AQ Australian Quarterly – 95.2 April – June 2024

Every year in May, the Federal Treasurer hands down the government’s budget to great fanfare and nit-picking. Health spending is always one of the big ticket items that receive much scrutiny – and every year the Australian Institute of Policy and Science hosts Post-Budget Health Briefings with both the Minister for Health and the Shadow Minister.

This year, for the first time, AQ has been fortunate to secure interviews with Minister for Health and Aged Care, Hon Mark Butler, and the Shadow Minister, Senator Anne Ruston, in the lead up to the Budget. They discuss the role of evidence in policy development and their hopes for the health sector.

It is only fitting then that the rest of this edition be heavily health focused.

All this and more in the new edition of AQ!

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Not Quite Out of The Cold: Resurgence, Retreat, and Resurfacing of Psychedelic Research

The word ‘psychedelics’ garners an enormously emotive response. But how did that come about? Psychedelic substances might be some of the oldest chemical substances used by our species - they have accompanied spiritual, cultural and healing practices around the world for millennia. Now the potential therapeutic properties are slowly overcoming Western social stigma – heralding in a new way that we will need to do culturally-sensitive research and therapy. For 50 years psychedelic research has been in the deep freeze – Australia now has a unique opportunity to be a world leader.

Violeta Schubert

Regions Rising: The New Frontier

Banjo Paterson’s vivid, image-laden words in his famous poem, Clancy of the Overflow, described two vastly different worlds: the ‘dusty, dirty city’ and the bush, full of ‘sunlit plains’ and ‘everlasting stars’. Today Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the OECD. And as Melbourne and Sydney are predicted to approach megacity status, the great promise of the regions remains untapped. We need to dramatically rethink about ‘rebalancing our nation’, improving both the economic and social opportunities of greater rural population and growth.

Liz Ritchie

Vaping in Australia - A conversation with Associate Professor Michelle Jongenelis

Australia has taken the first steps in controlling vapes – but there is still a long way to go to actually protect Australians and, in particular children, from the predatory Big Tobacco and unscrupulous vape manufacturers. It’s been shown that the majority of ‘non-nicotine’ vapes, in fact contain nicotine – getting a whole new generation addicted. Lack of enforcement or controls on vape products, mean that this is the wild west and we face a health crisis if more is not done soon.

Michelle Jongenelis, Cassie Hayward and Nick Haslam

Shortage or Surplus: Is it Worth Going to University?

The Final Report of the Australian Universities Accord was published, with considerable publicity, in February 2024. The headline recommendation is that higher education enrolments in Australia should more than double to 1.8 million in 2050 if we are to avoid shortages in labour market demands for skills. Yet this conclusion fails to take into consideration critical information about the changing relationships between tertiary education and employment. If we get this wrong then we burden a generation of Australian graduates with degrees that are not worth the costs invested.

Ken Gannicott

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