In less than a year, the Australian LNG landscape has gone from a feeling of euphoria to one of increasing negativity and pessimism. There is no doubt that the pendulum of sentiment tends to overshoot both extremes – the scale of the exuberance of 2010-2012 was, in hindsight, unjustified and unprecedented in the global LNG arena. Similarly, the pervasive pessimism today may be self-destructive if left unchecked. However, I will argue that some degree of caution is the prudent strategy when facing increasing uncertainty, and may be better for the long term competitiveness of the Australian LNG industry.
Many Australians would have watched Muslim MasterChef contestant Samira get kicked off the show on Wednesday night for cooking the worst pork hot dog.
Bowel cancer is one form of cancer where diet and lifestyle choices play a big part in determining a person’s risk of being diagnosed with it. Medical researchers have now put some hard numbers to how much this cancer can be prevented by following specific lifestyle recommendations.
Bowel cancer (also called colorectal or colon cancer) is the second biggest killer of Australians from cancer each year. Dietary factors alone are thought to explain almost half of bowel cancer risk, with physical activity (or lack of) around another quarter followed by genetics and family history. Processed meat, obesity (especially fat around the abdomen), smoking and alcohol are the diet and lifestyle factors that are considered to have the most evidence for being linked to colorectal cancer.
The removal of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi has done nothing to heal a deeply divided nation and an even more polarised political class. One of the many questions that will persist for some time is whether this was really a ‘military coup’ in the classical sense or whether it was ‘people power’ driven by mass demonstrations and enacted by the military.But this is a mere sematic debate that does not advance any particular practical argument, nor does it change a fundamental reality: that is any political action should always be judged by its outcome first and foremost and not simply by its discursive construction.
Egyptians and observers worldwide just woke up to the shocking but not un-expected news of the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi, the first ever democratically elected president in Egypt. Depending on which camp you align with, this is either a correction and restoration of the democratic project initiated following the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak just over 29 months ago, or simply a military coup against a legitimate President whose only crime is that he is an ‘Islamist’ president representing the ‘Justice and Freedom’, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The realm of weight loss is one where beliefs and myths abound. It seems everyone from the public to expert dietitians have views and beliefs around the causes of obesity, with these not always being supported by good science.
Coming from a firm scientific evidence footing, an eminent group of 20 respected obesity researchers scoured the Internet, popular media, and the scientific literature to identify prevalent obesity myths as well as facts that are well supported by evidence. Their findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 31 of 2013.
The research team arrived at a core group of ‘7 myths about obesity’, some of them certainly going against conventional wisdom. Following are a brief description of the 7 myths.
One could ‘sniff the wind’ and come up with similar responses to the Lowy Institute Poll 2013. But the poll does provide some detail, if again showing up a range of expected and occasionally surprising results on how the Australian public view our position in the world. And again, a large proportion of Australia’s foreign policy experts will tut-tut, shake their heads and say that the result explains why foreign policy is too important an issue to be left to the voters.
Perceptions on Indonesia is regularly held up as a case in point. Most Australians remain ‘luke-warm’ towards Indonesia, which scores 53 on the Lowy ‘thermometer’ scale. Most Australians (83%) say that Australia is a good neighbour to Indonesia, but only 54% believe that Indonesia is a good neighbour to Australia. People smuggling stands out as the major issue, with only 30% saying that Indonesia helps Australia combat people smuggling.
Consistent with these broader views, there also remain persistent perceptions of Indonesia as a source of terrorism and as a military threat. This is despite major efforts against terrorism within Indonesia and it never having had the capacity to meaningfully threatening Australia.
Only a third of Australians view Indonesia as a democracy, reflecting a range of competing images that are from time to time presented in Australia. Indonesia has had regular elections since 1999, but occasional reports of human rights abuses, corruption scandals and so on continue to sully the image of rule of law in Indonesia.
Without the Lowy Report asking why so many Australians view Indonesia as non-democratic despite regular elections, there appears to be a non-articulated perception that ‘democracy’ means more than just going to the ballot box every five years. This is consistent with a more ‘substantive’, as opposed to ‘procedural’ understanding of democracy.
The Lowy Report also showed that concern over the boat arrival of asylum seekers remained at around three-quarters, despite an increased arrival rate. Older people appear more concerned about boat arrivals than younger people, although the issue does resonate across generations.
Not unreasonably, China was overwhelmingly identified (76%) as key to Australia’s economy, but the US trumped it (82%) as important to Australia’s security. On this, 61% agree that China will eventually become the world’s major superpower. Related to this, most also believe that China will eventually become a military threat to Australia. But for the moment, Australians believe they can have their cake and eat it too.
