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AQ: Australian Quarterly

AQ: Australian Quarterly 89.1 Jan-Mar 2018

For over 90 years AQ: Australian Quarterly has been packing its pages with the debates that have shaped Australia and the world, tackling the big topics in science, politics and society. Grounded in evidence, yet written in a style accessible to everyone, AQ is unique in Australia’s publishing landscape, pushing back against the trends of subjective truth and media spin. If it matters to Australia then it matters to AQ.

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Australian Institute of Policy and Science
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4 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
a word

The lull of summer has finally set in – a relief after the final few months of the year. Those dying days of 2017 were a textbook illustration of the many gears that governments have to work in. The furious build up of energy (on both sides) from the same-sex marriage debate was afforded release as the parliament rushed to be seen to undertake ‘democracy’. This, of course, followed months of trying to slow inevitability by any means possible. Meanwhile, Victoria quietly went about the business of legalising assisted dying, continuing their raison d’etre of being a thorn in the side of the conservative feds. And then, in horrifying detail, we witnessed the slow motion car crash that befell the Prime Minister, as he was hedged in on all sides regarding a Banking…

16 min.
blockchain and the state: vehicle or vice?

For all of these monetary systems to function an authorising intermediary has stood over issuance of currency, and stood between transactors, providing them with the capacity to trust one another. This stabilises the value of the medium of exchange, the security of the transaction, and the integrity of the record, whatever it may comprise. The intermediary accrued power via the indispensable role it played in facilitating trust, and the centralisation of authority, as corollary, literally created civilisation as we know it. The seats of political and financial power have thus remained, to this day, with governments and central banks. Yet in 2007-8 this manufactured structure of centralised trust was revealed as anything but trustworthy. The financial and political implosions of the GFC became a unique opportunity for an alternative to this…

17 min.
a king’s ransom: public benefit within a modern energy landscape

Fritjof Capra & Ugo Mattei, “The Ecology of Law” Australia has an abundance of resources capable of generating energy – gas, brown and black coal, uranium, wind, water and sunshine. When the resource resides within the sub-stratum of the land it is subject to state ownership in accordance with Australia’s public resource framework. This effectively means that the state must look after the resource for the benefit of the public as a whole. Yet public benefit in this context has never been fully defined and is therefore grounded in unarticulated allocative assumptions. The general principle is to ensure that the management and exploitation of these public resources is conducted in such a way that it maximises their net benefit and promotes distributional fairness. For the most part, benefit is generally presumed to…

12 min.
from trash to treasure: australia in a take-make-remake world

Not only do many of these products contain hazardous materials that should not be going into landfill, they also contain valuable, finite materials such as gold, copper, and platinum. Ten kilograms of electronic waste can yield 2 grams of gold, equivalent to the gold in a wedding ring. This may not seem much, until you compare it against the 10,000 tonnes of ore that would need to be processed to extract the same amount of gold from a mine site. The term ‘circular economy’ (CE) has begun to appear in the popular lexicon in recent years, featuring heavily in discussions about policies for resource efficiency and seen as the latest way of greening the economy. As anyone who watched the recent ABC series War on Waste, or followed the controversy on…

14 min.
alleviating poverty: australia will be called to account

Child poverty averaged 13.5 per cent across all 34 OECD countries and was below 5 per cent in only two of them – Denmark and Finland. Australia’s child poverty rate is just about bang on the OECD average. This is not to deny (again with the benefit of hindsight) that the pledge was unrealistic in terms of what could be achieved in such a short period – the commitment was made in the run-up to the 1987 federal election. Even so, it resulted in significant – and in many instances – long-lasting reforms being made to the system of income support for children (lead by reformist Social Security Minister, Brian Howe). Those achievements demonstrate the impact that poverty targeting can have when it is formulated and backed at the highest political…

18 min.
from hampstead to hull: implications of brexit and other overseas voting trends for the alp

To understand why Brexit happened, it is important to first look at the demographics of those places in which people voted differently from their normal party political allegiance. The BBC results maps, on the page facing, indicate how the country voted in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, as well as the 2016 national referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union (EU). What is clear is that the referendum results do not fall cleanly along political lines. Some Conservative Party seats in the south of England, especially in and around London, voted to remain in the EU; while some Labour Party seats in the north of England voted to leave. There are large spatterings of red (Labour Party) rather than blue (Conservative Party) in the north and north-east of England…