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Criminalising the victims

Imagine, if you can, that you have spent the last 30 or more years in an environment of war, where your security is at best not guaranteed and at worst you and your loved ones have been regularly exposed to physical attack. Some, or many, people you have known and loved have been killed and many more bear the physical scars of war. Everyone bears its psychological scars.

You are at best a political outcast and vulnerable to repression, physical abuse, or worse. You or your sons or daughters flee your once loved home, seeking respite, hoping you can find safety and acceptance elsewhere.

This is the situation facing Sri Lanka’s Tamils and many Afghanis, who in desperation seek refuge in one of the countries lucky enough to be able to offer it. What they find, however, is that they are treated as criminals.

Italians have a point

It is embarrassing to Australia that the Italian Textile Association has taken the extraordinary step of formally expressing its disappointment about the recent visit to Biella, Italy, of three directors from the Australian Wool Innovation Board.

The association raised a number of concerns. They felt the informal delegation didn't express official AWI thinking; they were embarrassed and disappointed at seeing people involved in clear conflicts of interest; they were surprised and upset by the lack of knowledge and extreme insensitivity to the mulesing issue, and the lack of communication about an upcoming advertising campaign.

Dickheads and Nose Candy... controversial, but will they change behaviour?

 

Two social marketing campaigns have caused a bit of controversy in Australia in the past week or so. In Victoria, VicRoads has launched their "Don't be a Dickhead" campaign, while in NSW, the Department of Health's anti-drug educational campaign has sparked controversy over the use of colloquial language to describe drugs; terms such as"nose candy".

 

The dickhead and nose candy campaigns are two very different campaigns, with different potential outcomes.

 

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.

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