Bright futures: collaborative research opportunities through the Monash Arts Faculty

Advance your organisation’s goals and contribute towards your future success by joining with us to advance research excellence in the humanities and social sciences. Recent Australian Research Council (ARC) funding success at the Monash Arts Faculty demonstrates the excellence in collaborative research opportunities supported by our University. 

Research success by the Monash Arts Faculty

The Monash University Arts Faculty is pleased to announce a large number of successful and outstanding Australian Research Council (ARC) funding applications in 2013. As a result of these achievements, Monash Arts researchers have exciting plans to conduct research that will have a major social, cultural, economic and political impact.

ARC funding awarded within Monash Arts includes 10 successful ARC Discovery Projects, 1 Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA), 1 Future Fellowship and 2 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs). Further, with the Monash Arts Faculty as the Administering Organisation (AO), there were an additional 7 grants that were accrued in the recent ARC results.

Up by nearly 20% in it’s overall ARC success rate since the 2011-12 funding round, Monash Arts is now firmly established as a hub of research excellence in the social sciences and humanities.

Research priorities with impact at Monash

Monash Arts is firmly represented within the University’s newly established four research priority areas which aim to bring together academic excellence through cross-disciplinary research collaboration. These areas link Monash to the Australian Government’s Strategic Research Priorities.

Recent Discovery Project ARC wins under each of the four priority areas below demonstrate the success of cross-discipline collaboration at Monash in advancing research excellence. These projects are due to commence in 2014.

Liveable Places and Sustainable Environments engages our researchers in the investigation of issues surround the global challenges of climate change and creating sustainable environments and more liveable cities and communities for future generations.

  • Extratropical Cyclones and their Associated Precipitation:  Understanding, Model Evaluation, and Future ProjectionsDr Jennifer Catto

Understanding Cultures promotes understandings of past, present and future cultural and social forces, and considers new and evolving forms of global citizenship. 

Resilient and Inclusive Societies research promotes resilient and inclusive communities at home and abroad to achieve greater social, mental and physical well being for the community.

Peace Security and Borders research works to advance our understanding of the sources of conflict, violence and harm at local, regional and international levels. 

  • Preventing Mass Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Non-Conflict Countries, Prof Jacqui True
  • The Exploitation of unlawful migrant labour : crime, labour and regulationDr Marie Segrave (DECRA)

  • Rethinking the Victim: Gendered Violence in Australian Women’s WritingA/Prof Anne R Brewster (UNSW)

Join in the Monash Arts Faculty collaborative research success

Interested in partnering with us to extend the impact of what we do? 

We are seeking collaborative opportunities from industry, government and community groups who are mutually interested in supporting and contributing to the advancement of research excellence. We understand and support collaboration with stakeholders to strengthen and benefit research impact.  

Find out more:


24-hour news cycle in the spotlight for its Sydney siege coverage

While Muslim community leaders say Sydney’s Martin Place siege had nothing to do with Islam and was the act of a deluded individual, many Muslims fear a backlash. But they’ve found some comfort in messages of solidarity that have swamped social media.

However Dr Johan Lidberg, senior lecturer within the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash, says that while the siege was unfolding, the 24-hour media cycle put a lot of pressure on outlets as there was little information to impart.

Dr Lidberg as recently features on ABC Radio to speak on the matter. Listen to the show on the ABC site. 

Find out more:



FOI reform needed in Victoria amid East West Link fallout

by Johan Lidberg

The disclosure of the full business case for the East West road link in Melbourne confirmed what many had suspected – the project is a dud. The release also unequivocally shows that the Victorian Freedom of Information (FOI) system failed on its most basic task – that is, to facilitate the disclosure of information that is in the utmost public interest.

It is hard to conceive, apart from the reasons for bringing the country to war, of what could carry a higher public interest than how a government proposes to use A$5 billion in taxpayer money for a major infrastructure project. The very least you would expect as part of engaging with the public is that the government is totally open about how the money would be put to use.

The disclosure of the business case by the new Andrews government revealed a number of staggering facts, including:

  • The initial business case showed that the benefit to cost ratio was only 0.45: so, for every dollar spent, the return would be 45 cents. This was consequently massaged by the former Napthine government using a number of dubious economic forecasting methods and what was eventually released to the public in the lead-up to the election was clearly misleading.
  • The road was so expensive to build (estimated total cost $15-18 billion) that it would take 56 years to pay off. This is significantly longer than previous projects such as CityLink, eight years, and EastLink, 20 years.
  • The most extraordinary revelation in the 9000-page full business case is a note to cabinet observing that a full submission of the business case to the independent umpire Infrastructure Australia disclosing the low benefit-cost ratio “may be used as a justification for not supporting the project”.

The Victorian and Australian public clearly had a right to know these facts before the construction contracts were signed. Not disclosing these basic facts is akin to your super fund refusing to tell you how your super money is invested. You’d leave such a fund, wouldn’t you? This is exactly what the people of Victoria did in the recent election.

In the best of worlds, governments can create a win-win situation proactively disclosing information needed for the public to make informed decisions. The win-win occurs when information disclosure is used as a trust-building tool between government and the governed. Independent access to government-held information makes the public feel trusted and more engaged in the political process.

In reality, however, there is tension between the need for governments to be trusted to govern and the public’s right to know. This is where FOI laws come in.

Section 3 (1) (b) of the Victorian Freedom of Information Act 1982 states that the act’s intention is:

… creating a general right of access to information in documentary form in the possession of Ministers and agencies limited only by exceptions and exemptions necessary for the protection of essential public interests and the private and business affairs of persons in respect of whom information is collected and held by agencies.

The East West link debacle again clearly illustrates that the current FOI system in Victoria does not create this general right of access – at least not when it comes to controversial matters.

In the lead-up to the election, a number of local councils, members of the public, journalists and academic researchers lodged FOI applications. The most high-profile application was submitted by the Victorian ALP. The then-opposition spokesperson for roads, Luke Donnellan, got the same reply as the other applicants: the documents could not be released as they had been prepared for and submitted to the cabinet and hence fell under the exemption clause for current cabinet documents.

The cabinet document exemption is one of the areas in the Victorian FOI law that need re-assessment. Should a public interest test apply to whether cabinet documents are released or not?

The last Victorian government promised extensive reforms to the Victorian information access system while in opposition, but delivered very little when in government. This pattern is unfortunately far too common. Let’s hope the new Andrews government will deliver more far-reaching information access reforms.

My comparative FOI functionality research, spanning 15 years, shows that you can change the law until the end of days with little effect on the practical access to information. The legal changes need to be coupled to an FOI advocate – such as a well-resourced and vigorously independent FOI Commissioner.

There is some evidence that FOI culture can be changed. The federal Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has made some progress in this regard. Unfortunately, the OAIC has been nominated as a saving in the federal budget and will most likely be closed in 2015.

The failure of Victorian FOI to deliver access to the full business case provides the new Victorian government with a reason and window of opportunity to enact meaningful reforms.

These reforms would involve some legislative changes. But most importantly, the culture of the administration of FOI in Victoria needs to change from one of secrecy to one of facilitating access to the information that the government generates and holds on behalf of the people.

Dr Johan Lidberg is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.


Questions And Mourning After Sydney Cafe Siege

Associate Professor Pete Lentini, director of the Global Terrorism Research Center at Monash University, joined Robin Young, host of the radio show Here & Now, to discuss the siege carried out in Sydney this week and its implications for security in Australia.


Monash graduate named CEO of the year

Karl Redenbach
Karl Redenbach

Monash alumni Karl Redenbach (BA 1999, LLB 2000), currently head of a global technology company LiveTiles, has been named 2014 CEO of the Year by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

The award, announced at the AHRI annual dinner in December, recognises the CEO who has most convincingly achieved success for their business through best practice people management.

Mr Redenbach’s award highlighted his leadership style saying he “breaks the CEO mould by being accessible, inspiring and bringing an energy that moves others out of their comfort zone and into a place where they can really excel. Renowned for his generosity, community involvement and willingness to invest in his employees, Karl earns the respect of all he meets.”

After graduating from Monash, where he majored in politics and police studies, Mr Redenbach worked as a musician and publicist and led a publishing company with his brother before working as a lawyer for Insurance Australia Group.

