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.  

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Monash Arts Graduation 2014

On October 23rd 2014 Monash Arts students graduated in Robert Blackwood Hall, Clayton campus.

The day was a celebration of students’ achievements, as well as a showcase of Clayton campus, where the 417 graduates and proud parents, friends and family were hosted.

Congratulations to our 2014 graduates.


Are clowns scary? Ha ha aaaargh

by Fiona Gregory

When Australian singer and TV personality Mark Holden appeared as a clown recently on Channel 7’s Dancing with the Stars, his supposedly “bizarre” behaviour sparked furious debate and complaints to the network, demonstrating the problematic nature of the clown figure today.

The clown has a long history, ranging from the court clowns of ancient Egypt and imperial China, and trickster figures of Native American cultures, through the “sanctioned fool” of Renaissance drama and zanni of the commedia dell arte, to mainstay of the circus in the 19th century.

Due to the popularity of circus and vaudeville, a number of clowns became internationally famous, including Swiss clown Grock, Catalonian Charlie Rivel, Russian Oleg Popov, and Americans Emmett Kelly and Lou Jacobs. In Australia, the Jandaschevsky siblings toured the country in circus and vaudeville from 1900 through the 1940s.

The decline of touring companies and vaudeville reduced the visibility of the clown in the later 20th century. While clowns still operate in the circus and theatrical entertainments, they are more likely to be found in children’s entertainment, therapeutic and community fields.

There are various types of clowns and styles of clowning, but three types have become dominant:

  • The whiteface is agile and accomplished, typically the lead clown.
  • The auguste, with a red nose, bright wig and outsized clothing, is the clumsy victim of the whiteface’s pranks.
  • The tramp is a “character” clown in tattered clothes, exemplified in contemporary consciousness by Charlie Chaplin.

There is little awareness today of distinctions between clown types, yet they remain strictly adhered to in professional clowning competitions.

Unlike most stage characters, the term “clown” is representative of both the role played and the person playing it. As such, there’s a sense of otherness around the offstage self of the clown, as if he or she is always being shadowed by the anarchic onstage being. And yet, it’s our awareness that there is an offstage self that generates much of our uneasiness around this figure.

In the early 19th century Joseph Grimaldi made the clown a star attraction of British pantomime. As he endured personal tragedies, alcoholism and chronic pain, he also became representative of the “sad clown”, of the clown as a divided figure, split between his comic on-stage identity and melancholic off-stage self.

As Grimaldi’s biographer Andrew McConnell Stott notes:

the clown becomes troubling only after a second, private persona has been revealed that stands in morbid opposition to the first.

So, when the jovial onstage figure, whose very existence seems designed to make us laugh, is revealed to be a depressed alcoholic (Grimaldi), or rage-driven killer (France’s Jean-Gaspard Deburau), or convicted sex-offender (Australia’s Jack Perry, the “Zig” of Zig and Zag).

Undoubtedly, the most notorious of such cases is that of John Wayne Gacy, an amateur clown who was convicted of killing 33 boys and young men in Illinois in the 1970s.

Understanding of the clown as a figure to be feared intensified in the later 20th century. When it was reported that clowns were attempting to lure children into vans in Boston in 1981, the Public Schools District issued a memo to principals, urging them to “advise students that they must stay away from strangers, especially ones dressed as clowns.”

Yet it’s in the realm of popular culture that “killer clowns” have really proliferated and fostered coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.

One of the most notable influences was Stephen King’s novel It (1986), filmed in 1990 with Tim Curry as the murderous supernatural being which takes human form as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”.

The ubiquity of the “dark clown” trope is evident in itself becoming the stuff of comedy, as in Seinfeld episode The Opera, and the character of Krusty the Clown, a depressive with substance-abuse issues, in The Simpsons.

The one real moment of emotion in the Mark Holden Dancing With the Stars episode occurred when judge Adam Garcia questioned whether the performance was a homage to King’s It, only to be angrily corrected by Holden – he was playing “Bobo the Clown” from his childhood.

Holden, whose family operated a circus, is drawing on an outdated understanding of the clown as figure of a child’s delight. Garcia, 20 years younger, has been conditioned to view the clown as figure of a child’s horror.

The distance between Holden’s presumed aims for the piece and its actual effects reveal the complexities of the clown’s meanings today.

Dr Fiona Gregory, works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Antidepressants may be no better than a placebo, so why take them?

by Paul Biegler

Seventeenth-century Oxford scholar Robert Burton’s lifework,The Anatomy of Melancholy, weighs in at a door-stopping 1,400 pages. But his cure for the “Black Choler” of depression came down to just six words: “Be not solitary, be not idle.” Writing today, he might add: “And maybe take a placebo.”

Placebos are sham treatments that work even though they lack an active ingredient. Pills made of sugar or corn starch have improved Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and pain. Now research suggests placebos may be as good as real drugs for treating depression.

Placebo power

In this most recent study, people with at least moderate depression received support and encouragement alone, or coupled with an antidepressant or a placebo. Those who received an antidepressant or placebo did better than those who got only support. But placebos improved depression nearly as much as the active drug and the difference wasn’t significant.

An earlier review found antidepressants offered minimal benefit over placebos except in very severe depression, where the benefit was substantial. And a 2008 study found antidepressants were no more effective even in severe depression; very depressed people were just less responsive to placebos.

One theory suggests placebos work because people expect them to. A grave doctor and austere consulting room help convince patients a drug works. Indeed, believing a dummy pill stops paintriggers endorphins in the same brain area targeted by real painkillers.

Another theory cites Pavlov’s dogs, who, after a while, just had to see the white coats of the assistants who brought their food to start drooling. This conditioning theory suggests people only need to see the pill, cream or syringe to get the intended effect, even without the active drug.

But we know active drugs cause placebo effects too. Painkillers work a lot better when a medical person says they will work. A 1998 study claimed placebo effects accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of the effects of antidepressants.

Nonetheless, the drugs still figure prominently in Australian guidelines and in 2012-13 Australian doctors wrote 20.5 million prescriptions for antidepressants.

The right fit

But if antidepressants are little better than a placebo, why do so many people take them? Well, theplacebo data have been criticised, among others, for selective analysis of studies. They may be wrong.

And there are reasons why doctors and patients might favour medication that could help even a little. A busy waiting room makes speedy prescription writing attractive; advertising could make doctors think of drugs as the first option; patients often want a “quick fix”; and our culture reinforces drugs as a natural response to illness.

A trickier question is whether doctors should even prescribe antidepressants if they are really just placebos. But placebos can be powerful and some argue we shouldn’t jeopardise their strength by telling patients. A 2008 US study of 1,200 doctors found more than half prescribe placebos, often vitamin pills.

But there may be differences between countries too. Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, legal only in the United States and New Zealand, may influence placebo responses. Advertisements for drugs show dramatic improvements that heighten expectations. Pictures of smiling people and beautiful scenery also promote positive attitudes and beliefs.

Some think advertising is the reason placebos in antidepressant drug trials have become 14 per cent more effective in the last 20 years.

And people with depression may show stronger placebo responses. Psychologist Irving Kirsch thinks this is because hopelessness is so dominant in depression. Placebos give hope so they may work better for this particular illness.

Limiting placebo use

Nonetheless, the American Medical Association has vetoed the use of deceptive placebos, saying they undermine trust, frustrate patient autonomy and delay proper treatment. But a 2010 studyshowed placebos work even if you tell the patient.

Others argue real drugs are actually superior placebos. In blinded drug trials, people who get side effects often work out they’re on the real drug and not the placebo. This makes them expect to improve, so the placebo effect kicks in.

But this too gets complicated because placebos can also cause side effects. This “nocebo” phenomenon happens when people expect bad things from a sugar pill. Maybe placebos will work better if the doctor “suggests” some side effects too?

An alternative to grappling with this often conflicting information is to raise the profile of non-drug treatments for depression. Psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy are as good as drugs, except for people with severe depression.

But adding another twist is a recent study that showed psychotherapy isn’t significantly better than a pill placebo for depression. Still, psychotherapy does provide important knowledge that promotes autonomy, a factor not measured in study comparisons.

Many active treatments are effective partly because of the placebo effect. The effect is strong in antidepressants, a fact that may need to be disclosed to patients to ensure fully informed consent. Whether sugar placebos should ever enter medical practice is another question entirely, and one that invites wide community debate.

Dr Paul Biegler is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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There’s plenty to like in President Joko Widodo’s cabinet

by Greg Barton

With this week’s swearing in of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet we can finally begin to get the measure of Indonesia’s new Government.

The fact that it took a solid week of negotiations following the inauguration of the President on October 20 speaks to the difficulties facing the new President in putting together a cabinet of his own choosing.

It’s been a long wait. Joko Widodo — or Jokowi as he is affectionately known — was elected on July 9.

After four months of waiting, the general consensus is that this cabinet is good but not great. It lacks — as The Jakarta Post has put it — “wow factor” both because it’s missing some obvious stars, including outstanding ministers and deputy ministers from previous cabinets, and because it has several dubious inclusions.

A good cabinet is the making of a good government. A good government for Indonesia will be good for us in Australia. With good management, and a little good luck, we will be living next to one of the strongest economies in the world, home to 260 million people, with a middleclass population bigger than Great Britain.

What can we expect from this unassuming, if not unremarkable, new Government? There are five things that stand out.

Firstly, and rather surprisingly, Jokowi has not used the cabinet to broaden his parliamentary coalition. It does not reflect serious intent to achieve majority support in Parliament by coopting the backing of parties such as Suharto’s Golkar and Yudhoyono’s Partai Demokrat through ministerial appointments.

Lukman Saefuddin, the reformist Minister of Religious Affairs, remains in the new cabinet and one might assume from that that his United Development Party might support the Government.

