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New Zealand needs a ‘traffic light’ system to stop COVID-19 creeping in at the border 

New Zealand needs a ‘traffic light’ system to stop COVID-19 creeping in at the border 

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Nick Wilson, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

Following the sixth COVID-19 incursion in three months, New Zealand needs to shift from a one-size-fits-all strategy to a risk-based approach to border management.

Two staff have recently tested positive after coming into contact with international seafarers in the course of their duties at a managed isolation facility in Christchurch, where 31 mariners with COVID-19 remain in quarantine.

Mandatory testing of international mariners, who may be only briefly in the country to join their vessels, is being introduced from this week.

This latest incursion follows five earlier border failures since early August. One of these led to the recent outbreak in Auckland.

We propose an urgent shift to a traffic-light approach to border control. This system would facilitate travel to New Zealand from places that are free of COVID-19 (some Australian states and Pacific islands), while reducing the risk associated with travellers from jurisdictions with uncontrolled spread.

Keeping COVID-19 at the border

One of the recent border failures led to the relatively serious outbreak in Auckland, with 179 cases, three deaths and major social and economic impacts.

Two other outbreaks, including one from a returnee infected in a quarantine facility and the latest from port workers infected by incoming seafarers, were controlled at an early stage.

The others involved infections of border facility workers: health workers on two occasions and a maintenance worker.

These six events represent system failures — the goal should be to have complete containment of infection at the border and no cases in the community.


Read more: COVID-19 and small island nations: what we can learn from New Zealand and Iceland


Contributing factors include the use of hotels for quarantine (for which they are not designed) and poor system design, including the lack of testing of seafarers flying into the country to join their ships.

Such failures could increase if the proportion of infected travellers coming to New Zealand increases as many parts of the world experience resurgences and rising infection rates. Given the marked difference in the intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic in different regions and countries, we propose a traffic-light system of risk stratification for jurisdictions from which travellers arrive in New Zealand.

New Zealand has much of the infrastructure already in place to support this shift, including a booking system that could help to manage it. We would also get very rapid data on whether it is working, based on the rate of positive cases detected at the border.

Green: quarantine-free travel with precautions

A growing number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region have eliminated COVID-19, notably most states of Australia. Some Pacific island jurisdictions have never had cases.

Quarantine-free travel should be possible from these jurisdictions, provided an assurance program is in place to ensure elimination requirements are being met, including adequate levels of testing. Since there is always a small risk of outbreaks from border control failures (Australia also uses hotels for quarantine, which failed in Victoria), we would need to consider retaining aome controls, such as:

  • rapid testing (using PCR methods) on arrival in New Zealand, or rapid antigen tests once these are considered reliable enough and are available in New Zealand

  • digital tracking for the first three weeks in New Zealand (via a traveller’s smartphone and with government-provided phones for those who don’t have their own)

  • paying a bond (eg NZ$1000) to be returned after three weeks if the traveller has adhered to the digital tracking system.


Read more: How to use COVID-19 testing and quarantining to safely travel for the holidays


Amber: current border quarantine and testing

These could be states with evidence of ongoing pandemic spread, but where it is relatively well controlled (for example, in Japan, South Korea, Singapore). For this zone, the current measures (facility-based quarantine for 14 days and testing twice during that period) could apply, albeit with some refinements.

Facility-based quarantine periods could be shorter and replaced with home quarantine. The isolation period at home could be combined with the usual PCR testing, digital tracking, mask use and heavy fines for any breaches.

Various East Asian jurisdictions, including Taiwan, have successfully used home quarantine.

As above, a bond could be used to encourage adherence to the conditions.

Red: additional measures or no travel

Jurisdictions with uncontrolled pandemic spread (including US, UK, Russia and India) would fall into this category. For New Zealanders returning from these places, the government could require pre-travel measures in addition to the current quarantine.

The form of these measures needs careful development, but could include evidence of both pre-travel home quarantine (for three days or more) and negative pre-travel test results.

New Zealand should evaluate the experience in countries already using pre-travel COVID-19 testing to determine the most feasible approach. Currently, Cyprus, Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Hong Kong and Italy require proof of a negative result on arrival.


Read more: Of all the places that have seen off a second coronavirus wave, only Vietnam and Hong Kong have done as well as Victorians


Such measures add to the burden these travellers face, but can be justified. They reduce the risk of outbreaks on incoming aircraft as well as the load on the isolation/quarantine facilities.

Quarantine facilities for these travellers could be restricted to those outside of Auckland, for example at the Ōhakea air base, ideally in purpose-built facilities with properly designed ventilation and no shared spaces.

If all these measures still resulted in high numbers of infected travellers arriving in New Zealand, we would need to consider suspending travel from these red-zone jurisdictions. New legislation could empower the government to allow for such constraint on the right of citizens to return to New Zealand from high-risk countries during a global pandemic.

ref. New Zealand needs a ‘traffic light’ system to stop COVID-19 creeping in at the border  – https://theconversation.com/new-zealand-needs-a-traffic-light-system-to-stop-covid-19-creeping-in-at-the-border-149262

No winner yet, but Biden more likely to eventually win US election

No winner yet, but Biden more likely to eventually win US election

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

Owing to the large numbers of mail ballots, counting in some states has been very slow. What we know is that Donald Trump won Florida, Texas, Ohio and Iowa. With the exception of Florida, these states were regarded as only winnable for Biden if he won by a landslide.

Trump is narrowly ahead with almost all votes counted in North Carolina. In Georgia, the New York Times needle gives Biden a slender 0.5% lead, largely because the remaining votes are from metropolitan Atlanta.

Trump’s win in Florida, where he leads by 3.4% with 96% in, was caused by a massive swing to Trump in Miami-Dade county. Biden only won Miami-Dade by 7%, compared to Hillary Clinton’s almost 30% margin in 2016. This county has many Cuban Americans, who far preferred Trump the second time. Trump also greatly overperformed with Hispanics in Texas.

Biden held the narrowly Clinton states of New Hampshire and Minnesota. The AP and Fox News have called Arizona for Biden. Biden won Nebraska’s second Congressional District. Biden is likely to hold Nevada and Maine.

While Trump currently has leads in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, early votes by mail are likely to heavily favour Biden when they are counted in the bigger population centres. If Biden wins two of these three, he would win the Electoral College by a minimum of 270-268 with Arizona, Nevada and Nebraska’s second.

Biden currently leads Trump by 49.8% to 48.5% in the national popular vote. However, Democratic strongholds such as California take four weeks after election day to count all their votes. Biden’s popular vote lead is certain to grow in the coming weeks.

For the most part, the polls understated Trump’s performance, particularly in Florida, Ohio and Iowa. The final Selzer Iowa poll was the big exception, giving Trump a seven-point lead.

A clue to the closeness of the result was a three-point jump in Trump’s net approval with likely or registered voters in a week, to -6.9%. It was likely Trump would do better with higher personal ratings.

In the Senate, Republicans lead Democrats by 47 to 46 with seven races uncalled. One Senate race in Georgia will go to a run-off, and the other one could too if Republican David Perdue fails to clear 50%. Democrats are likely to win the Arizona Senate, but Republicans Susan Collins and Thom Tillis are likely to hold Maine and North Carolina respectively.

Pending the one and possibly two runoffs in Georgia, Democrats are likely to gain just one net Senate seat. If Republicans hold both Georgian seats, they would retain a 52-48 Senate majority – a disappointing result for Democrats, who had been given a 75% chance to win the Senate by FiveThirtyEight.

In the House, Democrats have so far lost a net three seats, but would retain a majority with 232 of the 435 seats, down from 235.

Editor’s note: We will continue to update these figures as the vote continues over the coming days.

ref. No winner yet, but Biden more likely to eventually win US election – https://theconversation.com/no-winner-yet-but-biden-more-likely-to-eventually-win-us-election-148002

How Australia can reap the benefits and dodge the dangers of the Internet of Things

How Australia can reap the benefits and dodge the dangers of the Internet of Things

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Kayleen Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, School of Taxation & Business Law, UNSW

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already all around us. Online devices have become essential in industries from manufacturing and healthcare to agriculture and environmental management, not to mention our own homes. Digital consulting firm Ovum estimates that by 2022 Australian homes will host more than 47 million IoT devices, and the value of the global market will exceed US$1 trillion.

