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Australian Review of Public Affairs

By Kellie Burns. In 2011, a Canadian family was the focus of an international media furore, when they elected to raise their child, Storm, "genderless". The family became caught up in a classic nature versus nurture debate: is gender inherently linked to one's sex, or shaped by one's social environment? In the past decade, neuroscience has been mobilised on the side of nature ... 2012/11/14 - 22:49

By Merrilyn Walton, Jennifer Smith-Merry, Judith Healy and Fiona McDonald. Health complaint statistics are important for identifying problems and bringing about improvements to health care provided by health service providers and to the wider health care system. This paper overviews complaints handling by the eight Australian state and territory health complaint entities, based on an analysis of data from their annual reports. The analysis shows considerable variation between jurisdictions in the ways complaint data are defined, collected and recorded. Complaints from the public are an important accountability mechanism and open a window on service quality. The lack of a national approach leads to fragmentation of complaint data and a lost opportunity to use national data to assist policy development and identify the main areas causing consumers to complain. We need a national approach to complaints data collection in order to better respond to patients' concerns. 2012/11/09 - 17:53

By Dominic Murphy. If science has shown us that there is no God, then are we all the product of a blind historical, wasteful process that means nothing, because there is no purpose in nature that we are working out? What if science itself, directly, could tell us how to live, and answer the big questions? In this, the age of neuroscience, some philosophers think it can. 2012/11/01 - 14:59

By Andrew J. Martin. Much of life seems organised around competitions, and winning and losing are signal events. In schools, politics, work and sport, audiences watch competitors engage in ultimately unsatisfying striving after esteem, money, power. Is this brutish and brutalising struggle all there is to winning and losing? Perhaps not -- winning is important for our self-efficacy and losing is essential for insight into our further improvement. The point is to compete against ourselves, not others. 2012/10/23 - 02:16

By Tony Smith. These days, the figure of the "larrikin" is celebrated in popular culture and embraced by politicians, sportsmen and entertainers as quintessentially Australian. He (and sometimes she) has a darker past in the form of disaffected youths who roamed inner city streets, disrupted entertainments, fought with one another and resisted police attempts at control. Moral panic does little to draw such young people back into the mainstream, a lesson policy makers responding to the recent demonstrations in Sydney and elsewhere could well note ... 2012/09/24 - 20:52

By Dennis Phillips. Mitt Romney's mid-August choice of 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate guaranteed American voters their clearest ideological choice in a presidential election in 48 years. Not since Lyndon Baines Johnson defeated arch-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 has the US electorate been asked to choose between two more dramatically different political philosophies. Let us hope the voters choose wisely ... 2012/09/21 - 06:40

By James Walter. Have you ever considered a political career? If not, you are in the majority: most of us never seriously consider this option. Who takes this path, and why? What is the catalyst of political ambition? Are there characteristic patterns of social, psychological or professional development that stimulate entry into politics? If only those with particular qualities embark on a political career, what does this mean for the performance of our political elites? These are questions of enduring significance for all of us ... 2012/08/31 - 11:22

By Fiona Kate Barlow. When asking whether something is "good", or "bad", left wing people ask, "is this hurting someone?", and "is this helping someone?", and especially "is harm being down to someone who is powerless?" But is this focus on care and fairness sound? Or is it an immature and incomplete foundation upon which to build one's sense of the moral? Jonathan Haidt thinks so, and his new book on morality and politics stakes a claim for the superiority of conservatism. 2012/08/27 - 16:30

By Kim Atkins. Can behaviours commonly regarded pejoratively -- rudeness, gossip, elitism, sick humour and disrespect -- be justifiable, even morally commendable? How highly should we value manners over honesty? Reputations over truth? Can removing some species of disrespect, snobbery and other human foibles from the category of the offensive and ugly, actually make the world a little more beautiful? 2012/07/07 - 00:20

By Frank B. (Ben) Tipton. If Nazism was an aberration, however horrible, then there is nothing inherently "wrong" with Germany or the course of German history. And if this is so, then there may be room to search for potentially valuable models in the German experience. Does German business -- perhaps even one, very big German business, Krupp -- provide such a model? The author of a new history of this corporate behemoth thinks so. Ben Tipton is less sure ... 2012/06/09 - 07:38

By Ilektra Spandagou. A child either has or has not Down syndrome and a diagnosis is definite soon after birth, but the experience of having Down syndrome is not static. As with prenatal diagnosis, medical progress has significantly affected the experience of people with this condition. The same discipline that substantially decreases the chances of a foetus with Down syndrome being born increases life expectancy and quality of life of the child after he or she is born. This does not mean that the politics of reproduction and of inclusion thrown up by Down syndrome are any less challenging today. 2012/05/31 - 21:28

