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Australian Review of Public Affairs

By Kay Cook and Kristin Natalier. Single parents in receipt of Centrelink benefits, who are overwhelmingly mothers, are compelled to seek child support from their ex-partner in order to receive above the base rate of Family Tax Benefit payments. If the single parent receives child support payments, the rate of other government payments is reduced, making child support an important part of household income and deeply connected to the welfare system. However, child support is one of the most complained about areas of social policy, and since its introduction in 1988 there have been several rounds of significant reform, with a federal parliamentary inquiry carried out in 2003 and another currently in progress. The impetus for these inquiries has been lobbying from "fathers' rights" groups, which complain that fathers pay too much, that they have to pay despite being denied contact, and that payments are not used on children. These allegations are counter to women's claims that payments are often not made and when they are, are often of a trivial amount. Despite these conflicting accounts, the outcomes of the previous reform process benefited paying fathers almost exclusively, and resulted in low-income mothers losing on average $20 per week in combined child support and welfare income. This presentation sheds light on why reforms advantaged fathers, through analysis of the role of anecdotal and social scientific data in the 2003 inquiry process, how data were constructed and presented as legitimate or illegitimate along gender lines, and the social processes through which the voices and interests of women were marginalised. 2014/09/21 - 14:13

By Gerard Goggin and Dinesh Wadiwel. An epochal social policy reform in Australia is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Much is to unfold concerning the realities of what the NDIS will offer Australians with disabilities, and society at large, and to what extent the NDIS will deliver on its promise of being a transformational change. This paper engages with the complex dynamics of disability social policy, with a focus on political participation and its close relationship to communication rights. The right to political and public participation is a key article in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (article 29). Crucially, it interacts with article 21, which deals with freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information. From this vantage point, what does the unfolding case of the NDIS tell us about communication, social policy and political participation? How did -- and does -- communication evolve concerning NDIS? What kinds of voice and what types of listening does the NDIS afford for people with disabilities, in relation to the transformation of disability in Australia? How do new digital technologies and media cultures offer new relationships between communication and political participation? What are the implications of the NDIS for political participation for people with disabilities? 2014/09/21 - 14:13

By Don Arthur. For more than half a century, policy experts have been putting forward plans to simplify the income-support system. Some of the more radical plans, such as a negative income tax, would replace our current system of allowances and pensions with a single unconditional payment paid on the basis of need. The simplifiers see reform as a technical problem: an effort to balance the goals of poverty alleviation, maintenance of work incentives and affordability. A simpler system would achieve this aim. Much of the complexity in Australia's current system stems from two features: separate payment types for recipients who are expected to work and those who are not; and for those who are expected to work, measures designed to deter long-term dependence on income support and enforce participation. These features resist simplification because much of the rationale for them is political rather than technical. Even if where it is economically inefficient, policymakers are reluctant to abandon a system that distinguishes between "deserving" and "undeserving" recipients and treats the two groups differently. 2014/09/21 - 14:13

By Elizabeth Hill. Informal workers -- mostly women -- are among the most disadvantaged and exploited in developing countries. In India, where the state won'st use labour law to ensure they are paid wages that allow them to reproduce themselves, workers claim the state must provide welfare benefits that reduce the cost of reproduction. Capital and the market economy are left free to organise in ways that maximise global competitiveness and growth, while the neo-liberal state secures human development. How this works out for the hundreds of millions of informal workers around the globe is an open question ... 2014/09/13 - 10:05

By Jane Goodall. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you worry about identity theft? Have you ever bought a designer fake? Could you see forgery as an art form? Have you ever made an illegal download? Have you ever had a nightmare about your evil twin? Do you believe in parallel worlds? These questions open many different lines of speculation, but a recent book is interested in how they are interconnected ... 2014/09/09 - 10:23

