bert knottenbeld. flickr cc.

Editorial. Equality in our society & urgent action on climate change should be priorities for Australian governments.

Peter Whiting

In a rich country like Australia, we should not accept that so many in our community live in poverty without sufficient income to meet their basic daily needs. That so many children experience poverty is a scandal.

Federal and State governments have all committed to large budget deficits to stimulate economies. Almost certainly, budget initiatives already announced will prove insufficient to enable the unemployed to re-enter the workforce rapidly. Governments would serve us all well by prioritising equality of income and opportunity, and by paying heed to the need for increased action and imagination in addressing the climate change challenge.

AlessandroBiascioli / Shutterstock.

JobMaker is nowhere near bold enough. Here are four ways to expand it

Brendan Coates, Matthew Cowgill, Tim Helm

Brendan Coates, Mattthew Cowgill, and Tim Helm from the Grattan Institute argue that the JobMaker scheme should be expanded to include people over the age of 35, extended beyond the unemployed, that more employers should be able to use it, that ‘harvesting’ – converting full-time jobs to part-time – should be banned, and the scheme simplified.

Refugees in Kara Tepe Camp Lesbos 2016. UN photo / Rick Bajornas. flickr cc.

Hundreds forced into destitution as crucial support withdrawn

Sarah Puls

In 2018, the UNHCR released a report highly critical of Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in offshore processing. After years of systemic violence, the government has chosen to walk away in the midst of a pandemic, leaving these people with nothing.

Since March 2020, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has been moving to grant six-month Final Departure Bridging Visas to approximately 576 people. This has had the sudden effect of shattering the supports on which they had been relying. After years of being forced to stay in housing determined by DHA, they were told they had three weeks to find their own housing and move out.

After years of being forced to live on meagre payment from the government, and threatened with extreme punishment if they tried to work to support themselves, they were suddenly told they must find a job.

Fratelli tutti: brothers & sisters all

Rowan Ireland

An urgent call to all people of goodwill to unite in a politics of brother/sisterhood.

[Pope Francis] would have Australians, for example, to ask questions like ‘how far are we from the politics of brotherly/sisterly love in our refugee policies and (even harder) in our everyday social relations with recent arrivals and refugees?’, ‘how close are we to nationalist populism in our border policies and their applications?’ Are we even close to entertaining Francis’s shocking proposition that “each country also belongs to the foreigner” (124)?

Regarding our First Peoples, to what extent do we negotiate with them as agents in the formulation and delivery of indigenous policy? Are we anywhere near to consensus that the ultimate aim of indigenous policy is the formation of what Francis calls a new mestizo society and culture, in which differences have not been eliminated, but a new people born in negotiations about the common good.

Extinction Rebellion. John Englart. flickr cc.

Does anyone really believe we’re going to avert a climate catastrophe?

Peter Sainsbury

I’m in the ecosocialist camp, but I don’t know if or how we can make the transition, certainly not in the very short time we have left to avert the climate catastrophe. I’m not ready to give up yet, though. If nothing else, we can try to limit the impacts of the catastrophe by tackling the causes with no-regret actions (eg many of the policies for which progressive capitalism promoters advocate); we can start preparing individuals and societies for the inevitable impacts of the catastrophe; we can focus on the most disadvantaged and oppressed people; and we can start building democracy and social justice. Crucially, our attention must be on what we, individually and collectively, must do over the next ten years. Put the focus on 2030, not on 2050 or 2100.

Solar power. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management Nevada 2015. flickr cc.

Super power: here’s how to achieve 100% wind, solar, & storage by 2030

Giles Parkinson

The RethinkX team led by futurist Tony Seba, one of the few analysts correctly to forecast the plunging cost of solar over the last decade, predicts that the disruption caused by solar, wind, and lithium-ion battery storage (or SWB) will be similar to the digital disruption of information technology.

Just as computers and the Internet slashed the marginal cost of information and opened the door to hundreds of new business models which have had a collective transformative impact upon the global economy, so too will SWB slash the marginal cost of electricity and create a plethora of opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship …

Not only can it solve some of society’s most critical challenges but it will also usher in hundreds of new business models, and create industries which transform the global economy collectively.

Australian War Memorial Canberra. Goran Has. flickr cc.

Let’s face it, Australia goes to war far too easily

Sue Wareham

When Australia decides to go to war, there are many glaring omissions in the decision-making process. This far-reaching decision is taken by, at most, a tiny handful of ministers, and, in practice, generally by the Prime Minister alone. Our parliament is not consulted. Many critical questions – about goals, strategy, likely duration, and costs – are either not asked, not answered, subject to shifting goalposts, hidden from the public, or all of these. Far from war being the proverbial last resort, Australia enters wars remarkably easily.

John Nacion/AP.

Vital signs: a global carbon price could soon be a reality; Australia should prepare

Richard Holden

The US just voted out a climate denier, and is now going to take serious action on the environment. Europe is already acting. Our major trading partners are committing to net-zero targets.

We’re being left behind. This ought to provide the impetus to put Australia’s climate wars to rest. Even if our elected politicians don’t want to do anything serious about climate change for moral reasons, they now have little choice but to do so for practical reasons. And that involves a price on carbon.

David Mariuz/AAP.

Robodebt was a policy fiasco with a human cost we have yet fully to appreciate

Peter Whiteford

The Robodebt fiasco involves policy failures across numerous dimensions. The most obvious – and in many ways the least important – failure is that it did not achieve the budgetary savings which were its main objective.

More seriously, hundreds of thousands of people were adversely affected. This human cost is difficult to assess, and involves much more than financial losses. Just over 2,000 people who had received a Robodebt notice between July 2016 and October 2018 died during that period, although, in the absence of an official coroner’s report, no causes can be attributed.

This story is not yet finalised. The Federal Court has yet to approve the terms of the settlement. The second inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs is due to present its report in February 2021.

Photo New Norcia station solar powered. ESA / D O’Donnell 2017. flickr cc.

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