By Arathi Sriprakash. The media is awash with stories about the exceptional academic success of Chinese students. Young Chinese-Australians are topping their classes, winning places in selective schools, and gaining entry into competitive university courses. When China debuted in the 2009 international standardised testing program PISA, students outperformed their counterparts across the world in reading, mathematics and science. What's behind their success? There's more to it than "Asian values" and "tiger mothers", at any rate ... 2012/04/21 - 14:04

By Kate Gleeson and Carol Johnson. A new biography of Tony Abbott paints him as irredeemably sexist and misogynistic; old-fashioned, aggressive, responsible for lowering the tone in politics, and generally a danger not just to women but to the whole country. But is Tony Abbott really the lone freak in the circus of Australian politics? Or is a broader and more complex politics of gender at work, that takes in both sides of the house? 2012/04/14 - 08:34

By Paul Jewell and Jennie Louise. Australia has recently amended copyright laws in order to exempt and protect parodies, so that, as the Hon. Chris Ellison, the then Minster for Justice told the Senate, "Australia's fine tradition of poking fun at itself and others will not be unnecessarily restricted". It is predicted that there will be legal debates about the definition of parody. But if the law, as the Minister contends, reflects Australian values, then there is a precursor question. Is there anything wrong with parody, such that it should be restricted? In our efforts to define parody, we discover and develop a moral defence of parody. Parody is the imitation of an artistic work, sometimes for the sake of ridicule, or perhaps as a vehicle to make a criticism or comment. It is the appropriation of another's original work, and therefore, prima facie, exploits the originator. Parody is the unauthorised use of intellectual property, with both similarity to and difference from other misappropriations such as piracy, plagiarism and forgery. Nevertheless, we argue that unlike piracy, plagiarism and forgery, which are inherently immoral, parody is not. On the contrary, parody makes a positive contribution to culture and even to the original artists whose work is parodied. 2012/03/31 - 10:30

By Tashina Orchiston and Belinda Smith. Women who are victims of family violence have more disrupted work histories, on average have lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs frequently and are more likely to be employed in casual and part-time work than women with no experience of violence. Yet work is a vital structural support for victims, providing them with financial independence, enhancing self-worth, and reducing isolation. Do anti-discrimination laws have a role in helping these women stay in work? Australian law reformers think they could. 2012/03/09 - 08:13

By Jennifer Curtin. Women's rights to work and to economic security have always been central tenets in the fight for gender equality. These rights are won through feminist politics that focuses on the individual rights of women as equal with men. But also important is a more social and collective understanding of rights that challenges the masculine culture of the trade union movement worldwide. 2012/03/09 - 08:13

By Rob Manwaring. We know Labor is in trouble in Australia -- but they are not alone. Increasing numbers of the public are turning to the right rather than to the left to govern in Europe as well. Why? One reason might be, paradoxically, that centre-left parties are too right wing: governments they lead struggle to find adequate policy responses, not least since most of them have abandoned state ownership as a civilising force for capitalism. But not everyone agrees with this assessment ... 2012/02/17 - 19:30

By Lyn Carson. Citizens may be able to make decisions better than those of professional politicians, because they are not affected by political party allegiances, corruption, re-election anxiety, donor obligations or strategic bargaining. And there are well-tried methods of engaging citizens in rich forms of democratic participation, to harness this potential. So what is preventing their acceptance and widespread use? 2012/02/17 - 19:30

By Tim Dwyer. Citizens need to be informed to participate in democracy -- and they rely on the media for information. Three recent books catalogue the problems with the contemporary media, and show just how much needs to change for the democratic role of the news to be fulfilled. In Australia, would-be reformers confront a dangerous level of media ownership concentration, declining investment in costly citizenship-focused information gathering practices, and audiences whose tastes have been cultivated in soft entertainment. 2012/02/17 - 19:30

By Martijn Konings. A paradoxical logic shapes debate among critics of capitalism after the GFC: awareness that markets cannot solve social problems has generated a range of fantasies about markets' as yet untapped potential. Even financial institutions are routinely ascribed capacities for egalitarian inclusiveness that the crisis seems decisively to have demonstrated they lack. Social scientists need to do better. 2011/12/16 - 18:17

By Dennis Phillips. In September 2008, when Republican presidential candidate John McCain named Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, some Australians likened the self-described "maverick" Palin to Australia's own political maverick, Pauline Hanson. Both women are attractive, energetic, conservative, populist, blunt and -- how to put this tactfully -- lacking in philosophical sophistication. But Palin has had much more political impact than Hanson on her nation's politics ... 2011/12/09 - 18:37

