Why are professional development standards for new and returning federal MPs so inadequate?

by Colleen Lewis

MPs and senators, 226 in all, will soon commence proceedings in Australia’s newly elected 45th federal parliament. But how well prepared are they to undertake the arduous tasks that will confront them daily?

To address that question, a starting point might be to examine the formal education and training programs newly elected MPs are compelled to undertake to acquaint themselves with the intricacies of their role. For re-elected members, one might analyse the programs they are required to attend to further their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Unlike all professions and many occupations, it is not mandatory for MPs to take part in any education and training programs specific to their role.

I am not advocating an education bar for candidates; all Australians, regardless of education, wealth or supposed status, should be eligible to stand for election. The parliament would be more representative and perhaps more effective if diversity among MPs were greater.

Nor am I advocating that MPs should be obliged to undertake the level of education and training required by professions and most occupations before their members are able to practice. But MPs’ professional development, once elected to office, requires reform.

What is an MP’s role?

The 45th federal parliament will include many new MPs. Several others will be junior ministers, ministers or shadow ministers for the first time. Some will be taking on responsibility for a totally different portfolio or shadow portfolio.

This group of MPs, like those elected before them, have been entrusted, in their role as “legislator”, with the power to make laws applicable to all Australians. Their entrusted power includes the ability to pass laws that can deprive a person of their freedoms and subject them to life-changing economic and social policies.

But an MP’s role goes beyond legislative work. It includes other important functions, broadly classified as “representative” and “scrutiniser”.

MPs are expected to perform all three roles simultaneously and under continuous media scrutiny. They must also deal with “wicked problems” and are expected to resolve them.

Given these circumstances, is it unreasonable to expect that, once elected to office, this influential group of legislators, representatives and scrutinisers should be required to undertake education and training, including in-depth programs for new members, higher-order programs for those taking on senior positions for the first time, and continuous professional development programs for those who have occupied senior positions for some time?

The concerning reality is MPs are not compelled to attend an induction program, although virtually all do. But the induction programs for MPs and senators can present only a brief overview of what their multifaceted role entails.

Follow-up performance development opportunities, offered by both houses, are often poorly attended. Some attract the interest of fewer than 20 MPs.

MPs are busy people, but they are not alone in being time-poor. Many people experience competing demands on their limited time in multifaceted jobs. A difference between many of them and MPs is that members of professions and many occupations would not be permitted to practise unless they had first attended a comprehensive induction program that covered, in some depth, all facets of their job.

It is highly unlikely that people in other professions and occupations would be promoted to a senior position unless they had first acquired many of the skills needed to be an effective leader. Acquiring those skills includes attending formal education and training programs specific to their role.

An inadequate approach

The argument put forward by many MPs is they learn best on the job and through mentoring programs.

Learning on the job is a necessary element of performance development, but is not sufficient on its own. Nor are mentoring programs. The latter can only be as good as the mentors’ work ethic, the time they have available to devote to the mentoring and – most importantly – their ethical values.

Imagine the learning outcome if a mentor MP’s ethical values were based on the “whatever it takes“ principle. This type of attitude by some MPs accounts, in large part, for the ever-widening trust deficit between those who are given the privilege of serving the people and those who granted them that privilege.

In debating whether MPs should be formally required to undertake education and training programs, it is worth remembering that once a person takes on the role of MP they are:

Neither ‘ordinary citizens’ nor experts but simply full-time politicians.

But becoming a full-time politician does not automatically endow a newly elected MP with the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to be a competent legislator, representative and scrutiniser. Nor does being promoted to a senior political position bestow on a MP the skill-set needed to perform a demanding leadership role effectively.

Learning primarily through “osmosis” is not an option in today’s rapidly changing, knowledge-based and globalised world. Should it be for MPs?

The laissez-faire approach to enhancing the knowledge, skills and abilities of our elected representatives does not appear to be adequate, especially when you take into account that MPs constitute the supreme decision-making body in Australia’s political system.

Is it unreasonable to expect that this small group of 226 MPs be required to attend continuous performance development programs designed specifically to enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to make more informed decisions on our behalf?

Even if the answer is a resounding yes, only MPs have the power to introduce such a policy. But will they?The Conversation

Colleen Lewis, Adjunct Professor, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Paul Strangio at the Australian Senate Occasional Lecture Series


Aus-senate-occ-lecture-seriesMonash Art’s Associate Professor Paul Strangio will be giving a lecture in Canberra this week as part of the Australian Senate Occasional Lecture Series entitled “The Australian Prime Ministership–Origins and Evolution“.

In contemporary Australia the prime ministership is indisputably the most closely observed and fiercely contested office in the land, yet very little has been written about its origins and evolution. Paul Strangio’s lecture will examine the office’s pre-history in the colonial era and its rudimentary beginnings in 1901.

The lecture will also explore how the major office holders of the Commonwealth’s early decades contributed to the development of the prime-ministerial repertoire, gradually turning the office into a platform for national leadership by the middle of last century. This development fulfilled the promise first articulated at the Federation Conventions of the 1890s that the prime ministership would be ‘the blue ribbon of the highest possible ambition’ in Australian public life.

Associate Professor Paul Strangio

Paul Strangio is an Associate Professor of Politics in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

He has authored and edited numerous books on Australian political history, among them: Keeper of the Faith: A Biography of Jim Cairns (2002); Neither Power Nor Glory: 100 Years of Political Labor in Victoria, 1856–1956 (2012); and, with Paul ‘t Hart and Jim Walter, Settling the Office: The Australian Prime Ministership from Federation to Reconstruction (2016).

He is currently working on a second volume of the history of the prime ministership that is due for publication in 2017.

About the lecture

  • The Australian Prime Ministership–Origins and Evolution
    Friday 2 September, 12.15pm to 1.15pm
    Main Committee Room, Parliament House
  • Download Lecture Flyer (PDF)
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2016 Postgraduate Publication Prize


Significant investment for the performing arts at Monash University


VCE Oral Workshop for Second Language Indonesian

All students currently studying Indonesian language for the Victorian Certificate of Education are invited to apply for Monash University’s 2016 VCE Oral workshops. The workshops this year will consist of four workshops held over two days followed by a mock VCE oral exam. All sessions take place at Monash University’s Caulfield Campus. 

Aim for the workshop:

The aim of the workshop is to focus on developing skills and strategies specifically for the VCE SL Indonesian Oral Exam. The series of workshops will provide an opportunity for you to rigorously prepare yourself for the oral exam in 2016 outside of your normal classroom hours. It is also an excellent opportunity to practice with students from schools other than your own. The intensive workshops aim at increasing your confidence, improving your fluency and providing you with exam strategies to increase the probability of you obtaining your VCE Indonesian goals.

Workshop Facilitator:

NaniMs Nani Osman-Thomas is a highly qualified and experienced teacher of Indonesian both at high school and tertiary level. She has been a VCE Indonesian teacher and VCE Oral Assessor since 2000. She regularly conducts language workshops for both students and teachers of Indonesia and has a clear understanding of the concerns and needs of students preparing for their final exams.  

Workshop Schedule:




Tuesday, 20 September 2016


10am-12pm, 12:30-2:30pm

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


10am-12pm, 12:30-2:30pm

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Mock Oral Exam

Individual booking*

* A specific time slot will be allocated to each student after the first workshop. Each student will be given 15 minutes for the mock oral exam followed by 10 minutes of debriefing / feedback.

Registration and Payment

The total cost for the 2 day workshop and the mock oral exam is $350 including GST. Students who wish to attend should first register their interest on the form below. Payment should not be made until you have received confirmation of your acceptance. Details of how to make the payments will be included on your confirmation email.

