Yoshio Sugimoto, Five Concerns About the MFP Project, issued by him early in the anti-MFP campaign, and published in the book A Tale of New Cities: Japan's plans for Australia, during 1989; this book was issued by Rainbow Alliance (a collection of Green groups), and its foreword was by Dr Joseph Camilleri. Professor Sugimoto is a Japanese Australian, a Professor of Sociology; his contribution to the anti-MFP cause was very important, showing that opposition came not only from the Right, but from the Left as well. I would later play a role in getting those two factionms to co-operate. Peter Myers, July 14, 2001; my comments are shown {thus}. Write to me at contact.html.

You are at http://mailstar.net/sugimoto.html.

{footnotes are included at the bottom of each page}

{page 1} Discussion Paper for

Advanced Information City Workshop

held on 11 October 1989

at the University of Melbourne


Yoshio Sugimoto1

1. ABSENCE OF DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATORY PROCESS: The Multifunction Polis project has been a moving target. More precisely, it has been a moving amorphous phantom whose exact shape still remains unclear. The MFP organizers have been extremely secretive about their design and apt to refrain from presenting their ideas in detail publicly.

It is disturbing that the Joint Steering Committee observed that "the control of public consciousness in relatian to the MFP project is a matter on which the Australian side is concerned. This is thought to be a basic stage in realizing the possibility of the MFP.... It is necessary to control the consciousness of public and related organizations very carefully."2 It is also disquieting that the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce which commissioned a social impact study placed an embargo on its publication for several months because it contained points which do not agree with the views of the Canberra bureaucracy and the business community. One wonders why the MFP promoters are now hiring a public relations agency rather than organizing public hearings and eliciting community submissions. Common ta all these approaches is the model in which patronizing elites arrange a fait accompli behind closed doors and impose their decisions to the general public from above.

The pattern is alarming because there are reasons to suspect that it is not simply derived from "hiccups" associated with the initial phase of any large-scale project. The entire scheme of the MFP project appears to place a stress upon a technocratic style of management rather than upon a democratic style of participation. In fact, there is every indication that the MFP is designed by technocratic organizations for technocratic communities to achieve technocratic values.

2. ENCLAVE OF TECHNOCRATS: On the whole, the technocratic class composed primarily of bureaucrats, managers, and professionals is propelled by the belief that they own specialist knowledge which enables them to pass judgement about the state of the nation, aloof from and independently of the masses. Technocrats analyses tend to have the appearance of being politically neutral and advisory.

1. Professor of Sociology and Dean of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3083 (Telephone: 03-479-2803, Fax: 03-471-0894)

2. The minutes of the second meeting of the Joint Secretariat Committee (in Japanese), p. 23. The meeting was held in Tokyo in April 1989.

{page 2} although they always have political ramifications. By and large, technocrats are inclined to place a higher priority on economic growth over the quality of life, technological development over environmental protection, and productivity improvements over social justice.

This type of technocratic subculture operates in every industrial nation and, therefore, functions as a common belief system shared by technocrats of every society. They speak in the same language and use similar vocabulary, which cuts across national boundaries. In fact, it is often the case that they find it easier to communicate with their counterparts in other countries than with the masses of their own country. This is an aspect of the "intemationalization" of technocrats.

When the MFP is conceptualized as an "intemational city", it is difficult to avoid the speculation that it will be an attempt to design a setting to give physical substance to this international culture of elite technocrats. This might well be a desirable development, but one would have to be cognizant that the MFP of this type will not uniformly facilitate "internationalization" for everyone. Much has been said about the propensity for the Japanese to congregate in groups and the possibility of their developing an enclave in the MPP. In contrast, little attention has been drawn to the possible scenario that the MFP might develop into an Australian enclave of technocrats and professionals of various nationalities. The fundamental question is whether such a secluded arrangement would be superior to the present scheme of multiculturalism where migrants are expected to settle individually in various parts of the Australian community.

Furthermore, despite the claim at the early phase of project formulation that the MFP will be a truly international venture, it has proceeded thus far as an essentially bilateral undertaking. While Australian teams are reportedly touting investments from European and North American countries, participation, if any, from these areas is likely to be peripheral and limited to the private sector. As it stands, the project is likely to adopt the Japanese-style "third-sector method" in which the public and private sectors join forces in establishing a corporation for regional development. However, in the case of the MFP venture, the only public sectors likely to take part appear to be Australian and Japanese, and in this sense too, the intemational dimension of the project would be heavily skewed in the Japanese direction.