By Annette Braunack-Mayer. Medical students meet users of health services in clinical settings -- the hospital or surgery -- and so see them through eyes attuned to clinical and individual solutions, not to the broader social determinants of health, illness and modes of medical practice. Students are often resistant to thinking in new and different ways about the problems patients bring to them, but need to learn how, if medical care is to be genuinely caring. 2011/12/03 - 12:33

By Katharine Gelber. The Internet -- home to "cyber mobs", liars, aggressive misogynists and purveyors of hate, who distribute their views with impunity. Meanwhile, their targets suffer the consequences of this predominantly unregulated arena for speech. The ubiquity of the Internet, the permanence of posts, and the search engines that dredge sludge for you, mean that material that makes its way online affects people's lives over the long term and in profound ways. Can this dark side of the Internet be regulated? 2011/11/26 - 09:09

By Charlotte Baines. Since World War II, globalisation and mass migration have exposed Australians, city and country dwellers alike, to new religions from around the world. Religious people and groups can respond in different ways to increasing diversity, and a new book explores the challenges and opportunities they face. 2011/11/26 - 09:09

By Andrew Markus. In Australia, the attempt to apply the concept of genocide has produced two separate conversations, two divergent discourses with little indication of mutual engagement. It has not, as some might have hoped it would, fostered a wide-ranging reappraisal of Australian history. This problem is not unique to Australia. Indeed, beyond the addition of a significant chapter to the sociology of group relations, the genocide concept has failed to generate understanding at depth. 2011/10/29 - 02:46

By Jo Wainer. The changed sex ratio of doctors is a worldwide phenomenon attracting the interest of policy makers at the highest level. That we even need to think at a policy level about how women are included in the practice of medicine is a result of the systematic exclusion of women from licensed practice as healers when modern medicine was being established in Europe from the 15th-19th centuries. 2011/10/29 - 02:46

By Susan Goodwin and Kate Huppatz. Unimaginable a decade or two ago: interracial surrogacy, raising transgender children, queer parenting, mothers' chatrooms on the Internet, "tradie" mothers, executive mothers, yummy mummies, and mothers subjected to mutual obligation. Yet with all its new ways of being a mother and doing motherhood, even in the 21st century motherhood continues to be an arena of conflict for women. How are we to make sense of mothering today? 2011/09/23 - 23:30

By Mark Chou. Since the first Chinese international relations theory conference was held in Shanghai in 1987, proposals for a Chinese school of international relations, or at the least a theory of international relations with Chinese characteristics, have been continuously mooted. What can philosophers from China' s prehistory offer this project? 2011/09/23 - 23:30

By Jan Gothard. All historians have an obligation not to misuse or falsify their sources and to treat them with respect. For oral historians the obligation is also a personal and ethical one, which sometimes predisposes them to infinite introspection on their role in the co-creation of their interview sources. A new history of migration to Australia pushes the boundary of how much introspection is too much ... 2011/09/23 - 23:30

By Karen Healy. Few issues capture media attention and spark public outrage as much as the abuse or, worse, the murder of children at the hands of their caregivers. Media and therefore public interest in such tragedies may typically be short-lived. But child welfare scandals have lasting, and often destructive, impact on child welfare policy, as politicians keen to cover their own hides make hasty and ill-conceived reforms. Meanwhile the real causes of child abuse and neglect -- social and economic exclusion of vulnerable families, and poor working conditions in child welfare agencies -- remain unaddressed. 2011/08/26 - 23:56

By Haig Patapan. Loved or hated, leaders seem to demand we pay attention to them. Whether we are thinking of top political leaders, CEOs of global corporations, chairs of NGOs or neighbourhood committees, leadership matters because it seems to promise a solution to our most intractable problems. There is nothing, it seems, that we hope cannot be solved by the actions or example of a strong and decisive leader. 2011/08/12 - 16:00

