money ‘no strings attached’, or else they ‘will no longer be seen by the community as special and their unique character will be compromised’.  But state schools must meet rigorous benchmarks from both the Commonwealth and state governments, and it is unlikely that autonomy or decades of tradition will be destroyed by private and state school students learning and playing some things together – after all in the real world these kids are often neighbours, cousins and even siblings. In exchange for their funding, state schools, through State Education departments and principals, must cooperate with independent schools in the above, and also implement a variety of practices that kick goals in the independent sector. Public schools should enhance accountability to parents by adopting mechanisms used by independent schools, such as daily diaries with remarks from teachers, regular email and phone contact with parents. • Decentralise management to local school boards and principals – a move currently underway in NSW. Australia is rare in the OECD for having centralised state-wide bureaucracy rather than local control.
• More imaginative use must be made of the ‘aftercare’ space from 3 to 5 pm (when parents work) to provide school-based value-added extra-curricula alternative experiences as do private schools in music, creative writing, drama, sport, debating, and supervised homework. Ditto in vacation care. Public schools have much to be gained by going back to past practices that worked well for them. They should reinstate weekday and Saturday team sports in addition to individualised gymnastics. And as a matter of urgency return to reports that include competitive positioning of students in the class and/or year, marks out of 100, and individual comments from teachers in preference to the ‘routinised’ computer generated ‘outcomes’ jargon now foisted on bamboozled parents. Competitive marks may be contrary to the experimental education fads foisted on students in the late 1970s and 1980s but they were long part of the state school ethos to good effect – all my reports from Port Kembla primary in the early 1970s still had such information and boys and girls rose to the competitive ethos as we did in sport. This was a school in what would now be condescendingly termed a ‘disadvantaged area’ that worked minor miracles with Macedonian immigrants from peasant backgrounds and native-born working class Anglo-Celts.
Most importantly public school teachers’ salaries should be increased to parity with the independent sector in exchange for working comparable hours, including involvement in extracurricula activities and meeting accountability benchmarks. Equity and value for investment requires that the educational qualifications of teachers coming into the state sector (especially as the baby boomer cohort retires) be lifted
to the same level as the private schools, in terms of good subjectbased university degrees rather than the more generalist education qualifications. Academically competitive teachers scholarships that pay HECS and a modest living allowance, similar to those that educated the teachers of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, should be reintroduced, contingent on the student undertaking a subjectbased degree followed by a one-year education qualification. Scholarships will be based on HSC results (or equivalent and not means-tested) and recipients will be required to teach for at least 5 years. Some of the above changes in state school teaching and operation will require more funds than the public sector received under the previous government. But it is important that those who advocate more funds for state schools consider what is done with that money, and what cultural and structural change will lift learning standards so that state schools compete equally with the private sector. The Howard Government used funding to schools inequitably to engineer social division and faux nationalism. While acknowledging the ‘strong advocacy’ of the camp followers of ‘public versus private schools and which system deserves more government support’ Gillard has declared ‘it is time for all of us to recognise that the old-style education debates need to be updated’.  It is significant that Gillard is also Minister for Social Inclusion, a value important to most Australians.
would like to see some strings attached to the money. The Rudd Labor Government has the opportunity to build on the innovative Local Schools Working Together initiative to use core federal funds to engineer a bridge between students too long divided by dated sectarianism, to reconcile independent and state schools in a single ‘public’ system that raises standards for all. That’s what I call a real education revolution. 1. Australian Labor Party, New Directions for Our Schools – Local Schools Working Together, March 2007. 2. Australian Labor Party, Budget Measures 2008-09. 3. Australian Labor Party, “Labor’s Local Schools Working Together Program: Bishop Bungles” (Media Release), 20 March 2007. 4. The Inquirer, May 31 2008, p. 20. 5. Julia Gillard, “No more public v private debate”, Sydney Morning Herald, May 29 2008. 6. Weekend Australian, 31 May 2008. 7. Julia Gillard, “No more public v private debate”, Sydney Morning Herald, May 29 2008. Dr Tony Moore is a lecturer at Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development and former president of the NSW Fabians. Tony is also commissioning editor of the Cambridge University Press issues-based book series, Australian Encounters. This is a revision of an article which appeared on ABC Unleashed and the Centre for Policy Development website.
