The state of the states 2006

The state of the public sector
Evatt Foundation

The state of the states 2006 is dedicated to the memory of John Kenneth Galbraith, a lifetime opponent of encouraging 'private affluence' at the cost of 'public squalor' who passed away on 29 April 2006, at the age of 97. We are delighted to feature four essays on the public sector, in addition to the Evatt Foundation's 13th annual state government performance assessment against the triple-bottom line of social, environmental and economic criteria.

The end of the public sector debate, by John Quiggin

In the first of the special essays, John Quiggin revisits the debate over the appropriate size of the public sector and canvasses the issues associated with the distribution of government responsibilities within the Australian federation, with a sweeping perspective and surprising conclusions.

Fiscal policy for the future, by Fred Argy

Fred Argy directly revisits the debate over fiscal policy, where a legacy of the arid argument over the size of the public sector is the lingering notion that governments should aim to be debt free. This almost exclusively Australian idea, or superstition, has not been embraced by governments around the rest of the world. Nor has the policy ever found substantive support within economic theory.

The journey to better health care, by John Dwyer

In the third of our invited essays, John Dwyer focuses specifically on health care, which is unquestionably the most vexed of Australia's public services. In a powerful chapter, he argues for a comprehensive overhaul that 'would do much to resolve problems related to the inequitable access to and outcomes from health care that is so troublesome in contemporary Australia'.

From local to grassroots government, by Linda Scott

The concluding chapter by Linda Scott surveys the often neglected third tier of Australian government. Local government is a uniquely accessible public avenue for citizens to participate in the provision of community services, but is presently struggling under the impact of cost-shifting, together with a rapidly growing demand for additional investment in infrastructure.

Description of the book

The State of the States 2006 is a 100-page paperback, edited by Christopher Sheil with a foreword by Bruce Childs, published by the Evatt Foundation, produced by Social Change Media, designed by Level Playing Field and printed by the University of NSW Printing Unit. The book features 7 Tables and 16 Figures. The extensively researched chapters on the State of the Public Sector are professionally referenced with over 100 endnotes. ISSN 1443-0819.

What people have said about The state of the states 2006

"Government spending and borrowing programs have long been bad-mouthed: better that they be cut back at every opportunity, that budgets be balanced, and that we turn more to 'the market' to meet our needs. The respected contributors to this volume reject such notions, demonstrating that negative views of public sector activities are often based on very shaky foundations, and have resulted in considerable collateral damage through the under-provision of economic and social infrastructure. Well designed and executed government programs are pivotal to all Australians having reasonable access to decent health, education and other basic services, and the authors suggest ways for pursuing this objective in several areas."
            -   Bernie Fraser, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia;

'The State of the States is full of information and insights you won't get anywhere else.'
            -   Dr Clive Hamilton, Executive Director, Australia Institute;

'The annual report on The State of the States has established itself as indispensable for discussion of the performance of the State governments of Australia. It stands as a suitably broader metric than the otherwise dominant financial market calculus for state activites. It also provides, in 2006, more general assessments of the state of the public sector and some key components from four brilliantly insightful commentators: John Quiggin, Fred Argy, John Dwyer and Linda Scott. One may disagree wih some of the sentiments, but the documentation and logic on offer mean you can't do so easily. In an era of challenge for the Australian federation, the Evatt Foundation's book is essential reading'.
            -   Glenn Withers, Professor of Public Policy, Australian National University

'In a context where workers rights are under unprecedented attack, an effective public sector is as crucial as it has ever been for maintaining and improving Australia's living standards. The State of the States is an essential reference for anyone that is serious about participating in public policy debate.'
            -   Sharan Burrow, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions

About the authors

Fred Argy AM OBE is a Visiting Fellow in the Policy and Governance program at the Australian National University and the author of Equality of Opportunity in Australia, (Discussion Paper no. 85, Australia Institute, 2006), Where to from here? Australian egalitarianism under threat (Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2003) and Australia at the crossroads: Radical free market or a progressive liberalism (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1998).

John Dwyer is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of New South Wales and until recently the Director of Medicine at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital. He was the foundation Chairman of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance.

John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland, the author of over 750 research publications and a Fellow of the Australian Social Science Academy, the American Agricultural Economics Association, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

Linda Scott is a research psychologist at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research completing a PhD at Sydney University and a Masters of Clinical Psychology at the University of New South Wales and the Deputy Chair of the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre, a community organisation that runs childcare, multicultural and community support facilities, and the annual Surry Hills Festival.

Christopher Sheil is a Research Fellow in the School of History, UNSW.

Bruce Childs is the President of the Evatt Foundation.

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