The IoT presents great opportunities, but it brings many risks too. Problems include excessive surveillance, loss of privacy, transparency and control, and reliance on unsafe or unsuitable services or devices.


Read more: Explainer: the Internet of Things


In some places, such as the European Union, Germany, South Korea and the United Kingdom, governments have been quick to develop policies and some limited regulation to take advantage of the technology and mitigate its harmful impacts.

Australia has been late to react. Even recent moves by the federal government to make IoT devices more secure have been far behind international developments.

A report launched today by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) may help get Australia up to speed. It supplies a wide-ranging, peer-reviewed base of evidence about opportunities, benefits and challenges the IoT presents Australia over the next decade.

Benefits of the Internet of Things

The report examines how we can improve our lives with IoT-related technologies. It explores a range of applications across Australian cities and rural, regional and remote areas.

Some IoT services are already available, such as the Smart Cities and Suburbs program run by local and federal governments. This program funds projects in areas such as traffic congestion, waste management and urban safety.

Health applications are also on the rise. The University of New England has piloted the remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms using IoT-enabled pulse oximeters.

Augmented and virtual reality applications too are becoming more common. IoT devices can track carbon emissions in supply chains and energy use in homes. IoT services can also help governments make public transport infrastructure more efficient.

The benefits of the IoT won’t only be felt in cities. There may be even more to be gained in rural, regional and remote areas. IoT can aid agriculture in many ways, as well as working to prevent and manage bushfires and other environmental disasters. Sophisticated remote learning and health care will also benefit people outside urban areas.

While some benefits of the IoT will be felt everywhere, some will have more impact in cities and others in rural, remote and regional areas. ACOLA, CC BY-NC

Opportunities for the Australian economy

The IoT presents critical opportunities for economic growth. In 2016-17, IoT activity was already worth A$74.3 billion to the Australian economy.

The IoT can facilitate more data-informed processes and automation (also known as Industry 4.0). This has immediate potential for substantial benefits.

One opportunity for Australia is niche manufacturing. Making bespoke products would be more efficient with IoT capability, which would let Australian businesses reach a consumer market with wide product ranges but low domestic volumes due to our small population.

Agricultural innovation enabled by the IoT, using Australia’s existing capabilities and expertise, is another promising area for investment.


Read more: Six things every consumer should know about the ‘Internet of Things’


Risks of the Internet of Things

IoT devices can collect huge amounts of sensitive data, and controlling that data and keeping it secure presents significant risks. However, the Australian community is not well informed about these issues and some IoT providers are slow to explain appropriate and safe use of IoT devices and services.

These issues make it difficult for consumers to tell good practice from bad, and do not inspire trust in IoT. Lack of consistent international IoT standards can also make it difficult for different devices to work together, and creates a risk that users will be “locked in” to products from a single supplier.

In IoT systems it can also be very complex to determine who is responsible for any particular fault or issue, because of the many possible combinations of product, hardware, software and services. There will also be many contracts and user agreements, creating contractual complexity that adds to already difficult legal questions.


Read more: Are your devices spying on you? Australia’s very small step to make the Internet of Things safer


The increased surveillance made possible by the IoT can lead to breaches of human rights. Partially or fully automated decision-making can also to discrimination and other socially unacceptable outcomes.

And while the IoT can assist environmental sustainability, it can also increase environmental costs and impacts. The ACOLA report estimates that by 2050 the IoT could consume between 1 and 5% of the world’s electricity.

Other risks of harmful social consequences include an increased potential for domestic violence, the targeting of children by malicious actors and corporate interests, increased social withdrawal and the exacerbation of existing inequalities for vulnerable populations. The recent death of a woman in rural New South Wales being treated via telehealth provides just one example of these risks.

Maximising the benefits of the IoT

The ACOLA report makes several recommendations for Australia to take advantage of the IoT while minimising its downsides.

ACOLA advocates a national approach, focusing on areas of strength. It recommends continuing investment in smart cities and regions, and more collaboration between industry, government and education.

ACOLA also recommends increased community engagement, better ethical and regulatory frameworks for data and baseline security standards.

The ACOLA report is only a beginning. More specific work needs to be done to make the IoT work for Australia and its citizens.

The report does outline key areas for future research. These include the actual experiences of people in smart cities and homes, the value of data, environmental impacts and the use of connected and autonomous vehicles.

ref. How Australia can reap the benefits and dodge the dangers of the Internet of Things – https://theconversation.com/how-australia-can-reap-the-benefits-and-dodge-the-dangers-of-the-internet-of-things-149428

The NSW-Vic border will reopen this month, and ironically the risk is greatest for Victoria

The NSW-Vic border will reopen this month, and ironically the risk is greatest for Victoria

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Adrian Esterman, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of South Australia

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced the border with Victoria will reopen on November 23.

It will be the first time people can freely cross the border since early July.

My preference would be to wait until both states have an extended period of time with zero community transmission of COVID. But I think the risk of a substantial outbreak from opening the border is low.

Victoria has done exceptionally well in squashing its second wave, and has now recorded five consecutive days of zero new cases. Even more pleasingly, the number of mystery cases — those with an unknown source — has dropped to just two in the past fortnight. In saying that, we’ll have to wait another week or so to see the effects of the latest round of eased restrictions.

For the first time in months, it looks as if the COVID situation is worse in NSW than Victoria. Arguably the risk of opening the border is greater for Victoria right now than it is for NSW. Indeed, Berejiklian said today that Victoria “may have, because of the lockdown, actually gone down a path of having eliminated it at this point in time”.

Today NSW recorded nine new cases, six of them among people already in hotel quarantine and three locally acquired. However, those three were already in isolation having previously been identified as close contacts of an existing case.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said reopening the border with Victoria was a ‘calculated risk’. DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAP

Elimination is on the cards

I’m concerned NSW is not going for elimination. It leaves the state as an outlier in Australia, with Victoria now joining all other states and territories by having zero community transmission (although Victoria’s official strategy is “aggressive suppression” rather than outright elimination).

I’d like to see NSW tighten restrictions in a few areas, because I think Australia now has a real shot at eliminating COVID. For example, NSW residents are currently allowed up to 20 visitors at a time, despite the Chief Health Officer recommending no more than ten. As homes are one of the greatest risk areas, why not follow this advice?

In saying that, NSW has shown it’s capable of controlling outbreaks with rapid contact tracing. And Victoria has substantially improved its contact-tracing system over the past few months.


Read more: Border closures, identity and political tensions: how Australia’s past pandemics shape our COVID-19 response


Time for a national approach

Unfortunately, border reopening is likely to make contact tracing more difficult. Many people will cross state borders during summer, particularly over Christmas and New Year.

Contact tracing is currently done on a state-by-state basis, by local teams using their own data sets. It’s not clear whether and how these data will be shared as borders reopen.

For example, if someone is infectious while on a road trip holiday and visits a restaurant in regional Victoria, before driving to towns in NSW and then Queensland, how will contact tracing be organised and shared?

A health-care worker conducts a COVID test at a drive through testing site in Sydney.
NSW has shown it’s capable of controlling outbreaks. DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAP

I’d like to see a coordinated national effort to centralise these data. Ideally, there should be a centralised body, such as an independent federal Centre for Disease Control, which could handle national contract tracing, with regional hubs in each state and territory. This would ensure all states and territories would use the same contact-tracing software, using staff trained to the same level.

A national contact tracing database would then enable the tracking of people travelling interstate. Perhaps a QR code system could be implemented on a national level, so visiting a pub in South Australia means it is recorded in a centralised national database.

A federal disease control agency could also ensure consistency of hotel quarantining, and training of security staff.


Read more: Where did Victoria go so wrong with contact tracing and have they fixed it?


Rapid testing could help

In late September, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved four rapid antigen tests for COVID.

These tests work by detecting proteins on the outside of the virus, called antigens, from nasal swabs. And they can deliver results in 15 minutes or even quicker.

