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Mrs Strangequeen, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Monarchy

This is the text of my address to Deakin University's annual forum: ‘Yes we’re still a monarchy but it’s not my fault’

Burma - not an election in any meaningful sense of the term

The people of Burma – or some of them - went to the polls on Saturday in what was that countries first election process in 20 years. This process was so restricted and stage managed and the substance of the result know as early as three days before the event that even the terms ‘poll’ and ‘election’ have to be used in a heavily qualified sense. It was, in reality, just the Burmese junta’s mechanism for shifting away from an overt military dictatorship to a slightly more covert form – dictatorship without so many uniforms.

Gillard to return with greater appreciation of foreign affairs

For a political leader who honestly but unwisely admitted that foreign policy is not her passion, Julia Gillard is now learning that how she conducts herself on the world – or regional – stage – is central to her overall performance as a prime minister. How Australia’s relationship is conducted with Indonesia is not just important to Australia’s external concerns, but directly impacts on domestic political issues.

Front and centre of Ms Gillard’s discussions with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was, unsurprisingly, Indonesia’s potential role in a regional refugee processing centre. Notice the subtle name change? We may be seeing a move away from an asylum seeker processing centre in East Timor to something located elsewhere, if not more widely dispersed.

Indonesia’s uncertain path of reform

It is a truism that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is one of its most important. Yet the bilateral relationship has often been troubled, sometimes deeply so, and may become so again.

The current success of the bilateral relationship can be attributed almost entirely to Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Until his presidency, Australia only kept good relations with previous presidents by bowing to Indonesia’s wishes.

With Yudhoyono, however, Australia found a genuine democrat and reformer with whom it had much in common, confirming that previous troubles reflected political rather than claimed cultural differences. However, Yudhoyono is now into his second and final term as president and his reformist agenda has become stalled by an unfriendly legislature and vested institutional interests.

Oils in education - From Countdown to the Ministry

In a recent newspaper article (Long way to top 10, The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

Injecting some shock into junk food marketing

An advertisement created by The Precinct studio highlights the debate about whether shock ads actually change behaviour. The viral execution features a mother preparing to inject her son with heroin before the scene changes to show him eating a hamburger.

 

The caption reads: ''You wouldn't inject your children with junk so why are you feeding it to them?''

McDonald's isn't lovin' it much

A new advertisement to be shown in Washington DC (US) made by the health lobby group, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) shows an overweight, middle aged man lying in the morgue, with a half-eaten hamburger in his hand. Some lame acting by a weeping woman (the assumption is that she is related to him) and a nodding doctor, rounds out a generally unremarkable execution.

Rudd’s East Timor challenge

As the new consolation prize Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd’s first job will be to try to implement the government’s ‘East Timor solution’ for asylum seekers. The issue whether this policy has any chance of success.

The first hurdle to be overcome was the unanimous vote by East Timor’s parliament, if with an incomplete sitting of members, opposing the idea. As a wealthy developed country, many East Timorese ask, why does Australia want to off-load its problems onto its impoverished neighbour? Why does Australia not properly shoulder its responsibilities under the Refugee Convention?

The 'Four Ps' and disposable politics

My son turned 18 recently, so he was eligible to vote for the first time. Although it is tempting to encourage one’s children to vote as one does, I have hoped he will vote not at my suggestion but as a matter of personal conscience. Yesterday, before he went to the polling booths, I offered him some advice.

Despite the way in which Australian election campaigns are conducted, the most recent being the worst example, I asked my son to consider the ‘Four Ps’; principle, policy, party and personality, in that order. It would be reasonable to argue that the Australian election process, which is now in mopping up stages, was constructed in the opposite order. So, why my advice?

How to plate-up Masterchef's success

There's a lot more to the success of Masterchef than the cooking.

 

During the first series of Masterchef, I remember watching a repeat episode on a Sunday afternoon, and thinking that this was going to be a runaway success. I even wrote a letter to the Green Guide editor (which was published) saying that Masterchef was a “revelation” and would be one of the great successes of 2009. It is so nice that I sometimes get my predictions correct (I’m pretty good at guessing the gender of  babies in utero, as well).

 

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