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A tiger with teeth

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.

Freedom of Speech in Timor-Leste

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.

Critical junctures in Timor-Leste

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.

Broadband politics and competition

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

The death of constitutional government in PNG looming.

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.

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.

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