Satire - Politics - Critique
AUdi ALTERAM PARTEM
CONTENTS Letter from the Editor Presidentâ€™s Report Hear Both Sides Editorial Contributors Special Thanks References
Letter from the editor Upon reading the second edition of SPECTRUM I believe readers will be pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant and diverse publication. Not only has the magazine continued in the spirit of the first edition, SPECTRUM is growing in a direction that amplifies its original aims into something more tangible and long lasting. We hope that you find the content varied and thought-provoking. This edition, much like our weekly discussion groups, covers domestic, international and ideological issues of our time in an attempt to make some sense of it all. With politics playing a role in all our lives, SPECTRUM seeks to provide a platform for dialogue and in turn self-reflection. We should not discount the importance of a student publication that combats political polarisation. It is essential that we leave our echo chambers and read another point of view otherwise unavailable through the algorithms of social media. SPECTRUM is non-partisan, which not only sets it apart from other university magazines; it makes us uniquely and proudly idealistic. We have faith in the wisdom and intelligence of our readership to be able to listen, debate and critically consider alternate viewpoints. For future students and scholars alike, I am sure SPECTRUM will provide a fascinating time capsule into 2018. As editor, I would like to thank the contributors for their hard work and impressive submissions. This magazine is dependent upon the quality of the work we receive and SPECTRUM is ever-grateful to its writers. Thank you to President Winona Horton for her assistance with the direction, organisation and composition of the publication, Tim Mooney for his essential expertise on graphic design and Treasurer Anna Sartori for her financial wizardry. And lastly, thank you to you, the reader, without whom there would be no magazine at all. Enjoy SCOTT REID
PRESIDENT’S REPORT After a long six months we’ve returned with the second edition of PIS’s biannual publication. Nothing was more nerve-wracking for the PIS team than the release of the first ever edition of SPECTRUM at the start of this year. Would people like it? Would people come to the launch? Did we waste our summer break? Thankfully the first copy was met with unparalleled enthusiasm, and we could not have been more grateful. A project like this would not be possible without your support. Since the last edition’s publication, we’ve continued our lively weekly discussions, hosted a trivia night and held a joint event with the Economic Student Society of Australia for the release of the federal budget. However, we are far from finished with what we hope to achieve this year. The upcoming semester will see a talk from former Victorian Premier John Brumby, a women’s event, trivia night and so much more. Not to mention our Annual General Meeting where we’ll be able to usher in the next generation of PIS leadership. A huge thank you must go out to the individuals that made this publication possible. To Anna Sartori, without whom the magazine would need to be handwritten on napkins. To Tim Mooney, who’s design expertise is unparalleled and makes up the backbone of the publication. To Scott Reid, whose work editing articles was invaluable and highly appreciated. And, of course, to you our members. It is for you that we have created this publication, and it is you who we hope gain the most from it. At its inception SPECTRUM aimed to fill a gap in the university magazine offerings. The University of Melbourne is lucky to host some of the most engaged and politically active young people in the country, and yet there was nowhere for them to have their say, no unbiased political publication for them to contribute to. SPECTRUM is hopefully a welcome release for those who wish to have a say on the world around them and how they perceive it. Our primary goal is engagement through discourse, and every submission helps us move closer towards it. If you feel like you’ve got something to say, contribute to Edition 3 - we’d love to hear your voice. As always, keep an eye out for upcoming events through Facebook and email. All the best for Semester 2!
Hear BOTH SIDES
A COLLECTION OF ARTICLES FOR AND AGAINST SOME OF THE MOST DIVISIVE POLITICAL ISSUES OF OUR TIME
A Universal Basic income is principally justified The World Bank and IMF have done more harm than good Australia should become a republic Capitalism Cannot Effectively Deal with Climate Change The states should be abolished Taxation is equivalent to theft Sovereign sELf-determination should be an absolute right The international community should enforce a red line on the use of chemical weapons
A Universal Basic income is principally justified
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the idea that each member of society should receive a regular and equal payment from the state, regardless of their employment or welfare status. This is understandably a controversial idea at first glance, with glaring obstacles such as being able to fund such an expensive undertaking, as well as issues around discouragement to work and wealth distribution. All of these problems can be
rectified, however, by recognising that UBI is not, and indeed would never work as a stand-alone policy. UBI will require massive shifts in taxation and the way society views wealth and working. Implementing UBI without these other changes is a recipe for disaster. Yet to not pursue basic income altogether is also not the solution. The reliable safety net of a guaranteed income will be increasingly necessary in a society where wealth
divides are growing and unreliable part time and contract work is becoming the norm. So why do we need UBI? The working world is changing, and government policy needs to make a decision; it can either close its eyes and pretend it’s still the 20th century, or it can adapt to this new environment. In order to uphold the standard of living its citizens are used to, the state needs to shift the focus for workers benefits away from companies and towards itself. We need only look at the rising popularity of services like Uber, which provide little to nothing in the way of regular guaranteed wages, annual leave, sick leave, and other benefits only afforded to full time workers. Companies like Uber operate under a ‘sham contracting’ model, which means they claim their drivers are in fact independent contractors, and not legally employees. This allows them to skirt superannuation non-compliance laws and leave their workers short-changed. While the state could change the law to make contracting companies pay superannuation and other employee benefits, the precedent for companies to outwit the law has already been set. Regardless of what new laws the government brings in companies will always be one step ahead, and in the meantime, while the state catches up, ordinary people will miss out. Any future UBI model should therefore include a base superannuation, with the option for employers or individuals to contribute more. This would be funded through company taxes equivalent to the superannuation being paid, meaning that companies already paying superannuation do not see any impact to their bottom line, while companies that use ‘sham contracting’ will still have to pay for the obligations they are avoiding through legal trickery. In addition to these disreputable employment practices, many jobs are being lost outright to automation, digitisation and outsourcing. With job security so tenuous, it is important to have a safety net to fall back on in the potentially long gap before finding a new job. While traditional welfare covers such situations, a blanket payment in the form of UBI would cut out much of the stress, anxiety and administrative hell that comes with dealing with the welfare system. It would also help give families greater flexibility and agency in regards to working, with less pressure on returning to work after having children and taking time off for health reasons. Another reason we need UBI is to address our society’s increasing imbalances in wealth distribution. One major criticism of UBI is that it would involve higher taxes on workers in order to fund it, meaning those who meet success in life and gain well-paying jobs will be forced to fund the lifestyles of those who choose not to work. Higher income taxes on the higher paid would therefore not be an effective means of funding
basic income, as this could be construed as being a disincentive to working. An alternative approach might be to look at wealth, rather than income, including things like land ownership, shareholdings and other financial assets. The Australian Bureau of Statistics records that the bottom 20% of households in Australia own only 1% of all wealth, compared to 8% of all income, while the respective figures for the top quintile stand at 40% and 63%. Wealth is far more unevenly distributed than income, which has the potential to create massive problems around social mobility, as wealth tends to accrue through multiple generations. This leads to greater class divides as wealth becomes less a product of hard work and more an accident of birth. A UBI system funded through taxation on wealth rather than income, would create a much fairer redistributive system that would not act as a disincentive to hard work. This wealth tax means that broadly restructuring the tax system is to be primarily focussed on land ownership rather than income; with higher taxes on income sources not related to one’s job, such as investments. Admittedly, this proposal will be highly unappealing to certain sections of society, especially those who have made much of their wealth by being in the right place at right time in the housing market (I’m looking at you, baby boomers). However, it is time we realise that older generations are not the future of this country, millennials are. Yet the up and coming generation is the one having the hardest time affording homes since the days when the only people who owned land were feudal lords. As much as those who stand to lose complain that redistributing wealth will disincentivise hard work, the fact remains that they had to work a whole lot less to get what they have than they would have to if they started again today. Our society is headed for hard times in the future if the way we treat wealth doesn’t change; wealth needs to be seen as collective. After all, nobody gets rich in isolation and it is only fair that limits are placed on how rich any one individual can get before they should start giving a little back. UBI is a complex policy to implement, but the challenges around employment and wealth facing our society in the near future mean that it is going to become increasingly necessary to maintain a fair and socially mobile environment. However, it will only be successful if society undergoes a drastic transformation in the way it treats wealth and working. This transformation must include fundamental reforms of the tax system as well as redefining our approach to employment to extend work benefits to all, regardless of legal employment type. MATTHEW HARPER-GOMM
A Universal Basic income is principally justified
Few ideas are talked about with more reverence in progressive circles than the Universal Basic Income (UBI), the radical idea that proposes the government provide an un-means tested, subsistence level income to all its citizens. This holy grail of the left is conventionally seen as a triumph of principle over pragmatism. Supporters evoke equality, fairness and freedom, while sceptics ask the age-old realist question ‘how much will it cost?’ I strongly believe that we have this relationship the wrong way around. The UBI is a false idol in the pursuit of justice, a band-aid solution that relieves the symptoms of structural social issues, but offers no cure. It’s time we see it for what it is; a pain-killer masquerading as a panacea. There are two broad arguments in support of the UBI, the first that I will label ‘present justice’, the second ‘post-work justice’. According to the ‘present justice’ argument, a UBI would eradicate all poverty, ensuring that every citizen has enough income to meet their basic needs. Unlike the unfair and idiosyncratic distribution of wealth in the capitalist state of nature, the UBI would be, as a matter of principle, purely equal; everyone would receive the same income regardless of their race, gender, class or ability. Those who wish to work to supplement their income can, but collectively we would progress to a ‘post-work’ society. As artificial intelligence (AI) begins to take over more and more traditional job categories, the UBI would become a substitute for traditional work-based income, a means for ‘post-work justice’. In the short term, the UBI would likely be funded by drastic increases in taxation, with workers shouldering the burden of funding this astronomically expensive system. Where exactly the funding for the UBI in the foretold ‘post-work’ society would come from is unclear; one novel idea is to allow citizens to legally own, and generate an income from, their metadata. But the conversation around a UBI needs to go beyond just pragmatics. The UBI would be a radical departure from the traditional welfare social safety net, which focuses on targeting those most in need – the unemployed, full-time students, those with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A targeted welfare system is fair not only because it allows us to concentrate our resources on those most in need, but also because it opens up resources to invest in schools, hospitals and urban infrastructure, all of which are crucial in ensuring equality of opportunity. Although the OECD ranks Australia’s welfare system as one of the most targeted in the world, events like the RoboDebt fiasco demonstrate that we still have a long way to go to make our system as humane as we possibly can. Abandoning this project in favour of a blanket, needs-blind UBI would be an expensive distraction from the quest that should occupy
our time; targeting structural issues of inequality and making our existing welfare system as fair, balanced and just as it possibly can. ‘Present justice’ should mean building off the positives of the status quo and learning from the negatives. There is perhaps even more at stake when it comes to ‘post-work justice’. Proponents of the UBI treat the post-work society as a fait accompli, a destination that we are hurtling towards with inexorable speed. However, a post work technocratic society is not ordained by divine providence, and it is up to us to decide whether this is a future we want to live in or not. Do we want to live in a society where robots, not humans, are our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers? Do we want to live in a society where work, that which gives many of our lives purpose, meaning and direction, is an antiquated relic? Are we prepared to let powerful technocratic corporations or governments control our lives with terrifyingly sophisticated technology? The UBI presupposes positive answers to these questions, but it is crucial that we realise that the answers to these questions are, and should be, up to us to decide now. We as a country, and indeed we as a species, need to come together and ask whether or not the drive towards technology and productivity has gone too far. If we do decide to go down this path, then the UBI may be a viable, and necessary, longterm adaptation. We must not, however, assume that these important questions already have answers. It’s time that we see past rhetoric of equality, fairness and freedom. Far from a policy of principle, the UBI is a statement of moral cowardice that seeks to ignore crucial questions of justice. Do we want to live in a society that works to serve those most in need, or a society that indiscriminately distributes cash? Do we want to live in a post-work society, or do we believe that work is a human right worth protecting? These questions are open questions. The UBI offers no answers. DAN CROWLEY