By Frank Bongiorno. "Settler economies" -- Australia is one -- had their golden age during the century between the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914. Thereafter, they have had to adapt to less propitious circumstances; notably, the Depression of the 1930s, the decline of British financial power, and Britain's turn to Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War ... 2014/08/30 - 07:51

By Michele Ferguson. There are sound moral, ethical and financial arguments that publicly-funded researchers should use their training and activities for the good of society. However, are governments' attempts to measure whether researchers working for the good -- having an "impact" -- so well-founded? Narrow, simplistic concepts of academic and external impact fail to capture the foundational, incremental and replicating nature of much research. Measures based on such concepts risk destroying the ecologies of knowledge creation and innovation. 2014/08/27 - 01:30

By Gillian Cowlishaw. Field-working anthropologists must navigate the complex relationship between their empirical observations and the representations they create in writing about those observations. In anthropology, the self is an instrument of knowing: incorporating relationships between, for instance, colonised and coloniser can open up valuable comparative questions, but too much emphasis on the researcher's personal involvement can lead to self-indulgent and superficial writing. What kind of anthropology do we get when the researcher skips fieldwork altogether, to focus on representations, on texts? 2014/08/27 - 01:30

By Don Arthur. Talk about "lifters" and "leaners" relies on the belief that our economy offers everyone except people with severe and permanent disabilities the opportunity to contribute. This rhetoric categorises people according to their moral and personal qualities, and positions those who miss out as less worthy than those who do not. But what about people who can't get ahead because something in the social and economic system blocks their way? These are the perennial "forgotten people", invisible to Menzies, invisible now. 2014/07/19 - 11:07

By Christina Ho. Asian immigrants work hard, study hard, pay their taxes and don't ask for welfare: this is how Asians are seen in the popular imagination in immigrant countries across the Western world. In short, they are the "model minority". It hasn't always been this way, and this apparently positive perception covers a lot of internal difference within the "Asian" community, and hides continuing discrimination. 2014/07/05 - 21:56

By Ben Tipton. In January 1961, Dwight Eisenhower's final televised speech as President of the United States warned of the need to guard against the unwarranted influence of what he called the "military industrial complex". He believed that the dangerous relationships among industrial firms, government agencies and irresponsible technocratic elites were new, a consequence of the Cold War, and most observers since have agreed. Research based on previously sealed archives finds these relationships started much earlier ... 2014/06/28 - 20:36

By Dennis Phillips. Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, "Wikileaks" we live in the age of the high profile whistleblower who seems eager to reveal the scope and contents of government secrets. What, then, is the proper role of state secrecy in a democracy? And who -- if anyone -- can be trusted with assuring state secrecy is not abused? 2014/06/06 - 13:48

By Louise Richardson-Self. The goal of marriage equality should be the social and legal non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But how likely is same-sex marriage to lead to social justice? The same-sex marriage debate concerns which aspects of the marital relationship have intrinsic worth and who can uphold these aspects, not whether marriage has intrinsic worth. Maybe this is precisely what we should be questioning ... 2014/05/23 - 20:45

By Ben Kelly. Advocates for social justice believe that a better understanding of the history of the invasion, marginalisation and resistance of Indigenous peoples will lead to a more just relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. But it seems that knowing this history is not enough to enable people to recognise and articulate Indigenous self-determination as a social justice end in itself. The moral and philosophical questions posed by Indigenous affairs are not easy, especially for settler Australians who are -- consciously or not -- invested in the ongoing occupation and use of Indigenous country. 2014/05/23 - 20:45

By Ben Tipton.America's major corporations spend money in record amounts to secure influence, but the influence they seek benefits only themselves. Was it ever thus? No, according to a new book by Mark Mizruchi, who argues that between the turn of the 20th century and the 1970s, significant members of the US business elite advocated surprisingly moderate policies. Is he right? If so, what changed? Ben Tipton also read Susie Pak's new history of elite bankers, and found much of contemporary relevance. 2014/05/09 - 12:59