Yes, their accuracy is not quite as good as the standard COVID tests in that they tend to have a higher rate of false negatives. But I think there’s potential for these to be used as interstate travel increases.

For example, interstate travellers could get one of these tests while waiting for their flights in airports, while crossing land borders by car, or when leaving or arriving by sea.


Read more: The new 15-minute test has potential, but standard tests are still the best way to track COVID-19


Australia has done a fantastic job at controlling COVID, and is the envy of much of the world. Ideally, it would be good to have New South Wales take the extra step to eliminate COVID before borders are completely open, though this might be politically hard. Introducing additional measures like rapid antigen tests, and a hub and spokes contact-tracing system, would go a long way to ameliorating the small risks to other jurisdictions from New South Wales retaining its current suppression approach.

ref. The NSW-Vic border will reopen this month, and ironically the risk is greatest for Victoria – https://theconversation.com/the-nsw-vic-border-will-reopen-this-month-and-ironically-the-risk-is-greatest-for-victoria-149437

Saving for retirement gives you power, and ethical responsibilities

Saving for retirement gives you power, and ethical responsibilities

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Peter Mares, Lead Moderator, Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, Monash University

If you’re in a super fund, then, like it or not, you’ve got ethical decisions to make.

More than 10 million Australians have a superannuation account. Which means, effectively, more than 10 million of us are mini-shareholders with the capacity to influence future business decisions.

With that power, however small, comes responsibility. And nowhere more apparent than in relation to climate change.

Last month, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, surprised Australia’s biggest electricity producer and carbon dioxide emitter, AGL, by backing a motion that would have forced it to close its coal-fired plants earlier than planned.

The resolution at AGL’s annual general meeting failed, but when a global firm managing more than US$7 trillion in investors’ savings says it’s time to accelerate the exit from coal, it’s wise sit up and take notice.

Interestingly though, some of Australia’s biggest industry super funds, among them Cbus, Hesta and Aware, refused to support the motion, which was put forward by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

Work ‘behind the scenes’

It’s been a pattern with industry super funds.

Rather than using their overt voting power to try to change corporate behaviour, or divest from companies altogether, they say they prefer to exert influence behind the scenes, through conversations in board rooms and executive suites.

Take, UniSuper, to which I contribute. It says it engages with companies “to encourage rapid decarbonisation of their operations and supply chains”.

UniSuper is one of only three industry funds to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions across its portfolio by 2050 — the others are Cbus and HESTA.

Yet doubling down on gas

UniSuper has joined eight other funds in divesting from companies that predominantly make their money from producing coal for electricity generation.

Big gas plans for the Burrup Peninsula. Woodside

Yet if your retirement savings are in UniSuper’ default balanced option, then they are partly invested in Woodside, a company seeking to build a huge new gas hub on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.

Woodside says the hub, which will operate for “decades into the future”, could process more gas than the entire volume extracted so far from another of its resource projects, the North West Shelf which began operations 36 years ago.

If you’ve chosen UniSuper’s conservative option, then you are not only invested in Woodside, but also in Santos, which is behind the contested Narrabri coal seam gas project in NSW.

UniSuper’s annual report on climate risk also reveals smaller investments in gas producers Origin and Oil Search.

Experts say worldwide gas use needs to peak before 2030 in order to keep global warming below agreed levels.

It means UniSuper, and other big funds, are investing our collective retirement savings in firms whose corporate strategies threaten our collective future.


Read more: UniSuper take note: there’s no retirement on a dead planet


UniSuper cites AGL as an example why it stays with polluting companies. While it runs power stations fuelled by coal and gas, it also invests in renewable technology.

It says, if it were to divest, its AGL shares might be acquired by investors with less concern for the environment.

it can be in the best interests of the environment and society for the assets to be held by a responsible and reputable entity.

It’s a justification that could equally be used to defend running a gambling venue — if I didn’t install poker machines, someone else would, and at least I care for my customers.

(As it happens, UniSuper’s “balanced” option includes shares in Aristocrat Leisure, a leading maker of gaming machines.)

Super funds have more power than they use

The justification sidesteps the question of whether the investment itself is defensible.

And it ignores the opposing argument — that divestment by a leading super fund can send a powerful signal to the market that a company is not properly addressing climate risk or developing an appropriate strategies for a carbon-constrained world.

Any company not doing these things is putting our savings at risk.

According to expert legal opinion, its directors might be breaching their obligations under the Corporations Act.

We’ve got power ourselves

There are legitimate arguments to be had about the best way for super funds to push businesses to act more urgently on climate change, but as fund members, and the ultimate owners of our money, we need to make up our own minds and act accordingly.

To sit back and let others do it on our behalf is an abrogation of responsibility.

Superannuation may be compulsory, but we still have choices.

We can find out which companies our retirement savings are invested in, and swap to a more sustainable option in the same fund.


Read more: Super funds are feeling the financial heat from climate change


This can take some digging around, but as with UniSuper, some the information is available on the fund’s website or can be obtained by asking questions.

Or we can consider switching to a different fund altogether. There are websites that track and compare superannuation investments in fossil fuels.

For a range of reasons, it’s more difficult to switch to a new fund for UniSuper members.

But even where it isn’t possible, we can write to our funds, urging them to engage more actively on climate change. It’s easy to find the addresses. They are forever sending us emails.


Read more: Super power: why the future of Australian capitalism is now in Greg Combet’s hands


It’s what they say they do with fossil fuel companies — engage them in conversations. We can tell them where we want our savings invested and how we want them to use their clout to influence company decisions and vote at shareholder meetings.

We can do this as individuals, and we can band together with like-minded fund members to speak with one voice.

With a combined A$2.9 trillion in assets, one fifth of which are invested in Australian companies listed on the stock exchange, super funds own a fair chunk of Australia’s most important companies.

It would be wrong for them not to take that responsibly seriously, just as it would be wrong of us not to take seriously what our savings are being used for.

ref. Saving for retirement gives you power, and ethical responsibilities – https://theconversation.com/saving-for-retirement-gives-you-power-and-ethical-responsibilities-148349

With US D-day, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will

With US D-day, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will

ANALYSIS: By Jennifer S. Hunt, Australian National University

It has been billed as the most significant US election in generations, and with nearly 100 million votes already cast, it is well underway.

An estimated 50 million more votes are expected on the last day of in-person voting on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time), with mail-in ballots still making their way through the postal service, including from overseas and military voters.

It is not only the White House up for grabs, but all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100-seat Senate.

In addition, 11 gubernatorial (state governor) races, various state legislatures, and a plethora of local judges, sheriffs, school boards and supervisory roles are also on the ballot. A quick glance at a US ballot illustrates how America has more democratically elected positions per capita than any other country in the world.

A turbulent four years of Trump
This election will be one for the history books. The White House incumbent, impeached on abuse of power charges and litigating against Congressional oversight of potential financial conflicts of interest, has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

In the year following more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors confirming President Donald Trump would be indicted if not for the current immunity the Oval Office provides him, Trump has stepped up rhetoric that any election that he does not win is “rigged”.

Then came the “October surprise” from The New York Times that the president has at least US$400 million in personally guaranteed loans due over the next possible term and previously undisclosed Chinese bank accounts. This has brought the president’s priorities under intense scrutiny alongside a flailing economy and federal mismanagement of the covid pandemic response.

Citing these concerns, formal endorsements of Trump’s political opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, have come from unlikely places. Republican national security veterans, GOP governors and nonpartisan communities of scientists and physicians have endorsed Biden, some for the first time in the history of their organisations.

A group of 73 high-level former GOP US National security officials from administrations spanning Reagan to Bush Jr wrote in an open letter that Trump is “dangerously unfit to serve another term”, citing his undermining of the rule of law, failure to lead Americans through the pandemic, and damage to the US’s global reputation.

More than 780 prominent Republicans and Democrats, including former defence secretaries, ambassadors, and retired military brass, also decried Trump, writing that:

[…] thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us and our enemies no longer fear us.

A chorus of Trump’s own former administration officials have joined The Lincoln Project, Republican Voters against Trump, 43 for Biden (featuring members of the George W. Bush administration) and former staffers of late senator John McCain, to mount powerful testimonials targeting Trump’s base, independents and new voters.

