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.
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.
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.
It’s fair to say that homelessness is at crisis point in Australia. According to the 2006 census, almost 105,000 Australians were homeless on any given night.
And the problem clearly hasn’t disappeared over the past six years, with more than 91,000 Australians seeking assistance from specialist homeless services in the three months to September 2011. One in five of those people were aged under ten.
AT THE moment there is no automatic right of access to disability support across the board in this country. If your child fell out of a tree tomorrow and sustained serious brain damage, what sort of help would you expect and hope for?
He or she would be entitled to care in a public hospital, but once discharged, you'd be largely on your own.
This article first appeared in The Age 26 April 2012.
As Timor-Leste went to the second round of the presidential elections, the peace that marked the first round appears to be holding. Apart from an incident in Viqueque District, there have been no notable outbreaks of violence, so far, to mar this electoral process. Many have congratulated Timor-Leste for this important achievement.
The peaceful environment that has greeted these elections was in part as a result of an agreement between the leaders of political parties to restrain their supporters from attacking each other. This stands in marked contrast to the 2007 elections, in which there were few if any such restraints and violence and destruction were widespread, both before and after the elections were held.
Many of Timor-Leste’s friends wondered at this time what the purpose was of achieving independence if this was to be its result. Many in Timor-Leste asked the same question, and have since rejected violence.
States that have been colonised commonly reflect elements of their colonial past. Timor-Leste has the unusual distinction of having been colonised by two different powers in living memory, with each leaving significant elements of themselves imprinted upon Timorese society.
The imprint of Portuguese colonialism is officially recognised and embraced, not least through official language, architectural heritage, religion and a continuing affinity with Lusophone states. Even Tetum, an indigenous trading language developed from the older Tetum Terik, is heavily inflected with Portuguese, particularly in its courtesies.
Despite the often neglectful and sometimes brutal nature of Portuguese colonialism, Timor-Leste’s elites in particular retain fond memories of Portuguese paternalism. Their relationship to the other colonial power is more qualified, yet Indonesia has also left indelible imprints in Timor-Leste.
During last week's Q & A debate between Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins, it was interesting that both men had perspectives on Nazism that were at once opposed and yet entirely congruent. Pell argued that Nazism and Stalinism were the "two great atheist movements of the last century." Dawkins responded that while Stalin was an atheist, Hitler was not. However, they both agreed that Hitler represented the "personification of social Darwinism" (Pell) or that certain of what he tried to achieve arose "out of Darwinian natural selection" (Dawkins).
Part of this to and fro was certainly the kind of argument that often arises in contemporary debates, often through a process one could think of as Nazification: one disputant involved in a debate on any given topic attempts to associate their opponent's views with the Nazis.
When East Timor’s outgoing president, Jose Ramos-Horta, won office in 2007 by a crushing 69 per cent, many outsiders attributed the victory to his high profile as a campaigner for the country during the 24 years of Indonesian occupation. There is no doubt that Ramos-Horta was well known and well liked within East Timor, as well as outside, but his first round vote was a more modest 21 per cent.
So, too, when Taur Matan Ruak stood for the presidency last month, he achieved a respectable but modest 26 per cent. On Monday, his voted jumped to just over 61 per cent. It was backing and organisation by Xanana Gusmao that elevated Ramos-Horta to his unassailable final position. It was Xanana Gusmao’s backing that also secured the Taur Matan Ruak’s victory over Fretilin candidate Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres.
The massive but, happily, largely benign earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on Wednesday left millions of people in Aceh reliving the nightmare the engulfed them on Boxing Day 2004, when a similarly large but different type of earthquake sent a wall of water across the lowlands, killing around 180,000 people.
That the earthquake and fear of another massive tsunami came just two days after a local elections and a major political upheaval only added poignancy to the otherwise frightening occasion. In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Aceh separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) reached a peace agreement with the government in Jakarta, ushering in a period not just of rebuilding but of relative peace and electoral politics.
Contrary to such opinion that exists on Aceh, the peace agreement was not a consequence of the tsunami as such. Rather, and agreement to start peace talks had been reached just days before the tsunami struck.