[This was drafted around the time of the delayed budget in October 2020. Too much was happening and I suppose the world moved on before I could submit it anywhere.]
The budget frenzy does not just highlight the familiar, toxic social and political priorities of this Government and much of the Parliament, it prompts deeper probing into common assumptions, perceptions and framing. What kind of society is desirable? What kind of society is feasible? How could we create it?
The budget is an opportunity to spell out, again, how misguided are some standard economic precepts. It reveals how profoundly awry are our conception of an economy and a society, our operating assumptions on human nature and our place in the world, and the aspirations we fall miserably short of.
I experienced two kinds of management in my 27 years at the Australian National University, and I know which one worked better. One looked forward, was ambitious, and supported anyone who had their own ambition. The other worried about constraints and expended a lot of energy trying to identify and eliminate “under-performers”.
Vice Chancellor Ian Young’s recently announced intention to free up resources by cutting ANU’s expenses, through various measures that still include firing some people “as a last resort”, leans toward the negative. It immediately provoked unrest on campus and it will undermine morale for as long as the policy is pursued.
Reading a book by the late Ray C. Anderson, the founder and CEO of billion-dollar US company Interface Carpets Inc., inspires me to point to another course.