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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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

Join the Facebook event. 



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?

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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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European Association for Studies of Australia conference in Prato

Encountering Australia: Transcultural Conversations
2014 international conference of the European Association for Studies of Australia (EASA)

Monash University’s Arts Faculty hosted the 2014 international EASA conference, entitled, Encountering Australia: Transcultural Conversations.  Held at Monash Prato Centre from 24-26 September, the conference attracted over 100 delegates from Australia, Europe and Asia.

Introduced by Professor Rae Frances, His Excellency, the Honorable Mike Rann, Australian Ambassador to Italy, San Marino, Albania and Libya launched the conference.  Among other distinguished guests was Senator Francesco Giacobbe of the Italian Senate.  Renowned novelist and Professor of Writing at Curtin University, Kim Scott delivered the opening keynote.

In consultation with Professor Marc Delrez, President of EASA, Associate Professor Chandani Lokuge of Monash Arts chaired the Conference Convening Committee.

Below are videos from the conference. The first features Professor Rae Frances’ welcome and opening keynote by Kim Scott. The second video is of Senator Franca Cavagnoli’s keynote address.

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Kobanê teeters on the brink in a fight to the end against ISIS

by William Gourlay

The black flag of ISIS has been sighted in the Syrian city of Kobanê. For three weeks, heavily armed ISIS gangs have advanced on Kobanê – also known as Ayn al-Arab – steadily pushing back the local YPG militia.

With their backs against the border with Turkey, the militia, mostly comprising local Kurds, but also Syriac Christians, are significantly outgunned. Such are the dire straits that Kobanê finds itself in that almost the entire population has been mobilised.

Amid reports of street battles, Kobanê Defence Authority leader Esmat al-Sheikh told Reuters:

We either die or win. No fighter is leaving. The world is watching, just watching and leaving these monsters to kill everyone, even children … but we will fight to the end with what weapons we have.

Social media is peppered with images of AK47-touting grandmothers, of fathers and sons and sometimes grandfathers joining together to man the front lines. The female members of the militia have achieved significant media attention, too, even making the pages of glossy fashion magazines.

But for all the tenacity of their fight, local militia have not been able to match the heavy weaponry of ISIS, most of it pilfered when the Iraqi army abandoned Mosul in June.

Kobanê officials have now ordered civilians to evacuate the city. Those who go will join more than 160,000 who have already fled across the Turkish border in recent weeks. Many plan to stay, however, to fight to the last.

What they’re fighting for

The Kurdish-populated towns of the Syrian-Turkish border area are not attractive.

Dust-blown conglomerations of concrete tower blocks, they have little aesthetic appeal, but it can be expected that locals will defend them desperately. Intense clashes are being reported from within the city, with YPG units inflicting heavy losses on ISIS gangs.

The episode of Kobanê has unfurled gruesomely slowly. For weeks, Kurdish activists have been calling for support. There have been some US airstrikes against ISIS targets around the city, but locals say they have been few and largely ineffective.

In the last few days, as the situation has deteriorated, Salih Muslim, the leader of the Syrian Democratic Unity Party (PYD), visited Turkey to appeal for support.

Ankara told him that to attract the support of Turkey he must cast in his lot with the Free Syrian Army.

Turkey, which has only recently pledged its support for the coalition against ISIS, appears more intent on toppling Bashar al-Assad in Damascus than on defeating ISIS.

Turkey has been assured of NATO support should ISIS make any move to cross into Turkey. Kurds, meanwhile, remain very distrustful of Turkey, whose military is ensconced on the border overlooking Kobanê within full view of the hostilities as they occur.

Kurds are also concerned that some grand bargain has been reached in which Kobanê is to be allowed to fall. They are understandably bemused that such a large contingent of ISIS fighters and heavy weaponry gathered in one spot has attracted such paltry and ineffectual international military action.