Reactions to an earlier version of this article on ABC Unleashed demonstrate that partisans on both sides of the long running schools debate rather enjoy the ganglands of the public versus private stoush. Many idealistic public school advocates for the very best of reasons would prefer to insist that Federal funding of private schools simply cease. But given that since Gough Whitlam’s leadership the ALP has been committed to state aid, I
Social Democracy: The view from Europe by Krystian Seibert
Right now, Australian social democrats have many reasons to be happy. Since Labor won the 2007 federal election, the Rudd Government has adopted a broadly social democratic approach to governing. It has prioritised health and education spending, and focused on addressing climate change by pushing the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, which if it had been passed, would have represented one of the biggest structural reforms to the Australian economy since the 1980s. At the same time, Kevin Rudd has sought to frame his government’s policies within a broader social democratic narrative. Whilst his article in The Monthly in February 2009 received criticism from some quarters, it was pleasing to see an Australian Prime Minister writing that “Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself: to recognise the great strengths of open, competitive markets while rejecting the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system in recent times”1. As the global financial crisis unfolded, I was studying financial regulation at the London School of Economics, so it was clear to me that what Kevin Rudd was writing was not rhetoric, but rather the reality which we talked about during our classes.
The political situation is quite different 16,000km away in Europe. Centre-left parties are in government in only a small minority of European Union member states, and the results from the 2009 European Elections were equally depressing. Centre-left parties came behind centre-right parties in 21 of the 27 European Union member states. In some cases, they only came third, sometimes even trailing far-right parties. The Party of European Socialists, the umbrella grouping for all centre-left parties in the European Parliament only won 25 per cent of the available seats in the chamber – its worst performance since the first direct elections in 19792. Whilst the results were disappointing, my initial response was one of “oh, well, we’re just at that stage of the electoral cycle”. But that initial response was wrong. What made me rethink it was the fact that this is a Europe-wide trend – it is not constrained by geographic borders – which points to a conclusion that there are much more profound problems afflicting social democracy in Europe. The fact is there are some common, identifiable reasons behind the “social democratic malaise” currently being witnessed in Europe.
The Social Democratic Identity Crisis Whilst this is perhaps somewhat of a controversial thesis, social democrats may currently be losing the political battle because they have, in a sense, already won the political war. What do I mean by this? Well, having grown up mostly in Australia, to me Europe feels like a very “social democratic place”. Most, if not all, European countries are social market economies, with a strong welfare safety net. Significantly, there is somewhat of a bi-partisan consensus between centre-left and centre-right parties about Europe’s broadly social democratic character. This is less so in the United Kingdom, but it is very evident in continental Europe. The bi-partisan 12 www.fabian.org.au
consensus that exists in Europe prompts questions about what centre-left parties actually stand for. If the opposition is broadly similar, what makes centre-left parties so special? In a more practical sense, it makes it much harder for centreleft parties to differentiate their message from centre-right, and it makes it more difficult to offer a compelling narrative for voters at election time. As a result, what has instead happened is that many centre-left parties have adopted a defensive stance in order to differentiate themselves, effectively defining themselves as parties that will protect the status quo3. They focus much of their political effort on resisting change, especially where it involves welfare state reform. There is nothing wrong with adopting a defensive stance on certain issues, however the risk is that centre-left parties can be perceived as having turned their back on their historical identity as reformists and revisionists – as catalysts for progressive change. This is quite ironic, because traditionally centre-right parties have been seen as resisting change and protecting the status quo, but now the roles have been somewhat reversed – many centreleft parties could now effectively be regarded as conservative rather than progressive. That is very concerning, because if social democracy does not reconnect with its historical identity, and again seek to define itself as a transformative and future-oriented political movement, then their support is likely to remain stagnant.