By Merrindahl Andrew. The possibility of unions becoming an engine of widespread social activism by acting in the interests of others may seem remote in the current Australian context. Unions are more often in the public eye for acting against the interests of their own members. But unions remain the strongest protection against a decline into dog-eat-dog industrial relations. So what kinds of leaders, strategies and goals should unions have, to fulfil these instrumental and broader goals? 2014/04/29 - 07:06

By Anna Kalaitzidis and Paul Jewell. A sperm donor is the biological father but not the social father of a child conceived through donor insemination. What is the significance, if any, of the genetic connection between the donor and donor offspring? How do the various stakeholders perceive the significance and how does the variety of views influence legislation? Initially, donor insemination was an informal arrangement between doctor and patient in which the genetic connection with the donor was downplayed or even concealed. As the practice became formalised through specialist clinics, the anonymity of donors was maintained. As donor-conceived children reached adulthood, however, some of them challenged the policy. The ensuing debate has resulted in significant legislative changes 2014/04/29 - 07:06

By Heather Brook. Not since the radical reforms to divorce enacted in the heady 1970s has there been so much huffing and puffing and anxiety about the whole institution of marriage being blown down. At the centre of this anxiety is the relationship of marriage and sexuality: is marriage (always, necessarily, naturally) heterosexual? Should it be? Would anxiety dissipate if the focus shifted to the relationship between marriage and love? 2014/03/14 - 13:15

By Dennis Phillips. The American Constitution specifies the United States can only declare war by means of a joint declaration by both houses of Congress. Despite fighting wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, the US Congress has not been asked to formally declare war since the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. So how did the war-making power evolve from Congressional act to presidential decision? 2014/02/07 - 15:19

By Rodney Tiffen. Since Nelson Mandela died, compliments have come from all shades of the political spectrum, as politicians and commentators competed for the most impressive sound bite or pithiest phrase. There has been barely a critical word among them. The praise is not insincere or wrong, nor does it need to be qualified. But it tends to reduce Mandela's life to a couple of stereotyped themes, omitting most of Mandela's life, giving little context to explain his actions and attitudes, and failing to capture the flavour of the society he confronted and changed. 2013/12/20 - 08:13

By Robert Aldrich. It may be that being "queer" or "gay" is no longer provocative, dissident or shocking, at least in the major cities of Australia, or in Western Europe or parts of North America. But in other parts of the world, homosexuality provokes violence and repression, and gay men and women have to find their own avenues, public or clandestine, for artistic and literary expression. These differences make "gay art", and its role and reception, particularly interesting. 2013/12/06 - 10:36

By Robert Aldrich. It may be that being "queer" or "gay" is no longer provocative, dissident or shocking, at least in the major cities of Australia, or in Western Europe or parts of North America. But in other parts of the world, homosexuality provokes violence and repression, and gay men and women have to find their own avenues, public or clandestine, for artistic and literary expression. These differences make "gay art", and its role and reception, particularly interesting. 2013/12/06 - 10:36

By Don Arthur. Social democratic critics of the Australian government's income management policy often argue that the policy is driven by the philosophy of neoliberalism -- as espoused by thinkers such as Milton Friedman. But were Friedman alive today, it is almost certain he would oppose income management, as a wasteful and ineffective violation of individual liberty. In fact, Australia's so-called neoliberal think tanks have done little to promote the kind of reforms that Friedman supported. Instead they have pushed for conservative policies that direct increasing amounts of money and effort into controlling the lives of people on income support. In a fight against income management, might neoliberals be potential allies for social democrats? 2013/11/22 - 12:15

By David Hansen. In 1885, a volunteer military expedition left New South Wales for the Sudan. This spectacular waste of time and money resulted only in some execrable patriotic verse, three men receiving minor wounds, and half a dozen dying of dysentery in Africa and on the way home. This conflict has pride of place at Australia's War Memorial -- while the 30,000 Aboriginal people killed in the guerrilla war they fought against British colonisation remain unrecognised ... 2013/11/09 - 08:11