The Biden camp has stressed a return to decency and cooperation, a United States of America. A popular ad encapsulates the message,

There is only one America. No Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains. Just this great land and all that’s possible on it with a fresh start. There is so much we can do if we choose to take on problems and not each other and choose a president who brings out our best.

Other “anyone but Trump” ads target voters who may have supported him in 2016 as a fiesty outsider, but have tired of the noise.

Ads, endorsements and of course polls are potentially useful indicators during the final week of voting. But what are some other trends that will likely impact electoral turnout and the results? Here are a few to look out for.

Millennial voter generation
Against the tight margins of the 2016 election in a handful of decisive states, a new generation of voters has emerged who may tip the balance of power. They drove a higher turnout in the 2018 midterm election and are not only voting but running and winning office. Enter the millennials.

The US is on the cusp of a generational shift. This is the first US presidential election in which the millennial generation is now the largest voting-age cohort, displacing the baby boomers who have held the title since the 1970s.

Younger millennials, who may have spent the previous presidential election in a high school walk out, or participated in the March for Our Lives for gun safety, are now eligible to vote.

Older millennials, who are approaching 40, grew up with high school shootings and are now watching their own young children do lockdown drills, rewarded with a candy if they remain quietly hidden in the toilet with their feet up to avoid detection.


Heartstopping PSA on school shootings released by Sandy Hook Promise.

Amid concern about growing economic inequality, the millennials will likely be the first generation to be less financially secure than their parents, and the most likely to compare themselves with international OECD peers who enjoy universal healthcare, gun control and better financial support during the pandemic.

None of these issues is well represented by the current administration, and so Trump’s approval rating hovers around 28 percent among that age group.

Trump has called climate change a Chinese conspiracy to undermine American manufacturing, pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, and is suing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

On these crucial issues, different informational diets between generations, political parties, and even families could drive very different voting patterns.

But the millennial vote could be decisive.

Yoong people's say
Young people will have a big say in the outcome of the 2020 election. Image: Josh Edelson/AAP/EPA

Disinformation – word of the year?
If “post-truth” was the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016, “disinformation” is in the running for 2020.

Disinformation – the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information in order to deceive – is a growing problem in democratic elections. It was a key theme in the Republican-chaired Senate Intelligence Committee report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

These reports documented key disinformation techniques, narratives and purpose. Akin to Russian “active measures”, disinformation is used to undermine authoritative sources of information by blurring the line between fact and faction.

The most popular narrative, according to this report, was the myth of “voter fraud”.

While the 2016 disinformation campaign centred on voter fraud, the 2020 version targets mail-in voting. These ballots, cast in the middle of covid-19, are at the heart of competing narratives about the pandemic itself.

In this election, there has been a catalogue of disinformation about covid-19. While scientists, physicians and public health authorities have repeatedly warned the public and officials to take action to protect public health, the Trump administration has generally downplayed its severity.

Calling it “just the flu”, Trump said the problem impacts “virtually nobody”, even after nearly a quarter of a million Americans died. Recent research has shown Trump himself is one of the largest superspreaders of


‘If I Can Get Better Anyone Can Get Better’: Trump On covid-19 Recovery. Video: NBC News

Some of that disinformation will affect how people cast their ballot. While 19 states have expanded mail-in ballot options as a result of the pandemic, others have made voting harder by closing voting places while not expanding alternate options.

Texas, for instance, refused to recognise covid-19 concerns as a valid reason for those under 65 to request a mail-in ballot, with South Carolina only recently reversing a similar restriction.

Disinformation about mail-in ballots is likely to feature in court challenges. Trump has insisted the results be known on election day, which would necessarily exclude mail-in ballots postmarked in time but not yet received through the mail, including those cast by overseas military voters.

He has repeatedly signalled that his appointees in the judicial system (which number in the hundreds) will help secure his win.

While it is unprecedented for a president to attack electoral integrity, state level actions are also important to consider.

Elections run at state, county level
Voting in the US is not easy to summarise. Devoid of democracy sausages and a non-partisan federal elections commission, elections are run at the state and county level, from voter rolls to polling locations and everything in between.

Each state is in charge of its own election, and there are nearly as many systems as there are states.

Five states, including Oregon, vote entirely by mail. Five other states vote entirely on machine, including Georgia, with no traditional paper audit trail.

Other state variations include the option of early in-person voting, whether voting places are open on a Sunday, how far in advance you must register to vote, and requirements for voter ID.

US state voting
Each US state has its own voting requirements, arrangements and ballots. Image: Juston Lane/AA/EPA

Each state’s ballots look different, with users selecting their choices via handmarked bubble sheets, hole punches or hanging chads, the latter made famous in the 2000 recount in Florida that delivered George W. Bush his first term.

One of the quirks of the US voting system is the electoral college. The college is essentially a distribution of electoral votes among the states according to population size, updated after every 10-year census.

In 2020, several large states are in the spotlight as toss-ups, including Texas, which carries a prize of 38 electoral votes in the race to 270. It will be one to watch on election day, with early voter turnout already surpassing its 2016 total.

Texas is also the site of one of the most blatant attempts at disenfranchisement, with the GOP failing in its attempt to stop more than 120,000 ballots already cast in one of its largest counties.

Until recently, states were not allowed to make changes to voting procedures without judicial oversight. Plans to close significant numbers of polling places in certain districts, for instance, had to go through pre-clearance processes.

However, these protections were dismantled by a US Supreme Court ruling in 2013. This year’s presidential election will be only the second without those protections, and voter disenfranchisement could result.

One key method of disenfranchisement could be mail-in ballots. In an interview in August, Trump said he planned to block funding for the US postal service to prevent increased voting by mail.

A Trump appointee to the head of the postal service in July recently oversaw the destruction and dismantling of 700 mail processing machines, leading to more delays.

Simple polls of voting intention do not capture voter disenfranchisement and intimidation.

Intimidation tactics have been increasing across several key states. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, official Republican party mailers warned voters their voting history is a matter of public record.

In New Mexico, the GOP sent mailers that read:

When the Democrats win the White House and you didn’t do your part to stop it, your neighbours will know. Voting is a matter of public record.

Experts warn of potential violence and rioting after the result. Growing polarisation, extremist groups such as QAnon threatening the use of force, and the availability of tactical weapons are all warning signs.

This year has seen more than 8 million more gun purchases than 2019, and scholars warn of increasing militia activity. Trump has publicly praised supporters who commit violence, including the Kenosha shooter.

International allies are also concerned. After Trump used armed guards to teargas peaceful protesters in Washington DC (which Australia watched live as its reporters were bashed on air), the Scottish Parliament voted to suspend exports of riot shields, tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States.

Australia recently updated its “do not travel” advisory to the US, citing civil unrest around the election.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, some of the trends may continue beyond Inauguration Day on January 21, 2021, affecting not just the US but its relationships with allies and adversaries alike.

Australia would do well to watch carefully and wait for the final results.

The Conversation
Dr Jennifer S. Hunt is a lecturer at the National Security College, Australian National University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen

Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen

ANALYSIS: By Richard Shaw of Massey University

Jacinda Ardern’s new “covid cabinet” is pretty much the same as — and completely unlike — every previous government under the mixed member proportional (MMP) system.

The similarity involves the political accommodation reached between Labour and the Greens. Every government formed since 1996 has rested on such arrangements. This one does too.

The difference lies in Ardern’s administration being the first single-party majority government since the electoral rules changed in the mid-1990s. Add to that the arrangement with the Greens and they have a massive 74-seat bloc in the House — 13 more than is needed to govern.

In brute political terms, Ardern is at the head of one of (and perhaps the) biggest parliamentary alliances in the nation’s history.

The Greens’ consolation prize
The deal announced over the weekend is a cooperation agreement. Think of it as the smallest of the consolation prizes, the thing you’re offered when your support is nice to have but not really necessary.

For the 15 percent of Green delegates who voted against it, perhaps it was just too small, and you can see their point. In the last government (when the party had eight rather than ten seats), the Greens held ten full or associate portfolios.

None of their ministers sat in cabinet, true, but there were four in the executive. Now there are only two, holding four portfolios between them — and they’re still not sitting at the top table.