Please note that places in the workshops are limited to one tutorial group and will be allocated on the basis of the date on which you register.

If you require further information regarding the content of the workshops please feel free to contact: paul.thomas@monash.edu

Registration of interest for Monash VCE Oral Workshop:2016 VCE Workshop Registration Monash 

Monash University’s Indonesian Program also offers two places to our VCE workshops free of fees to worthy candidates.

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship please apply here: Monash VCE Oral Workshop Scholarships



Criminology Professor Jude McCulloch appointed to Victoria’s Prevention of Family Violence Standing Committee

  • Reflecting and building on recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence to develop a primary prevention strategy.
  • Developing principles, directions and expectations for prevention and gender equality activities.
  • Advising on consultation required for the Primary Prevention Strategy.
  • Considering the membership and remit of any working groups regarding the vision, actions and outcomes of the Primary Prevention Strategy to be convened as appropriate.
  • Engaging with experts and prevention specialists when necessary.


Migrants from Africa bear brunt of discrimination but remain positive, survey finds

Andrew Markus, Monash University

The broad finding of the Scanlon Foundation’s latest survey of Australian attitudes remains that Australia is seen as a good country for immigrants. New arrivals are optimistic, with just 6% indicating they are “strongly dissatisfied” or “dissatisfied”. But not all findings are positive.

Among Indigenous Australian respondents, most of whom live in major cities in Victoria and New South Wales, 59% reported experience of discrimination. It was still higher for some African groups: 60% for those born in Ethiopia, 67% for Kenyan-born, 75% for Zimbabwean-born and 77% for those born in South Sudan.

The latest survey is the largest exploration of attitudes to cultural diversity and of the immigrant experience that has been conducted in Australia. The Australia@2015 survey was open for six months from September 2015 and had more than 10,000 respondents. An additional 285 participated in 51 focus group discussions in four states.

The objective of reaching such a large number of respondents was to understand sub-groups of the population. Australia@2015 was available in English and 19 languages, with 1,521 (14%) questionnaires completed in a language other than English.

The survey explored a broad range of issues, including economic fortunes, life satisfaction, trust in institutions such as the police force and the Commonwealth parliament, and experience of discrimination.

Earlier surveys by the foundation found marked differences when respondents were asked if they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity, skin colour or religion.

Analysis by country of birth found that the Australia-born report the lowest level of discrimination, in the range 10-15%, followed by overseas-born of English-speaking background. The highest levels, in the range 40-50%, were reported by overseas-born of non-English-speaking background.

Positive attitude despite discrimination

The broader range of respondents in the Australia@2015 survey identifies groups with higher levels of discrimination. South Sudanese were the largest African group represented in the 2015 survey, with 166 respondents.

Most South Sudanese are Christian and a relatively new immigrant group. The peak of arrivals was between 1996 and 2005 through the humanitarian program. Of South Sudanese survey respondents, 52% arrived between 2001 and 2005 and 31% between 2006 and 2010.

Recent migrants from Africa, including Akoc Manheim, president of the Sudanese Lost Boys Association of Australia, have had to overcome the negative attitudes they encounter. AAP/Simon Mossman

A large majority of South Sudanese, 76%, indicated they are satisfied with life in Australia, with 12% dissatisfied. A majority, 58%, also indicated that their experience of Australia is more positive than they had expected and 4% that it was more negative. A relatively high proportion, 30%, declined to answer.

Analysis of South Sudanese respondents by sub-group (gender, age, region of residence and faith) finds a large measure of consistency in the reporting of discrimination; for example, by 75% of men and 79% of women. For no other birthplace group with at least 50 respondents does experience of discrimination match these levels.

The six focus groups conducted with South Sudanese often discussed experience of discrimination. It seems differences of skin colour are a significant issue for many Australians, who have had little interaction with very dark-skinned people in the southern states.

The hurts of daily racism

Dark-skinned African immigrants are pioneers in a process of transition and adjustment in Australia. One participant observed:

At the start … when they see a black person for the first time … I guess … people are surprised. And then once the community started building up it was a norm, so you didn’t get that much behaviour.

A second person employed in the CBD commented:

They see (a) dark-skinned guy working in such a job, such a profession, it’s a surprise, it’s different. If I was in America it’s a norm, but here it’s different – it’s like, ‘Oh, you people do these type of jobs?’

Another participant, when asked if he had ever felt unwelcome, responded:

I’ve never felt welcome … White Australians … the majority … hate us.

People spoke of the lack of cultural awareness encountered, with little or no understanding that there are different African national and language groups:

Because not all of them know there’s different countries in Africa. Somebody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re from Africa, so you speak African.’

For some, the experience of life in Australia becomes almost unbearable. A woman from a West African country, resettled from a refugee camp, recalled incidents on buses, including hostile behaviour of bus drivers, injury to her mother, abuse on the street, neighbours who threw rubbish into her property, and cars parked in her unit in such a way that it was difficult to open the front door.

Several participants spoke of their resignation:

You just get mad but then we can’t do anything about it so we just, like, let it be, because it is what it is.

Others discussed life in Australia in similar terms.

Respondent: “Some parents when they experience racism they don’t want to do anything about it or say anything about it, because they think it’s normal.”

Respondent: “Yeah, they think it’s normal.”

Respondent: “I think they just adapt to it and they shouldn’t have to adapt to it, but they do.”

You can read the full Australians Today report on the Scanlon Foundation’s Australia@2015 survey here.

The Conversation

Andrew Markus, Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Offshore detention: Australians have a right to know what is done in their name

Johan Lidberg, Monash University

How did one of the world’s most-successful multicultural countries made up of refugees and immigrants end up harming children who came to us seeking protection and help? One of the answers to this question is secrecy.

Successive Australian governments, both Labor and Coalition, have dehumanised refugees and kept Australians in the dark about what really goes on in the offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The cornerstone of the strategy is to limit public access to information. The policy started by the Rudd Labor government in 2013 has been put into overdrive by the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments.

There are three pillars to the secrecy strategy:

  • outsourcing the centres to other sovereign nations;

  • outsourcing the centres’ operations to private contractors; and

  • imposing a gag on current and former detention staff through the Border Force Act.

Outsourcing detention

Australian journalists have found it very difficult, bordering on practically impossible, to obtain visas to visit Nauru. Applying for a media visa for Nauru comes with an A$8,000 fee – which is non-refundable even if the application is rejected.

The only journalists to be granted visas in the last two years filed stories that did not properly investigate or challenge the Nauruan and Australian governments’ versions of the situation for refugees.

This means the two governments directly and indirectly control who is allowed onto the island to tell the refugees’ stories of how they are treated. This leads to speculation that serves no-one – not the refugees nor the Australian government nor the public.

The second issue with outsourcing refugee processing to another country is that neither Nauru nor Papua New Guinea has Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. This means an important journalistic tool is missing when it comes to seeking information.

This, combined with the poor FOI history of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (and its predecessor), which have repeatedly blocked and delayed requests, makes obtaining raw and unspun information about offshore refugee processing a time-consuming and frustrating task.

Outsourcing to private contractors

Wilson Security is contracted to provide security in the offshore centres.

The 2010 amendments to the federal FOI Act significantly strengthened the requirement on government agencies to obtain information from a private contractor when asked to do so.

However, contracting out adds another layer of complexity to using FOI effectively. The practical consequences are longer processing times, delays and the increased possibility of the contractor claiming the information can’t be released due to commercial-in-confidence issues.

The Border Force Act disclosure offence

In July 2015, the Australian Border Force Act came into force. Its controversial disclosure offence section extended the questionable Australian tradition of limiting public servants’ right to public speech and participation in public debate.

The section effectively stops current and former staff, including those from volunteer organisations such as Save the Children, speaking out about conditions in refugee detention centres.