By Graeme Gill. In all societies there is tension between the formal rules governing all aspects of life and the informal norms, practices and principles that contribute to the structuring of that life. In Russia, informal norms and personal relationships dominate social organisation, and cohere into a "sistema " that structures life at the top. A recent book explores the culture of "sistema " and argues that it stands in the way of Russian political and economic development. 2013/10/19 - 14:03

By Marian Sawer. Deliberative democrats sometimes assume that existing political organisations, including NGOs or social movement organisations, are too bound up with pre-given interests or ideological frames to provide a public sphere where such deliberation can occur. They favour new mechanisms, ranging from deliberative polls to citizens' juries, consensus conferences or citizens' assemblies, to achieve the quality of deliberation that should be central to democracy. But is it true that existing organisations make poor homes for deliberative democracy? 2013/10/11 - 09:59

By Kate MacNeill, Jenny Lye and Paul Caulfield. This paper uses econometric modelling to examine the relationships between Australian federal government arts expenditure and the political persuasion of the government and government reviews of the arts and cultural sector. The research adds to a number of international studies that have examined cultural expenditures in the United States of America, Austria and in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) and found little evidence that the political persuasion of the government had an impact on the level of cultural expenditures. Our results express expenditure relative to total government outlays, and similarly find no consistent evidence of a correlation between political persuasion of the government and funding for the arts -- however correlations are observed between government instigated reviews and arts expenditures. 2013/08/23 - 08:10

By Harry Blatterer. Young people are not drones determined by social conditions: they think -- about who they are and where they are headed and how. And in a world in which there are no enduring guides to a life worth living, where uncertainty suffuses experience, think they must. "Reflexivity" is not only an essential human capacity; turned to the questions "who am I?" and "how am I to live?" it is, in fact, imperative. So how is this imperative played out in the lives of young people? 2013/08/23 - 08:10

By Ariadne Vromen. What counts as political engagement? Some hold voting to be the gold standard and see online interaction as low cost, low impact, and of low value. Others are interested in new ways of being political and the emergence of new forms of political action. Young people are at the centre of these debates: what are they up to -- if anything -- in political life, and is what theyapos;re thinking and doing enough to support democracy into the future? A new book has some answers, but raises a few questions too. 2013/08/16 - 20:15

By Dennis Phillips. For the victims of most drone strikes, there is no warning at all. Undetected surveillance drones may have spied on the targeted individuals for days or weeks before an armed drone is directed to release its Hellfire missile. The result, of course, is devastating -- certainly for those targeted, but perhaps also for us all. The use of military drones has played havoc with international law and the rules of war. They make war easier to conduct, easier to conceal, and easier to run out of control ... 2013/07/20 - 09:18

By Frank Bongiorno. His name is barely known today except among scholars of sexuality but Dr Norman Haire (1892-1952) was probably one of the more globally influential intellectuals Australia produced during the 20th century. A eugenicist, some of whose books were burned by the Nazis, a campaigner for contraception on compassionate grounds, a man made rich by transplantation of testicular tissue in the pursuit of "rejuvenation", Haire is the subject of a new biography that reminds us of Australia's place in the larger world of ideas. 2013/07/12 - 08:54

By D.N. Byrne. In 1830 and 1831, as the facts about the New World increasingly challenged the myths about the New World, the French political theorist, Alexis de Tocqueville, journeyed across the nascent American democracy. Two hundred years after de Toqueville's birth, a French philosopher and an Australian historian made their own journeys around the United States, recording observations and reflections. The trope of the stranger in a strange land shapes their observations and reflections upon the forms of American life that they encounter -- yet while both ostensibly write about American society, the reader finds narratives of two very different Americas. 2013/07/05 - 12:38