Muslims and Christians fighting ISIS

The campaign against Kobanê and nearby Kurdish towns gives the lie to any claim ISIS may have about waging a campaign on behalf of Islam.

The Kurds against whom ISIS fighters are committing atrocities are largely Sunni Muslims, fighting alongside local Syriac Christians.

That the US-led coalition could not lend sufficient support to these Kurdish forces is likely to result in a humanitarian catastrophe. The coalition has also missed a vital opportunity to demonstrate that its campaign is not anti-Muslim, but is focused on a group that perpetrates outrages even against fellow Muslims.

A further irony here is that the brave fight of the PYD has demonstrated the military shortcomings of ISIS.

What Kobanê has revealed about ISIS

That local militias – with only light arms and little outside support – can hold off a major ISIS offensive, including a great deal of heavy weaponry of US and Russian origin, indicates that ISIS’s military prowess is vastly overstated.

The PYD militias are tenacious and are fighting to hold their homeland, to be sure, but one can only wonder how easily ISIS may have been defeated in this arena if the might of the US-led coalition had been effectively brought to bear.

Meanwhile, as news of Kobanê’s fate has spread, Kurds around the globe have rallied in massive numbers in support of Kobanê.

Protests have sprung up across European capitals, in the US, in Australia and in many Turkish cities including Istanbul. It should be noted that it is not only Kurds who are protesting; concerned observers of all stripes are crying out in support of Kobanê.

As it stands, prevarication – or perhaps backroom deals – have meant there has been dangerously inadequate international support for a local, secular, non-sectarian force fighting valiantly to quell ISIS gangs.

A Kurdish proverb states that they have “no friends but the mountains”. Protests across the globe and a whirlwind of social media activity in support of Kobanê indicate that this is not the case, at least amongst people on the street.

Those in power who might have been able to prevent the catastrophe at Kobanê appear to be sitting on their hands. If Kobanê falls, as it appears it may, no Kurd will ever count them as a friend.

William Gourlay is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Call for papers: Conference on Central and West Asia and their diasporas

Call for Papers: An International Conference on the Transnational and Transgenerational in Central and West Asia and their Diasporas

Hosted by Monash University Faculty of Arts

Scholars of West and Central Asia, especially Iran and its neighbours, are invited to submit proposals for pre-arranged panels or individual papers in all subfields of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The conference will focus on the transnational – links and intersections between Central and West Asian states and/or between the region and its diasporic communities, as well as the transgenerational – links between generations in the region and its diasporas.

Papers and panels may examine the development or the disruption of such links through social and cultural change, migration, political transitions or globalisation. We are interested in the ways transnational and transgenerational connections are represented or reflected in film, music, literature and other arts, as well as the findings of historical and anthropological research.

Please submit a 300-word abstract and biographical note to Roya Salamati ( by 10th November 2014.

Keynote Speakers

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York

Ghassan Hage, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities

Other speakers will be added soon.


Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Anthropology of the Middle East (


Monash University Caulfield campus, Melbourne, Australia


If you would like to stay in a private home with a delegate in Melbourne (at no cost), please email Roya Salamati to apply.

If you are based in Melbourne and would like to provide hospitality to an international delegate, please email Roya Salamati. Registration fees will be waived for those providing private accommodation.


(early bird rates, for registration by 1 February 2015)

  • Full 3-day conference, including lunches and refreshments: $100 (Unwaged (students, pensioners, unemployed): $50)
  • Two days: $80 (Unwaged: $40)
  • One day: $40 (Unwaged: $20)

Evening Program

Saturday 14 March: Concert
Sunday 15 March: Film screening and Q&A with the director
Monday 16 March: Address by Professor Dabashi
Conference Dinner

These events (except the conference dinner) are open to the public. 

For delegates staying an extra day, optional tours will be offered on 17 March, as well as Chaharshanbe Suri in the evening.


Arts in Prato 2015 Information Session

Do you want to find out which Arts units you can do at the Monash Prato Centre in Italy next year?

