Part 2: Why Our Major Cities Are in Decay

Part 1 of “Why Our Major Cities Are in Decay” is here…

Planning arrogance meets the romanticisation of nature

If one consults the 1969 Melbourne Transportation plan (available on the internet) one can see proposed freeways and railway lines, for which the land was acquired. If the plan had been followed, Melbourne would be far better served by both road and rail transport than it currently is.

Even those parts of the plan that have been implemented were generally done so considerably later than was originally envisaged. The backing away from the plan started in the mid-to-late 1970s, when the Hamer government (1972–81) decided not to face down opposition to the proposed Doncaster rail line. Having paid to have a cutting made for the railway, the government then expended taxpayer funds to fill it back in—presumably to signal that the project was dead.

This was sign that resident activism (protecting those capital gains: the full housing madness had not yet begun, but Melbourne’s expansion was still creating capital gains in more central suburbs) was getting powerful enough to significantly increase the political costs of providing infrastructure. Which put providing infrastructure at an increased political discount. But it was the advent of the Cain–Kirner government (1982–92) that led to Melbourne seriously falling behind in the provision of infrastructure. No new rail lines, no new freeways, no new dams. What is now the Monash Freeway was under construction when the government came to office, but freeways were considered undesirable, so traffic lights were added to what became “the South-Eastern Arterial”, soon to become popularly known as the “South-Eastern Carpark”. Apparently, adding traffic lights moved a road link from the improper to the proper.

Melbourne had moved into the “infrastructure is evil” phase: freeways, dams, new power stations, all these things became things to be condemned and opposed. The evil of “urban sprawl” was to be fought by wise regulators while the semi-autonomous bodies which had operated on the basis of providing infrastructure to service expected needs were neutered or folded into departments much more subject to political pressures. Dusty paddocks on the outskirts of Sydney and Melbourne, which are every bit as much creations of human action as any suburb (and usually have less biodiversity) became romanticised as noble manifestations of nature to be preserved from “suburban blight”.

The new pattern of “progressive” politics was established. No dams, no freeways, no power stations, restriction of urban expansion, but any opposition to migration was “racist”. Clearly, this was a policy mix of massive incoherence. Insist on increasing the population by migration (the Commonwealth Treasury predicts that Sydney and Melbourne will each have 7 million residents by 2050)[i] but starve or block the provision of infrastructure or housing land to match the increase in population—Victoria’s population increased by 30 per cent in a period when no significant new dam was built.

Given the apparent importance of infrastructure difficulties in the recent electoral defeat of the Brumby Labor government in Victoria, one could argue that the election result was, in effect, yet another rejection of the Cain–Kirner government. Polls indicate that the current New South Wales Labor government will shortly face a far greater electoral backlash for its social and infrastructure failures.

When faced with such policy incoherence, Lenin’s question of “Who whom?” has to be asked: who benefited from this nonsense policy mix? The answer is the inner city. Under conditions of expanding population, blocking urban expansion drove up housing prices. Starving the suburbs of infrastructure made the inner city even more relatively desirable. High migration increased the scarcity value of the human capital of the more highly educated: particularly those whose intellectual capital was largely “cultural capital” (the humanities, arts, literature, social sciences) which migrants would generally not be competitive in. (Especially if one opposed selecting migrants according to their cultural similarity.)

It is obvious from maps of Sydney and Melbourne graded by vulnerability to mortgage and fuel costs, that the inner city and outer suburbs have profoundly different interests and sensibilities.[ii] The outer suburbs are very sensitive to increases in interest rates, transport or utility costs. The inner city has far more income, including far more discretionary income, and far less sensitivity to such costs. Indeed, a map of such sensitivities is also a map of propensity to vote Green: the less sensitivity to mortgage and transport costs, the higher the Green vote. So a “carbon price”, for example, looks very different to the two different social worlds. Planning processes dominated by the social and other networks, and framings, of the inner city are not going to reflect the interests of the outer suburbs: indeed, it is clear that planning processes have increasingly tended to work against the interests of the outer suburbs precisely because of such processes domination by inner-city interests and sensibilities.