Look more closely at the detail, though, and things get more interesting.

A new kind of MMP
The Green ministers will participate in relevant cabinet committees and informal ministerial groups, have access to officials’ papers, and get to meet with the prime minister at least every six weeks. Labour and the Greens’ respective chiefs of staff will also meet regularly.

Jacinda Ardern with Green Party co-leaders
Nice to have … Jacinda Ardern signs the co-operation agreement with Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw. Image: The Conversation/GettyImages

What’s more, the party will chair one parliamentary committee and get the deputy’s slot on another. In non-portfolio areas of mutual interest, Green spokespeople will have access to Labour ministers and departmental advice.

All that and they get to publicly disagree with the government on policies that fall outside Green portfolios. That is not a bad policy haul for a party Labour does not need to form a government.

And there is no way any of it would have happened under the single-party majority governments we used to see under the previous first-past-the-post system. So it may be a consolation prize, but in fact it’s not that small.

Nanaia Mahuta
New Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta … the first woman to hold the position. Image: The Conversation/GettyImages

A more diverse government
As well as being the first single-party majority MMP government, it is also a diverse one. In her first term Ardern acknowledged the importance of having more women in cabinet. Nearly half (47 percent) of the new Parliament — and a majority of Labour’s caucus (53 percent) — are women.

To some extent this is reflected in the makeup of the executive. Eight of the 20 full cabinet members are women; in total, women comprise 43 percent of the wider administration. There are more women in the ministry than in the National Party’s caucus.

The executive also contains a solid number of people of colour: perhaps as many as a quarter of all ministers and parliamentary under-secretaries are non-Pākehā.

On election night, Labour’s Māori caucus conveyed a direct message to the prime minister about the importance of a solid Māori presence in cabinet. She appears to have listened.

Between them, Labour’s Māori MPs get five seats in cabinet. Add positions outside cabinet as well as the Greens’ Marama Davidson and Māori comprise 25 percent of all members of the executive. Perhaps most noteworthy is that Nanaia Mahuta becomes the country’s first female Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ardern has also looked carefully at her back bench and the clutch of incoming MPs, bringing some of them into the political executive. Jan Tinetti and Kiri Allan have been marked for higher things for some time, while the newly minted MP Dr Ayesha Verrall comes straight into cabinet as an associate health minister.

Power and control
Under certain circumstances a large parliamentary caucus can be a challenge. Thwarted egos, stifled ambitions, fits of pique — once the thrill of the election result has worn off, managing relations between those who are in government and the wider parliamentary party will be one of the chief challenges facing Labour’s whips.

The Green co-leaders aside, Ardern’s executive comprises 40 percent of the Labour party’s caucus. Given the conventions of collective cabinet responsibility, this means that members of the government have a near majority within caucus, so discipline shouldn’t be an issue — yet.

It is hard to overstate just how much control Ardern has over New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament. Even before special votes are counted, the parliamentary arithmetic renders National, ACT and the Māori Party virtually irrelevant.

Labour dominates the executive, and between them Labour and the Greens will dominate the legislature and its committees. Voters have placed considerable power in Ardern’s hands. It’s time to see what she does with it.The Conversation

Dr Richard Shaw, is professor of politics at Massey University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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Robert Fisk’s message: Journalists should challenge the narratives of power

Robert Fisk’s message: Journalists should challenge the narratives of power

A clip from This Is Not A Movie, a 2020 documentary by about Robert Fisk. Video: Doc Edge Festival

Veteran journalist Robert Fisk, who for decades covered events in the Middle East and elsewhere as a foreign correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, has died after suffering a suspected stroke at his Dublin home.

Fisk became unwell on Friday and was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital where he died a short time later, reports Al Jazeera English.

Almost six months ago, RNZ Saturday Morning’s Kim Hill did the following interview with Fisk. The Pacific Media Centre republishes this article here as a tribute to the celebrated journalist.


Celebrated veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk believed that journalists aren’t automatons keeping neutral battle scores between oppressed and oppressors and are duty-bound to ensure history isn’t written by politicians.

Fisk, who had spent the past 40 years living in war zones covering conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and Ireland, died last Friday. He was 74.

He argued that journalists and editors cower from reporting honestly because of corporate and political influence.

He told Kim Hill in an interview in May that the notion unbiased reporting must not take a moral position was a nonsense and that journalists should, at the very least, challenge narratives of power, which were usually distortions of truth.

The high-profile career of the Englishman who took Irish nationality was the focus of This Is Not A Movie, a documentary by Canadian director Yung Chang about the journalist screened in New Zealand’s 2020 Doc Edge Festival.

Fisk broke several big stories in his time, even landing an interview with Osama bin Laden, notorious Saudi founder of the pan-Islamic terror group al-Qaeda.

A story that didn’t make it on to the front page of The Times – his former employer  was one exposing US responsibility for shooting down a Iranian passenger aircraft in 1988, at the tail end of the Iraq-Iran war.

Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk … exclusive interview with Osama Bin Laden. Image: RNZ

Verified story spiked
The story, which Fisk verified using local air traffic control sources, was spiked and instead the paper published claims by the US navy that the pilot had tried to carry out a suicide mission on a US warship in the Gulf. His story was eventually published by Ireland’s Sunday Tribune, with Fisk resigning and moving to rival newspaper The Independent.

“I thought, that’s the time I go. If I’m going to risk my life for a newspaper but my editor will not risk his reputation with his owner over a story of mine then it’s time I left,” he said.

Fisk said The Times editor toed owner Rupert Murdoch’s political line, telling him his story was rubbish. An official inquiry by US authorities subsequently backed the content of Fisk’s story.

“It’s a sort of self-censorship… the problem is once you have a ruthless owner and you know your livelihood is in the pocket of that man – and if you’re not fortunate enough to have the reputation that can possibly get you another job – there is a tendency to start not wanting to rock the boat… so it’s in the journalists’ blood, as it is the editors’, not to do something that will cause a ‘crisis’.”

He said this power dynamic affected the way reporters framed stories and reflected the type of politically-contrived language used too. Not least in the Middle East, and especially when dealing with Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

“That’s why, for example, journalists refer to the Israeli wall separating the West Bank as a ‘security fence’, because they don’t want to offend the Israelis and Israel’s supporters by calling it a wall, even though it is higher and longer than the Berlin Wall.

“That’s why we call it a ‘Jewish settlement’ in the West Bank, when it’s a Jewish colony… which has a kind of soft impression of settlements in the Wild West perhaps, of course, you think of the Native Americans attacking them.

Distorting the Palestinian struggle
“And also you have this thing where you must never talk about a war between Israel and the Palestinians, it’s always a dispute… it’s more of course, it’s one group of people stealing other people’s land. By de-semiticising this conflict, because we are frightened of what editors or owners will say… we effectively say ‘there must be something wrong when the Palestinians throw stones, they must be generically a violent people’. So, in a sense, we contribute towards warfare, by self-censorship.”

He rejected the concept of giving a false “balance” to stories – that, in some fashion, balance was the ultimate measure of reporting. It was not enough that a journalist merely kept an accurate score of events in a conflict situation, without taking into account history or power differentials.

The argument that a slave owner’s views on the slave trade must be used to strike balance in a story for it to be fair and accurate, he argued, was morally absurd. So too with a Nazi’s views in a story dealing with the extermination of Jews.

Fisk cites a contemporary example – the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982. Scores of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites were killed by a militia linked to a right-wing Lebanese party, allies of Israel.

The names of at least 1390 were identified, with some death-toll estimates nearly tripling that number. Fisk was on the scene in Lebanon.


Robert Fisk on ’50/50 journalism’. Video: Pacific Media Centre

“I did not spend my time giving equal time to the killers,” he said. “I talked to the relatives of the dead and tried to find out the identities of the dead… My feeling is, you must be neutral and unbiased, but unbiased on the side of those who suffer.

“The idea that we are some kind of robotic creature that reports wars as if it’s a football match, where you give equal time to each side, is a bloody tragedy. It is not a football match.”

Landed in hot water
Fisk’s manner of reporting landed him in hot water at times. In Belfast, he was accused of giving succour to the IRA because he exposed British security force brutality during the Anglo-Irish conflict, which ended in the 1990s.

