Welcome to the ninth issue of Insights

Insights publishes condensed and edited versions of important public lectures connected with the Faculty of Business and Economics. Its object is to share these lectures with the wider public, especially Alumni. The issues presented and developed generally relate to research findings on public economic and social policy. Insights also constitutes an archival source of an important part of Faculty life. Suggestions and comments from readers on any feature of the journal are welcome.

Editor’s Note

In the first article based on the Faculty’s public lectures, Paul Collier draws on ideas from his recently published The Plundered Planet to examine how two forms of plundering natural assets – intra- and inter-generational – can be controlled by appropriate governance systems. Intra-generational plunder occurs when assets which should belong to the many are expropriated by the few. Inter-generational plunder involves the present generation expropriating assets which should benefit future generations. Controlling these problems requires a critical mass of informed citizens who can influence all stages of the long decision chains involved in the exploitation of natural resources.


Different aspects of the relationship between gender and economics are examined in separate contributions by Shelly Lundberg and Deborah Cobb-Clark. Lundberg outlines the economic factors, notably changes in production technologies and the structure of demand, which have created a new set of incentives which have profoundly affected household formation, marriage duration, family size, and gender roles in Western families in the last five decades. However, as she observes, the perpetuation of traditional gender roles in countries such as Italy and Japan has caused much lower birth rates than in the more adaptable and egalitarian Scandinavian nations. Cobb-Clark’s analysis focuses on the possible causes of the gender pay gap in Australia which sees women, across the labour market as a whole, earning 87 cents for every dollar that men earn. Decomposing this gap between private and public sectors and between high- and low-paid workers, it appears that there is little discrepancy at lower levels once employee characteristics such as qualifications, skills and experience are considered. However, the discrepancy widens as employees ascend the remuneration ladder. In Australia the issue is ‘not sticky floors but, rather, glass ceilings’.


Miklos Vasarhelyi examines the concept of continuous auditing which has emerged in response to developments in information technology such as the use of sensing devices to record transactions, the integration of business processes and the advent of specialised business-reporting languages. Currently it appears that the assurance (audit) function is struggling to keep up with these developments.


The concept of ‘productive work’ is examined from a cultural standpoint by Kirrily Jordan. While paid work is generally considered central to individual and community wellbeing in Western societies, for Aboriginal Australians cultural factors, particularly social conditioning and kinship, create values and priorities that clash with the primacy accorded paid work and education by the non-Indigenous majority. One important policy implication is that ‘work’ as it relates to Indigenous communities may need to be redefined to recognise cultural factors and attitudes.


In Occasional Addresses to graduands made in December 2010, distinguished alumni Leon L’Hullier and Craig Drummond present two complementary perspectives on careers and career paths. L’Huillier refers to the enriching but superficially risky strategy of moving between institutions and sectors, particularly between business and government. Drummond’s focus is on the importance of the work-life balance irrespective of the nature of the employment. A common theme in both is the importance of seeking appropriate mentoring and advice early in one’s career.


In recognition both of the centenary of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2011 and the substantial ‘gender’ content of the current volume, we conclude with a brief account of the life of the Faculty’s first female BCom graduate, Harriet Amies. Based on a longer biographical article by Jane Hronsky, this summary also flags an addition to the Faculty’s public programs. Accounting body CPA Australia has agreed in principle to fund an annual lecture series in Harriet Amies’ honour to be delivered by prominent female accountants and business women, with the inaugural lecture scheduled for March 2012. It is expected that these lectures will be published in future editions of Insights.


November 2010 saw the retirement of inaugural members of the Insights Advisory Board, professors Bruce Grundy and Robert Dixon. As well as contributing summaries of their own public lectures to Insights, Grundy and Dixon provided valuable strategic and editorial advice which has enhanced the role and quality of the publication. The current Advisory Board thanks them for their work. Insights also welcomes their replacements on the Board, professors Kevin Davis and Ian McDonald.


This edition also sees Associate-Professor Geoff Burrows as co-editor. A full-time member of staff during 1971–2001, Geoff headed the Faculty’s then Department of Accounting and Business Law in 1987–90. His publications include two histories with particular Faculty connections: Promise Fulfilled, a history of the University’s accounting discipline and Wisdom from the
Podium
, a history of the CPA Australia – University of Melbourne Annual Research Lecture, the University’s longest-running annual lecture series. As ongoing editor, Geoff will continue to receive valuable support from the technical team of Rebecca Gleeson, sub-editor, and Sophie Campbell, designer, whose professionalism has done much to enhance the readability and appearance of Insights dating back to the first edition in April 2007.

Joe Isaac
Geoff Burrows
Editors

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