While it is usually worth asking the question whether ideology is driving behaviour or ratifying actions desired for other reasons, ideas usually have to accord with people’s experience and aspirations to be persuasive: ideas need to resonate in order to motivate. (Or, as the saying puts it with more cynicism: in the race of life, back self-interest, it is the only horse that’s trying.) The romanticisation of nature, the denigration of suburban life and aspirations, supporting high “non-racist” migration resonated with an inner-city elite whose incomes, careers, wealth and sense of status were increased by such policies. After all, they so rarely socialise with people whose perspectives and interests differ significantly from their own.[iii]

Suburbs are about how people want to live—with a house and garden. But serving people was no longer moral trumps. On the contrary, suburban interests become defined as “vulgar” or “immoral” or both. The status concerns, property values, career convenience of those described by former Labor Senator John Black as “the inner city rich, the code word for which is apparently, ‘progressive’”[iv] came to dominate policy by a process of effective vetoes and framing public debate. The notion that planning can mould a city according to a vision of “the good”, rather than provide services to its residents, allowed infrastructure provision, and land use regulation, to be captured in this way. The good (according to some elite vision) replaces the useful (to the general residents of the city)—particularly with the abolition and centralisation of formerly semi-autonomous service organisations.

This was not a process limited to a single city. In Melbourne, the combination of increased population, no significant new dams and capped water prices had a predictable result—water shortages. In California, the combination of increased population, no significant new power stations and capped electricity prices had a predictable result—electricity shortages.

As part of the barriers to providing infrastructure, it is sometimes argued that it is pointless to build freeways because it only increases the level of traffic. It is true that, if one is not rationing use of something by price, one is generally rationing it by queue (that is, time taken). If the operating price is time taken or inconvenience, then increasing supply will increase the use up to the equilibrating level of inconvenience or time taken. But what that means is—as it normally does when one sees congestion, such as in road traffic—that there is a pricing problem. If you don’t like the effects of pricing by inconvenience or time taken, then congestion charges can be useful (though they work better if there are choices between modes of transport). But, even without congestion charges, it is still beneficial to be able to service a higher level of use for a given level of congestion.

For the inner-city networks of Sydney and Melbourne, incorporating and “plugged into” the discretionary-control planners, the notion of some trumping “good” divorced from serving the general population led directly to policy incoherence, since “the good” became divorced from general consequences (such as being useful, or not, to the mostly suburban residents). The “good” thereby became easily re-defined as what served the interests of those most facile at framing public debate and driving networks of political and regulatory influence—including coming to pervade the bureaucracy and consultative structures. For anyone who speaks against “the good” clearly lacks virtue. So commitment to a notion (ultimately self-serving) of “virtue” becomes a ticket of entry, and a failure to be “virtuous” (and what is, after all, the opposite of “virtue” but “wickedness”?) a justification for exclusion. The ultimate policy incoherence of these markers of virtue is an indicator that they are not based on a general concern for consequences. It also tends to make them even more effective as markers of virtue-as-status, since acceptance of the incoherent set of policy positions proves that you are “sound”: that is, you give priority to the shared marks of membership of the virtuous.

In Sydney, these processes aggravated effects caused by the greater social divisions flowing from its divisive geography. As in Melbourne, the pattern has not been to completely block freeway and tollway construction, but to so delay the response of infrastructure provision to expanding population as to force both cities into a constant game of “catch up”.

Markers of division

The combination of land-use regulation protecting and creating positional goods, the resultant soaring cost of land and the physical difficulties of Sydney geography, have combined to give Sydney multiplying transport difficulties, with continuing under-provision of transport infrastructure. The difficulty in getting around Sydney has further encouraged geographical divides to become social divides. Such exacerbated social divides have then complicated providing transport infrastructure. The apparently endlessly unresolved fights over a second airport for Sydney (and restrictions on the use of Kingsford-Smith) are only the most dramatic manifestation of how transport problems reflect and intensify social divisions. These social divisions manifest in many ways. The various sub-cultures (goth, punk, gay …) have tended to be noticeably more socially self-differentiated in Sydney than in Melbourne, partly because it is simply more time-consuming to get between venues in the harbour city.

Sydney also lacks the binding networks of sport Melbourne enjoys. Australian rules is a sport that unites Melburnians across social classes. Melbourne football clubs provided venues where folk of widely different incomes and social backgrounds unite in common activities and goals and talk to each other.