It is nigh-on impossible to see how this gag section can be in the public interest. But it is easy to see how it is in the government’s political interest.

What are the consequences?

The consequence of the fortress of secrecy built on these three pillars is that Australians don’t know what is being done in their name on Nauru and Manus Island.

It also means the refugees are dehumanised. Suffering children and families become numbers instead of human beings.

Every one of the nearly 1,300 refugees currently on Nauru and Manus has heartbreaking and crucial stories to tell. If Australians were allowed to hear and see those stories, the centres would have been closed a long time ago.

If offshore detention is to continue, the Australian government should:

  • stop outsourcing to private contractors. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection should run the centres to allow for proper accountability;

  • be completely transparent about the centres’ operations. Redact personal information, but publish as much as possible, including incident reports;

  • facilitate access to the centres for journalists and members of the public; and

  • scrap the gag section on detention centre staff, current and former, in the Border Force Act.

We don’t need a Senate inquiry or royal commission to figure out what needs to be done. More than enough evidence is available thanks to the Nauru files, former detention centre staff sharing their experiences, and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on children in immigration detention. The government must do the decent and right thing by the refugees and the Australian public.

The Conversation

Johan Lidberg, Senior Lecturer, School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Peace, Sex and Violence in Mindanao


Monash Chinese Studies students awarded study scholarships in language competition

China finals-Tristan and Sean
Monash students Sean Hyatt and Tristan McCarthy

Last week saw Monash Arts students win the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Language
Proficiency Competition for Foreign University Students once again. 

Two of our students, Sean Hyatt and Tristan McCarthy, took out the Champion of Oceania and the 1st Prize respectively in the grand finals of the 15th “Chinese Bridge” competition held in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, China. They have both been awarded four-year full scholarships to study in China.

Sean started learning Chinese in Monash from the introductory level upon his return from his one-year voluntary work in an orphanage for disabled children in Beijing, China. He plans to conduct his field research for his proposed honours degree studies in the same orphanage in 2017. Tristan started learning Chinese from the introductory level with our program followed by a semester long Chinese language study in Taiwan.

The prestigious “Chinese Bridge” competition is an annual event to promote Chinese language learning by non-native speakers. It has attracted the best Chinese language learners in universities all over the world. During the past month, 146 students from 108 countries gathered in Changsha to compete for the outstanding finalists, going  through a range of complex language and cultural tests which include written test, artistic performance, speech, etc.

The grand finals will be available to watch via Hunan Satellite TV channel and YouTube by September 2016.

While this is a wonderful outcome for our students, it also reflects the dedication and expertise of our Chinese language staff, Hui Xu (Sean Hyatt’s instructor) and Hailan Paulsen (Tristan McCarthy’s instructor) who helped prepare the students for this international competition.

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New books examine violent women and queer girls on screen

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Professor Sharon Pickering presents Fay Gale Lecture

Professor Sharon Pickering, was honoured on Tuesday night to present the annual Fay Gale Lecture, hosted by the Academy of Social Sciences Australia (ASSA) in conjunction with Monash University at the State Library of Victoria. Introduced by ASSA Fellow Professor Kathleen Dalyfrom Griffith University, Sharon presented her lecture on gender and border deaths in the South East Asia region titled ‘Invisible and Dying: Women crossing borders in South East Asia’ to a capacity public and academic crowd.

Showcasing her research on gender and border deaths from the region, including research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia and with irregular migrants here in Australia who transited through South East Asia, Sharon presented the evidence that women are increasingly on the move, using South East Asia as a point of transit for onward travel. With this phenomenon, they are increasingly seeking protection in larger numbers and they are key decision makers when it comes to making migration related decisions in order to provide safety or financial support for their families.

Sharon further presented her research findings on the unique vulnerabilities of women irregular migrants, some of which can put them at risk of death, including exposure to, and experiences of gender based sexual violence during their journeys. Other vulnerabilities were explained including gendered experiences of traveling by boat including traveling in the holding compartment of boats which are less hygienic and less safe, sharing of food and water rations with children, and limited abilities to swim should a capsize occur as a result of social mores from their cultural and societal backgrounds putting women at a survival disadvantage in comparison to men in such an event.

In a strong and pronounced conclusion, building on her and Associate Professor Leanne Weber’s work in establishing the Australian Border Deaths Database, Professor Pickering advocated for the need to count and account for border deaths in the South East Asia region as a means to ultimately create safer migration pathways for all migrants by using border deaths counts as a means to spark government debate and policy change towards this goal. Currently, there is only limited data on the number of irregular migrant deaths in this region collected by UNHCR with the Arakan Project and IOM and an absolute dearth in the data that does exist in regards to the number of women who have died.

As Professor Pickering noted in her conclusion,

“Heartbreakingly while there are only 2,000 confirmed deaths in 2014 and 2015 of Rhohingya fleeing Burma by boat through the Andaman Sea, it has been reliably and conservatively estimated that 1 in 12 of all people on boats died during the voyage – either from drowning, exposure or mistreatment. With official governments estimating at there have been least 200,000 departures in the region from the Bay of Bengal during this time,  this puts the likely death toll to be closer to 18,800 which is in line with most NGO estimates. We are confident that women now make up 15% departures. However we know that women are 2.5 times more likely to die in maritime incidents. This suggests the death toll of 18,800 includes closer to 7,050 women dying in the two year period.”

Professor Sharon Pickering will present her Fay Gale lecture once more in Adelaide on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 5.30pm in the The Braggs Lecture Theatre, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide. RSVPs are essential and you can do so here.

Otherwise, the Melbourne event was video recorded and we will be presenting it on the Border Crossing Observatory website soon.


Bright ideas at the Arts Delineator: encouraging start-ups and entrepreneurship


There was a real creative buzz in the room at today’s ‘Delineator’ session at Monash Arts, a 3-hour workshop facilitating start-up and entrepreneurship ideas.

Over 20 students came along to find out how they could pitch five interesting start-up concepts in just a few hours, guided by Laura Faulconer from The Generator, a Monash team set up to encourage and facilitate entrepreneurship success.

Laura got the ball rolling by sharing a few ideas she has had recently, explaining that the best ideas often come from a personal ‘point of pain’. For Laura, a recent overseas holiday  made her think about how things could be done better when she was stuck in an endless airport check-in queue with her three young children.

Robin Chacko (Arts Internships) and Laura Faulconer (The Generator)
Robin Chacko (Arts Internships) and Laura Faulconer (The Generator)

Laura said, “Ideas are a dime a dozen, its the work that goes into developing those ideas that really adds value.”

Encouraged to be fast and free with their concepts, Arts students showed that the sky was the limit for their creative ideas with everything from wireless power to high-heeled shoes that convert to low, lunchboxes with inbuilt heaters/coolers to tinder for tutoring, second-hand clothes share/hire to a real-time sign language app.

Congratulations to everyone who came along to ‘think out loud’ and participate in the Delineator.

All Monash students and staff are also encouraged to enter the Pitch Originator Start up Competition (entries due 18th August) and to check out the Motivator Lecture Series.

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Small viruses, big questions: Ethical responses to Zika and Ebola


The new Senate looms as a serious problem for a damaged Malcolm Turnbull

Nick Economou, Monash University

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal colleagues have had a very poor election. The result in the Senate only confirms just how bad the 2016 contest was for the Coalition.

One seat away from being in minority government, the returned Turnbull government can now add arguably one of the most diverse and potentially volatile senates ever elected in Australia to its list of political problems.

When the Senate finally convenes, the Coalition will hold 30 seats – nine short of the majority it would need to have legislation passed. Across the chamber will sit 26 Labor senators, nine Green senators and a further 11 crossbench senators from six different political parties.

