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Does a University town bring real benefits or is it all just spin?

Edited extract of address to the Business Leader’s Luncheon in Warrnambool on Monday 26 September.

My topic today is, “Does a University town bring real benefits or is it all just spin?”

Many towns do not have a university.  Those that do are often fiercely proud of what they have.  All towns put up a fight at the merest rumour that the University will close or leave town. 

So what is it all about?  Is it just spin and fluff? Or is there more to it?

Dark forces still at work in Aceh, Indonesia

In early October, Aceh will hold its second gubanatorial elections since the 2005 peace agreement that ended almost three decades of separatist war. After five years of relative peace and stability, the main political tensions appear to be between competing factions of the former Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Other, more troubling tensions are, however, just below the surface.
There is little to divide the main factions competing in the elections. The incumbent governor, Irwandi Yusuf, has overseen the development of a universal health care system, expanded education, overseen underlying economic growth and banned logging in Aceh’s spectacular rainforest.
His main electoral opponent, GAM’s former ‘Foreign Minister’, Dr Zaini Abdullah, also supports such programs. Apart from personalities, the division between them might be characterised as one of the latter being more conservative and the former more progressive.

National Curriculum – a long and painful death?

This post was published in ACEL's weekly online newsletter (22/08/20110

Indonesia and East Timor - odd bedfellows

The announcement by East Timor’s prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, that his country will begin military to military links with Indonesia has caused widespread surprise, given the deeply troubled history between the small, recently independent state and its large and previously belligerent neighbour. There are a number of benefits to this new arrangement, which will also see police to police links established. But there are also many unresolved issues.
Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975 led to the deaths of more than a quarter of its population, almost 200,000 people, with its final farewell being the destruction of most of the country and the murder of around 1,500 more civilians. According to Prime Minister Gusmao, it is now time to forgive and forget.

Changing attitudes to the carbon tax

The mining industry, led by the Minerals Council of Australia, has written to members asking for funds to under take a new advertising campaign to attack the carbon tax.

In his letter to members, Minerals Council chief executive Mitch Hooke says that in current day Australia, major policy battles are fought and won in the media and that miners must spend accordingly.

So is Mitch Hooke right when he says the “new paradigm is one of public contest through the popular media more so than rational, effective, considered consultation and debate”?

Where to for the Arab Spring??

It’s been almost eight months since the first Arab dictator, ousted President Ben Ali of Tunisia, fled the country under unprecedented popular uprisings signaling a snow-ball effect that has swept across North Africa and the Middle East like a political tsunami.

Since then, events in Egypt led to similar outcomes with the spectacular demise of President Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent initiation of his trial in Cairo. Indeed, these are tense times to be in power in the Arab world as the fear and prestige of office all but disappeared amid popular demands for political reform and genuine accountability.

Events in Libya have in the last couple of days developed to the point where the rule of maverick self-appointed doyen of Arab and African leaders, Colonel Gaddafi,  has all but collapsed relinquishing the capital Tripoli to the rebels and the political leadership of the transitional council.

Pakistan’s experience amidst debt crisis has lessons for other nations

Debt crisis is indeed a burning current issue in the whole world.   A true glimpse of this reality is provided by the ongoing violent protests against a series of fiscal austerity reforms in Greece.  The worsening debt crisis of Greece is expected to trigger a contagion of sovereign debt crises in several other European countries.
 
It is interesting to note that the nature and the economic  aftermath of the current debt crisis of Greece and 1998 debt crisis of Pakistan have remarkable similarities ─ For example, the debt-gross domestic product ratio of Pakistan as well as Greece exceeded 100% during their respective debt crises,  national external debt has been acting as a drag on the national economies of Pakistan, and Greece, and now both Greece and Pakistan desperately need fiscal consolidation as well as economic growth for resolving their respective external debt crisis.

In Search of the New 'Multiculturalism'

In discussing multiculturalism, there is always a tendency to focus on the challenges posed by increased cultural and religious diversity to social cohesion. This is especially the case in states that are supposed  to be more ‘secular’ or where religion is not expected to dominate public  life.
 
But how nation states deal with religiosity in general is not always easy to predict. In Australia, for example, Section 116 of the Australian Constitution explicitly provides that the Commonwealth shall not legislate to establish any religion, impose any religious observance or prohibit the free exercise of any religion.
 

Western Muslims and the Challenge of Integration and Intercultural Understanding

This is an extract from my keynote address at the Iftaar Dinner Function’ hosted by Deakin University and the Australian Intercultural Society at Deakin Prime, 12 August 2011

Current debates in many western countries seem to suggest that the current tension surrounding Muslims is essentially linked to the perceived incompatibility of Islam and Islamic values with values associated with liberal secular democratic states.

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