Not only does no sport enjoy anywhere near the mass support in Sydney that Australian rules does in Melbourne, Sydney football is much more socially divided: Rugby union for the posh, rugby league for the masses, soccer for the migrants. Sydney lacks social networks that reach across social groups. Sport is not the only possible network—political scientist Robert Putnam famously identified choral societies in Italy as indicators of social interconnectedness[v]—but it is a powerful one in Australia. One may point to the effects of “the convict stain” and Irish tribalism in Sydney’s origins, but social patterns need reinforcing social dynamics to keep them going.

A city of social divisions becomes much more easily a city of social tensions: tensions that can erupt in riot. What do the Redfern and Cronulla riots and the Macquarie Fields “disturbances” have in common? The rioters had lost confidence in the police and policing: a particular form of failure of social trust. (More likely if the police have any reputation for corruption, or being ineffective—whether due to a lack of competence, numbers or connection with the local population.)

The Redfern riots were partly an exemplar of wider problems with indigenous issues and partly a very Sydney problem. One of the least surprising findings of recent social science—yet most shocking to progressivist sensibilities—has been Robert Putnam’s finding that racial and ethnic (that is, cultural) diversity lowers the general level of social trust.[vi]

While I generally hold that cultural explanations are the last refuge of the analytically bereft—given how internally varied experience of culture tends to be and how culture responds to changes in incentives—outlooks rooted in culture clearly do affect how people see the world and, even more fundamentally, how people network and communicate (or not). The most grotesque failure in Australian public policy—the serial disasters of indigenous policy—operates across deep cultural divides.

The downsides of cultural diversity

The downside of cultural diversity is that it undermines social trust. People from different cultures find it harder to “read” each other, have fewer common expectations and are less likely to socialise together. This leads to a more complex and more uncertain social environment. That leads to lower social trust.

Properly managed, there are also upsides to cultural diversity. But it has to be treated as a real issue—for all participants. It cannot be a process that expects only existing residents to adapt to the newcomers and holds the former solely responsible for anything that goes wrong. A successful culturally diverse society requires adjustment by both newcomers and residents, indigenous and non-indigenous. For example, aspirations amongst progressivists for Australia to adopt the Scandinavian model of public policy should be abandoned. The Scandinavian model developed in largely monocultural societies with high levels of social trust. Its highly centralised public policy requires very high levels of communication between citizens and officials and a strong congruity in social preferences to work. If Scandinavia keeps importing very culturally different migrants, even the Scandinavians will have to abandon the Scandinavian model.

If a city already has other problems of social division, extra layers of lowered social trust become a bigger problem. Police and policing are likely to be a flashpoint issue. When police and policed are divided by such an obvious marker of difference as skin colour, it takes particularly good communication to make clear—and enforce—what is acceptable and what is not; to understand what aggravates and what does not; even to know what is going on.

The lead-up to the Cronulla riots displayed the social divisions of Sydney. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Michael Duffy noted:

As has been reported elsewhere, Bondi Beach had problems with Lebanese gangs a few years ago, but the police response was serious and effective. After all, we can’t have that sort of thing going on at the beach used by wealthy people who’ve been to university. But the similar complaints by the white trash at underpoliced Cronulla have received less attention. Again, it’s as much to do with class and power as race. [vii]

People who no longer trust the state to protect them are likely to get frustrated, angry and more likely take matters into their own hands. Where there are grievances with no legitimate avenue for expression, they tend to find illegitimate avenues.

Of course, racist agitators exploited and inflamed the situation at Cronulla. What does one expect? With no one else paying attention, they got a gigantic “free kick” and the credence of listening when no one else did.

The Cronulla riot was not a manifestation of general racism against non-whites, the anger was very specifically targeted at Muslim Lebanese youths: the immediate trigger being gang violence against a community service and Aussie icon, lifesavers. (The Cronulla disturbances are far from the worst race riots in Australian history: riots between Japanese and Timorese in Broome after the First World War have that dubious honour.) The riot was not even targeted at Lebanese in general. Maronite Lebanese—able to tap into Catholic networks—have integrated very successfully. Victoria recently had a Premier of Lebanese background (Steve Bracks), and New South Wales has a Governor of Lebanese background (Marie Bashir) married to a former Australian rugby union captain and Lord Mayor of Sydney also of Lebanese background (Sir Nicholas Shehadie). These are strong markers of integration.

