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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When will Australia have its Kodak moment on renewable energy?

by David Holmes

Ever since Clive Palmer announced that the Palmer United Party (PUP) would support the retention of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), The Australian and News Corp’s tabloids have really ramped up their attack on both renewables and Palmer.

Immediately following the press conference that Palmer shared with Al Gore, News Corp papers presented it as a great victory for the Abbott government and completely downplayed the fact that Palmer had actually committed to retaining the RET, the Climate Change Authority and the Renewable Energy Finance corporation.

After that came an attack on Palmer himself for having an above-average carbon footprint, and an editorial in the Daily Telegraph attacking Palmer and Gore.

The Australian also featured anumber of columnists attacking Palmer and Gore in the days that followed.

But for all the editorialising and subservience to the anti-renewable core of the Abbott government, the appeals to save carbon-intensive power interests look increasingly doomed.

That Australia will have its Kodak moment on renewables is an economic certainty. It is only being held up by the dwindling short-term political inertia that the self-isolating Abbott government is managing to apply.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane and environment minister Greg Hunt are now considered moderates on renewables. Prime minister Tony Abbott has taken the decision on the RET into his own office, where he has been accused of lying about RETignoring the polls on public concern about global warming, and attempting to suppress the science of climate change.

Abbott not only has a tin ear on the science but he doesn’t even seem to be listening to Christian groups, who are urging him to listen to the science.

The outcome of the RET review, chaired by known climate deniers and fossil-fuel industrialists, may be irrelevant if the PUP shows unity in its opposition to repeal. But even if the PUP was to support this measure, leaving coal to carry Australia’s energy needs, the coal industry itself is looking extremely fragile globally. At UN climate negotiations in Bonn last month, an unprecedented 60 countries called for a cessation of fossil fuel use by 2050.

At the end of the day, it is the economic arguments about the RET which have caught the government in its own criteria-trap. It has been revealed that the modeling the governmentcommissioned itself by ACL Allen has presented findings showing household power bills will begin to freefall from 2020 onwards as the result of RET target provisions.

Another problem for the government is that they can’t accuse the PUP of supporting the RET on ideological grounds. Palmer himself has explained he back the scheme because it is good for the economy and “employs thousands of Australians”.

While the short term future of the RET maybe in doubt, a very positive development is that the “debate” has shifted on climate. Where there was once a pseudo-debate about the science, now the papers are arguing about whether carbon abatement or renewables is the answer.

The Australia Institute’s Ben Oquist also noted of the Gore-Palmer presser:

We have avoided a big step backwards … [it] also reframed the debate about carbon pricing – it’s hard to suggest carbon pricing is some form of left-wing, economy-wrecking conspiracy when a billionaire mining magnate supports it.

But more importantly, it brings climate policy into the orbit of a populist domain of issue-attention. This is at a time when voters dissatisfied with the major parties are looking for an alternative.

This is actually a real seachange in the mainstream reporting of climate. It is going to be very hard to bring back the Great Denial that News Corp had campaigned so long and hard for.

Dr David Holmes works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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Monash student goes to the United Nations

Alistair BayleyAlistair Bayley visited the United Nations in New York as one of the winners of the Many Languages, One World essay contest.

The Monash Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in International Studies and Chinese Language was invited to the UN for the five-day Global Youth Forum, after his essay on multilingualism and global citizenship written in Chinese, won.

Sixty winners – ten from each language of the United Nations – were selected and invited to participate in the Global Youth Forum, which was held in conjunction with Adelphi University.

The forum in New York was an extraordinary experience for Alistair.

“It was fantastic to visit the United Nations in New York, and I feel very privileged to have been able to attend,” Alistair said.

The students, who attended the forum on June 27, presented their ideas to the UN based on the principles of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).

UNAI, launched by the Secretary-General in 2010, is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher learning and research with the United Nations.

The Many Languages, One World essay contest invited students from around the world to compose an essay in one of the six official languages of the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish – that was neither the student’s native language nor the language of instruction in the student’s pre-university study.

Many Languages, One World, organised by ELS Educational Services and the UNAI, had more than 4000 people from 128 countries participated in some phase of the contest. Contestants ranged from college freshmen to Doctoral candidates from universities all over the world, and their fields of academic study were very diverse.

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Sport, drugs and gangsters: Why we need WADA

by Tom Heenan

There’s a lot of nonsense floating around about Bombergate. As we head into the courts, some are calling for the AFL and NRL to reassess their compliance to the WADA code and ASADA’s statutory authority.

Lawyer and Australian Athletes’ Alliance head, Brendan Schwab,suggested in Fairfax Media it was time to “cut ties” with the anti-doping authorities.

Surely he can’t be serious. To withdraw at this point would be a bad look and thankfully Federal Sports Minister Peter Dutton has ruled out such a move. It would look like we have disagreed with the ump’s decision, and so decided to pack up our syringes and Sherrins and head off in a huff.

We ignore WADA at our peril and calls to unhitch footy codes from its authority are irresponsible. This country would face IOC sanctions including disqualification from bidding for future Olympic Games.

The Essendon soap opera is not the doping issue to pick an international fight over. AFL is largely a Melbourne thing and it’s not worth frittering away Australia’s international sporting reputation on a localised code and club which failed to put in place the necessary checks on a seemingly rogue supplement regime.

What occurred was the fault of the club, its staff and board. They did not show the necessary duty of care to their players. As the Switkowski report stated, the Bombers instituted “a pharmacologically experimental environment [which was] never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the Club”.

Such ineptitude is gob-smacking. If ever there was a case which shows the need for bodies such as WADA and ASADA it is this one.

The warning sign was the program’s links to organised criminal activity. Concern over the Bomber players has masked this. It was the reason Labor’s Home Affairs and Justice minister Jason Clare declared February 7 2013 the darkest day in Australian sport.

How could a club’s hierarchy hop into bed with alleged associates of bikie groups? Essendon did and so have other clubs.

Tiger player Jake King has been much maligned for his friendship with ex-Bandidos boss Toby Mitchell. Toby’s no saint. He’s been shot a couple of times, once outside Doherty’s gym in Brunswick, which is next door to the Bandidos clubhouse.

When Bombergate broke last February, the ABC’s Lateline tracked down the out-of-contract Essendon player and Bombergate whistleblower, Kyle Reimers, in Doherty’s. He was working out under proprietor Tony Doherty’s supervision, hoping to be picked up by another club in the draft. Reimers didn’t get the nod and is now playing in the ‘burbs.

Doherty’s a good mate of Mitchell. He’s also helped the Blues and Roos’ fitness programs, and is a known associate of Carlton Crew identity Mick Gatto, as well as Tony Mokbel’s old crime mate, the late Sonny Schmidt, and the elusive Stephen Dank.

According to Doherty, Dank knew the boundaries and when not to cross them. But Dank seems to have some curious business associates of his own. News Ltd alleged Dank supplied peptides to Mitchell and his Sydney business associates have reportedly done business with the Comancheros. Dank has neither confirmed nor denied these allegations.

Shane Charter has been more forthcoming and is now a star witness for the anti-dopers. He was James Hird’s personal trainer in the early noughties. Shortly afterwards Charter was arrested in possession of 10,000 pseudoephedrine tablets and jailed for two years.

Charter allegedly supplied the peptides which Dank administered to the Bomber players. Just recently Charter was nabbed by Victoria Police’s Purana Taskforce at Melbourne Airport on “drug related offences” but was released without charge.

We seem to forget the Sopranos-like soapie which lurks behind Bombergate. We think the darkest day in Australian sport is about footballers. They’re only part of the story. It’s about an Australian Crime Commission report linking Australian sport with organised criminal activity.

Sport and crime have always been bedfellows. Why else have sports bodies introduced integrity units? Players and many coaches are just the unwitting mugs. The Bomber players seem merely the guinea-pigs in this whole shonky saga.

As a nation we are too trusting of our sports’ people, though we have a hidden history of doping and fixing. Just look at the underbelly of cycling, weightlifting and horse-racing. We’ve doped and fixed some of our best.

This culture has now touched football and we tend to blame WADA and ASADA for the problem rather than the real culprits. Anti-doping authorities exist because athletes, clubs and sporting bodies sometimes break rules to gain a competitive edge.

Think of the East German athletes of the 1970s and ’80s. Many were children and they too had a program of pharmacological experimentation conducted on them. Last December 167 former East German athletes received compensation through the German Olympic Committee for harm caused by the mass doping program.

East German secret police files suggest in all over 10,000 athletes were doped. A number have developed cancers and suffered from depression, while females have experienced birth deformities.

Just look at the Balco scandal in the US. The San Francisco laboratory started in 1984 as a sports supplement supplier and diversified into steroids, EPO and numerous other illegal substances and potions.

By the 1990s it had doped some of America’s best. Baseball legend Barry Bonds was on the books, as was the Sydney Olympic gold medal sprinter Marion Jones.

This is why we need anti-doping agencies. To do away with them is to let loose the fixers, dopers and pseudo-scientists among young sports people, many of whom are incapable of making informed decisions about what is put into their bodies.

This is why we as a society must hit hard sporting organisations that dope.

This is why Essendon under the WADA code may face removal from the AFL competition. The club failed in its duty of care to its players and may well face the heftiest of penalties.

Dr Tom Heenan lectures in sports studies at National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The New Daily.

