Something New

Jenny Stewart In the 21st century, we need the collective power of government as never before. The trouble is, governments, no matter how hard they try, find it difficult to structure and apply this power in effective ways.

Something New

In the 21st century, we need the collective power of government as never before. The trouble is, governments, no matter how hard they try, find it difficult to structure and apply this power in effective ways.

One of the underlying problems is that those outside government don’t really know what’s going on. This makes it tough to work out better ways of working. Those who know can’t tell, and those who are allowed to tell, don’t know. There is a vast gap between the lived experience of practitioners and the academic world of commentary and debate.

Keep Review’s Structural Focus

After 21 years of self-government, it was clearly time for a long, hard look at the ACT government and public service. The Hawke review (Governing the City State: One ACT government One Public Service), as its title suggests, delivers an agenda for change that stresses greater integration of purpose in …

Public policy values

Should public funding be given to in vitro fertilisation? What is the ‘best’ way to deal with HIV AIDS? Should the wearing of Islamic headscarfs be banned? How should choices be made between ‘the environment’ and ‘growth’? More and more policy issues involve questions that are explicitly values-based, yet public …

What’s the bonus, baby?

The federal government is convinced it is on to a winner with its baby bonus (or maternity payment as it is more correctly called), which currently pays out $4,000 for each new arrival, rising to $5,000 in 2008.

Would you have a baby for $4,000? Or even $5,000? For many women, it would take a good deal more than that to get them interested. The whole-of-life costs of a child are conservatively estimated at about $100,000 in today’s dollars, which makes the proposition, at least in financial terms, look distinctly unattractive.

Do we really want our city to be like all others?

The National Capital Authority justifies its bold new plan for Civic on the grounds that to many people, Canberra is a bit of a disappointment. Visitors, we are told, expect more of their national capital than the rather luke-warm induction Civic is able to provide. It seems that Civic is insufficiently cosmopolitan and – even more damning – not vibrant enough.

Don’t take funding for granted

Time was, when you wanted to do something, you just went and did it. Now, you need to get a grant first. There are grants for just about everything: for putting on plays and writing poems; for doing quilting; for being innovative; for travelling about and taking notes.

For academics, it is not enough to do research, or even to write books. In fact, it is probably not a good idea to write books at all, because no one is interested in publishing them. If you really want a CV that sings, you need a grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

By most accounts not the best way to run an education system

You have to feel sorry for young Andrew Barr. A newcomer to government, he has been thrust into the midst of what looks to be a protracted fight about the future of 39 schools (and pre-schools) in Canberra.

Ultimately, fewer than 39 schools will close. Indeed it looks as though the government went deliberately for over-kill, calculating that, after the dust has settled, the community will be so grateful for the schools that have been spared, they will forget the rest.

Everyday heroes expendable for short-term interests of consumers

Until relatively recently, producers were the heroes of the Australian economy. Now they are considered to be expendable.

Consider the recently-announced closure of Bluescope’s tin-plating mill in Port Kembla. Two hundred and fifty workers will lose their jobs, and in addition, it is likely that there will be knock-on effects, not only for Wollongong but for the economy as a whole.