Despite media insistence to the contrary, the issue was not race, but integration issues and the subsequent stresses of social divisions. It was Muslim youth gangs rather than immigrants in general that were the target of the anger so rife for being exploited by media “shock jocks” and others. By contrast, the more vicious attacks by Muslim gang members upon people in the streets that followed were ignored or downplayed by much of the “anti-racist” media that is largely of, and caters to, the inner city. The ability to frame public debate is very powerful.


Sydney has a crime problem, and a gang problem;[viii] both are significantly worse than Melbourne’s. Again, this reflects and aggravates social divisions. Organised crime competes with the state in provision of “protective” services: more precisely, in the extraction of income via coercion. So gangs operate where the writ of the state doesn’t run effectively.[ix] Migrant groups tend to have higher rates of criminal activity because the organs of the state have less access within such groups and because the state lacks the level of legitimacy it has among the established population. People from places where states perennially lack legitimacy have long traditions of competing providers of coercion (Sicilians and the mafia; Chinese and the triads; Russians and the mafiyoza; the Middle East and much of the developing world generally). There may be embedded barriers to the new state gaining such legitimacy (such as tribalism, or cultural or religious insularity). The legitimacy of the state, which makes Australia a good place to come to, does not mean that previously acquired attitudes will immediately evaporate. Particularly where a sense of identity with the new local polity fails to “take”.

It has not helped that entry into the trades workforce has been sabotaged by raising the cost (and thus lowering the supply) of apprenticeships from the 1970s onwards—at a time when a disproportionate number of labour market entrants were from migrant backgrounds and so relatively poorly politically connected. Labour market regulations typically also protect incumbents. Being unemployed does not help a sense of identity with the local polity to “take”.

Pretending migrant crime is not an issue makes things worse. It distracts from effective solutions and alienates people being preyed on by such crime, who (naturally) conclude you are not interested in their concerns because you have shown you are not. This leaves the way open for political entrepreneurs of various stripes. Even in Western countries, the notion that rulers serve the general populace was established slowly and painfully, and risks subversion by well-connected elites.

Islam remains a complicating factor in a way that there has been little or no real equivalent for previous sets of migrants. Religious and cultural separatism, such as the Irish Fenians, provide a mildly similar case in Australian history, but one has to go back to concerns about Catholic loyalty to the Protestant Crown in Tudor and Stuart England to find an equivalent example to the issues raised by Muslim migration. Any factor undermining social trust will operate more deleteriously in a city simultaneously suffering higher levels of social division. So it is not surprising that the Muslim youth gang problem is significantly worse in Sydney than it is in Melbourne.

Both Sydney and Melbourne had counter-demonstrations after the Cronulla riots. The Sydney counter-demonstration was all about shouting at other Sydneysiders for being deeply racist. The Melbourne event was about celebrating togetherness and co-operation. One expressed and aggravated social division, the other sought to discourage it.

The public space

If Sydney has problems of social divisions, and a lack of sufficiently connecting social networks, then the role of mass media—the closest thing to a shared public space—becomes central. Do its participants speak across, bridge or inflame social divisions?

Sydney is notorious for its talkback radio “shock jocks”. While talkback does well in Melbourne, it tends to a more laid-back style. Talkback is the form of media that is most interactive with its audience. It can reinforce already existing sentiments, but is most effective when it expresses them. It is hard to argue that Sydney talkback is a social bridge. It is equally hard to argue that it actually creates social divisions—attempts to import Sydney-style shock-jockery to Melbourne have failed. Instead, radio taps into, airs and perhaps magnifies resentments that already exist. The Sydney tabloid, the Daily Telegraph (much less dominant in the Sydney newspaper market than the Herald Sun is in Melbourne) plays a similar role.

Sydney is also the home of the ABC. Despite a certain amount of imposed process, and some fairly ineffectual accountancy mechanisms, the reality is that the ABC staff controls the bundle of attributes we call “the ABC”—which can lead to some fairly intense internal fights over resources. (There is, after, all, no clear “bottom line”.) ABC staff typically use that control to sell to themselves, and to much of their audience, a sense of belonging to a moral and intellectual elite. This is not helpful to providing space for concerns and language uncongenial to that elite.

The perennial debate over ABC bias feeds into this. To admit any problem of bias would undermine that sense of belonging to a moral and intellectual elite, the prime value staff and supporters are jointly getting from being ABC staff, listeners and watchers. So accusing the ABC of bias is itself taken as a sign of moral and intellectual malfeasance, defending the ABC a mark of moral and intellectual superiority. For beliefs that are used as markers of status and identity are beliefs to be defended (even sanctified), not accepted as open to being assessed or challenged. This closes off information flows further. Incentives to believe can easily override reasons to believe from evidence and logic.