The World Bank and IMF have done more harm than good
Whenever any of the big four intergovernmental institutions are brought up into conversation, a succession of events will inevitably play out. A bold statement will be made about their significance in the global arena, one person will roll their eyes, and another will proclaim them ‘good-for-nothing’. I, as the aforementioned eyeroller, strive to restrain my gifting of opinions to limited physical reactions rather than anything verbal or of communicative worth, in order to ensure I do not risk opening a very large can of worms. However, if the can of worms has already been opened then surely I cannot be blamed for providing input on the matter at hand. Pretentious disclaimer aside, it is my firm belief that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been the catalysts for more negative events than positive. That is not to say that these institutions have not been at all beneficial; to say that would be incredibly ignorant. However, I assert that their detrimental effects outweigh any benefit they can provide. If we examine the IMF, it aims to foster international economic development and monetary cooperation, as well as assist in the reduction of poverty. It sounds idealistic, because it is. The action it takes to achieve this consists primarily of overseeing economic development on a global and national level, and lending money to poorer states. The former mechanism is largely ineffective, as any advice given to states about observed market trends does not have to be adhered to. Meanwhile, the latter acts as a double-edged sword; any money the IMF grants to states is given alongside a Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), which often dictates the state’s capacity to govern its territory. Liberalisation of the state is always an underlying objective, aligning with a common provision of privatisation that reduces protections over domestic industries. In addition the money is a loan, which further burdens the state with the task of having to somehow pay the organisation back with an economy that’s stability has been further reduced by the program. States attempt to increase next exports to raise funds, but the vast majority of countries are eventually forced to lower prices to remain competitive amongst external pressures. This is, unsurprisingly, to the advantage of developed states. Let’s consider Ghana for instance. Many people point to the state as an example of the SAPs success, due to the huge improvement in exports from 3.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 16% and reduction of inflation from 73% to approximately 13%. However, there are some incredibly significant facts being ignored from this case, the most prominent of which is that poverty in Ghana was actually higher after the SAP implementation. Critics have sought to make the point that economic success and the wellbeing of citizens are not linear factors. They are individual
concepts which inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) must simultaneously consider, yet often it is only economic development that is accounted for. For the IMF to actually ‘do good’ they need to consider both factors, as well as not be so rooted in their liberal ways that they ignore other alternatives. Their traditional policies are not applicable to every state, as demonstrated by Argentina who is bouncing back from their 2001 economic collapse by ignoring many of the IMF’s conditions that lead to its initial downfall. Traditionalism can be a dangerous thing in politics, as it risks promoting narrow-mindedness and obstinacy. IGOs should consider all states both on a global platform, and as individual powers, which is not something that generally occurs. IGOs are westernised institutions, meaning westerners conceived them and that they are generally ‘ruled’ by western values. This has resulted in a sacrificial perspective on the needs of developing states, so as to aid in the progression of the Western world. Approximately 80% of the world’s population are living on less than $10 a day, while just under 50% are living below $2.50. Shouldn’t an organisation promoting global governance be tailoring its efforts towards the globe in its entirety? The World Bank has found itself at the centre of several debates, as many claim the institution is undemocratic, elitist and pro-privatisation to the point of total dependency upon it as a remedy for economic difficulties. Its voting distribution is proof enough of just how warped the organisation’s version of ‘democracy’ truly is. Votes are directly linked to shareholdings, which inherently means that the wealthier states who can afford to give more money to the World Bank will receive more power over decision-making. The United States is the largest stakeholder, holding 16.4%. How is it fair that the states who require the most assistance are trapped in subjugate positions where they are unable to determine their own fate? There is a gross disparity in power which must stop before we can even begin to consider the World Bank as a ‘good guy’ in the global arena. Another issue with both the IMF and the World Bank is that they do not have to face the prospect of true retaliation if their policies fail or actions are perceived to be unjust. They possess a form of immunity, which means that they can theoretically do anything without the fear of facing consequences. It is extremely hypocritical in the current democracy-focused global climate that IGOs face little to no accountability and are vastly autocratic. Until these institutions can rectify this and suitably reform themselves, they will continue to be detrimental to our international community, rather than the pillars of peace and stability they profess to be. KEELY GARRETT-BEVAN
The World Bank and IMF have done more harm than good
With the rise of hyper-globalisation and increased technological capabilities, we can no longer ignore and shut out the impact the international market has on domestic economies. It is now imperative for nations to promote international dialogue and cooperation. Organisations like the IMF and World Bank provide forums for such interaction under the umbrella objective of countering instability in the global economic system through free trade. Dubbed the ‘Washington Consensus’, the two organisations are committed to achieving mutually beneficial outcomes for struggling or emerging economies. The two organisations have a combined emerging market fund of US$200 billion to provide temporary financial help to countries undergoing severe economic strain. Just recently the IMF provided $16 Billion to Ukraine, $15 Billion to Hungary and $2.1 Billion to Iceland to aid development. The international community, embodied in the IMF and World Bank can pool together a further US$1 trillion to aid member states in financial strife. There are currently 189 member states of the IMF, with funding stemming from ‘quota contributions’ dependent on the size of the member states’ economy, the largest being the United States and the smallest being Tuvalu. Having overseen the construction and democratisation of second and third wave democracies, these organisations are poised to be leaders in global development. It is baseless to suggest that the IMF and World Bank are exclusively Western and imperialistic in nature. One such example is the consistent efforts to improve health conditions in impoverished areas throughout the world. From 2011 to 2017, 602 million people received essential health services through the World Bank. As the international community turns its back on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the World Bank ensured 5 million children under five-years of age were vaccinated against dangerous disease, and a further 150 000 people were given critical medical care. Financial aid to Madagascar has seen rates of primary school attendance increase by 97%. Meanwhile 4 million East Africans (60% women) have benefited from the World Bank’s efforts to prevent communicable diseases, along with efforts in Uruguay and Senegal. The World Bank has also addressed outbreaks of ebola in Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In Zimbabwe 20% more women receive prenatal care because of the World Bank. Due to the IMF and World Bank’s status as international organisations, their allegiances to world order and international cooperation have been painted as a ‘globalist agenda’. Critics negate that such organisations are able to bypass dangerous or unstable regimes to provide otherwise unattainable economic outcomes. The first loan from the World Bank was to France in 1944 for the value of US$250 million. One condition was the removal of extremist communist members from French government. The World Bank intervened for the betterment of French
society where it was otherwise impossible for the government to do so itself. Through prescribed economic conditions, the IMF and World Bank are uniquely suited to counter irrational economic policy from countries that are politically hijacked. The recent European Sovereign Debt Crisis in 2011 that left the Greek economy crippled offers one such example of unwavering international commitment. The Greek crisis, categorised as a small-scale humanitarian disaster saw 110 000 Greek companies go bankrupt, unemployment rise from 7.5% to 23.1% and youth unemployment soar from 22% to 54.9%. National riots erupted with neo-nazi and communist groups gaining parliamentary representation. With a 26% decline in GDP, 24% decline in GDP per capita and 44% of Greek citizens living below the poverty line, the IMF along with the European Central Bank were the first to aid the Greek economy. While Germany, France and the United Kingdom reeled from the prospects of providing financial aid, the IMF was uniquely placed as an organisation to help the people of Greece by providing economic help where their own successive governments had failed. The IMF and World Bank have not been complacent in light of their successes however, with 130 consultations with the international community and external economic assessments in 2013, 132 in 2014 and 124 in 2015. Employing 2 700 staff from 148 countries, the IMF has over 1 200 employees with PhDs, and send their economic expertise all over the world, constantly at the forefront of any global economic issues. In turn, the two organisations have taken firm stances on existential problems we face as a global community. In 1991 the World Bank categorically refused to support companies engaged in harmful environmental practices like logging in an effort to combat deforestation. In this vein, aid has been provided to 22.1 million farmers to acquire agricultural assets, and funding has been allocated to 22.16 million students and 73.2 million entrepreneurs with microenterprises. Unfortunately, the World Bank and the IMF will always be criticised for doing too little or too much, for overstretching their mandates or underperforming. With an ever increasingly globalised market, a certain amount of deference and obligation to the international community is necessary for stability and harmony. The IMF and World Bank are working towards these objectives and have unequivocally done more good than harm. SCOTT REID
Australia Should become a republic
It is a constitutional reality that Australia is not an independent country, we are ruled by Queen Elizabeth II. Australian society and culture could not be more far removed from the halls and bedchambers of Buckingham Palace. It is an imperative of Australian values that our head of state live in this country, call themselves Australian and hold allegiance to Australia first and foremost. For the moral fabric of this society, its leader should be chosen on merit, not lineage. We are in the unique position of espousing the ‘fair go’ while simultaneously ensuring that an Australian will never truly be our head of state, nor get a say. Despite the recent marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, support for an Australian republic was recently estimated at 52%. The Australian people are right to harbour a distaste and suspicion for antiquated tradition. During the last visit from the Prince of Wales, he declined an invitation from the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) to give a speech on his terms. One must ask; is there any guarantee that our current head of state has an uncompromising directive of pursuing Australia’s best interests? Is there any vision? Does succession guarantee competency? It is important to note that whenever a member of the royal family does decide to visit Australia, the taxpayer must bear the financial burden. The 2005 five visit by Charles and Camilla cost AU$400 000 meanwhile the Queens visit in 2006 racked up a bill of AU$1.8 million. More taxpayers money was spent in 2007 for the AU$400 000 production of a royal coach as a birthday present for the Queen. Another irreconcilable difference between the two nations is the question of religious tolerance. A fundamental value of Australia today, it is espoused to maintain social cohesion and prioritise civility and respect between faiths. Our Head of State cannot marry a Catholic despite Catholicism being the largest religious denomination in Australia (22.6%), we must be permanently ‘in communion’ with the Church of England. Subsequently we are in a constant state of religious discrimination. The Australian political landscape is just as bleak. The Head of State can dismiss the democratically elected Prime Minister whenever they desire. Such political interference was most visibly seen with the removal of Gough Whitlam in 1975 and was tantamount to a regime change. It has been revealed that John Kerr never discussed the Prime Minister’s dismissal with the Queen at all, and that his multiple discussions were held with Prince Charles. Former Chief Justice Gerard Brennan stated that “so long as we retain the existing system our Head of State is determined for us essentially by the parliament at Westminster”. The instability born from such structural mechanisms enables state capture, a deeply corrupt negation of Western liberal democratic values that have caused social chaos most recently in Bulgaria, Romania and South Africa.
