In this edition of the IPA Review you will see important and original research on topics vital to Australia’s future. They are a pointer to future research activities of the IPA.
On page 8 IPA Research Fellow Dr Kevin You examines our construction industry with all its issues, and discusses the effect of the changes to industrial relations being introduced by the Albanese Government. A very early act of the Albanese Government was to abolish the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, which was an effective ‘tough cop on the beat’ of the construction industry. This was in line with the preferences of the affected unions and was ALP policy, as are many of the other changes taking place. The vendetta against independent contractors under the banner of ‘same work same pay’ will have far reaching and negative effects.
Through his family’s business interests Dr You has had personal experience in construction, and as a consultant helped clients navigate the thickets of employment and industrial relations law.
On page 26, you will read a research essay by Professor Sinclair Davidson, commissioned by the IPA, which examines the complex and troubling issues associated with the mania for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices in the corporate and financial world. In the corporate world the ESG mantra is most enthusiastically practised by woke corporations which appear to be embarrassed by the proposition that their whole point is to make a profit. It should be sufficient to point out that profits only arise if there are satisfied customers, but woke corporations would rather seek approval by commitment to social causes (like, for instance, the Voice to Parliament). Professor Davidson, who is an Adjunct Fellow at the IPA, has focussed on how the major investment funds have embraced ESG as a means to elevate their own importance (and fees). Working from first principles, he establishes the claims one can ‘do good’ and also better the market cannot be substantiated.
The ESG mantra is enthusiastically practised by woke corporations.
On the cover I put the Brisbane office tower developed by construction industry super fund Cbus Super’s wholly owned subsidiary Cbus Property—the tower conveniently has the Queensland Government as its sole tenant—as it has relevance to both articles. Industry superannuation funds in Australia are also embracing ESG and relying on more-or-less explicit ‘social goals’ in the investment of member funds. The full effect of this on financial risk and returns to members is an issue the IPA will continue to research. The cover also indirectly points to the article by Chris Dekker on page 44, in which he outlines the development of the ‘Red Union’ as an alternative to political unionism. Chris is a former Campus Coordinator in the IPA’s Generation Liberty, and showed he was willing to fight when he took on his university over a refusal to grant space for activities during O-Week. I am sure he displays the same vigour in protecting the interest of his members, unencumbered by the conflicting agendas of the ACTU-ALP aligned unions.
To break up these articles of economics and industry, I have included the second part of Peter Craven’s examination of three classic books about the pioneers who built Australia. Peter is the doyen of literary critics in Australia, and his memory reaches back to when Judith Wright’s The Generations of Men was taught in schools. We placed the book in the IPA’s Australian Canon—The Genius of Australia—even though Wright was, broadly speaking, of the left. The point is that such works, which artistically chronicle real events, are being erased from history. To listen to activists for the Voice to Parliament is to be told incessantly that the prior occupation of the continent by Aboriginal Australians—and the history of their encounter with Europeans—was something buried or neglected by prior generations.
These three books show the tensions between the old and the new settlers was very much understood, chronicled, and read about by previous generations. As Craven says, the episodes described were often extremely confronting. So, the Voice to Parliament cannot be justified as the means to address historical amnesia. And, as Morgan Begg explains in his review of Peter O’Brien’s book, on page 58, its other justifications are also deeply problematic.
Kevin You on page 62 reviews a new book by IPA Adjunct Fellow Bradley Bowden. The book and You’s review address another attempt to create false histories, which is the narrative embedded in critical race theory that slavery was the foundation on which capitalism and modern prosperity was built. It should be enough to say that slavery was and is a repugnant institution, and to fully account for its historical harms, and shames. But as an historical claim the radicals’ version of history is bunk, and needs to be exposed as such.
Historical perspective is also provided by Christo Moskovsky, who on page 50 debunks the idea—prevalent in his youth—that socialism would over time morph into something more like capitalism. As he establishes, the real outcome has, if anything, been the reverse.
You may recall that in the last edition we had an extract from the new book on ‘White Elephant’ projects, and in May I had the pleasure of hearing Dr Gary Banks, former Chair of the Productivity Commission, launch White Elephant Stampede in Melbourne. He was kind enough to provide the notes he prepared for that talk, which are published for the first time on page 38.
Finally on page 68, frequent contributor Dr Paul Monk looks at a fascinating book on the relationship between the USA and Israel, which goes back much further than the latter’s formal founding in 1948.
I trust you will find this edition interesting and useful. As always, feedback is welcomed.
This is the editorial from the Winter 2023 edition of the IPA Review by Editor of the IPA Review, Scott Hargreaves. Articles once loaded online are listed here. IPA Members receive a print edition and online versions of articles are progressively released in the months following publication. To join/subscribe see here.