More recently, he was attacked for undermining those attempting to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, after a story questioned proof Assad’s forces had carried out a deadly chemical attack in April 2018.

The documentary This Is Not A Movie highlights a story Fisk wrote that found no trace of a chemical attack in Douma that had supposedly killed dozens of civilians, a story widely disseminated by western media.

He travelled to the Syrian town and talked exhaustively with local people to find proof of the attack, even inspecting underground tunnels of interest, again finding nothing to back the veracity of the claims.

Fisk talked to a doctor, who said respiratory distress by civilians had been caused by a dust storm created by nearby joint Syrian and Russian bombings.

“The final report of Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons did in fact censor out some of the evidence by its own scientists so that it would say that it’s an open-and-shut case that Assad did use gas. In fact, its own staff could not finally prove gas was used,” he said.

This didn’t stop verbal attacks suggesting he’d done Assad a favour. Fisk brushed this off as merely something to be expected if a journalist was doing their job properly.

“If we don’t do that we’re handing over the writing of history to political parties,” he said.

‘Do our best to get at the truth’
“We simply have to bash on and do our best to get at the truth, even though in Douma I couldn’t establish what it was, at least  we raise the doubt.”

Getting to grips with history was essential if serious reporters wanted to do their jobs properly, illuminating meaning behind what would otherwise seem random or vindictive acts of violence, Fisk said.

“I do very much think you cannot report a war or go to a war without at least a very good history book in your back pocket… without knowing what lies underneath the embers you don’t know why the fire is burning.”

An understanding of World War I and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war between Germany and allied forces, could account of much of the antecedents of conflict in the Middle East, he said. The treaty, in part, amounted to a carve-up of imperial rights to occupy nations and created divisive, artificial lines of territory across the region.

“I think there’s an automatic connection between the collapse of industrial civilisation and WWI and then a peace treaty that was effectively going to collapse the ruins of the Ottaman Empire in 1919 and from that came all these borders… particularly the borders of Iraq and Lebanon and Syria and Turkey and all my working life in the Middle East and indeed also in Yugoslavia and Belfast I’ve watched over the past 50 years all the people within those borders burn.

“I said to my friend in Beruit yesterday I think the reason we’re not finding evidence of covid-19 among the Middle Eastern people is that, for them, it was covid 1919 – Versailles was their infection and that continues now to spread its disease across the Middle East, of injustice, lack of independence and lack of freedom.”

Good journalism was needed as much now as at any time in history. He said the hope that the world was getting better with the defeat of Fascism and the establishment of post-war institutions like the United Nations and human rights organisations had proven false. The historical causes of conflict hadn’t be resolved.

Living with tragedy every day
“When you go into the alleyways of the world, the Palestinian camps in Beirut for example, and you actually talk to the people there you realise that they are living in squalor and dirt because Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, signed the Balfour Agreement in 1917, and because the victorious allies, principally the French and the British divided up the Middle East. Britain would have Palestine and France would get Syria and Lebanon in the aftermath of that war and for those people, waking up in their hovels everyday, Balfour signed the declaration last night.

“For them Versailles happened yesterday and history in their experience is something that they are living tragically with every day.

“Whereas we people can luxuriate in a post-war world with values of civilisation, or we think we do, and technology to look after us.”

Journalism should question our cozy, false impression of ourselves as enlightened and civilised Westerners, who conveniently see others embroiled in conflict as lacking these values. He also pointed out a Western hypocrisy of rightly attacking anyone who denied the German holocaust against the Jewish people, yet those in the West allowed Turkey to deny its own Armenian holocaust in 1915, when 1.5 million Christians were killed.

Our complicity in imperialist wars and attitudes should be challenged by reporting facts within an authentic historical context, shorn of political spin.

“One of the things I think journalists have to do, as well as recognise the goodness of ordinary people, is to try and find out why ordinary people do wicked things,” Fisk said.

“We all sort of participate in it in the sense that we wring our hands with anguish when a hospital is destroyed in northern Syria but when a hospital is destroyed in Mosul by an American aircraft we do not wring our hands.

Pandemic pushes Yemen from sight
“We wait to see if the Americans will give us an explanation and then we hope that their claim that they didn’t hit the hospital is true. Same applies to wedding parties and medical centres in Afghanistan and so on.

“When you consider that half a million Iraqis might have died as a result of the Anglo-American illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, when people used to say to me, ‘why don’t you want Tony Blair and George Bush put on trial’, I would always say ‘because they are not going to be put on trial’ there’s no point in wasting your energies’. Now I’m not so sure that would be my reply.”

With the current pandemic the focus of the world’s attention, the situation in places like Yemen had fallen from sight. But, he said, the intractable problems of the region were continuing without any respite.

“One of the great tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic is that the whole Middle East tragedy, of injustice, dispossession and blood, has basically faded away from all of us who are concentrating on our own families, our own countries, and we’ve largely forgotten that long after Covid-19 is in the history books, the same terrible history will continue in these regions.”

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Federal parliament just weakened political donations laws while you weren’t watching

Federal parliament just weakened political donations laws while you werent watching

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Luke Beck, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law, Monash University

While Australians were distracted last week by Melbourne’s lockdown ending and the final days of the Queensland and United States elections, both major parties joined forces in federal parliament to weaken political donations laws.

This will make it easier for federal politicians to accept secret donations from property developers.

What’s the backstory?

In 2019, the High Court upheld Queensland laws banning property developers from making donations to political parties. The ban was introduced by the Palaszczuk government after a recommendation by the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

The Queensland ban applies to donations made to state and local political campaigns as well as general donations to political parties. A general donation might be used for federal, state or local political purposes or for the costs of running a party.


Read more: Fundraising questions have interrupted the Queensland LNP’s election campaign. What does the law say?


At the same time, the High Court also struck down a 2018 federal law that said property developers could ignore state laws banning them from making general donations to political parties. (Yes — federal parliament really did pass a law overriding state anti-corruptionpowers!). The High Court said federal parliament has no power to regulate political donations that merely “might be” used for federal campaigns.

Property developers are also banned from making political donations in New South Wales and the ACT.

Allowing secret donations from dodgy donors

The legislation passed last week overrides state bans on property developer donations in two ways.

First, the legislation introduces a new provision to replace the 2018 federal law struck down by the High Court. This new provision allows property developers (and others banned from making donations under state laws) to ignore state laws banning them from making political donation where the donation is “for federal purposes”.

High Court, with Parliament House in background.
The High Court struck down a federal law on donations in 2019. Lukas Coch/AAP

Second, the legislation allows property developers and political parties to ignore state laws requiring that donations be disclosed. In NSW and Queensland, donations of $1,000 or more need to be disclosed. Under the new federal law, only donations of $14,300 or more made by property developers “for federal purposes” need to be disclosed.

The explanation given for the new laws is that state laws shouldn’t apply to federal donations.

According to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the new laws “better clarify” the interaction between federal and state electoral laws.

The revised provisions ensure that federal law only applies exclusively to donations that are expressly for federal purposes, while fully respecting the application of state laws to amounts used for state purposes.

Labor’s Don Farrell, who is shadow Special Minister of State, told the Senate,

it’s not Labor’s intention in any way to weaken any of those provisions already in place in the states, but the Commonwealth parliament should be able to make laws with respect to Commonwealth elections, and those laws should not be overridden by the states.

Why this is bad for integrity

If you are a property developer wanting to curry favour with the NSW Labor Party or the Queensland Liberal National Party, you are now allowed to make a donation of $14,299 and no one will ever know. All you need to do is tell the party the money is “for federal purposes”.

While the law requires parties to keep money donated “for federal purposes” in separate bank accounts, a donation “for federal purposes” frees up money from other, general donations to be used for state purposes.

The Greens and independent MPs lined up to criticise the new law. As member for Indi, Helen Haines told parliament

this bill locks in the status quo when it comes to the current political donations culture at the federal level.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian lower house MP Andrew Wilkie described the law as allowing “brazen money laundering”. Senator Jacqui Lambie said the law was “a doozy” of a way “to hide big donor money from the voters” and “the latest in a long line of betrayals of the public’s trust”.

