In the current climate of economic uncertainty and fiscal restraint, governments are quick to reassure us that they are making every effort to “do more with less”. Providing mobility for citizens in Australia’s rapidly growing cities is a key public policy goal. When faced with alternative transport options, sensible governments will invest in measures that achieve maximum benefits for the least cost, right? Well, um, maybe.
In fact, governments of all persuasions in Australia have been slow to align transport policies with comprehensive assessments of the benefits and costs of alternative transport modes. A recent example of this mismatch is the Victorian Government’s decision to stop funding the VicRoads Bicycle Program. Funding for the program (which averaged $15 million a year over the last three years) has effectively been abolished.
Coal seam gas mining is rapidly expanding beyond the eastern basin states. The Inquiry into Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria recommends the Victorian Government establish a process to consult stakeholders about the future development of goal seam gas. But Victoria’s laws simply aren’t ready for this new form of mining.
For a full outline of this article please see The Conversation
For the past six weeks a high-level US team has been in Pakistan trying to negotiate a resumption of the convoys which travel through the country and provide Coalition forces in Afghanistan with about 30% of their non-lethal supplies.
Pakistan decided unilaterally to stop the convoys following the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post by Coalition fighter planes in November last year.
One of the major sticking points in the negotiations is the fee Pakistan wants to impose on each container truck travelling through the country. Prior to the halt, Islamabad used to charge US$250 per truck; they are now asking for $3000.
The deep freeze
Today’s announcement of a national network of marine parks is really a memorable day for Australian nature conservation.
The political rhetoric and self-congratulation associated with major events is often overstated. But whilst there are qualifications about aspects of today’s declaration of a very substantial suite of marine protected areas (MPAs) it is truly a global milestone and does place Australia back at the global forefront of marine conservation and marine-protected-area declarations.
This is a very positive outcome for current and future generations and should be viewed as major step forward for marine conservation both in Australia and in the world.
A leading Australian human rights think-tank has expressed serious concern over the basis of investigations by Australia’s domestic intelligence organisation, ASIO, into Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The Director of Deakin University’s Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights, Professor Damien Kingsbury, has cast doubt on ASIO’s investigations. Professor Kingsbury said ASIO’s investigation bore the hallmarks of an anti-Tamil campaign being directed by the Sri Lanka government.
ASIO’s blacklisting of a pregnant ethnic Tamil mother, Ranjini, who had been granted Australian residency and married an Australian citizen, has led to her being detained without charge or trial.
It is believed that a further three ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils who had been granted refugee status have also since been detained as a result of ASIO’s blacklisting.
When Timor-Leste’s Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) was established in 2009, many people wondered whether it was just a political sop to minimise concern about perceptions of growing corruption, or whether it would be serious in trying to tackle the growing problem. If the CAC was to be serious, they wondered, would it last? In many respects, the CAC was always going to face significant challenges in a small and relatively interconnected society such as Timor-Leste. If the CAC pursued senior figures in Timor-Leste’s small and relatively closed political society then the CAC and its senior figures would earn powerful enemies, come under attack and perhaps be professionally destroyed. If the CAC did not pursue high profile corruption cases it would then be labelled as ineffective; as a ‘toothless tiger’. There was concern, too, that after the establishment of the CAC it appeared to be inactive.
As a still young state trying to establish itself, within itself and in the world, Timor-Leste’s commitment to recognising and upholding human rights, in particular civil and political rights, has been widely welcomed. For a people who have suffered such egregious human rights abuses, it is consistent that they wish to never suffer such abuses again.
One of the criticisms of supporting civil and political rights is that people also have other needs and rights, including the need for material well-being and related economic, social and cultural rights. What needs to be remembered, however, that not only are these two sets of rights not mutually exclusive, they are also mutually interdependent.
To illustrate this point, it is difficult to advocate for political and civil rights when one is starving. Yet it is also not possible to advocate for economic rights if one does not enjoy civil and political rights.
As Timor-Leste heads into the 2012 parliamentary elections, and having just celebrated its first decade of independence, there is a sense that the country is at a critical juncture. Political competition is again heightened, as parties compete for public support and seats in parliament.
But there is also expectation around the state’s political consolidation.
Many believe this is make or break time for Timor-Leste. But is this the point at which Timor-Leste succeeds or fails?
The idea of a critical juncture is one in which historical forces arrive at more or less the same time to produce a significant change. In living memory, Timor-Leste has seen such significant change.
Timor-Leste has transitioned from being a largely neglected Portuguese colony, having a brief moment of independence and then suffering under 24 years of Indonesian occupation. During this period, there were moments when the resistance came close to annihilation, and when it divided within itself.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and its new chairman, Rod Sims, have allowed their pro-competition charter to be sacrificed on the altar of broadband politics.
The decision to allow Optus to be paid to withdraw access to the HFC cable that reaches well over 1.4 million customers, destroys competition in broadband, restricts a cheaper option for state-owned and vulnerable NBN, and means that the choice other countries have between fast HFC cable models and NBN fibre connections is denied Australians.
Next the ACCC will pretend it’s OK for NBN to pay $20 billion over time to Telstra for closing down copper and the HFC cable as channels for broadband.
Again, a travesty in terms of what the ACCC should be about – promoting competition, not euthanasia of telecommunications assets.
This article first appeared in The Australian Financial Review, 31 May 2012
Papua-New Guinea’s chief justice, Sir Salamo Injia, faces court today charged with sedition by a government that he and two colleagues have ruled illegal. The arrest of Sir Salamo and the impending arrest of his two Supreme Court colleagues follows their ruling, for a second time, that PNG’s ousted prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, be reinstated.
The court’s ruling incensed the de facto government of Peter O’Neill, in particular Deputy PM Belden Namah, who led police and soldiers in the judge’s arrest. How the subsequent charge of sedition against Sir Salamo is addressed in court today will have profound consequences for PNG and, to a considerable extent, how it engages with the wider world.