That shifts the balance a little but still does not give Jokowi a majority. It may be he still counts on getting the support of the Democrats and Golkar and intends to achieve it by other means.

The good news is that this marks the beginning of normal democracy where there is a clear government side of the House and an opposition coalition. Previous presidents have attempted rainbow coalitions and, despite a majority in the House that should give them, have failed to get the support of parliament at crucial points.

Secondly, despite not engaging in horsetrading for ministerial posts with the parties that supported his presidential opponent Prabowo Subianto’s campaign, Jokowi has nevertheless had to accommodate political appointments from the parties that supported his campaign, resulting in at least 13 political appointees out of 34 positions. That has given rise to his cabinet’s most obvious flaws: the five ministers backed by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and her PDIP, all of whom are weak or problematic.

Clearly, the matriarch has had her way and Jokowi is running up against the limits of what is possible.

The most significant concern is the appointment of former army general Ryamizard Ryacudu as Minister of Defence. Not only does it break with 15 years of democratic government tradition of appointing civilians to this post, Ryamizard, a Megawati confidant, has a track record of hawkish nationalism, having led campaigns in East Timor and Aceh.

Less serious, but also somewhat scandalous, is the appointment of Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter, as Coordinating Minister of Human Resources Development and Cultural Affairs. Fortunately, civilian governance is sufficiently well established that Ryamizard is unlikely to do too much harm and at 64, the oldest member of this youthful cabinet, is possibly not far off retirement. He appears to have been a last minute substitution and might have been seen as the least worst option. And despite her weighty title, Puan, who has no track record of public service or management success, is unlikely to exercise great influence.

Thirdly, this is a largely clean and progressive cabinet: eight of 34 ministers are women, including Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Significantly, Retno began her impressive diplomatic career with a posting in Canberra. She is currently serving as ambassador to the Netherlands, where her unassuming, down-to-earth manner and personal warmth have made her a popular figure. Australia will have a good friend in the Foreign Minister.

Eight ministers come from outside Java, including Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Yohana Susana Yembise, who is a Papuan professor of education. And remarkably, 20 of the new ministers — 60 per cent of the cabinet — are under the age of 45.

Fourthly, the Working Cabinet — as Jokowi modestly has titled it — is not flashy and lacks established stars but it is, true to promise, actually filled with impressive technocratic substance: 40 per cent of the ministers have PhDs and 65 per cent have postgraduate qualifications, mostly from American, Australian or British universities.

Finally, this cabinet and Government appear set to live up to Jokowi’s promise of being pro-business and pro-entrepreneurship. The key finance and economic posts, such as Minister of Finance Bambang Brodjonegoro, are in safe, centrist hands. And many of the new ministers, such as Minister for Maritime Affairs Fisheries Susi Pudjiastutia, are self-made business people.

Flashy it might not be but this is looking like the makings of a good Government. Good for Indonesia and good for us.

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

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.

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Monash Academics Lunch with US Ambassador John Berry

The Alliance with the United States has been the cornerstone of Australia’s defence and foreign policy for more than 60 years. But with new partnerships growing in the Asia-Pacific region and new challenges emerging in the region and beyond, how will the relationship change?

Photo: Dr Zareh Ghazarian (Lecturer in Politics), Ambassador John Berry and Dr David Holmes (Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media, Monash University)
Photo: Dr Zareh Ghazarian (Lecturer in Politics), Ambassador John Berry and Dr David Holmes (Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media, Monash University)

On 29 October 2014, Dr Zareh Ghazarian and Dr David Holmes attended a lunch with US Ambassador John Berry who discussed the importance of the relationship between the two countries, especially in confronting international security challenges.

IR4The Ambassador stressed the relationship was not one dimensional. Rather, he highlighted how the close economic, social and cultural ties have built a robust partnership that is well placed to tackling future challenges.

This special event was organised by the Melbourne Press Club which is sponsored by Monash University. These events provide opportunity for academics from the Politics and International Relations disciplines to regularly meet with key decision makers and exchange ideas on national and international events.

The lunch was hosted by Michael Rowland, host of ABC News Breakfast.

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Album Launch: Enrico Rava – The Monash Sessions

In December 2013, 35 jazz students from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music travelled to the Monash University Prato Centre in Italy to undertake an intensive 3-week performance unit. As part of their study, students were given the opportunity to perform and record with one of the seminal figures of the European jazz scene, trumpeter Enrico Rava.

The result of this collaboration is the 11-track album The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava. The album, released through Jazzhead, will be launched on Thursday 30th October at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne. Rava, travelling to Australia for the first time, will be joined by staff and students of the School of Music for this highly anticipated event.

Rava, an ECM artist, has released over 50 albums throughout his career, performing alongside greats such as Gil Evans, Cecil Taylor, Joe Henderson, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, and Dave Douglas to name but a few. His collaboration with the Monash University School of Music is testament to the international quality of practice at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University, a quality that continues to set new standards in jazz performance.

EnricoRavaAlbum-300x267This album is the latest in a long line of recordings released as part of The Monash Sessions project – a recording initiative developed by Associate Professor and Head of School Robert Burke and record company Jazzhead. Previous recordings showcase the talent of the staff and students from the School of Music alongside performers Vince Jones, George Garzone, Geroge Lewis and Hermeto Pascoal. ‘This project continuously demonstrates the international standard of the performance programs offered at Monash University’ says Burke. ‘At the School of Music we take immense pride in the fact that our students are performing along artists such as Rava. It is an absolute honour’.

The Monash Sessions; Enrico Rava was mixed and mastered at the Sonoria Recording Plant in Prato, Italy, by Andrea Benassai, and produced by Robert Burke and sessional staff member, Mirko Guerrini. It features music faculty members Paul Grabowsky (piano), Rob Burke and Mirko Guerrini (saxophones), 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.

Guerrini co-ordinated the collaboration with Rava and comments that ‘he is one of the rare examples of a musician with a special gift. When you perform next to him  you to experience an energy like no other’. Guerrini adds that Rava was ‘extremely impressed by the high level of musicianship and technical ability demonstrated by our students and had nothing but positive feedback’.

In addition to the album launch at Bennetts Lane, you can also catch Enrico Rava with staff and students of the School of Music at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival on Friday the 31stOctober. For ticket information please visit:

To book tickets for the album launch, please visit, or for more information on The Monash Sessions

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What have we forgotten this Remembrance Day?

by Bruce Scates

Red poppies are a familiar sight in November. We see them pinned to the lapels of newsreaders and businessmen, youthful schoolchildren and ageing war veterans. Not a single politician is likely to front a camera without one.

Poppy Day is, as one British historian has remarked, ”cosmopolitan in origin”. It was inspired by the poem of a Canadian World War I medical officer, John McCrae, who died in 1918.

These lines are dutifully recited across the country every Remembrance Day. Seldom do we ponder the latter part of McCrae’s poem, which urges the public to reject a conciliated peace and exhorts exhausted armies to fight on to the bitter end.

An American woman, Moina Michael, was so impressed by the poem that she persuaded American ex-servicemen to adopt the poppy as their emblem. French and British veteran groups followed. By 1921 more than a million red poppies were sold each year. They raised much-needed funds for men damaged by war: the gassed, the maimed, the crippled, the insane. And here we see the essential utility of the poppy as a symbol: it was intended as much to aid the living as to honour the dead.

As a metaphor for remembrance the red poppy is compelling. Poppies grow best in disturbed soil – they quickly carpeted the mud of no man’s land when war finally ended in 1918. Red symbolised the blood of soldiers. And the poppy, traditionally associated with opiates, promised an end to pain. For many (then as now) this act of remembrance was a way of healing the trauma, laying to rest the demons of war.

Poppies today may well be seen as a vehicle for remembrance. Ironically, they are also a symbol of wilful forgetfulness. Historically, the red poppy of opium was also code for oblivion. It prompts us to consider what we choose to forget every Remembrance Day.

We have forgotten the white poppies that once offered an alternative way of remembering. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, they were worn by men and women desperate to avoid the outbreak of another war. White poppies were weaved into wreaths laid at graves and war memorials, they were embroidered into banners carried by returned soldiers demanding the right to work, they became the symbol of the Women’s Co-operative Guild, wives and mothers determined that their men should never march to slaughter again.

The white poppy, called the pledge for peace, reminded the public that the sufferings of war were not confined to soldiers. Thousands of children died of starvation and disease as a direct result of the Allied blockade of Germany (between 1914 and 1919). These non-combatant casualties became a feature of the “total wars” that marred the 20th century, where terrorising the civilian population became the accepted way of conducting military campaigns.

The white poppy symbolised peace, morality and decency. It recognised that the men sent to fight as cannon fodder were not rewarded with a land fit for heroes. They returned from the Great War to unemployment, insecurity and ultimately the Great Depression. It recognised that the big words of “freedom” and “democracy” concealed the sordid realities of a war fought to preserve colonialism and inequality; that an arms trade then, as now, made a fortune from the killing.

Above all, the white poppy enshrined a terrible truth. The Great War had been justified as the war to end all wars – what a great lie that turned out to be.

White poppies were adopted as a pledge for peace by a wide cross-section of society. Church leaders and communists; trade unionists and women’s groups; returned soldiers critical of the conservatism of the British Legion; artists and writers (like Vera Brittain), the poignant social conscience of their day. For all these people, Armistice Day (as it was called then) was nowhere near strong enough in its condemnation of war.

In one moment, the public was told to mourn the sacrifice of millions, in the next there were the tired cliches of pride, patriotism and service for one’s country – the ”old lies” they argued, that had sent young men to war. Those who wore white poppies asked for a stronger statement, an admission that lasting peace could not be achieved by human conflict, a recognition that only reconciliation and tolerance could unite rather than divide the nations (and religions) of the world, a call for peace with justice.

We had need of this voice in the 1920s and 1930s as the world careered towards the evils of war and fascism. We have need of it again.