Come to the Arts in Prato 2015 Information Session!

Time/Date: 1pm-2.15pm Wednesday 8 October 2014

Location: Science Lecture Theatre 7, Building 21, Clayton campus

We’ll let you know about:

  • Overview of Monash Prato Centre
  • Unit presentations by each coordinator
  • Internships in Prato
  • Prato alumnus speaker
  • Funding and financial assistance; Travel insurance; Visas
  • Eligibility and application process; Fees and costs; Accommodation

For Bookings please go to:

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Panel discussion: Masculinity and links to gender inequality and violence in Timor-Leste and Indonesia

Internationally, it has been shown that there is a strong link between various gender related norms including notions of masculinity in a society and gendered violence. How masculinity and gender norms are linked to inequality and violence against women is key to programs of prevention. A panel of academics will explore cultural-religious elements of masculinity that contributes to violence in Timor-Leste and Indonesia and strategies of promoting non-violence masculinity in both contexts. These ideas and concepts will be explored particularly in relation to the work of men in prevention programs such as the Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (AMKV) or Association for Men Against Violence in Timor and the Gerakan Laki-Laki Baru (LLB) or New Men’s Movement in Indonesia.

Event Details

Date: Tuesday 7 October 5:30 pm

Venue: Monash University, Caulfield Campus, ACJC Seminar Room, Building H, 8th Floor (H8.05-8.06)

Panel includes:

Marito de Araujo, Visiting Academic from Timor-Leste

Mario Araujo is a founding member of the CSO Association for Men Against Violence in Timor-Leste, and a long-term social activist. He has worked for Oxfam CAA Australia as an advocacy officer and programme co-ordinator. He is committed personally and professionally to promoting greater gender and social equity, particularly at the community level. He currently teaches at one of Timor’s top two Universities, Universidade da Paz (UNPAZ) and works as a gender consultant to government and international and local organisations.

Mira Fonseca, Research Assistant and Honours Student, International Community Development, Victoria University. Mira has worked for the Alola Foundation in East Timor. Currently she studies and works as a researcher with the University of New South Wales into the association between experiences of abuse and injustice and explosive anger amongst women in Timor, and the impact of anger on women’s health, family relationships and ability to participate in development.

‘Iyik’ Wiyanto, PhD candidate, Monash University. Iyik’s research is on women’s empowerment in urban poor communities in Indonesia. She is also a coordinator for the Indonesian team of the research project: “When and Why do States Respond to Women’s Claims: Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Asia, a comparative study on India, Indonesia, and China” with the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

Rachmad Hidayat, PhD candidate, Monash University. His research into Muslim men and masculinity began at Monash, where an AusAID scholarship allowed him to focus his master’s research on domestic violence in Indonesia with the Men’s Program of Rifka Annisa, a women’s support NGO in Yogyakarta. His current PhD research is on how Southeast-Asian Muslim migrants in Australia renegotiate their gender roles and religious identities.

Panel Convenor:

Dr. Sara Niner is an interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer in Anthropology at Monash. In 2013 she undertook research with young men in Timor-Leste and their attitudes to gender roles, relationships and violence, which informed a gender-based violence prevention campaign. This seminar continues this research in the field of masculinity in the post-conflict environment of Timor-Leste.



‘I didn’t know who I was anymore’ – myths vs realities of early parenthood

by Kate Johnston-Ataata and Renata Kokanovic

Becoming a parent is commonly imagined to be a joyful and “natural” life event. The reality is often very different. In the early weeks and months of life with a first baby, parents must master new skills including nappy changing, breast or bottle feeding, and “settling” a crying baby, usually while experiencing considerable sleep deprivation.

New mothers have to recover from labour, childbirth and/or caesarean delivery. Primary carer parents find they need to re-orient their lives around their baby, at least in the short term. And partnered parents confront a changed dynamic in their relationship and the need to accommodate a third family member.

For many people, these challenges are unexpected, either in nature or magnitude.

