News & Politics
AQ: Australian Quarterly

AQ: Australian Quarterly 88.3 Jul-Sep 2017

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.

Australian Institute of Policy and Science
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4 Issues

in this issue

3 min.
a word

Inequality is arguably the catch-cry of our times, but when you pick it apart what does it actually look like in the Australian context? Is it economic, is it political; is it tax breaks for big business, or the everyday homelessness of our capital cities; is it the rot crumbling the sanctified pillar of the ‘Fair Go’, or has it become a convenient catch-all so broad as to be meaningless? This special edition of AQ exists to try and answer some of these questions, to add some incremental stability to a concept that is fluid and ill-understood. Leading the charge is the irrepressible Eva Cox, bringing sharply into perspective something that is often forgotten in the cry for change: inequality is a symptom, not the sickness. And so sick is the patient,…

16 min.
redefining inequality: it's the inequity of social trust, not 'the economy, stupid'

When viewed as systemic rather than materialistic, the question then becomes how to interpret the effects of inequality as symptoms of unfair systems – systems that generate antisocial distrust and undermine social cohesion. The issue is that inequalities may offer multiple symptoms of social destruction, but the contribution these make to feelings of distrust and other emotional reactions, become causal. Ergo, material redistribution, in itself, will not necessarily undo harm, because it is unlikely to restore trustworthiness, but may be part of solutions. This shift will be a clear rejection of the effects of the current dominant globalised market of material growth, and the seeking of more localised, protective forms of governance. Deconstructing inequality is not easy. Its materialist version offers a popular and convenient shorthand description for most current political ills.…

15 min.
drowning in the rising tide: policy and inequality in australia

Yet despite this newfound celebrity, the contours of inequality are poorly understood. Over the past forty years, inequality has both risen and fallen depending on where you look. Perhaps surprising, global income inequality - unless otherwise noted, “inequality” in this essay refers to income inequality - has fallen since 1980, continuing a decline that extends back over centuries. The biggest driver of this fall has been the exit of hundreds of millions of people from extreme poverty in Asia, and in particular, China. In 1988, more than half of China’s population lived on less than US$500 annually. Today more than half live on over US$2,000 a year. So at the global level, inequality continues its long-term decline. But the public in Australia, and other developed countries, perceive that inequality is on the…

14 min.
divided cities, divided countries

Then and now: Social Inequality It was 44 years ago that Frank Stilwell first wrote forAQon the topic of Spatial Inequality. To see how much (or how little) has changed,AQis making Frank’s 1973 article available to read! Head to www.aips.net.au/aq-magazine/current-edition/ to download. Alongside those well-established urban inequalities are the equally long-standing divisions between ‘the city’ and ‘the bush’ (the latter, of course, having its own huge contrasts between country towns, rural areas, remote and very remote regions). In practice the socioeconomic pattern is a complex mosaic rather than a clear spatial dualism. Yet it is equally the case that economic and social inequalities are structural and deeply etched into the Australian socio-economic landscape. As the radical urban geographer David Harvey has argued, the rich command space while the poor are trapped in it. Does it…

9 min.
social enterprise in australia: the need for a social innovation ecosystem

For example, reductions in government funding for essential services, many of which deal directly with social and economic inequalities, often require organisations to do more with less. Certainly, not too long ago, the Australian federal government used (and quickly dropped) innovation to frame how the country’s ‘ideas boom’ would help guide all Australians to a more prosperous economic future. The importance of innovation to help tackle long-term social inequalities was less clear. Indeed, any innovation ecosystem that lacks proper, coordinated investment makes the task of delivering long-term equality even harder. For organisations on the front-line of service delivery – those working with individuals and communities affected by complex challenges – reductions in funding and marketisation of their services, apply severe pressure on their ability to serve communities. Understandably, given these constraints, some…

15 min.
trends in income inequality in australia

As late as 1967, prime minister Harold Holt could say that he knew of no other free country where “what is produced by the community is more fairly and evenly distributed among the community” than it was in Australia. From the 1980s onwards, however, this view of Australia came under increasing scrutiny, particularly as more comprehensive data became available. Public and political concerns about inequalities in income have grown further in recent years, particularly since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and with the rise of the Occupy Movement in 2011. In a 2013 speech sponsored by the Center for American Progress, former President Obama described rising income inequality as the "defining challenge of our time." In 2014 the English translation of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty- First Century, reached Number…