Decreased Voter Loyalties and Increased Political Polarisation A further challenge for European social democrats has been responding to the decrease in voter loyalty brought about by the breakdown of class barriers and enhanced social mobility4. These societal changes are effectively what social democrats have always strived to achieve, so, in a sense, social democrats could be seen as victims of their own policy successes. Centreleft parties can no longer rely on a distinct and stable block of core voters to support them during elections, the political environment is now much more like a busy shopping centre with many different “impersonal” retailers to choose from rather than the quiet shopping strip with only one of each type of shop, where the shopkeeper knows you by your first name. This makes the task of winning elections much more difficult for all political parties, let alone centreleft parties – they must craft broad coalitions of support, and reconcile the various conflicting interests that may cut across these coalitions. Linked with this is the increased polarisation of the political space in Europe, a product of new voter anxieties but also the fact that electoral systems in Europe are generally based on proportional representation5. On the far-left, parties such as Germany’s Die Linke (“The Left”) have been relatively successful in capitalising on voter anxieties about globalisation and economic change. On the far-right, parties such as the Danish People’s Party have seen their support increase dramatically, benefiting from tension within the traditional social democratic support base regarding the issue of migration – with some sections of this support base viewing migrants as a threat to their jobs and ability to access public services, and other sections viewing migrants as making a very important contribution to the vitality of societies and the dynamism of economies. The emergence of
these parties on the extreme ends of the political spectrum represents what is effectively a political pincer movement, costing the centre-left considerable support.
Developing a More Sophisticated Approach to Markets Another problem is that many European social democrats seem to lack a clear conception of what is and what is not legitimate in the market economy6. On one hand, in the past certain social democratic governments have been somewhat captivated by neo-liberalism, placing too much faith in markets and the private sector rather than adopting a more critical attitude to all the policy choices available to them. In the case of the United Kingdom, the experience in areas such as rail transport and energy has shown that social democrats need a much more robust framework for assessing the respective merits of market and non-market based policy levers. On the other hand, the global financial crisis certainly did demonstrate that financial markets need strong regulation and careful oversight. It showed us in very striking terms that “casino capitalism” is a dangerous thing, and that governments need to be more vigilant of market failure. But the crisis did not alter the fact that open and competitive markets also have many positive attributes. However some social democrats, particularly those in continental Europe, have responded to the global financial crisis by lumping together and condemning all forms of market deregulation, whilst ignoring the fact that open and competitive markets which foster enterprise and innovation, can help achieve social democratic objectives. The former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin once remarked that modern social democrats should believe in a “market economy but not a market society”. What the global financial crisis has exposed,
once again, is that many social democrats are still very unclear on how to draw the lines between market economy and market society, between good and bad capitalism. There is now a strong case for a more activist state, but the key questions are ones of degree and composition – how activist should the state actually be and how should this activism manifest itself? Social democrats need to develop an alternative to the previously dominant neo-liberal policy paradigm, but when setting out their plan for social and economic progress they need to be mindful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.