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Power Failure

by Philip Chubb

“My name is Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help.” Kevin Rudd loved saying it, and although you could almost hear voters groan, they seemed to love it too. Most Australians heard it for the first time in April 2007, at Labor’s national conference. The leader was conveyed to the spotlight on the wings of a climate change song, “A Change in the Weather”.

Rudd was beaming. The election campaign was building and it was all about him. He would flood the country with exciting ideas and projects. Above all he would fix climate change and in the process craft a modern rallying point for Labor that reminded observers of Ben Chifley’s “Light on the Hill”.

Despite the pain of remembering, Australians should reflect on the excitement of that time as we grapple with the astonishing reality that the Senate in the next few days will almost certainly leave this nation without a cornerstone climate change policy.

There were some brief moments of soaring success in the years afterwards, but ultimately Australia’s political leadership failed the nation miserably. Will we ever believe a politician’s promises as wholeheartedly again? Did innocence die along the way? The experience of attempts to price carbon raises some fundamental questions about the way Australians are governed that must be confronted. It is important to establish what went wrong and to learn the lessons, to try to ensure that as a nation we do better.

Part of the answer lies in the impact of historical forces. As political parties have warped into hollowed-out shells dominated by factional hacks, voters have become less attached to them. This development has made leaders the embodiment of the party and government, and more central to elections. Remember “Kevin 07”? There has been an increase in resources to the executive, allowing leaders and their personal staff to diminish checks and balances and dominate Cabinet and the public service. Reflecting these changes, the media has come to view leaders as celebrities and emphasise stories about personality conflict over policy debates. Readers will be familiar with the approach, which involves an interpretative style of news reporting, sensationalism, cynicism and a preoccupation with the “horse race”.

In April 2010 Rudd, whose command and control leadership was precisely the opposite of what was required to solve a complex problem like climate policy, publicly acknowledged defeat. The shock was profound. We had watched the train crash as it came ever-closer, although without recognizing the inevitability of tragedy. We had waited in vain for Rudd to explain the meaning of carbon pricing. We had seen him sideline other ministers who might have helped us understand. We had been transfixed as he squandered the gift of consensus, employing it as a weapon to destroy Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull rather than as an opportunity to be grasped fully and urgently. Tony Abbott, with his infantile anti-science slogans, was thus Rudd’s creation. We had invested more faith as he flew to Copenhagen, puffed up to save the earth, only to suffer an emotional breakdown that left him empty of the courage needed for a double dissolution election. We had sat bemused as he then strove to blame Julia Gillard for his sad rush to hoist the white flag.

The fact that we got to mid-2010 with a deep black hole where climate policy had been was a result of the erosion of the checks and balances that Australians wrongly believe are embedded in their system of government. We were prey to Rudd’s personality. And what a personality it turned out to be. Australians were victims of his hubris and cowardice. This has become very clear after more than 100 interviews and two years researching the disasters of Australia’s attempt to establish carbon pricing for my book Power Failure.

Julia Gillard had little choice but to oust Rudd in June 2010. After all, someone had to be leader. She came to office cramped by Rudd’s failure to maintain voters’ passion for climate action. Even so, her more collaborative and consultative type of leadership led to legislative success in October 2011, as her policy to price carbon passed the House, to relieved hugs and kisses among the Labor MPs. It soon became clear, though, that Gillard’s own inability to talk to Australians about what she was doing would undermine her achievement. Between February and July 2011 a scare campaign that many veterans say was the ugliest they can remember, worse even than 1975, claimed her. But just as Rudd had been, she was the architect of her own demise. Despite strong advice she refused to engage, believing she would have time to change perceptions once she had the right policy. But the political capital lost was so great that it created the conditions for the destruction of her legacy.

The question that remains is why the modern crop of Labor politicians has been so inept at communicating with voters. Senior figures in today’s ALP got there through factional deals and branch stacking. Too often this deprived them of the experience of banging on doors, asking for support, arguing about policies and learning how to talk through complex ideas with everyday people. It is an existential challenge for the Labor Party to see whether it can produce leaders with the ability to sustain a rapport with ordinary people over an extended period of time.

The lesson for the future of carbon pricing is this: while Gillard was more effective than Rudd, success requires a restoration of our system of checks and balances and a different type of leader. But for this change to occur Australians must firmly demand it. The immediate prospect of this is not good. We will suffer many more bushfires and floods before we see another attempt serious attempt to price carbon.

Associate Professor Philip Chubb is the Head of the School of Journalism, at Monash University. His recent book Power Failure examines the inside story of climate politics under Rudd and Gillard.

A version of this article has appeared in The Age.

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Remake school chaplaincy as a proper welfare program or scrap it

by Julian Savulescu and William Isdale

The High Court of Australia, for the second time, recently found that the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP) is funded unconstitutionally, and so is invalid in its current form. The program, though, can be reconstituted through tied grants to state governments. The question is, should it be?

While the NSCSWP serves some legitimate policy objectives, the program in its pre-existing form is objectionable for at least two reasons. It should either be revived as a secular student welfare program or left extinguished.

The importance of secular government

One of the key problems is that the NSCSWP violates the principle of government religious neutrality.

The Howard government introduced the program in 2006 with the stated purpose being to “assist our schools in providing greater pastoral care and supporting the spiritual well-being of their students”. Chaplains were required to have a link with a religious organisation.

The Gillard government removed this requirement. About 25 per cent of schools that applied for funding then opted to employ a secular student welfare worker. Most recently, the Abbott government sought to re-align the program with its initial religious purpose – the only option, once again, would be to hire a chaplain.

Roughly 85 per cent of school chaplains are sourced from organisations that collectively form the National School Chaplaincy Association. These all have a Christian mission. Scripture Union Queensland, for instance, “the largest provider of school chaplains in Australia”, proclaims that:

Our MISSION is to bring God’s love, hope and good news to children and young people.

It is clear that, in theory as well as substance, the program has a religious aim. The government and taxpayers provide a substantial benefit to religious groups, and to Christianity in particular. An astonishing 99.5 per cent of those funded under the program are Christian – vastly larger than the general community’s affiliation to Christianity of 61 per cent.

This religious preferencing is worrying. The key reason that government should be secular is that we live in a pluralistic society in which citizens have a multitude of religious beliefs, and some have none. Government promotion of religion – particularly where it overwhelmingly favours one religion or denomination in substance – undermines a core concern of liberal democracy, which is to govern for everyone and promote equal citizenship.

Religion should be the concern only of individuals, not the business of government. Our constitution embodies a related idea in its prohibition on making “any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance”. The High Court, though, has interpreted the provision narrowly.

Welfare workers would be better

The National School Chaplaincy Association commissioned a 2009 research report, The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy, which found that the vast majority of what chaplains do in schools has nothing to do with religion at all.

In a survey asking chaplains which issues students had raised in the preceding fortnight, “spirituality” and “big picture issues of life” ranked eighth out of the 11 most common responses. Issues that chaplains were confronted with more frequently included “behaviour management issues”, “peer relationships and loneliness”, “student-family relationship issues” and “grief and loss”.

In the preceding two weeks, “mental health and depression” was addressed by 72 per cent of chaplains, “alcohol and drug use” by 50 per cent and “self harm and suicide” by 44 per cent.

These are undoubtedly serious issues that students require help with. The question is: should it be chaplains providing that help?

In 2011, a Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report was critical of the chaplaincy program’s administration. The report noted:

There is currently no requirement for chaplains to have minimum qualifications to attract grant funding. At present it appears that there are a wide range of non-credentialled courses a chaplain can record as having undertaken. In the recent Discussion Paper, the Department acknowledges this and notes that there is ‘currently … no nationally consistent employment standards for school chaplains in relation to minimum qualifications, role and duty statements’.

The absence of any educational or professional requirement makes it difficult for the Department to ensure that chaplains have particular knowledge and skills. This sets chaplains apart from all other staff working directly with children in a school environment. … The Ombudsman supports the Department giving further consideration to chaplains’ professional qualifications.

Chaplains deal with extremely serious issues for which they are not required to hold any relevant tertiary qualifications. This is extremely concerning. Religious commitment does not equate to counselling competence. Money that is currently spent on employing those with sometimes little more than devout religious belief could be spent on employing individuals with university qualifications in counselling or psychology and relevant experience.

Besides a lack of expertise, chaplains are likely to be inferior to appropriately qualified secular welfare workers for two further reasons.

Firstly, chaplains may be actively harmful in some circumstances (likely more so than secular workers – although the vast majority of chaplains may still act appropriately). For instance, a young man grappling with his sexuality or a young woman concerned about an unwanted pregnancy may be more likely to receive advice that is contrary to their interests from a chaplain, given their religious views.

Secondly, there is an issue of access. Students are likely to be aware of a chaplain’s religious views, and students who do not share those views may be wary of approaching them for advice. Students of various religious backgrounds (and none) may feel more comfortable approaching a secular welfare worker.

Nothing would preclude a secular welfare worker from having religious beliefs, but they would be prohibited from wearing these beliefs on their sleeve as chaplains do.

Time for a rethink

In March, the National Commission of Audit recommended the NSCSWP be abolished. Instead, the May budget allocated A$243.5 million to run the program for another five years.

Within hours of the High Court’s invalidation, prime minister Tony Abbott affirmed his intention to continue the scheme. Labor’s support is conditional on removing the requirement for a religious affiliation.

For the reasons above, the government should consider reconstituting the program in a secular format with the requirement of appropriate tertiary qualifications.

Professor Julian Savulescu is a distinguished visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University and a professor of practical ethics at Oxford University.

