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Australia's strategic reorientation

Australia enters 2013 reconsidering its place in a strategically shifting world. Issues close to home have stabilised and, increasingly, considerations further from Australia are being written off as a lost cause.

Australia’s peace-keeping commitment to East Timor has ended, with that country now charting an independent and, for the medium future at least, stable course. East Timor’s relations with its giant and once problematic neighbour, Indonesia, are now so positive that it has been mooted that East Timor’s defence forces might start training with Indonesia’s army.

Australia’s peace-keeping commitment to the Solomon Islands will also end this year, bringing to a close engagement in what was once referred to as the ‘arc of instability’.

A whole new world of communication: Combating the obesity crisis

During the past forty years global rates of overweight and obesity have risen dramatically. In 2010 more than 155 million children worldwide were overweight (more than one in ten) and of these approximately 30-45 million were obese, or between two and three per cent of the world’s 5-17 year-old children.

In Australia, more than 14 million people fall within the overweight or obese range, and Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and children are at particular risk of overweight and obesity.

But the answer is probably not a ban on all marketing to children. In the first instance, simply the practicalities of a blanket ban would be incredibly difficult, particularly in trying to keep up with the constantly changing promotional environment.

My School is losing

Undertaking numeracy and literacy tests at all schools around Australia (NAPLAN), and then publishing the results on the My School website, continues to rouse both defenders and critics because the proverbial report card on My School is mixed.

The bureaucrats responsible for organising NAPLAN and the groups of sixty like schools continue to use the diagnosis defence. They praise the way publication of NAPLAN results can inform diagnosis of educational problems at particular schools compared to their like schools. Poorly performing teachers can no longer hide behind the social background of their disadvantaged students to explain their poor results when they are poorer than other students from the same background.

The current Minister of Education, Peter Garret, is keen on the diagnosis defence for My School. No doubt, Christopher Pyne or any future Minister will use it too.

Hands off our aid

The message is quite simple – hands off the overseas aid budget. The Australian aid program represents the generosity of the Australian public to those living in our region or across the globe that require humanitarian assistance to improve basic living standards or support in times of emergency.
 
Domestic fiscal constraints – especially those based on political expediency – should not drive our commitment to the world’s poor. Yet, two recent decisions have done precisely that.
 

Why are we obsessed with celebrity?

We don’t have to look far to find the pulse, the plasma of celebrity, running through the arteries and veins of society. In fact, if one was able to tune one’s magical ear into café and bar conversations, mealtimes at work, playground huddles, radio broadcasts, the chatter of the social media; or if one was to hone one’s all-seeing eyes onto bedroom walls, magazine filled coffee tables, designer and perfumery shops, all manner of goods and services, and the broad output of television and cinema, then one would find celebrity sounded out and visualised large.

 

Dietary supplements offer little benefit for most people

A comprehensive review of clinical trials involving a wide range of popular dietary supplements has found that with the exception of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, there is little evidence to support their use in Western countries by the general population.

Dietary supplements are big business, with around half of the Australian population using at least one type per year; most commonly a multivitamin and mineral pill. Many people take supplements as a form of dietary insurance in case they are not meeting their nutrient needs from foods alone. Others take them as a form of health insurance – to protect against certain diseases. Some just take them out of habit.

Supplements do have a role to play in some situations. People with a diagnosed deficiency, those with malabsorption conditions, women planning pregnancy, and people with very poor diets all can benefit from specific nutrient supplementation.

Japan’s elections signal disillusionment, change.

The crushing victory by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party in the weekend’s elections has signalled that Japanese voters are worried, disillusioned and impatient for change. With Japan’s economy still in the doldrums, China’s influence growing and the country still reeling from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many Japanese want a return to when the country was an economic powerhouse and its regional and domestic security was assured.

Although ignominiously defeated just three years ago, the recycled former prime minister Shinzo Abe has led the LDP back to power on a platform of getting the economy moving, standing up to China and re-starting the country’s nuclear power program. Despite around 80 per cent of Japanese voters wanting to see a phase-out of nuclear power following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, Abe’s pro-nuclear LDP sees nuclear power as central to the economy’s revival.

A new era of consumer protection?

If the goal of product disclosure statement (PDS) is to help consumers make the most appropriate choices, we have to start with the consumer, rather than the document.

So, when we think about consumers, decision-making, and even consumer protection, we need to understand how people decide, and the processes they use to understand information.

With Assad’s days numbered, Australia follows the international pack.

In an uninspired but necessary act of ‘me too-ism’, Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s announcement that Australia now formally recognises the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian state follows the US and around 100 other countries which also understand that the Assad regime’s days are numbered. The question now is not if, but when, how, whether Bashir al-Assad senior team will be granted asylum and, if so, where.

 A regime bombing its own people, in Assad’s case with Scud missiles, phosphorous bombs, is a clear sign that it is on the edge of collapse. Anti-Assad forces control or hold significant sway over the north and east of the country, increasingly isolating Assad’s Alawite support base on the Mediterranean coast.

Anzac Day at Gallipoli-2015; Balloting- There is a better solution

GALLIPOLI 2015- BALLOTING OPTIONS
THERE IS A BETTER SOLUTION

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Mr Snowdon, on 23 September 2012, announced that there would be a ballot for those wanting to attend the ceremonies at Gallipoli in 2015. The Anzac Ceremonial Site at North Beach could hold only 10,500 people and excluding the VIPs of 500, there would be 10,000 places, 8,000 for Australians and 2,000 for New Zealanders. These people would then walk 3.4 km up to Lone Pine for the Australian national ceremony there or even further to Chunuk Bair for the New Zealand national ceremony. The reasons given were security, safety, amenity and comfort of those attending and the need to ensure ceremonies were appropriate for the occasion. It was claimed that the Governments of New Zealand and Turkey were in agreement with this announcement.

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