In 2002 at the age of 25 he branched into the IT sector, co-founding technology company nSynergy. From humble beginnings in Melbourne, nSynergy soon became a world leader in developing modern, people-centric business solutions and is now an award-winning Microsoft partner, operating in 11 locations across the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.

In 2012 Mr Redenbach moved his young family to New York to tackle the US market and is now heading up a new products company that has been born from nSynergy, called LiveTiles. Since launching in October 2013, LiveTiles has been installed for some of the world’s largest brands including Nike, Siemens and Best Buy and has recently announced it is to receive $2.5 million in investment funding from cloud licensing provider, Rhipe (formerly New Lease).

On receiving the award, Mr Redenbach said he was incredibly lucky to work with an amazing team and business partner. “This award is for the entire team who show unbelievable passion every day and hold our company values in the highest regard,” Mr Redenbach said.

“Being a successful business today is not just about finding the best people, its having them work collaboratively in an agile and flexible manner.

“Our business is based on inclusion and diversity with our operations spread across China, UK, USA and Australia. Having a culture that is team orientated and collaborative across these time zones has been critical to our success.”

In 2014 Mr Redenbach accepted Monash University’s invitation to join the new Monash US Leadership Group.

Study at Monash:


Monash-Warwick links: Criminology academic’s fellowship posting

Dr Asher Flynn, a Monash academic in Criminology, has been appointed a Research Fellow in the School of Law at the University of Warwick for three years.

As part of the Fellowship, Dr Flynn will spend two months visiting the School of Law in 2015, where she will contribute to teaching, research and postgraduate development. The Fellowship will allow Asher to build on her current research project, Access to Justice: A Comparative Analysis of the Cuts to Legal Aid Across England, Wales & Victoria, co-led with Leverhulme Fellow, Professor Jackie Hodgson from the Centre for Criminal Justice at the University of Warwick.

This project contributes to increased understanding of the impacts of changes to legal aid funding and policies, and promotes a culture of human rights and access to justice for all.

More information on the project, including copies of the two Access to Justice Workshop Reports, information on the two workshops held at the University of Warwick (March 2014) and Monash University (July 2014) and publications arising from the project, can be found at the Access to Justice website.


Mad, weak and alone, but still a threat

by Greg Barton

The dark day that we have feared for so long has come. Little by little our lucky country has come to feel less safe and certain in this age of terror.

The first turning point came in the dreadful hours of the morning of October 13 2002, waking up to the reality of an awful bombing in Bali that took the lives of at least 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Twelve years on, we recoil with horror from another tragedy. This time it is of a different nature and of a different scale but still there are too many innocent lives lost.

International terrorism reached out and touched us when we were travelling away from home. Now homegrown lone wolf terrorism has struck us in our own streets and cafes. We have been warned for months that this was coming. We came to understand it was a case of “when” not “if”. But still the reality hit with a sickening thud.

This emotional response is natural, necessary and inevitable. But as we move on, what are we to make of the threats facing us? How has our world changed? Is it safe to go into the streets of Sydney or Melbourne to celebrate Christmas and New Year?

A recent report on the state of terrorism in the world, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, points out that, globally, people are 40 more times likely be killed by regular homicide than by terrorism — and Australia is vastly safer. And of course cancer, car crashes and other catastrophes are much more probable causes of grief than either homicide or terrorism. Terrorism is hardly our biggest threat by a long measure. Domestic violence and substance abuse are far greater threats.

But terrorism is the “shark at the beach”, rare and unlikely to harm us but too horrible to think about. And just as the unlikely shark attacks are real, so to are terror attacks. Regrettably, we do need to invest resources, change laws and respond to this constantly evolving threat.

But what do we make of the particular threat of lone wolf terrorism? What do we make of what happened in Sydney this week? It is easy to dismiss Man Haron Monis as simply mad and bad, damaged and dangerous. It is easy to explain his motivation and actions in terms of a man coming to the end of his tether and lashing out in desperate attempt to justify a life squandered in delusion and deception.

All of that is true but there is more that is also true.

At first, Monis looks like an outlier not fitting into the profile of a “proper terrorist”. But when we understand that Islamic State is reaching out to damaged, troubled, vulnerable men, the sinister efficacy of its message is seen more clearly. Monis was a loner, and a very recent convert to the sectarian Sunnism of IS, but men like Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Ali Baryalei struggled with similar issues and were drawn to the same promise of redemption through violent action.

The seductive appeal of the Islamic State message is “if you come and join us and fight with us or if you act alone and fight in our name, a lifetime of sin can be atoned for with one courageous act”.

THE chief end of lone wolf attacks, in IS terms, is to achieve notoriety and capture media attention — as long as the black banner of Islamic State appears in videos circulating the world, then the most pointless act of terror has meaning and the most banal terrorist finds purpose.

If we understand the appeal of the IS message, then the threat of the lone wolf terror attacks it seeks to unleash in streets and in cities around the world becomes more immediate and more understandable.

Terrorists like the Norwegian lone wolf attacker Anders Behring Breivik are typically damaged individuals driven by a mix of narcissism, self-doubt and the need for affirmation — whatever political creed they claim or religious position they appropriate. Lone wolf terrorism in particular is an ungodly, impure cocktail of motives and justifications. But that does not make it any less real or any less dangerous.

In fact the low threshold of entry, and the modest demands it makes upon those embracing it, make its allure all the more potent and seductive. And like it or not, we must acknowledge that Man Haron Monis succeeded in holding the world hostage to his horrible venture — news bulletins and websites around the world for 24 hours were dominated by what he was doing.

And for too many people the demonstration effect of this act and the success achieved by this most pathetic of actors holds strong appeal.

Others will surely copy his tactic of siege and hostage-taking. If a man as weak and ordinary as Monis could achieve this, then so could anyone.

The question now is no longer “when” but “how many” — will we see just a few sporadic attacks or will they come in waves of increasing frequency? This will remain a limited threat but the signs are that it is rising one.

Professor Greg Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.


Monash social scientists recognised

Four Monash social scientists have been recognised for their distinguished achievements and exceptional contributions by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA).

Professor Bruce Scates from the National Centre for Australian Studies, Professor Alistair Thomson from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Professor Lisa Cameron from the Monash Centre for Development Economics, and Professor Farshid Vahid from the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics were installed as new Fellows at the academy’s annual symposium and annual general meeting. Emeritus Professor John Legge AO from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies was recognised as a Jubilee Fellow, having been originally elected to the academy in 1964.

Each of these scholars has been recognised as having built a distinguished research career in one or more social science disciplines in Australia.

All have been recognised by their peers for their contributions to the field of social science research.

The ASSA promotes excellence in the social sciences in Australia and in their contribution to public policy. It coordinates the promotion of research, teaching and advice in the social sciences, promotes national and international scholarly cooperation across disciplines and sectors, comments on national needs and priorities in the social sciences, and provides advice to governments on issues of national importance.


Abbott should dump, not ‘refine’, his paid parental leave scheme

59726a555f18d10cb44e40fc702a13c2_nBy Veronica Sheen

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed over the weekend that he will use the parliamentary summer break to review his paid parental leave (PPL) scheme, which has so far proven to be a large political liability.

However, Abbott shouldn’t waste his time and taxpayers’ money on a review. His PPL idea doesn’t need reviewing. It needs scrapping.

This is not because there is no need for PPL: it is because Australia already has an effective and equitable scheme. It is quite consistent with schemes in other OECD countries, notwithstanding their enormous diversity, as the ANU’s Peter Whiteford has previously pointed out.

What’s so good about the existing scheme

The existing scheme began at the start of 2011 and so is just four years old. There are costs associated with the establishment of any program and with its break-up and replacement with something else. In the age of austerity and budgetary constraint – as we are continuously reminded– these are important considerations.

But the current PPL scheme is clearly delivering good results across a range of measures. These should be at the forefront of considerations in whether it should be replaced.

The existing PPL pays everyone the same rate: A$641 per week before tax. That adds up to the national minimum wage for a 38-hour week. It is paid for 18 weeks, which is in line with schemes in other comparable countries, according to a recent OECD report. It should be noted that the information about Australia in the report is out of date.

