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Timor-Leste: 10 years of independence

On Sunday 20 May, East Timor will celebrate ten years of independence. As a nation born from the ashes of destruction, its first decade has been marked by problems and set-backs. Many in East Timor, not least its outgoing president, Jose Ramos-Horta, lament a lack of development since independence. Ramos-Horta notes that the international community has spent billions of dollars in East Timor, yet most East Timorese remain amongst the world’s poorest people. But a little over a year ago, Ramos-Horta said that the country had never been better. The question is, in part, whether the metaphorical glass is half empty or half full. It is also, in part, whether the speaker – in this case Ramos-Horta – had a political score to settle. In early 2011, Ramos-Horta was still firmly in Gusmao’s political tent. A year later, he is an ex-president outside that tent. Many East Timorese have also been disappointed with independence.

A vision for Australia: social, cultural and economic inclusion

In my Australia, all people will have opportunities to access full social, cultural and economic inclusion.

I have had the privilege of working with community organisations that work to encourage people to assert their rights, build their capacity and confidence, and feel that they can contribute to their communities.

Particularly in leadership roles with the PILCH Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic and Victoria’s specialist homelessness services’ peak, the Council to Homeless Persons, I have seen the potential for marginalised people to improve outcomes for themselves, their families and the broader community.

I continue to be inspired by the resilience, innovation and commitment of many of the people experiencing homelessness that have worked with me in these organisations.

Timor-Leste: Coalitions and Alliances

As Timor-Leste heads towards it parliamentary elections on 7 July, it is increasingly likely that no single party will receive sufficient votes to hold an absolute majority in parliament in its own right. Despite claims by some parties’ leaders about the extent of their impending victory, none is likely in the manner in which it is being touted. As a result, the next government can be expected to be formed through an alliance or coalition of parties. While the terminology is not the determining factor, within Timor-Leste, it is commonly assumed that a ‘coalition’ is a political agreement reached between two or more parties prior to an election. An ‘alliance’, on the other hand, is understood to be where two or more parties enter into a partnership following an election.

Random search powers: are they working?

A recent Office of Police Integrity report shows that ‘random stop and search’ powers cannot be shown to reduce crime or improve community safety.

NDIS funding a start but limited trial means a long wait for most

Last night’s budget contained an important step towards realising a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), with $1bn allocated over the next four years. Of these funds, $342.5 million will pay for individualised care and support for 10,000 people in four yet-to-be-announced “launch sites” in 2013-14. The trial will grow to include 20,000 people by 2014-15.
The remainder of the funding will go towards the set-up costs of the NDIS over four years, including systems for data collection and analysis, local area coordinators, a new agency to oversee implementation and manage delivery, assessment of need and monitoring of outcomes and the effectiveness of the scheme.
The government’s announcement will see people assisted by the scheme a year earlier than the timeline the Productivity Commission suggested in its 2011 report into disability care and support.
But there are some major shortfalls in last night’s announcement.

Accounting tricks behind the budget surplus

Government budgets are increasingly becoming more political documents. This has been particularly evident with the federal government’s pledge to return the budget to surplus. However, budget numbers are calculated pursuant to accounting principles and a number of accounting ‘tricks’ can be identified behind the $1.5 billion surplus number.

Moving of spending out of the 2012-13 budget year

Given its commitment to announcing a surplus, the government has had an incentive to move spending out of the 2012-13 budget year.

What is especially evident is the extent to which the government has made ‘policy decisions’ which have taken spending out of the 2012-13 year and brought it forward into the current financial year (ie year ending 30 June 2012).

Consolidating Democracy

As Timor-Leste moves towards marking the 10th anniversary of its independence and completing the third round of its national elections, the question arises as to whether it has consolidated its democracy. The assumption is that consolidating democracy is a necessary step towards ending internal conflict and regularising the affairs of the state. But, the second question is, when one talks about consolidating democracy, what they mean by the term? Having three sets of elections at regular intervals is certainly a good sign of democratic consolidation in Timor-Leste. Yet elections alone do not comprise democracy. Indonesia had regular elections between 1977 and 1997 under its New Order government, yet it was very far from being a democratic state at that time. It is not enough to have the formal procedure of democracy; one also requires the substance, if the term is to have meaning.

Spin in the Victorian Government Budget

In the recently released Victorian government budget and in the accompanying Treasurer’s speech, the government made much of a fall in GST and stamp duty revenue, claiming ‘significant revenue write downs’ and a reduction of $7.6 billion over the forthcoming four year period 2012-13 to 2015-16.

This would suggest an actual expected decline in the total revenue amounts from past years and into future years.

However, close reading of the budget indicates that the reference to the decline relates to estimates made in late 2010.

In fact, the budget figures clearly show that government revenue has actually been increasing steadily since the time of those estimates and that this will continue to be the case.

Total revenue will increase by 3.2% for 2012-13 and then increase by an average of 4.4% for the following three years.

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Dog-whistle politics offends Indonesian ears

Not since Malcolm Fraser was prime minister has the federal Coalition understood, much less had an engaged relationship with, South-East Asia. This lack of understanding and engagement was reflected again yesterday when the Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Julie Bishop, made a ‘courtesy call’ on the chair and deputy chair of Indonesia’s legislature (DPR).
What should have been a brief exchange of pleasantries turned into a diplomatic disaster when Ms Bishop outlined the Opposition’s policy on ‘sending back’ asylum seeker boats to Indonesia. Indonesia’s DPR Deputy Chairman, Hajriyanto Thohari, described the policy as unfair on Indonesia and said that Ms Bishop was arrogant in her expression of the policy.

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