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Where to for the Arab Spring??

It’s been almost eight months since the first Arab dictator, ousted President Ben Ali of Tunisia, fled the country under unprecedented popular uprisings signaling a snow-ball effect that has swept across North Africa and the Middle East like a political tsunami.

Since then, events in Egypt led to similar outcomes with the spectacular demise of President Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent initiation of his trial in Cairo. Indeed, these are tense times to be in power in the Arab world as the fear and prestige of office all but disappeared amid popular demands for political reform and genuine accountability.

Events in Libya have in the last couple of days developed to the point where the rule of maverick self-appointed doyen of Arab and African leaders, Colonel Gaddafi,  has all but collapsed relinquishing the capital Tripoli to the rebels and the political leadership of the transitional council.

Pakistan’s experience amidst debt crisis has lessons for other nations

Debt crisis is indeed a burning current issue in the whole world.   A true glimpse of this reality is provided by the ongoing violent protests against a series of fiscal austerity reforms in Greece.  The worsening debt crisis of Greece is expected to trigger a contagion of sovereign debt crises in several other European countries.
 
It is interesting to note that the nature and the economic  aftermath of the current debt crisis of Greece and 1998 debt crisis of Pakistan have remarkable similarities ─ For example, the debt-gross domestic product ratio of Pakistan as well as Greece exceeded 100% during their respective debt crises,  national external debt has been acting as a drag on the national economies of Pakistan, and Greece, and now both Greece and Pakistan desperately need fiscal consolidation as well as economic growth for resolving their respective external debt crisis.

In Search of the New 'Multiculturalism'

In discussing multiculturalism, there is always a tendency to focus on the challenges posed by increased cultural and religious diversity to social cohesion. This is especially the case in states that are supposed  to be more ‘secular’ or where religion is not expected to dominate public  life.
 
But how nation states deal with religiosity in general is not always easy to predict. In Australia, for example, Section 116 of the Australian Constitution explicitly provides that the Commonwealth shall not legislate to establish any religion, impose any religious observance or prohibit the free exercise of any religion.
 

Western Muslims and the Challenge of Integration and Intercultural Understanding

This is an extract from my keynote address at the Iftaar Dinner Function’ hosted by Deakin University and the Australian Intercultural Society at Deakin Prime, 12 August 2011

Current debates in many western countries seem to suggest that the current tension surrounding Muslims is essentially linked to the perceived incompatibility of Islam and Islamic values with values associated with liberal secular democratic states.

Are doubts about consumer confidence justified?

Consumer confidence has fallen by 8.3% to its lowest level in two years, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index.

The drop has been connected to speculation about the impact of the carbon tax, with Treasurer Wayne Swan calling on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to “stop scaring the consumers”.

Retailer David Jones last night issued a dramatic profit downgrade, saying it expects second-half profits to be down by 9% to 12%. The company blamed the slowdown of sales on factors such as offshore Internet retailers due to the high Australian dollar, fears about the carbon tax and the impact of the flood levy.

Parking Politics 101

I hope my political science colleagues in the Faculty of Arts & Education very carefully document everything that is happening in the Deakin University parking discourse (which, I hear from reliable sources, will go down into history as ‘The Great Deakin Parking Battle of 2011’).
Virtually every aspect of the issue lends itself to exquisite political analysis. It also allows for an absolutely hermetic alignment with principles of engaged student learning, life-integrated learning (let’s please move beyond the shallow ‘work-integrated learning’) and various aspects of reflexivity, both for students and staff! Over time, you would hope, even the Executive –through a process of osmosis- might actually learn a thing or two about this.

People power: is the health-care industry becoming more democratic?

The rhetoric of participation has long been the mainstay of modern health policy. But to what extent are efforts to give people a voice in health-care policy successful, or even appropriate?

The idea of participation was elevated to a global level in the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care (1978). Governments at all levels around the world now proclaim their commitment to public participation in all dimensions of the health domain.

This has led to a rich mosaic of scholarly and practical efforts towards community development and empowerment for health in the fields of health promotion and disease prevention.

Trust the market - why regulation won't stop carbon tax gouging

Trust the market – why regulation won’t stop carbon tax gouging

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Price-gouging might occur under the carbon tax regime, but market discipline will keep it in check. Flickr/dmcneil

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has announced that the government will provide the competition watchdog with almost $13 million in extra funding to tackle carbon tax-related price-gouging.

In this context, price-gouging refers to business inflating prices beyond the cost increases reasonably attributable to the tax.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s extra funding will go toward hiring a team of 20 staff dedicated to identify and investigate price-gouging.

Tightening Control

How do we interpret the recent crackdown in China?
 
Unlike most commentators who foresee a coming dark age of Chinese authoritarianism, Edward Steinfeld argues, “It would be wrong to read the current crackdown as a sign of stasis or regression.” He offers convincing evidence such as the pluralization of actors and institutions and the coexistence of “profound change and harsh repression” in China, backed by a comparative perspective.

But while I agree with his assessment, I think that his evidence, which is primarily focused on economic and social changes, is incomplete. He doesn’t delve deeply enough into the “profound change” that has also taken place in Chinese politics.

Policies, not parties or personalities, for Aceh’s future

In a short couple of months, Aceh will again go to the polls to elect a governor and vice-governor, bupatis and local representatives. The election will mark a consolidation of the democratic process in Aceh, introduced as a result of the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement.
Even though the campaign period for the elections has not yet formally started, there is great interest in who will run, what they stand for and what their chances of success might be. It is healthy that people take an active interest in the political life of their community, as the political process determines how the people of the community are to live, within the constraints imposed by their circumstances.
That the political environment in Aceh has remained more or less peaceful since 2005 represents a victory for the idea of democratic, representative government. The electoral process itself represents a victory for accountability, which is the opposite of the imposed rule that Aceh once experienced.

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