William Isdale is a Research Assistant in the T.C. Beirne School of Law at University of Queensland.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

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Soft Barbarism

Shanghai recently hosted the 3rd World Cultural Forum (WCF) – a Chinese initiative aimed at creating a forum for intercultural dialogue not dominated by ‘the West’. This year it chose the rather apt theme of ‘soft power’.

With a real live president (Congo), a couple of ex-prime ministers (Ireland, France), loads of ex-ambassadors and a phalanx of CPC members, the WCF was aiming for high-level cultural diplomatic impact. It forms a part of China’s increased funding for UNESCO – as seen in last year’s Hangzhou meeting – and its overall sense that it needs to project itself on the global stage through ‘soft power’.

Joseph Nye used ‘soft power’ to designate the global influence – the ability to get what it wants – exercised by the range of different institutions, associations, foundations and media channels financed directly and indirectly by the US since the Second World War. This kind of global influence can also be called – after the great Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci – ‘hegemony’. In his lexicon hegemony was not a replacement for hard power – direct coercive force – but its continuation by other means.

Nye’s soft power was an assertion of US, or sometimes ‘Western’, values of freedom, democracy, the rights of the individual and so on. This can be called ‘culture’ in the broader sense of common values. But it also used ‘culture’ in the narrower sense – artistic, entertainment, literary, scientific, and humanistic activities – to promote these values. The most well known story is that of the CIA promoting abstract expressionism in the 1940s and 1950s as symbolic of freedom and progress.

China has adopted soft power in a different sense. It is concerned to couch its rise to global power in non-threatening tones. Not wanting, like Germany and Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century, to undermine the existing world order and provoke a world war, it wishes to present its rise as harmonious. China can fit within a – slightly expanded – world order as long as this entry is not seen as zero-sum.

Chinese soft power appears not as the exercise of (or aspiration to) global hegemony by other means. Rather it is the assertion of the right to a diversity of values and voices on the global stage, and that the competition between nations be sublimated into a dialogue of culture. Soft power is the replacement of conflict for dialogue, and of winner-takes-all competition by multiple winners in a new world order.

We have here a shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world, a return to the ‘concert of nations’ envisaged by Metternich in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon and before the rise of Germany. Or perhaps the vision of the international order of self-determining nation states hoped for by President Wilson after the First World War.

The principle of national autonomy – the right to act in its own interests and be free from outside coercion – was to be tempered by the recognition of other nations’ rights, a commitment to dialogue to solve dispute, and above this a promotion of wider commonly held values and legal norms that might bind all nations to certain forms of behaviour.

Soft power as culture is a version of this. It asserts the diversity of cultures as an outcome of, and a contributor to, the free, peaceful dialogue between nations.

But there are some more difficult issues to face.

First, cultural diversity is most frequently interpreted as a diversity of national cultures. The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was repeatedly invoked as a key piece of international legislation in this field. But this convention – to which China and Australia, but not the US, are signatories – is also about diversity within nations, and about the liberties and means to express therein. This is not always so easily accepted.

Second, culture is invoked as if it can only ever be a good thing. Dominique de Villepin’s, pointing to the troubled contemporary global landscape, suggested ‘culture as identity’ was a response to chaos and fragmentation, a strong assertion of THEM and US in a way that further contributed to the downward spiral of chaos and conflict. The strong assertion of national cultures by Germany and Japan – often founded on works and practices of art that we would now consider essential parts of our collective human patrimony – was very much part of their aggressively seeking a place in a new global order. Culture, that is, could be much closer to hard power than we often allow.

In the cold war era, the US (and Europe to some extent) competed with the Soviet Union on artistic excellence – literature, symphonic music, theatre and so on acting as testimony to the claims of either empire to represent best the future of humanity. Better than a war, certainly, but in the end this civilised cultural competition did nothing much to prevent a war that threatened to break out at anytime. Mutually assured destruction, not ballet, did this.

Or perhaps it did. Perhaps one of the reasons the US won the cold war was that the Soviet Union simply stopped believing in itself. If so then this was due in no small part, not so much to artistic, as to popular culture. Especially rock music.

We can see at play a third problematic aspect of soft power here. It is very nice to assert the diversity of cultures in a globalised world – marked by high velocity and dense flows of money, information, goods and services, people, images, sounds and texts. But this diversity is in reality dependent on some very hard issues of finance, intellectual property rights, communications infrastructures, market framing devices (ownership of formats, cinemas, platforms, distribution networks etc.) and skilled know-how.

For China the problem is that it is an emergent global hegemon but has not managed to articulate this into a ‘soft’ cultural influence in the way the US so successfully managed to do. In fact, whilst China has used globalisation to outplay the US economically, culturally it has been much less successful.

When it comes to discussions about formats, IP, access to markets, joint ventures, distribution platforms etc. the stakes are high and the soft power not very soft at all. The stakes are first, the global ‘cultural’ or ‘creative economy’, which China has convinced itself is a new growth area waiting to happen; and second, influence. Influence not just on the global scale but amongst its own citizens. Will the Chinese population become ‘Americanised’, the Chinese state somehow undermined from within by a foreign culture and a foreign power?

These questions are by no means only asked by China. They long dominated Australian and Europe – perhaps less so recently because we have more or less given up. But opposition to these global cultural flows was to found in the Global South – or as it was called then, by its one time leader, China, ‘the third world’. And used ‘cultural imperialism’ – a term for which ‘soft power’ is often simply a euphemism. This challenge – in the name of the new global communication order – was beaten back by the US in the 1970s.

This gives us a deeper context for the 2005 UNESCO convention – not, as we noted above, an agreement on ‘cultural diversity’ but on the ‘diversity of cultural expressions’. The difference is important. It set out to challenge the dominance of US-led global cultural industries by asserting the right of nations to introduce legislation to protect their own cultural production systems. And to this end asserted that cultural goods are not commodities like any other and may be excepted from various WTO rules.

That is one aspect; the other is that diversity of ‘cultural expression’ goes beyond the diversity of different cultures, mapped neatly onto different nations and ethnic groups. It asserts that all individuals and communities have the right to the means of cultural expression. That is, some education, some minimum of material resources and the legal-political rights to engage actively in cultural production and consumption. This is a kind of cultural citizenship. But it also means a framing of the cultural economy system so that it provides diversity of access and is not dominated by one or two large (local or international) players, or that these larger players have the responsibility and accountability to securing diversity and cultural citizenship – not just between nations but within them.

This seems to me where issues of soft power really bite.

One of the major critics of the international system that was broken by the two world wars of the ‘short 20th century’ – Karl Polanyi – argued that what undermined the 19th century system of nation states was an unregulated, aggressive capitalism. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant had suggested in his 1795 essay, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay that peace allowed trade to happen, brought increased prosperity to all and the gradual accordance of individual morality with the politics of the state. Against this classic liberal statement Polanyi suggested that instead of ensuring peace unregulated international capitalism led to catastrophic war. Not only because of the conflict it provoked between nations but of the disruption and suffering it brought to the ‘losers’ of the great transformation capitalism had instigated.

It seems to me that ‘soft power’ is frequently another version of the Kantian proposal – let’s be nice to each other so that we can continue to compete economically. But as we know the injustices, the power asymmetries, the ecological and human catastrophes of unbridled economic growth have brought peace to some but endless poverty, chaos and war to many others. What is special to our era is that culture is one of the stakes in this increased economic competition, and itself contributes to these global injustices and asymmetries.

There was a lot of talk of the creative economy as exemplifying soft power, a harbinger of world peace. This ignores the titanic struggles taking place between Google, Facebook, Baidu, We Chat, Tencent and so on. Whilst I was there all Google services were blocked. The question amongst locals was if this was just censorship around the Tiananmen Square anniversary, or a ploy to increase market share for China’s Baidu search engine (possibly with Apple as ally). Currently the US and China are directly pitted against each other in a cold digital war of online platforms, search engines and aggregation algorithms. This is before we talk about IP, film distribution, TV rights, international standards and protocols and the other panoply of global cultural trade.

In the spirit of the 2005 convention, soft power, cultural diversity, harmonious world order – these things are not just built between nations but within nations. They are about extending cultural citizenship to all, and providing the means for this citizenship to have real meaning not just in terms of consumption but also production. This is how to develop cultural soft power – let your citizens do it for you within a framework you have set and which is responsive to them.

And between nations we might add the word solidarity to that of cultural exchange: not stripping them of their asserts and leaving a cultural centre behind.

Walter Benjamin once wrote that every document of art is at one and the same time a document of barbarism. He was talking both about the social inequality and suffering of capitalism and the rise of fascism. But his words could apply today. To use culture as a means of soft power without acknowledging the claims to individual and community autonomy and their capacity to creative divergent and diverse expressions for and between themselves – without this soft power is liable to quickly degenerate into soft barbarism.

Professor Justin O’Connor works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

A version of this article also appeared in the Huffington Post.

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Ramadan and the World Cup coincide … but it’s no big deal

by Nasya Bahfen

The World Cup and Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset – last clashed in 1986. This year they did so again in spectacular fashion, with both the fasting month and the tournament’s Round of 16 beginning last Saturday.

Prior to Brazil 2014, Muslims in a range of sports fasted during their regular club competitions, with seemingly little or no impact. In Australia, Sonny Bill Williams joins Hazem El Masri as rugby league stars who have fasted during an NRL season, and Bachar Houli in Aussie Rules.

NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon’s playing stats famously improved while fasting in Ramadan. Liverpool and Cote d’Ivoire defender Kolo Toure says his body adjusts after the first few days.

This year, there are several Muslims in teams still in the knockout stages of the World Cup including at least five players from France, seven from Switzerland’s diverse squad, two from Nigeria, three from Belgium, two or three from Germany and most of the Algerian team.

There are several factors that suggest the clash of the World Cup and Ramadan this year won’t present a problem. For a start, there’s a general agreement among Muslim scholars that anyone who is travelling is included in the list of Muslims who are exempt from fasting, along with the sick, young children, and the elderly.

Several players have announced they will still be fasting, and won’t be seeking to make up the missed fasting days after Ramadan, as those claiming the travel exemption must do.

Algerian captain Madjid Bougherra who has played for a number of European clubs and fasted while doing so. Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna, who plays for the French national team, says he will continue to fast, citing the experiences of players who used to do so while playing in European leagues.

There is a growing body of research on coping strategies that Muslim athletes can undertake if they wish to continue fasting while playing, as FIFA found out.

Ramadan changes not just the amount of food and drink consumed by a fasting Muslim (none at all during daylight hours) but also his or her sleeping patterns (as a fasting person will get up pre-dawn for an early breakfast).

Muslims in general, not just those who play professional sport, are advised to consume a pre-dawn meal consisting of foods that release energy slowly throughout the day, as a listicle widely shared on social media in the days before Ramadan suggests.

Imagine the impact that a change in sleeping patterns and the timing of food and drink consumption might have on a professional athlete’s training regimen. Some studies suggest an increase in fatigue and a decline in speed and agility among Muslim athletes.

Others indicate that performance isn’t affected by fasting in Ramadan as long as regular training is maintained, and the same amount of nutrients are consumed (at night).

Finally, the Muslim world doesn’t have a central authority acknowledged by everyone who follows the faith.

This makes the fasting/sport equation even more complex because some religious figures looked up to by the players say that because of the nature of their jobs, they don’t have to fast even if they aren’t travelling and can make it up later or otherwise compensate for the fast.

Fasting exemptions for sports people are, of course, hotly debated and will probably continue to be discussed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, scheduled for June 8 to July 8 in a year when Ramadan is expected to last until the first week of the tournament.

In a nutshell, it shouldn’t be an issue if Ramadan and the World Cup clash this year, as the players will be covered by the travelling exemption.

Those who don’t want to claim this exemption and still fast will be able to draw on the emerging research into how the body is able to adapt to fasting while maintaining physical performance.

 Nasya Bahfen works in the School of Media Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Alcohol backing raises risk of athletes drinking more

Researchers have found sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking. Photo: iStock
Researchers have found sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking. Photo: iStock

Alcohol sponsorship and hazardous drinking in UK athletes are linked, a new study has found.

The research, led by Monash University and the University of Manchester, is the first to examine alcohol sponsorship of athletes in the UK, and comes at a time when there are calls in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, and South Africa for greater restriction or bans on alcohol sponsorship and advertising in sport. The research was published today in the scientific journal Addiction.

The researchers surveyed more than 2000 sportspeople from universities in the North West, Midlands, London, and Southern regions of England. Most played community sport, and around one-third reported being sponsored by an alcohol-related industry such as a brewer or pub.

Those sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking after accounting for factors such as type of sport played, age, gender, disposable income, and region.

Alcohol consumption was found to be high in athletes overall. However, 50 per cent of those sponsored by an alcohol-related industry had scores on the World Health Organisation’s Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test that indicated the need for brief counselling and further monitoring of drinking, compared with 39 per cent of non-sponsored athletes.

Associate Professor Kerry O’Brien from Monash University, who led the study, said it had been known for some time that excessive drinking is more common in young adults who play sport or are fans, but researchers are just starting to understand why.

“Alcohol sponsorship (and the drinking culture it perpetuates) appears to be one of these reasons,” Associate Professor O’Brien said.

The study, funded by Alcohol Research UK, mirrors findings from countries such as Australia and New Zealand that have similar alcohol and sport sponsorship and advertising arrangements. However, the study went further by testing the alcohol industry’s argument that the effect of sponsorship on alcohol consumption may be unique to New Zealand or due to heavy drinkers seeking out alcohol sponsorship. The study results show that the effect of sponsorship on drinking remains after accounting for sponsorship seeking and other factors.

Dr O’Brien said there was a perception in the community that social and health benefits of sport might be compromised by the use of sport for the promotion of alcohol.

“I think most people would agree that sport is an important marketing tool for the alcohol, gambling, and fast foods industries, in much the same way it was for tobacco,” he said.

“Our study raises the question of whether sports that have such sponsorships and advertising might promote poorer health and social outcomes.”

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Face of AIDS and HIV: an international film archive

Staffan Hildebrand with the 700 hours of unedited documentary film material captured between 1986-2013 on HIV/AIDS.
Staffan Hildebrand with the 700 hours of unedited documentary film material captured between 1986-2013 on HIV/AIDS.

The School of Media, Film and Journalism is proud to host a special preview of Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV.

The screening will be introduced by Staffan Hildebrand and followed by a Q&A mediated by Associate Professor Mia Lindgren.

Staffan Hildebrand has been filming the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1986, and is the founder and producer of the Face of AIDS film archive housed at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

In addition to several feature films, all box office hits in Sweden, Staffan’s
documentary films on HIV/AIDS have featured at many international AIDS conferences and form an important record of the global impact of HIV/AIDS.

Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV was commissioned for AIDS 2014, the meeting of the  International AIDS Society to be held in Melbourne, 21-25 July 2014.

This film is a centerpiece for the conference that will engage delegates, HIV/AIDS professionals and the general population by exploring how the Australian
response was coordinated across political and ideological boundaries and driven by the community but why today,  young people continue to be at risk of HIV.

It introduces us to many of the characters who have been influential over the three decades of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

It contains original never before seen historical footage from the Face of AIDS archive, along with new interviews from contrasting countries in the Asia Pacific region and how there is the real possibility of the virtual elimination of the transmission of HIV, and the hope that a cure or vaccine might yet be found.

Yet there are still a range of challenges that need to be overcome.

The Face of AIDS film project raises important questions about the role of documentary and life stories in medical research.

These and other questions about this historic collaboration between a filmmaker
and the medical sciences will be discussed in a Q&A following the screening.

Download the event flyer.

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The case for Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore

By Stewart King

Crime novel covers are often plastered with endorsements: “A terrific read,” “A real page-turner,” or “Author Y is the next Author X.” It’s far less common to read quotes such as the following from Fairfax crime fiction reviewer Sue Turnbull. In 2005 she wrote that Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore “might just be a great Australian novel”.

Turnbull’s praise is surprising because there is no caveat other than the national adjective. It’s not a great Australian crime novel, just a “great Australian novel”. Turnbull wasn’t alone in recognising The Broken Shore as an important work of literature. It won a slew of national and international crime fiction awards and was unexpectedly longlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin award.

Popular fiction and artistic merit are often considered mutually exclusive. Literary fiction is characterised by originality and creativity. Crime novels, on the other hand, are supposedly plot-driven, peopled with generic characters and limited by the conventions of the genre.

The Broken Shore is undoubtedly and unashamedly a crime novel. It has its crime: the brutal murder of Charles Bourgoyne, a local, retired patrician in his isolated country mansion. There is the investigating officer, Detective Joe Cashin, a local boy who worked in Melbourne’s homicide squad until an accident left his body broken and his partner dead.

Other generic characters include corrupt cops, Joe’s cousin Bern, a picaresque character who will do anything to make a few extra dollars on the side; an attractive love interest; and of course, the criminals. Less generic are the swaggie Rebb, who helps Cashin to rebuild the house that belonged to his great-grandfather’s brother, and Paul Dove, an Aboriginal police officer assigned to the case when three Aboriginal youths become suspects.

So how does a crime novel potentially become a great Australian novel? It does so by not allowing the formula to restrict any more than necessary. As Morag Fraser stated in reference to Temple’s 2010 Miles Franklin-winner, Truth, Temple respects the conventions of the crime novel “as a poet observes the 14-line convention of the sonnet or a musician the sonata form: a useful disciplinary structure from which to expand, bend or depart”.

Although the initial crime takes place in an isolated mansion, The Broken Shore is no Christie-esque murder mystery set in “Cheesecake Manor,“ to borrow Raymond Chandler’s memorable phrase. From the initial murder, Temple investigates and interrogates contemporary Australia. What he uncovers is not pretty.

Temple pulls no punches in his description of regional Australia. He describes Cromarty, the larger of the two fictional centres, as “not a big country town. It’s a shrunken city, shrunk down in the shit, all the shit without the benefits.”

The smaller town is Port Munro, a place undergoing a profound social and economic transition:

Just six boats still fished out of Port Munro, bringing in crayfish and a few boxes of fish, but it was the only industry apart from a casein factory. Its only industry if you didn’t count six restaurants, five cafes, three clothing boutiques, two antique shops, a book shop, four masseurs, an aromatherapist, three hairdressers, dozens of bed-and-breakfast establishments, the maze and the doll museum.

Yet when readers encounter Port Munro, it is May, the shops are shut and Melbourne’s middle-classes have departed, leaving only the town’s “hardcore […] – the unemployed, under-employed, unemployable, the drunk and doped, the old-age pensioners, people on all kinds of welfare, the halt, the lame”.

