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A journalist’s gamble with Indonesia’s special forces

American journalist Allan Nairn’s game of cat and mouse with the Indonesian military is a brave attempt to show that it continues to represent the greatest challenge to Indonesia’s process of reform and democratisation. It is also one that could well see him spending time – potentially up to six years - in an Indonesian prison.

Nairn recently detailed how the Indonesian military’s special forces, Kopassus, continued to be involved in illegal activities, including murdering civilians. His report comes at a time when the US is considering renewing direct support for Kopassus, after having banned working with it for a decade and a half.

 

Home is where the salesperson is...

 

Would you say your child’s education is important to you?

 

It seems like a harmless enough enquiry and, when asked, what parent would not instantly agree that their child’s education is a priority?

 

But when it comes to the sale of educational software, obvious questions like this can be significantly more dangerous than you’d think – corralling parents into a corner that is difficult to escape from. They are the foundation of an insidious in-home sales strategy one former sales person described as “a sheep paddock, where you would go around shutting the gates as you went through your routine. So that at the end, the only gate left open was to buy”.

Australia and Indonesia are now officially good mates

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono address to the Australian parliament yesterday marked a very real change in Australia-Indonesia bilateral relations. Much of the history of that relationship has been characterised by either problems or diplomatic distance, which President Yudhoyono frankly acknowledged. But his speech to the parliament illustrated how close the two countries have now become.

The main change in the relationship has been as a result of Indonesia’s increasingly deep democratisation. No matter how close Australian political leaders might have wanted to be in the past, the fundamental contradictions between Indonesia’s then closed political system and Australia’s more open system meant that underlying problems would always surface.

President Yudhoyono visits Australia - we're all democrats now!

The visit to Australia by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono marks an important step in the maturing of Australia-Indonesia bilateral relations. Not since the ebullient Aburrahman Wahid have we had an Indonesian president visit twice (SBY was here in 2005) but, more importantly, Yudhoyono is the most substantial political leader Indonesia has had since the departure of the authoritarian President Suharto.

That Yudhoyono has been invited to address the Australian parliament – and has accepted - is a further clear sign of the strength of the bilateral relationship. As a marker of Australia’s international diplomacy, the relationship with Indonesia has always been the biggest and most difficult test. As Indonesia democratises, both countries seem to be getting it right.

My University Website

Julia Gillard will today announce the launch of the My University Website.

Social inclusion, ideology, Lady Gaga and higher education

A couple of weeks ago, I read in a magazine that successful Mad Men actress January Jones was told by her ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher (now married to the impossibly youthful Demi Moore – do try to keep up) that she would never make it as an actress.  Last week, I heard on the radio that mega successful entertainer Lady Gaga was told by an ex-boyfriend that she would never make it as a singer or win a Grammy (she has won 2 Grammys so far). 

This week, a young academic told me that her line manager had told her she would never get promoted.  (The young woman is extraordinarily determined, feisty, intelligent and, as her manager will see, she will catch him up and pass him before he knows what hit him.)

Secrecy and accountability on Iran

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s, confirmation that the Federal Government blocked three shipments of cargo to Iran has raised questions about what the ships contained. So far, Mr Rudd has refused to comment on the details of the intervention.

Defence Minister John Faulkner stopped the shipments under the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, prompting speculation that the contents could be used in Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran has been accused by western countries of developing or wanting to develop nuclear weapons. However, Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. The problem is, even if Iran’s claim is true, a nuclear energy based on high grade uranium can be easily converted into a weapons-grade uranium and hence a nuclear weapons program.

Joyce loses the plot on international aid

Speaking to the National Press Club on Tuesday, Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce’s comments on Australia’s international aid program are startling. They not only reflect, as shadow finance spokesman, ignorance of the Opposition’s own policy and Australia’s international aid program, but imply a knuckle-dragging ‘survival of the fittest’ approach to international policy. Without any prompting, Senator Joyce appears to have wandered off into policy whacko-land.

Even among the developed world’s most conservative leaders, including those whose countries carry external debt, over the past 60 years none have suggested that aid to poor countries is an either/or proposition. Leaving aside the factual clangers in his remarks for which other politicians would be castigated, Senator Joyce’s comments on Australia’s international aid raise serious questions about his fitness for the front bench.

Performance funding; federal government

The federal government have released their discussion paper on performance funding for universities: http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Documents/HIEDPerformanceFunding...

Overall, it raises lots of pertinent questions and had it not been released just before Christmas Eve to a change weary sector, it might have provided the opportunity for the sector to have genunine input into how teaching perfromance is measured in Australia. 

Sri Lanka’s election over, but problems continue

Many of Sri Lanka’s problems can be attributed to its battle against the separatist Tamil Tigers, including impoverishing the country in order to prosecute the brutal war. But Sri Lanka has long been moving away from a more broadly representative parliamentary form of government to an increasingly narrow and authoritarian presidential model.

Having been politically rewarded for a hard line approach that brought military victory, it is unlikely that President Rajapaksa will soften his approach to Sri Lanka’s continuing problems.

Despite having to contest elections, Rajapaksa had earlier said that democracy is a luxury that Sri Lanka could not afford, and his increasingly authoritarian presidential style has reflected that opinion. Rajapaksa’s supporters regard anyone who dares oppose him or question his policies as a traitor to the country.

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