With regards to the appointment of cabinet ministers, the Queen’s representative accepts the recommendation of the Prime Minister and allows the appointment to proceed, the same process occurs on a state level. Ministers “serve during the pleasure of the Governor General”. All military personnel and members of parliament swear oaths of allegiance not to the Prime Minister, but to the Monarch. Justice Gibbs of the High Court went as far as to describe Australia as a colony until 1942, and a ‘British possession’ afterwards. We are now in the awkward position where British citizens are ineligible to sit in our parliaments, yet we retain a British monarch. This is in direct contradiction to what we expect from our representatives, public servants and Defence Force. Nowhere are the costs of being owned by the British monarchy as visible as with military campaigns and deaths in the name of the Commonwealth. These campaigns have not been waged in the primary interests of Australia. Since the massacre of 9 000 expendable diggers in the Gallipoli, structural and cultural indifference towards the Australian ‘colony’ finally emerged. Major General John Monash described this outlook as an “attitude of cold and rather critical patronage towards Australians and a vague allusion to their slack discipline”. The ‘worst night’ in Australian military history arose from incompetent British generals sending waves upon waves of Australian soldiers across no man’s lands to their slaughter, over a village in Fromelles. Over 103 000 Australians have died during overseas conflicts, many from an imposed duty to the Crown. Republican constitutional change does not arise from an absence of emotional ties to Britain, it is coming from the growing pains of maturing nation. The belief of an inevitable Republic predates Federation and reflects current opinion. This is not a justification for change, but a mandate for action. ANONYMOUS
Australia Should become a republic
The question of whether Australia should become a republic has long simmered in the background of our political life. The issue has gained prominence of late as Mr Shorten promised the issue will be placed before the public when the Labor Party next occupies the Treasury benches. However, a republic has nothing to offer Australia in 2018. It addresses no need, solves no problems, and the proposed pathway is nothing less than political charlatanism. It is a political vanity project divorced from the very real concerns that we face as a nation. Firstly, there is no case for change based on our current Constitution. Both it and our public institutions remain fit for purpose and continue to enjoy broad public confidence. Our bicameral system, stable party structure, and compulsory voting include the vast majority of citizens in the political process and provide a functional governmental structure that has historically been able to respond to constituent concerns. Although it is not a perfect document, in the absence of a pressing crisis or manifest inadequacy, why change? Historical arguments have ranged from the racist to the ridiculous. Emotional nationalism has long infected republicanism in Australia, although more recently it seems to have left behind the explicit racism that characterised it until at least the early 1960s. Later arguments were not much stronger, Al Grassby (noted former Immigration minister and sartorialist) blamed the constitutional monarchy for unemployment, Neville Wran argued a republic would create jobs, others stated it would improve trade with Asia. The main argument made by the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) is that Australia requires “one of our own as Head of State”. Leaving aside the gauche parochialism in this statement, this argument is flawed in principle and in fact. We have an Australian head of state in the position of Governor-General. While the Constitution is silent on the question of a ‘head of state’, sections 2 and 61 place all powers of head of state in the hands of the Governor-General, the only such office to be created in a constitution, rather than letters patent. Moreover, in 1953, Commonwealth law officers determined this power could not be exercised personally by the Queen in any capacity, a fact that required legislation to amend in advance of the Royal Tour in 1953. Indeed, after the 1975 crisis, the Queen’s Private Secretary Sir Martin Charteris wrote to the Speaker of the House confirming the Queen’s inability to intervene. In short, and for all practical purposes, the Governor-General is Australia’s head of state and fulfils all the functions thereof; appointing ministers, approving laws, and receiving international representatives. Even Mr Turnbull, former head of the ARM, acknowledged that Australia was “represented [overseas] by our Head of State, by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove…”
Not only are there no practical or abstract nationalist reasons to change Australia’s Constitution, there is no popular movement for it. Indeed, republicanism is an issue of political elites. In survey after survey, poll after poll, the republic is not identified as a key issue. It did not even feature on a list of political issues published in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year (even at the height of the citizenship issue). It was not identified as a significant issue in the ABC’s 2013 and 2016 Vote Compass. More serious issues, such as unemployment, the economy, and the cost of living were nominated in a recent Roy Morgan pool. No mass movement for a republic exists, and Mr Shorten acknowledges this, conceding that “it’s no good hoping for a popular groundswell…” The groundswell will never come, Australians are occupied with far more relevant issues. In a time of real and genuine problems, both at home and abroad, constitutional navel-gazing is nothing less than a political vanity project. So why do it? A republic is often invoked as a solution for some other issue, from reconciliation, to foreign policy and Australia’s image abroad. Indeed, the University of Melbourne’s own Farrago wrote in 2015 that ‘an Australian president…would help propel our laggard nation into its future: a focal point for our own unique national culture...’ Exactly how that esteemed publication expects our national culture to be improved with the addition of another politician to a widely-disliked political class is not explained. The counterpoint is simply made; political actors reflect political culture. The prime minister and Parliament are the focus of our body-politic, and election after election has produced a series of human bromides; bland, old, white men, and there is no convincing evidence this would change. Nor does republicanism offer succour to the First Australians, with former Senator Neville Bonner expressing his doubts that a President would care “one jot more for [their] people.” Social change is done in the streets; it is the work of ordinary men and women at the borders where communities merge and interact. The republican project does not contribute to this, and to claim that a President would somehow address this is unrealistic. Constitutional alteration is a delicate matter, and given that we have a functioning document based on years of history and convention, any proposed changes ought to be thoroughly discussed. Any change threatens this balance. The minimalist model placed before the people in 1999 has been dumped, the ARM are officially agnostic on a model. They seek two national plebiscites, the most productive use of taxpayer money. The first asking ‘should Australia have an Australian head of state?’, which is a false, emotional, and deceptive question, and the second asking ‘how should we choose our head of state?’ This subverts established procedures for constitutional change and borders on political trickery, at least the 1999 referendum was preceded by a Constitutional
Convention and a thorough public debate on a set model. It seems that, like the man behind the curtain, the republican movement does not want to go into the details (in which they doubtless see many devils). Interestingly, the people are clear on their preference; if there is to be a republic, almost two thirds favour election by the people. Such a change would upset Australia’s political balance. The Crown is essentially a non-presence in Australian political life; it is unquestioned that the prime minister is the centre of political gravity and the Governor-General a non-partisan, ceremonial role. An elected President of necessity changes the balance of power. An independent mandate and the full force of the reserve powers could pose significant problems, questioning whether State Governors (who have their own individual relationships to the Crown) should be likewise elected. Indeed, we have seen recently the President of Italy, (elected by Parliament and fulfilling a largely ceremonial role) refuse to appoint a minister because he personally disagreed with their political beliefs. While he is within his rights under article 92 of the Italian Constitution, the President, who is supposed to represent the unity of the state, has now functioned as a divisive political figure. Altering the method of selection of the head of state must necessarily unbalance the Constitution, and any changes should be firmly placed before the public for discussion. There is too much we do not know, and have not talked about. Without a full discussion of the scope of the changes, we risk walking off a constitutional cliff and the ARM’s abdication of their role in a national conversation on this issue does them no credit. Simply put, an Australian Republic is not necessary. We have an Australian head of state, our Constitution is stable and the envy of much of the world, and the modern appeal of republicanism is based on empty emotional nationalism. A republic offers no solutions to our social ills, nor does it reflect the concerns of the people. Furthermore, ARM’s refusal to suggest a proposed model for debate and discussion is not healthy for our national life, and their plebiscite proposal is constitutional trickery. We face an array of pressing issues, and the best the republican movement can offer is that we need ‘one of our own’ as head of state. It is a political vanity project without substance, and we would do well to reject it. SIMON COLES
Capitalism Cannot Effectively Deal with Climate Change
While there are various permutations of capitalism, fundamentally it’s an economic system wherein the factors of production are owned by private entities. Those entities are incentivized to maximise profits in order to get the best outcome for themselves. Self-interest works to encourage innovation and efficiency. Unfortunately, while greed can be good, profit-based incentives limit the ability of a society to combat climate change. Private enterprises operating within a capitalist society externalise their environmental costs and have a clear motivation to pursue their own short term profit at the cost of the health and sustainability of the world as a whole. Furthermore, the capitalist principle of a healthy economy being one that is continually growing is fundamentally incompatible with life on a planet with finite resources. Firstly, one of the primary drivers of capitalist societies is the motivation for profit, more specifically the greatest and swiftest profit. The fundamental problem with averting climate change is that it’s a collective action problem. Actions that are beneficial (and profitable under capitalism) for each individual person or company are contrary to what would benefit all people, particularly in the long term. An individual consumer is likely to purchase a certain plastic wrapped meal over a lower-waste alternative because it’s cheaper and more convenient. That person’s single consumer decision is unlikely to affect them in future, or indeed to have much effect at all. When everyone buys a lot of plastic wrapped goods, however, increased resources are needed to meet the demand and plastic starts to take up space in landfill, not to mention polluting streets and waterways. While plastic is financially low-cost to produce, most of it is also made from fossil fuels. One plastic water bottle takes very little to produce but Australia disposed of more than 2 megatonnes of plastic in 2014 alone (Randin and Pickell, 2017). Coal power is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions globally. It’s also a profitable industry and under a capitalist system the drive for profit continues to see new coal mines built. From the point of view of humanity as a whole, continued coal production and use will have serious negative consequences. However, an individual businesses can increase their profits by putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere despite the collective detriment. Hence, people in capitalist societies are incentivised to continue to act in a way that puts undue pressure on the environment until climate change becomes a catastrophic reality. Climate change will eventually affect production capabilities, which in turn will incentivise capitalist structures to take strong anti-climate change action. However, by that time it will be too late. People, and corporations, focus on how
they, as individuals or groups of individuals, can make the most money out of a particular industry, resource or other venture. This overemphasis means that other costs are not factored in, such as environmental impact. For instance, overzealous mining destroying the habitats of sometimes endangered species in the pursuit of mineral wealth. Often in the pursuit of profits, local and even global environments are having to pay the price, which will eventually affect the profitability of capital. Climate change will also affect the health of workers (UNFCC) whose job it is to create value using capital. As basic resources such as water and food become more and more scarce, nations will likely resort to combat to secure these resources. These disruptions to the labor market and the political disruptions will negatively affect the ability to make profits, eventually requiring military intervention. However once this point is reached, it would be too late to reverse a lot of the damage done. Therefore, capitalism can not effectively combat climate change, as profit rather than progress is what catalyses change. We hear a lot about economic growth, and how it is essential to the capitalist model of progress. Economic growth increases the ability of an economy to produce goods and services (Investopedia, 2018). “Jobs and Growth” and “A rising tide lifts all boats” are common phrases spouted by proponents of the capitalist model. A growing economy generally means less unemployment and a better standard of living, but the continually growing production of resources often has a great toll on ecological health. Forests are cleared for iron ore that is turned into steel. Oil, which powers our vehicles can spill into the ocean, impacting fish, aquatic mammals and birds alike. A growing economy based on continually increasing production is inherently unsustainable, as it will eventually lead to the depletion of resources. In summary, the fundamental incentives of capitalism are contrary to the actions required to combat climate change. This incompatibility seems highly unlikely to lend itself to an effective fight against the existential risk of climate change, and indeed that’s what the world has seen so far. Nevertheless, there are some limited examples of action against climate change and perhaps, despite the pressures of capitalism, humanity will manage global cooperation on the scale that is needed to combat this crucial issue that affects us all. ANONYMOUS
Capitalism Cannot Effectively Deal with Climate Change
The inception of capitalism, characterised by the commencement of the industrial revolution in Britain in the mid-19th century, kicked off an era of wealth creation and productivity previously unimaginable. What became clear in hindsight, is that there was a price to be paid. The slog of every new machine and the fuelling of every newlyconstructed factory contributed to something much greater than a booming economy. This transition to capitalism as an economic system has inarguably been the impetus for the greenhouse gas emissions which have resulted in climate change. However, it does not necessarily follow that, therefore, capitalist societies are intrinsically unable to combat climate change, merely because they are primarily responsible for it.
