AQ 91.1 – January – March 2020

AQ: Australian Quarterly 91.1

As a decade of climate inaction came to a close, we watched Australia burn. To the majority of Australians (outside the so-called 'Canberra Bubble), it was the moment that a severe-climate future reared up before them.

The conservative risk models of scientists did nothing to prepare the country for the sudden escalation in the harm wrought by our carbon dependency. A tragic confluence of factors seems to have intersected to stamp an indelible mark on the lives of the people affected, and on everyone else watching around the world.

Would the fires have happened if Australia had de-carbonised 10 years ago? Yes, they probably would have. Would they have been as bad? Perhaps so. But what Australia has lost, other than the lives lost in these blazes, is its place as a good global citizen, working with other countries for a global future, and its leadership by example. Instead, Australia has emboldened other rogue countries to trash global consensus and to slow action that WILL save lives in the future and that WILL reduce fire and drought severity.

This start of a new decade should be a clarion call to everyone who has felt that important decisions were being made on their behalf, yet without their best interests at heart.

We need to ask: How did we get to this point? And if we don't like the look of the road in front of us, what can we do to change course?

In this first AQ of the 2020's, we tackle this question from a number of fronts across technology, social welfare, native title and Adani...

 This and more in the new AQ!

Slowing Down; Keeping Up - Technology, Determinism, and Modern Heresy

Ideas are the driving force of human history. Yet most of the ideas humans have had, have been terrible failures. History favours slow and recursive change – not change for its own sake – yet today we live in an era of mind-numbingly rapid technology change. Buzz-words like ‘innovation’, ‘disruption’, and ‘transformation’ have become not means-to-ends, but literally ends-unto-themselves. Yet do we know how we came to this place; have we come the wrong way? And what happens if we don’t like the path that we’ve been led down?

Zac Rogers

­­Courts of the Conqueror - Adani and The Shortcomings of Native Title Law

In 1992, the High Court of Australia handed down the Mabo decision. In 1993 the Keating Government enacted the Native Title Act. And in 2019, the QLD government granted freehold mining titles to Adani on the land of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. This legal battleground represents a culmination of the long-known issues surrounding Native Title – What is it? Is it fair? What should it be? And how can a Native Title claim just be extinguished?

Kate Galloway 

Science Impact - To What End Are You Working? 

The fundamental purpose of science is to engender change. Even the most basic research seeks to lay the foundations of knowledge that can one day be translated to the advantage of society. Yet, though fundamental, how science quantifies and understands its impact is complex. Simple return-on-investment calculations are insufficient to capture the multitude of value that research and technology have when they are released on the world. How do you quantify the good (and the bad) that science does, and why is this so important? 

Anne-Maree Dowd, Thomas Keenan and Karen Cosgrove

Mean(s) testing - Why It Pays To Make Our Welfare System Fair

Australia is the richest nation in the world by some metrics, yet we have one of the meanest sets of welfare payments in the OECD. Paternalistic Income Management, punitive obligations, and callous means testing – the social safety net originally set up as a democratic support system post-WWII, has been reduced to a behaviour control system that promotes stigma, blame, and political scapegoating. It does not benefit Australia socially or economically to punish its own citizens, so why do we continue to do so?

Eva Cox

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