Australians today are having fewer children than past generations and are often starting their families later. This reduces the opportunity to learn informally about infant care through raising younger relatives or being around friends with babies.

New parents are also burdened by the way our society romanticises early parenthood, especially motherhood. Played out in media imagery, this contributes to perceptions of instant bonding, instinctive breastfeeding and “perfect babies” being cared for by “perfect mothers”.

Overly optimistic expectations and a lack of preparation can cause significant distress at a time when new parents already feel vulnerable. For some parents, this may impede bonding with their baby, shade over into postnatal depression – which affects up to 16 per cent of new mothers and five per cent of new fathers – or strain the relationship with their partner.

We recently interviewed 45 parents in Australia about their expectations and experiences of early parenthood. The parents came from varied socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. They included single parents, adoptive parents, parents through surrogacy, same-sex attracted parents, parents in blended or step families and parents who had experienced IVF.

Most parents we interviewed described having “unrealistic” expectations about baby behaviour, particularly in relation to crying, sleep patterns and feeding.

As Susanne, a mother in a same-sex relationship, said:

… I thought my baby would come with me to the café and I’d sit there and stare lovingly into her eyes and people would say, “Oh, she’s gorgeous,” and I’d be like, “Motherhood’s wonderful” … And yeah, she’d cry a bit at night and I might be a bit tired but my life would essentially be the same with a baby. No. The reality was I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Some parents talked about self-imposing standards that were “too high”. And a few mothers believed this contributed to their experiences of postnatal depression. Melanie, a mother of one who experienced postnatal depression, said trying to “do everything perfectly” had exhausted her and made bonding with her baby difficult.

Parents were often surprised to discover a new baby placed their relationship with their partnerunder strain. Tina, a migrant mother from Iran, said bridging the unexpected and “very deep gap” between her and her husband in early parenthood took time and effort. While most couples’ relationships recovered after an initial period of difficult adjustment, a few ended.

Many parents were distressed by the difference between their expectations and experiences of early parenthood. Some described feelings of anger, anxiety, resentment towards their babies, guilt, or a sense of failure. Those for whom becoming a parent held few “surprises” described less distress, though they still found early parenthood challenging.

Many felt that, as a parent-to-be, they had been too focused on pregnancy and childbirth and this was reinforced by their antenatal classes. Sara, a parent of two children, questioned whether “half an hour with the crocheted breast and the doll” was adequate preparation for breastfeeding.

The trend towards shorter hospital stays after birth was also considered unhelpful. A few women who were able to stay in hospital up to five days appreciated being able to gain infant care skills and establish breastfeeding before going home, where often they had very little formal or informal support.

Bridging the gap

Based on our research and previous studies, we suggest the following three avenues to prepare expectant mothers and fathers for early parenthood:

  • better antenatal education
  • a greater willingness by parents of older babies or children to be open about their experiences with expecting parents
  • the development of credible online resources to share experiences of early parenthood.

Antenatal education provided through maternity hospitals is an obvious opportunity for assisting parents to prepare better. Past research has identified a number of shortcomings with antenatal education, including relevance to expecting parents’ needs, reach, teaching style and cost-effectiveness.

Classes could be re-designed to include greater balance between labour and birth and early parenting, and could also involve more peer-to-peer learning, including through inviting new parents to talk about their experiences.

In an attempt to recreate the informal learning about early parenting that is no longer as available through family networks, experienced parents can help counter some of the myths of early parenthood by sharing their experiences with expecting parents or those with younger children.

Many concerns can hold parents back from speaking openly with one another. These include a desire to not scare expecting parents with “horror stories”, or a fear of being judged a “bad” parent if they share feelings of doubt and ambivalence. In fact, greater openness can help expecting parents be better prepared for what lies ahead.

Finally, the internet is an increasingly important source of information about pregnancy, labour and birth, and early parenting for expecting and new parents. Hearing other people’s experiences online is particularly valuable.

