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The Editors of the Australian Review of Public Affairs thank its readers, contributors, past editorial team members and other supporters, who have enabled us to offer what we hope has been a topical and thought-provoking look at a broad sweep of the issues of our time. With considerable regret, we announce that we have not been able to secure the modest funds required to continue, and so can no longer offer our unique blend of research, commentary and review. We will maintain the site indefinitely, and are confident that readers will continue to find and appreciate the work of around 300 authors who have written for the Review over the last 16 years.


Looking for a Way Out: Backing Away from Dangerous Climate Change Kate Crowley
Climate change is known as a ‘wicked’ or even a ‘diabolical’ problem: complex, persistent and requiring change in multiple dimensions that are difficult to achieve. But this characterisation does not encompass the political-economic features of the climate problem that are hampering the policy response: state failure, market failure and the relative influence over decision-making exercised by resource interests, for starters. Defining climate change as a wicked problem also obscures the extent of failed leadership behind much climate inaction. So what might work?

‘The Most Feared Disease of Childhood and Adolescence’ and ‘A Deafening Silence’: Polio and Post-polio in Australia Frank B. (Ben) Tipton
Extremely contagious and potentially fatal, polio reaped an annual harvest from the late 19th through the middle of the 20th centuries. Polio has since been almost eradicated by programs of mass vaccination and is now forgotten. Yet the threat of polio persists in two ways. An unknown number of survivors suffer ‘post-polio syndrome’, with its crushing fatigue and further muscle weakening. Meanwhile, in rich countries, complacency, ignorance, suspicion and deliberate misinformation lead worryingly large numbers of parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated, with potentially tragic consequences.

JOURNAL Volume 14, Number 1: February 2016

Have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services failed? A Response to Weatherburn Elise Klein, Michael Jones and Eddie Cubillo
In this article, we consider Don Weatherburn’s claim that Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) have a limited role in reducing Indigenous incarceration. We argue that Weatherburn understates the role of ATSILS. We make our argument in three parts: first, we assess the Weatherburn thesis as it relates to ATSILS. Second, we examine the weaknesses of Weatherburn’s methodology, which overlooks the complexity of Indigenous over-representation in Australian prisons. Third, we explore five counterfactual scenarios of a world without ATSILS, showing the major role ATSILS have regarding the myriad of cross-cultural and socio-economic issues Indigenous people contend with when coming in contact with the justice system. We argue that ATSILS play an important role in addressing Indigenous over-representation in Australian prisons.


ASEAN: Some Misconceptions about a ‘Miracle’ Len Perry
There has been a lot of breathless commentary about ASEAN lately; researchers and consultants alike have been making big claims about the ASEAN Economic Community surpassing China as the powerhouse of the East. But does the evidence stack up?

Beyond Neoliberalism: Universities and the Public Good Ravinder Sidhu
These are challenging times for public universities everywhere. Questions about their organisation, governance, financing, relations to society and the content of education they provide, while not new, have assumed a heightened urgency in political and policy circles in Australia and elsewhere. How are we to understand the purpose of the public university today?

The Protest Business Felicity Wade
What is activism for, and why has so much formerly grassroots organisation and campaigning either become business-like, or failed? The short answer is: it’s complicated. Social change, concerted political opposition and internal organisational problems all play a part. So too does the absence of a viable alternative to the problematic political-economic situation in which we find ourselves …

A Unique and Conflicted Enlightener: Adam Ferguson’s Political Thought Lisa Hill
Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) was a leading figure of the Scottish Enlightenment but his fame has long been eclipsed by those of his contemporaries, David Hume and Adam Smith. Attempts to recover Ferguson from obscurity are wise: he was interested in a central question of our times: how to prevent large, prosperous and competitive commercial states from degenerating into counter-democratic militarism.

Big Fish from Little Ponds: Solvay, Belgium, Global Markets, and Family Firms Frank B. (Ben) Tipton
We are accustomed to the idea that single families control a number of our largest firms. In Australia the Murdochs in media, the Lowys in retail and Gina Rinehart and her estranged children in the resources sector occupy us in the business, social, and occasionally the sports sections of our daily news. Beyond the enjoyment of reading and watching the activities of the extremely rich, family firms also raise serious questions, about entrepreneurship, about firm governance, about varieties of capitalist systems and about the functioning of markets.

Tales of Robin Hood (Part 4): Social Security and Risk Over the Short and Medium Terms Peter Whiteford
There are many intermediate steps in the move from a snapshot comparison of the distribution of taxation and benefits in Australia and the United Kingdom to a life course perspective. Taking time into account over the short and medium terms shows us the impact of risks that individuals and their families face. Many people rise and fall, and when they fall, most people get up again. This means that most of benefit-receiving ‘them’ are also taxpaying ‘us’. (Part 4 of an 8-part series.)

Tales of Robin Hood (Part 3): The Long View – Social Policies and the Life Cycle Peter Whiteford
Much comparative analysis in social policy uses ‘snapshots’ of what different kinds of households receive and contribute in a given year. But household and individual circumstances change over time. Some changes happen as life takes its course: for example, children begin life as receivers, but grow up, leave school, start work and become net contributors in the tax-transfer system. The life course perspective offers a powerful corrective to many of the myths of the welfare state, both in the United Kingdom and Australia. (Part 3 of an 8-part series.)