Professor Bruce Scates holds the Chair of History and Australian Studies at Monash University. He is the author of the official history of the Shrine of Remembrance, and several landmark studies of the memory of war, including Return to Gallipoli: Walking the Battlefields of the Great War. Professor Scates leads an international team writing the History of Anzac Day.

This article was first published in The Age, November 2013

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Dr Ahmad Sarmast wins 2014 Arts Distinguished Alumni Award

The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements and exceptional qualities of Monash alumni worldwide. 

This year, Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast won the title for the Arts Faculty award, which recognised his ongoing work as a musician and founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, a music school aimed at empowering Afghan children through education, literacy and music regardless of class, ethnicity or gender.

The University Distinguishes Alumni of the Year for 2014, the highest alumni award presented by Monash University, was awarded to the Honourable Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC.

The Honourable Marilyn Warren AC (LLD 2004), representing the University’s Faculty of Law, was selected from an impressive who’s who from the fields of business, medicine and education.

The faculties selected their top distinguished alumni, with the University’s Honorary Degree Committee then selecting the person to receive the highest accolade.

Faculty award winners were: Art, Design & Architecture, Stephen Bram; Arts, Dr Ahmad Maser Sarmast; Business and Economics, Anthony Palmer; Education, Brendan Murray; Engineering, Professor Christian Behrenbruch; Information Technology, Kee Wong; Law, Chief Justice Warren; Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr Ranjana Srivastava; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Adjunct Associate Professor Stephen Marty; and Science, Gabby Leibovich.

Monash University Chancellor Dr Alan Finkel AO said this year’s winners were an exceptional group of alumni.

“All the award winners have made an exceptional contribution to their field of endeavour and have an impressive ability to inspire others to strive for excellence,” Dr Finkel said.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO congratulated Chief Justice Warren and the other recipients.

“The success of all this year’s winners in their chosen field of endeavour and the community reflects the University’s commitment to making a difference in our society. They provide an example to motivate our students to reach their highest potential and to contribute to their communities,” Professor Gardner said.


Trust me, I’m a politician. No thanks

by Colleen Lewis

Dear MPs,

I have been giving considerable thought to our fractured relationship of late, trying to work out why we have reached a situation where my trust in you has completely broken down and is being replaced by a set of emotions that could permanently destroy our relationship. If this happens, not only will we have an acrimonious divorce, but it will impact on the broader environment in which we live.

Despite the mounting tensions in our relationship, I care very deeply about trying to save it and then to put it on a much stronger footing. In an attempt to stave off divorce, I have been engaging in some self-reflection and it has led me to question whether my contribution to our partnership is all that it could be.

Am I too demanding a partner and hence are my expectations unrealistic? Am I so disillusioned with you, that I have reached the point where I do little but criticise? Am I failing to acknowledge the many good and positive things you achieve? Do I say thank you enough when things go well and you have placed my interests above your own?  While the nature of our relationship means that I have a right to expect you will always act in my best interest, does my lack of appreciation when you do, make you think that I don’t really care any longer and regardless of your efforts all I will do is complain?

Perhaps I am guilty of these behaviours, but on quiet reflection, I think there are justifiable reasons for my feelings toward you, particularly as my growing disrespect did not occur in a vacuum. It is the result of your words and actions over many years.

As we both know, strong relationships are built on trust and you can’t have trust unless you have truthfulness, transparency and accountability, all of which create respect. But the problem is, I no longer respect you or the profession to which you belong.  Unless my respect can be restored we have no future together.

You are often untruthful and have broken far too many promises over too many years. To add insult to injury, you have done this after spending an enormous amount of time and money trying to woo me with sweet talk. This often lasts as long as it takes for you to get what you want from me – my vote.  By way of example, I clearly recall (broken) promises such as “we will be a government of no surprises”; that there will be “no carbon tax under the government I lead” and that Victoria will have an anti-corruption body that mirrors ICAC in NSW.

After you have broken your word, you show me further disrespect by trying to justify doing so in ways that are simply not believable. I can see through what you are doing and hence I have reached the point where I doubt everything you say.

Also, it really upsets me when you employ people to “spin” your explanations. How can I forget your core and non-core excuse for not keeping your word.   I wonder if you behave like this in the mistaken belief I will find your repackaged account of events credible.  They aren’t and I don’t. You should try being totally honest with me, explaining clearly our difficulties – after all we are in this relationship together.  You never know, I might even be able to help us find a solution.

There are so many other things I could raise, including your confrontational, combative and disrespectful approach to others in your profession. You and your parliamentary colleagues accuse each other, among other things, of being “liars”, “duplicitous” and “odious”. If your profession is so bad and the behaviour of other members so disgraceful, why do you try so hard to belong to it? You also spend too much referring to each other’s past mistakes when I am only interested in what you are doing now and in the future.  I know what successive governments did wrong and I haven’t forgotten.

After much thought, I don’t think we can rebuild our relationship without help from others, particularly the media.  We need to find a way to bring them into our possible reconciliation and ask them to also engage in some quiet reflection.  They could start perhaps by examining whether what they say about you and how they say it is helping to destroy our relationship. Bringing them on board may not be easy, but just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We may find some allays if our attitude and behaviour changes as well.

I am conscious that I have been doing all the talking and if we are to heal our relationship, I need to listen and not just talk.  So over to you.  It is your turn to let me know how you think our relationship can be saved. To do this, you will also need to engage in some self-reflections and acknowledge your shortcomings.  Please do so without the usual spin. Given that I no longer trust you, you will need to go beyond promising to change.  Actions speak louder than words, so I would need to see it happen before I could consider ruling out divorce.

I so look forward to hearing from you as I think it is worth trying to salvage our relationship – don’t you?


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

This article has appeared in The Age.

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First prize for SOPHIS student in ‘3 Minute Honours Thesis’ competition

International Studies honours student Alannah Cusin has taken first prize in the Arts Faculty’s recent ‘3 Minute Honours Thesis’ competition, which saw students from across the faculty racing against the clock to explain their thesis topics in 3 minutes.

Alannah’s presentation on her thesis. Images: Alannah Cusin
Alannah’s presentation on her thesis. Images: Alannah Cusin

Alannah’s thesis, entitled ‘Remembering Dismemberment: The Politics of Memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ examines the politics of memory in Bosnia after the Yugoslav wars. Focusing on three Bosnian cities, it explores the politicisation of ethnic identities and the ways in which the respective populations remember the war.

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Warwick Prize for Writing opens for nominations

The 2015 Warwick Prize for Writing has opened for nominations and for the first time is inviting submissions directly from publishers from around the world.

The biennial literary prize, run by the University of Warwick, is worth £25,000 (approximately A$45,000). It celebrates excellent writing in all forms and from all disciplines and is open to any genre or style of writing. The theme for the 2015 prize is ‘Instinct’.

Students, staff and alumni from Monash University and the University of Warwick are invited to nominate significant pieces of writing. Works published electronically as well as in more traditional forms are eligible.

Online and self-published works may also be accepted if they conform with the rules and criteria.

“The Warwick Prize for Writing is unique in celebrating the best written English in any genre, prose or verse, print or electronic, polemic or simply beautiful,” said Dr Sarah Moss, Co-Director of the Warwick Prize for Writing.

Submissions will be assessed by the judging panel, which is chaired by Warwick alumna and author A. L. Kennedy and includes author and academic Robert Macfarlane, actress and director Fiona Shaw, Warwick alumnus and Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, and physician and writer Gavin Francis.

The addition of direct submissions from publishers for the 2015 Prize widens the pool of nominations, which has traditionally been sourced from staff and students of Monash University and the University of Warwick.

“This is an exciting year for us as we invite submissions from publishers all over the world, and our judges will need all their instinct and experience to find the winner.” said Dr Moss.

Nominations close on 31 March 2015, with the winner to be announced in November 2015 as part of the University of Warwick’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

University of Warwick and Monash University staff, students, honorary professors and emeritus professors and readers are ineligible to be nominated for the Prize.

The Warwick Prize for Writing was founded in 2008. Following the formation of the Monash-Warwick Alliance the nomination process expanded in 2013 to include Monash University.

Visit Warwick Prize for Writing for more information.


‘No Prime Minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam’

by Jenny Hocking

‘The importance of an historical event lies not in what happened but in what later ­generations believe to have happened’.

Gough Whitlam, speech at the Unveiling of the Eureka Flag, 1973.

A controversial political life never rests. From the moment Gough Whitlam left the parliament, the impact and legacy, even the basic facts of his life, became a ­construct, fashioned and refashioned by others in a fiercely contested history.

Of all the elements in this narrative there is none on which so much turned, politically and (for some) personally, as the dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr. Tempers might have ebbed and memories clouded over time, but this is one area where the incendiary mix of personal connection and political position ran on unabated. From determined positions, every unfolding revelation, every addition to the historical record or new interpretation, became a contest over the historical record – Was Gough Whitlam good or bad? Was Malcolm Fraser right or wrong? Was John Kerr weak or strong? To an ever-diminishing number of lingering ideological warriors, this simplistic frame continued to cast every aspect of this complex history in black or white. But like all good stories this one is less obvious, and more interesting, than these easy dichotomies suggest.

One of the most intriguing aspects of any review of Gough Whitlam lies not in the episodic battles over history, but the evolution of that history. It has taken nearly forty years for the bitter, obscurantist air that clouded historical assessments of Gough Whitlam, his government and their dismissal to clear and for Whitlam to assume a more settled place in history – as neither saint nor sinner but as an exceptional reformer whose term in office, both as leader of the Labor party and as Prime Minister, changed Australia. Whitlam, who died on Tuesday aged 98, sits in unusual tension between enduring ­controversy and belated recognition – at once “elder statesman” and, to some, the unrepentant leader of the “worst government in Australia’s history”. But even among those who deplore the nature of his ­government’s reforms few would now ­dispute, as conservative think-tank the ­Institute for Public Affairs has acknowledged, that “no Prime Minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam”.

