Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Social capital catch-up.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Media Statement


16 July 2003

Social Capital Catch-up

Ten years after Robert Putnam released his seminal book on social capital, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton University Press, 1993) it is great to see Peter Costello joining the debate. I welcome his interest in a stronger civil society.

When he was dudded for the Liberal leadership last month, Mr Costello said he would speak out on social issues to distance himself from the Prime Minister. He has his chance at the Sydney Institute tonight.

To build a stronger civil society in Australia, Mr Costello needs to:

• Recognise that the Howard Government’s dog-eat-dog industrial relations policy (based on individual employment contracts) is destroying social capital in the workplace.

• Acknowledge that Aboriginal reconciliation and a formal apology to the Stolen Generation are acts of social capital, building cooperation and harmony between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

• Invest heavily in education and training, given the strong correlation between levels of educational attainment and social capital.

• Reverse the Government’s cuts to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement so that governments can reduce poverty and create much-needed social capital in public housing estates.

• Develop a higher level of corporate social responsibility in Australia, ensuring that the private sector assists the development of social capital.

• Open up the processes of governance and decision-making by the Federal Government so that local communities can make more of their own decisions and build trust and social capital between people.

Mr Costello may be late to the social capital debate but he now has a chance to catch-up by adopting Labor’s policy agenda.

On past form, anything could happen. Mr Costello has a lifelong habit of radically reversing his political beliefs:

• He started his politics in Young Labor but then became a Liberal MP.

• He founded the New Right HR Nicholls Society but then became the Leader of the Moderates (LOM).

• He attacked every social program in the Commonwealth Budget but then decided to embrace social tolerance and social capital.

I wish him well in sorting out his ideas and beliefs at the Sydney Institute tonight.

Contact: Michael Cooney 0411 591 120 mob