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A fable of bananas and banking

 

Reports in the Fairfax press and the ABC that Westpac customers received a video on Monday, comparing bananas as borrowed cash, and smoothies as credit, is about as wacky as a bank can get. It’s probably not as strange as the bizaare Celebrex Ad – “it won’t kill you… we hope”.

 

Indonesia’s heavy-handed censorship backfires

In Indonesian political culture, there was a view that inconvenient or challenging truths should be suppressed in order to retain harmony. This view had largely disappeared from Indonesian political life in the 1950s, but was re-invented by former President Suharto in order to remove challenges to his personalised authoritarian rule between the mid-1960s and the end of the 1990s.

Obama’s ‘surge’ in Afghanistan

The decision by US President Barak Obama to send a further 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, to be backed by around 10,000 extra personnel from allied countries, is his attempt to deliver a knock-out blow to the Taliban and the establish order and stability in that historically fractious state. But will this strategy work?

The links between food waste, obesity, environmental degradation, and marketing

One of the biggest contributors to obesity and environmental degradation in the past 35 years has been the increasing sophistication of all facets of marketing to create an environment where highly processed and energy dense food is easily available to those living in developed countries.

 

Although it is typically argued that lifestyles have become more sedentary over this time, it is a fact that consumers have been encouraged through highly sophisticated marketing activities, including supply chain management (e.g., easy access to convenience and processed food), pricing (e.g., reduced costs, better "value" and longer perishability of processed foods), as well as integrated advertising campaigns, to purchase and consume foods that provide a high fat, high sugar, and high salt "hit".

A confused government's way forward

The Australian government’s approaches on asylum seekers, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq are debacles that reflect an inability to break with Howard-era approaches to foreign policy. Trying to turn the Howard-era foreign policy sow’s ear into a Rudd government silk purse is doomed to policy failure.

What does work, and could have reasonably been expected from the Rudd Government, is starting from a clean slate. Going back to Labor Party policy and what is in Australia’s long-term best interest would have produced, and could still produce, some very different results.

On asylum seekers, the numbers coming to Australia are miniscule compared to other signatories to the Refugee Convention. Rather than pander to the artificial panic about Australia being swamped, the government should have taken, and can still take a practical and morally defensible leadership role.

Australia’s foreign policy debacles

When the Rudd Labor Government was elected two years ago, there were high hopes that it would leave behind the more negative foreign policies of its predecessor Howard Coalition Government. What we have, though, is a foreign policy shambles, overwhelmingly as a result of the Rudd Government allowing itself to be trapped by the Howard Government’s legacy.

Australia’s policy on asylum seekers is framed by the Howard Government’s ‘dog whistle’ politics, which effectively bought off the Hansonite right and confused much of the middle ground over the distinction between legitimate refugees and illegal immigrants – the overwhelming majority of the latter arriving by plane.

Yet the Coalition has been successful in again wedging the Labor Party. In response, the government claims to be ‘tough on border protection’ but ‘humane on asylum seekers’. What it is, however, is confused.

Evaluating RAMSI in Solomon Islands six years on -- stay, go home or change?

The Regional Assistant Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), the multilateral intervention force, led by Australia, has been operating in the Solomon Islands for six years at a cost so far of about Aust$1 billion (for a population of 500,000 people).

When RAMSI first came to Solomon Islands in 2003, after the Townsville Peace Agreement, it was welcomed by almost all with open arms. It came at the invitation of the Governor General, Prime Minister and National Parliament at a time when the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal was still under the control of militants led by Harold Keke and when Malaita Eagle Force "special constables" were still stealing government money. The Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) was only beginning to rebuild, much of the judiciary system had collapsed and the prisons run down and insecure.

Great idea... poor understanding of humans

 

It’s hard to see how something like the “free” bike scheme being launched in Melbourne is going to be at all successful.

 

A report in The Age tells us that “users will pay a membership fee – $2.50 a day or up to $50 a year…” But, and here’s the killer, if a bike isn’t returned within half an hour, then people will be penalised heavily ($20 after two hours, and $370 after 10 hours). Add to this, the requirement for people to bring their own helmets, the danger of riding bikes in a very un-bike-friendly city, and the need to pre-register, as a marketer, I can see that in its current form, in this particular market, it is doomed to fail.

 

Security Sector Reform in Indonesia

There is no issue more critical to the success of democratic projects anywhere than the civilian control and accountability of those institutions of state that exercise the capacity for compulsion; the military, police and intelligence services. The two requirements of these institutions of the ‘security sector’ are that they are effective in providing security from external threats and internal law breaking, and that they do not themselves constitute a threat to the state or its citizens. Where the security sector does not comply with these conditions, it can and often does create a hurdle to sustainable development, normative political progress and the sense of security these outcomes are nominally intended to provide.

Demonising the victims

 With waves of Tamil refugees now fleeing Sri Lanka, the question has been raised as to whether any among those seeking asylum are members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as the Tamil Tigers, a group proscribed as a terrorist organisation in many countries. This question reflects a Western obsession with ‘terrorism’, but not much about what drives people to supporting such ‘terrorism’ or fleeing their own country.

The situation in Sri Lanka has been, since independence in 1948, that the Tamil minority have been increasingly marginalised and persecuted by the Sinhalese majority. Sinhalese was long the official language of state, structurally excluding Tamils from public life, with this situation remaining the situation in practice. There have been numerous anti-Tamil riots and the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ethnic Tamils at various times over decades.

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