Upper house woes

When Turnbull took over as prime minister, the government had to that point been struggling with a non-Green crossbench of nine.

So difficult had these senators become, Turnbull resorted to doing deals with the Greens on occasion to get some bills through. This included one to alter the Senate voting system to do away with party tickets. Turnbull justified this as a reform that would assist in eradicating “micro” parties.

This reform has not delivered on its promise, although Turnbull contributed to its failure by calling a double-dissolution election and, in so doing, demonstrating yet again just how poor his political judgement can be.

One wonders if Liberal strategists planning the double dissolution foresaw that not only would Pauline Hanson return to the Australian parliament, but that she would bring three fellow senators with her.

Turnbull’s upper house woes don’t stop there. There are now two more acolytes of Nick Xenophon in the Senate – and one in the lower house – and two of the micro-party senators who were the target of Turnbull’s changes to the voting system, Bob Day from Family First and David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats. They are back and presumably angry with the government for the way it treated them in the previous parliament.

With this phalanx of people from the social conservative and populist right arranged against it, the Coalition’s only alternative is to deal with the left – either Labor or the Greens.

Cynics might suggest this is an outcome that Turnbull might be comfortable with personally, but it is a fair bet the rest of the Coalition would not be so happy to deal with ideological enemies – especially on matters like climate change and same-sex marriage.

How will the government deal with it?

To conclude on the basis of this that the government might struggle to get its agenda through the Senate would be the political understatement of the year.

One way around the potential for the Senate to frustrate the government would be to try to minimise the amount of legislation going before it. It is unlikely this would appeal to Turnbull.

The alternatives to legislative minimalism are either seeking to make policy by trying to negotiate with all the different players in the upper house (and wearing the consequential compromises), or taking the Whitlamesque approach of being constantly defeated in the Senate and seeking to campaign against upper house obstructionism in the court of public opinion.

We will get an early insight into the government’s likely approach. The Constitution gives Turnbull the option of bringing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bills that triggered the double dissolution to a joint sitting of the parliament, if the Senate again rejects them.

What Turnbull does here will probably set the tone for the next three years. There are reports the government has been in dialogue already with the crossbench over the legislation – the subtext being that the ABCC bills might pass with substantial modifications to appease the concerns of the Xenophon bloc in particular.

This sort of bargaining would have to extend to all the other right-wing populists and social conservatives as well, given Labor and the Greens will surely not support these bills.

There is enormous scope for the government’s efforts to come to nothing and for the bills to be defeated at a joint sitting. This would be a very humiliating start to the new government cycle.

Each defeat in the upper house at the hands of the right-of-centre minor parties will be a humiliation of Turnbull and will undermine the impression he is trying to give that he is leading a moderate and mildly progressive government that can get things done.

Turnbull’s only recourse might be to ring up his recently acquired political ally, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, to see if his nine-person bloc might come to his aid.

This approach would incense the very large block of conservatives within the Coalition who are already angry with Turnbull for his abysmal election performance. This is the real danger for Turnbull. Senate defeats can be withstood, but humiliation at the hands of the joint partyroom could be fatal to his leadership.The Conversation

Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Explainer: who’s who on the new Senate crossbench?

Zareh Ghazarian, Monash University

The 2016 federal election has finally come to an end, with the Australian Electoral Commission declaring who will sit in the next Senate. The results suggest the Turnbull government will have to master the art of negotiation if it is to implement its policies.

New system, new Senate

As this was a double-dissolution election, the quota for election was halved, making it easier for candidates to win Senate seats.

The Senate is made up of 76 seats (12 from each state and two from each territory). The government must gain the support of at least 39 senators to pass its legislation.

The Coalition has 30 seats; Labor holds 26; there will be nine Greens. There are now 11 other crossbench senators from six different parties. The Turnbull government will therefore need the support of at least nine non-Green votes from the crossbench if Labor and the Greens oppose its legislation.

The 2016 election used a new system of voting for the Senate. The group voting ticket (GVT) was abolished, and voters were able to more directly send their preferences to their favoured candidates. This had a significant impact on the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

In 1998, when the then-nascent party enjoyed relatively high levels of support, the major parties preferenced One Nation last. But, as the Senate had changed its voting system, One Nation in 2016 was no longer dependent on preference deals to the same extent and now returns to the federal parliament.

So, who’s who on the new Senate crossbench? And what role will they play in the 45th parliament?

The Greens

The Greens lost one seat but continue to hold the largest bloc on the crossbench, with nine seats. The government may pass its legislation if it can get the Greens’ support.

This will be a challenge, however. The Greens will continue to advance a policy agenda that covers broad conservation and socially progressive aims.

While such views appear to be shared to some extent with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, there may be flashpoints on social policy in particular. This may depend on how much influence the Coalition’s conservative element has on proposed legislation.

The Greens may be a very important ally to the government, but they will not be supporting legislation that conflicts with their agenda.

Then again, the Greens will face some challenges of their own. Losing one seat and associated parliamentary resources means the party will be focusing on preparing to consolidate and expand in the Senate at the next election.

The Nick Xenophon Team

A big winner of this election is Nick Xenophon and his new political party, which claimed three Senate seats.

The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) has a mix of protectionist economic and socially progressive policies. Part of its appeal has been its focus on enhancing government accountability and promoting manufacturing in Australia.

While Xenophon himself has been vocal on these topics, as well as his long-term concern about predatory gambling, the challenge will now be to make a legislative impact in these areas. If voters get a sense that his party has been unable to fulfil its promises, they may choose to give their votes to someone else next time.

The Jacqui Lambie Network

Jacqui Lambie, who was elected in 2013 as a Palmer United Party candidate in Tasmania, also created a new party and will be returning to the Senate.

Presenting herself as a strong advocate for her state, Lambie built a high public profile by positioning herself as an anti-establishment figure.

Concerns about protecting jobs and the provision of government services dominated her campaign, as did her opposition to sharia law supposedly being imposed in Australia.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Derryn Hinch will be in the Senate representing Victoria. He has a high public profile as a controversial journalist and will advocate for reforms to a suite of law-and-order issues.

Hinch has for many years called for a public register of convicted sex offenders. His party also seeks to reform matters concerning sentencing and parole, as well as domestic violence.

The party is also in favour of voluntary euthanasia. This spread of policies will allow Hinch to transcend any sense of rigid party politics in the Senate.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation

Like the proverbial phoenix, One Nation has risen again in Australian politics.

Pauline Hanson, who became a prominent figure when she was first elected to the lower house in 1996, will lead her reinvigorated party back into the Senate after winning the third-highest primary vote in Queensland after the Liberal National Party and the Labor Party.

Presenting herself as an anti-establishment figure, Hanson won support from some sections of the electorate for her concerns about race and migration. She also promotes a broadly protectionist suite of economic policies.

The One Nation party of 2016 has also expressed greater concern about religion and climate change than it did in the 1990s.

The party famously imploded when it had just one senator from 1998 to 2004. Hanson’s challenge will be to keep a cohesive group together and avoid recreating past disunity.

Hanson has already flagged that her party’s senators are free to vote against the party when they see fit, making negotiations for the government even more complicated. It will not be able to count on the party to vote as a bloc.

The returnees

Bob Day will return to the Senate representing Family First. His party advances socially conservative policies, including a desire to ensure same-sex marriage does not become a reality in Australia.

Maintaining the idea that a nuclear family is best, as well as opposing liberal social policies, will be at the core of Family First’s focus.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm will return to pursue policies that limit government power. As a libertarian, Leyonhjelm will oscillate from being friend and foe for the government. His reported opposition to some government services may be in line with the Coalition’s. But his support for legalising same-sex marriage will be troublesome for some in the government.