transition to renewables”. This is self-evidently a desirable situation. It is also a fanciful one. It has been made abundantly clear that a considerable number of corporations fail to comply with the regulations, and of those who do, the compliance is reluctant. It is much more effective to swim with the tide than against it in regards to widespread social change. Rather than blanket regulations, which corporations perceive as an attack against their profitability, companies would be much more likely to adopt sustainable models if that is what the consumer wanted. If society on the whole started to choose the more eco-friendly option, the corporations would follow. The power of responding to climate change lies not with governments, but individuals.
A company is little more than its investors and its consumers. Capitalism is a slave to the consumer. If the consumer prioritises sustainable production when choosing to buy goods, corporations will react accordingly. And indeed multiple findings point to this being the ‘overwhelming truth’. The Harvard Business Review reported in 2016 that “the fastest growing cause for shareholders is sustainability”, citing reports that companies leading in environment, social and good governance police have on average, 25% higher stock value than their competitors. Since 2008, leading companies in sustainability have the fastest-growing stock value and an average market capitalisation of US$650M more than their competitors. Ultimately, companies that actively promote sustainability are tending to perform better than those who do not.
Of course, sometimes the consumer is powerless. In the case of necessaries, a consumer may have no option. To use an extreme example, imagine a country where all cars on the market are dieselguzzling, fuel-inefficient, pollution machines. A consumer may not be in a position to forego a car for their morals if, for example, they require a car for work. However, therein lies the beauty of capitalist society; if there is a desire for ‘green’ cars it will be recognised as a potentially profitable venture, and someone, somewhere will begin producing them. Note, that this all is in reference to where a consumer has a genuine choice, and none of this is to say that one should be expected to foot the cost of always making the more environmental friendly purchase where doing so would have a substantial impact on one’s quality of life.
Of course, the argument may be made that such corporate environmentalism is disingenuous as it is likely driven by desire for revenue rather than guidance by ethical principle. This is almost certainly true. It is also irrelevant. Companies are not moral agents; their duty is to follow the law and their goal is to maximise profits. To ask any more from them is delusional. However, an effective response to catastrophic climate change is a positive force, regardless of whether it was driven by genuine interest in sustainability, or a belief that swapping to more sustainable means of production would result in greater profits. Broadly speaking, it is not possible to ask companies under capitalism to act upon moral principles. Of course it is not beyond the realm of possibility that certain CEOs may decide that on account of their personal position, their company will endeavour to respond to the effects of climate change. However, this is not the norm. Critics of capitalism are often opposed to market solutions to the climate change problem. Canadian social activist Naomi Klein, for example, favours “advancing policies that treat greenhouse gases as dangerous pollutants demanding clear, enforceable regulations that would restrict emissions and create the conditions for a full
In addition capitalist societies are not without some level of government intervention. There is a place for a level-headed policy that incentivises environmental activism in terms of a company’s bottom line, policy that is already under effect in certain parts of the world. Thus, all is not lost under capitalism, insofar as corporations are slaves to consumer choice. One of the most marvellous powers of the consumer in a capitalist society is the power of boycott to influence change in a corporation. Capitalism will go where the consumers guide it. If consumers seek effective response to the effects of climate change and, critically, are willing to pay for it, the market economy of a capitalist society will respond accordingly. ANONYMOUS
The states should be abolished
Federalism has been a functional system since Australia first became a unified nation in 1901. However, its time has come and gone, and it must make way for centralisation. The proposal of abolishing the state government has been floating in the nationâ€™s political conscience for quite some time. It has up until now been largely dismissed as too hard, too much work and too idealistic. Most critics decry the practicality of enacting such a
model (not its faults) as it is undeniably a more well-suited structure than the one we currently have. Yes, it involves fundamental constitutional change, and yes it would be incredibly difficult to garner enough public support to push it through parliament. However, Australia was not built on an attitude of giving up when things get tough. If we hadnâ€™t had the grit and determination to federalise in the first place weâ€™d still be a collection of
colonies connected by disjointed train tracks. Now it is time for the next big step in the evolution of the Australian parliamentary system. Many critics of the centralised model suggest that there is no problem it would be fixing and therefore no benefit. This disregards the fact that the current model was not built for any valid reasons such as fairness and efficiency. Instead, the state government exists as a product of fear from the colonies of losing power. It was a concession made to convince old white men to sign in the dotted line, a concession which has left Australia with an overly complicated and micro-managed system. For a country with a population of less than Beijing we have 15 legislative chambers. This causes undue confusion for public services which are often unable to answer to the complex processes of transferring regulations and credentials across state lines. For instance, many police officers are uninformed about whether P-platers should follow the conditions of their licence when driving over state lines, or the conditions of the equivalent licence in the state they are in. Thatâ€™s not to say federalism as a concept is a bad model. There are many parts of the world where it is the superior option. One such example is Nigeria, where the model allows for different ethnic groups to have some level of autonomy. Nevertheless, it is simply not the right system for Australia. Instead, the nation would be much better off with a uniform set of laws and regulations. To take a step back and think that people born 10 km apart will encounter vastly different education systems, traffic regulations and liquor laws from one another is unconscionable. Now if youâ€™ve grown up in Melbourne for example, and spent your whole life here, many of these distinctions probably seem trivial. However, with a changing workforce and shifting demographics, more and more people are moving across state lines for education and work purposes. For younger children it means acclimating to a completely new system of education and potentially missing valuable coursework. For adults it means going through the process, and paying the fees, to change licence and car registration, as well as potentially needing to meet new commercial licensing requirements. For example, the Responsible Service of Alcohol certification as well as a Working With Childrenâ€™s Check are all state based, meaning when trying to get employed in a different state a worker must pay and spend the time to gain a qualification they may have already held for years. In isolation these may seem like small things, but when considered as a whole it becomes clear that the current parliamentary system is harming the people it aims to protect. On a larger scale, the cost of running the state parliaments is absurd and unnecessary. Dr Mark Drummond from the University of Canberra estimates that as much as AU$20 billion is wasted per annum due to federalism. This is primarily due
to overlap and duplication of services, heightened taxes and lowered purchasing power of private citizens. Even the most conservative estimates from Access Economics for the Australian Business Council places the figure at AU$9 billion. This is beyond ludicrous considering AU$9 billion would cover the Coffs Harbour bypass, Sydney rail package, Western Australia roads package, Perth Metronet and South Australia road upgrades proposed in the 2018-19 federal budget; and still leaves AU$3 billion to spare. By having a centralised system the Australian people would benefit by having greater and more efficient public services through more optimal use of their tax dollars. Another major criticism of proposed centralism is the cultural significance of the states. Specifically, citizens each have their own unique identity that is tied to their home state. While there is validity to this point, it is important to distinguish between the geographic area that constitutes a state and the body that regulates it. I seriously doubt anyone from Queensland feels a strong attachment to their unicameral parliamentary system, rather it is their communities, landscapes and of course sports teams - that truly unite people within a state. Under centralisation, none of these things would change. The states would still exist, it is just the state government that will be abolished. One of the main causes for conflict between the states (besides the State of Origin) is that of GST division. Every few months we hear Western Australia crying out about the percentage they receive being disproportionate to the amount they contribute to GDP. If GST was added to the federal pool it would reduce the politicking that takes place when it comes time to divide it up. Instead of being forced to soothe egos and satisfy perceived entitlements, the government would be able to invest based strictly on need. A major concern that comes with a centralised system is how this need will be established. Who will be representing the interests of marginalised or vulnerable communities? The answer is strengthened regional centres which the federal government could delegate to in the same way the states currently delegate to local councils. Now anyone that has had anything to do with a local council will shudder at the thought of giving them more power, which is fair enough. Local councils are renowned for their bureaucracy and inefficiency, and in their current form would not be able to fulfil the function necessary for a centralised system to work. However, mass reform to local councils and the creation of a system of regional centres with their own regulatory bodies, formed on the basis of population, geography and economic similarities, has the potential to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of the Australian people in a way that the status quo does not. WINONA HORTON
The states should be abolished
For most of the 19th century, the notion of any kind of unification between the self-governing Australasian British colonies was met with an impressive lack of enthusiasm. Queensland was concerned that federal government would introduce legislation that would threaten its sugar-cane industry by limiting the import of Pacific Islander labourers. New South Wales was staunchly opposed to a protectionist economy while the smaller states wanted to maintain high tariffs. Victoria was the only colony who didn’t appear entirely deterred to begin with, attracted by the prospect of greater defensive capabilities. In 1885, the Federal Council of Australasia was formed, but New South Wales refused to join. The Council met several times throughout the 1880s and 90s, but for the most part failed to achieve anything noteworthy, and at one stage Queensland withdrew from the entire process. The final constitutional draft was rejected by New South Wales in 1898. But in 1899-1900, after decades of tumultuous negotiations, reluctant concessions and some acrimony, the six remaining colonies (following the departure of Fiji and New Zealand) all passed the final draft of the constitution by referenda and was sent to ratification by the British Parliament, in a Bill recognising the best form of integration that Australia could muster; a federation of states.
Firstly, there is a question of efficiency. One need not be a staunch anarchist to acknowledge that the federal government is simply not equipped to smoothly oversee 547 local councils, even assuming a high degree of self-governance within the councils themselves. Any issue concerning legislating more than one local council would need to be taken to the federal level, as would any major infrastructure necessary for a small rural council but too great to be administered by them. It is also unclear how the federal government could fairly divide funds amongst such a great number of councils, each with diverse populations, production, and needs. A state government, with less councils to manage and greater proximity to them, is vastly better suited to administer this. There is no doubt that it can be frustrating where laws change, often times seemingly arbitrarily, once state lines are crossed. But this is the nature of any political border of any kind, and not the fault of state governments. The annoying differences in traffic legislation between New South Wales and Victoria would seem quite attractive following the abolition of state government, which would result in every single local council having its own road laws (note that road laws would be unlikely to be easily federally legislated in such a model, given the vastly differing geographic circumstances between local councils).
