On Sunday (30 August), it will be 10 years since the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. Following 24 years in which more than a quarter of the population was killed or died as result of the occupation, the vote of almost 80 per cent in favour of independence was not surprising.
What was extraordinary was that in what had become a war zone, 98.6 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote. Many had trekked long distances over rough tracks, coming down from the relative safety of the mountains to line up before dawn at polling stations across the territory.
Heavily armed Indonesian police and soldiers stood at, and inside, polling centres. The Indonesian army’s proxy militias strolled in and out intimidating voters. In the village of Balibo, Indonesian intelligence officers directed the Halilintar (Lightning) militia and paid cash to ‘voters’ trucked in from West Timor.
The federal government has released the discussion paper that will underpin the arrangements for funding for universities for the immediate future. Mission-Based Compacts for Universities: a Framework for Discussion (http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Pages/Compacts.aspx)
The arrangements that result from compact agreements will have far reaching effects on individual institutions and on the Australian higher education sector as a whole.
The discussion paper is comprehensive in terms of the areas covered and issues raised.
It is particularly pleasing to see maters of transparency, duration of compacts and, in particular, consequences for failing to meet compact commitments raised. Without consequences for non-compliance, the whole exercise will be a waste of time and money, not to mention an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people.
Plans to reduce carbon emissions are currently centre stage in Federal politics. There now exists two alternative policies to reduce carbon emissions in Australia – the first is legislation before the Senate as proposed by the Government and the second is a proposal developed by the Opposition. Neither is adequate and neither seems to countenance the next major international meeting to discuss the global response to be held in Copenhagen later this year.
Barack Obama’s use of social media in the lead-up to the recent US presidential election is well documented. Now in office, the Obama administration is making extensive use of social media to communicate and engage with citizens. In his blog, President Obama said governments “cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking."
Across the Atlantic, the UK Government is also leading a charge to embrace social media. The UK Cabinet Office has published guidelines encouraging civil servants to use the micro-blogging site Twitter.
A website claiming to represent the successor organisation to Indonesia’s Jema’ah Islamiyah terrorist network has claimed that the recent bombings of two luxury hotels in Jakarta was an attack against foreign intelligence and businesses operating in Indonesia. It also claimed the bombings in honor of JI leader Azhari, who was killed in a shoot-out with Indonesian security forces in 2005.
The website, claiming to represent an organisation called ‘Tandzim al Qo’idah Indonesia’ (Indonesian Organisational Base), represents a new trend in Indonesian Islamist terrorism, being the first such official claim of responsibility for a terrorist attack. Its ‘official statement’, dated 26 July 2009, was ‘signed’ by Indonesia’s most wanted man, Noordin Muhammad Top.
Most of us like to think that we make decisions in a rational, sensible way. We prefer to believe that when it comes to making choices, whether to get out of bed, buy a Powerball ticket, turn left at the next set of lights, or even buy that house, the choices we make typically reflect our desires; we choose what, all things considered, we want. The process by which we make choices is pretty straightforward. We consider the pros and cons of a particular choice, or perhaps even do a more formal cost-benefit analysis. After weighing up our options, we choose the product we want the most. For the most part, it is a process that is carried out in the conscious mind. Pretty straightforward.
Today marks the first day the long-awaited criminal cartel laws enter force in Australia. The news laws create new civil and criminal offences for engaging in cartel conduct. Cartel participants now risk up to 10 years jail for making or giving effect to cartel provisions, defined (in s 44ZZRD(2)!) to include price-fixing (this replaces s 45A which has been repealed), bid-rigging, restricting outputs and market division between competitors. Despite the flaws in the drafting of the laws, it is appropriate to treat cartels as criminal and the law should be welcomed.
The Trade Practices Act (TPA) is too big and too complicated. The Government has introduced phase I of their two-phase plan to implement a new Australian Consumer Law which will bulk up the Act even further (the Bill alone runs to 84 pages). The adds to the additional 90 pages of statutory text generated by the recent passage of the criminal cartel act. It cannot go on ... the annotated acts are bursting at their seems.
I have been at two national forums on student engagement in the last 3 weeks - one here in Melbourne and one in New Zealand. I've been talking about student engagement for about 3 years now and was just beginning to give up hope that it would ever catch on. But catch on it appears to have done.
Its popularity is probably due in part to the federal government's stamp of approval of student engagement as a site of interest. In 2009, the Australian federal government responded to the Bradley Review of Higher Education report through the May 2009 federal budget. In their budget summary document, Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System (http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Pages/TransformingAustraliasHESy...), the government indicate the status of each of the specific recommendations made by the Bradley Review.
Just two weeks ago, observers were congratulating Indonesia for a presidential election that was seen to consolidate that country’s process of democratisation.