Temple’s is a country divided between weekenders and locals and between white fellas and black fellas, many of whom live in an area known as the Daunt. Aboriginal dispossession and marginalisation are major themes.

When police kill two Aboriginal youths in a bungled stake out and a third supposedly commits suicide following police harassment, Temple reminds us that little has changed since the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down in 1991.

In some ways Cashin sits across all of these divisions. He’s a local who returns after a long time away. He’s a cop who distrusts other cops and, at times, the law.

Finally, he’s a white fella who is also a “boong-in-law,” according to Dove, because of his Aboriginal aunt and cousins. If his marginality can be a hindrance in his social relations, not belonging to any one group helps him to overcome the divisions to solve the mystery.

The broken shore of the title refers to the iconic, jagged coastline along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. The shore is not all that is broken. So too are the country and its inhabitants. Without wanting to give anything away, the initial crime leads to the discovery of multiple transgressions that go back years.

In them, Temple depicts a society in which the traditional and contemporary cornerstones – the economy, families, religious institutions, the police, the legal system, and so forth – are broken.

When Temple won the Miles Franklin or Truth, it reopened the debate about the literary merits of genre fiction. But, for me, The Broken Shore is the better novel.

Sometimes even good crime novels are diminished on a second reading. Great crime novels are enhanced. The Broken Shore certainly deserves re-reading. To take Sue Turnbull’s statement a step further, The Broken Shore is a great Australian novel.

Dr Stewart King is a senior lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Welfare review fails to understand Australia’s labour market

Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, will have to become active jobseekers under the review. Photo: Dreamstime
Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, will have to become active jobseekers under the review. Photo: Dreamstime

by Veronica Sheen

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System, led by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, is a vexed piece of work. Much in it is commendable and even far-sighted, but there is also much in it that is deeply problematic, reflecting the limitations of thecontext in which it is written.

The report also contains some odd inconsistencies. It makes no mention of the dramatic reform to social welfare for people under the age of 30, which was announced in the federal budget in May.

The report also does not sufficiently account for the nature of Australia’s contemporary labour market, which imposes a significant challenge to the type of universal labour force participation that the government aspires to.

Core premises

The report is founded on several overarching premises about social welfare that radically extend current trends. These can be characterised as:

  • Assistance to those “most in need”, a phrase that appears consistently through the report. While this is intuitively fair enough, “most in need” is a subjective benchmark and can be set anywhere.
  • “Capacity to work”, which takes forward the welfare-to-work agenda of previous governments. But this is a much more assertive approach and marks some departure from existing practice, especially in relation to people with disabilities who previously may not have been deemed capable of workforce participation.
  • “Individualised tailoring” of assistance and requirements, which extends a long-standing commitment in government policy to case management. It also implies a vigorously “individualised” rather than “social” view of welfare. This has merit to some extent, but the systemic causes of social problems – such as unemployment – also need to be recognised.
  • A strong focus on “family functioning and capability”, which is an interesting development in social welfare. Income management is one of its contemporary manifestations. It invokes an idea that certain families are in effect dysfunctional and need intensive oversight and direction by a government official. Again, the danger is that some systemic causes of their problems are overlooked.

What’s missing

Absent from the report are some of the fundamental ideas that have driven the development of social welfare over the last century, and especially in the post-war period:

  • Social equity: welfare as a means of ensuring that very large disparities across society are mitigated through provision of basic income support.
  • Poverty alleviation: the report does mention this but only in so far as it relates to how work is better than welfare. It does not countenance social welfare as a means of ensuring that citizens can avoid the worst of poverty.
  • Managing social risks: the emphasis is on individual responsibility for averting risks such as long-term unemployment. This gives insufficient weight in the model of social welfare to the exogenous factors that affect risk of long-term unemployment, such as insufficient jobs or age discrimination.

Separation between pensions and working age payments

The report recommends a sharp division between pension payments for aged people or people with severe disabilities, and working age payments for everyone else who is deemed to have a capacity for some employment.

This recommendation has, at its heart, a view that everyone who has some capacity to work should work. It also asserts that the prime purpose of social welfare is to set such people on course for obtaining employment through targeted and individualised assistance as well as appropriate education and training, especially linked to local employment opportunities.

It is particularly focused on long-standing concerns that too many disability support pensioners could work but have little incentive or encouragement to do so.

It may be the case that many can work at least part-time. However, arguably too few such employment opportunities are open to them. For a start, in Australia there is a current underutilisation (unemployment and underemployment) rate of 13.5 per cent.

Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, would join this group of active jobseekers. They face a formidable level of competition for any employment vacancies.

The report calls for employers to lift their game in employing people with disabilities and cites a number of commendable initiatives in this area. However, the reality is that high productivity achieved through work-intensification practices is demanded in most employment situations. While not to underestimate people with disabilities, it is fair to say that a proportion will find this level of performance difficult to achieve.

In addition, social services minister Kevin Andrews has been saying that mental health problems of many people receiving a disability payment tend to be episodic, enabling them to work for extended periods. While this may be so, it is questionable as to how many employers will be willing to tolerate unpredictability of such employees.

Better alignment between rate of pensions and allowances

The report recommends a better alignment between the rate of pensions and allowances. This is a long-standing anomaly in the social welfare system. The Newstart Allowance has become a very low-level payment and is now a “poverty trap”.

The report does not specifically mention this problem, but it does detail the extent of the anomaly. Most importantly, it does not engage with the question of what would be a decent level of payment for the Newstart Allowance.

Given the direction of government social welfare policy as per the budget, there should be disquiet about which direction the alignment goes. A change in the indexing arrangement for pensions has already been announced, which will reduce their value over the long term. It is conceivable that the alignment could be achieved through further reduction in pensions.

The report incorporates phrases such as “adequate support” and “adequate payments” but what this means is not interrogated. Realistically, it is hard to see the current government increasing the rate of Newstart or any other payment.

Tiered payment system

Much is made in the report of the need to simplify the income support payment system; it suggests a new binary pension/working age payment “architecture”. However, the proposal for working age payments is a “tiered” system which, according to the report:

… takes account of individual circumstances, such as partial capacity to work, parental responsibilities or limitations on availability for work because of caring.

But is this really simplifying the payments? Many questions arise, such as about the decision-making process for determining what tier an individual is allocated and what level of discretion the Centrelink official or other decision-makers will have, given the high level of “individual” management under such a system.

Overall, the vision for the reform of Australian social welfare depends entirely on whether labour market opportunities will open up to those for whom it has previously been closed. It could also be viewed as part of the agenda for the end of the age of entitlement.

Dr Veronica Sheen is a Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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New Colombo plan scholarships awarded to Monash language students


L:R Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, Minister Julie Bishop, Sarah Bishop and Jason Emmanuelle.
L:R Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, Minister Julie Bishop, Sarah Bishop and Jason Emmanuelle.

Monash language students have found success through the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship program. Monash student Jason Emmanuelle was last night named the Kishi Fellow to Japan, the highest award available under the NCP. Monash student Emma Moore was also awarded a scholarship through the program. 

Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, awarded forty inaugural scholarships, including Emma’s, and announced Jason, along with three others, as the New Colombo Plan Fellows for 2014. 

As an arts student at Monash, Jason will join a linguistics and immersion program at Osaka University in Japan for 12 months, bringing him closer to his goal of working for a Japanese enterprise. 

“My time in Japan will allow me to establish academic connections for future cross-linguistic research, as well as helping me to specialise in second language acquisition,” Jason said. 

“One day I hope to work on uncovering potential reforms to language-education in Australia and Japan, and this scholarship will only further develop such opportunities,” he said. 

The Kishi Fellow, named after previous Japanese Prime Minister Kishi, is one of four fellows awarded across Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore each year. The program helps to strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships, through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students. 

Emma Moore with His Excellency General the Honourable Peter Cosgrove AC MC Governor General and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Julie Bishop MP.
Emma Moore with His Excellency General the Honourable Peter Cosgrove AC MC Governor General and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Julie Bishop MP.

Trevor Goddard Associate Director Global Programs, said the scholarships are a fantastic opportunity for students to strengthen relationships in the Indo Pacific region, helping to facilitate future career opportunities. 

“The Kishi Fellow will help to lift Jason’s understanding of the region, allowing him to make connections, and expand his understanding of business and government in Japan,” Mr Goddard said. 

Prior to starting his undergraduate studies, Jason travelled to Japan, supporting himself as a part-time English teacher. After seven months of self-directed study Jason also passed N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), enabling access to the highest level Japanese class at Monash – Japanese for Background Speakers. 

Jason is also the cultural ambassador between Australia and Japan in the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth (JENESYS).

Alongside Jason’s success, fellow Monash student  Emma Moore,  4th year Monash student in BCom/LLB and Diploma Languages (Chinese),  was awarded a New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

Ms Moore will undertake an exchange to University of Hong Kong as one of 40 inaugural students selected from across Australia as part of the New Colombo Pilot into the Indo Pacific region.

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The right to be bigots? What does repealing 18C mean for multiculturalism?

Senator George Brandis provoked public outcry when he stated that ‘people have the right to be bigots’, maintaining that aspects of the Racial Discrimination Act is an impediment to the freedom of speech. Critics, however, argued that new laws will license public racism and negatively impact the well-being, health and belonging of ethnic and religious minorities in Australia.

Professor Andrew Markus of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) at Monash, will be taking part in a lecture ‘The Right to be Bigots?’, alongside Professor Farida Fozdar, from the University of Western Australia, and the Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC, Shadow Attorney General.