While the Coalition’s original PPL proposal made much of the “replacement” wage for women – which would particularly benefit middle and higher-income earners – it provided little evidence that such women are motivated by higher-level maternity leave payments in relation to the time taken off work. Also, as Whiteford points out, the “replacement wage” in other OECD countries is open to interpretation.

The existing scheme pays the same rate for low-earning women in casual and part-time work as women on incomes up to $150,000. Women working around one day a week in ten of the previous 13 months before the birth are eligible. This is a great boon for women with other children or locked into short-hours work who cannot work full-time. Women who are self-employed and not earning very much from a business are also eligible.

An important finding of the review of the current paid parental leave scheme, which was released in June, is that it has encouraged women on low incomes, in casual work and those self-employed to stay at home with their newborn babies for longer and, at the same time, encouraged them to return to work in the longer term. It has also had positive effects on employers’ retention of mothers on their return to work.

These are very desirable outcomes in terms of equitable life chances for babies and equitable treatment of mothers at a vulnerable point in their lives. The evaluation associated with the review found:

… an improvement in mothers’ and babies’ health and well-being and work-life balance particularly amongst those for whom PPL made the most difference – mothers least likely to have access to employer-funded parental leave, and those with least financial security due to precarious employment.

With so many women working in part-time casual jobs – around 25 per cent of the female workforce – including 10 per cent underemployed, the existing PPL is proving to be an effective social program.

The review indicates that there are community concerns about PPL, such as in some of the eligibility criteria. However, its report card indicates that this program has very considerable positive social impacts for Australian women and there is no justification for it to be scrapped and replaced.

What Abbott needs to focus on

As Abbott is very concerned about women’s advancement and retention in the workforce – he has the women’s portfolio, with Michaelia Cash as the minister assisting – he has many policy possibilities to consider over the summer break.

As well documented, women participate in the workforce on very different terms  than men. This results in a gender pay gap and lower retirement income. A troubling and significant gender wealth gap is also coming to light.

By any measure, PPL is just one plank in the raft of measures that contribute to women’s employment participation and economic equality. A PPL scheme facilitates women’s return to work but does nothing to help their ongoing capacity to do those jobs.

As the National Foundation for Australian Women points out, accessible and affordable child care goes hand in hand with PPL. This has actually overtaken PPL as the defining issue for women in the workforce. The question of child care is to be rolled into the review of Abbott’s PPL scheme.

Finally, there is the question of funding for Abbott’s PPL scheme. The original proposal was to be funded through a 1.5 per cent levy on around 3000 of Australia’s largest companies and to be offset by a modest company tax rate cut.  The levy and related company tax cut amount to forgone revenue that could be better used to bolster the budget, whether or not anyone believes there is a budget emergency.

There are a lot of outstanding needs across social programs generally. But to bolster women’s employment participation as Abbott so desires, some better funding for child care would be a good way to go.

Dr Veronica Sheen works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.


Spotlight on Kepri music, dance and theatre

One of Indonesia’s best kept secrets, Kepri Province’s Malay music, dance and theatre forms will be the focus of an upcoming symposium hosted by Monash University.

The Second International Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts of the Riau Islands (also know as Kepri) will see scholars from Denmark, the USA, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia present papers on all aspects of the music, dance and theatre of the islands. Kepri is an archipelago in Indonesia, located east of Sumatra along with two islands south of Singapore.

Symposium convenor Professor Margaret Kartomi from Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music said because the Kepri Province was founded as late as 2004, the secrets of its artistic culture are only now beginning to be exposed to the world.

“The beauty and distinctiveness of the arts of Java and Bali are well-known around the world; however, Indonesia’s equally beautiful and unique Malay arts from the cradle of Malay-Indonesian civilisation – the Riau Islands/Kepulauan Riau are yet to be discovered outside the province,” Professor Kartomi said.

“This will be the first time the performing and visual arts of the Riau Islands will be discussed and exposed to the public in Australia.”

Keynote speaker and historian of Southeast Asia, Professor Leonard Andaya of the University of Hawaii, will present new research on ‘The Southern Malay World’.

During the symposium the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU) and the Museum of Indonesian Arts (MIA) will present an exhibition of Indonesia’s Malay Performing and Visual Arts.

In addition, the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music will host a team of artists and scholars from Tanjung Pinang, capital of the Riau Islands.

Professor Kartomi said this would be the first visit of a team of Kepri artists and scholars to Australia and to the outside world at large.

“The visit by the Kepri artists will be an magical experience for those who attend their performances,” Professor Kartomi said.

“For nearly 200 years the main royal court of the Malay world was centred at Daik-Lingga in southwest Kepri, and today’s artists are reviving the former sultans’ nobat orchestral music, which derives from ancient Arabo-Persian models; and composers are incorporating its haunting sounds into modern digital compositions,” Professor Kartomi said.

“Some fascinating dances, including long-fingernail and betelnut offering dances, and three different forms of people’s theatre called mendu, bangsawan and makyong are still performed.

“The descendants of the second royal palace on Penyengat Island are reviving the intricate zapin dance tradition of Arab-Hadramaut origin that replaced some of the older spirit-venerating dances in the nineteenth century.”

The Second International Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts of the Riau Islands will be held from 14 – 17 January 2015 at the Music Auditorium, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University Clayton campus.

The Exhibition of Indonesia’s Malay Performing and Visual Arts, to be held in the Music Auditorium and foyer of the Performing Arts Centre (Building 68), Monash University Clayton campus, will officially be opened on Wednesday 14 January from 4 – 5pm and will be on display in the foyer till 30 January.


Sugar and spice and all things nice

Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist, from the Monash Asia Institute, was recently featured on ABC radio’s 612 Brisbane.

Health experts say adding just one gram of turmeric to breakfast could help improve the memory of people who are in the very early stages of diabetes and at risk of cognitive impairment.

Professor Wahlqvist says the finding has particular significance given that the world’s ageing population means a rising incidence of conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia.

Professor Mark Wahlqvist says early intervention could help to reduce the burden, whether by halting the disease or reducing its impact.


New Postgrad Research Area: Trans-Asian Cultural and Media Studies

A new research area has been added to the postgraduate research program within the School of Film, Media and Communication (MFJ) at Monash, ‘Trans-Asian Cultural and Media Studies’.

Currently, there are thirteen prominent scholars available for supervision both within MFJ and across Arts, with opportunity for cross-disciplinary research.

With an emphasis on transnational perspectives and cross-disciplinary approaches, the program will cover wide-ranging research topics of cultural and media studies in the contexts of diverse Asian countries/regions including Australia.

The following are major research topics (but not limited to):

  • Globalization and popular culture (TV, film, music, sports, celebrities etc.)
  • Trans-Asian cultural flows, connections and exchange
  • Cultural economy and cultural policy
  • Critical studies of soft power and nation branding
  • Digital culture
  • Communication technologies and the body
  • Media, citizenship and the public
  • Media and affect
  • Youth culture and urban culture
  • Multiculturalism, racism, nationalism
  • Diaspora, migrants and transnationalism
  • Visual culture, gender/sexuality and queer studies
  • Asian-Australian studies
  • Asia-Australia connections and interactions

Please see the detail of research interests of each faculty member at the Monash webpage:

For any inquiries and to apply, visit the MFJ post-graduate research site or email:



Monash Arts student success in GradConnection Top 100 Future Graduates Awards

Monash Arts student, Ashley Coleman-Bock, was recently listed in the top 3 Arts Graduates according to  the Grad Connection Top 100 Future Graduates Awards.

Ashley Coleman-Bock
Ashley Coleman-Bock

Grad Connection is an organisation designed to link high calibre students and graduates to businesses seeking new recruits. This year, Grad Connection began a Top 100 Award to highlight the graduates working with them. The competition culminated in a Top 100 Awards Gala Dinner to showcase graduates across Australia and celebrate their achievements, held in Sydney last week.

The selection process for the top 100 is rigorous and involves written applications, online testing and video interviewing, carried out by a number of organisations working in graduate recruitment. Ashley Coleman-Bock, a student at Monash University, ranked in the top 3 in the Arts section nation-wide.

