Monthly Archives: June 2013

Kenneth Minogue, RIP

Sad news over at Catallaxy that Kenneth Minogue has died.

In the 1980s he was one of the political theorists who made me think that I wanted to be one too – I was in the tiny handful of people interested in this K. Minogue rather than the other one. My pre-computer card files list 36 Minogue articles I had stored away for future study. I am rarely much good with titles, but I still like some of his: ‘The Hucksters of Happiness’, ‘The Prison Cell of Political Theory’, and ‘Freedom as a Skill’.

The last one hints at his political position. He was a classical liberal, but presumably influenced by his LSE colleague Michael Oakeshott saw it as based on the culture and practices of Western societies, rather than on single abstract principles such as liberty or natural rights from which all else must be derived. Living in a free society requires ‘skills’ that need to be learned – the quotations in Julie Novak’s Catallaxy obituary from early and late in Minogue’s career show how this was a long-running theme.

I think Minogue’s inductive liberalism is probably a minority position in political theory, or at least there is far more written about grand attempts to create principles to govern society, such as John Rawls’ original position. But in real-world liberalism it is common. The conclusions for liberty, markets, limited government, and so on are still there, but with messy arguments based on precedent, analogy, tradition and many different general principles.

Minogue discusses his ideas in this interview I did with him in 1995. Minogue spoke as he wrote, in well-formed sentences. He was as easy to edit as he was to read.

Kenneth Minogue, RIP.

How well do agriculture graduates do?

A reader of my article on science graduates surplus to labour market requirements took exception to a figure showing poor job relevance of agriculture degrees. He points out (correctly) that this ABS category is ‘Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies’, and argues that the poor outcomes are due to the environmental rather than agricultural element.

Unfortunately, the survey I was using in the figure does not report at sub-field level. However, the census does and we can see that although environmental studies is the biggest sub-field (the numbers in brackets) the more traditional agricultural areas don’t do especially well in leading to professional or managerial employment, the occupations the ABS deems to require bachelor-degree level skills.

Note: Only includes people reporting a bachelor degree as their highest qualification. Those not working and those currently studying have been excluded.

On a quick glance there looked to be unusually large numbers in jobs classified by the ABS as ‘technicians and tradespersons’. Adding them in takes most disciplines up to 70-76% employment.

The numbers for recent agriculture graduates may be compromised by the inclusion of environmental graduates (they use a different disciplinary classification to the ABS; I am not sure what is included in agriculture). But their employment rates are slightly below average.

I am aware that employers in the agricultural sector report recruiting difficulties. But overall these figures suggest that agriculture is a relatively high employment risk course choice.

What other degrees do science graduates hold?

This morning The Conversation ran another article by me on the employability of science graduates.

I used some data from the ABS Learning and Work survey. Unfortunately access to their micro-data is not free, but it does allow more detailed exploration of graduate qualifications and outcomes than most other sources. Most ABS surveys, for example, just ask about a respondent’s highest qualification. Learning and Work asks about multiple qualifications.

Learning and Work estimates that there are about 348,000 people with a bachelor degree in science. However, 35 per cent of the report as their highest degree either a postgraduate degree in science or a degree in another field. The most common other fields were education, management, health and IT. [Note: The figures in the table were corrected on 24 June. The figures in the text were correct.]

corrected science

So while employment prospects in some disciplines are sometimes not great, people often adapt to this by seeking higher or different qualifications that improve their job prospects.

What does the public think about campaign finance law?

This week’s Essential Report has some rare polling on campaign finance issues.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the negative reaction to last month’s plan for ‘administrative’ funding, support for public funding is at less than 30%:

donations versus public funding

But surprisingly to me, most voters who offered a view on the disclosure threshold opted for $5,000 or above. I was expecting a populist response and a low threshold.

Donation threshold

And most voters prefer a cap to unlimited donations, but no question on how much.

Donation capping

Except for the capping question, public opinion on this subject is more ‘liberal’ than I would have anticipated.

The Wikileaks Party’s actual and potential problems with campaign finance laws

The Age this morning reported that Julian Assange had been prevented by the Bank of America from directly donating to his own Wikileaks Party.

Assange asked that the $25,000 award [from Yoko Ono] be sent to the WikiLeaks Party, a separate legal entity to WikiLeaks. However, in April Ms Ono’s office said the Bank of America had refused to wire the money to the party’s account. …The Bank of America is one of a number of major financial institutions including Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Western Union that since December 2010 have refused to transfer funds to WikiLeaks.

But if the Labor campaign finance bill still before the Senate passes, Assange’s problem won’t just be the Bank of America. The Wikileaks Party would not be able to receive any foreign-sourced donation. Unless Assange still has an Australian bank account, he would not be able to donate his own money either.

Preventing ‘foreigners’ from expressing their views on Australian politics is bad enough. But preventing Australians, even candidates, from donating is an indefensible constraint on political freedom.


Until writing this post I had not checked out the Wikileaks Party website. Its donations page advises that:

Presently donations to the WikiLeaks Party are anonymous unless otherwise requested

Unfortunately, that’s wrong. Until their registration as a political party is confirmed they are a ‘third party’, and must disclose donations over $12,100 (unless Labor’s bill gets through, in which case it will be donations over $1,000).