3. ABSENCE OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT JAPANESE SOCIETY: While the scheme involves Japanese interests as its core component, few of the Australian administrators of the project have specialist expertise in Japanese studies. By and large, their competence in Japanese is limited as well. It is ironic that the knowledge resources which Australia has accumulated over years about Japanese society and culture have been apparently dismissed as irrelevant to the project.

The situation may not be an innocent omission on the part of the MFP strategists. There exists a considerable amount of apprehension, reservation and even suspicion about the project in the professional Japanese studies community in Australia. Most scholars who have in-depth knowledge about Japan remain at least cautious because they are painfully aware that the Japanese pattern of development has yielded not only a substantial measure of techno-econornic advancement but also a wide spectrum of undesirable consequences in work, education and community life. However, for some Australian technocrats, it is beneficial to overemphasize the bright

{page 3} side of Japan's development and play down its negative aspects precisely because such a bias would aid in expanding their interests in Australian society; Japan is a paradise for technocrats to the extent that the corporatist political structure based on an alliance between big business and the centralized government (to the exclusion of organized labour) operates without effective opposition.

It is intriguing to ask why the Japanese are interested in establishing the MFP in Australia rather than in Japan. Should Japan be a nation of unqualifled attainment as most "learn-from-Japan" advocates imply. the Japanese would be more sensible in establishing an MFP in their own land. The fact that the Japanese government proposed the project to the Australian government testifies in part to the fact that the Japanese mode of development has been accompanied by some undesirable characteristics which the Japanese are unable to rectify fundamentally in their environment.

To put it briefly. the Japanese style of social engineering places an emphasis upon the fulfllment of institutional requirements at the expense of the encouragement of individual rights and choices. Long working hours, regimented working conditions, rigid education, severe gender inequality, and conformist community pressure constitute part and parcel of the fabric of Japanese society and culture.3 When Australians follow the Japanese model, they must caution themselves against its possible consequences because it leads to the improvement of production and consumption measured in monetary terrns but does not necessarily raise and is often detrimental to the standard of living measured in terms of quality-of-life indicators.

4. SAFEGUARDS AGAINST COLONIZING EFFECTS: In the face of the project of this scale, every effort must be made to maximize gains and minirnize costs. It would yield two competing effects --- developmental and colonizing. While much has been said about possible developmental effects, little analysis has been made to address the question of whether and how the project would affect the power relations between the two nations and the interests of their respective domestic groupings. There exists no convincing evidence to suggest that the proposed project would lead to equalization on either fronts.

One requires little elaboration about Japan being an economic superpower and Australia being a small-scale economy. In a totally deregulated international economic structure, the Japanese economy, with the present might and strength of the yen, would theoretically be capable of buying the entire continent of Australia. Within this context, the fundamental question for Australia is what safeguards there will be against the overseas control of the process of economic restructuring and technological development which the Australian government hopes the MFP would bring about.

To portray the MFP, its promoters have used such utopian labels and phrases as the city of the future, the renaissance city, and technopolis without presenting a vision of any substance. Interestingly, the idealist language has reminded many Japan

3. See, for example. Ross Mouer and Yoshio Sugimoto, Images of Japanese Society (Kegan Paul International. 1986); Gavan McCormack and Yoshio Sugimoto, eds. Democracy in Contemporary Japan (Hale and Iremonger, 1986).

{page 4} observers in Australia of Manchukuo of the 1930s, Japan's colonial expenment in resource-rich north China in which the Japanese government invited Chinese leaders to cooperate to lay the foundation for a multi-racial and harmonious East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere. While Japan has changed significantly over the last fifty years, the point remains that the MFP will be a project of an essentially bilateral nature with the two countries involved possessing markedly different levels of political power in the international hierarchy. Therefore, it would be very irnportant to scrutinize the similarities and differences between the Manchukuo experiment and the present MFP proposal with considerable care.

In this context, reciprocity is a fundamental issue. One must put the matter in perspective. In Japan, the government has full information about the identity of the owner of each block of land throughout the nation on the basis of the twin institution of the household registration system and the residency register system. Australian tourist promoters are subjected to much severer governmental scrutiny in Japan than Japanese counterparts in Australia. According to the Japanese alien registration law, Australian businessmen staying in Japan for more than one year are required to be finger-printed at the municipal office of their residence. The Australian public should pay much more attention to the existing imbalance in Australia-Japan relations and consider the ways and means to achieve a much equitable level of reciprocity between the two nations.