Ashley is studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business, majoring in Management, Politics and International Studies and is due to complete her studies next year.

The Top 100 Award Gala Dinner held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Image: GradConnection
The Top 100 Awards Gala Dinner held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Image: GradConnection

In addition to this, she’s enrolled in a Diploma in Languages, specialising in Korean, and in 2010 studied Philosophy at Monash as part of the VCE Enhancement Studies program.

“To be recognised not just in the Top 100, but in the top 3 Arts graduates, is a huge honour. The process is quite long, and involves a range of interviews, psychometric tests, group tasks and individual assessments, but it was well worth the work,” Ashley said.

As this is the first year of the competition, Ashley urged fellow students and graduates to get involved in coming years. “I really recommend everyone apply for the program. It’s a great way to get recognised for your work, and build vital connections with employers,” she said.

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Politicians forget what public trust means – we must remind them

by Colleen Lewis

There cannot be a more important office or more challenging role than being a member of parliament. This is especially so for government MPs and ministers, including the newly elected Victorian ministry sworn in on Thursday. As former federal Liberal minister Fred Chaney has explained, all persons elected to parliament bring with them values, loyalties and obligations to self, family and other supporters, and their parties, but also obligations to people in their electorate and the state – not to mention personal political ambitions and the pursuit of power. Much of the time, two or more of them will be in conflict.

Cabinet ministers have to add to the mix their loyalty and confidentiality obligations. Chaney observed that most decisions of policy that MPs and cabinet ministers must make involve issues for which there are competing solutions, none perfect, which will affect members of the community differently.

Chaney advised that the guiding principle to resolve conflicts must be what is in the public interest.

Public office is a public trust

The oaths politicians take as MPs and ministers commit them to compliance with the law but give little guidance. Guidance from the law can be found in a principle of law and ethics, which states that public office is a public trust. Regrettably, that principle has been largely forgotten.

Victorian MPs and ministers are covered by two codes of conduct. However, these focus on specific issues of conflicts of interest between their personal financial interests and public duties and roles in parliament and government.

Guidance could be found in the current benchmark for codes, the Commonwealth Standards of Ministerial Ethics, initially published by former prime minister Kevin Rudd. The code begins by stating:

1.1. The ethical standards required of Ministers in Australia’s system of government reflect the fact that, as holders of public office, Ministers are entrusted with considerable privilege and wide discretionary power.

1.2. In recognition that public office is a public trust, therefore, the people of Australia are entitled to expect that, as a matter of principle, Ministers will act with due regard for integrity, fairness, accountability, responsibility and the public interest, as required by these Standards.

While expressly based on the public trust principle, it does not appear to have revived that principle in the consciousness of those in government or the community.

When we entrust people with power over our lives, that power should be exercised in our interests; that obligation must always prevail over the interests of the people given the power. This is what the law recognises as a fiduciary relationship.

It follows that when a minister is making a decision and the common good of the people requires one decision, but his or her personal or political loyalties and future require a different decision, he or she must always give priority to the common good.

An ancient principle fallen into disrepair

This is not a new principle. It goes back to Plato.

About 100 years ago, that proposition that “public office is a public trust” was regularly used in public discussion of government and parliamentarians’ actions. It is not a metaphor: it is a fundamental ethical principle and a principle of the common law of Australia.

Former High Court chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan explained:

It has long been an established legal principle that a member of Parliament holds ‘a fiduciary relation towards the public’ and ‘undertakes and has imposed upon him a public duty and a public trust’. The duties of a public trustee are not identical with the duties of a private trustee but there is an analogous limitation imposed on the conduct of the trustee in both categories. The limitation demands that all decisions and exercises of power be taken in the interests of the beneficiaries and that duty cannot be subordinated to, or qualified by, the interests of the trustee.

Sir Gerard acknowledged that:

… the fiduciary duties of political officers are often impossible to enforce judicially – the motivations for political action are often complex – but that does not negate the fiduciary nature of political duty.

Sir Gerard’s conclusion left little room for doubt about the obligations of public trust:

Power, whether legislative or executive, is reposed in members of the Parliament by the public for exercise in the interests of the public and not primarily for the interests of members or the parties to which they belong. The cry ‘whatever it takes’ is not consistent with the performance of fiduciary duty.

The courts have applied the legal principle in other areas. These include legality of contracts, common law criminal offences and the sentencing of convicted offenders whose offence involved a breach of their public trust obligations.

The courts have also applied the principle when interpreting legislation that gives discretionary statutory powers to ministers. The courts have held that such powers are “conferred as it were upon trusts”. They are to be exercised in the public interest to promote and not defeat or frustrate the objects of the legislation.

Court action can be taken to challenge the exercise of such powers relying upon the legal principle that public office is a public trust. One example is the powers held by planning ministers to intervenein planning applications.

Issue of integrity affects all policy

In the area of open and accountable government our public trustees – both elected and appointed public servants – inevitably have to deal with a conflict of interest arising from their obligation to give priority to the public interest over their personal and political interests. This is an area of policy that affects how all other policy areas are addressed.

Open and accountable government is critical to the operation of our democracy. If provided, it would also result in better government for the whole community, reduce opportunities for corruption of government and significantly help economic growth. In late 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron said:

… the best way to ensure that an economy delivers long-term success, and that success is felt by all of its people, is to have it overseen by political institutions in which everyone can share. Where governments are the servants of the people, not the masters. Where close tabs are kept on the powerful and where the powerful are forced to act in the interests of the whole people, not a narrow clique.

He acknowledged that transparency in government is not easy, that it “brings risks”. The risks are personal for our public trustees. Giving priority to the public interest by strengthening open and accountable government requires moral courage.

Probably the best-known recent failure in the government integrity system in Victoria has been the creation of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). If the creators of IBAC had been more aware of their obligations as public trustees, would the outcome have been different?

Would they have dealt with the conflict of interest they faced by including the community in the decision-making process, publishing draft legislation for discussion and involving relevant civil society groups in their deliberations? Instead, they lacked, at every critical stage, the benefit of input from the key stakeholders – the people of Victoria.

How do we all repair government?

The new Labor government made election commitments to strengthen the state’s integrity system. While their proposals, if carried out well, will make some important incremental improvements, much more could have been promised. For example, the government could replace our FOI legislation with the best-practice “Right to Know” approach of Queensland and refer the political funding of parties and candidates to the Joint Electoral Matters Committee for inquiry.

Again, did a failure to properly consider the public trust principle contribute to the shortcomings of what has been promised? If so, that can be easily rectified.

In his victory speech on election night, new Victorian premier spoke in terms that reflected the public trust principle when he identified two key objectives of his new government: serving the people and winning back their trust.

The government can win back people’s trust by demonstrating that it is serious about strengthening Victoria’s integrity system by implementing Australian best practice. There is no better way to serve the people and regain their trust than bringing them into the decision-making process on all integrity-related issues.

To change the culture to one that accepts and gives primacy to the public trust principle, it needs to become an accepted part of public discussion and expectation. Where does responsibility for this lie? The short answer is with us all: members of the community; the teaching professions; governments; parliaments and the media.

Ultimately, however, the buck stops with those who vote every four years. If we want our democracy to work as it should, we cannot afford to disengage from it. And if we continue our disengagement, we must accept ultimate responsibility for the failures of our democratic system.

Is there hope? The rise of these matters as a political issue in Victoria and at the national and international level suggest there is. Australia has made commitments under the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and through the G20 and the Open Government Partnership.

And as Victor Hugo said:

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

The public trust principle’s time is here.

Adjunct Professor Colleen Lewis works at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

Tim Smith QC was one of the authors of this article. He chairs the Accountability Round Table and is a former Supreme Court judge and former commissioner of the Australian Legal Reform Commission and Victorian Legal Reform Commission. More of his speeches and writing on this issue can be seen here.


After Hughes: why the game will never be the same

As people soul-search, rationalise and mourn the loss of a very talented and much-loved cricketer, one unpalatable fact sticks out. This was an accident waiting to happen.

Phillip Hughes’ death will change the way cricket is played.

A week ago it was all about Michael Clarke’s ‘hammies’ and poor crowds.