By Kay Cook. This paper examines the 2011-12 federal budget measure to strengthen child support compliance in light of gendered assessments of child support reform, particularly those that identify an emphasis on men's financial autonomy and the buttressing of men's financial authority beyond the couple relationship. By changing the way non-resident (payer) parent income is calculated for those who fail to lodge tax returns, the government aims to save $78.7 million over four years, with savings to be recouped directly from increased child support assessments and decreased Family Tax Benefits to resident (payee) parents. Given that 87 per cent of child support payers are men, this reform unintentionally legitimises men's non-compliance with the Australian Tax Office by circumventing the tax system in determining payer income. At the same time, women and children stand to bear indirect financial costs as they face increased reliance on their ex-partner for financial support -- a move that increases men's financial authority over women and children beyond the couple relationship. 2013/06/28 - 14:38

By Judy Cashmore and Rita Shackel. Child sexual abuse is a serious concern for the community and the criminal justice system. The circumstances in which children have been and are sexually abused within social institutions, the impact of this abuse, and the responses to disclosure of their abuse by those involved in these institutions is now the subject of three major inquiries in Australia. The inquiries and agencies who work with children and respond to those who have been harmed face many difficult questions ... 2013/05/31 - 20:27

By Evan Doran and Hans Lofgren. This paper describes developments in Australia's regulation of prescription drug marketing and promotion. We show that the pharmaceutical industry has proved less capable of shaping the regulation of promotion than other areas of pharmaceutical policy. Public health advocates have effectively highlighted the negative impact of promotion on quality use of medicines. While consumers have long been assumed to be in need of protection from drug promotion, it is now accepted that marketing to medical professionals should also be more closely controlled. Government has responded by tightening such regulation but has stopped short of ending industry self-regulation. 2013/04/05 - 23:52

By Dennis Phillips. On Tuesday, 6 November 2012, Barack Obama became the third US president in a row to win a second term in office when he defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney with 51 per cent of the popular vote to Romney's 47.2 per cent. Many pundits were surprised by the size of Obama's victory. Two days before the election polls indicated that Obama and Romney were locked in a virtual tie. Meanwhile, leaders of the Republican Party, along with many political analysts, believed Romney had a slight edge. So how was Obama able to defy opposition predictions of his imminent political demise and win a victory more impressive, in many ways, than his spectacular success in 2008? 2013/03/15 - 10:23

By Julie Stephens. In a culture anxious about care and dependency, it has become very easy to dismiss maternal attentiveness and nurture as excessive. While in our working lives, no amount of energy and effort expended at work ever seems enough, for mothers, any passionate display of maternal care that displaces the centrality of paid work appears to be "too much". Is it really possible that the social meaning of a woman deliberately "not working" has changed to such an extent that it is seen as bordering on the abnormal? 2013/02/09 - 00:48

By Damien Spry. How are we to make sense of the iPhone? It has been called a transformative networked multimedia platform; a fetishised consumer brand; a superlative innovation by a genius inventor; the ruination of solitude; and the emblem of a radical shift in the relationship between those who produce media (including news and games) and those who consume it. Is that all it is? If we move beyond brand fetishisation and a myopic Western gaze, we might see a bigger picture of how the smartphone is changing human lives. 2013/02/01 - 11:09

By Debra King. A new book makes a confronting comparison between industrial slaughterhouses and other "zones of confinement" -- such as nursing homes. In these zones, work that deals with death, decay and bodily fluids is physically hidden and socially veiled. Those employed inside them also become distanced from the moral implications of their work, by time pressure, surveillance and other organisational strategies. Can a "politics of sight" make this work and these institutions more humane? 2012/12/18 - 12:24

By Lisa Hill. Stoicism is a philosophy of consolation and self-defence in a troubled world and is perhaps best known for its doctrine of apatheia which stresses the centrality of duty and the idea that, through reason and self-discipline, we can attain inner calm by learning to accept events with tranquillity. But there is far more to Stoicism than resigning ourselves to the world ... 2012/12/07 - 11:47