For Whitlam, politics was both passion and practicality – he brought passion to a reformist vision and practicality to its detail – although its implementation, while just as ambitious, was less successful. He had an unusual political depth of field in which the local and the international would fit together in a national transformation that did not end at Australia’s borders. Whitlam’s world stage was one in which Australia as an ­independent state, subservient to neither Britain nor the United States, could itself be a driver of international action. At home, his vision was no less ambitious, a pixelation of countless smaller and local initiatives from regionalisation to universal sewerage, from equal pay to no-fault divorce, votes for ­18-year-olds and Aboriginal land rights that, while incomplete and sometimes clumsy in their execution, together changed the face of modern Australia.

The power of ‘the dismissal’

And while an extraordinary amount has been written about Whitlam over the years, its focus has been remarkably narrow. Few have moved beyond the obligatory ­invigilation of Whitlam’s three-year period as Prime Minister, his interrupted second government and its unprecedented ­dismissal by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr. It is a reflection of the power of “the ­dismissal” in the popular imagination that it has came to overshadow the detail and the understanding not only of the Whitlam ­government but also of Whitlam himself. For too long, the formative influences of his childhood, his war service and his decades in Opposition were overlooked, and equally ­little was written on his life after politics. – his appointment as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO by the Hawke government, his election to the UNESCO Executive Board, and his work in the 1990s with his wife Margaret on her study tours through Europe, Britain, South America and Asia.

Whitlam’s unusual background shaped an adolescent steeped in politics and in his parents’ strict Baptist sensibility. His father, the highly respected Commonwealth Crown solicitor Fred Whitlam, had moved his ­family to Canberra with the great wave of public servants in 1927, literally to create the new national capital. Whitlam’s childhood in Canberra, from its earliest years, the ­influence of his father and his childhood milieu of government, bureaucrats and legal figures, brought a familiarity with all sides of politics and a deep understanding of ­parliamentary processes.

Whitlam’s four-and-a-half years of active service as RAAF navigator in the Pacific and his proselytising for Labor Prime ­Minister John Curtin’s unsuccessful 1944 ­referendum on post-war reconstruction and democratic rights, cemented the two most significant aspects of his politics: his belief in the party system as being at the heart of parliamentary democracy and in the Australian Labor Party as the great party of reform. He never wavered from either. Despite more than one attempt by the Liberal party to engineer a Billy Hughes-style revolt and entice Gough Whitlam over to their side, he was contemptuous of conservative politics as protecting privilege and entrenching ­inequality, at home and abroad.

With unerring self-belief and the essential political quantum of arrogance, resilience and capacity for hard work, ­Whitlam’s ambition was clear – he would be a Labor Prime Minister and he would­ ­complete Curtin’s unfinished reform agenda. It was with more than a nod to ­Curtin as “Australia’s greatest Prime ­Minister”, that Whitlam chose Curtin’s own words as the opening lines to his now famous 1972 policy launch, “Men and women of Australia”. But if his ambition was clear, its trajectory from hope to reality was far from simple.

Immediate impact

By the time Whitlam had arrived in the parliament in the 1952 by-election for the seat of Werriwa, the Labor party was well down the tired path of internal ruction based in personalities, policies and broader post-war politics, that would culminate in the ­irreparable damage of the 1955-6 Split.The formation of the Democratic Labor Party from the rump of disaffected former Labor members, would leech votes to the Liberal party for decades, effectively denying Labor any chance of government.

For twenty years and through seven ­elections Whitlam sat in a parliament led by Liberal-Country party governments, and dominated for most of those years by the doyen of Liberal leaders, Sir Robert ­Menzies. Whitlam’s own party meanwhile laid waste to its electoral prospects with years of self-indulgent internecine recrimination at the expense of much needed policy renewal, trapped in the ideas and arguments of the 1950s and consigned to irrelevance.

Whitlam’s impact in the parliament was immediate, even from the grind of endless opposition. On hearing Whitlam’s maiden speech the Labor member for Hindmarsh, Clyde Cameron, reported that he had just heard the words of a future prime minister, an assessment with which Whitlam could only agree. His temper was legendary and his parliamentary retorts quick, at times cruel and always devastating. His literalist description of the member for Wentworth, the high-pitched, short-statured Billy McMahon, as “a truculent runt” and “a quean”, could scarcely be repeated today.

After eight years of what was surely the most frustrating barren parliamentary ­decade for Labor, Whitlam was elected ­Deputy leader, and in 1967 he replaced the old-style Labor leader Arthur Calwell as leader of the ALP. To enforce his authority over a still deeply divided party was never easy and barely one year into his term as leader, Whitlam resigned abruptly and risked it all in a bid to curtail the errant Labor federal executive. In the leadership ballot which followed, Whitlam barely resecured the leadership against Jim Cairns., who ran against him with the telling campaign line, “whose party is this, his or ours?”.

In the end, it was his by just four votes but with this victory he secured an authority over the party that would lead to its modernisation at every level and, eventually, to ­government. The episode had a critical ­longer-term impact, reinforcing in Whitlam his self-described “crash through or crash” approach which, while effective in the brawling Labor opposition politics of the 1960s, did not translate well to the more ­diplomatic expectations of government.

Policy implementation

From the policy method of Opposition came the policy implementation of ­government – evidence based, insistent – and too often at the expense of consultation with a fractious and suspicious caucus. “That blessed word, consultation”, Graham Freudenberg lamented. For a public used to the slow and steady years of Menzies and the absurd, but uneventful, incompetence of Billy McMahon, the pace of change was ­unsettling, even fearful. In Whitlam’s uncomplicated political algebra ‘the program’ was more than just a statement of intent, it was ‘a command to perform’. Whitlam’s view was literal and unbending, he saw the program as the articulation of the electoral mandate of 1972 and confirmed with the government’s re-election in the 1974 double dissolution. Every one of its policy prescriptions was to be met and he would hear and heed no caution.

Even those reforms now considered vital, welcome and non-controversial, were then met with strident opposition. Moves towards the introduction of legal aid and the universal health insurance scheme, Medibank, were lambasted as thinly veiled socialism, as the first steps to controlling the professions and resisted with well-funded protracted campaigns. The government’s unilateral 25 per cent tariff cut hit the manufacturing sector hard and was the first indication of the government’s distance from a business community accustomed to proximity both to government and to policy formulation.

Whitlam was no economist, having lived through the extended post-war period of growth he assumed no more and no less than its certain continuation. Faced with the OPEC nations’ decision to cut oil production, a 4-fold increase in oil prices and an unprecedented rise in both inflation and unemployment, by 1974 the government’s economic policy was in tatters and its relations with Treasury disastrous.

Further tensions came from the ­government’s tightening of foreign ­ownership rules and of controls over mining taxation and subsidies. “Buying back the farm” was part of a larger vision for energy infrastructure and self-sufficiency overseen by Whitlam’s legendary Minister for ­Minerals and Energy, the lugubrious Rex ‘the Strangler’ Connor. It was Connor’s forced resignation in October 1975 that would ­precipitate the blocking of supply by Liberal-Country party Senators, leading to the ­dismissal of the Whitlam ­government by the governor-general the following month.

Whitlam’s social reforms fared better, both in their implementation and longevity. The 1973 Karmel report into secondary education and the introduction of needs based funding reshaped education in a way not matched until the Gillard government’s Gonski review. Free tertiary education, while not surviving the economic rationalist ascendency within the Hawke government, was Whitlam’s emblematic reform and the one with the greatest individual impact, ­particularly for women. Legal aid, ­Medibank, one vote one value, abolition of the death penalty, the end of the white ­Australia policy, the Racial Discrimination Act, ­multiculturalism, signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no-fault divorce, the Family Court, increased childcare and the law reform commission; the list of reforms is staggering – and the list of those yet to be done, even more so. Among these was the National Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme, a precursor to the Gillard government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme – Disability Care.

One of the Whitlam government’s most controversial moments came not from a ­policy but a painting. Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, memorably described by a Country party member as “a foreign painting of ­accidental value”, was purchased for $1.3 million and is now valued at as much as $100 million. Pollock’s “action painting”, in its incautious rupture with both realism and the security of recognisable form, lent an obvious metaphor to the action/reaction dynamic that was the Whitlam government. Whitlam relished the now farcical Philistine storm and made Blue Poles his defiant choice for the 1973 Prime Minister’s Christmas card. It remains a fine testament to a government and a time that continue to provoke.

Professir Jenny Hocking works in the National Centre for Australian Studies. She is the author of Gough Whitlam: His Time, Melbourne University Publishing, 2012, and Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History, Melbourne University Publishing, 2008

This article has appeared in the Australian Finanical Review.

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Whitlam made the case for reform: an enduring economic legacy

By Rémy Davison

“Men make history,” Karl Marx wrote in 1859 in his Critique of Political Economy, “but not always in circumstances of their own choosing”.

Whitlam himself would have chosen a different year to be his time. Had DLP preferences not returned John Gorton’s Liberal-Country coalition in the 1969 election, the ALP would have swept to power. And Don’s Party would have had a happy ending.

Three years later, it was into the turbulent milieu of the global economy of the 1970s that the Whitlam government was born. And died.

The stagflationary ’70s

More than once, Gough Whitlam claimed to be Australia’s most successful treasurer. Immediately after the December 1972 election, with many seats still too close to call, Whitlam, together with deputy ALP leader Lance Barnard, formed a duumvirate, a two-man government, dividing all of the cabinet portfolios between them (Whitlam later noted proudly that he and Barnard did not claim all their portfolios’ salaries, although they were quite entitled to).