Federal integrity laws are too weak

Federal parliament had an opportunity to introduce better federal political transparency measures. They could have lowered the federal donations disclosure threshold so the public knows where federal politicians get their money. They could have introduced real-time reporting of donations so the public doesn’t have to wait until after each election to find out the identities of the biggest donors.

Labor has introduced bills on both these measures. Instead of dealing with those, both major parties took the time and effort to override state anti-corruption laws.

To add icing on top, the Morrison government has now released a draft bill for a federal integrity commission with proposed powers so much weaker than existing state anti-corruption commissions that a former judge called it a “feather duster”.

Australians deserve much better than this.


Read more: Explainer: what is the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission and how would it work?


ref. Federal parliament just weakened political donations laws while you weren’t watching – https://theconversation.com/federal-parliament-just-weakened-political-donations-laws-while-you-werent-watching-149171

US election 2020: live count of the race to the White House and state-by-state breakdown of Senate races

US election 2020: live count of the race to the White House and state-by-state breakdown of Senate races

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Alexandra Hansen, Deputy Editor and Chief of Staff, The Conversation

The US has already seen record early voting in the presidential election, with more than 100 million people casting ballots before election day.

Now, the counting begins. With a variety of differences in when early votes and mail-in ballots can be tallied, as well as different closure times for polling places, the results will trickle in throughout the day (and evening).

We’ll be regularly updating this article as data becomes available and relying on The Associated Press to call individual state races.



There are plenty of other races being contested around the country, including, most importantly, the Senate. More than a third of the Senate seats (35 out of 100) are being contested — and the Democrats have a good chance of taking back control from the Republicans.

Of the 35 seats, the Republicans are defending 23 and the Democrats 12. The Democrats need a net gain of three seats to control the Senate if Joe Biden wins the presidency, and a net gain of four seats if Donald Trump is re-elected.


ref. US election 2020: live count of the race to the White House and state-by-state breakdown of Senate races – https://theconversation.com/us-election-2020-live-count-of-the-race-to-the-white-house-and-state-by-state-breakdown-of-senate-races-149266

An open letter from 1,200 Australian academics on the Djab Wurrung trees

An open letter from 1,200 Australian academics on the Djab Wurrung trees

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Peta Malins, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies, RMIT University

In an open letter, more than 1,200 academics from universities and institutes across Australia have written to the Victorian government to protest against the destruction of Djab Wurrung country as part of a highway duplication in the west of the state.

The letter follows the removal of the Directions Tree last week. The signatories listed below are both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.


We are Australian academics* writing to condemn the destruction of the 350 year-old sacred Djab Wurrung Directions Tree at the hands of the Victorian government. We call on the government to urgently halt works and protect the remaining Djab Wurrung trees and land from destruction.

We are historians, geographers, lawyers, criminologists, sociologists, scientists, anthropologists, social workers, linguists, archaeologists, artists, architects, philosophers, psychologists and other academics from universities around Australia. We have come together in our sorrow and anger at the colonial violence currently being perpetrated by the Victorian government against the Djab Wurrung people, and against all First Nations people in Australia.

While all trees hold value, especially in a climate crisis, the Djab Wurrung trees are so much more than “just trees”; they are living entities with significant historical, cultural and spiritual value and meaning. They are part of an important songline, and have been physically shaped by hundreds of years of First Nations culture and ceremonial practice.


Read more: Churches have legal rights in Australia. Why not sacred trees?


Take the Directions Tree, for example, which was cut down with a chainsaw last week, and carted away unceremoniously on the back of a dump truck. This massive and strikingly beautiful 350-year-old Yellowbox tree with distinctive swirling bark, had been planted as a seed with the placenta from a Djab Wurrung child’s birth and its branches actively shaped and directed over time.

It would have been difficult to look at this tree — to truly bear witness to it — without forever changing the way one understands trees, our interconnectedness with nature, and the strength, depth, beauty and longevity of First Nations culture.

Consider too, the Birthing Tree, also known as a Grandmother Tree, estimated to be 800 years old and currently under imminent threat of destruction. She has a hollow at her base where over 50 generations of Djab Wurrung babies have been born, the fluids from their births merging with the root system and literally becoming part of the tree.

Sean Paris

Nearby, and leaning towards it, is the Grandfather Tree, believed to have been planted at the same time and connected via underground root systems. And surrounding them both are hundreds of other significant trees and artefacts, many of which are yet to be formally documented.

The Victorian government’s decision to clear this sacred Djab Wurrung land to make way for a particular version of highway re-routing that will save drivers two minutes travel time, is completely unnecessary. It represents the ongoing violence of our colonial state and its contempt for First Nations culture and people. It makes any talk of a Treaty with First Nations Victorians completely disingenuous.

We, as academics, therefore condemn the cutting down of the Directions Tree and the planned destruction of further sacred trees and artefacts. We condemn the timing of the destruction, under the cover of ongoing COVID rules, preventing defenders from traveling to the site, and under the cover of media and public focus on Melbourne’s long-awaited easing of lockdown.


Read more: What kind of state values a freeway’s heritage above the heritage of our oldest living culture?


We condemn the Victorian government’s apparent attempts to create doubt about which tree was destroyed and its significance, and to imply agreements with one group of government-recognised stakeholders amounted to respectful consultation. And we condemn the use of police and security to violently evict the peaceful Djab Wurrung Embassy, which was established by local elders to protect the site.

We urge the Victorian government to take up one of the other options for highway improvements that do not involve further destruction of this significant site, to urgently have these trees recognised as the culturally significant entities they are, and to enable the Djab Wurrung people to continue protecting them for future generations.

*The views expressed in this letter are those of the signatories and not their universities or institutions.