The lecture will explore section 18C of the racial Discrimination Act (1975) and its role in Australian multiculturalism and ask, do these new laws license bigotry and will they lead to increased racial tensions?

Event details:

Location: The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Date/Time: 6:00 – 7:30 pm

RSVP to the event here.

Download the event flyer.

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Monash History student to take part in undergraduate research conference

History student Laura Riccardi’s research abstract has been accepted to be part of the International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR), founded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. ICUR offers undergraduate students the chance to present their research to thousands of students, academics and members of the public.

Laura, whose paper on the propagation of the American Dream as a central component of US national identity and ideology during the Great Depression, is a third year Arts student. She wrote her paper as part of Dr Taylor Spence‘s class on American Empire: The United States from Colonies to Superpower.

The conference is a 24 hour global event that links participants and attendees by technology and is held concurrently in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and South Africa in September of this year. Undergraduate students across various disciplines are invited to showcase their research in the form of a 20-minute presentation, or a poster.

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Oxfam-Monash Partnership research in the Monash Magazine

This month, the work of Oxfam-Monash Partnership Research Fellow Larry Stillman has been featured in the latest edition of Monash Magazine, as part of a feature on Monash’s work in the emerging field of ‘development informatics’.

Discussing the potential role of information technology in strengthening international development efforts and empowering social and economic change, Stillman’s work for the Oxfam-Monash Partnership in South Africa and Bangladesh is provided as a prime example of the promising work that Monash is currently driving in this field.

Through his research, Larry Stillman has been exploring new ways of using technology to improve the flow of information to developing communities, as well as to improve the ability of communities to project their voices upwards to the higher decision-making processes that affect their daily lives.

As he has so far found, “people who cannot read can still learn how to use icons on the phone; people who can’t write can communicate textually using voice recognition programs. These are tools that empower a person in a developing country, or groups of people together, helping each other”.

To read the article, click here, and to learn more about Stillman’s research work with the Oxfam-Monash Partnership, head to his research page.

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Monash grad named Walkley Student Journalist of the Year

Walkleys_YJOTY_2014_354-1024x682Monash University’s journalism graduate Holly Humphreys has won the 2014 Walkley Student Journalist of the Year.

Holly, a Masters of Journalism graduate, was recognised for her outstanding story Call for better life for dairy’s rejects, which was published in The Sunday Age.

Holly’s piece was also published in mojo, an online news site edited and written by Monash journalism students.She was presented at the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards at the CBD Hotel in Sydney last night.

Holly said she felt privileged to win a Walkley award, which was sponsered by the ABC.

“I must admit that I was shocked to hear my name announced as the winner of my category,” Holly said.

“All of the hard work I put into the story has paid off in a myriad of ways and being formally recognised is an event I will remember forever.

“It encourages me to strive to be a skilful journalist, no matter the hard yards that need to be dedicated to succeed.”

The Walkley judges said: “Holly Humphreys’ story on the fate of male calves born into the dairy industry shone a light on a confronting and little-known aspect of dairy farming.

“She wrote objectively on a complex, emotionally charged topic. We were impressed by her immersive research and vivid storytelling technique. Congratulations Holly.”

SBS News reporter Naomi Selvaratnam, who graduated from Monash in 2012, was a finalist in the Radio/Audio Journalist category.

Naomi’s story, Crisis accommodation shortage hits migrant women, was broadcast earlier this year on SBS World News. She is a finalist in the Radio/Audio Journalist category.

Head of Journalism, Phil Chubb, said he was speaking for all staff in congratulating Holly.

“It was obvious throughout her course that Holly had a great future,” he said.

Phil also paid tribute to Naomi, a Young Walkley finalist.

“Naomi likewise always presented herself as a student who was going places,” Phil said.

“These awards are a recognition of the huge amount of time and effort Monash staff put into mentoring students and it’s great for them, too – not just for the students – when it all comes together on nights like these.

“In many respects this type of recognition is what keeps staff going.”

Holly  said she would investigate career options in foreign correspondence, “perhaps to couple my interests in Asia and journalism, but to be honest I am undecided about which medium I prefer”.

“Based on the range of young journalists I met at the awards event it has inspired me to be open to career opportunities in radio, television, online or print, but potentially online because of the rapid changes to the way we access news today and what the online platform allows for,” she said.

In 2013, Monash graduate Ashley Argoon won the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year and was a finalist in this year’s Quill Awards.

Herald Sun AFL reporter and Monash graduate, Sam Landsberger, was a finalist in last year’s Young Walkley’s innovation category. Sam was also acknowledge for his series,  If you don’t mind, umpire, and his exclusive story, Drugs ban for VFL player.

The Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year was awarded to Sydney freelance journalist Ella Rubeli for her “outstanding and compelling work” and “extraordinary” use of video, photojournalism, print and multimedia in multi-platform storytelling.

“Ella Rubeli’s outstanding and compelling work has made her the clear winner of the 2014 Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award … an incredible job and a very worthy winner,” judges said.


Holly Humphries, Monash University, “Call for better life for dairy’s rejects”.

Judges: Jeannette Francis, Monique Schafter and Trent Dalton.


Ben Westcott, RMIT, “ALGA to slug councils for vote” “Ratepayer ‘no’ to yes campaign” and “Early poll to stymie referendum”

Allison Worrall, RMIT, “The other road toll”

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Monash historians shortlisted for national prizes

3efed51e653c99ce5334e0832b5005f2_nMonash historians have featured strongly in the short lists for two of the major national prizes, the winners of which will be announced at the annual conference of the Australia Historical Society in July.

Dr Ruth Morgan’s forthcoming book, Running Out? An environmental history of water and climate in the southwest of Western Australia, 1829-2006, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Serle Award. Dr. Morgan also won the 2013 Margaret Medcalf Award for her doctoral research on the topic.

The Serle Award was established by the Australian Historical Association to commemorate the contribution to Australian History of Geoffrey Serle (1922-1998) and is awarded biennially for postgraduate theses in Australian History.

Professor Bruce Scates’ latest book, Anzac Journeys: Returning to the Battlefields of World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2013), co-authored with Monash ECRs Alexandra McCosker, Rebecca Wheatley, Damien Williams and former Monash Fellow, Keir Reeves, has been short-listed for the Ernest Scott Prize for 2014.

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Music PhD Student Jane Hammond wins research award

Jane HammondJane Hammond has recently been awarded a Monash Postgraduate Publications Award (PPA). With these awards the Monash Institute of Graduate Research “provides support for high-achieving students who, having submitted their thesis, wish to write up some of their research for publication while they await the result of their examination. Stipend support, equivalent to the Australian Postgraduate Award rate, is available for a period of up to three months.”

Jane’s research is informed by semiotics and the theory of musical topics. In her recently submitted PhD composition folio, and accompanying critical commentary, she has explored notions of musical meaning in a contemporary context through an engagement with the topic of the pastoral. Recurring themes of the pastoral such as nostalgia, lyricism and the human relationship to place and the natural world are central to her research.

The award is a confirmation of the quality of her work and it marks the first time a practice-based music composition research student has been awarded a PPA. Jane’s proposal was to prepare her scores for publication with the Australian Music Centre, which has accepted her as a Represented Artist, and to other music publishers. She will also develop one of her conference papers into a journal article.

It was a competitive application process. Jane’s application firstly had to have approval from her PhD supervisors and the Head of the School of Music before being sent to the Arts Faculty. Each Faculty in the University rank their applicants and submit their top six to the Monash University Institute of Graduate Research. From the 45–55 applications that MIGR receives 10–12 are selected to receive the Award.

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CALL FOR PAPERS DUE DATE EXTENDED -Interactive Futures: Young People’s Mediated Lives in the Asia Pacific and Beyond



Interactive Futures: Young People’s Mediated Lives in the
Asia Pacific and Beyond
Call for Papers

A conference hosted by the Consortium for Youth, Generations and Culture, Sociology,
Monash University, the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Griffith University and support  from the Monash Asia Institute

This conference explores young people’s engagement with new modes of mediated communication, self‐expression and culture‐making across the Asia Pacific and beyond. It will map young people’s mediated lives in the region, consider implications for citizenship, ethics, political & cultural agency and social bonds, and generate debate about the ways emplacement, embodiment, and location shape youth access to and practices with media—new and old, virtual and material.

Keynote Speakers include:

Associate Professor Sun Sun Lim (Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore);

Dr Paul Hodkinson (Sociology, University of Surrey);

Professor Neil Selwyn (Education, Monash University)


We invite papers that explore:

*how young people interact with new and old media to actively produce and consume local and transnational youth cultures, social identities and collective experience;
*how localized media practices shape experiences and expectations of youth, including notions of transition to adulthood, gendered and raced identities, citizenship, and political practices.
*inequalities/differences in access and use, for example, in relation to class, gender, sexuality, ability, and place;
*everyday management of mediated lives (sexting, gaming,  online activism, everyday uses of social media);
*collective meaning‐making through media (community building, cosmopolitanism, sociality, political engagement);
*ethical and methodological challenges in researching youth media cultures.
*how the everyday media practices of youth become more long‐term projects, providing a platform for the articulation of post‐youth identities.

Please send paper proposals (no more than 200 words) with your affiliation details and email address no later than Friday June 27th, 2014 to with “Paper Proposal for Interactive Futures” in the subject line. Presenters will be notified via email in July.