Before that it was the Test debacle against Pakistan, and Clarke comically accusing Steve Smith of cosying up to an opposition batsman. Smith reassured Clarke he was just having a quiet sledge and all was well in the Australian camp.

A year ago, Clarke told Jimmy Anderson to “get ready for a broken f—ing arm” at the Gabba. Clarke’s comments to the English bowler were caught by Nine’s microphones, and the country witnessed first-hand sledging the Australian way.

Players will now think twice about threatening to knock anyone’s block off – even a No. 11. Quick bowlers will think again about the bouncer angled into the batsman’s body. Maybe they will even stop bouncing tail-enders.

In coming years, the game will be delineated by Hughes’ death. There will be before Hughes and after Hughes.

Freakish or not, this accident was always on the cards. What made Hughes’ death so horrid was that we witnessed it.

We had seen it all before. The well-placed, head-high bouncer sent down to a batsman who is through the shot before the ball arrives. It hits him and, on this occasion, Hughes, Sean Abbott and we will never be the same.

Bradman, the greatest of them all, was struck by Larwood at the Oval and spent the next month visiting a Harley Street specialist. He just didn’t feel right and vowed never to be hit again.

A couple of years later, Larwood hit Woodfull over the heart and fractured Oldfield’s skull during the bodyline series. Such was the bad blood caused by bodyline it changed the way the game was played.

The Australians’ 1934 tour of England was under threat of being called off unless Lord’s gave assurances that the tactic would not be used again. The tour went ahead, but as O’Reilly, Fingleton and Dick Whitington all noted, after bodyline bowlers were reluctant to bounce batsmen.

Miller and Lindwall resurrected the bouncer after the war, and quick bowlers haven’t looked back.

By the mid-1970s the quick bowler was king. There were the Australian pair, Lillie and Thomson, and the West Indians, Roberts and Holding.

The bouncer was more lethal than ever and the game more combative. Gritty English wicket-keeper Alan Knott recalled facing Thomson in early 1975 on a bouncy Sydney track. It was the only time he had been scared on a cricket ground.

Knott was there on a late Saturday afternoon in 1976 at Old Trafford when Andy Roberts and Michael Holding unleashed a sustained bouncer attack against the ageing English openers, John Edrich and Brian Close. Close was in his forties and batted bare-headed. This was the moment you thought someone could be killed.

An English doctor, R. W. Cockshut, watched on. He expected “up to 10 deaths and 40 irreversible brain injuries” if cricket administrators did not ban the bouncer.

Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket transformed the game into a gladiatorial contest. A year after Old Trafford, Packer’s poster-boy, David Hookes, had his jaw smashed by an Andy Roberts bouncer at the Sydney Showgrounds. Hookes could have been killed.

Packer had enough sense to realise batsmen needed helmets, and they changed the game.

Batsmen survived the ’80s because of the helmet.

No era in the game’s history had seen such a talented crop of quality fast bowlers. Croft, Marshall, Garner, Walsh, Clarke, Patterson, Waqar, Imran, Hadlee, Kapil Dev and a young Curtly Ambrose come to mind. Bones were broken but no one was killed.

Careers, however, were ended. On his Test debut in 1984 English batsman Andy Lloyd was ‘sconed’ by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer. Lloyd was wearing a helmet at the time, but he still spent the next week in hospital. He never played Test cricket again.

Helmets changed the way batsmen played. Without helmets they played quick bowling off the back foot. Moving back and across the wicket gave them extra time. With helmets they moved onto the front foot and attacked.

Batsmen were still ‘sconed.’ Justin Langer’s helmet was repeatedly battered. Packer told Langer he should be indebted to him. “If it wasn’t for the crash helmet you’d be dead”, Packer declared.

Before Hughes, there had been deaths.

In 1959, 18-year-old Abdul Aziz was killed while batting for Karachi. Promising batsman-wicketkeeper Martin Bedkober was also killed in a Brisbane grade game in 1975. He was a flatmate of Jeff Thomson’s.

Neither Aziz nor Bedkober were hit in the head. Like Woodfull, they were struck near the heart. Both had pre-existing heart conditions.

Former Indian international Raman Lamba was killed in a Bangladeshi club game in 1998. Fielding in close without a helmet he was struck in the head.

Last year, South African Darryn Randall died after being struck in the temple in a club match.

Two months later, Pakistani club batsman Zulfiqar Bhatti died from a blow to the chest.

Before Hughes, there were serious injuries.

Nari Contractor had his skull fractured by West Indian fast bowler Charlie Griffith in 1962. Contractor lay in a coma for six days.

New Zealand number 11 Ewan Chatfield was revived after being struck in the head by English quick Peter Lever in 1975.

Before Hughes the signs were there. Earlier this month, New South Wales batsman Ben Rohrer was struck in the head at the MCG. As he stated last week in the Sydney Morning Herald, he’s “still struggling.”

A week after Rohrer, Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad had his skull fractured in the First Test against the Kiwis. Like Hughes he was through his shot. Unlike Hughes, he was struck on the helmet.

Since Hughes there has been another death. Last Saturday, the Israeli umpire and former national captain Hillel Oscar was killed after being struck in the jaw by a ball in a club game in Ashdod. His is the fourth cricketing death in the last 18 months.

There’s probably enough ‘freakish’ accidents now to provide reasons why Hughes died. A cricket ball hitting certain unprotected parts of the head or body has the potential to kill.

But who cares about reasons at this stage?

Hughes’ death is just too raw, sudden and shocking. It’s etched on the faces of the players, officials and journalists who knew and admired him.

Throughout this week Michael Clarke has been admirable. He became the captain we needed him to be.

Never has an Australian captain been called upon to do what he did this week. In the truest sense, he was and is Hughes’ mate. Like a mate, he stayed with him till the end.

As Gideon Haigh so eloquently put it: “Cricket was seen at its best, in the shadow of its worst.”

But you can tell by Clarke’s face that he and the game will never be the same after Hughes.

Dr Tom Heenan teaches sport at Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies.




Literary researcher acknowledged

A leading scholar has been recognised for her work in literary studies with election to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Monash University’s Professor Sue Kossew, from the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, has joined 18 other newly elected Fellows announced at the Academy’s recent annual general meeting.

The aim of the Academy is to advance knowledge of the humanities in Australia and election as a Fellow is one of the highest honours available for achievement in the humanities in Australia. Fellows are elected by their peers in recognition of the excellence and impact of their scholarship.

Professor Kossew said she was very honoured to have been elected to the Academy.

“It’s a great privilege to join the ranks of humanities scholars whose research has been recognised in this way,” Professor Kossew said.

“Monash and the Arts Faculty have provided a most supportive research environment.”

Through her election as a Fellow, Professor Kossew has been recognised as a leading expert in the fields of post-colonial, transnational and comparative literary studies, both in Australia and internationally.

Her book, Pen and Power: A Post-colonial Reading of J M Coetzee and André Brink (1996), was one of the first post-colonial studies of these writers and remains highly cited. She has pioneered the comparative study of Australian and South African literatures and cultures and is internationally regarded for her extensive work on women writers including her book, Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction (2004).

Professor Kossew is currently working on her ARC Discovery Grant, ‘Rethinking the Victim: Gendered Violence in Australian Women’s Writing’, with Associate Professor Anne Brewster from University of NSW. She is also part of a team of German and Australian scholars working on an interdisciplinary research project, ‘Unfinished Business: Apology Cultures in the Asia-Pacific’ funded by the Arts Faculty.


Victorian election: Labor triumph or Coalition disaster – or neither?

by Nick Economou

After Daniel Andrews and Labor’s decisive victory in the Victorian state election at the weekend, there has been – not unexpectedly – a welter of post-election opinion trying to account for the rather unusual outcome in which a government was tipped from office after only one term.

In these analyses, the federal government has loomed large as a target. This suits Labor, which hopes to replicate the Victorian outcome at the next federal contest. But it also suits the Victorian Liberals, who would rather blame their New South Wales-based federal counterparts for this spectacular failure.

With the exception of the seat of Shepparton – where Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s insensitive comments about workers at the SPC Ardmona food processing plant clearly helped re-align former National voters to the independent candidate – it is doubtful that the Victorian outcome was profoundly influenced by Abbott and his federal colleagues. Opinion polling showed that the Victorian coalition government was losing support from the moment it came to office in 2010 and this trend did not alter.