The Turnbull government and the new Senate

The double-dissolution election has injected into the Senate a wider range of parties and policy demands than before. The government will need to have strong working relationships with the crossbench to have any chance of getting their support.

Policy that is seen to be ideologically driven will have little prospect of passing. Major reforms will need much careful negotiation and an acceptance that compromise will be inevitable.

The composition of the Senate means the government’s team, especially Senate leader George Brandis, will have to work extremely hard to negotiate their way through the disparate policy demands.

Turnbull, vaunted as a great communicator, will also have to be a consistent top performer if his government’s policies are to get through the Senate.The Conversation

Zareh Ghazarian, Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Study at Monash


Jihad Selfie: listening to ‘the other side’ in documentary film

Noor Huda Ismail, Monash University

One of the important pillars of Roman law for finding out the truth is audiatur et altera pars, the imperative to “listen to the other side”.

In our world today, Islamic State, the jihadist group that has brutally captured territories in Iraq and Syria, is largely viewed as being the other side.

Due to the terror of IS attacks, we often demonise those who support IS. Both Australia and Indonesia are devising tougher anti-terror laws.

Malcolm Turnbull’s government proposes to lower the age of individuals who can be charged with anti-terror laws from 16 to 14 and to allow indefinite detention of convicted terrorists. The Indonesian parliament is planning to extend punishment to people who pledge support to IS and the length of detention of terror suspects up to six months.

But the Roman principle inspired me to listen to those who are interested in joining IS. I study gender and masculinity in Indonesian terrorist fighters. I also founded an organisation that helps former combatants re-assimilate into society.

Globally, we are seeing a rise in people from different parts of the world joining IS. I wanted to understand how people, especially boys, were recruited to IS and then willingly travel and kill themselves and others in the name of religion.

Meeting Akbar

By chance, I met one of these boys who were interested in joining IS when I travelled to Turkey for a conference. At a kebab stall in Kayseri in June 2014, I bumped into 16-year-old Akbar Maulana from Aceh.

Akbar had been awarded a high school scholarship from the Turkish government to study religion at Imam Hatib Imam High School, Kayseri. Two of his friends, also from Indonesia, had joined IS. They were recruited online via social media.

I continued to follow Akbar and documented his life as he considered following in his friends’ footsteps to become an IS fighter. His story became one of the main narratives in my recently released documentary, Jihad Selfie.

Jihad Selfie Author provided

The phenomenon of recruitment to violent groups via social media is a recent trend. Indonesia has various violent jihadist groups such as Darul Islam, Jama’ah Islamiyah, Jama’ah Anshorut Tauhid, Jama’ah Anshorut Syariah and followers of convicted terrorist Aman Abdurrachman. But those who are recruited online, including Akbar’s friends, are mostly teenagers with no connection at all to these existing violent networks.

This trend may well be still developing. Many teenagers these days spend a lot of their time online on social media rather than offline. Social media then becomes the means for teenagers to find their identity.

Akbar tells me that religion is the most important thing in life. He shares with me his fascination with pictures on social media of his friend, who has joined IS, carrying an AK-47 rifle.

He suffers from ennui and wants more out of his life. In order to “exist” among their friends, some teenagers willingly do things beyond their reasonable limits.

In Akbar’s story, his close and loving relationship with his parents prevented him from joining IS.

The film’s role

Akbar and I are doing a roadshow of film screenings in Indonesia. We had screened the film to media organisations in Indonesia and a lot of different groups and organisations are requesting screenings and discussions of Jihad Selfie.

Akbar, who two years ago was weighing up being a foreign fighter, has become a spokesperson for digital literacy to his peers. Author provided

Akbar, who two years ago was weighing up being a foreign fighter, has become a spokesperson for digital literacy to his peers.

I believe Akbar’s experience and transformation, as documented in Jihad Selfie, might inspire young Indonesians to be more critical in digesting the information and visuals they get from the internet. This in itself may be a powerful way to prevent young Indonesians from being lured by IS propaganda via social media.

Radicalism is an extremely complex issue. It is influenced by various issues, ranging from the war in Syria, repressive political systems and lack of education in critical thinking, to poverty and issues of identity.

From listening to “the other side” and thus understanding Akbar’s story, I am convinced that using a security approach is not enough to counter terrorism.

Akbar’s experience shows the important role of parents in creating healthy and warm relationships that may prevent teenagers from turning to extreme ways in dealing with their search for identity.

Noor Huda Ismail, PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Symposium brings together women philosophers

Monash recently hosted the 16th Symposium of the International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPh),  the first ever IAPh symposium to be held in Australia.

Keynote speaker Professor Linda Lopez McAlister addresses the Symposium

The event was held from 7 to 10 July and the lead organisers were Associate Professor Jacqueline Broad (Monash) and Associate Professor Karen Green (Melbourne University).

More than 130 delegates from Europe, Australasia, Asia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom attended the conference. It featured streams in Asian Feminism, the History of Women in Philosophy, Theories of Knowledge, and Value Theory.

In terms of women’s participation in the profession, philosophy stands on a par with STEM fields of research, such as physics and mathematics, despite being a humanities subject.

According to one recent study, in Australia more than 70 per cent of all philosophy positions, and almost 90 per cent of professorial appointments in the discipline, are held by men.[i]

This event brought together women philosophers from around the globe to highlight their contribution to the discipline.

“The conference facilitated interactions and collaborations among women in philosophy, and made them feel as though they belonged to a strong global network, as well as a long and substantial history of participation in the discipline,” said Associate Professor Jacqueline Broad of Monash Philosophy.

To mark the Association’s 40th anniversary, the welcome address was given by one of the original founding members of the IAPH, Professor Linda Lopez McAlister.

The event was sponsored by the Ian Potter Foundation, the Australian Research Council, the Monash Faculty of Arts, and the International Association of Women Philosophers.

[i] Fiona Jenkins, ‘Epistemic Credibility and Women in Philosophy’, Australian Feminist Studies 29, no. 80 (2014), 161-70.


Children and the criminal justice system: How young is too young?

In the wake of the Don Dale incident in the Northern Territory and the announcement of a Royal Commission into the juvenile justice system in Northern Territory, the article, ‘How young is too young’, calls for a broader review of the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia.

Currently in all Australian state and territory jurisdictions the age at which a child becomes criminally responsible is set at 10 years old. Australia stands apart from many international jurisdictions that set the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12 years old or above. It is also below the recommended age set by the United Nations, which is 12 years old.

The article on The Guardian can be accessed here.

The article is part of wider research that Kate and Wendy are currently completing examining responses to children in conflict with the law. Supported by Monash and Deakin internal research funding, they are currently undertaking data collection for a research project examining the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Victoria.

Kate has previously published on the minimum age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, see ‘Protections for children before the law: An empirical analysis of the age of criminal responsibility, the abolition of doli incapax and the merits of a developmental immaturity defence in England and Wales’ (2016, Criminology and Criminal Justice).


Janis Joplin and Sharon Jones add a feminist beat to the Melbourne Film Festival

Andrea Jean Baker, Monash University

Two of the twelve music documentaries featured in the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Backbeat program this year are about iconic female blues singers: Janis Joplin and Sharon Jones.

Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015) is a posthumous look at arguably, the world’s first female rock icon while Miss Sharon Jones! (2015), the “female James Brown” is battling to keep her music alive after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2013.

The films, which had their Australian premiers at MIFF, challenge the misrepresentation and marginalisation of women in the music industry. They are also directed by award-winning women, Amy Berg and Barbara Kopple, in another industry where women struggle to get ahead.