Maternity hospitals should offer expecting and new parents a guide to useful, reliable online resources on these subjects to counter the sense of “information overload” and the desire for credible information.

If you’re a new or expecting parent, you can watch the interviews from the Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood project here. The site contains a rich array of experiences of every step on the journey to parenthood, from people from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances.

Kate Johnston-Ataata is a Research Associate in the Health in Society Research Network at Monash University.

Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic is the Director of the Health in Society Research Network (HiSNet) at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Government can bridge society’s divide on anti-terrorist legislation

by Colleen Lewis

What you see, your perspective on a particular public policy depends on the lens through which you view it. The difference in people’s lenses can be particularly acute in relation to counter-terrorism laws.

Passions run high when citizens debate what they want their elected representatives to do to protect them. Opinions often divide between those who support ‘tough’ legislation, regardless of the civil liberty implications, and those who hold grave concerns about the consequences of such laws being passed.

Despite the polarisation in perspectives, fear is the common factor underpinning the stance taken by both sides. Because fear is one of our strongest emotions, it can often blind us to other people’s legitimate reactions to the same issue.

Some sections of Australian society believe passionately that counter-terrorism laws need to be punitive. They often use the catchphrase ‘if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear’ to support their perspective. In other words, if you do not break counter-terrorism laws your civil liberties will not be threatened.

Regrettably, the implications surrounding ‘tough’ counter-terrorism legislation are not that straight forward. But regardless of the complexities inherent in counter-terrorism laws, we need to take heed and respect these people’s perspective. They arise in part because this group fear that if our police and security personnel are not given the powers they say they need to thwart potential terrorist attacks, the community and its individual members will be in constant danger. Innocent civilians will be left vulnerable to unspeakable acts from those who believe that random beheadings, shootings, stabbings and/or suicide bombings are acceptable means to achieve political ends.

For others in the Australian community, the predominant fear centres on their belief that proposed counter-terrorism laws weaken the pillars that support our liberal-democratic society. Their fear is motivated by grave concerns that, if passed, the current round of counter-terrorism legislation being considered by our parliamentarians will undermine the principles that are the cement holding the pillars upright. Their opinions must also to be listened to and respected.

In this emotionally charged and highly contestable area, both fears are legitimate in the eyes of the beholder. The question that parliamentarians have to grapple with is which perspective should take precedence and importantly for how long.

Another complicating factor the community needs to consider when evaluating the current crop of counter-terrorism legislation is that public policy is largely determined by politics. History is replete with examples of this.

The considered opinions of world leading experts and those detailed in thoroughly researched, evidence-based reports are often flippantly discarded by our elected representatives. In some instances the credibility of experts is deliberately undermined.

Advised by their PR machines, parliamentarians use catchphrases referring to ‘ivory tower’ thinking and ‘the chardonnay sipping set’ to ridicule the perspective of others. This type of dismissive behavior is not linked to at any particular party; the tactic crosses the political divide. At the heart of this approach is our elected representatives’ fear of not winning government or not winning their particular seat. This is the lens through which they often view a policy and its consequences.

This is not to suggest that all parliamentarians are always self-serving. They are not, and we have some examples of this. But if tough counter-terrorism laws are required our representatives, who are elected to act in the public interest, need to take into account and respect the views of all sections of society, including those who view counter-terrorism laws as threatening the very ideals parliamentarians are elected to preserve.

Perhaps one way our parliamentarians can address the fears of a conflicted community and assure the same community that party interests are not shaping counter-terrorism legislation, is to guarantee that there will be transparent accountability (a touchstone for a democratic society) in relation to the operationalisation of those laws.

Australia has been well served by its judiciary over many years and as a result it rates very highly on the trust index of professions. Given the confidence the community has in our judges, they need to be involved in determining whether counter-terrorism related warrants should be granted and that when they are, they are exercised in accordance with the law and the rule of law.