Tales of Robin Hood (Part 2): Are the Poor Too Expensive? Redistribution and the Welfare State Peter Whiteford
The welfare states of Australia and the United Kingdom share much, but not everything, as the first article in this series comparing the two countries showed. In this instalment, focus shifts to how taxes, cash benefits and services in-kind, such as health, education and housing, redistribute income between richer and poorer households. With case studies of two different kinds of young families and national survey data, a rich and complex picture of the impact of public social spending emerges. (Part 2 of an 8-part series.)

Tales of Robin Hood (Part 1): Welfare Myths and Realities in the United Kingdom and Australia Peter Whiteford
Australia and the United Kingdom are commonly classified among the ‘liberal’ welfare regimes by social policy researchers. This is not surprising: there are obvious institutional and cultural similarities between the two countries, and policy ideas have evidently been passed back and forth between them. But similar is not the same, and a forensic look at the architecture and outcomes of the Australian and British welfare states is both interesting and revealing. (Part 1 of an 8-part series.)

Writing Media History Peter Putnis
When media historians call the telegraph the ‘Victorian Internet’, or liken ancient Egypt’s papyrus rolls to Twitter, they seek to emphasise what is common in human communication and social experience. But important insights are lost when historians make the past seem too like the present.

Tamed and Untamed Political Emotions Julie Stephens
The complex entanglement between reason and emotion is evident in all political debate. In public discourse the idea that politics is concerned only with the reasoned exchange of dispassionate arguments is maintained by marginalising less rational human feelings and in viewing passions as politically dangerous. Over the last decade, social and cultural theory has challenged the liberal notion that emotions have no place in the public sphere. So what place do the emotions have in politics?

‘People like us’: School Choice, Multiculturalism and Segregation in Sydney Christina Ho
Daily encounters with cultural difference help establish an organic multiculturalism that becomes an ordinary part of people’s lives. People learn to deal with each other in an everyday fashion, and their differences are not a barrier to engagement and sometimes friendship. In schools where students from different backgrounds are thrown together, their negotiations across cultural difference are a unique opportunity to forge intercultural understanding. So how are Australian schools doing in fostering this kind of everyday multiculturalism?

The Making – and Almost Breaking – of Obamacare Lesley M. Russell
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, colloquially called Obamacare) is an historic piece of legislation that improves the health and healthcare of every American. But what will surely come to be seen as President Barack Obama’s key legacy is also one of the most divisive laws enacted in the United States in recent memory. So what is all the division about, and what general lessons can be drawn from the Obamacare story?

Dusting off the Archives Robert Aldrich
In the discipline of history, every published article or book, every lecture or conference presentation, has a backstory of how it was researched and written, and in most of these stories, archives play a key role. But the archives that historians work in are themselves historical—they evolve and are subject to the whims of nature and the authorities who provide curatorship, funds and buildings for them. That is as may be: there remains something timeless about the encounter between the researcher and the primary documents archives hold, the scraps of information that can be pieced together into a satisfying patchwork, the sense of literally reaching out to another time and place, and to the people who lived there.

Linking Government Support and What We Value: The Case of Environmentally-Harmful Subsidies Karen Hussey
Governments are in the business of promoting desirable economic and social outcomes and undertaking this business sometimes involves financial aid or subsidies. Subsidies should, of course, be well-designed, such that their benefits exceed their costs. Many are not. Yet even when they are, problems arise: there are, inevitably, both winners and losers when governments decide which outcomes should be supported and to what extent. Moreover, the tension between short-term economic and political goals and environmental harm plagues this policy field.

Fred Nile A.D. 2015 Timothy Lynch
Surprising many commentators, morals campaigner and veteran politician the Reverend Fred Nile contested—and was re-elected—to the New South Wales Legislative Council in March 2015. His campaign stressed his ongoing commitment to ‘traditional moral values’, and his concern about the latest in a long line of malign, indeed diabolical, foreign interests threatening Australia’s ‘national heritage and freedoms’, this time from Islam. Yet society has largely abandoned the values Nile champions and his political activity is now essentially symbolic. How is his persistence to be understood?

Combatting Hate in Cyberspace Katharine Gelber
With Web 2.0, platforms and usage have become dynamic, the lines between creator and user have become blurred, and social media facilitates networking and collaboration. These developments raise questions about whether this medium actually enhances freedom by enabling expression, or facilitates harms in new and more damaging ways. Certainly, the Internet has become a medium of choice for the dissemination of hate speech, which is viewed by most countries around the world as sufficiently harmful to warrant regulation. But what of other forms of harmful speech online?

Asian Business Systems, National Cultures, and the Problem of Gender Frank B. (Ben) Tipton
Some influential management researchers have worked to understand how firms relate to their surrounding societies. They argue that, despite the obvious pressures of globalisation on both governments and firms, national ‘business systems’ show little tendency to converge to a standard pattern. Yet gender relations are absent from their accounts of ‘society’ and ‘culture’; indeed women and gender are missing from most authoritative texts in management. What has gone wrong?

Tim Rowse on historical reasoning about Indigenous imprisonment
Anna Kalaitzidis and Paul Jewell on challenges to confidentiality rules for sperm donors
Kate MacNeill, Jenny Lye and Paul Caulfield on government arts spending 1967–2009
Michele Ferguson on defending the value of the social sciences
Robert Aldrich on homosexuality in the gallery
Don Arthur on Menzies’ other forgotten people