Whitlam was treasurer for only two weeks while the economy proceeded on its majestic, low-inflation, fiscally measured path. But 1972 was the last year of stability for the Australian economy. January 1973 brought the “British betrayal”, as Edward Heath’s government abandoned its Commonwealth trade partners and the UK entered the European Community (EC). This proved disastrous for Australian farm exports, rendered uncompetitive by the heavy subsidies of the market-distorting EC Common Agricultural Policy.

In October 1973, the “long boom” of post-war prosperity came to an abrupt end. The Yom Kippur War augured the OPEC crisis, resulting in a global oil price increase of over 400% in 1973–74. It was the end of cheap energy.

1973 also ushered in a decade-long period of Australian economic decline. Australia’s share of world trade halved between 1973 and 1983. Commodities export prices tumbled. But amidst the profound transformations taking place in the global economy, Canberra had somehow remained aloof, eschewing reform for renewed protectionism. When Nixon floated the US dollar in 1971, Britain and Japan rapidly followed suit. Australia would delay the inevitable until 1983.

From 1972 until 1975, the Whitlam government undertook a vigorous reform process that laid the basis for the Hawke-Keating internationalisation of the Australian economy. However, the differences between the two Labor governments on the role of multinational capital were stark: both the right and left of the Whitlam government were economic nationalists determined to claim ownership and oversee development of Australia’s resources industries, as evidenced by the abortive and scandal-ridden loans sought by Rex Connor.

Conversely, the ALP right under Hawke-Keating regarded multinational corporations and imported technologies as economically transformative. Instead of combatting multinationals, Hawke and Keating sought to harness the power of foreign capital by exposing Australian business to the harsh glare of competition. Like Whitlam before them, ALP sought to avoid sheltered industries and oligopolistic firm behaviour. Both governments were corporatist, forced to integrate the demands of peak business and union groups. Similarly, both governments relied upon regulatory, bureaucratic, rather than market-based solutions to industry problems.

The Whitlam tariff cuts

The ALP remained suspicious of foreign multinational corporations, particularly in light of damning union reports on working conditions in GMH, Ford and Chrysler factories during the 1960s. But the automotive industry remained one of the biggest private-sector employers in the country, accounting for approximately 100,000 jobs. GMH, Ford and Chrysler were among the most powerful and influential of the car makers, operating major manufacturing facilities in most states, including, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Almost immediately upon election, the Whitlam government sought to deal with the problems associated with sheltered local industries, which persisted until the 1984 Button Plan (which dealt with steel, cars and textiles): too many producers with extensive operations in multiple states, resulting in product proliferation, scale inefficiencies, and components industries that were forced into exceptionally short production runs, together with excessive and costly parts inventories.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the automotive industry. The damning 1974 Industries Assistance Commission’s (IAC) report on the car industry recommended a relatively rapid decrease in protection in order to promote efficiencies.

Tariff reductions had been discussed in Menzies’ cabinet as early as 1963 during Alf Rattigan’s tenure as Chairman of the Tariff Board. Under Menzies and successive coalition governments, John McEwen had consistently and successfully opposed the Board on tariff reductions to the point where the Board was almost powerless in the policy-making process.

Whitlam, typically, provided a crash-through-or-crash solution to subject Australian industry to the discipline of international competition: he implemented in full the 25% across-the-board tariff reduction recommended by the IAC.

In order to gain industry and union support, tariff reductions would need to be incremental and consultative, a point the Whitlam government failed to grasp. Reductions also required commensurate gains in productivity and efficiency from the manufacturers’ point of view. The ACTU, fearful of workforce downsizing, was hostile in its opposition to reform.

Bob Hawke, then-ALP and ACTU president, defended the tariff cuts publicly, although, privately, Whitlam and Hawke battled incessantly for control of the Federal ALP: Hawke, via his dual control of both the Federal ALP presidency and the ACTU; Whitlam by simply ignoring caucus. But Whitlam found support for the tariff cuts from some of the ALP left, including Jim Cairns and Clyde Holding. For the left, the reduction of the iron grip of multinationals on the Australian economy was more important than maintaining protectionism, which had long been the preserve of the McEwenist Country Party.

The 25 pewr cent tariff cuts proved electorally volatile and confrontational to both business and unions. GMH resorted to heavy-handed tactics, immediately standing down 5,000 workers and refusing to reinstate them until the tariff was restored to previous levels. Despite Whitlam’s accusation of political blackmail, a compromise was reached, resulting in an 85 tariff and an agreement that GMH would re-hire the retrenched workers. Whitlam heard the message; he would not make such far-reaching assaults on Fortress Australia for the remainder of his tenure.

Competition reform

Australian competition policy has evolved relatively slowly since the 1960s. The Restrictive Trade Practices Act, introduced in 1965, was insufficient to deal with the number of restrictive agreements rife throughout Australian industry. The 1974 version of the Trade Practices Act (TPA) sought to attack anti-competitive and market-distorting measures more actively; the Trade Practices Commission was established to administer the legislation. For example, the TPA attacked exclusionary dealing, misuse of dominant market positions and price-fixing practices. In addition, it introduced consumer protection provisions.

Whitlam’s 1974 Trade Practices Act provided the impetus for the competition policy reforms of the Hawke-Keating governments.

The Whitlam government’s implementation of the Trade Practices Act; the Hawke and Keating governments’ introduction of financial sector deregulation; and the introduction of the PSA, the NCP and the ACCC were all products of various coalitions in the 1970s and 1980s that argued – with convincing empirical evidence – that Australia’s standard of living was falling, while unemployment and inflation were increasing significantly. But Australia’s political and economic elites during the Whitlam ascendancy were fearful and resistant of change.

However, Australia’s collapsing terms of trade in the 1970s, combined with the pace and reach of economic globalisation in the 1980s and 1990s, altered the perceptions of elite decision makers, who belatedly recognised that Australia’s economic decline necessitated an increase in the rapidity of Australia’s structural adjustment.

The reform legacy of the Whitlam government

Whitlam’s tariff cuts, the subject of almost-universal opprobrium in 1973, were adopted with only minor modifications by successive governments. The Fraser government – Whitlamism without Whitlam – did not restore the pre-1973 status quo. Hawke, Keating and Button implemented tariff cuts as the centrepiece of their assault on protectionism throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Equally, the fact that industry-wide tariff elimination now has bipartisan support illustrates how far ahead of its time the Whitlam government was.

National competition reform, emanating from the 1974 TPA, has proven to be less politically volatile, but equally just as far-reaching in its impact upon the Australian economy.

Arguably, the Whitlam government proved more reformist and courageous than any of its predecessors and successors. In 1972–75, major economic reform was viewed as revolutionary. By 1983, following a second oil crisis and a deep global recession, Hawke and Keating no longer had to convince industry and unions that reform was essential and inevitable.

Perhaps even more importantly, Whitlam demonstrated that national solutions to national challenges required national responses. Whitlam, a committed centrist, deployed the powers of the Commonwealth to deliver tariff and trade practices reform, at the expense of the fragmented states’ interests. Whitlam’s successors have seized upon the Commonwealth’s powers to remove the last vestiges of state authority, leading not only to wide-ranging national macro and microeconomic reforms, but also the CPRA and the establishment of the ACCC and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

In 1973, advanced western economies sought refuge in increased protectionism, subsidies and quotas, in the wake of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system. The result was atrophy, stagflation and a loss of competitiveness. In the same year, the Whitlam government boldly undertook unilateral liberalisation and a year later quietly set in train a process of competition reform that would ultimately see Australia top global trade and competition rankings.

Dr Rémy Davison is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Social Sciences, and Associate Director of the Monash European and EU Centre.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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Launch of journal special issue edited by Monash LLCL academic

Associate Professor Millicent (Slobodanka) Vladiv-Glover, of Monash’s School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, has edited and contributed to a special edition of the journal Transcultural Studies, which is to be launched in Canberra this week.

The special edition, The Serbs and Miles Franklin in World War One in documents, fiction and commentary, includes the first ever publication of works from the Miles Franklin Collection at the Mitchell Library.

The special edition can be viewed on the Transcultural Studies website.

Launch details:

The journal edition is to be launched by His Excellency, Mr Miroljub Petrovic, ambassador of the Republic of Serbia, at the Australian War Memorial, Treloar Crecent, Canberra. The event is on the 25th of October, 2-4:30 pm.

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Monash Authors in Conversation: Professor John Rickard

The University Library, along with Monash University Publishing, are planning to strengthen campus life through the initiation of a new conversation series to be held in the Matheson Library, Clayton.

These will be afternoon events in which Monash University Publishing authors will discuss (with Press Director Nathan Hollier) their experiences in writing their recently published books, what they learned along the way, what they were surprised by, and what impact they hope their books will have.

ia-cover-printProfessor John Rickard will feature in the next author conversation event, part of a series offered by Monash University Publishing and held in the Matheson Library, Clayton.

John Rickard has published widely on Australian cultural history and biography. His new book, An Imperial Affair, is part biography, part autobiography and part social history.

An Imperial Affair is a story that takes us into the marriage of an Australian couple during a time when private lives were properly private but divorce a scandal.

It shines a light on the family values and sexual dynamics of this period, conditioned as they were by the imperial relationship and cultural dependence on ‘the mother country’, which inevitably helped shape hopes, fears and desires. This is also the beautifully told story of the writer’s sensitive and courageous quest to understand his parents and the world he came from and grew up in, its fragile reality filtered through the prism of memory. The book is part biography, part autobiography and part social history.

John Rickard is the author of H B Higgins: The Rebel as Judge (Age non-fiction Book of the Year 1984), Australia: A Cultural History (1988, 1996, new edition in preparation) and A Family Romance: The Deakins at Home (1996) and has published widely on Australian cultural history and biography. From 1997 to 1998 he was the visiting professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University and in 2007 the Monash Visiting Fellow of Australian Studies at the University of Copenhagen. He is currently an adjunct professor at Monash University. In his youth John Rickard worked as an actor and singer.