The causes of the result were essentially Victorian. The Liberal government lost its first leader, Ted Baillieu, amid intrigues about a leadership challenge. Into the breach stepped the avuncular but not particularly inspiring Denis Napthine.

Far from solving the internal tensions, Baillieu’s departure seemed to indicate that the rogue Liberal-turned-independent member for the marginal seat of Frankston, Geoff Shaw, had a taste for upsetting the operation of his (now former) party and he was prepared to go on with it.

Angry about being pursued for allegedly misusing parliamentary entitlements, Shaw proceeded to pursue his former Liberal comrades in retaliation. On at least two occasions he threatened to bring down the government. Shaw was able to add the scalps of lower house speaker Ken Smith and corrective services minister Andrew McIntosh – both forced to resign – to that of Baillieu.

With friends like this, the Liberal Party hardly needed enemies.

Policy challenges

The Liberal and National parties now have four years to reflect on their lost opportunity. Labor returns to government with a narrow majority and possibly facing an upper house in which the balance of power will be held by minor parties of the left (especially the Greens) and populist and socially conservative parties of the right.

The policy themes discussed during the campaign were standard Labor promises. This included putting more resources into the public sector and trying to alleviate the industrial hostility in theemergency services sector left behind by the Napthine government.

Arguably the most contentious matter to arise from the campaign was the question of transport policy. Both sides committed themselves to infrastructure projects. The major point of difference, however, was over the proposed East West Link between the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways by way of a tunnel to be constructed under the inner-city suburbs of Collingwood and Parkville.

These suburbs are part of the state seat of Melbourne – the epicentre of concentrated support for the Greens. That may have led to the formerly Labor stronghold potentially being lost.

Alert to the electoral problem and anxious to attack the Coalition for the way it approached building the tunnel, Labor changed its policy from initially saying that it would honour any construction contract entered in to by the Coalition to instead taking a “no tunnel” position. This was a high-risk strategy for Labor. The policy shift was roundly condemned by business interests and at least one of the state’s two daily newspapers as irresponsible and a poor signal to send to investors.

The election result, however, vindicated Labor’s strategy. Andrews can at least expect that the parliament – including the upper house, with what might be a phalanx of Greens – will support him in any legislative exercise to extricate Victoria from whatever contracts the former government signed.

A complex upper house

The make-up of the Legislative Council will take some time to determine, but the key feature of the Victorian upper house election was that it replicated the voting behaviour of last year’s Senate election.

Both major parties have lost ground to the minor parties of the left and right. The re-alignment of former Labor voters to the Greens continued in this election. It seems that the Sex Party also took votes away. The Coalition has lost significant support in rural districts to the plethora of socially conservative and right-wing populist parties.

These parties will have the balance of power in the upper house, but this may not really matter to Labor as it has a lower house majority. The removal of the Legislative Council’s ability to block supply was one of the main consequences of the reform of the Victorian constitution in 2003. To become law, an appropriation bill need only pass the Legislative Assembly.

Even on other legislative matters, the new government has some constitutional tools at its disposal to try to get its way, although negotiation and bargaining will still be the order of the day. After Andrews, the next most important person in the government could well be Gavin Jennings, who will lead the government in the Legislative Council and will be the negotiator-in-chief.

Labor is at the beginning of a guaranteed four-year term that can’t be disrupted by external forces. Andrews and his colleagues have the chance to demonstrate unity, discipline and functionality to a Victorian electorate whose swinging voters have shown that they value this above promises, circuses and vilifying opponents.

The Liberals, meanwhile, will have to undertake the painful task of rejuvenation. The National Party needs to re-connect with its constituents, lest the oft-made claim that Victoria really is something of a naturally Labor state proves to be true.

Dr Nick Economou is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Jazz legend inspires student’s musical odyssey

Jazz students from Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music have had the experience of a lifetime, travelling to the Monash University Prato Centre in Italy to perform and record with legendary jazz trumpeter, Enrico Rava.

The result is The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava, recorded over three weeks and released on Jazzhead.

The album is the latest in a long line of recordings released as part of the Monash Sessions project, a recording initiative developed by Head of School, Associate Professor Rob Burke and record company Jazzhead.

Associate Professor Burke said Mr Rava’s collaboration with students and staff was testament to the exceptional quality of practice at the School of Music, which continues to set new standards in jazz performance.

“We take immense pride in the fact that our students are performing with artists such as Enrico. It is an absolute honour,” Associate Professor Burke said.

Mr Rava has released over 50 albums throughout his career and performed with greats including Gil Evans, Cecil Taylor, Joe Henderson, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, and Dave Douglas.

Along with Associate Professor Burke on saxophone, The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava features fellow Monash staff Professor Paul Grabowsky (piano), Mirko Guerrini (saxophones) and Stephen Magnusson (guitar) as well as students Josh Kelly (alto), Paul Cornelius (tenor), Stephen Byth (tenor), pianists Daniel Mougerman and Joel Trigg, bassists Josh Manusama and Hiroki Hoshino and drummers Rob Mercer, Cameron Sexton and Zeke Ruckman.

Mr Rava travelled to Australia for the first time and while in Melbourne, collaborated with staff and students for the recent album launch and gave a series of performance workshops at the School of Music.

Previous Monash Session recordings have showcased the talent of the staff and students from the School of Music alongside performers Vince Jones, George Garzone, George Lewis and Hermeto Pascoal.


Public lecture: Can morality be manipulated?

A world leader in practical ethics will discuss human moral limitations and their impact on some of the greatest problems of the 21st century at a free Monash event next week.

Guest speaker Professor Julian Savulescu, will argue that climate change, terrorism and global poverty are the result of limitations in human decision-making at a public lecture on 10 December from 6-8pm at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

Professor Savulescu said our success in learning to manipulate the world around us has left us facing two major threats – climate change and war.

“Modern technology provides us with many means to cause our downfall, and our natural moral psychology does not provide us with the means to prevent it. My talk will explore whether moral enhancement of humankind is necessary for there to be a way out of this predicament,” Professor Savulescu said.

“Although the development and application of drugs, genetic modifications, or devices is risky – it is after all humans in their current morally-inept state who must apply them – our present situation is so desperate that this course of action must be investigated.”

The lecture will conclude with a Q&A discussion between Professor Savulescu, the Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University, and ABC Online Religion and Ethics Editor, Scott Stephens. The discussion will be broadcast at a later date on ABC RN’s Big Ideas program.

The audience will also have the opportunity to ask Professor Savulescu why he believes we should use pills, brain stimulation and other brain interventions to alter our human moral limitations to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Event organiser, Dr Adrian Carter from the School of Psychological Sciences and  Monash Biomedical Imaging said advances in neurosciences are set to transform our understanding of human cognition and behaviour.

“We believe this is something that’s of interest to everyone, not just scientists and researchers. I’ve no doubt Professor Savulescu’s talk will inspire, interest and engage – whether you agree with him or not, this is set to be an unmissable event,” Dr Carter said.

The free public lecture is part of the inaugural Neuroethics Down Under 2014: Neuroscience and Society in the 21st century Symposium on 10-11 December organised by Monash University, Neuroethics Australia, the ARC Centre for Integrative Brain Function, Club Melbourne and ABC RN.

The symposium brings together leading Australian and international researcher and practitioners from psychology, neurosciences, psychiatry, neurology, philosophy, ethics, law and the social sciences. The symposium is aimed at all academics, researchers, clinicians, health care providers, and policy makers interested in the promise and pitfalls of neuroscience for society.

Professor Julian Savulescu holds the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, University of Oxford and is Director of both the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. He is the author of over 250 publications and has given over 120 international presentations. His book, co-authored with Ingmar Persson, Unfit for the Future: The needs for Moral enhancement, was published in paperback by OUP in July this year.

Manipulating morality: using pills, drugs and brain stimulation to solve social challenges in the 21st century is on 10 December 2014, 6-8pm at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Convention Place, South Wharf. The event is free but registration is required as seats are strictly limited. To book your place visit Event Brite.