For more information and registration go to
Interactive Futures: Young People’s Mediated Lives in the Asia Pacific and Beyond

A conference hosted by the Consortium for Youth, Generations and Culture, Sociology,
Monash University, the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Griffith University and support from the Monash Asia Institute
When: Monday 1st & Tuesday 2nd December, 2014

Where: Monash University Caulfield Campus, Melbourne

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Internship Opportunity: Australian Institute of International Affairs

The Australian Institute of International Affairs is now calling for applications for their second Programme Internship.

The role of the Programme Intern is to support our Council members who are responsible for the Programme, in researching, organising and running our presentations and providing an ongoing plan for future speakers.  Our events are a unique opportunity for the public to engage in candid discussions with people who are shaping the world.  The Programme Intern will be a vital part of the team.

The Programme Internship will start in July for a period of 3 – 6 months.  All the details on how to apply can be found by clicking here.  Don’t miss this exciting opportunity – submissions are due by Wednesday 25 June, 2014.

More information on this internship, and other opportunities, is available of the AIIA website.

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Indigenous Film Studies in the Digital World

Dr Romaine Moreton on location, The Oysterman (2013)
Dr Romaine Moreton on location, The Oysterman (2013)

A unique new digital tool will allow access to a wide range of sources of information about Australian Indigenous film and television.

Developed by Monash University researchers Dr Therese Davis and Dr Romaine Moreton from the School of Media Film and Journalism, the Australian Indigenous Film and Television Digital Bibliography is the first of its kind in the new field of digital bibliography, which uses new media techniques to create digital research and study tools.

Dr Moreton recently appointed to Monash as a Research Fellow and Filmmaker-in-Residence said it was significant that the digital bibliography was dedicated solely to the study of works by Indigenous filmmakers.

“Since the inception of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department in 1993, Indigenous filmmaking has developed at a phenomenal rate and we realised there wasn’t a resource where students, teachers, researchers, filmmakers and the public could access a wide range of sources of information about the Indigenous screen industry in Australia,” Dr Moreton said.

“Maureen Barron, former Chair of the Australian Film Commission, has described Indigenous filmmaking as ‘one of the most critically lauded and successful sectors of the Australian film industry.’ There are now more than 600 titles, mostly shorts and documentaries but also 16 feature films and 23 television dramas where Indigenous filmmakers have held a key creative role.”

The digital bibliography gives access to relevant government reports and policy documents; summaries of key reports and policy documents; case studies of selected key films; and comprehensive lists of books, journal articles and film reviews. There are also links to online film previews, interviews and other resources.

“By making sources of information about Indigenous-authored film and television easily accessible, the Australian Indigenous Film and Television Digital Bibliography enables local and international scholarship, film and media education, and public policy debate on Indigenous screen production in Australia,” Dr Moreton said.

The bibliography is an outcome of a collaborative research project, “Beyond the ‘Remote/Urban’ Divide: Re-Mapping Australian Indigenous Screen Content and its Audiences”, funded by a Screen Australia Research and Publication Partnership Program grant. It can be accessed through the Faculty of Arts website.

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Kurds find a way forward through the chaos of a fracturing Iraq

by William Gourlay

The Kurds have no friends but the mountains, runs the adage. Marginalised, dispossessed and oppressed in their historic homelands, Kurds have long lamented a lack of powerful allies willing and able to take their side in the cut and thrust of geopolitics.

After last week’s stunning capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Kurds may find their friendless days are over. As ISIL fighters menace Baghdad, Kurdish peshmerga brigades remain the only viable military counterweight to the jihadist group in Iraq. The prospect that ISIL could take all of Iraq fills Middle Eastern and western capitals with horror.

ISIL, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, has swallowed up swathes of territory across northeastern Syria and western Iraq. Mosul, on the banks of the Tigris some 400 kilometres north of Baghdad, will be of significant strategic value as the group seeks to establish a so-called caliphate straddling the Syria-Iraq border.

Some of Mosul’s Sunni residents, who have looked on the mostly Shiite Iraqi security forces as occupiers, may see ISIL as liberators. What locals make of ISIL’s severe interpretation of Sunni Islam remains to be seen.

For many, ISIL’s intention to impose an unbending form of Islamic law was too much to countenance. Up to 500,000 refugees have surged into the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

KRG prime minister Nechirvan Barzani called on Kurds to assist those fleeing Mosul, which is home to Kurds as well as Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians and Chaldeans. Barzani’s government also called on the UNHCR to provide relief for internally displaced peoples and made assurances that units of Kurdish peshmerga (“those who face death”) were standing by to prevent the advance of ISIL units into Kurdish territory.

Kurds can be much-needed reliable ally

In the face of the extremist threat posed by ISIL, it stands to reason that the west will view the Kurdish administration more favourably. They emerge as the most stable and reliable ally in Iraq, and potentially in the wider region. Long cast as underdogs, their claims overlooked by the Great Powers during the post-World War Two carve-up of the Middle East and ever since, the Kurds can expect many a suitor as events unfurl.

Not least among those suitors will be a shell-shocked Baghdad regime and Washington. Calls are already being made for Washington to throw its weight behind the Erbil-based Kurdish regime and to drop its opposition to the Kurdish goals of autonomy in both Syria and Iraq.

While the Kurds are likely to see their diplomatic stocks rise, they also stand to gain strategically. When Iraqi security forces abandoned Kirkuk, as they had done in Mosul, Kurdish peshmerga brigades stepped in to take control of the historic city.

Kirkuk, home to a diverse Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish population, has long been a bone of contention between Baghdad and the Kurdish administration in Erbil. A referendum planned for 2007 to determine whether Kirkuk and its oil-rich surrounds should be incorporated into the Kurdish entity never came to pass. All three groups – Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen – still lay claim to it.

In the chaos of the ISIL advance and the Iraqi army’s capitulation it may be that the matter is finally settled to the advantage of the Kurds. For once, the cards may have fallen the Kurds’ way.

Immediately after the fall of Mosul, Iraqi government figures proposed an alliance with Kurdish peshmerga brigades to retake the city. Kurdish forces are widely recognised as being better trained and more effective fighting units than the Iraqi army. Peshmerga last week reportedly fought off an ISIL assault on Sinjar, 120 kilometres west of Mosul, home to the Yezidi religious minority.

ISIL has since advanced so far on other fronts as to take towns on the Iranian border. These territorial gains mean any counterattack on Mosul from Iraq proper is unlikely.

Measured, co-operative approach pays off

ISIL’s rapid advance has been made possible by Iraq’s fractious and polarised political system. Many predict the country will fragment along sectarian – Sunni and Shiite – lines. The ISIL threat, however, has galvanised Kurds not only in Iraq but across the region. Beset by infighting and fratricidal squabbling throughout their history, Kurds and their diverse political organisations are now seeking to work in concert.

In Turkey, the political wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced that PKK operatives will join the fray alongside KRG peshmerga should it be necessary. In northern Syria, the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD), which has carved out a statelet from the rubble of the civil war with Bashar al-Assad, has also proposed its forces be made available for action alongside KRG peshmerga against ISIL.

Co-operation, rather than confrontation, has been the Iraqi Kurds’ ticket to success in recent years. With de facto self-government since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, and since attaining special status under Iraq’s new constitution in 2005, the KRG has capitalised on changing economic and political circumstances to create stability and foster progress in their corner of Iraq. Rather than rashly seceding under the umbrella of US protection, the Kurdish regime has continued to operate within the framework of a sovereign Iraq.

Exploiting local oil reserves, Iraqi Kurds have steadily built economic links across the region. In particular, they have won the confidence of neighbouring Turkey, which is home to a significant, at times restive, Kurdish population. The KRG has also fostered a functioning, if not flawless, model of participatory democracy, in which minorities are represented and free from repression.

This steady-as-she-goes approach has charted a course through many obstacles and brought sizable gains. The Kurdish approach has been measured and moderate in a region that seems prone to the opposite.

With the peshmerga firmly ensconced in Kirkuk, a city that Kurds have long envisaged as a capital, it is hard to see them being dislodged. At present it appears the Kurds are the sole beneficiaries of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The situation must be a long way from how then-US president George Bush imagined things, but the Kurds are now best placed to provide the “dramatic and inspiring example” of stability and progress for the region that Bush invoked before the war.

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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Five weeks on, deal-breaker for voters has shades of ‘93 budget

by Shaun Carney

Five weeks after its release, treasurer Joe Hockey’s first federal budget is proving to be a remarkably durable political and media commodity, and not in ways that portend well for the Abbott government.

Of the many unique or unusual aspects of our political culture – the voting systems we use and their compulsory nature, the short national electoral cycle, to name a few – the cult of the budget is perhaps the most peculiar.

Few, if any, countries place so much focus on a single financial document as Australia does on its yearly budget. Even in these straitened times, the mainstream media continue to set aside enormous resources to cover it, airlifting large numbers of journalists, editors and producers to Canberra on the second Tuesday each May.

Newspapers produce special liftouts full of graphs and analysis; television and radio outlets cut into their regular programming to breathlessly announce what’s up and what’s cut.

And yet, for all the energy attended upon them, experience suggests that budgets can generally not be expected to remain in the national conversation for long. Most years, a budget will have lost its news value by the Friday after its release. While an opposition will try to keep controversies over any potentially unpopular bits going, the political impetus starts to fall away. The opposition leader gives his formal reply in parliament on the Thursday night, almost always to mixed reviews tending towards the negative, and after that the caravan moves on.

