We need to talk economic justice - Editorial June 2012

Here, as overseas, our economy is being fundamentally restructured, yet the Australian debate on economic justice lags the debate elsewhere.

The Great Depression commenced in 1929, on ‘Black Tuesday’ 29 October.

It political effects were felt much later. In Australia it was 1931 when the Scullin Government fell, and 1932 when the Lang Government was dismissed.

The economic ideas of the time took even longer to change. Keynes didn’t publish his General Theory until 1936. Its implementation followed later.

Today, the pattern is similar. Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, but the political 
turbulence that followed is still building.

Former governments in Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, France and elsewhere can testify to that.

The debate about fundamental economic ideas is raging overseas. In contrast the Australian debate, given our economic conditions, is far less free ranging. Wayne Swan made a valiant start, but there remains much to discuss.

This edition of Challenge calls for the Australian left, and Labor, to broaden the debate to one about economic justice. As the underpinning economic assumptions of the last three decades are called into question overseas, we need to ask similar questions here at home.

Do we have to accept, as Louise Tarrant asks, living in Paul Krugman’s Age of Diminished Expectation? Do we have to accept that ‘high hopes have been replaced by, at best, stoic acceptance’, even in an age of unparalleled wealth? Her article is the start of a stronger focus from the Left on the issue of economic justice in this turbulent time.

This issue of Challenge also declares that party reform is unfinished business. Any observer of the December 2011 National Conference debate would surely agree.

Labor may have to wait now until after the next federal election before taking the serious steps it needs to heal itself nationally as a Party, and as a movement. Andrew Giles puts the case for reform, including his call for the parliamentary leader to be elected by the Party.

As promised, Challenge has headed online. We have been supporting equality, social justice and a more democratic Labor Party since October 1976. The online version of the magazine promises more opportunity for comment and debate. I encourage you to take a look at www.challengemagazine.com.au, and to subscribe. We rely on your support to keep publishing.

Finally, Zach Alexopolous reviews the political book of the year – Caro on LBJ. It is a compelling study of political power. Whatever else you do: find a copy and read it.

Author: John Graham

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