Peter Sheehan, Bhajan Grewal and Margarita Kumnick (Eds), Dialogues on Australia's Future in Honour of the Late Professor Ronald Henderson

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Peter Sheehan, Bhajan Grewal and Margarita Kumnick (eds), Dialogues on Australia's Future In Honour of the Late Professor Ronald Henderson, Melbourne: Victoria University, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, 1996, xiv + 416 pp.

Fred Gruen, together with Russell Mathews a contributor to this volume more or less contemporary with Henderson, indicates at the start of his essay why Ronald Henderson deserved to be selected for the posthumous honour this volume of essays represents:

   Ronald Henderson was one of those rare economists whose work has
   left a definite long-term mark on Australian public life. I would
   like to mention two important areas--firstly Ronald Henderson's
   insistence in the mid 1960s mat economic growth by itself would not
   solve all our social problems, especially poverty--an insistence
   which was quite unfashionable at the time (and is still regarded
   askance by some economists). This view and Ronald's own work on
   poverty led to a burgeoning of both public and professional
   interest in the condition of Australia's most disadvantaged
   citizens, which in turn led to some important advances in
   Australian social policy. Second, Henderson made an intellectual
   and an actual home for the two originators of Medicare, which
   provided basic health provisions to everyone in the population,
   regardless of means. I am honoured to have been asked to contribute
   to a series of seminars commemorating an important Australian, (p.
   363).

In addition it should be noted that Henderson assisted in constructing an indispensable instrument for his important policy work. He was the foundation Director of Melbourne University's Institute of Applied Economic Research and one of the key movers in establishing what then became Australia's third academic economic journal, the Australian Economic Review, on the editorial board of which he served for many years from its inception in 1968. Its brief statement of aims, as expressed in its first issue (Australian Economic Review 1968 p. 1) indicated an intention to provide a 'comprehensive assessment of published statistical material on the Australian economy', 'a balanced account of current economic trends and fluctuations' and 'a general view of future economic prospects in both the short and medium terms'. The last is what this volume is also specifically designed to do, though in its contents the other two objectives of the Australian Economic Review, that is, statistical assessment and the presentation of a balanced account of major policy issues, have not been forgotten by its editors. The contents present twelve pairs of discussions on topics of applied economics of importance to Australia's future in which alternative perspectives are presented, in order to match that degree of balance at which Henderson (and the Australian Economic Review) tried to aim.

This content is itself divided into three parts. The wider context to the Australian economy marks the first part. It contains essays on 'Australian and the convergence of information technologies' (by Roger Buckeridge and Allan Horsley), on 'APEC and the Lessons of Asian Growth' (by Richard Pomfret and Peter Sheehan), and on 'Financial Markets and the Policy Role of Government' (by Russell Mathews and Chris Caton). 'Strategies and Policies' sets out the territory for the largest, second part. Its topics include, hsting them seriatum, the wage system and its deregulation (Bob Gregory and John Freebaim); 'savings, investment and superannuation' (Vince Fitzgerald and John Quiggan); 'Infrastructure for National Development' (Glenn Withers and Bhajan Grewal); 'Policies for Industrial Growth' (Bob Hawker and Jane Marceau); 'The Challenge of Technology and Innovation' (Mark Dodgson and Ron Johnston) and 'Australia's Environmental Commitments' (Tor Hundloe and Graham Armstrong). 'Implications for the Australian Community' is the title for the final, third part of the book. …