The US historian Victor Davis Hanson has expressed how this operates in contemporary academe:

Political correctness, meanwhile, turned upside-down the old standard of inductive reasoning, the linchpin of the liberal arts. Students now were to accept preordained general principles—such as the pernicious legacy of European colonialism and imperialism and the pathologies of capitalism, homophobia, and sexism—and then deductively to demonstrate how such crimes manifested themselves in history, literature, and science. The university viewed itself as nearly alone in its responsibility for formulating progressive remedies for society’s ills. Society at large, government, the family, and religion were hopelessly reactionary.[x]

Positions that are adopted due to the incentive to believe have to be protected from contrary evidence and logic: which reinforces the tendency to block inconvenient information flows and use ad hominem attack as defence of one’s belief “assets”.

Other social dynamics may also come into play. Research by the US social psychologist Jacob Vigil suggests that Republicans/conservatives tend to manage their (typically wider and more cognitively diverse) social networks by signalling competence while Democrats/liberals manage (their typically smaller and more cognitively homogeneous) social networks by signalling trust.[xi] Hence the importance to progressives of policy positions which allow one to signal one’s good intentions (and conservative contempt for any negative consequences, which progressivists deride as being unfeeling or otherwise showing a lack of virtue).

The moral superiority game

Either way, if support for migration is deemed to be a fundamental mark of moral decency, then any expression of complaint about negative aspects of migration is thereby deemed to be illegitimate and so cast outside the realm of acceptable discourse. Yet migration can have negative effects on residents—it can put downward pressure on wages by increasing the labour supply, it can increase crowding costs, it can lower social trust, and it can increase levels of crime. To deny avenues to express such problems and concerns does not make them go away, it just adds another level of grievance and alienation.

There was little interest from the ABC in seeing the Cronulla riots as other than a shameful episode of white racism. Just as there is little interest in probing problems within the Muslim community as other than manifestations of white racism. A discourse of superiority is also a discourse of (someone else’s) inferiority, and the “racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic” Anglo-Celtic masses of the southern and western suburbs of Sydney provide a lot of people to feel culturally, intellectually and morally superior to.

The Sydney Morning Herald has been, generally speaking, less humourlessly and rigidly progressivist than the Age (with the interesting exception of coverage of indigenous issues). But the SMH matters more in Sydney than the Age does in Melbourne, since the SMH has a larger proportion of the newspaper market.

Between the oh-so-superior progressivism of the ABC and the SMH, and the resentments of the Daily Telegraph and talkback “shock jocks”, Sydney’s media expresses and inflames its social divisions, rather than bridging them. By contrast Melbourne’s dominant media are radio 3AW and the Herald Sun (now more read by younger university graduates than the Age). They walk a more delicate line between genuinely balancing dissent and social cohesion. (ABC watchers and Age readers may be outraged at the suggestion, but the Herald Sun is a fairly moderate paper, expressing a considerable range of views.)

One of the key elements in Sydney’s failures is that much of its media, educational, activist and intellectual structures are dominated by those lost in an arrogance of “knowing” who find making things work much less engaging than playing their status games of social differentiation.

Interlocking failures

So we are back to social divisions both creating and worsened by failure: to develop transport infrastructure, to police effectively, to provide sufficient land for housing, and of a general lack of connecting structures. Which leads to regulation that tends to protect incumbents: a (thankfully) weak version of the Latin American mercantilist public policy model of protecting the “ins” and letting the “outs” rot. (“Mercantilist” in the sense that transactions are controlled to benefit some privileged interest: a certain scepticism is always in order about restrictions on capitalist acts between consenting adults.[xii]) Social mercantilism rests on the use of discretionary power of officials and superior access to the forums of public debate.

The problem is not migrants (Muslim or otherwise), it is the way their influx has operated on and aggravated the social distance between market entrants, those advantaged in public debate and decision-makers. Thereby aiding such social mercantilist games to be played—creating barriers to entry (whether to jobs, housing or public debate). These have reinforced social division, and directly led to many of the problems the advocates and wielders of such barriers pretend they are morally above.