Janis: Little Girl Blue is a nostalgic musical journey based on rare archive footage. It is laced with interviews with her younger siblings (Laura and Michael), but largely features members of her boy bands: firstly Big Brother and the Holding Company, and her later backing bands, Kozmic Blues Band, and the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

We follow Joplin’s upbringing in the small, conservative mining town of Port Arthur, Texas in the 1940s, leading to her student days at the University of Texas in the early 60s, and her debut in Austin’s burgeoning folksy blues college music scene.

Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015). Disarming Films

The images of Joplin’s involvement in the development of the San Francisco psychedelic sound during the mid-60s are a highlight of the film; while the scenes associated with her lonesome demise in Hollywood in 1970 are melancholic.

Joplin emerged as the premier blues vocalist of the 1960s. As Sheila Whiteley wrote in Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity (2000), Joplin’s recording of Little Girl Blue (1969) offered “a new delicate and compassionate insight into blueness”.

Nicknamed the Mother of the Blues, Joplin sang to her own Southern acoustic beat and inspired other female musicians, such as Sharon Jones, to combine rhythm and blues with extraordinary soul.

Miss Sharon Jones! is a medical mix tape of the 60-year-old singer’s struggle with cancer since 2013, her loyalty to her Brooklyn-based indie label, Daptone Records and life on the road with the Dap Kings, where – like Joplin – Jones was The Girl in the band.

Miss Sharon Jones! Cabin Creek Films

Jones learnt her craft as a gospel singer in church, and worked in various jobs (for example, as a prison warden), before a mid-life career break as a session backup singer for soul and funk legend, Lee Fields in 1996. Her band the Dap Kings, which formed in 2002, helped to rekindle a renaissance in funk and soul music.

Understandably, both documentaries differ in tone. Janis, Little Girl Blue laments the loss of a great talent at age 27. Joplin’s fourth (and most famous) album, Pearl, was released three months after her death from an accidental heroin overdose. It delivered a Number 1 Billboard hit with Me and Bobby McGee.

In contrast, Miss Sharon Jones! celebrates Jones as a soul survivor, who has cancer but is using music as a remedy.

Both stress that Joplin and Jones experienced marginalisation in the music industry, not only because of their gender, but also because of their appearance.

When the plain looking, slightly overweight and acne-scarred Joplin strutted her musical talent at University of Texas, she was nominated as the “Ugliest Man on campus”.

Later Joplin was criticised by feminists for exploiting her bisexuality at a time when popular culture was grappling with “the problems of image and the representation” of women. In her brief eight year career, Whitely argues, Joplin had “the balls to succeed in the brotherhood of rock”.

Miss Sharon Jones! (2015) Cabin Creek Films,

In a similar vein, Sharon Jones, who released her first record at age 40, was told she was “too old, too fat, too short, too black” to make it in the industry.

Yet both films hit high emotional notes. The highlight of Miss Sharon Jones! is watching her sixth album with the Dap Kings, Give The People What They Want, be nominated for the band’s first Grammy in the Best R&B album section.

Both these singers’ train-rattling, emotionally powerful voices became trademarks in an industry that prides itself on radicalism, yet silences woman from serious discussion and participation.


Radio RRR is hosting a talk on Monday 1 August from 4pm to 7pm at the Forum about Janis: Little Girl Blue and Miss Sharon Jones.

Miss Sharon Jones! is showing at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 12. Janis: Little Girl Blue is showing on August 13.The Conversation

Andrea Jean Baker, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


A complacent, secretive IMF failed to deal with EU crisis; what’s changed?

Remy Davison, Monash University

In a 650-page report last week, the IMF’s own Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) has castigated the Fund’s handling of the Eurozone crisis.

The IEO cited a “culture of complacency” in the IMF; a “failure to identify the build-up of vulnerabilities”; and maintaining an “unworkable strategy” for too long.

In the wake of the report, Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister during the 2015 crisis, has called for the resignation of the IMF’s Greek mission chiefs Poul Thomsen and Thomas Wieser, whom he regards as the architects of Greece’s austerity regime.

The IMF also found itself sidelined by its Troika partners in the European Union (EU): the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Commission. In a decision that was to have far-reaching consequences, EU institutional and political actors decided that there would not be Greek debt restructuring in 2009–10. By the time IMF came to the table in March 2010, the “train had already left the station,” as one former senior IMF official put it.

The message was clear: the Eurozone crisis was a European problem and EU institutions would provide the solutions. The IMF is viewed as a virtual European subsidiary in any case; since 1944, the managing director of the Fund has been a European appointment, with French technocrats forming the majority of the appointees since 1963.

There are serious charges of mismanagement in the report. The IEO states baldly that the Executive Board of the IMF never met to discuss individual case management of countries. Indeed, the Board first met in May 2010 to discuss only one country: Greece.

Instead, the Board was bypassed with the establishment of ad hoc working groups, which modelled a number of scenarios and developed contingency plans. However, the IEO notes the work of these groups was so “secret” that few within the IMF itself were aware of their existence or content of the work the did. Indeed, the IEO was unable to procure all of the reports produced by the ad hoc groups, demonstrating the lack of transparency within the Fund.

Secrets and lies

To comprehend how the IMF became a peripheral player in the Eurozone saga, it’s necessary to understand how power is distributed in the Fund.

First, the IMF has no genuine autonomy of its own; it remains an intergovernmental organisation. It is owned and run by its largest shareholders, the G5: the US, Japan, Germany, France and Britain. Together, these five countries control almost 40% of the IMF’s votes. China and India barely get a look in.

Within the IMF’s governance structure, the Executive Board, who are merely national officials, are directly answerable to the 24-person IMF Board of Governors, who are the national finance ministers of the most important member governments of the Fund. For example, Australia’s Governor is Treasurer Scott Morrison.

The IMF’s Asian and South American members are reportedly outraged that they were not informed of the secret EU-IMF deals. However, their indignation is purely synthetic; the secrecy cannot have come as any surprise to officials in Beijing and Brasilia. If you seek transparency in Brussels or Washington, you have come to the wrong address.

Second, the White House and US Treasury are veto players in the IMF. There’s an old saying about the IMF: if the US wants it to happen, it will happen. If the US opposes a measure, it won’t happen. If Washington is only slightly against it – it might happen.

Third, secrecy is king in the world’s international organisations. When the slightest perturbation threatens the stability of world markets, the reflexive and natural instinct of governments and institutions worldwide is to conduct negotiations privately, away from prying media cameras.

When Yanis Varoufakis started recording Eurogroup finance ministers’ meetings in 2015, EU ministers were justifiably peeved. So they did two things: they started green-rooming without him; and they made his position untenable, forcing him to resign.

Such secrecy is no accident; clearly the contingencies the IMF’s working groups assembled were too alarming for markets analysts, traders and debt-ratings agencies to ever be released. Or they were too politically sensitive for publication.

Such secrecy in international fora is defensible; crisis politics cannot be played out in public, as the herd instinct of markets is to react with fear, uncertainty and dread, sending shares and debt ratings plummeting. It is equally defensible, in both the corporate or public sectors, to ensure one’s budget, marketing, finance, strategy or staff meetings remain confidential. I don’t want the deliberations of my staff meetings made public; nor, I suspect, do you.

With volatile markets and systemic risk, institutional actors must proceed cautiously. While you are sleeping, the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland (the “central bankers’ bank”) occasionally undertakes silent ad hoc interventions in markets in order to avoid crisis and panic.

Grey wash

Personally, I don’t buy the IEO’s report: it’s a grey wash. It avoids placing any blame upon the IMF’s managing director (and France’s former finance minister), Christine Lagarde. It is the IMF’s attempt to reclaim influence and lost ground, as it is clear that the Fund’s subordinate role throughout the EU crisis damaged its credibility and its reputation, particularly as the Fund allowed the Europeans to dominate the policy framework. This is not surprising either, as Lagarde owed her appointment to Sarkozy and Merkel.