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From intern to “in government”: Premier-elect a former Monash Politics student

Premier-Elect Daniel Andrews
Premier-Elect Daniel Andrews

Victoria’s Premier-elect, Daniel Andrews, is yet another graduate of the Monash Politics program to be elected to a leadership role. Andrews completed a Politics major as part of the Bachelor of Arts at Monash, during which time he also benefited from our partnership with the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Scheme, undertaking  an internship at the Victorian parliament as part of his studies.

The Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program offers students the unique opportunity to undertake an internship with a member of the Parliament of Victoria during their third year of studies. It provides students with real life experience of public policy research and writing, as well as first-hand exposure to the operation of the parliamentary system.

The Premier-elect undertook his Victorian parliamentary internship in 1994 while studying at Monash, completing his internship report on local government reform. He was elected to the legislative assembly in 2002.

Daniel Andrews’ involvement with the internship program has been ongoing, speaking with more recent intern intakes on induction days.

The internship program is marking its 25th anniversary next year and the Parliament of Victoria will be celebrating this with an event held in the second half of next year.

Organisers are looking forward to the prospect of involving Daniel Andrews in this event as we again recognise the success of Monash Politics graduates and the outcomes of the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program.

With more updates on the election results, comes the news that two other former Monash Victorian Parliamentary interns are entering the Parliament of Victoria. They are; Nick Staikos, the newly elected MLA for Bentleigh, who did the internship in 2007 and Philip Dalidakis, newly elected MLC in the Southern Metropolitan region, who did the internship in 1997. 

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Promises, promises, but will Labor keep them?

By Colleen Lewis

Congratulations to the Australian Labor Party led by Premier-elect Daniel Andrews for being granted the particular privilege of governing for all Victorians until November 2018. Accompanying this privilege is a “public duty – public trust” principle that obliges Andrews and his team to exercise the powers entrusted to them for the benefit of the Victorian community and not for personal or party interests.

The incoming government attained the majority of voters’ confidence, and needs to be given the opportunity to get on with the job, provided of course, that all promises made to win peoples’ votes are honoured.

Keeping promises is particularly important, as the incoming government has attained power in an environment that is hostile to members of parliament and governments, regardless of their political affiliation. There are several reasons for this including: MPs evading legitimate, reasoned questions from the media; the continual substitution of spin for truth; the never-ending blaming of the other side of politics for all ills that confront a government; broken promises; the degrading state of our Parliament’s Question Time, which overwhelmingly resembles immature children squabbling rather than adults giving appropriate explanations; and the refusal by successive governments to deliver effective accountability and transparency to the people of Victoria.

The Victorian government of 2014-18 is in a position to play an influential role in reducing community hostility and distrust towards MPs and the governments they form. An obvious first step toward achieving this outcome is honouring the commitments made to improve this state’s integrity regime. After all, if you cannot rely on a government to keep its word on policies that relate to integrity, how can you possibly trust it on any other public policy matter?

The ALP promised that, should it win government, it would lower IBAC’s investigatory threshold, which for the past few years has made a mockery of the notion that Victoria has an effective anti-corruption body. It also promised to include misconduct in public office in the list of relevant offences that IBAC investigates and to remedy jurisdictional impediments between IBAC and Victoria’s other integrity bodies.

In terms of Freedom of Information, the promised name change from Information Commissioner to the Office of the Public Access Counsellor (OPAC) indicates a change in attitude that will respect the public’s “right to know”. Other promises include giving OPAC the power to review claims of Cabinet-in-Confidence and in relation to decisions made by ministers and departmental and agency heads. OPAC will also be granted the capacity to establish enforceable standards for FOI officers at the department level, response times will be lowered from 45 to 30 days and the time an agency has to consider an OPAC decision will be reduced from 60 to 14 days.

Commitments have also been made to significantly improve the Auditor-General’s effectiveness. His office will be given the ability to “follow the dollar” in respect of public-private partnerships and government outsourcing contracts and these powers will be unfettered by the executive and parliament.  Other promises to enhance the effectiveness and independence of the Auditor-General have been given.

The government also pledged to create new standards for government advertising and importantly to reform parliamentary procedures.

Regrettably, its promises in relation to political donations are inadequate. Nevertheless, the Andrews government can rectify this unacceptable situation by announcing very soon a detailed policy that restricts the category of organisations/ people who can donate to political parties, lowers considerably the amount of money any organisation/person can donate and, of course, implements an immediate and continuous system that publicly declares all political donations within 24 hours of receiving them. It also needs to pledge to make public the attendance lists of all people/businesses/groups who pay exorbitant amounts of money to attend functions with cabinet and shadow cabinet members and other influential MPs.

Andrews has said that the first piece of legislation to go before the Parliament will focus on job creation. The bills that immediately follow should target promises made to strengthen our totally inadequate integrity system. If for genuine, well-explained and practical reasons this is impossible, then all integrity-related legislation should be put before the parliament by mid 2015 at the very latest.

Restoring respect for and trust in MPs is not something MPs can do alone. In order to influence politicians’ conduct and that of political parties, the community needs to engage with its elected representatives a lot more and not just at election time, and not simply complain.

For any relationship to work, both parties need to contribute in a continuous, constructive manner. People should communicate with their MPs, write to ministers and keep on writing until they receive a reasoned, well-argued reply to the matters they raise. When parliamentary committees and reviews call for submissions, community members should respond.  Submissions do not have to be long and detailed. It is what is said that is important not the number of words it takes to say it.

If the community wants to change the worrying state of politics in Victoria (and federally) it needs to be part of the change process. If it wants to trust those who represent it, and I believe it does, then the community needs to be the means that will achieve that end.

Adjunct Professor Colleen Lewis works at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Age.


Register now to attend the Oxfam-Monash Innovators pitch night

Oxfam-Monash Innovators is a unique initiative of the Oxfam-Monash Partnership, designed to mobilise the ideas and creativity of young people to generate positive social change.

Monash students in the 2014 Innovators program will be developing and pitching a range of exciting ideas to bring new life to the work of Oxfam Trading and Oxfam Unwrapped. The best of these ideas, as selected by a panel of experts, will be taken on for further development and implementation at Oxfam in 2015, supported by funding from the Oxfam-Monash Partnership. 

On the 11th of December, students will pitch their original concepts for the chance to see their ideas brought to life. We invite you to be a part of this inspiring evening, to see some of the bright ideas the next generation has to offer, and to hear a keynote presentation from Julian O’Shea (Director, Engineer Without Borders Institute) on how creative approaches to student engagement can reinvigorate the work of the international development sector. You’ll also get to hear about the Sustain Me mobile app – one of the fantastic projects brought to life by last year’s student Innovators.

The event will be a great opportunity to witness and explore how alternative academic opportunities such as the Innovators program can enrich and expand the university experience of Monash students, while contributing in exciting ways to real social change. For more information and to RSVP, head to the eventbrite site and book a seat. Spaces are limited, so get in quick!

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Monash Journalism student wins Sir Keith Murdoch Scholarship

Monash University journalism student Alana Mitchelson has won the Sir Keith Murdoch Journalism Scholarship, a three-month paid internship at the Herald Sun.

The scholarship commemorates the contribution of Sir Keith’s journalism to changing the course of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

Alana will commence her scholarship from December 2014 to February 2015 and will work on the Herald Sun’s Gallipoli centenary coverage.

Alana wrote an 800-word news story on the 1915 Gallipoli landing, which successfully fulfilled the scholarship’s requirements.

“I found the application process itself a hugely rewarding experience and enjoyed reading through old newspapers as well as personal diary accounts to better authenticise my contemporary take of the Gallipoli landing,” Alana said.

“I often felt it was difficult to do the piece justice as I felt so far removed from the horrific realities faced by those young Australian men in 1915.”

Alana said she had not previously been aware of Sir Keith Murdoch’s key influence in changing the course of the Gallipoli campaign.

“I hope this scholarship will draw more awareness to the contents of Murdoch’s letter and just how crucial it was for his honest account to bypass the censor,” she said.

Alana said her three-month scholarship was an amazing opportunity and that it was “nice to have my work recognised on such a level”.