Judicial scrutiny could be complemented by the appointment of a Public Interest Monitor. The holder of such an office would be charged with addressing the fears of both sides of the community in the highly contested counter-terrorism debate and putting issues reflected in those fears to a judge considering a warrant request.

The involvement of the judiciary and a public interest monitor could help to ensure that the lens through which security personnel view a particular matter are not distorted through fear; be that fear of the consequences, in a para-military organization, of disagreeing with a superior officer, fear of stepping outside ‘group think’ and fear of not thwarting a potential terrorism-related attack.

In trying to navigate through the various fears it is instructive to examine the history surrounding the passing through federal and state parliaments of counter-terrorism legislation over the past decade. In so doing, it is worth remembering that one of the principle roles of all our elected representatives is to thoroughly scrutinise and debate the advantages, disadvantages and shortfalls of any bill that comes before the parliament, prior to casting their vote.

Close scrutiny is particularly important when proposed legislation has grave consequences for all those who harbour fears about terrorism and counter-terrorism policy.

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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The Islamic State movement: challenges at home and abroad

The unprecedented military surge of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) movement in Syria and Iraq over the past four months is now challenging not just stability in the Middle East but security around the world.

Monash University terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton from the School of Social Sciences will discuss the challenges posed by the Islamic State movement at home and abroad in an upcoming public lecture.

Professor Barton said the current developments raise a number of difficult questions for both Australia and the international community.

“The military gains made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria add significant complications to the existing challenges involving rebel militia and government forces fighting each other,” Professor Barton said.

“Currently IS offensive operations are limited to northern Iraq and Syria, but there is potential for the conflict to spill over with regional and global impacts, including in Australia, with the return of those who have been part of the fighting and their local support networks.”

Professor Barton will also look at the possible ramifications of the current military response by America and its coalition partners, including neigbouring Arab states and Turkey.

“There is certainly a need for caution for any future decisions and military action in the region. The natural end point of international coalition military operations in the region remains unclear,” Professor Barton said.

“At the same time there is the need to deal with the struggle for ‘hearts and minds’ of small but significant numbers of Muslim youth and the allure of groups such as IS. We need to understand how IS sells itself if we are to become better at preventing radicalisation and reintegrating those who have become caught in its thrall.”

Professor Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the Study of Indonesia, Director of the Centre for Islam and the Modern World, and Director International of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. He is also UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations – Asia Pacific. For the past 20 years Professor Barton has been active in inter-faith dialogue initiatives and he has a deep commitment to building understanding of Islam and Muslim society.

Professor Greg Barton will present ‘Challenges posed by the Islamic State movement at home and abroad’ on Thursday 16 October in Room B40, Building H at Monash University’s Caulfield campus starting at 6.30pm.

To register for this event visit the School of Social Sciences website.

Please note: Limited places are available for this event. We encourage you to register early to secure your spot.

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Why Hong Kong’s students are demonstrating

Tens of thousands of students and other citizens are demonstrating and occupying key financial areas of Hong Kong. Sunday afternoon the Hong Kong police used tear gas and pepper spray in an effort to disperse the students and end the demonstration. Instead, many more came to participate, doubling the number of demonstrators. The police retreated.

The most immediate demand of the students is the right to participate in choosing Hong Kong’s leaders. When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, China’s rulers promised that Hong Kong would keep its political, legal, social and economic systems and remain a special administrative district of the People’s Republic of China for fifty years. Since 1997, China has controlled the choice of the chief executives, a majority of whom have been incompetent tycoons.

China did promise more universal voting in 2017, but when the actual system was recently revealed, it became clear that the Chinese would limit the candidates to two or three persons previously approved by China. Naturally, many Hong Kong citizens who had looked forward to democratic elections were upset and the demonstrations are one result.

