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Malaysia’s tectonic shift

The handing down of a ‘not guilty’ verdict on sodomy charges against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim indicates a tectonic shift in Malaysian politics. Following a previous overturned conviction on a related charge, the immediate outcome of Anwar’s judicial decision is significant, but its longer term implications could be profound.
In a country in which the judiciary has been used as a political tool since the late 1980s, the ‘not guilty’ decision by Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah went against expectations, even by Ibahim himself. Although the decision was widely viewed as a vindication of Anwar, it also reflects a possible break in political interference in the judiciary and, in turn, a relative weakening of what was a high level of central political control.

Heinz Girgarre Tomato Sauce Factory closure and the McDonalds connection

Fluorescent tomato sauce for the pies sold at the SCG this week would have been a great promotion for both Heinz and the Jane McGrath Foundation.

However, in mid year when the sauce for my McDondald’s fries was fluro pink - it was cause for real concern. On inspection, the packaging on the faulty product read “Heinz, manufactured in Qingdao”.  You may remember Qingdao as the coastal city engulfed in fluro green seaweed prior to the China Olympic Yachting events.

I have visited Qingdao several times as my brother teaches at a Qingdao University. Whilst the area is less polluted than other areas of China, the tomato farms are small and fragmented compared to their Australian counterparts. As such, quality control of herbicides, pesticides and fertiliser would be almost impossible. Whilst Qingdao factories, although not old, operate without the environmental, labour and consumer protection laws that exist in Australia.

Conroy's milking broadband spectra - while surfer's dongles suffer!

Auctions of “property rights” are a valid way of governments extracting value for the community from public assets, such as minerals, bandwidth and oceans. A recent example is Senator Conroy’s Dec 2011 proposal to auction the 800MHz bandwidth used by Telstra and Vodafone should they not agree to the $1.4 billion fees proposed by the Minister to be paid by the two companies for renewal of their licenses in 2013.

Home for Christmas? Not everyone is so lucky

As we prepare to share Christmas with our families, we're thankful that we have a roof over our head, food on our table, and family and friends to share the festive season with. Not everyone in our community is so lucky.

Report on Sri Lanka war crimes exonerates SL government

When one’s expectations are low, it is difficult to be disappointed. But even with almost no expectation that the report of Sri Lanka’s ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) would seriously address prima facie evidence of war crimes, it has still left a wide range of observers dismayed. The only lesson that appears to have been learned is that the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has worked out how to get away with murder.
The Journal of Foreign Relations said the report ‘exonerates the military, does not touch on the question of accountability and includes some touchy-feely language about the country’s need to move forward, celebrate its diversity and be grateful for the defeat of terrorism’.

Improved justice the job facing Roxon

While much has been made of the fact that Nicola Roxon is our first female attorney-general, celebrations will be short-lived as Roxon faces significant tests in this new role.

Germany, Britain and the Euro - and the need for monetary autonomy

The Germany that engaged in the successful 1973 float of the DM, now seems to be missing the main point of that decision. That monetary autonomy is valuable.
Also odd is German backing of currency areas across very differing economies, in tandem with federal fiscal rules absent a federal government.

Inflation and threats to currencies loom large in German history and so German activism on such matters is no surprise. But what is a surprise is the evident failure to get the core issue of monetary autonomy right.

The rise of Hitler was a cataclysmic response to hyperinflation that destroyed German savings of the 1920s. German Marks traded at 67 billion to the US dollar in 1923. Notes were carried in increasing numbers of wheelbarrows, as people desperately sought scapegoats and new leadership.

SHALL WE TALK ABOUT WHALES AND WHALING? (8)

To whale or not to whale … THAT should be the question

I was simply amazed when I read a small online Japanese article about a week ago.  It was reporting the departure of three whaling ships from Shimonoseki, former whaling town in the western Japan, heading for the Antarctic.  I was amazed not that I was surprised by the fact that the Japanese had decided to return to the Antarctic yet again but that one official from the Japanese Fisheries Agency was quoted as saying that they had beefed up the fleet’s security level to counter the attack from activists and they were releasing the information beforehand because it may work as a “deterrent effect” .  

     Excuse me?  Deterrent effect?  Are you serious?  

Australia needs a rights-based homelessness act

Background

The Federal Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness (White Paper), proposed the introduction of new legislation that would “underpin the national response to homelessness, setting standards to deliver the best quality services possible”.

In June 2009, the Minister for Housing referred the inquiry into homelessness legislation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth (Committee). The Committee’s terms of reference were to inquire into and report on the content of homelessness legislation.

Pakistan will want its share of (yellow) cake too

 (A version of this blog was first published in Dawn.com on 6 December 2011)
THE Labor Party at its biannual national conference which was held in Sydney 2-4 December decided by a thin majority to support the Australian prime minister’s motion to scrap the party’s nonsensical and contradictory uranium export policy banning the sale of uranium to India.
This is a welcome development.  It would appear, listening to the prime minister’s and her ministers’ comments on this issue, that the reasoning behind the change of policy was to maximise the prosperity and the strength of Australia’s relationships in the Indian Ocean region.
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