by Dr Paul Read
A hearty welcome to readers of this fifth edition of The Australian Fabians Review dedicated to the forthcoming referendum, now scheduled by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for October 14, 2023, to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution through a Voice to Parliament.
In this, we celebrate the unceasing dedication of Fabians around the country who have lent their time, talent and toil to supporting the YES campaign, empowering local communities and driving the winds of change towards progressive policy — a stronger land. I’m proud to feature the national campaign director of YES23, Quandamooka man Dean Parkin, in this edition as our lead author. Dean eloquently breaks through the echo chambers of division to sound a clarion reminder that Australia, at its heart, holds unshakeable goodwill between its peoples; and that a YES vote is a once-in-a-generation chance at reconciliation.
Adding a voice to parliament can only strengthen the Australian community and, in a similar spirit, our second lead author The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh demonstrates how factionalism, and the bold debate arising from it, has historically strengthened the Labor Party. Both themes of the voice and the many voices in unity are then beautifully brought together by Mark Bonanno reminding the Opposition that they also have their own tradition of supporting Indigenous rights going back to Menzies. And rightly calls for a unity ticket in supporting the 2023 referendum.
Like most of our members, I fervently believe in progressive policy tempered with sound economic management and evidence-based policy. So, I was mightily startled by Dr Sarah Howe when she recently described me with a fond smile as ‘left’ of ‘left’, as I’d always considered myself politically agnostic, an avowed empiricist who cleaved to the modernist mantra of post-Enlightenment scientific method. Yet now, having read Dr Leigh’s work, and in the spirit of his cogent celebration of Labor factionalism, I am encouraged by him to own my faction proudly.
And in so doing also celebrate the open-door policy we have introduced to embrace our colleagues among the Greens, warmly welcoming our third lead author Senator Janet Rice’s deft and wide-ranging analysis of the Greens’ vision for a Universal Basic Income. In scouting for bold visionary copy, we also welcome Captain Paul Watson, founder of the global conservation movement Sea Shepherd, who wrote from the command of his ship the John Paul de Joria for this edition about the devastating fires razing Hawaii. That the fires ravaging the Northern hemisphere have crept not only polewards but deep into Pacific waters means nowhere is safe, especially as the world heads into yet another El Nino event. As Capt Watson says these are hardly natural disasters — they are the direct result of profligate time-wasting by countries addicted to fossil fuels, among whom Australia maintains a sorry history.
We have much to remedy in terms of both climate change and reconciliation with the traditional custodians of this land, and I hope this edition helps in both. Along with original poetry on the Voice, we feature artwork, book reviews and news including in-depth commentaries on other rising issues such as the housing crisis, education and the University Accord, unions, defence, AUKUS, economics, technology and the rise of artificial intelligence, by authors like Rab Watkins, Matt Jeffries, Daniel Gerard, David Reeves, Daniel Nicholson, Alison Broinowski, Dr Tony Webb, Dr Geoffrey Campbell, Carl Gopalkrishna, Jason McKenzie, Babu Sajjad, Jeff McCracken-Hewson, Julie Kimber, Dr John Tons, and David Cragg. All offer challenging visions for the future, inviting bold debate among our Fabians readers. We unashamedly encourage letters to the editor, inviting fearless critique by all members, well-known and not, engaging with essays designed to be thought-leading and ground-breaking policy pieces that challenge and inspire.
I am honoured to write among them and serve as editor, and also excited to be planning with our new publications committee the next editions themed on The Planet and Intergenerational Equity. The new committee is a ‘brains trust of talent’ led by Dr Sarah Howe and Jeff McCracken-Hewson, ably supported by our Digital Ideas Editor Michael Aleisi and Art Director Amanda Rainey. We are extremely lucky also to have the long experience and wisdom of Zann Maxwell, the former founding editor of The Australian Fabians Review, along with Jason McKenzie and Bill Lodwick lending their considerable intellectual and creative strength to technology, policy and publishing. As a group, we are planning our first hard-cover collectors’ edition for Christmas 2023, featuring the very best of the past six issues, just in time for the 140th anniversary of the founding of the original Fabians in January 2024.
This carries on a long and proud tradition of writing that brought together Nobel Prize winners and thought leaders like Emmaline Pankhurst, Annie Besant, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells. The Fabians also founded the London School of Economics, which today works on the political economy of sustainability, equity, and human flourishing, work which I will briefly touch on in an article focused on Dr Jim Chalmers’ inaugural Wellbeing Budget for Australia, something I will argue has the makings of another Labor world first if it can get the data and its theoretical underpinnings on track.
In the spirit of those progressive visionaries who preceded us, I welcome our authors and sincerely hope that members and readers alike will take hold of our invitation to debate their cause in these pages, engage with each article by posting their thoughts, write bold letters (which I will dutifully publish), and to fully use this publication as a site for enhanced engagement with real-world issues and brave solutions.
Welcome to it, comrades. It’s pistols at dawn!