Thus, the most obvious (and most critical) obstacle in the way of the abolition of the Australian states is that there does not appear to be a legal route by which it can be done. The opening lines of the Commonwealth Constitution of Australia are: ‘Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania ... have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown ...’, and indeed the entire document is written with frequent reference to states’ rights and laws. Accordingly, arguments that certain elements of law and governance would be better cared for under federal control is a misunderstanding of the governmental system. Certainly there are compelling logical arguments to be made that the school education system, for example, should be federally standardised. But constitutionally and therefore legally, policy being handled at the federal level is the exception, not the rule (and the list of exceptions may be found in section 51). The constitution, and thereby Australia as a nation itself, was created by and for the states. Of course constitutions may be modified, and indeed, the occasional amendment to match contemporary culture and sentiment is healthy and prudent. A complete reconstruction, however, is not. Abolition of the states as legal and political bodies in Australia is entirely incompatible with the express purpose of the constitution, and therefore incompatible with Australia’s existence as a nation. However, if one is to assume that, by some miracle, the legal hurdles to the abolition of states are not insurmountable, there are also practical reasons to oppose such a model.
Secondly, there is the question of states as cultural entities. Beyond their legal and political existence, states and their people have a distinct identity (and anyone in disagreement with this statement has clearly never met a Queenslander). To abolish the states would be to abolish over two centuries of unique history and development. Even more egregious, it would mean the end of the State of Origin. Though it is possible in theory that a nation could function perfectly well without state-level government (New Zealand, for example), this is much more likely to function in smaller nations. Though Australia’s three-tiered government hierarchy may not always be an exemplary case of peak efficiency, there are better solutions than throwing one of the tiers out the window because it might produce something better. None of this is to say that there are no gripes to be had with the current state model. As mentioned above, there may be certain elements of policy that would be better handled at a federal level than state level. One could also fairly say that the current divisions of state boundaries are not the paragon of cartographic skill. However, our constitution allows for selective modifications of state boundaries and their designated powers. It does not, however, allow for the heavy-handed abolition of states altogether. This is a fanciful idea, sitting firmly outside the realm of legal possibility - and it sits there for good reason. ANNA SARTORI
Taxation is equivalent to theft
If you have met a libertarian, you undoubtedly would have heard the famous dictum “taxation is theft”. It is a phrase used to make a point about government; that the government thrives on stealing, an act that would be morally objectionable if committed by any private citizen. Socialists, liberals and conservatives alike argue that taxation is justified because the state has a legitimate right to theft – but it cannot be disputed that taxation is still theft. Let me break this down. To prove taxation is principally equivalent to theft, I have to define theft. Theft is the act of “taking another person’s property without permission or legal right, and without intending to return it”, according to the Oxford Dictionary. So to prove taxation is theft, I will have to prove these three elements of theft are fundamental to taxation. Firstly, we should ask whether taxation involves taking another person’s property without permission. The answer is quite clear. When you go to the supermarket and do the grocery shopping, you do not get an opt-out option; you do not have the choice to not pay GST if you do not want to. When you get your payslip and see at the bottom the amount of tax paid, you are not able to say to the government, “no thank you, this week I will not pay income tax”. Taxation definitionally involves taking people’s property, their income, without their permission. Secondly, we must ask whether property taken in taxation is intended to be returned. The aim of taxation is to raise money for the state to fund its expenses. This act of taking people’s money to give it back in the form of social services demonstrates a lack of intention to return it as is. The principal goal of taxation is to centralise the economic power of the state by taking money from citizens, and allowing the government to decide where that money is best spen; its essential purpose is to strip people of free choice. So while some might argue taxation is not theft because citizens receive back their taxation in government schooling, healthcare and policing, they ignore that taxation strips people of their choice to spend their income as they please. For instance, if I took $50 from you and came back with $50 worth of bread I could not claim I never stole the $50. This is because I did not return your property in its original state after taking it without permission. I have given you a whole lot of bread you never asked for. I could say, “Bread is essential! Everyone needs to eat and I think it is really important we support local bakeries”. That may be true, but you still never asked for $50 worth of bread. Even if this argument did hold up (that theft is justifiable if you return the victim a proportionate amount in goods and services) it would ignore the progressiveness of our tax system. Some pay much more into the tax system than they take out, and vice-versa.
The third condition is tricky to navigate. Apparently stealing is not stealing if you have a legal right to steal, but that seems a contradiction in terms. We call stealing ‘theft’ and killing ‘murder’ because we wish to codify norms against killing and stealing, because they are both morally objectionable. So why do acts we otherwise find morally objectionable lose their status as a crime when the state assigns itself a legal right to commit them? When a dictatorship kills a political dissident, they’ve committed murder. The legal right of the regime does not lessen the harm done. When the State taxes their citizens, their legal right to do so does not make that stealing any less of an infringement on the right to keep the fruits of one’s labour. This is what is wrong with theft. The government may have a legal right to steal, but it is still a violation people’s rights in the same way any other form of theft is. The government just has the ability to legitimately steal from others in the eyes of the law. Even the idea of a legal right to steal is problematic. Any Liberal Democrat would contend that the state derives its sovereignty from the people; the government is elected democratically by individuals who delegate their rights to the government for the protection of all. However, the right to steal is not a right any of us have in the first place. So even the coherence of the state’s legal right to plunder is questionable. To conclude, if we accept that taxation involves taking property without permission or intention to return it, and that any perceived legal right is irrelevant, we can accept that taxation is principally equivalent to theft. In the end taxation, like theft, involves forcefully taking someone’s property which rightfully belongs to them alone. So, what’s the point? The point is to highlight that taxation is just as much an infringement of individual liberties as theft is. We can have a debate about whether tax is justifiable, and whether the state needs to provide certain services. However, if we are to build a society based on peace and respect for others, we need to reduce the scope of government. This way, we might restrict the use of force against others. We must recognise the immorality of taxation as theft and place the burden of proof on the state to justify its crimes. ANDIE MOORE
Taxation is equivalent to theft
Benjamin Franklin quipped, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Taxation can be found in societies throughout human history. Even Jesus Christ was asked the question, “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17). While some argue that “taxation is principally equivalent to theft,” taxation and theft are clearly distinct for several reasons. I define taxation as a system of compulsory contributions to state revenue, whereas as theft is where property is taken illegally without the consent of the owner. People implicitly give consent to taxation through using public services funded by taxation and voting in elections. Taxation is undertaken by the government with the legal authority to levy taxes. Theft, by definition, is illegal and undertaken without any consent. Also, there is a public benefit provided by taxation through the provision of public services and infrastructure, whereas theft does not provide such benefits. Therefore, taxation is not equivalent to theft. Taxation has the implicit consent of the people, whereas theft has no such consent. In a democratic system, consent to taxation comes through elections. The old cry “no taxation without representation” recognises that taxation is legitimate, provided the people have a say in how taxation works. Through their elected representatives, the people decide how much tax they are willing to pay and for what purposes. People are also free to vote for candidates campaigning for lower taxes. By voting for representatives that implement taxation, the people have implicitly consented to taxation in exchange for public services. Theft on the other hand is where property is taken without any consent, implied or otherwise. Taxation also has a public benefit, whereas theft generally only benefits the thief. Government services such as building roads and infrastructure, police services and defence have a substantial benefit for the population. These services allow for wealth creation. By using these services, people are implicitly giving their consent to paying tax for the upkeep of these services. Taxation thus addresses the free rider problem. If taxation was simply voluntary but people could still use public services (such as roads), then taxation revenue would plummet and public services would disappear. Thus there is a need for a government body to levy taxation to provide these services. Theft by contrast does not give any benefit to the people being stolen from. It does not generally have any purpose beyond the material motivations of the thief. In some cases, taxation seems equivalent to theft, where it is implemented unjustly and exploited for the benefit of the ruling elite. The legendary figure Robin Hood is famous for stealing from the rich and giving money to the poor to correct unjust taxation. The Roman
system of taxation was, admittedly, scarcely different from theft as it was outsourced to tax farmers who exploited the provinces for all their wealth. However, taxation is not inherently unjust or akin to robbery, rather it depends on how it is implemented. Regardless, taxation and theft can be distinguished by their legality. Theft contravenes laws against stealing. On the other hand, taxation is undertaken by a sovereign government as part of their official duties. Indeed, without government, there would be no legal system to uphold people’s claims to properties against theft. The government defines what is property and in what circumstances property can be taken. There is the argument that taxation is theft unless people explicitly consent to it. As people are unable to opt out of taxation even if they want to, the government is stealing from them. However, theft as a crime is defined by the government. Taxation undertaken within the law is not theft. It is not as though anyone can declare themselves a government with the right to tax, as they need recognised sovereignty over a territory and group of people. It is overly simplistic to claim that ‘taxation is theft’ as the common libertarian cry goes. Taxation receives consent through democratic elections affirming the system and people utilising public services, whereas theft never has consent. Taxation generally has a public benefit, whereas theft does not. Furthermore, taxation is undertaken legally by the government whereas theft is a crime. Therefore, taxation is something quite distinct from theft. It is not legalised robbery, but a legitimate and important function of government. BENJAMIN CRONSHAW
Sovereign sELf-determination should be an absolute right