The IEO report decries secrecy, yet attributes no responsibility to any group or individuals within the IMF. Readers will not find any discussion of ‘France’ or ‘Germany’ in the report, except in a footnote.

Do not for a moment think that President Obama was not party to the peripheralisation of the IMF’s role in the Eurozone crisis; Obama himself chaired the 2010 G20 meeting at Cannes, where he and President Sarkozy attempted to strong-arm Angela Merkel into providing additional German firewall financing for the Eurozone. At Cannes, Obama and Sarkozy also tried to pressure the Italians, in vain, to accept an IMF €80 billion line of credit to avoid the risk of contagion stemming from Italy’s precarious mountain of sovereign debt risk.

Key EU players, including Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet argued that involvement of the IMF made the Eurozone and its institutions look weak. But it was Merkel who insisted that that the IMF partner with the ECB and the Commission to develop a joint plan for Greece.

You will also find no discussion in the IEO report of how resolving the Eurozone’s first crisis in 2010 was designed to rescue French and German banks, such as BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and the heavily-exposed German state banks.

You’ll find no mention of how the bailouts and austerity regimes in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain were designed to get banks’ money back. Or the fact that French and German bank leverage (as a percentage of GDP) were worse than any bank in any other OECD country. Worse than Lehman’s. Worse than Bear Stearns. Worse than the United States.

You will find nothing written in the IEO report about the systemic risks of contagion to the Eurozone banking system as a consequence of sovereign default if Northern European banks could not recoup their losses.

You will not find discussion of any of these issues in the IEO report because they aren’t there. However, you will find self-congratulatory tributes such as “There were instances where IMF staff shone technically, and many officials have expressed a positive assessment of the Fund’s overall contribution to crisis management.”

Let’s make no bones about this: the IEO report is designed to protect the IMF’s staffers and to criticise the EU’s role in the Eurozone crises, ironically, without naming any of the individuals who were the key decision makers.

Both the EU and the IMF were responsible for major strategic blunders. All of the EU countries sought to protect their own national banking and financial sectors, before coming to the realisation that only joint action, in conjunction with the ECB, would ensure the Eurozone would not collapse. The IMF was included, belatedly, to form the Troika, to provide a vestige of public unity. However, the reality was very different; Germany’s Bundesbank, Merkel’s Chancellery and the ECB essentially dictated the outcomes and drew up the Greek bailout program, having consulted only desultorily with the IMF.

The bottom line is that the Troika implemented their program with the connivance of Washington. Had the US Treasury or White House wished to impose an IMF program upon the EU, it could have done so. But Washington was prepared to stand back and allow the Europeans to dictate the course of action, because any hint of disunity within the Troika would have sent global markets into deeper paroxysms.

The EU’s objective was to ensure the survival of the Eurozone and the costs – including the decimated Greek economy – were secondary. To retain the integrity of the world’s second-most important reserve currency, the Europeans were prepared to do “whatever it takes”.The Conversation

Remy Davison, Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Strong Monash line-up at the Melbourne Writers Festival

Monash University academics are well represented at the Melbourne Writers Festival, a two-week celebration of Australia’s writers, readers and thinkers.

Monash University representatives can be found here.

Journalism senior lecturer Dr Nasya Bahfen will be speaking at the first session on Friday, August 26. The forum is a free event.

Details below …

Dr Nasya Bahfen Lecturer Journalismnasya-photo

Forum: The Right to Belong”  Free

Fri 26th Aug 2:30pm (pre-opening night, first session of the MWF), Deakin Edge, Fed Square. More information here

Dr Bahfen’s profile:

Dr Nasya Bahfen is a senior lecturer in the School of Media Film and Journalism at Monash University and an AFL multicultural community ambassador. She was also a community ambassador for the Asian Football Federation’s 2015 Asian Cup.

Bahfen’s research interests include the intersections between media, sport and diversity. Her academic publications have appeared in journals such as Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Australian Journalism Review, Pacific Journalism Review and Asia Pacific Media Educator.

She is currently working on an Australian Research Council Grant project on cyber-racism and community resilience, and a book on sport and social inclusion in Australia. Bahfen previously worked as a journalist at the ABC and SBS.

Tom Doig.
Tom Doig.

Tom Doig  PhD Student of Journalism, Monash University

Seminar: Mentoring $50/$40

Sat 27th Aug 2:00pm, University of Melbourne, Macmahon Ball Theatre, Old Arts


George Monbiot: How Did We Get Into This Mess? Free

Wed 31 Aug 7:45pm, Deakin Edge, Fed Square

Dr Ali Alizadeh  Lecturer Literary Studies and Creative Writing

Writing Class $22/$19

Sun 4th Sep 4:00pm, ACMI Studio 1

Professor Rita Wilson HoS School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics 

“Artistic Lives of Women” Free

Sun 28 Aug 11:30am, ACMI The Cube

Dr Melinda Harvey Lecturer Literary Studies and Creative Writing

“The Writer in the World” $22/$19

Sat 27th Aug 4:00pm, ACMI Cinema 1

Professor Leah Garrett Loti Smorgon Professor of Contemporary Jewish Culture

“Matti Friedman: A Soldier’s Story” $22/$19

Fri 2 Sep 1:00pm, ACMI Studio 1

Dr Mridula Chakraborty Deputy Director Monash Asia Institute

“Reading India” $22/$19

Sun 4th Sep 1:00pm, NGV Australia (Fed Square) Theatre

Associate Professor Kevin Foster School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

“Henry Reynolds: Unnecessary Wars” $22/$19

Sat 3rd Sep 4.00pm, ACMI Cinema 1

Angela Savage  PhD Student  Creative Writing

“Asia-Pacific Narratives” Free

Sat 3rd Sep 5:30pm, ACMI The Cube


“Barracuda: From Page to Screen” $22/$19

Sat 3rd Sep 1:00pm, Deakin Edge, Fed Square 

Rebecca Harkins-Cross  PhD Student  Creative Writing

“Brett Whiteley: Art, Life and the Other Thing” $22/$19

Sat 3rd Sep 11:30am, Deakin Edge, Fed Square 


Why we’re making no progress tackling the exploitation of migrant workers

Marie Segrave, Monash University

On Tuesday night, SBS’ Insight program aired concerns about temporary migrant labour exploitation. These issues tend to come to national attention when a particular case is exposed, but mostly they are not seen as national priorities – and, as such, the response is generally reactive rather than proactive.

The exploitation to have attracted attention most recently often involves student-visa holders, working-holiday-visa holders and 457-visa holders.

Just a little under ten years ago, many of these situations would more immediately have been framed as issues of labour trafficking. But, since then, there has been a shift away from identifying and responding to these cases as potential slavery or trafficking offences, and instead focusing on labour exploitation as an issue for the Fair Work Ombudsman to review and/or redress.

The problems with purely pursuing employers

The current focus in tackling temporary migrant labour exploitation is workplace breaches. This involves the pursuit of employers who have paid below the minimum rate or breached working conditions in other ways to achieve outcomes such as financial reparation for employees and, potentially, to fine employers.

There are a number of concerns to be raised here.

First, while it has been recommended that the Fair Work Ombudsman has no responsibility to report on migration status to the Department of Immigration, for many workers their migration status is a significant concern and obstacle to reporting exploitative conditions.

Such conditions and fears include non-payment, significant wage deduction, being forced to work in breach of visa conditions and experiencing a range of threats, intimidation and/or abuse. An example is student-visa holders being required to work for more hours than they are entitled with the threat of being fired if they don’t complete the hours.