By Ann V. Sanson, Brian W. Head and Gerry Redmond 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Brian W. Head and Gerry Redmond. Social research has long recognised that many social problems can be reduced through preventative programs. While governments cannot reasonably counter or reverse all the negative outcomes experienced by every citizen, the rationale of the "prevention" approach is to anticipate and mitigate the likelihood of negative outcomes. Special relevance for the prevention approach has been claimed for the field of child and youth well-being. The policy intention is both to enhance the developmental well-being of children and young people, and to lessen the social and economic burden of dealing with the serious consequences of poor health, low skills, poverty, and anti-social behaviour later in the life cycle. However, the design and implementation of prevention programs has tended to be "top-down", with little consultation with target groups (including children) and little debate on the values framework within which prevention programs operate. This paper discusses both technical and theoretical critiques of prevention approaches, and argues for the need to develop new approaches to overcome them. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Robert J. Donovan. The public health paradigm provides a comprehensive framework for identifying target groups for action, setting objectives, identifying factors that influence risky behaviours, and generating policies to facilitate positive changes. What a public health approach lacks is a framework for the implementation of programs, and particularly with respect to communicating with and persuading target audiences to adopt recommended behaviours. This paper proposes that the discipline of marketing not only brings an innovative mindset to program planning, but also provides the means for effectively operationalising the conceptual frameworks and goals of health promotion and public health. Marketing not only includes an ecological perspective, but draws heavily from the social sciences with respect to models of attitude and behaviour change. This paper proposes that social marketing in the health area is the integration of marketing, the public health paradigm and the health promotion Ottawa Charter. This is illustrated by reference to a "new 4Ps" that complement marketing's traditional "4Ps" and target upstream environmental and commercial marketing factors. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Ben Edwards, Matthew Taylor and Mario Fiorini. The practice of "academic red-shirting" (parents delaying enrolment in primary school for a year after their child is first eligible) is becoming more common in the developed world. The idea behind this practice is that the "gift of time" enables children to develop cognitively and emotionally so that they are more school-ready than their peers. Little is known about the factors associated with delayed school entry in Australia. In this paper we begin to fill this gap in the Australian research using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. We estimate that 14.5 per cent of school entrants in 2005 had been delayed from the previous year, the first national estimates of delayed entry. The rates of delayed school entry vary markedly between states and territories with New South Wales having particularly high rates of delayed entry (31.3 per cent in 2005). Parental decision-making about delaying a child's entry to school appears to be most influenced by state and territory entry age policies with only a few other factors found to be statistically significant. Children who are less able to persist at tasks and boys are more likely to be delayed entrants. The decision to delay a child's entry to school is also more likely if English is the mother's first language and if the family lives in a non-metropolitan area. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Matthew Manning, Ross Homel and Christine Smith. Social scientists and education, health and human service practitioners recognise the benefits of primary prevention and early intervention compared with remedial alternatives. A recent meta-analytic review of early childhood prevention programs conducted by the authors demonstrates good returns on investment well beyond the early years, into and beyond adolescence. There are two methodological deficiencies in the current prevention literature: (1) the limited tools available to assist when making choices on resource allocation and engaging in a structured decision-making process with respect to alternative policy options for early prevention; (2) the absence of a rigorous tool for measuring the economic impact of early prevention programs on salient aspects of non health-related quality of life. This paper examines traditional economic methods of evaluation used to assess early prevention programs, and outlines a new method, adapted from the Analytical Hierarchy Process, that can be used to address these deficiencies. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Ann V. Sanson, Sophie S. Havighurst and Stephen R. Zubrick. The high prevalence of social, emotional and behavioural health problems in children and young people in Australia, and the high cost and relative ineffectiveness of treatments to "cure" them, lead to the conclusion that the most efficient and cost effective approach is to prevent them from occurring. The challenge is in determining what to prevent and how to do so. While there are complex social and political aspects to prevention, it must also be guided by a solid scientific basis. This paper makes the case that prevention science provides a framework for ensuring that prevention initiatives are founded on robust evidence and implemented in a way that will allow progressive growth in knowledge of "what works" in prevention. The paper examines some of the opportunities and challenges in a shift to an evidence-based prevention agenda to improve the lives of children and young people. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Don Edgar. We need to change the way we think about children. They are not just a private, family matter. What happens to them in early childhood, at school, in the community, how they are affected by the workplace, the media, and society at large is of vital importance to everyone, not only their parents. This Viewpoint makes the case for this change, and suggests a framework for thinking about how we might bring it about. 2011/07/04 - 22:39

By Adam Stebbing. The Coalition argues that the cuts to middle class welfare that appeared in the 2011-12 Budget amounted to an attempt by Labor to "fan class welfare". The Gillard Government contended that its first Budget took tough decisions to increase support for those who need it most and curb the benefits received by the well off. But did the 2011-12 Budget really do more than close a few loopholes that skirt at the surface of the burgeoning system of middle class welfare? 2011/06/17 - 14:18

By Christina Ho. Ethnic concentration and "white flight" from public schools surface sporadically in Australian public debate, often focused particularly on public schools in rural areas and those in disadvantaged suburbs, which, it is argued, are being abandoned by Whites. The recent release of the official My School 2.0 website provides the most comprehensive data ever on the cultural diversity levels of all schools in Australia. What these data show is alarming... 2011/05/04 - 18:04