Event details

Time/Date:  3:00 pm – 4:00 pm/Fri 24 Oct
Location: Ground Floor, Matheson Library

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Book launch: Maestro John Monash, Australia’s greatest Citizen General

mjm-9781922235596-cover-printA new book by Tim Fischer, Maestro John Monash: Australia’s Greatest Citizen General, is to be launched at Scotch College by the Hon. Josh Frydenberg, on 10 November 2014.

‘Tim Fischer brings his army and political experience to the General Monash story with a flowing and digestible style.’
— Professor Roland Perry

Who was the most innovative general of World War One? For Tim Fischer, the answer has to be Australia’s ‘Maestro’ John Monash, a man who, for all the recognition he received in his lifetime and after, has arguably not been given his proper due.

Fischer also asks why Monash, Australian Army Corps Commander, was never promoted to Field Marshal, postwar, as international precedent suggested was most appropriate, pointing the finger primarily at the Australian prime minister of the time, Billy Hughes, within a wider context of establishment suspicion towards this son of a German Jewish migrant.

‘A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases. Every individual unit must make its entry precisely at the proper moment and play its phrase in the general harmony.’ — John Monash

Book Launch Details

Time: 6:00 for a 6:30 start
Address: Scotch College, Memorial Hall, 1 Morrison Street Hawthorn, Victoria

Registration for this event is essential. Register online by 28th October 2014 via the Old Scotch Collegians’ Association website.

About the Author

The Honourable Tim Fischer AC is the former deputy prime minister of Australia and was the Australian ambassador to the Holy See for three years until January 2012. A former Australian Army officer, NSW state parliamentarian, leader of the National Party and minister for trade, Tim Fischer is also a consultant, company director, author, broadcaster, and multiple patron.

His previous publications include Seven Days in East Timor: Ballot and Bullets(2000), Tim Fischer’s Outback Heroes: and Communities that Count (2002), Transcontinental Train Odyssey: The Ghan, the Khyber, the Globe (2004),  Asia & Australia: Tango in Trade, Tourism and Transport (2005), Trains Unlimited in the 21st Century (2011) and Holy See, Unholy Me! 1000 Days in Rome (2013).

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Political donations: Victoria’s big secret

by Colleen Lewis

The nearer we get to the November state election the more we hear about the various policies all political parties are presenting to the electorate in the hope of winning seats, and in the case of the major parties, attaining government.

But with only 45 days to go before Victorians cast their votes, they have little knowledge about the political donations policies of various parties. An examination of the four major parties’ websites shows that only the Greens outline in detail their internal position on the issue. However, all note that contributions  greater than $11,200 are subject to disclosure under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

What Victorians need to know, from any party fielding candidates in the forthcoming election, is exactly who is donating to them, how much they have given and over what period of time and what, if any, are the donors’ affiliations with corporations/businesses and so on. This information is not available because Victoria does not have a donations disclosure policy (although all parties must lodge with the Victorian Election Commission a copy of their Federal annual return, which refers to the $50,000 cap on any donations received from casinos and gambling licensees).

Voters are entitled to know donor-related information  before casting their vote. If any party disagrees with this sentiment, they should explain to voters why providing it would not be in the public interest, especially as being denied such information is contributing to the widening trust deficit between politicians and those they represent.

One way of trying to close this gap, which democratic values are perilously close to falling through, is to have a political donations regime that is based on transparency and delivers accountability.  Such a policy is needed to assure voters that donations have not gone, and will not go, hand in glove with policy decisions.

Should any party be without a political donations policy, I recommend it and its candidates read and heed the submissions, transcripts and interim report of the New South Wales government’s Independent Panel of Experts Review into that State’s electoral funding laws.

The Interim Report outlines recommendations for the type of regime required in Victoria. These include “frequent and timely disclosure of reportable political donations”, so that voters are aware of all such contributions  before voting; meaningful penalties “for serious breaches of elections funding laws”, and the introduction of “mandatory education programs for candidates and Members of Parliament on ethical conduct”, with a focus on why MPs’ need to comply with existing laws. As the panel argues, these policies would have “a practical impact in terms of transparency, accountability and integrity”.

While Victorians know very little about political donors, they do know how much it costs to attend a fund-raising lunch or dinner, which grants those who have the ability to pay access to Liberal, National and Labor Party politicians. At a cost of between $10,000 to $25,000 (per ten-person table), attendance at these exorbitantly priced events is limited to wealthy corporations, businesses or individuals.

The price of gaining access to this level of power and influence is unattainable for the overwhelming majority of voters, the so-called ordinary people, that political parties depend on for their votes and for party membership fees. Charging thousands of dollars to be able to spend a few hours with a minister, shadow minister, parliamentary secretary or backbencher (on a sliding scale depending on their influence) is to treat nearly all voters with disdain. The message, perceived or real, is give me your vote but unless you pay you are not welcome to dine, for several hours, with me and other member of my parliamentary political party.

These “ordinary” voters are the same people who, through their taxes, pay the wages of all MPs.  They also bear the cost of their allowances, superannuation contributions, overseas study tours and post-parliamentary entitlements. The “ordinary” voter also contributes to political parties, whether they want to or not, through political funding rules. At the moment in Victoria that amounts to $1.20 (adjusted annually for inflation) for every first-preference vote received, with a four per cent eligibility threshold.

Even if Victoria had strong political donations laws, as they do in NSW, we do not have an anti-corruption body with the scope of ICAC which, on suspicion of deliberate attempts to circumvent donor laws, can make meaningful preliminary inquiries; the kind which eventually led to the exposure in NSW of unethical and in some instances potentially illegal behaviour by members of a political party.

The paradox associated with parliamentarians deliberately scheming to circumvent legislation, is that  some MPs pass political donation legislation and then spend their time, energy and resources trying to find ways around the laws they passed. This type of action led the NSW government to establish  a panel of experts to examine what can be done to prevent such  behaviour reoccurring.

The argument that Victoria’s political culture is different to that of New South Wales is no longer acceptable to voters in terms of our anti-corruption body, IBAC, or in relation to political funding.

There is an urgent need in Victoria to make the reporting of political donations instantaneous or very nearly so. With today’s technology this is an easy and reasonably inexpensive thing to do. There is absolutely no reason why information about who donated to what party or candidate and how much they donated could not be posted on a public website in real time or within 24 to 48 hours after money changes hands. All Victorians look forward to knowing why we do not have such a policy and exactly when one will be introduced.

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

This article has appeared in The Age.

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Study Overseas: South Africa and Rwanda 2015 Information Session

Do you want to find out more about the Arts International Study Program ‘Seeking Justice: South Africa and Rwanda’ scheduled to take place 5-19 July 2015?

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Come to the information session:

Time/Date: 5pm-6pm Tuesday 21 October 2014

Location: Theatre H238, Building H, Caulfield campus

Go to the Arts Outbound Programs Events Booking System to register to attend.

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Government may be learning from mistakes, except for slow learners

by Shaun Carney

A few days ago in a tutorial on political leadership, a student asked me, given my past professional contact with Tony Abbott, if the prime minister has what it takes to be a long-term success in the job. My answer was that after observing Abbott’s first year as the nation’s leader it’s too early to say. He could still make it. Or not.

The ultimate test of all leaders, especially in the unforgiving and incredibly febrile atmosphere of contemporary politics, is how much and how quickly they learn from their mistakes. Because they always make mistakes, especially early in their first term of office.

Being open to the prospect of Abbott succeeding as prime minister – that is, steering through meaningful legislative change and retaining office for multiple terms – will be regarded as absurd and even appalling by many Australians, including quite a few who read The Conversation.

Putting a poor first year behind it

This is especially so in the case of the Abbott government because it has been so cack-handed on many important issues during its first year. Having made iron-clad assurances on funding and delivery in key service areas all the way up to last year’s election, and having promised no new taxes – and pledged to remove the carbon and mining taxes – the government set about trying to wriggle out of some of these commitments within weeks of being elected.

Christopher Pyne’s late-2013 attempt at self-interpretive dance on education funding will long remain a textbook example of what not to do as a minister. Pyne’s solo effort expanded to a full-scale production with the release of Joe Hockey’s first budget in May, which a substantial slice of the electorate saw as a breach of faith.

What voters heard from the Coalition before the election was a simple, attractive message: the only thing needed to get the nation back on track is to elect us; we’ll fix the finances and you won’t feel it at all. But the 2014-15 budget was an ideological text aimed at smashing Hockey’s despised “entitlement mentality”, raising the cost of basic medical care and tertiary education to name but two measures.

The budget was also an acknowledgement of reality: no matter what it said pre-election, the new government couldn’t possibly keep all its spending commitments and get the budget back into surplus without substantial reconstructive surgery.

Astonishingly, in the period after the release of the budget, the Treasurer, having found himself in a hole, just kept digging. As the extent of public opprobrium became clearer and the Senate lined up to block key elements of the budget, he threatened to come up with new cuts.

It was a cold winter for the government. Difficult decisions, poorly sold, were followed by bad decisions.

But are there signs that the government has started to locate the capacity to climb out of the trough?

Coalition finds a circuit-breaker

In terms of public support, the circuit-breaker for the Coalition has been the rise of Islamic State, the spectre of home-grown terrorism and the government’s decision to deploy RAAF jets and SAS troops to an international coalition to fight IS in Iraq.

This has not been the decisive game-changer that decisions to go to war have been for governments throughout history. While polls taken in recent weeks suggest that the public supports the deployment, the memories of the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are fresh. But the movement of the public discussion from the government’s continued inability to pass its unpopular budget to a forthright national stance on a perceived threat has put a floor under the Coalition’s support.

