February 26th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Power, strikes and privatisation


EDITORIAL: The end of General Wiranto?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Kernot's leadership ambitions: unfinished business?

RURAL: Major debt crisis in rural Queensland

OBITUARY: William G. Smith SJ

FAMILY: The family strikes back

AUSTRIA: Haider: a warning rather than a threat

KOSOVO: They have made a desert and called it peace

ECONOMICS: Managing countries, managing companies

ASIA: Taiwan's poll a rowdy, close run thing

HEALTH: Treatable diseases rampant through Africa

BOOKS: Rabbi's defence of the Judeo-Christian culture, Rabbi Daniel Lapin

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Bush tells Canberra it won't be cajoled

Privatised power

Books promotion page

26 FEB 2000

by Various

News Weekly, February 26, 2000
Ethical foreign policy?
'Russian generals are fond of claiming that their Chechnya campaign is little different from NATO's war on Yugoslavia. In fact, it bears little resemblance to the 'surgical' strike that NATO planners at least tried to carry out. At times it seems more like the rampage of a semi-Asiatic horde. Looting and profiteering take place openly, and Western journalists have rapidly discovered that their only real status in the region, where most reporters are still barred, is as a possible source of bribes ...

'What is certain is that Russian firepower is massive and frequently indiscriminate: commanders demanding and receiving some of the most powerful conventional weapons in their country's arsenal.

'At the small settlement of Alkan Kala, the Russians used a huge ground-to-ground Tochka missile, containing hundreds of bomblets, to try and hit the fleeing rebels, but they succeeded only in wrecking the centre of the village.

'Under this rain of fire and death, the rebels are becoming more fanatical, severing the heads of captured kontraktniki - soldiers fighting in Chechnya for money - and showing ever more intolerance for anything that challenges the purity of their Islamic vision.

'Few journalists here would disagree that stopping this dreadful war is one of the most pressing ethical issues of the day.
'It remains to be seen if those who profess a belief in an ethical foreign policy choose to speak out or just turn away.'

Julian Manyon, The Spectator,
February 12, 2000

Abundant despair
'We live in an age of undoubted progress in many respects, chiefly those that depend on the improved technologies that make for a life that is richer in material goods, better protected against disease and disability, and less devoted to back-breaking toil.

'We eat better than our forebears, have better houses, are warmer in winter, and not prematurely worn out by a lifetime's work. Still, we are probably no happier than our forebears, and we are certainly neither more virtuous than they, nor very much better able to make sense of the human condition than they.

'To that extent, the aspirations of the Enlightenment have been dashed ...

'What Anthony O'Hear wants to argue in his book, and what is easy to agree with, is that human beings need some sense of limits.

'Some moral systems build in limits; in monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Christianity, there is a strong sense that the world belongs in the last resort to God, not us ...

'At the end of the 20th century, when so many projects for the emancipation of humanity have turned out to be recipes for the wholesale murder and enslavement of humanity instead, an ethics of limits is attractive ...

'[However], it is hard to believe that this search for limits will yield political consequences in the here-and-now of any particular - certainly of any party particular - kind.'

-Alan Ryan reviewing After Progress by Anthony O'Hear in the Times Literary Supplement, February 11, 2000

Ups and downs
The volume of Australian farm production has risen every year since 1994-95. The estimated 1999-2000 production is 39 per cent up on 1994-95. However, the net value of farm production is forecast to fall 15 per cent in 1999-2000 to 25 per cent below the peak year of 1994-95. Total farm debt rose 26 per cent in the five years to 1998.

The wheat harvest just completed could exceed the 1996-97 record crop which was the first of four consecutive above-average crops. World wheat prices, however, are at 22 year lows. The area sown to canola is estimated to be up a further 36 per cent in 1999-2000 to 4.9 times the area in 1994-95.

Cotton exports are forecast to rise 3.7 per cent in volume but to fall 15 per cent in value. Exports of pigmeat are forecast to rise 150 per cent in 1999-2000 largely due to the disease problem in Malaysia.

The beef industry experts a buoyant year following a 15 per cent improvement in prices over the past 12 months.
Nickel exports are forecast to rise 20.5 per cent in volume in 1999-2000 but 100.9 per cent in value.

Coal producers are reported as having accepted a five per cent cut from Japanese buyers following last year's 18 per cent cut. Employment in coal mining fell 7000 or 29 per cent in 1998-99 to 17,000.

Credit card fraud in the US from e-commerce (over the Internet) was up 15 to per cent of sales compared with less than less one per cent in shops.

Government expenditure on older Australians (pensions, hospital, medical, pharmaceutical) as a proportion of total outlays on health, welfare and social security expenditure, fell from 43 per cent in 1980-81 to 32.8 per cent in 1995-96.

The number of child care places funded under the child care program more than doubled in the seven years to 1998.
In a survey of arrested men, two-thirds tested positive to illicit drugs; 60 per cent were single and aged 17-25; three-quarters had less than 10 years education and 60 per cent were on welfare.

The number of apprenticeships rose 40 per cent in the year to September.

Tourism is Australia's largest export earner. Five million visitors are expected in Australia in 2000 with foreign exchange earnings of $19 billion. Visitor numbers are forecast to increase by 7.3 per cent to 8.4 million in 2008 with export earnings of $33 billion. Employment in tourism is estimated at 1.2 million.

Extracted from Australian Economic Trends, written by Emeritus Professor A.H. Pollard AO for the Lumley Corporation

Winners and losers
'In today's America, many of the indicators - the economy, crime, the teen birth rate, unemployment - are trending in the right direction. But two important studies conducted by the Federal Reserve as well as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) indicate that everyone who started up rose up, and everyone who started down fell down.

'Following are some examples:

Over the past decade, incomes have diverged. Families whose incomes are in the top fifth earned more than 10 times as much as those in the bottom fifth, according to EPI and CBPP. This disparity has come as a result of major income jumps at the top, and - in 18 states - declines in incomes at the bottom. In New York and California, incomes at the bottom have fallen by almost $3,000 in the past twenty years.

The Federal Reserve came to the same conclusions. From 1995 to 1998, the percentage of families with incomes of $50,000 or more increased by 20 percent, to more than a third of total families. And the average income of those at the top increased by more than $20,000, adjusted for inflation. The self-employed got a $24,000 raise.

Much of the boost came from families headed by people who had spent at least some time in college. (The average for those with some college increased by $8,000, while those who graduated saw a boost of $10,000 in three years.) Families headed by people who did not graduate from college missed out on the windfall, however. Over three years, families headed by non-high school graduates lost $1,400.

The richest of the rich got richer. For families earning at least six figures, net worth increased between 1995 and 1998. In fact, everyone's worth went up except families in the lowest income group. Theirs went down.'

Lindsay Sobel, The American Prospect Online, January 21, 2000

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