Behind all of this is a toughening of China’s leadership towards both domestic and international issues. When Xi Jinping became China’s pre-eminent leader in November 2012, he promised an efficient government. His new regime has cracked down on corruption, especially on Xi’s corrupt political opponents. But Xi has tightened controls over a wide variety of areas. Many dissidents have been jailed and several of their defence lawyers have also been imprisoned. Some foreign reporters have been forced to leave China (and most have gone to Hong Kong where they are providing excellent coverage of the current demonstrations.)

In so-called minority areas like Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan) the Chinese have become much more brutal. Since early 2009, 132 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest Chinese rule. In Xinjiang, Uyghurs, who are Turkic and speak Turkish, have responded to Chinese brutality and increased their own violence. Neither Tibetans nor Uyghurs in Xinjiang have genuine religious freedom. During Ramadan, the Chinese rulers tried to force Muslim Uyghurs to eat during fasting periods. They also prohibit veils for women and beards for men in Xinjiang.

Chinese rule in Tibet and Xinjiang is colonial, that is rule by outsiders in the interests of the outsiders. Chinese control all of the important political posts as well as the police and other security agencies. Chinese companies, run by Chinese, hire Chinese to exploit the natural resources of Tibet and Xinjiang and they repatriate all of the profits back to China. Tibetans and Uyghurs remain unemployed in their homelands. When Tibetans and Uyghurs go to China Proper to seek employment, they face continuous and blatant discrimination.

These pressures are also affecting Hong Kong. Outspoken news media are threatened. A major newspaper editor, who had resigned, was brutally attacked with a butcher’s knife when getting out of a car. The owner of the independent Apple Daily has faced many threats and Apple Daily has suffered several hack attacks. The well-known English-language daily, the South China Morning Post, has sacrificed its independence and now panders to the Chinese regime. Many academics self-censor their research projects and their teaching.

This hardened stance is also affecting China internationally. Arguing that it has “history” on its side, China is making claims for islands in the East China Sea and the South China Sea which are far from China and which belong to other nations. Recently, while Chinese leader Xi Jinping was visiting India for talks with newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese troops pushed across the de facto line of control into India territory.

This Chinese expansionism certainly concerns Australia’s political leaders. Although Prime Minister Abbott has visited China and pledged to reach a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), he has emphasised relations with our traditional democratic allies like the United States, Britain and other European countries. He has also moved to strengthen ties in Asia with democratic Japan, democratic Korea and democratic India and we have already signed FTAs with Japan and Korea.

What will China do about the Hong Kong demonstrations? There are many potential scenarios. Starting with the most desirable, China will backtrack and offer Hong Kong’s citizens a much greater choice in electing their own leaders. Unfortunately, this peaceful solution in accord with China’s original promises strikes me as highly unlikely.

A second scenario is that the current chief executive, C.Y. Leung, becomes “ill” and resigns. A new acting chief executive would be appointed to deal with the demonstrators and, hopefully, reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, which would enable Hong Kong’s citizens to have some genuine input into the selection of their leaders.

Third, the police could repress the demonstrators. Such actions could be relatively mild or quite strong, but the demonstrations would end forcibly and China would increase further its control over Hong Kong’s politics and economy.

Finally, if police repression failed, the Chinese could send in military troops. This scenario most closely resembles the Beijing Massacre scenario of 3-4 June 1989. Many hundreds, if not thousands, would be killed and many more imprisoned. This would end any pretence that Hong Kong had maintained its separate system and would probably mean the end to Hong Kong as a vibrant Asian trading city.

My fear is that the arrogance of China’s leaders makes the latter scenarios more likely. China’s leaders would live for another day, but the anger of their peoples would become even stronger and make inevitable their ultimate downfall.

Emeritus Professor Bruce Jacobs works in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.

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Do our MPs really deserve their bad reputation?

by Colleen Lewis

Given the highly influential and defining role politicians play in our lives, their reputation is, to put it mildly, abysmal. Survey after survey conducted over many years show that we do not trust our elected representatives. They linger toward the bottom of trust ranking scales, keeping company with door-to-door, used car and insurance salespersons.

The Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey, which since 1986 has asked members of the public to rate what they think are the most ethical and honest professions, reveals that state and federal MPs consistently score badly. In 2014 they were on a par with union officials and only real estate agents, advertising people and car salespersons rated lower.

But why is this? Is it because their conduct is so unbecoming of the high office they hold that our anger and disillusionment is fully justified? If that is the case what could be done to change public opinion? Or do we stereotype and judge MPs too harshly?

On one level, politicians only have themselves to blame for the anger and disrespect shown to them and their profession by the broader community.

Prior to elections and for purely party political advantage, MPs make rash commitments which are then promptly broken once the fiercely sought after prize of government is attained. Community displeasure and anger at this is compounded when politicians try to justify broken commitments by claiming, post the election, that some were actually central (core) while others were, in their minds, peripheral (non-core) pledges. This type of spin makes people feel they have been duped.

They also feel ripped off when it is shown that many MPs have been manipulating expenses to cover personal interests and financing what are essentially private matters from the public purse. Resentment over such conduct is high, particularly as MPs are paid handsome salaries, have generous allowances, and in many cases continue to receive perks post their parliamentary career. Sometimes these perks remain even when a former MP is being remunerated very well from the public purse in their post parliamentary career.

While MPs are not doing anything illegal in accepting these perks, many feel let down by a system that allows some MPs to double dip, so to speak.

Also influencing public opinion is the disgraceful, immoral and potentially criminal behavior of some MPs. Revelations from the recent ICAC inquiries paint a bleak picture of the ethical standards of too many politicians in New South Wales, but as any criminologist will tell you, unethical and illegal behavior rarely stops at borders.

It appears that in the lead up to Victoria’s November 29 election, public transport, roads, education and health are shaping to be major issues on the political agenda.

It would serve Victorian MPs well if they placed their own integrity high on that same agenda. This could be done in a number of ways. For example, all parliamentarians could make a written commitment to appoint a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards within the next 12 months. This is not a radical proposal. The Legislative Assembly’s Privileges Committee, when reporting on the Geoff Shaw matter, recommended the appointment of such a person. A Commissioner for Standards, among other things, could assist MPs in resolving conflict of interest matters and other ethically charged issues.

Political parties, to which the vast majority of MPs belong, should make very clear, prior to the election, their core and non-core commitments. In other words what they guarantee to do, as opposed to what they would like to achieve if elected to government. The community is intelligent and will accept a well-reasoned argument and explanation as to why some policies are classified as essential while other can only have desirable status. After all community members often have to accept such divisions in their own lives. What they will not accept is broken commitments wrapped up in spin.

At the beginning of this article, I said that on one level politicians only have themselves to blame for their poor reputation. However, in the overwhelmingly majority of situations there is more than a single reasoned perspective to an argument. Another side to the reputation of MPs issue relates to community expectations. Do we demand too much of our elected representatives and judge them through distorted lenses?

In the lead up to the forthcoming election, the community needs to more closely examine what it wants and demands of its elected representatives and query whether the situation has been reached where, no matter how hard MPs work and regardless of what they achieve individually and collectively, no outcome is ever good enough.

People need also to reflect on whether they are stereotyping politicians, believing that all are only in politics for what they can get out of it, and that the majority will employ any means, including unlawful and/or unethical ethical behavior, to attain their own personal ends and that of their party.

If the community is stereotyping MPs in this manner, is it fair and reasonable to do so? How would people feel if the dishonest, unprofessional elements in their profession were taken as reflecting the behavior of all?

The issue of community expectations is in no way raised as an excuse for the behavior of some MPs or the political parties to which they belong. But Victorians (and other Australians) need to guard against becoming cynical and bitter toward their elected representatives. It is worth repeating that MPs could assist in this regard by firmly placing the integrity of parliamentarians and political parties on the agenda for the November election – but will they?

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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