And the threat of being reported to the department, even for those whose work status is legal, has been identified as a significant obstacle to reporting employer exploitation. There is a concern that migration status, particularly for those who are working in breach of visa conditions, is an obstacle to making contact or working with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The fear of deportation and/or the inability to find alternative employment is significant. This is the case for many reasons, including but not limited to the shame of returning home, fear of retribution from the employer, or the significant debts incurred to get to Australia.

We need to understand the vulnerabilities of workers who have been exploited, and to create a system that supports workers – regardless of their migration status. The current response is not focused on preventing exploitation but responding to it, and is not well-designed to respond to the complex issues that impact workers coming forward in the first instance.

The second concern is the distinction between cases referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman and cases referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for criminal investigation, and why there is no overlap.

The AFP currently has no process for referring a case they are dealing with to the Fair Work Ombudsman to enable the pursuit of remuneration and/or compensation. Similarly, there is no formal process for referring cases to the AFP. It is unclear why this is not happening.

In the course of my research involving interviews with stakeholders, authorities and migrant workers, it has been made clear that some of the cases related to the 7-Eleven scandal have included situations where individuals had passports confiscated, were forced to work in breach of student visa conditions and were living in accommodation controlled by their employer.

It seems none of the 7-Eleven cases raised so far have been investigated by the AFP as possible offences under the slavery or slavery-like practices legislation. Yet the cases that have come to light have clear and direct overlap with the relevant Criminal Code.

None of the cases arising out of the 7-Eleven scandal have been reported or discussed with the AFP. fridy/flickr, CC BY-NC

It’s trafficking, too

Human trafficking is tackled as an issue of criminal exploitation. This requires AFP involvement to determine whether there is a potential criminal offence and the transfer onto the government-funded, Red Cross-provided Support for Trafficking People package (if required/desired by the victim/witness). This process is solely focused on criminal matters as an outcome, in addition to welfare and support provisions for victims.

There is no automatic or supported process to enable access to remuneration or compensation. All civil matters are outside of this process.

Civil compensation in trafficking cases has been sought. But it is clear this process is piecemeal and pursued purely on a case-by-case basis.

Australia has pursued very few trafficking-related charges. This creates a vacuum of legal precedence in the area of human trafficking, reproducing a false notion that Australia remains a nation where such practices are relatively uncommon.

The absence of transparency regarding the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions decisions not to pursue trafficking cases referred to it via the AFP, other than to note the limitations of the evidence, creates a significant obstacle to understanding how best we can pursue prosecutions under these laws.

There is an opportunity to review how we respond across all forms of temporary migrant labour exploitation – regardless of the victim’s migration status – to ensure both criminal charges and civil and administrative remedies are pursued.

This will allow us to better understand the breadth of exploitation that is occurring in the dark places across many industries, and to better redress the conditions that create and sustain exploitative practices.The Conversation

Marie Segrave, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


There’s a time to put down the smartphone, seriously!

Brett Hutchins, Monash University

Fans of singer-songwriter Alicia Keys were greeted with a simple message earlier this year when they entered the Highline Ballroom, in New York, to watch her perform.

This is a phone free event.

Their smartphones were placed in a lockable pouch distributed by the consumer electronics company, Yondr. They carried the pouch with them, only opening it when they exited the venue by tapping on a metal disc located at the main door.

No mobile video or audio recording, live streaming, tweeting, status updates, texting or phone calls occurred while Keys performed on stage.

Alicia Keys performing in Australia in 2011. Walmart/Flickr, CC BY
Alicia Keys performing in Australia in 2011. Walmart/Flickr, CC BY

This arrangement met with a range of responses including open frustration, muted acceptance and enthusiastic embrace.

Yondr’s website presents an intriguing promise about the experience of phone-free space. Recalling an era before smartphones and broadband mobile services, the company promises to show people “how powerful a moment can be” once the habitual checking and constant use of smartphones is stopped.

Rather than offering connection, it says smartphones cut “people off from each other”, distracting the attention of the user and diminishing the emotional purchase of live events.

Others seek to ban the smartphone

Other artists including The Lumineers, Guns N Roses, Louis CK and Dave Chappelle, have backed Yondr’s promise by employing the pouch at their shows.

Other performers have objected openly to mobile media use by audience members. Performing in Verona, Italy, British performer Adele rebuked a woman for filming her as she sang, arguing:

Because I’m really here in real life, you can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera.

In 2014, the renowned singer-songwriter Kate Bush asked fans to leave their smartphones and tablets at home during her comeback gigs in London. She wrote on her website:

I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras.

Parallel appeals are evident in live sport. Celebrity entrepreneur and team owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban has advocated against the use of smartphones at live basketball games since 2010.

Much like his appearances on Shark Tank, Cuban’s message is delivered with characteristic bluntness:

We don’t need no stinking smartphones!

Cuban warns spectators that looking down at a mobile screen during play could mean missing:

[…] the look on the face of your child, or your date, and the everlasting memories that are created from games.

Cuban’s argument corresponds with a group of ardent fans who follow the Dutch football team, PSV Eindhoven.

The opening home game of the 2014-15 season witnessed a protest by fans against the installation of a new Wi-Fi network in the stadium. A large banner held aloft during the game made it very clear what fans thought of Wi-Fi.

The protest met with approval by a vocal subsection of fans who post in online football forums.

The live experience

The conflicted relationship between mobile use and non-use is a common dominator in these events. The power of live performances and games is built on the heightened emotions and sensory engagement generated by the collective focus of a crowd.

But some performers and audience members believe that the constant use of smartphones and tablets by other attendees erodes the quality of their focus and experience. It is a situation in which each individual’s choice possesses exponential significance, producing the overall atmosphere of a live event.

The widespread coverage given to the likes of Keys, Bush, Cuban and others says a great deal about the contested status of mobile technology use in social life.

The problem is a failure to reflect on the impact of smartphone and tablet use in particular social situations. It is necessary to think about and discuss the ways mobile media connect and disconnect people to differing degrees and in different ways.

A failure to do so risks the thoughtless prioritisation of always-on mobile connectivity to the detriment of potentially memorable social experiences. A temporary disengagement from mobile media is sometimes the preferable arrangement.

The shared event

The question of how to best integrate technical and social forms of connectivity requires an understanding of what is shared at events such as concerts and sporting fixtures.

With regard to smartphones, sharing encompasses images, footage, audio content, messages and related information (the songs played and live sport scores). The circulation of these items manifests the experiences and reactions of users, as well as a feeling of camaraderie with friends and networks.

But sitting alongside these media practices are the collective excitement, togetherness and emotions generated by crowds as they focus on a spectacle together, and the lasting memories these experiences create.

The balance between these forms of sharing in a mobile age is unpredictable and occasionally cause for visible disagreement.

We are all a part of the unfolding response to this conundrum, which demands social experience be taken as seriously as economic considerations in figuring the role of mobile devices in our lives. This is not always an easy task when faced by the seductive marketing efforts of digital technology giants such as Apple, Samsung, Google, Facebook and Twitter.

But mobile media users must contemplate how incessant sharing serves the commercial interests of social networking platforms, digital data harvesters, mobile advertisers and telecommunications carriers.

Conscientious non-users also need to pause and ask how their stance is leveraged by those seeking to protect intellectual property and minimise the circulation of content on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

Even as it sells tens of millions of iPhones each quarter, Apple has hinted at a move in this direction by registering a patent that would prohibit phone cameras from recording footage in designated areas.

The outstanding question is how much content people really need to record, produce and distribute via their smartphone before they miss witnessing or sharing something significant in their immediate environment.The Conversation

Brett Hutchins is an Associate Professor in Media Studies and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Monash University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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