Where to from Here? The preceding paragraphs may make for somewhat depressing reading, but the current situation also provides an ideal opportunity for social democrats to embark on a process of self-examination and reflection, to shape a strategy for the resurgence of the centre-left in Europe. No political movement can exist in a vacuum, it must respond and adapt to changing social and economic conditions. Social democratic objectives or “ends” – shaping a society that is characterised by fairness, opportunity and social mobility – these do not need to change. But what does need to change is the “means” of achieving these objectives. Social democrats have a tendency to attach themselves to particular means rather than focusing on the ends – this is evident if we look back across history and see their obsession with the widespread state ownership of industry. So this makes the process of change more difficult. The policies of centre-left parties need to be revamped, social democracy is a transformative political movement, and it needs a transformative message combined with innovative political strategies. This is the context for Policy Network’s new work programme “The Amsterdam Process”7 which will focus on the ideological renewal of social democracy across Europe. www.fabian.org.au
You may ask what is the relevance of all this for Australia. Whilst the some or all of the reasons behind the “social democratic malaise”, currently being witnessed in Europe may not be particularly pertinent for Australian social democrats, they do underline the importance of strategic renewal – the ability of political parties to respond to change. The Rudd Government is currently doing well. It has so far shown itself to be a responsive government – for example in its handling of the global financial crisis. However it is currently experiencing a populist challenge from the Coalition, centred on climate change. It is relatively easy for an opportunistic opposition to capitalise on uncertainty and anxiety amongst some groups of voters. How the Rudd Government responds to this opportunism will be a major test in terms of its ability to shift its approach as the nature and context of the political debate evolves. Looking further ahead, as governments spend more time in power, they loose touch with voters. We witnessed this in the case of both the Keating and Howard Governments – both of which paid the price at the ballot box. If the Rudd Labor Government wins this year’s Federal Election, the challenge will be to maintain its commitment to social democratic objectives, but also actively reflect on the changing social and economic conditions in Australian society, and the need to review and revise its policies where necessary in order to reflect this. Undertaking such strategic renewal effectively will be the key to the Rudd Government’s long-term political success. 1. K. Rudd, The Global Financial Crisis, The Monthly, No. 42, February 2009 2. O. Cramme, P. Diamond and R. Liddle, Challenging the Politics of Evasion, Policy Network, December 2009, p.3 3. Challenging the Politics of Evasion, p.8 4. Challenging the Politics of Evasion, p.9 5. Challenging the Politics of Evasion, p.10 6. Challenging the Politics of Evasion, p.6 7. For more information about The Amsterdam Process visit http://www.policy-network.net Krystian Seibert is a Policy Researcher at Policy Network, an international think tank based in London, which is dedicated to promoting progressive policies and the renewal of social democracy. He is originally from Melbourne.
Victorian Fabians First Wednesday Forum The hybrid vigour of social democracy
by Dr Tim Soutphommasane, 17 February 2010
I was told by the organisers of this evening’s forum that the inspiration for this event was Tony Judt’s lecture on what is living and what is dead with social democracy, which was published as an essay in the New York Review of Books last December. Judt’s essay, as those of you who have read it will know, is written with his typical elegance but appeared as something of an obituary for the democratic left. Here’s what he argues. Rather than seek progress, social democrats must fight to conserve the past achievements of the left: a welfare state, public goods, a striving for greater equality, a civic bond based on common purposes. In Judt’s view, if there must be a guiding instinct for social democrats it must be fear: fear of the terrifying consequences of not defending the left’s legacy, and of what the Right might do to destroy past gains. I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective to Judt. Namely, I believe that social democracy, if it is to remain relevant, must offer a steadfast language of hope rather than fear. This isn’t to say that we on the centre-left must all become intoxicated with idealistic illusion. But it’s important to have as much of a positive agenda as it is to know what you’re standing against.
The case I’d like to make tonight is for a social democracy with a renewed commitment to social justice and citizenship But a social democracy that goes beyond traditional centre-left understanding of the welfare state, and that embraces a liberal as well as socialist ideological heritage. First, what do we mean by the term social democracy? Like so many other political phrases, social democracy has always had a certain indeterminacy. It can mean different things to different people. For some, it means democratic socialism – something with Marxist, socialist roots. For others, it means left-liberalism – something of a hybrid of socialist, liberal, perhaps even labourist origins. Social democracy has always been in search of an authoritative theory. If we were to try nominating a seminal political philosopher of social democracy, we would struggle to find one.