Let’s say that you are having a huge argument with your family members in your own home. Suppose a neighbour comes in to intervene with your family’s problems and even attempts to solve problems for you. I don’t know about you, but I would ask that stranger to mind their own business and stop acting like they understood our family. In a highly individualistic culture where adults make decisions on their own and for their own good, it isn’t so surprising that we are very territorial about the things we have a say in. Yet when we examine the global situation at a macro level, so many countries feel the need to intervene in another country’s domestic issues and subsequently feel ‘threatened’ if the country within which they intervened acts unaccommodating. Take China for instance; when Mao modelled China’s economic plans after the Soviet model in the mid 20th century with the Great Leap Forward, millions of people died of famine. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s followed which resulted not only in economic recession, but political chaos. From these incidents, China learnt that without political stability, there is no economic development. Can you imagine if there are pluralistic demands from Party A to Party Z, protesting all the time without any government to legitimise its actions and set directives for the country? For instance, when the Arab Spring happened in 2011 in the Middle East there was an R2P intervention in which NATO troops invaded to stop Gaddafi’s forces from killing civilians. While this is a humanitarian act, the consequences of the invasion far outweighed the initial catalyst. Had there been no intervention, the Gaddafi regime would still remain in power today, acting as a legitimate government and halting the spread of terrorism. In the vacuum left by NATO’s withdrawal, there was no legitimate government to protect the country and ensure civilian safety. In fact, the distrust and conflict between the numerous tribal groups has made it impossible for Libya to form a legitimate government. Worse still, the war resulted in a lack of border security checks, leading to the proliferation of small arms. These weapons eventually landed in the hands of ISIS and other rebel groups, increasing their power and negotiation leverage. I’m not necessarily saying what Gaddafi did was right but I am saying that foreign intervention does not necessarily solve its problems. When there is an uncontrollable outbreak of protests, it is within the right of any sovereign country to control it based on cultural and contextual understanding. Of course, there are many things to achieve in terms of freedom, education, healthcare, welfare, but it Is impossible to achieve all of them at once. Firstly, as seen in the Libyan case study, without a legitimate government to to implement it, no problem can be solved without leaving room for
more issues. Secondly, a legitimate government has to take one issue at a time, such as in the case of China, which has done exactly that. From the perspective of the Chinese, the CCP government has held prominence and legitimacy since the early 20th century. When Deng XiaoPing introduced economic liberalisation plans, there was a lot of dissent within the conservatives in the CCP. They felt that opening up the market and liberalising the country economically was an abandonment of socialism and communist values. In response to this, Deng preserved the communist framework of Maoist values for moving forward. Had he openly and bluntly dismissed everything Mao did and rejected the CCP’s leadership, none of the top government officials at the time would have accepted his plans. China’s economic growth wouldn’t have been what it is today lifting millions of people out of poverty. Worse still, Deng would have been purged or exiled once more. Hence, openly protesting all the time isn’t always indicative of a progressive future, and often can lead to more civil war and a chaotic future. With respect to protests and human rights, it is important for foreign countries to understand any country’s interpretation of the concept and how it developed based on its culture and history. Due to tough economic downturns in China, the state emphasises the need to ensure people’s economic self-sufficiency before satisfying other rights. To ensure this, the country has to be stable. The Chinese government has ratified the Universal Declaration for economic and social rights. With the right to education, welfare and wealth satisfied, China can then move slowly towards reach the universal concept of human rights put forward by the UN. In fact, it recognised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before joining the WTO in 2001. Moreover, the Chinese press is now becoming market driven and diversified, with bloggers being able to express their opinions on various topics without being directly banned as before. Conversely, the United States which is globally known for prominently upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has yet to sign and ratify the declaration for social and economic rights, unlike China. This difference shouldn’t be surprising at all given that the United States has had a long history in the late 19th century with the civil war followed by the civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s. In short, each country has its own history, culture and character that needs to be understood and respected by foreign countries. It has its own unique values and political process and should hence be given the absolute right to protect and preserve its sovereignty in making its decisions for itself, under any circumstances. SONIA LIM
Sovereign sELf-determination should be an absolute right
It should be clear that in most cases, it is a people that have the greatest right and the greatest ability to decide their own destiny and make their own choices. A nation should rule itself, a nation should make decisions on what is best for itself. Yet the right of self-determination of sovereign independence should be infringed upon if necessary. Not because the international community or foreign power possess greater wisdom, but because any right of self-determination will frequently be in conflict with other, more fundamental rights. What these paramount rights are is fluid, however they include the right to a basic standard of living, the right to a basic standard of dignity, and the right to dissent. Some might regard these fundamental rights as arguments for sovereign self-determination. From their perspective there is only the righteous nation against imposing international powers, fighting against hegemony. However, these nation-states have never been well skilled at reflecting the diverse, complex and generally unruly reality of its citizens. People cannot be easily placed into groups, and no group has a single ideology that is representative of the whole. There will always be dissenters to the majority opinion; those who place their needs above the choices of the people they are superficially grouped with. Throughout the world, these dissenters ignore the ‘destiny’ chosen by self-determining state and express their own needs and rights. For instance, when a nation bans something, right or wrong, someone will still smuggle it in. When a nation makes a ‘sovereign’ decision it won’t be perfectly or reasonably reflective of the people within that nation. A minority or oppressed majority will exist; individualism will remain. So how can we respect both the rights of those individuals and the rights of the nation to choose its own path in the world if they are in conflict? We cannot, and we should not. What do borders mean to someone fearing for their own life or that of their family? What does jurisdiction, or determination or abstract international law mean to the desperate, the exiled and the weak? Nothing, nor should it. To hold up self-determination as a fundamental and unalienable right is to deny the individual rights, human rights, and the absolute rights of those who disagree, those who have needs not reflected by their nation. The right of self-determination can be used to defend any kind of state action, no matter how malicious. For instance, attempting to prevent a nation from oppressing a vulnerable minority is a violation of self-determination. Yet how can we morally ignore the suffering of peoples simply because it occurs outside of our borders? If a nation’s rulers make a sovereign decision to prevent free speech or curtail freedom of religion, impeding that decision is a violation of their
sovereignty, their autonomy. Yet placing that right as more important than the fundamental right to worship is simply wrong. Failing to prioritise the rights of the individual over the independence of the group is in fact an act of hypocrisy. A nation’s principles cannot be confined to their own territory. If you believe in treating women with respect, you cannot ignore the actions of an abuser living next door. If you are a democratic nation, you cannot ignore the undemocratic actions of your neighbour. This is not a comfortable thing to believe, nor is it without its pitfalls. A belief in defending universal rights and values regardless of sovereignty can lead to a very slippery slope. There will always be differences and disagreements between different peoples, and the fact that one nation does something different doesn’t mean that nation is wrong. However, the nature of a fundamental value system is that it has no regard for context. These fundamental rights are birthrights and integral aspects of our humanity. Some peoples may choose a different interpretation of democratic principles, or a different manner of governance. However, no peoples lack democratic principles because everyone capable of individual thought consequently desires the right to an individual opinion. Every culture may be different, but no culture contains no people in need of food, shelter and protection. The right of a people to make their own decisions, to have their own autonomy can’t be surrendered to a global power, faceless institution or bloodless legal system. Humanity is a species, not a collection of peoples. Humanity despite its diversity, has some fundamental commonalities. From those, we can establish some fundamental rights and needs. When those rights are ignored or needs unfulfilled, we must disregard sovereignty, ignore borders; they are, after all, just lines on a map. TIMOTHY BROADSTOCK
The international community should enforce a red line on the use of chemical weapons
The first modern chemical attack occurred on April 22 in 1915 â€“ World War 1. The Allied forces in Belgium had an estimated 170 tonnes of chlorine gas dropped on them by the Germans. The surprise attack killed over 1 000 soldiers, maiming a further 7 000. That first attack was the tip of the iceberg. By the end of the war in 1918, 100 000 people had been killed and an estimated 1 million people injured as a direct result of chemical
attacks. However, it isnâ€™t 1915 anymore and the world isnâ€™t consumed by warfare. Humanity has seen the atrocities of chemical warfare time and time again and now, just like every other time chemicals have been used as an agent of war, we know better. Yet despite this, we are still allowing attacks to not only be carried out, but to be carried out with unsettling frequency. So far in 2018 there have been 5 high profile chemical attacks; the
poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury and 4 separate attacks in Syria, bringing the nation’s total to 85 in the past 5 years according to Human Rights Watch.
its biological arsenal is miniscule and should terrify all of us, yet it doesn’t because in the public conscience nuclear weapons are still the be all and end all of immoral warfare.
One of the biggest problems in combating chemical weapons in the current environment, is nuclear weapons. The public often sees nuclear weapons as the epitome of morally reprehensible weaponry, as well as most powerful means of inflicting death and destruction. While it is certainly true that a single nuclear bomb can do unparalleled damage, the consistent historical use of chemical weapons has been more detrimental in practice, with millions either killed or injured from their usage. It also cannot be forgotten that at present the same number of states that have or are suspected of possessing nuclear weapons also possess chemical weapons, many of which are considered to be rogue, including Syria and Iran. The United States and Russia while in conflict with one another during the Cold War stockpiled a collection of nuclear arms so massive, that according the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) they could have wiped out almost all life on the planet. Such stockpiling and use has been curbed by the enactment of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but it has not eliminated it because not all nations are a party to it nor are behaving in accordance with its controls. The CWC alone is clearly insufficient in preventing chemical attacks.
Moreover, there is significant concern that a terrorist organisation will acquire nuclear weapons. However, that fear (regardless of stated intentions by an organisation such as Islamic State), is inconsistent with reality. Nuclear weapons use highly sophisticated technology and materials that require extensive infrastructure and a variety of highly trained specialists that terrorist organisations simply cannot acquire. Furthermore, they do not have the capacity to carry out the requisite tests to produce a functioning nuclear weapon. Comparatively, the acquisition of chemical weapons is easy. They have been a cornerstone of terrorists’ WMD programs for decades. For example, the Aum Shinrikyo released nerve gas in a Japanese subway attack in 1995, killing 12 civilians and harming thousands more. This, alongside with a lack of public knowledge and their prolific use, makes chemical weapons a major threat to the population.
