Policy snapshots

Every fortnight the Centre for Policy Development Policy will link to recently published items – reports, commentaries, discussion papers or submissions to parliamentary inquiries – that inject bright ideas into current policy debates.

This fortnight's pick:

  • Striking a balance between work, family and life
  • Principles and long-term policies
  • The world's heating up, tackling climate change is cool
  • Biofuel

Striking a balance between work, family and life

The standing committee on family and human services continues its inquiry into the vexed matter of ‘balancing work and family'. A submission prepared by Iain Campbell and Sara Charlesworth at RMIT's Centre for Applied Social Research analyses ‘family-friendly' and ‘family-hostile' measures in Australian work places. The first provides for the fact that employees are also carers, with unpredictable responsibilities. The researchers find that, whatever the formal entitlements, practical access to family-friendly measures such as paid leave, flex time, rostered days off or time in lieu is enjoyed by a minority of employees. Casual employees miss out; it may be a ‘flexible' arrangement but many casuals feel that they have little control over their time.

Across the work/family inquiry, submissions deal with a new Australian workforce marked by the participation of women. Campbell and Charlesworth note that the discontent at the heart of this issue is most intense among (although not limited to) women, who are ‘trying to juggle motherhood, unpaid work in the house and paid work'.

Re the broader debate: columnist Angela Shanahan submits to the inquiry that feminist ‘social engineering' is to blame and that, despite the child-care lobby's cunning, women continue to choose stay-at-home motherhood. (Speaking of social engineering Shanahan takes the opportunity to opine, ‘encouraging single women to have families is not in the child's or the nation's best interest'.) Leslie Cannold's spirited submission argues instead that women's decisions cannot be understood as real ‘choices' until fundamental changes to the status quo mean better options for all parents.

Principles and long-term policies.

The Centre for Policy Development's ‘Our Common Wealth' reinserts values as the basis for policy-making. We know we're not alone in our desire to see a whole-of-society approach to politics and fairer outcomes for all — in 2001 The Australia Collaboration published this overarching review with recommendations. It argues that the measure of a ‘good society' cannot be pegged to the GDP: economic, ecological, social and cultural security must all be pursued and equitably distributed. Sure, some of the specifics have dated, but other observations are prescient. And the priorities identified here — among them engaged citizenship, real employment opportunities and economic/environmental sustainability — remain vital.

The world's heating up, tackling climate change is cool

The Climate Institute's analysis of recent global trends on climate change opens with a quote from Rolling Stone Magazine. The Institute stresses both that climate change cannot be ignored — the science and the issue's urgency are indisputable — and that around the world, business, government, media and pop culture are taking notice. While Australia fiddles, carbon markets, clean energy technologies, and Kyoto-driven initiatives boom. Launched in Sydney on July 4, the report, media release and an accompanying presentation are available.


With the Climate Institute's claims in mind we note that as Parliament headed for the winter break, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce backed an unsuccessful Democrats amendment to legislation scrapping the tax advantage on biodiesel. The opposition voted with the government and Joyce accused both of listening to the oil lobby. In this recent Worldwatch Institute report biofuel production and use — largely ethanol and biodiesel — is found to be increasing, sparking a ‘large new wave of investment'. The report argues that biofuels, combined with strengthened public transport and new automotive technologies have a central role to play in building a sustainable transport sector.

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