So, for example, while many define social democracy as a variant of socialism, some of the figures most closely associated with it, are far from being socialists: John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge, two of the key architects of the British welfare state, were Liberals. Social democracy has always been both liberal and socialist – something of a progressive, hybrid vigour. But we can at least all agree that social democracy’s high point is represented by that set of ideas, practices, and institutions associated with the post-Second World War welfare state. Its main characteristics in Australia and Britain included centralised economic decision-making directed at the provision of public goods, the adoption of Keynesian macroeconomic policies, and a belief in the universal rights of citizenship. At social democracy’s core is a commitment to social justice: to ensuring that there is a fair distribution of opportunity, resources and recognition in society. Of course, such a commitment itself brings into play a number of values – equality, community, trust – and also a certain political economy – a belief that the market cannot be left alone, but must be civilised by the benevolent hand of the state.
Whereas classical liberalism has John Locke, modern libertarianism has von Hayek, full-blooded socialism has Karl Marx, and conservatism has Edmund Burke, there is no social democratic thinker of equivalent standing. Yes, there are the Webbs, the Shaws, the Coles, the Tawneys, the Bernsteins, the Croslands, some would add Rawls.
If this is what social democracy must involve, then Australia has always had a social democratic tradition – pragmatic, progressive, and unconstrained by doctrine.
But there is, in my view, no authoritative political philosopher of the centre-left. In part this is because social democracy is less a political doctrine than it is a political creed, ever evolving. It is ideological characteristics, to be sure, but it has always been deeply pragmatic.
You think of Albert Metin’s remark that Australia was a country in which there was “un socialisme sans doctrine”. You think of how
values such as a fair go and egalitarianism feature in the Australian consciousness. And you think, indeed, of the civilisation of capitalism through the Australian settlement.
cratic understanding of welfare. Universal access to welfare entitlements is just no longer tenable; it was only feasible in the context of full employment.
Yet it is said from time to time that Australia has never truly experienced social democracy. Social democracy was something that happened in Europe. Its highest expression was to be found in the form of Scandanavian utopia. Social democratic solidarity was to be found among the company of fit, tanned blondes chopping down pine trees and making Ikea furniture.
In his recent book, The Idea of Justice, a philosophical treatment of social justice, Amartya Sen has pointed out that the centre-left can no longer define social justice in terms of passive access to primary goods, but must understand it in terms of expanding individuals’ capabilities.
The welfare states of Britain and Australia, on this view, are better characterised as labourist achievements, if that. After all, much of the Australian settlement was the achievement of Deakin – a Liberal. And even if there had been a social democratic achievement, much of it has now been actively dismantled as successive governments, some indeed Labor, pursued deregulation and privatisation. Even if the ALP could be considered a proxy of social democracy, it had betrayed all social democratic aspirations by becoming a middle-class liberal party of the bourgeois, emptied out of its historic traditions. Yet to come to such a bleak judgment is to get, in my opinion, one thing wrong. And that is to judge social democracy against a standard of political doctrine rather than political practice. Social democracy is, as I’ve said, something that is always evolving. Where once it stood for an interventionist, all-encompassing state, it must in a globalised world stand for a more sophisticated understanding of the role of the state. For one thing, the state doesn’t so much replace markets, but regulates and designs markets. This was something grasped with wonderful clarity by Hawke and Keating, whose economic modernisation reforms are achievements of which the centre-left can be proud. The same goes for the social demo16 www.fabian.org.au
As for the increasingly middleclass character of the centre-left, such a turn is in fact a social democratic achievement. As Tony Judt noted in his New York Review essay, one of the great social democratic achievements during the post-Second World War era was that is bound the middle classes to liberal institutions. It protected the middle class from the fear and insecurity of the interwar years, the kind of fear and security, which, in the egregious case of Germany, drove some of middle class into the bosom of fascism.
Where to, then, for social democracy today in Australia? Well, there has certainly been revived interest in social democracy from our prime minister. When he is not penning children’s books, he is of course penning paeans to the social democratic gods of Keynes and Stiglitz. He has declared himself a sworn enemy of neoliberalism. But more importantly, Rudd Labor has shown nation-building ambitions. This is a government that likes to build things. Such ambitions are a necessary component of social democracy in one sense. They are necessary because a social democratic state must stand for collective interests, collective purposes, collective goods. The private sector can’t be relied upon to provide these things. The state has to step in. It’s the state that must build our infrastructure, or at the very least facilitate its building.
