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Can rising inequality be halted and why should we care?

A smiling and thoughtful Professor Stephen Bell talks about the new book he has co - written with Dr Michael Keating

On Saturday, thanks to my walking buddy, I had the good fortune to meet Professor Stephen Bell. Professor Bell is head of the University of Queensland’s School of Political Science and International Studies.  Together with Dr Michael Keating, who has headed three Government departments, including most recently the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, he has just released a new book “ Fair Share –-competing claims and Australia’s economic future,” which looks at rising inequality in Australia and what we can or should do about it.

The book explains that like most Western economies, we too are facing growing inequality with declining living standards for many – or at least no improvement, as well as slow economic growth and structural unemployment. While technological change, globalisation and “finacialisation,” low wages and low taxes have been identified as the major culprits, it is also apparent that these are unlikely to go away at any time soon, resulting in greater inequality, financial instability and social upheaval if we blindly continue on our present trajectory. If that sounds pretty depressing, fear not. 

As the authors say, such outcomes are not inevitable if we pause NOW and make conscious decisions about the kind of future we want for ourselves and our children. 

Although I must confess to not having read the book yet, there have been some interesting discussions. See for example, the address by ex -PM Paul Keating (no relation to co –author of the book Dr Michael Keating, by the way, in case you were wondering) at the book's launch at the University of Queensland:

The ANU address by John Hewson  at the Canberra launch, which includes interviews with both authors is also worth hearing and it's good to see politicians, past and present, from both sides of the political divide showing interest in this important issue. Looking forward to reading the authors' views on how we might find our way out of the Hobbesian wilderness before life becomes too  "brutal, nasty and short" for too many.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of Social Change is hosting a Free Public Forum in Hobart at the Peacock Theatre on May 1 with Professor Stephen Bell and other guests. This event is free, but you will need to book

Can’t make it? No problem. Watch out for similar events near you or listen to Michelle Grattan’s interview with Dr Michael Keating.(Don't worry, this one is short!)
or better still, get the book  $59.99, from Melbourne University Press.