But not this year: the 2014-15 budget is the exception that proves the rule. In political, financial and social terms, this budget has so far shown itself to be a game-changer. It has reset the political debate, sparking a community reaction full of heat.

This would seem to be relatively easily explained. The government has presented a prescription for the nation that is dramatically different from the one it took to the election only nine months ago. The Coalition presented an argument to the voters that could be summed up along these lines:

Labor does not know how to handle the finances. We do. We are the grown-ups. If you put us back in charge, we will be able to fix up the finances without you having to go without. You won’t notice the difference financially. We will not surprise you. There will be no disruptions under our government.

But with its first budget, the government – or more particularly, its treasurer – has presented a set of policies that attempt to redraw and redefine the role of the state. These policies challenge not just what took place under the previous Labor government but also under John Howard.

This is in keeping with what Hockey told the Financial Times in February ahead of the G20 economic ministers meeting. He made it plain then that he saw himself as a warrior for a recast international economy, one based very much on neoliberal principles:

I believe in freedom, enterprise and liberty – they are the things that facilitate opportunity. I think our role as finance ministers is to facilitate ambition and lift the yoke of regulation, red tape, taxation and centralised control.

This hinted at a more doctrinaire – and much loftier – set of ambitions than was ever ventilated by the Coalition as it prepared itself to take over from the Rudd government.

So the government is clearly experiencing trouble because it said one thing and now wants to do another. And yes, of course, this seems odd because of the way in which Tony Abbott successfully pursued Julia Gillard over her carbon tax reversal. But is that the only reason the government has so quickly run into strife – the “broken promise”?

Others, often more sympathetic to the government, including some Liberal MPs, offer the assessment that a good deal of the problem goes to messaging. They say that a failure to sensitise the electorate ahead of the budget through coherent and co-ordinated argument, plus some ill-chosen pictures such as the cigar-chomping indulgence of Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann, are to blame. That could be partly correct.

But what if the public’s apparent resentment is based not so much on perceived mendacity or bad PR as on common values? If so, that is a much deeper and more intractable problem for the government.

Fairness is, it must be said, an elastic concept in our highly individualised and affluent age. Despite this, it’s a concept still supported by many Australians. Hockey himself should know all about that. After all, he was given the Workplace Relations ministry in 2007 as the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws were killing the Coalition’s chances of re-election – chiefly because they failed the electorate’s fairness test.

If you take one of the most controversial elements of the budget, the A$7 Medicare co-payment, as an example, it is not hard to see why it is facing public resistance. For one thing, it is a price signal, plain and simple. The impost will not go to repairing the budget or paying for medical costs. Instead it goes into a new medical research fund.

On climate change, the government has specifically rejected the application of a price signal. On health care, a vastly more urgent and immediate issue for people, it has embraced a price signal but pushed off any tangible benefits to future generations. Distilled, the government’s message on the co-payment is that because there is a budget emergency, the impost must be introduced but not a dollar of the proceeds will go to ameliorating the emergency.

Significantly, Hockey doubled down last week in a speech at the Sydney Institute. He dismissed portrayals of the budget as unfair, labelling them “misguided”, redolent of the 1970s and “of a political nature”.

Hockey then moved on to a new line of argument, in which he expanded on his Financial Timescomments and set out his own concept of fairness. The average working Australian:

… be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian. Is this fair?

This expanded on Hockey’s budget-night “lifters not leaners” dichotomy while also opening a new discussion on the fairness of the tax system:

Whilst income tax is by far our largest form of revenue, just 10 per cent of the population pays nearly two-thirds of all income tax.

These taxpayers may argue that the tax system is already unfair, according to Hockey.

Asking the less well-off to see the world through the eyes of the well-off is an intriguing stance for a politician to take from a position of what appears to be, judging by the post-budget polls, not-inconsiderable unpopularity. Do today’s Australians, many of whom – rightly or wrongly – view their taxes as a form of down-payment on an age pension and medical care in their retirement, think that contributing 8 per cent of their wage to the nation’s welfare bill is so bad?

The last time there was such sustained public antagonism to a budget was in 1993 when the Keating government, only months after its surprise victory at that year’s election, rejigged its promised “L-A-W, law” tax cuts, distributing some of them in future superannuation payments. That broken promise was the deal-breaker between the electorate and that government.

They were different times, of course – before the digital revolution, before a precipitous fall in major party membership and after Labor had won five consecutive elections. The Abbott government is banking on the differences outweighing the similarities.

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

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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The value of the arts: a new Australian study

Dr Andrea Baker
Dr Andrea Baker

By Andrea Baker

On the ABC TV Q & A program on June 9, 2014, titled Primates, Populism and Utopia, a video question from an audience member asked the panel of respected elder Australians (across the arts, anthropology, journalism and academia) whether the responsibility of art was to bring people towards a passionate awareness of reality.

A doyen of the visual art world in Australia, and former National Gallery of Australia director, Betty Churcher responded to the question by noting that the arts, especially in recent times, has certainly brought Australians together.

A study, The Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts, released in late May this year, from the Australia Council supports Churcher’s claim.

Based on national sample of 3,000 people living in Australia conducted in late 2013, the survey covered visual arts and crafts, music, theatre, dance and literature, as well as community and Indigenous arts.

It found that more than 95 per cent of Australians have engaged with the arts in the past 12 months.

Examining consumers as well as creators, the Australia Council reported that over 48 per cent of Australians were creating art in 2013, compared to 41 per cent in 2009.

The study highlighted that one in three Australians are creating visual arts and crafts, which is up to 30 per cent in 2013 from 22 per cent in 2009.

These findings support the American urban studies guru, Richard Florida’s creative class thesis which contends that over one third of today’s workforce consist of the creative types.

In despite his many critics, since 2002 Florida has argued that the creative class is the economic force of the new industries and businesses; and ‘therefore the dominant class in society in terms of influence’ with’the power, talent and numbers to reshape the world’.

If Australia is aligned with Florida’s world, then we are also a musical nation where one in five Australians are making music, which is up 20 per cent in 2013 from 15 per cent in 2009.

Literature is also important to us and reading (especially the novel) is still our popular pastime with over 87 per cent of the population reading in 2013, which is slightly up from 84 per cent in 2009.

Ninety-two per cent of Australians also feel that Indigenous arts are ancritical part of Australia’s culture, a point which Betty Churcher (along with Amatjere Indigenous elder, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a Aboriginal activist from Alice Springs and former lead actor in Charles and Elsa Chauvels’ seminal 1955 Australian film classic, Jedda) alluded to on the ABC program, 9 June.

Perhaps most importantly, the study found that 66 per cent of Australians think the arts have a big impact on the development of children; and can influence their well being as an adult.

This last point is of particular importance to me, as an Arts and Culture coordinator of a large undergraduate journalism unit at Monash, which runs in 2nd semester this year.

Since 2010 in this highly popular, third year elective unit over 100 journalism students explore the research and reporting practices associated with contemporary arts and culture.

Reporting Arts and Culture canvasses contemporary issues and case studies across the visual and performing arts, cinema, comedy, music and literary reporting.

It examines the key personalities and institutions in the cultural world and critically considers the professional and social implications and accountabilities of reporting in the arts field.

What the students are reporting on in (as noted in the Australian Council study) is the growing demand for cultural related events, where arts journalists (alias critics) have the responsibility of communicating the transformative nature of the arts.

Similar to outcomes from the Australian Council study, I hope that from this tertiary arts educational experience these 18 to 24 year old, emerging cultural critics will develop a stronger ability to think creatively and develop new ideas.

As Sebastian Smee, former art critic with The Australian said: “Inside every critic is a painter, photographer or sculptor fantasising about the opening of their own sell-out show”.

Participation and education in the arts is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. As the Australian Council reflected, it improves our sense of well being, and the ability to deal with stress, anxiety or depression, which is often so prevalent in our busy lives.

More than 85 per cent of Australians surveyed in The Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts study affirmed that the arts have a fundamental place in our culturally diverse lives and can offer a richer and more meaningful life.

Cultural activity is part of our soft power diplomacy. It is a way of understanding our national psyche and investment in all creative fields adds cultural value to society as a whole.

But in the recent Federal budget cuts, our peak cultural organisations such as the Australia Council and Screen Australia stand to lose more than 10 per cent of their annual budgets, which will means fewer grants to artists and arts organisations.

Despite this, the Abbott government, with Senator George Brandis at the helm as Arts Minister, has sought to reassure the Australian arts community that the Federal Government remains pro-arts, despite slashing millions of dollars from the sector.

In this current post budget climate are these motherhood statements about the arts meaningless?

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Django Bates Talks About Music at Monash

As part of the 2014 Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Monash Art Ensemble joined UK pianist and composer Django Bates to celebrate the work of bepob pioneer Charlie Parker. Django Bates also worked with students during a workshop at Monash.

This landmark collaboration sees them working with British jazz maverick, pianist, composer, bandleader and educator Django Bates and his acclaimed piano trio, Belovèd. Revisiting material from Bates’ groundbreaking 2013 BBC Proms concert, together they celebrate the music of Charlie Parker alongside Bates’ own original compositions, which are fast becoming part of the jazz canon.

  • Django Bates - piano
  • Petter Eldh - double bass
  • Peter Bruun - drums
  • Monash Art Ensemble - directed by Paul Grabowsky

A dynamic ensemble of 21st Century musicians led by pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky, the Monash Art Ensemble brings together leading Monash University students from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and players from the Australian Arts Orchestra to explore the rich territory that lies lies on the border of improvisation and notation.

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