If we don’t impose the same standards of intolerance on chemical weapons that we currently have for nuclear weapons, it paves the way for the normalisation of chemical weapons. Moreover, if we cannot stand up and forcibly object to chemical weapons use, passively accepting them as a part of our society, we won’t be able to prevent the successful development and use of new varieties of biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD)s. These weapons, like chemical weapons, are lesser known to the public and do not garner the moral outrage that nuclear weapons do, yet they may be the single greatest threat to humanity. Biological weapons undoubtedly have the capacity to wreak more havoc on humanity than either nuclear or chemical weapons, due to their ability to spread beyond their intended target. This massive threat brought about the enactment of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1972 which outlaws the ‘development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention and production of’ biological weapons. However, similar to the CWC not all states are a party to it and since the BWC’s enactment in 1972, numerous signatory states have admitted to being involved in biological warfare development. Syria is a state of particular concern regarding BWC’s as they are non-signatories and have a declared biological arsenal, of which little is known. With the Syrian government clearly comfortable launching chemical attacks, the step from there to deploying
The threat of chemical weapons is legitimate and needs to be taken more seriously. At present, legally, a red line exists. The CWC and BWC clearly prohibit chemical and biological weapons, but they are being used and developed anyway, with little meaningful response. Although the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched military action against Syria’s latest attack, it didn’t end the Syrian chemical weapons program and there is little reason to think that this oneoff response will halt their use. It is essential for global citizens to demand a meaningful response to chemical weapons use. Given the current fear of nuclear weapons, a way to achieve this is to ensure our governments treat chemical weapons in the same manner in which nuclear weapons are treated, instilling the same sense of overwhelming immorality. Sustained public urgency or outrage is powerful and can be harnessed to target chemical weaponry. By approaching chemical weapons in the same manner as we do nuclear arms, it may force the development of a more serious approach to combating the development and use of chemical weapons, creating greater accountability and meaningful international response. PAIGE FEURTADO
The international community should enforce a red line on the use of chemical weapons
Time and time again, the red line placed on chemical weapons has proven to be ineffective in achieving its aims. Principally, a red line acts as a government’s line in the sand; a point of no return. The invocation of the phrase in global diplomacy is to act as a warning and a threat; if it is crossed then a military response shall be imminent. In practice this could not be further from the truth. Over recent years, we have seen the phrase used by numerous nations in relation to their position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. However, little has changed. The term has lost any strength and respect it once garnered, and it is now time to shift focus to a more wholistic perspective on modern warfare. A red line places an arbitrary moralistic standard on the method of killing when the true international outrage should be in response to the act itself. It is so typical of Western society to be selective about when it chooses to turn its attention towards foreign conflicts. We are more than happy to turn a blind eye to “beautiful Syrian babies” torn apart by barrel bombs, incinerated by phosphorous munitions, obliterated by drone strikes and shot. Not to mention those that die from malnutrition in refugee camps while desperately trying to flee. However, the second chemical methods are used it is suddenly unconscionable in the public conscience and extreme action must be taken. That is not to trivialise the fact that chemical weapons are a monstrous tool to inflict upon civilians. The elongated and painful process of dying from a sarin attack is horrific. So much so that almost every nation in the world is a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, these weapons do not deserve the pedestal they have been given when more ‘conventional’ methods are just as capable of producing the same effect in terms of suffering. In the context of global warfare it also important to note that chemical weapons make up only a small part of total deaths. In Syria specifically between 2011-16, 143 630 conflict-related violent deaths have been reported. Of these, 58 099 were from shelling and air bombardments, 20 372 from shooting, 20 281 from execution, and 7 566 due to barrel bombs. Comparatively, 1 099 deaths were due to a chemical weapons attack. This number is not insignificant, and to suggest such would be disrespectful to those 1 099 men, women and children who lost their lives. However, it must be noted that these attacks represent only a fraction of the total atrocities being committed in this war. In addition, chemical weaponry is one area where IGOs are making great strides forwards. As of January 2018, over 96% of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles had been destroyed, with the plan to reach 100% in the coming years. Progress is being made without the invocation of a red line. Politically, the use of the term ‘red line’ often does
more harm than good. In 2012 President Obama stated that any attempt by Syria to use its chemical weapons would result in direct US intervention. Then, in 2013 when there was a chemical outside Damascus, President Obama ‘did nothing’ in terms of explicit military action. Whether this was the right decision or not is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate, is that as leader of a nation, the President of the US should have the power to deploy force on a case by case basis and not have their autonomy stripped because they are beholden to a two-word phrase. Conversely, when faced with a similar situation in April 2017, President Trump did follow through on his promised red line, deploying 59 tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian air field to deter the proliferation and use of chemical weapons. Except, it didn’t work. There have been numerous attacks since then, including one in Douma in April this year which resulted in up to 85 dead and over 500 injured. Even when utilised as intended, a red line quite simply does not work. There should be steps taken to eliminate the use of chemical weapons, but a red line is not the answer. Instead, OPCW and its 193-member states should continue in their mission of destroying all chemical weapons, monitoring the industry to prevent emergence of new weapons, and assisting countries under threat from chemical attacks. A red line on chemical weapons is not in the best interest of meeting these aims and therefore should be phased out from the political lexicon when discussing the complex issue of chemical warfare, in favour of a more flexible and considered approach. ANONYMOUS
A SELECTION OF OPINION PIECES ON ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
National Service can improve health and heal divides
We have never been richer, better educated, or longer living. Despite this, a number of severe issues plague our modern lives, including declining health, social stratification, and rising racial tensions. A broad compulsory national service programme has the capacity to significantly improve the material and spiritual well being of the nation. Such a scheme would simultaneously improve health and fitness, increase social capital, enhance self-discipline, and develop a national spirit of cooperation. What’s physically wrong? Australia has experienced a significant decline in health and fitness. A third of Australian adults are obese and a third are overweight, with the average Australian becoming 500g heavier every year. We are in a health crisis that increases the risk of disease, lowers one’s quality of life, and can result in an early death. However, this crisis also
impacts society, by placing increased costs on to the health care system and a decreasing labour productivity. Only one quarter of Australians meet the government’s guidelines for minimum weekly physical activity due to our overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyles. Only 30% of adults participate in a weekly sport or physical recreational activity, with the remainder missing out on the social capital, reciprocity and trust that these activities build. Despite the health, education and employment benefits, engagement is critically low. You might think that these statistics indicate that people simply don’t want to be healthy. This is incorrect. A quarter of Australians and half of obese or overweight adults report ‘serious’ attempts to lose weight over the previous year.
In 2015, six million Australians made a New Years resolution to increase their fitness, with the average Australian spending $75 a month (almost $1000 a year) on fitness activities. There is clearly a collective desire and willingness to have a healthier lifestyle, but few results. Why is this the case? A lack of willpower is cited as the number one cause behind a failure to achieve health goals. Willpower is, in essence, the ability to resist shortterm temptations to reach long term goals. Due to food’s historic scarcity, humans have evolved to maximise caloric intake and minimise energy expulsion. Our unconscious brain encourages unhealthy eating and sedentary behaviour, so the conscious brain is fighting an uphill battle to stay healthy. This can exhaust willpower, resulting in a sabotage from within. Studies demonstrate a link between self-discipline and obesity, with children who exhibit stronger willpower compared to their peers being significantly less likely to become overweight in adolescence. The good news is that willpower can be developed, and studies have suggested regular exercise can enhance this trait, eliminating the struggle of getting motivated and making fitness a habit. The question then becomes ‘how do policy makers break people out of this cycle of poor choices?’, to which there are many answers. Some policies that should be considered concurrently include better education, expanded school sports, and taxes on sugary drinks. However, these policies only deal with the symptoms of a larger problem, and are not representative of the radical change needed. What’s spiritually wrong? Beyond the physical, Australia is experiencing a crisis of identity as the cult of the individual dominates politics and culture. Far right nationalists and populists are rising in power and influence; racial tensions simmer and occasionally explode; a quarter of Australians report loneliness as a regular part of life. While the left has discussed the decline in our social fabric for decades, they have been unwilling to take meaningful action on the issue. For example, before President Macron even announced the details of his planned national service policy, 14 youth organisations objected to the plan, citing ‘freedom of choice’, without considering the potential benefits of such a scheme. National service offers the opportunity to limit the spread of populism and xenophobia by bringing young Australians of all backgrounds on one collective journey. Shared experiences create shared identities, and a national service would strengthen the bonds between citizens and limit both social and political stratification. National service has the potential to be a profoundly progressive institution, acting as a
locus for the integration of class and race. United States’ Teach For America clearly demonstrates this. A voluntary programme in which top teaching graduates are paired with low income schools for two years, alumni exhibit decreased prejudice, increased empathy, and are less likely to feel resentment towards their fellow citizens. Military service can also be a great equaliser, with the average US soldier having more interracial friends than the average civilian. How might this policy work? A comprehensive national service policy would be a strong step towards reducing obesity, improving lives, and reinvigorating the national spirit. My proposal would see nine months of compulsory service for all young people between the ages of 16 and 25. Pathways would include the military, police, community organisations, and intensive fitness programmes. Research shows that an organisation’s values have the potential to permanently influence one’s approach to problem-solving, as well as help to develop an individual’s sense of agency. Therefore, military integration is essential. This policy would work in conjunction with a standardised fitness test, modelled on the Singaporean National Physical Fitness Award and determined by a panel of health experts. Those who meet certain fitness requirements would have the length of their compulsory service reduced and would have greater pathway choices, providing incentives to get fit and stay active while young. Those who fall below the fitness requirements would have the opportunity to improve through the military, police, or sport pathways. Any policy would also need to be flexible to ensure young people can integrate service into their education, work, and social commitments, and not have a net negative effect through disruption. What might we achieve? A comprehensive compulsory national service programme would improve the nation physically and spiritually. New incentives would encourage young people to stay fit and prevent avoidable health issues, with social stratification challenged by the camaraderie of shared experiences. Although a radical change under the current system, it is one that Australia desperately needs in order to meet the challenges of the modern era. ANONYMOUS
Civic Nationalism: Culture, Identity and Equality
Australia is sometimes described as ‘the most successful multicultural country in the world’, and in many ways this is true. Metropolises such as Melbourne and Sydney are among the most affluent and multicultural cities across the globe, and over 20% of Australians speak a language other than English at home. When it comes to multiculturalism, we have a lot to be proud of. Yet true multiculturalism requires an array of
communities to be not only tolerated, but valued as an intrinsic part of the whole. In this regard, Australia also has a lot to be not so proud of. In the words of Harlem rapper Immortal Technique, “you’re nothing like diversity without equality”. Australia’s multicultural society is not always one of true equality. Immigrant and migrant populations are often framed as ‘new-age’
Australians as opposed to ‘normal’ Australians; the latter often characterised as an Anglo-Saxon, English speaking, lover of all things beer, footy and Shannon Noll. Migrants to Australia must embody certain characteristics of ‘Australian-ness’ before they are seen as ‘real’ Aussies. This distinction between a historical in-group and the emergent ‘other’ can be made with noble intentions. However, how often do we hear leading politicians refer to Australian values, or xenophobes decry cultural incompatibility, or Andrew Bolt claim ‘unAustralian-ness’ whenever they disagree with someone? This framing clearly differentiates the ‘classic’ Australian from the ‘new-age’ Australian. This distinction, a form of modern-day civic nationalism, has profound implications for how we discuss race, immigration and ethnic polemics in modern Australia The notion of a national culture is not unique to Australia, and is present in most countries across the world. Culture is what holds individual people together in a group that would not have otherwise existed. Culture is what allows an Australian to identify as such, referring not to their passport, but to something in the non-physical realm that makes them ‘Australian’. Culture has helped humans for hundreds of thousands of years to form into groups that have enabled and facilitated success. Were it not for religion (an omnipresent form of culture), bands of hunter-gatherers would have never united and empires may never have risen. However, culture’s power to bring people together also has the effect of defining and ‘othering’ those who do not conform to values of the group. In the Australian context, culture can mean many things. It’s our love of sport, our larrikin attitude, our respect for the law, the notion of a fair-go and the importance of mateship. What exactly makes up this ‘Australian culture’ is less important than how vague references to a national identity and culture are used to define some people as true Australians (members of the in-group) and other people as new-age Australians (the outsider group).. In its most sinister form, civic nationalism sees us determine who can and who cannot be a ‘true’ Australian. By defining a ‘true’ Australian, non-conformers are outcast, often along ethnic or religious lines. In early 2018, Victorians were overwhelmed by news reports of African ‘apex’ gangs terrorising the streets of Melbourne. Many journalists, commentators and online activists spoke of how these African youths, many of Sudanese origin, could not become ‘true’ Australians because their culture simply isn’t compatible with Australian values. Even when not discussing crime, African-Australians are often wrongly portrayed as resistant to integration policies. These prejudices, that certain groups of people fail to embody the characteristics of the in-group, are often legitimised by anecdotal