Racism has constituted a significant variable in the discussion of the MFP proposal. It is regrettable that the Bmce Ruxton factor might thwart objective discussion of its potentials and dangers. On the other hand, it is also unfortunate that highly considered and informed analysts, who have serious reservations about the MFP proposal, have often been reluctant to express their scepticism for fear of being labelled as racist. Regardless of whether the initial proposers of the project might have been Japanese or British, environmental protection, quality of life, property ownership, technocratic control, and other MFP issues are fundamentally race-free concerns.

5. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND SKILL FORMATION: On what evidence can Australia expect that the MFP would result in technological transfer from Japan? Even within Japan, the national bureaucracy and large corporations are very reluctant to transfer technology from Tokyo and major metropolitan centres to peripheral regions for local development, and the general tendency is that the knowledge-intensive parts of the Japanese economic system are increasingly concentrated in and controlled by Tokyo. It would be naive for Australia to expect that Japanese multinational corporations which have pursued Japan's national interests ruthlessly and uncompromisingly over decades would suddenly become altruistic.

Australians have a general image that Japan is a technologically highly sophisticated society. However, that does not mean that the extensive presence of Japanese organizations in Australia will automatically lead to the technological

4. See Gavan McCormack (Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide), "'And shall Jerusalem yet be built?': Japan's 'Multi Function Polis' project and Australia", ASM (Asian Studies Association of Australia) Review, vol. 12, no. 3 (April 1989), pp. 1-6.

{page 5} sophistication of Australia. Sitting next to a person who has good vision does not automatically free you of myopia. The key question is: on what evidence can we convince ourselves that technological transfer from Japan to Australia would transpire with the establishment of the MFP?

The completely opposite scenario is quite possible, or even probable. Japan might send a large number of scientists, engineers and researchers but Australia might have to satisfy itself with providing them largely with technicians, typists, administrative assistants, and other supporting staff. Under those circumstances, the MFP project would not meaningfully enhance the skill formation of the Australian labour force.

There are signals for concern in the present pattern of Japanese investment in Australia. While it has created a good number of jobs in the short run, it may contribute to the de-skilling of the Australian labour force in the long run unless it is deliberately controlled. At present, two sectors --- real estate and tourism --- constitute the recipients of most of Japanese investment in Australia. These industries create jobs primarily for real estate agents, construction workers, tour guides, souvenir shop assistants, hotel cleaners, and other jobs which do not require high level skills which Australia needs to compete internationally. Only tiny portions of Japanese investment are made in manufacturing and high-tech industries which contribute to the formation of sophisticated and internationally effective skills in Australian labour. The long-term consequences of Japanese investment in its present form, therefore, will be (a) the relative de-skilling of the Australian workforce and (b) the widening of skill gaps between Japanese and Australian labour forces.5

In the name of rational market forces, Japanese investors are increasingly speaking in the language of the economic victor's justice. It is disquieting that Australian technocrats are increasingly justifying those who speak in the language of the survival of the fittest. In due course, the Australian public will be required to assess gains as well as losses generated by Japanese investment. We are now increasingly sensitized to the fact that Japanese investors take back home a bulk of land-speculation profits and that the Japanese tourist industry has earned much more returns than the Australian counterpart by using Japanese airlines, managing Japanese hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, and employing Japanese visitors on working visas as tour guides. The notion of national interest tends to conceal the fact that any project would impact on different groups in a nation in different ways. In contemporary Japanese history, numerous cases of conflict erupted in the face of large-scale developmental undertakings because of the demolition of vested interests of some groups: the communities affected by the construction of New Tokyo International Airport in Narita, by the expansion of the bullet train shinkansen networks throughout the nation, and by the build-up of nuclear plants across the country, to name a few.

5. See Jeremy B. Williams (Department of Economic History, University of New England), "The Japanese in the Sunshine State: Development or domination?", Paper presented to the Sixth National Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia held at Sydney University, July 1989.

{page 6} In the case of the MFP, construction, finance, entertainment and leisure industries would be likely beneficiaries: developers, builders, real estate agents, tourist promoters, and bankers would have reasons to believe that they might substantially gain from the venture. Over the time, the technocratic class in Australia would probably reap a great deal of benefit as well. On the other hand, it remains unclear what repercussions, both long-term and short-term, the MFP would generate on other groupings: the working class, women, non-Japanese ethnic groups, rural population, labour union movements, and environmentalists. One must also ask how the MFP would influence structural inequality, social stratification, and educational styles in Australian society. The suggestion here is not that the project would negatively affect all these elements but that careful assessments must be made about which sections of Australians will benefit from the project and which groups will be disadvantaged from it. {end}

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