Property rights that are well-defined in open markets provide both clarity and flexibility, an increased ability to handle and thrive on diversity.[xiii] Lots of official (or other) controlling discretions impede both clarity and flexibility, putting more and more social decisions in the realm of “winner takes too much” politics. Sydney’s land policy in particular is based on the social mercantilist model—with the inequality, conflict, inequity and corruption that model is inherently prone to. Melbourne can be thankful that its better social dynamics have ameliorated the ill-effects of the same disastrous ideas.

The irony is that these policies are beginning to rebound on inner-city residents. If cities cannot expand sufficiently to meet rising population, then increased density is the only answer. Blocking and restricting the suburbs has made the inner city the sensible place to put increased populations, leading to pressure to build “up” and to fill in green areas, thereby reducing the amenity of inner-city living. The inner city is now caught between blocking urban sprawl to increase the value of its properties while also attempting to block the “inappropriate development” that is the direct result of its opposition to permitting the supply of land for housing to respond directly to demand. Policy incoherence has not previously bothered the inner-city networks (since the costs were largely borne by others), but the more policy incoherence rebounds directly on them, the less tolerable it will be.[xiv]

Neither Melbourne nor Sydney needs “more planning” of the planners-know-best variety. Both cities, but particularly Sydney, need more openness, more flexibility, less official arrogance, more of a service mentality. Serious journalists motivated by a desire to display striking, inconvenient and revealing facts—rather than their mutual moral enlightenment—would be another improvement.

In both cities, disastrous ideas—ideas that resonate because of the status and other interests they serve—have bedevilled the regulating of land and the provision of infrastructure. Sydney suffers worse because of the effects of its urban geography on its social dynamics, but neither city will overcome its infrastructure, housing and other problems until those ideas are surmounted and the activist and institutional networks which propagate them lose their hegemonic positions in planning and policy processes.

Michael Warby, who lives in Melbourne, wrote “The Case for Abolishing Government Schools” in the October issue.


[i] Jane-Frances Kelly, The Cities We Need, Grattan Institute, June 2010, p.19 online at

[ii] Ibid, p.28.

[iii] California, the US State that gave us BANANA, has become dominated by such politics leading to an increasingly unequal society that people and businesses are fleeing. Joel Kotkin, The Golden State’s War on Itself, 08/08/2010 online at It has become a State of fiscal crises, economic decline and institutionalised political paralysis. Bill Watkins, In California Cool is the Rule, but Sometimes, Bad is Bad, 08/15/2010 online at

[iv] 2010 Election Profile and some relevant documents, Australian Development Strategies, p.14 available online at

[v] Notably in Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, 1994.

[vi] Robert D. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century”, The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture online at

[vii] Michael Duffy, “Sneers from those who think they are above it all’, Sydney Morning Herald, December 17 2005 online at

[viii] Les Kennedy, The rise and rise of new gangs”, Sydney Morning Herald, March 29, 2009 online at

[ix] Often due to the state’s own fault, such as, in the case of goods and services of which there is much disapproval but continuing demand, trying to deny people ownership of their bodies (drugs, prostitution), deny them use of their money (gambling, porn, smuggling), because the state doesn’t bother really (third world urban slums) or because there is a failure of control arising out of, or aggravated, by a failure of communication and connection: a failure to know and understand what is going on and why. The black markets within prisons provide a striking example because, while the organs of the state have very high degree of apparent control, they have very low levels of legitimacy among the inmates.

[x] Victor Davis Hanson, “The Humanities Move Off Campus”, City Journal, Autumn 2008, Vol. 18 no.4, online at

[xi] Jacob M. Vigil “Political leanings vary with facial expression processing and psychosocial functioning”, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 13(5) 547–558 online at

[xii] Hence Peruvian property rights advocate Hernando de Soto’s famous quip that capitalism is a great idea and Latin America should try it some time.

[xiii] One of the virtues of economic liberalisation in Australia has been the expansion of the proportion of people employed by arrangements that permit their income to fluctuate without losing their jobs. This helped cushion Australia from the global financial crisis and the Great Recession. That the Reserve Bank has operated monetary policy much more effectively than most other Western central banks (particularly the US Federal Reserve) accounts for most of the rest of the insulation.

[xiv] Voter resistance to the Brumby Government’s medium density infill/high rise approach seems to have been a significant factor in its defeat. Michael Stutchbury, “Voters defend the quarter-acre dream”, The Australian, December 04, 2010 online at

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