experience and can quickly lead to an ethnic nationalist mindset that equates otherness (in this case African ethnicity) as a characteristic incompatible with ‘Australianness’. A similar argument is often made in relation to Islamic Australians, with racists and xenophobes alike arguing that Islamic Australians can’t be ‘true’ Australians because they cannot fill certain obligations required to become part of the ingroup, such as respecting religious diversity, allegiance to the nation or equality between the sexes. More often than not, these assertions are based on prejudice, and fail to withstand rigorous analysis. These biases have broad appeal because they allow deeper concerns with ‘arabness’ and ‘muslimness’ to be justified through civic qualities that exonerate the individual from believing their prejudice is racially motivated. Furthermore, by defining the other as undesirable (in this case constructing a muslim as inherently against equality of the sexes) the in-group is able to portray itself as the good-guys with the outside group as the lurking menace. This feel-good virtue signalling plays an important role in modern altright politics both in Australia and further afield. A civic nationalist mindset can appeal to values and culture, but can often lead to racial prejudices about who can conform with the imagining of a ‘true’ Australian. Making appeals to civic qualities such as ‘respect for the law’ and ‘patriotism’ is a convenient way for many Australians to mask deeper concerns about the place of ethnic and religious diversity in Australia. Moreover, migrants to Australia who do conform to this idea of ‘Australianness’ are flaunted by skeptics as an example of how Australia is truly a welcoming country. However, when we consider that the perceived success of these stories is conditional on the migrant being a ‘good’ citizen who conforms to the civic role Australian has defined for them, we start to understand the deeper and nuanced issues of belonging, identity and diversity confronting Australia today. Equality in its truest sense begins when newcomers are not required to conform to the ideals of the in-group. They are instead empowered to be an individual, and form their own group within a broader society that embodies numerous people with various values. Australia does do this to an extent, and it is why we are a fantastic country, but we still have a long way to go in understanding both as individuals, and as a society, what it means to be an Australian in the 21st century. DARCY FRENCH
THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL: TRUMP AND NORTH KOREA
It’s a widely misquoted aphorism that countries do not have permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. The international order is based around the agreement that states have such interests, and that the best way to manage them is through alliances, dialogue and treaties. However United States President Donald Trump doesn’t so much reject this premise, as have no concept of its existence. Instead, for him, all politics is deeply personal. It is this irrationality that explains the seeming illogicality of his actions. To Trump, all that matters is obtaining instant gratification by eliciting the desired emotional response. Trump is not playing five-dimensional chess. There is no grand strategy or ideological through-line; he’s not even a committed conservative. He wants to be feared, loved and respected, but mostly he just wants the applause (and the big ratings). This is why Trump always whinges about not receiving the credit he thinks he deserves, and why he never accomplishes anything; he continually gets bored and moves on. This is a man who gave up on healthcare reform after 12 days, can’t be bothered to turn up for work before 11am and couldn’t stick out a whole weekend at the G-7. This is why he’s addicted to Twitter; it continually gives him a dopamine hit that tedious national security meetings and negotiations with Congress never will. Trump’s elevation of the personal over the political can be best illustrated by the wild ride his administration and North Korea have gone on. First there was antagonism. Before it became the title of a bestselling book about his dysfunctional White House, Trump used the phrase ‘fire and fury’ when warning of potential nuclear war. On August 8, 2017 at a golf course (the most Trumpian of settings), the president took routine propaganda attacks on him personally and lashed out. No doubt someone tried explaining to Trump that threatening the US with destruction is essentially how one says “good morning” in North Korea, but he didn’t listen. Shortly afterwards he was boasting about how his (nuclear) button was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s. This sub-Freudian outburst of insecurity produced a collective cringe on behalf of humanity that registered on the Richter Scale. However, then came the Donald pivot. Not away from nuclear brinksmanship and towards any form of coherent foreign policy or recognition of national and global interests. No, rather the opportunity for personal glory was discerned. The North Koreans have been requesting bilateral meetings for decades, but previous US presidents always refused. There was no desire in Washington to give the Kim dynasty the international legitimacy they craved, given their abysmal record on human rights and their nuclear programme (undertaken in defiance of dozens of UN resolutions). Instead, past presidents tried to work towards denuclearisation while supporting South Korea and Japan, key US
allies in the region. To Trump, however, they were just losers who lacked vision, and so he agreed to meet on Pyongyang’s terms, national interests be damned. Consequently, after snubbing America’s traditional allies at the G7 and continuing to praise Russia, Trump jetted off to Singapore to sing hosannas to Kim Jong-un, salute North Korean military officers, and, for good measure, give US ally South Korea a kicking. Like all of his business ventures, the ‘deal’ he attained in Singapore is another white elephant. The North Koreans promised nothing, instead agreeing only to vague statements, such as ‘working towards’ denuclearisation. In return Trump called off joint military exercises the United States has with South Korea (without informing Seoul naturally and reportedly on advice of Vladimir Putin), and gave implicit security guarantees. This is exactly what Pyongyang has been seeking for decades; recognition as a nuclear state. In return Trump got a nice photo op, and then heavily implied that North Korea’s missiles are, if not being dismantled, at least no longer a threat; all of which was due to his dazzling radiance and allpowerful charisma. World peace was assured, thanks to him. You’re welcome, Earth. However, since the meeting in June it has transpired that, if anything, North Korea is expanding its nuclear programme. Progress since the Singapore summit has been practically non-existent with Kim Jong-un recently declining to meet again with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, instead electing to tour a potato farm. The idea that decnuclearisation will ever happen is risible. This failure is a direct consequence of Trump’s feelings-focused foreign policy. When there was no groundwork laid, no solid agreements made and no commitment to long-term solutions, this is what you get; America being played like a Christmas cracker kazoo because the whiff of desperation for a political win wafting out of the West Wing was so pungent it could be clearly smelled from Pyongyang. The national interest of the United States was nowhere to be found in the Singapore summit, just as it was absent during Trump’s recent one-on-one with Putin in Helsinki. In both instances there was no real agenda and no expectation of a positive outcome; these were just glitzy events in which Trump would strut the world stage entirely on his own terms, with press conferences as curtain calls. Rather than make the intellectual effort that foreign policy-making requires, Trump just wants to skip to the handshake and the laudatory headlines. As long as other world leaders smile at him and tell him what he wants to hear, he can award himself top marks later on Twitter. What irritates Trump is not the messiness of reality, it’s that everyone else is unwilling to join him in his fantasy. Trump’s the hero of his own story, all he asks is that we all agree with him. NICHOLAS LANGDON
CONTRIBUTORS TIMOTHY BROADSTOCK SIMON COLES DAN CROWLEY BENJAMIN CRONSHAW TATE DEKLERK PAIGE FEURTADO DARCY FRENCH KEELY GARRETT-BEVAN MATTHEW HARPER-GOMM Winnona Horton NICHOLAS LANGDON SONIA LIM VERA PAVEY SCOTT REID ANNA SARTORI TRENT WILSON
Special THANKS thank you to the contributors whose efforts have made this venture more than a picture book with no words
THANK YOU TO MEL AND SIMON AT JOSSIMO PRINT FOR THEIR ENDLESS PATIENCE
an enormous thank you to UMSU for their financial support of this project
CAPITALISM CANNOT EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
‘Climate Change Impacts Human Health | UNFCCC’, accessed May 28, 2018, from <https://unfccc.int/news/climate-change-impacts-human-health>. ‘Economic Growth’, accessed May 28, 2018, from <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economicgrowth.asp>. Randell, P & Pickin, J 2017, Australian National Waste Report 2016, Department of the Environment and Energy & Blue Environment Pty Ltd, accessed from <https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/ files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf>.
The system holds public confidence, the politicians who operate it do not. “Australians don’t trust politicians, but the pollies don’t appear fussed”, Jill Shepard, ABC News (Online), 30 May, 2018, ‘http:// www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-30/australians-dont-trust-politicians/9791042 Indeed, The Bulletin (the publication of note for Australian republicanism) bore ‘Australia for the White Man’ on its masthead until 1961. “The Bulletin magazine axed”, ABC News (Online), 24 January, 2008, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-01-24/the-bulletin-magazine-axed/1022254 https://www.spectator.com.au/2016/12/turnbull-contradicts-himself/ Front Page, Australian Republic Movement website, June 1, 2018, https://www.republic.org.au/ For those so interested, Sir David Smith’s book Head of State contains a chapter that examines this question in some detail. The term was not in common usage during colonial Australia, or elsewhere in the Empire Sir David Smith, Head of State, (Paddington, Macleay Press, 2005), 86. It is also worth noting that the Royal website identifies the Queen as ‘Sovereign’ of Australia, not ‘head of state.’ “Australia”, Royal Household, accessed June 5 2018, https://www.royal.uk/australia Constitution of Australia, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2013Q00005/ Smith, Head of State, 93 The Royal Powers Act of 1953 allowed the Queen to fulfil the Governor-General’s functions when she is physically present in Australia. Quoted in Smith, Head of State, 100. This has not stopped republicans complaining that the Queen, the leader of a foreign power, should interfere in Australian domestic politics. An irony indeed. “Doorstop, Saab, Adelaide”, Office of Malcolm Turnbull, June 3 2016, https://www.malcolmturnbull.com. au/media/doorstop-saab-adelaide James Massola, “The issues we should talk about and the politicans to watch n 2018”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Online), February 3, 2018, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-issues-we-should-talkabout-and-the-politicians-to-watch-in-2018-20180201-p4yz7j.html
The 2013 Vote Compass provided a ranked list at ABC News http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-09/votecompass-data-results-important-issues/4872896. The 2016 Vote Compass did not provide an equivalent list, but it did not rate in the top three issues for any state (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-13/votecompass-issues-by-state-territory/7412718) ot the ABC’s analysis (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-0525/key-issues-where-the-parties-differ/7421638). Nor the top three for any party (http://www.abc.net.au/ news/2016-05-13/vote-compass-important-issues-by-party/7408818) “Economic issues dominate Australians’ problems in 2018”, Roy Morgan Polling, March 6 2018,http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7504-most-important-problems-australia-the-worldfebruary-2018-201803051043 Indeed, ARM’s cringeworthy ‘mate for a head of state’ campaign drew less than fifty people (including activists and media) to a sausage sizzle in Sydney before Australia Day 2006. James Massola, “Shorten vows to hold vote on republic during first term of a labor government”, Sydney Morning Herald (Online), 28 July 2017, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/bill-shorten-vows-tohold-vote-on-republic-during-first-term-of-a-labor-government-20170728-gxkv15.html ”Becoming a republic could solve Australia Day dispute, frontbencher Ken Wyatt says”, Anna Henderson, ABC News (Online), 18 January 2018, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-18/becoming-republic-couldsolve-australia-day-dispute-wyatt-says/9340962 January 2018, dispute-wyattsays/9340962
“The Monarchy and Australia’s Image Aborad”, Melissa Conley Tyler, The Lowy Institute, 10 June 2014, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/monarchy-and-australias-image-abroad Jacob Rodrigo and Nicholas Langford, “For And Against An Australia Republic”, Farrago (Online), 10 August 2015, https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/farrago/for-and-against-an-australian-republic/ Neville Bonner, Australian Constitutional Convention, 4 February 1998, available from https://www.aph. gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/HANCON Brendan O Cathaoir, “An Irishman’s Diary”, The Irish Times (online), July 27 1999, https://www.irishtimes. com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.210789, “Statement from the National Director”, Michael Cooney, Australian Republic Movement, 17 February 2019, https://www.republic.org.au/statement_from_the_national_director Peter Lewis, “Most Australians don’t know their head of state. This doesn’t help the republicans”, The Guardian (Online), 22 May 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2018/ may/22/most-australians-dont-know-their-head-of-state-this-doesnt-help-the-republicans Jason Horowitz, “Italian President’s Loyalty to the Euro Creates Chaos”, The NEw York Times (Online), 28 May 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/28/world/europe/italy-sergio-mattarella-carlo-cottarelli. html Constitution of Italy, available from https://www.senato.it/documenti/repository/istituzione/costituzione_ inglese.pdf
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University of Melbourne Political Interest Society
The second edition of PIS's biannual magazine.