The Lowy Report also surveyed perceptions on offshore processing (supported); action on climate change (more – 40% - say it is a problem and fewer – 54% - wanting to reverse the carbon tax), the Afghanistan war (61% say it is not worth fighting), WikiLeaks (58% support, down 4%) and terrorism, with 68% saying the government has struck the right balance.
Perhaps most disturbingly, though, what they survey did show was that younger people are increasingly ambivalent about democracy. Only 39% of 19-29 year olds agreed that democracy was preferable to any other form of government, and just over a quarter of all respondents agreed that non-democracy can be preferable in some circumstances.
In this, perhaps in the current domestic political environment, voters have increasingly adopted Winston Churchill’s famous dictum, that democracy is the worst form of government.
He qualified that statement, however, by adding ‘except for all the others’.
This article was first published at The Conversation on the 21st June 2013
This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report examining global estimates of violence against women. The report examines two forms of violence - intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.
The report reveals the terrifying extent of violence against women in our community. Globally, one in three women will experience an incident of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. In the most extreme cases, this violence proves fatal. Up to 38% of female homicide victims worldwide having been killed by an intimate partner, current or former.
THE community outrage at the fact Adrian Bayley was free to kill Jill Meagher is justified. But the focus of the outrage shouldn't be on the parole board for not rescinding Bayley's parole (for offending while on parole). It should be on the fact Bayley was given only 11 years' jail with a minimum of eight years for the brutal rape of five women, after having been jailed previously for rape.
That an offender could be imprisoned for as little as eight years for gratuitously and violently stripping five women of their sexual integrity highlights the catastrophic failings of our sentencing (anti)-system.
When a war does not have a defined objective that can be equated with victory, it is easy to fudge its definition of defeat. This is the case in Afghanistan.
The US' "peace with honor" in Vietnam was, by any measure, a defeat. The Vietnamese won their unified state and the US won nothing. In Iraq, also, continued waves of terrorism and a slide back into civil war was not by any measure a success, Saddam Hussein's death notwithstanding.
Now the US is proposing peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai also saying he is looking forward to negotiating with his "brothers". Whether or not there a "peace agreement" is negotiated, Afghanistan’s future is only as certain as the allied withdrawal scheduled for December next year.
Foreign troops will depart, the Afghan National Army will collapse, and Afghanistan will revert at least for a while to a bloodier and more retributive version of what it was before the allied invasion. At least some Taliban will be out for vengeance, and there will be a continued commitment to assist their Islamist brothers, be they al-Qaeda, any one of a dozen of Pakistan’s domestic Islamist terrorist groups or more than 30 Pakistani trans-national terrorist organisations.
For himself, Karzai will not remain long. No matter what assurances he might receive before the allied withdrawal, he is seen as an illegitimate, deeply corrupt and fairly brutal US puppet, which is a broad but not inaccurate summation of his political qualities.
When the Soviet Union left the "bear trap" of Afghanistan in 1989, its puppet, president Mohammad Najibullah, clung to power for three years of civil war before hiding in the UN mission headquarters for a further four years. After winning the civil war, the Taliban took Najibullah from the UN, castrated him and then dragged him behind a truck through the streets, finally hanging his corpse from a lamp post.
Najibullah also tried a process of "reconciliation". But Karzai will be keenly aware of Najibullah’s fate, and his travel agent will be lining up many departure options.
With the date of the allied withdrawal so public, the Taliban has in effect already won. It is just waiting for the clock to tick over.
As with the Soviet Union and Najibullah, the US will support the Karzai regime, at least for a while. But that assumes Afghanistan’s soldiers don’t immediately desert in the face of the obvious. At best, those identified as the Taliban’s enemies will be hoping to be able to make good an escape before the door slams shut.
Of those who do manage to flee, more than a few will end up as "irregular arrivals" in Australia. One wonders if the new minister for immigration will still be using the line that they should not be seeking asylum as there is no more war in their country, which is used for some Iraqi and Sri Lankan refugees.
For the architects of the Afganistan war, however, the withdrawal will be cloaked in something akin to "peace with honour". They will know, however, that regardless of what agreements might or, more likely might not, be reached with the Taliban, there will be no peace in Afghanistan until one side -- undoubtedly the Taliban -- has again cemented its rule over the country. There will be no "honour" in any of it.
But by then, the West’s regional security concerns in that part of the world will have locked onto Pakistan. Afghanistan is so last year; Pakistan is the focus of longer-term strategic planning.