When he made his “Team Australia” announcement in early August, Abbott took the opportunity to clear the decks of the dead weight created by his plan to rewrite section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Another ministerial underperformer, Attorney-General George Brandis, had rendered that proposal unworkable once he framed it as a mechanism by which the government wanted to be able to defend the free speech rights of bigots.

Lately, there have been other signs that Prime Minister Abbott might be learning on the job. In order to get at least some of its spending cuts through the Senate, the government split its welfare bills. This meant that some changes, including those to the Family Tax Benefit (part B), could be legislated with support from either Labor or the crossbench. It was a tactical retreat, a piece of common sense in which the government got a lot less than it wanted but it got something.

And in recent days, the government dropped the idea of forcing job seekers to apply for 40 jobs a month and endure a six-month wait for Newstart. That it even came up with such a poorly conceived proposal and then took months to come to its senses does not reflect well on those who created the policy and dug in on it. But the backdown suggests that inside the government there are some who are learning that the voyage of incumbency can’t always be taken on the high horse.

Bluster won’t help political recovery

Of course, the involvement in Iraq is open-ended, far from guaranteed to be a strategic success and expensive. The Labor opposition chose to back it because its leadership is genuinely alarmed at the spread of IS and because it wanted as much as possible to keep the domestic political focus on the budget and the government’s determination to create an “unfair” society.

Labor did not want to be drawn into a new debate about its patriotism or lack thereof. The opposition calculates that its best chance of winning in 2016 is to keep focusing on the Coalition’s financial policies.

Abbott is said by people inside the government to be nervous about how the military’s return to Iraq will play out, both politically and practically, over the longer term. But for the moment he takes comfort from Labor’s position. If it goes right, he’ll get most of the credit. If it goes wrong, he won’t get all of the blame.

Not everybody in the government is willing to learn from experience and make the necessary compromises. Hockey’s attempt in Washington to cast Labor as unpatriotic unless it passed the budget, thus paying for the Iraq deployment, was a reminder that there’s a vast gulf between talking the talk in opposition and walking the walk once you get into office. And of how the ability to bluster and take up media space will never be a substitute for statecraft – or a guide to political success.

Adjunct Associate Professor Shaun Carney works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Record number of micro-parties to have say in Victorian election

by Zareh Ghazarian

It appears that there’s never been a better time to be a minor party in Australia. From a time when parliaments were the domain of only the major parties, small parties have gradually made inroads into the nations’ legislatures.

With seven weeks to go until the Victorian state election, are the new minor parties, also referred to as “micro-parties”, in a position to influence the next Victorian parliament?

The 2013 national election was the highpoint so far for such parties. A record number of new minor parties joined existing small parties represented in the Senate. These included the Liberal Democrats, Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and the Palmer United Party. A number of Greens candidates were returned to the Senate, while Family First claimed its first seat since 2004.

Encouraged by these results, a host of minor parties are gearing up for the Victorian election on November 29.

Upper house seats are in newcomers’ sights

The prospect of winning a seat in the Victorian Legislative Assembly still appears to be beyond minor parties (though the Greens have come close in recent elections). The major parties are still expected to dominate the lower house. To be elected to the Legislative Assembly, a candidate must win at least 50%-plus one of the vote – as with the federal House of Representatives.

It’s another story in the upper house. The Legislative Council has a voting system similar to the Senate. This system provides greater opportunities for minor parties to win seats. Should they hold the balance of power, they could then exert significant influence over the new government’s legislative agenda.

Since shifting to a multi-member system using proportional representation in 2006, the Legislative Council has had a couple of minor parties win representation. The DLP won a seat in 2006, while the Greens hope to increase their numbers in the chamber this time around.

The quota needed to win a seat is about 16.7 per cent. While higher than the quota needed for election to the Senate (which is 14.4 per cent), minor parties can reach a quota by cobbling together a suite of deals on the flow of preference votes.

The importance of preference ‘wheeling and dealing’

Underpinning the success, or otherwise, of minor parties is the preference deals they can manufacture with other parties.

This feature gives minor parties a vital bargaining chip that can allow them to have an impact on the political debate even before a single vote is cast. Indeed, they can make deals to direct their preferences to other parties if these parties agree to advance their agenda if elected to parliament.

The group of parties that are concerned with conservative social values while opposing fertility control has been very active in this regard. For example, the Democratic Labour Party, the Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia have all decided to direct preferences to candidates who support their stance on abortion, among other policies.

In more recent elections the practice of “preference harvesting” has become a critical tool used by minor parties to claim seats. This is when minor parties make a range of preference deals with as many parties as they possibly can with the aim of constructing a flow of votes that allows them to reach the magical quota.

The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party used this to great effect in the 2013 federal election. The MEP constructed a quota of 14.4% even though it won just 0.5 per cent of the primary vote. Much of the credit for preference-harvesting decisions has gone to Glenn Druery, the so-called “preference whisper”.

Can minor parties replicate federal success in Victoria?

A quick glance at the party registrations on the Victorian Electoral Commission website suggests that a record number of parties will contest the poll, a situation similar to the 2013 federal election. This lends itself to preference harvesting.

The similarities between the upcoming Victorian election and the 2013 federal poll don’t end there. In both instances, the government was operating as a minority government. In Victoria, the Coalition government has been on the back foot since Geoff Shaw resigned from the Liberal Party.

Second, the government is being led by a person who did not lead them to victory in the previous election. Denis Napthine replaced Ted Baillieu in 2013.

Third, the government has appeared to be rife with internal bickering and has often been ill-disciplined. In particular, debates about moral issues and abortion have appeared to divide the Liberal Party.

Fourth, opinion polls have consistently shown the Labor opposition, led by Daniel Andrews, holds an election-winning lead.

All of these elements, in addition to the fact that so many candidates will be standing, point to a significant degree of volatility in the results. The number of minor parties from the right also suggests that they will have an impact on the Coalition’s primary vote.

In these situations micro-parties, especially from the right, would have an excellent chance of winning a seat as long as they had done their homework and constructed a suite of beneficial preference deals. Their success will also depend on where preferences from the major parties go.

The emergence of these minor parties indicates either that democracy is thriving in Victoria, or that citizens have been unimpressed with the state of politics and are more willing to vote for a new minor party. Either way, it appears that small parties are set to have a big impact on the election outcome.

Dr Zareh Ghazarian is a lecturer within the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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Can we trust media reporting on politics any more?

by Colleen Lewis

Victorians go to the polls in a little under two months and between now and then media focus on political news will intensify. The spotlight will be trained on political parties, their policies and commitments and on members of parliament and candidates. The part traditional media plays in reporting political matters will also come under the microscope, along with that of social media.

Given the importance of the decision voters have to make on 29 November, now is an opportune time to reflect on the relationship between the media and MPs, the role the media plays in a democratic society and the responsibilities that are attached to its position.

Our elected representatives and traditional media have a symbiotic relationship in which the role of the “used” and “user” changes.  Both sides trade and negotiate the sharing of information with the ultimate aim of controlling the political news agenda.

Because journalists’ lifeline is information, politicians can, at times, control that agenda. Tactics at their disposal include deciding when to release information. They also leak stories to favoured journalists and/or brief them about complicated or controversial policies. This is done in the hope of achieving favourable or not so critical coverage. In extreme circumstances politicians can stop the information flow. Former Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen did this to a current affairs program by not allowing any minister to be interviewed. As a result the anchor person could not continue as presenter.

Despite the dominant influence politicians sometimes exercise in the symbiotic relationship, it is the media that overwhelmingly operates the levers of control. It decides from the multitude of potential stories that arise on a daily basis, which ones will feature. It also determines the tone and content surrounding the reporting of a political event, how long a story will run and its key message.

It is the media that forms and poses the questions. In terms of the electronic media, journalists foreground interviews, can choose to ignore any question a politician asks of them and is able to move the discussion to another topic at a time of their choosing. In terms of the print media and pre-recorded radio and television interviews, the media controls the all-important editing process.

Having the capacity to exercise the control levers does not mean the media is omnipotent; it is not. Also, when some sections of the media appear blatantly biased, it can reverse the intended outcome, with voters turning against the particular news outlet rather than the subject of the biased coverage. But given the privileged role the media occupies in democratic societies, should there be biased coverage in the first place?

There is more than one form of democracy but common to all is freedom of the press. It is unquestionably an essential element of any model. In a democratic context, the media is often referred to as “The Fourth Estate”.

Very loosely defined, the “modern” concept of the Fourth Estate relates to the media’s watchdog role as one of the key protectors of the public interest. The freedom it is afforded allows the media to scrutinise the actions of the powerful, thereby fostering greater levels of accountability and transparency. Theoretically at least, a free media enables members of society to make informed choices about political matters. The ability to do so assumes, of course, that the media will report all sides of an argument in a fair and balanced manner. To do otherwise is to negate its Fourth Estate role.

While a free media plays a most important role at all times, in the lead up to an election its importance escalates. This is because the voting population still receives the majority of its political information via the traditional media (including its online presence).

The media is the primary communication channel between voters and those standing for election. Its depiction of a policy, event, political party and/or politician has the potential to influence how people perceive political reality. This is not to suggest that the media determines what people think about a particular matter, other factors are at play, but the media does have significant input into determining the political issues people are debating and considering prior to casting their vote.

Given the freedom afforded the media and its capacity to set the political news agenda, to what degree is it fulfilling its Fourth Estate obligations? Critics, including former Federal Government Minister, Lindsay Tanner, echo the sentiments of many when he says that the media no longer focuses on informing, preferring instead to entertain the consumers of its product. It is, according to Tanner, transforming political news into a “carnival sideshow”.

Given the power the media wields in democracies, many are also asking if it is sufficiently accountable for its actions. The misuse of media power has led others to question if it has a “duty of care” to the community to ensure it exercises its influence fairly, wisely and in the public interest.