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Political rhythms of modern Victoria favour Labor

By Paul Strangio

Saturday’s election result confirms that among the Australian states Victoria moves to the beat of its own political drum. More specifically, it affords further proof that the political rhythms of modern Victoria favour the Labor Party.

The outcomes of electoral contests over an extended period emphatically illustrate this point. In the 13 federal elections since 1980, the ALP has won the two-party preferred vote in Victoria on 11 occasions. Moreover, by the time of the next state election in November 2018, Labor will have presided over Spring Street for nearly three quarters of the previous four decades. Whereas for most of last century Labor governments were exotic creatures in this state, they’re now the natural order.

Some will protest that the idea of a Labor hegemony in modern Victoria is meaningless because there’s little to distinguish the major parties: they are merely interchangeable political management teams—one side sporting red ties, the other blue. Yes, there has been convergence between Labor and Liberal, but evidence suggests that in the minds of electors they still conjure up different images. For example, voters almost invariably nominate Labor as better at managing social policy issues like health and education whereas the Liberals are regarded as more reliable at handling budget finances. Nor should we fail to observe that News Limited still discerns a difference between the parties: the Herald Sun threw everything but the veritable kitchen sink at Daniel Andrews, only to ultimately expose the waning influence of the old media in a campaign in which Labor prioritised on the ground community engagement in key electorates.

Labor is entitled to feel chuffed at its feat of regaining office in a single term and achieving a primary vote better than the ALP has recorded in the past ten consecutive state and federal elections held across Australia. Yet the lesson of the past four years in Victorian politics and, indeed, nationally ought temper its celebrations. When Ted Ballieu fell on his sword in March 2013 after little more than two years as premier, I wrote in the Age that the strongest impression created by his deposition and the simultaneous tumult in the federal arena was of ‘a politics on speed. Governments and leaders appear to be operating in a compressed time cycle in which rather than follow the more familiar trajectory of honeymoon and consolidation and eventual decay they prematurely age and precipitously unravel’.

That Ballieu’s successor, Denis Napthine, has now been despatched by voters reinforces that observation. Arguably linked to the phenomenon of a hyper-paced society, the contemporary electorate is impatient and unforgiving. Voters are quick to pass negative judgement on governments and leaders and having formed an unfavourable view are hard to dissuade otherwise. They can also exploit the ubiquitous opinion polls as a metaphorical wrack on which to torment under-performing incumbents. This all suggests Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s fourth premier in as many years, cannot expect to be granted slack from the public: Labor are on notice to deliver right from the start.

For the Coalition in Victoria there is no silver lining to the result. Despite only scraping into office four years ago, the reasonable expectation was that it would proceed to consolidate its position at the next election (especially in regional areas where Labor emerged largely unscathed from its 2010 defeat). Instead, over the course of two elections the Coalition has resembled the Grand Old Duke of York: they marched up the hill and down the other side to become the first single-term government in Victoria since 1955. That historical reference point was routinely invoked during the campaign, but its context seldom explained—that one-term Labor government was wrecked by the party’s devastating split over anti-communism and Catholicism. It’s unenviable historical company.

What went wrong? First was the Coalition’s early sluggishness under the retiring Baillieu in a state straining for services: once settled that reputation for inertia was difficult to budge. Next came the 18-month circus surrounding Liberal-turned-independent Geoff Shaw that leached the government’s authority. Third was the federal Coalition’s unpopularity. A state breakdown of national polling figures show Victoria has responded most antagonistically to the Abbott Government’s budget measures. More generally, Tony Abbott’s muscular conservatism leaves socially progressive Victoria cold.

That temperament is something Victoria’s Liberals would be prudent to remember as they regroup. The party has also been bedevilled recently by tensions between moderates and aggressive conservative elements, with some of the latter defined by their Christian mission to wind back the 2008 legalisation of abortion. A danger is that unleashed from the constraints of government those conservatives will grow more assertive in an effort to recreate the Liberals in their own ideological image. Such a development would propel the party further out of sympathy with much of the Victorian community.

The other historic note on Saturday night was that the Greens looked to have finally breached Labor’s ancient citadel in the inner city by claiming victory in the seat of Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly. This is despite their statewide vote barely shifting from 2010. The count of pre-poll ballots will ultimately determine if they have indeed prevailed, but if so with command of both the state and federal Melbourne electorates and a small army of local foot soldiers the Greens have the makings of their own inner-city fortress.

Associate Professor Paul Strangio works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

A version of this article has appeared in The Age.

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When politician’s promises mean absolutely nothing

by Colleen Lewis

There are three days to go before Victorians make what is arguably one of the most important decisions they will come to in the next four years: who will receive their vote. The choice is between the Labor, Liberal and National parties, the Greens, one of the minor parties or an independent.

Whatever decision voters make it is likely to have a greater impact on their lives than they may appreciate. Their decision will influence: the state taxes they and other Victorians pay: the job opportunities available to those seeking employment: the standard of healthcare received; the effectiveness of education policy; what will be done to address, in a meaningful way, the looming crises that will inevitably accompany further climate change; crime prevention and community safety measures; and the assistance given to allow Victorians to care compassionately and respectfully for their aged parents, relations and friends and for those with disabilities.

One of the dilemmas voters face as they weigh up the pros and cons of the plethora of promises made in relation to the above issues, is whether they can trust MPs and political parties to honour their pre-election commitments post election.

In relation to the major political parties in particular, it seems that unless a promise is labelled “non-negotiable”, and is written down not just promised verbally, then it isn’t really a promise. It is something else, but those making the original promise have not adequately explained what constitutes that something else. The other thing that voters need to be aware of is that specific promises made on a particular issue, must be seen in the context of other promises. It is left to voters to try to work that out for themselves. They can listen to convoluted, unconvincing explanations long after they have cast their vote, but of course it is too late by then, as they are unable (if they wish) to make another choice until 2018. Nevertheless, if they pay close attention to post-election explanations for broken promises, they will know exactly what answers to seek before they vote in the next election.

Another thing that voters should contemplate is that a candidate’s “winning personality” and the capacity to make a brief, favourable impression, either in person or via various forms of media, does not translate into trustworthiness, decency, reliability, fairness and respect for voters, once they have cast their vote.

So what are voters to do – how can they possibly make an informed choice on Saturday and be confident that the promises that informed their vote will exist post the election?

While not a guarantee, a guide might be found in political parties and candidates’ attitude to Victoria’s integrity regime. These are the institutions, policies and procedures that are supposed to deliver transparency and accountability in relation to the decisions of elected representatives, governments, the public service, and any government-business relationship that involve taxpayers’ funds.

The integrity regime includes IBAC, the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, Freedom of Information laws and the rules and regulations surrounding political donations. All of these relate one way or another to the promises and policies areas referred to earlier.

It is not too late for voters to send an email to candidates standing for election and to various political parties asking them to explain, in detail, exactly what they will do to address the shortfalls in Victoria’s integrity regime and precisely when they will implement policies to address areas like political funding, which at the moment is shamefully nearly non-existent. Voters need to remember to get a response in writing.

None of these requests should be beyond the capacity of any person standing for office on Saturday or for political parties. If it is, it clearly demonstrates that they have not given sufficient attention to important transparency and accountability issues. The question then becomes, why not?

If whoever is elected to government breaks promises, it is incumbent of the electorate to listen to any plausible explanation and decide if circumstances genuinely dictate a change in direction. The electorate will believe the explanation only if it is comprehensive and persuasive and delivered without the usual spin that no one believes, not even those doing the spinning.

Spin degrades truth in politics and is responsible in large part for the decline in political standards.  Acclaimed philosopher and author Raimond Gaita argues strongly that, “We are suffering not just a decline in the standards of political behaviour but a serious illiteracy about the nature of politics”.

When people cast their vote they may wish to consider Gaita’s highly insightful comment and vote for whomever they believe will adhere to higher ethical standards than have been evident in Victorian public life of late.

As Gaita warned when writing Breach of Trust: truth, morality and politics, “I do not think that we seriously have an option but to think harder than we do, to hold each other intellectually more to account that we do.” Voters are part of the “we” and like members of parliament they too have obligations to themselves and the Victorian community when they cast their vote.

Adjunct Professor Colleen Lewis works at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. 

This article has appeared in The Age.