Of course, we shouldn’t swallow the rhetoric of nation-building all uncritically. As recent events have shown, nation-building, especially when pursued in haste, can lead to problems. Our history is littered with examples of White Elephants and failed nation-building projects and wasted spending. If anything, Rudd Labor’s understanding of nation-building has also been rather crude. Cynics would say it has really been just all about hard hats. The challenge of contemporary social democrats is really to reaffirm a value of community by building a new story of citizenship; to articulate with greater power, our common ground. But if you take a broader view of nation-building, you can appreciate that it has both a hard dimension – covering physical infrastructure – and a soft dimension – covering cultural aspects of a national community. And I think this soft dimension of nation-building is where social democratic renewal might need to take place. There is no doubt social democrats need a new narrative, a new story through which to build political coalitions. What that story must be remains to be written. It will be a challenge to write, because much of what social democracy sought to realise has, well, already been realised. Social deprivation is no longer the blight that it once was. We don’t have children working in factories. If inequality and exclusion remain problems, then I believe they are perhaps as much cultural in character as they are economic. Ours is quickly becoming a society of insiders and outsiders, a world in which there are those who find that change brings opportunity and those who find that change threatens their way of life. This is the real challenge that faces social democrats. Where there is cultural anxiety, where there is nothing but fear, the kind of solidarity and community
upon which social democracy is based cannot exist. We become less willing to share with strangers, we retreat into sometimes nasty identities. this is why I have reservations about the social democracy of fear that Tony Judt calls for: nostalgia, even that born of noble minds, can be a dangerous weapon in todayâ€™s world. And I believe that the best hope for the centre-left lies in a national story, a national project, that appeals to the better angels of our nature. It should be one that is plural, one that is capable of accommodating difference and disagreement, and one that can motivate people to work and make sacrifices for others â€“ to be able to call a stranger a friend and fellow citizen.
This is what I would call a social democracy of hope, not fear. Some may say I am too optimistic, but that is, and will always be, the hall mark of the progressive. Our impulse must always be to fight injustice, to expand opportunity, to pursue the common good, to believe that human effort can deliver progress. Dr Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist, commentator and author of Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives (Cambridge University Press, 2009). A research fellow at Monash Universityâ€™s National Centre for Australian Studies and a senior project leader at the Per Capita think tank.
The 2009 winner is: Timothy Watts. Timothy has won a free flight to London to undertake an internship at Demos, a leading UK think tank. His winning entry can be read at www.youngwriters.org.au
OUT OF LEFT FIELD:
Self-financing cooling of the planet* by Dr Shann Turnbull
Trees create their own rain. As the science of climate change is so contentious, the safest course of action for political leaders is to drive initiatives that could cool the planet while increasing agricultural production. Cooling requires reforestation as trees release bacteria that clears heating hazes and pollutants to facilitate radiant cooling while also creating clouds to shade the earth and precipitate rain. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may not have considered that deforestation by humans could have affected the behaviour of the atmosphere except that created by carbon dioxide. There are a number of reasons for this. First, water is the most important greenhouse gas. Without water in the atmosphere global temperatures would be 33 degree centigrade cooler. Over 90% of global warming is created by water with carbon dioxide being responsible for less than 5%. So dominant is water, it is thought that human activities could not possibly make any difference to how its complex systems operate. Second, water processes are so complex and interrelated that scientists do not have sufficient data and knowledge to build creditable models on how water processes may affect global temperatures. However, it is possible to postulate how humans might be responsible for changes in some of the processes.