Lord Puttnam, a British film producer and member of the House of Lords, first raised the duty of care issue in relation to the media. He maintains that because it sets the “tone and content” for much of our democratic discourse, it needs to decide how it sees its role:  is it to  “inflame or to inform”.

Puttnam also suggests that the declining trust in our democratically elected representatives is linked to media coverage of politics and politicians.

Trust is the most important element in the relationship between MPs and those who elect them to govern. It also underpins the media’s role as the Fourth Estate. If the consumers of political news are to make informed decisions about political matters they must be able to trust the media. At the moment is seems that some journalists and media organisations, but certainly not all, are more interested in playing the “gotcha” game than delivering balanced and informed coverage.  This is resulting in politicians playing a counter-game of “catch me out – but only if you can”.

Trust is the most important element in the relationship between MPs and those who elect them to govern. It also underpins the media’s role as the Fourth Estate. If the consumers of political news are to make informed decisions about political matters they must be able to trust the media. At the moment is seems that some media organisations are more interested in playing the “gotcha” game than delivering balanced and informed coverage. This is resulting in politicians playing a counter-game of “catch me out – but only if you can”.

Voters are sick and tired of both games and are calling for change but is either side capable of, or interested in, changing?

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

This article has appeared in The Age.

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Celebrating 25 Years of the Parliamentary Internship Program

Did you complete an Internship at the Victorian Parliament during your undergraduate degree?

The Parliament of Victoria is proud to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Victorian Parliamentary Internship program next year. Since the inaugural intake in 1990, over 1000 interns have been hosted from Monash University, the University of Melbourne and Victoria University. In order to celebrate this landmark achievement, the Parliament plans to host a special Anniversary Event in October 2015.

In preparation for the Anniversary Event, the Parliament is keen to involve all former interns in a new Alumni association. The Parliament is seeking to gather information about former Interns to highlight their achievements.

Pictured, from left: Andrew Elsbury MLC, Associate Professor Paul Strangio (Monash University), the President, Hon. Bruce Atkinson MLC, prize winner Jedda Bamford and the Speaker, Hon. Christine Fyffe MP.
Pictured, from left: Andrew Elsbury MLC, Associate Professor Paul Strangio (Monash University), the President, Hon. Bruce Atkinson MLC, prize winner Jedda Bamford and the Speaker, Hon. Christine Fyffe MP.

Monash University alumna Jedda Bamford was awarded the 2014 Presiding Officer’s Prize for most outstanding Parliamentary Internship Report. Hosted by Andrew Elsbury, MLC, Jedda’s report was titled ‘The Safety to Surrender.’ Her report was an examination of infant safe surrender laws designed to prevent infanticide and unlawful infant abandonment considered for the state of Victoria.

If you are interested in putting your name to the Parliamentary Interns Alumni and participating in the alumni interviews being conducted by the Parliament, please contact:

Grace McCoy | Research Assistant
t: (03) 8682 2783 | m: 04103 19955
25 Year Anniversary of Parliamentary Internship Program
Department of Parliamentary Services
Parliament of Victoria

Your participation will be greatly appreciated by the Parliament and Monash University!



Spotlight on: Mental Health and Monash Criminology

It is Mental Health Awareness week across Australia and an important time to consider how mental health issues impact the community and individuals in myriad ways. Monash Criminologists are contributing important research to enable more informed criminal justice policy and process in areas where mental health and criminal justice intersect. Our work includes the following:

Examining the design and implementation of the Mental Health Act 

On a July 2014, the Victoria Government commenced the new Mental Health Act. This act is a key element in the Government’s mental health reform agenda, placing individuals and carers at the center of mental health treatment and care. Unlike the previous Mental Health Act, this Act is solution focused, focusing on the recovery and autonomy of individuals, and working towards the end-goal of making compulsory treatment unnecessary.

Dr Claire Spivakovsky (Criminology) and Dr Kate Seear (Law) are currently investigating the development and application of this Act, exploring the function and impact of concepts like recovery and capacity in Mental Health law.

Investigating post-imprisonment survival and non-survival for women  

Dr Marie Segrave and Dr Bree Carlton recently concluded a project examining women’s experiences upon release from prison in Victoria. This research highlighted numerous concerns regarding the impact of the absence or inadequacy of mental health treatment in development years, particularly for young women who have experienced (often ongoing) trauma in their lives, the ways in which lifestyle outside and within prison can further impact negatively upon mental  health and the significant challenges women face upon release.

Mental health is not experienced in isolation, many women struggle with mental health issues whilst also struggling with loneliness and isolation, inconsistent formal support mechanisms, the interaction of drug and alcohol dependence with existing mental health issues and the myriad barriers faced by anyone with a criminal conviction and a history of imprisonment.

The results of this research have been published in a number of national and international journals, and the research also led to an international collaboration with researchers undertaking similar working the US, the UK and Canada resulting in a collection edited by Marie and Bree, Women Exiting Prison: Critical Essays on Gender, Post-Release Support and Survival (Routledge).

Interdisciplinary research on specialist courts, including the Mental Health Court list

Victoria currently operates both a Drug Court and a Mental Health Court List. Specialist jurisdictions like this seek to address the underlying social, medical and/or psychological issues that lead certain populations to have repeat contact with criminal justice systems. Unfortunately, many individuals who have repeat contact with criminal justice systems experience both mental health concerns and alcohol or other drug dependence. This means that they fall between the focus of these two specialist jurisdictions. It is currently unclear how these jurisdictions respond to this shared population.

Dr Claire Spivakovsky (Criminology), Dr Kate Seear (Law), Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic (Sociology) and Associate Professor Suzanne Fraser (National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University) have initiated research to identify opportunities to enhance the justice, social and health outcomes for offenders with multiple and complex needs, and provides practical recommendations for improving the operation of specialist courts to improve the outcomes for individuals with complex, multifaceted needs.

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The Paul Grabowsky Sextet scoops two major industry awards

Bitter-Suite-coverIt has been an exciting week for Professor Paul Grabowsky, Vice Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow to the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, having scooped two major industry awards: The ARIA Fine Arts Award for Best Jazz Album and the Australian Independent Music Award (AIR) for Best Independent Jazz Album.

The Bitter Suite (ABC Jazz/UMA) was recorded in 2012 by Professor Grabowsky (piano) alongside fellow musicians Jamie Oehlers (tenor saxophone), Andrew Robson (alto and soprano saxophone), James Greening (trombone), Cameron Undy (bass) and Simon Baker (drums). And, in Grawobsky’s own words, ‘[he] could not hope for a better band’.

The Bitter Suite, mixed and mastered by James Kennedy, was recorded at the ABC Studios in Sydney and comprises of eight original pieces, plus one ‘rather original take’ on a composition by Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin.

“The pieces are not exactly easy, with some strange metrical things on top of strange harmonic things, but it is supposed to be fun to play, and fun to listen to. I think of the pieces as self-portraits in which special figures in my life, both living and long gone, are hovering in the background” said Grabowsky.

Professor Grabowsky received the ARIA Fine Arts award alongside an impressive cast of musicians and artists including Joseph Tawadros, Lior and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. “These talented artists, musicians, producers and engineers lay the foundation for our ARIA Awards and embody the creative spirit that represents the Australian music industry” said ARIA CEO Dan Rosen.

Professor Paul Grabowsky receives the 2014 AIR award for Best Independent Jazz Album: 'The Bitter Suite' by the Paul Grabowsky Sextet.
Professor Paul Grabowsky receives the 2014 AIR award for Best Independent Jazz Album: ‘The Bitter Suite’ by the Paul Grabowsky Sextet.

Also nominated for the ARIA Fine Art award for Best Jazz Album was The Monash Sessions: Vince Jones (Jazzhead), a collaboration of staff and students of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, as well as The Hunters & Pointers (Which Way Music/Fuse Group) by faculty member Professor Tony Gould with Graeme Lyall, John Hoffman, and sessional teachers Ben Robertson and Tony Floyd.

After only having recovered from this stellar win, the Paul Grabowsky Sextet took out the Australian Independent Music Award (AIR) for Best Independent Jazz Album in a ceremony held in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

Professor Grabowsky adds these awards to his remarkable collection of 2014 awards, including an APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) and Australian Jazz Bell Award. Earlier this year Professor Grabowsky was awarded an Order Of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to music as a performer, composer, educator and mentor and through significant contributions to the arts as an administrator”.

In a statement released this morning, Associate Professor and Head of School Rob Burke said “I congratulate Professor Paul Grabowsky (AO) on his incredible success at the ARIA and AIR awards this week. His contribution to the School of Music over the past two years has furthered our status as a forward-thinking and progressive music institution on both the national and international stage. We commend Professor Grabowsky on his continued contributions and support”.

For more information on the Australian Independent Music Awards (AIR) click here.

For more information on the ARIA Fine Arts Awards click here.

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Research Strength in the School of Social Sciences: Our Future Fellows

School of Social Sciences ARC Future Fellows: Professor Sharon Pickering, ARC Future Fellow and Head of School, centre front row
School of Social Sciences ARC Future Fellows: Professor Sharon Pickering, ARC Future Fellow and Head of School, centre front row

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS), led by Professor Sharon Pickering, now houses six Social Sciences ARC Future Fellows. This cluster success in the social sciences is not replicated at any other university in the country and is testament to the excellence, innovation and national relevance of social science research at Monash.

Pictured are the Future Fellow researchers in the School: Professor Sharon Pickering (Criminology), centre front row, Dr Julian Millie (Anthropology)  and Professor Jacqui True (Politics & International Relations). Associate Professor Andrea Whittaker (Anthropology), Associate Professor Leanne Weber (Criminology),  and Associate Professor Anita Harris (Sociology) back row.

The School also has three  ARC DECRA Fellowships. Researchers in SoSS are investigating critical geo-political and social questions: these fellowships will further the research activities of each of the Fellows and enhance their contributions to key national debates.  

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