An Australian Song Cycle

Words and Music: Lorraine Milne

Arranged for 3-part female choir
Copyright © 1997 / 2013

The lyrics

1. They give no value to peace,
They place no value on giving birth,
No value given to hope,
They place no value on unpaid work.

Good Old Mum.....
She's there every minute of the night and day.
Good Old Mum.....
Could you ever reckon her rate of pay?
The caring and waiting,
The soothing, placating,
What value do you put upon
Good Old Mum?

2. They place a value on war,
They calculate ev'ry country's worth,
Yet love and freedom ignore,
They make no profit upon this earth.

Good Old Mum.....
Who thinks that she's ever in need of care?
Good Old Mum.....
Imagine if she was no longer there.
So easy to neglect her,
Ignore her, disrespect her,
What value do you put upon
Good Old Mum?

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Choir: Scratch
Conductor: Kate Sadler
Accompanist: Greg Mason

The story

No Value arose from Marilyn Waring’s extraordinary book Counting for Nothing.

Marilyn Waring was a member of the New Zealand Parliament from 1975 to 1984. She was famous for asking embarrassing questions. She called them “dumb” questions, one of which was: What is meant by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and how is it calculated? No-one could really answer her.

Not satisfied with this, she took herself to the library of the United Nations in New York where she had access to the national accounts and so started reading – a daunting task given the volume of material. She fell across a statement that said, in essence, Subsistence farming, and all who live by it, count for nothing. This meant half the world’s population was not included in the National Accounts, the majority of them, women. She also discovered that housework and voluntary community work were not counted, once again the majority of which was undertaken by women.

‘…The United Nations System of National Accounts provides the set of rules by which things are given a value. If there isn’t money involved, if there isn’t a price, you don’t measure it. Regarded as totally unproductive and economically inactive, housewives are recorded by economists as unoccupied.

On the other hand, the international trade in arms is the biggest growth industry of all – killing people or preparing to kill them is considered very valuable in the economic system…’

Extract from: Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth, Marilyn Waring, © University of Toronto Press, 1999. Used by kind permission of the publishers.