Might fewer trees reduce cloud cover? Over the last 10 000 years humans have substantially reduced the vegetation of the planet with most of it since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This might explain why the IPCC reports global warming was detected before significant increases in atmospheric CO2. It could also explain why some regions are becoming more arid with more frequent and deeper droughts. In addition, trees need CO2 to grow. Less trees and vegetation means less capture of CO2 from the atmosphere and this could allow more CO2 to accumulate. While there is much more to know, there are scientists who understand how trees breathe-out bacteria to create their own rain â€“ a phenomenon commonly observed and documented. The IPCC data shows that clouds are substantially more important than CO2 in warming the planet. The IPCC also ignored how other human pollutants in the atmosphere might affect the climate. The IPCC data reveals that pollutants created by humans are nearly equal to the amount of natural pollutants.
Is water the elephant in the room? The number of H2O molecules in the atmosphere can range from 2,000 to 40 000 parts per million compared with the 389 parts per million of CO2. This makes H2O substantially more potent in affecting the temperature of our planet. Water is the elephant in the room that the IPCC has ignored as a variable that could be affected by humans. What is now required is for
scientists to join the dots between diverse scientific disciplines that interact with each other. Trees and other plants have a pivotal role in controlling the composition of the atmosphere, rain and perhaps global temperatures. Through photosynthesis plants have absorbed the energy of the sun over millions of years to release sufficient oxygen from CO2 to allow animals to evolve. Photosynthesis manufactures sugars that provide the building material for trees and deep rooted grasses that sequester as much carbon in soil through their roots as is contained in the plant. More importantly the sugars feed special bacteria that become nuclei for clearing the air of pollutants and the formation of water droplets.
Farming carbon increases food and profits Australian soils had carbon content in the mid 19th century in excess of 10%. Inappropriate farming has reduced this to half of one percent. With appropriate land management practices up to 20 tonnes of stable soil carbon per hectare can be sequestered per year. Innovative Australian farmers are increasing the carbon in their soil to increase its ability to absorb and retain water. The soil becomes more drought resistant, richer and productive to increase the output and profitability of farmers. Australian farmers are developing practical knowledge and case studies for others to follow. To initiate global cooling, funding is required to stop deforestation and drive reforestation. However, the need to involve governments in a direct tax on carbon or establishing carbon trading schemes could
be avoided by the formation of private sector partnerships. Emitters of carbon particulates and/or other pollutants could be encouraged to form partnerships with farmers and foresters to sequester their pollution. In this way polluters would compete with each other to research, develop and apply the most cost effective ways to offset their pollution. One way of providing such encouragement would be for governments to fine polluters that did not work with farmers to clean up the pollution they created.
Self-financing pollution levy A fine on pollution or a Net Emissions Levy (NEL) could be progressively increased by a set rate each year to provide certainty to investors until evidence was produced that satisfactory outcomes were being achieved. An escalating fine would rapidly spur emitters into action to promote carbon farming and provide funds internationally to stop deforestation. It could provide a more transparent, effective and immediate approach than carbon taxing or trading. Just as importantly it would be in the self interest of all countries to adopt this approach unilaterally.
The enhanced rural revenues, production and productivity would increase government tax revenues. This should make initiatives for global cooling more than just selffinancing to generate surpluses. Surpluses could be used to assist low income families in the event there are some suppliers of goods and services that increase their prices because they have not profitably covered the cost of sequestering their pollution. NEL is a policy of minimum regret because if the bacteria hypothesis of global cooling proves to be ineffectual, and/or the effect of carbon dioxide insignificant, society would still be better off with more carbon sequestered. An NEL also provides a way to reduce pollution, enrich soils and make agriculture more efficient, resilient and profitable. Dr Shann Turnbull is the Principal, International Institute for Selfgovernance, Sydney, Australia. email@example.com * Technical data provided by Walter Jehne, former CSIRO scientist and adviser to The Hon. Professor Barry Jones and The Hon. John Button. Walter is now a director of non-profit â€˜Healthy Soils Australiaâ€™, www.healthysoils.com.au
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