Open letter signatories

  • Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Indigenous Studies, RMIT University
  • Professor Irene Watson, Law, University of SA
  • Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, Education and Health, University of Queensland
  • Dr Vicki L Couzens, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Gary Foley, History, Victoria University
  • Tiriki Onus, Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lou Bennett AM, Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Chelsea Bond, Social Sciences and Health, University of Queensland
  • Alison Whittaker, Law, University of Technology Sydney
  • Amanda Porter, Law, University of Queensland
  • Kim Kruger, Moondani Balluk Academic Centre, Victoria University
  • Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University
  • Professor Gregory Phillips, Indigenous Health, Griffith University
  • Professor Peter Anderson, Education, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Yin Paradies, Sociology, Deakin University
  • Dr Ali Gumillya Baker, Indigenous and Australian Studies, Flinders University
  • Associate Professor Leesa Watego, Business, Queensland University of Technology
  • Associate Professor Sana Nakata, Political Science, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Sandy O’Sullivan, Indigenous Studies, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Nikki Moodie, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, Aboriginal Studies, University of Queensland
  • Dr Anthony McKnight, Education, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Summer May Finlay, Public Health, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Suzi Hutchings, Anthropology, RMIT University
  • Dr Tess Ryan, Leadership and Research Pathways, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Danièle Hromek, Indigenous Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Crystal McKinnon, Social and Global Studies, RMIT University
  • Dr Jessa Rogers, Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University
  • Dr Julia Hurst, Aboriginal History, University of Melbourne
  • Aleryk Fricker, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Ashley Perry, Indigenous Culture and Visual Art, University of Melbourne
  • Brett Biles, Indigenous Health, University of NSW
  • Cammi Murrup-Stewart, Aboriginal Wellbeing, Monash University
  • Catherine Doe, Indigenous Studies, RMIT University
  • Charlotte Franks, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Dale Rowland, Psychology, Griffith University
  • Dominique Chen, Indigenous Studies, University of Queensland
  • Eddie Synot, Law, Griffith University
  • Emma Gavin, Indigenous Knowledges, Swinburne University
  • Aileen Marwung Walsh, History, Australian National University
  • Eugenia Flynn, Literary Studies, Queensland University of Technology
  • Holly Charles, Law, RMIT University
  • Jacynta Krakouer, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Jason Brailey, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Latoya Rule, Social Work and Social Planning, Flinders University
  • Lewis Brown, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Luke Williams, Science, RMIT University
  • Maddee Clark, Literature, University of Melbourne
  • Michael Colbung, Education, University of Adelaide
  • Mykaela Saunders, Indigenous Studies, University of Sydney
  • Natasha Ward, Indigenous Education and Research, RMIT University
  • Nicole Shanahan, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Robyn Oxley, Criminology, Western Sydney University
  • Stacey Campton, Indigenous Engagement, RMIT University
  • Natalie Ironfield, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Neika Lehman, Film and Media, Anthropology, RMIT University
  • Dr Aaron Collins, Medicine, University of Melbourne
  • Aaron Magro, History, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Abby Mellick Lopes, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Adam Crowe, Geography, Curtin University
  • Adam Spellicy, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Adam Starr, Music, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Associate Professor Adele Wessell, History, Southern Cross University
  • Dr Adrian Farrugia, Sociology, La Trobe University
  • Agata Pukiewicz, Legal Studies, Australian National University
  • Dr Aidan Craney, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Ainslee Meredith, Conservation, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Ainslie Meiklejohn, Humanities, Griffith University
  • Aisha Malik, Humanities, University of Sydney
  • Emeritus Professor Alan Rumsey, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Alana Lentin, Humanities, Western Sydney University
  • Dr Alana Piper, History, University of Technology Sydney
  • Alana West, Sociology, University of Technology Sydney
  • Professor Alex Broom, Sociology, University of Sydney
  • Alex Cain, Philosophy, Monash University
  • Dr Alex Gawronski, Art, University of Sydney
  • Dr Alex Hansford-Smith, Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Alex Kusmanoff, Conservation, RMIT University
  • Dr Alexandra Crosby, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Alexandra Haschek, Psychology, La Trobe University
  • Alexandre da Silva Faustino, Geography, RMIT University
  • Alexia Adhikari, Development, University of Adelaide
  • Alice Bellette, Literature, Deakin University
  • Associate Professor Alice Gaby, Linguistics, Monash University
  • Dr Alice Jones, Ecology, University of Adelaide
  • Alice Wighton, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Alicia Flynn, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Alisa Yuko Bernhard, Musicology, University of Sydney
  • Alison Burns, International Studies, Deakin University
  • Dr Alison Holland, History, Macquarie University
  • Dr Alison Lullfitz, Ethnobiology, University of WA
  • Dr Alison Peel, Science, Griffith University
  • Alison Winning, Social Science, James Cook University
  • Professor Alison Young, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Alissa Flatley, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Alissa Macoun, Politics, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Alistair McCulloch, Education, University of SA
  • Dr Alistair Sisson, Geography, University of NSW
  • Allison Larmour, Politics, University of Sydney
  • Alys Young, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Alyssa Choat, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Alyssa Sigamoney, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Amal Osman, Health, Flinders University
  • Dr Amanda Coles, Employment Relations, Deakin University
  • Professor Amanda Kearney, Anthropology, Flinders University
  • Dr Amelia Hine, Geography, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Amelia Johns, Media, University of Technology Sydney
  • Amélie Scalercio, Fine Arts, Monash University
  • Dr Amie O’Shea, Health, Deakin University
  • Dr Amy Barrow, Law, Macquarie University
  • Dr Amy Carrad, Public Health, University of Wollongong
  • Amy Cleland, Social Science, University of SA
  • Amy Hampson, Neuroscience, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Amy McKernan, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Amy McPherson, Education, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Amy Prendergast, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Amy Thomas, Education, University of Technology Sydney
  • Amy-Jo Jory, Art, Swinburne University
  • Dr Ana Maria Ducasse, Languages, RMIT University
  • Ananya Majumdar, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Dr Anastasia Kanjere, Humanities, La Trobe University
  • Dr Anastasia Powell, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Professor Andrea Lamont-Mills, Psychology, University of Southern Queensland
  • Professor Andrea Durbach, Law, University of NSW
  • Associate Professor Andrea Rizzi, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell, History, University of Queensland
  • Dr Andrew Brooks, Humanities, University of NSW
  • Associate Professor Andrew Butt, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Dr Andrew Lapworth, Geography, University of NSW
  • Dr Andrew Miller, Art, Flinders University
  • Associate Professor Andrew Murphie, Media, University of NSW
  • Andrew Murray, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Andrew Scholey, Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University
  • Andrew Treloar, Art, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Andrew Vallely, Public Health, University of NSW
  • Dr Andrew Whelan, Sociology, University of Wollongong
  • Andy Bates, Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Andy Kaladelfos, Criminology, University of NSW
  • Andy White, Music, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Dr Angela Dean, Environment Studies, Queensland University of Technology
  • Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku, Anthropology, University of NSW
  • Angela Kintominas, Law, University of NSW
  • Angela Osborne, Communication, Deakin University
  • Dr Angelika Papadopoulos, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Angus Burns, Psychology, Monash University
  • Ani Landsu-Ward, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Professor Anina Rich, Neuroscience, Macquarie University
  • Dr Anita Trezona, Public Health, Deakin University
  • Associate Professor Anitra Nelson, Social Science, University of Melbourne
  • Anja Dickel, Pharmacy, University of SA
  • Dr Anja Kanngieser, Geography, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Anna Bowring, Public Health, Burnet Institute
  • Anna Dunn, Anthropology, University of Sydney
  • Anna Gross, Resources, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Anna Hermkens, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Anna Hopkins, Ecology, Edith Cowan University
  • Anna Krohn, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Anna Loewendahl, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Anna Nervegna, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Anna Tweeddale, Architecture, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Anna Willis, Archaeology, James Cook University
  • Dr Annalea Beattie, Writing, RMIT University
  • Dr Anne Décobert, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Anne Elvey, Theology, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Anne Junor, Employment Relations, University of NSW
  • Dr Anne Marie Ross, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Annette Kroen, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Dr Annie Delaney, Industrial Relations, RMIT university
  • Dr Annie Gowing, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Anthony Hopkins, Law, Australian National University
  • Dr Anthony Kent, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Anthony Langlois, International Relations, Flinders University
  • Anthony Schulx, Music, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Anthony Smith, Sociology, University of NSW
  • Antoine Mangion, Education, Australian Catholic University
  • Anwar Hossain, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr April Reside, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Arden Haar, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Arlo Mountford, Arts, RMIT University
  • Dr Ascelin Gordon, Conservation, RMIT University
  • Ash Johnstone, Humanities, University of Wollongong
  • Ashley Barnwell, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Ashley Thomson, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Dr Astrida Neimanis, Cultural Studies, University of Sydney
  • Badrul Hyder, Urban Studies, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Barbara Kelly, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Barry Morris, Anthropology, Newcastle University
  • Associate Professor Bastien Llamas, Evolutionary Genomics, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Bek Christensen, Ecology, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Ben Silverstein, History, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Ben Spies-Butcher, Sociology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Ben Vezina, Biology, Monash University
  • Dr Benjamin Cooke, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr Benjamin Habib, International Relations, La Trobe University
  • Dr Benjamin Hegarty, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Bernard Keo, History, Monash University
  • Dr Beth Cardier, Communications, Griffith University
  • Beth Marsden, History, La Trobe University
  • Bethany Kenyon, Social Sciences, RMIT University
  • Bethia Burgess, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Betty Luu, Psychology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Bianca Fileborn, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Bianca Hennessy, Pacific Studies, Australian National University
  • Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Public Health, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Bina Fernandez, Development Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Bindi Bennett, Social Work, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Blair Williams, Political Science, Australian National University
  • Dr Blue Mahy, Education, Monash University
  • Professor Bob Hodge, Communication studies, Western Sydney University
  • Dr Bonny Cassidy, Writing, RMIT University
  • Dr Brian Cuddy, History, Macquarie University
  • Dr Bridget Harris, Criminology, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Bridget Lewis, Law, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Brigid Magner, Literature, RMIT University
  • Briony Neilson, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr Briony Towers, Psychology, RMIT University
  • Dr Brodie Evans, Social Justice, Queensland University of Technology
  • Bronwyn Ann Sutton, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Bronwyn Cumbo, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Brooke Wilmsen, Geography, La Trobe University
  • Associate Professor Cai Wilkinson, International Studies, Deakin University
  • Professor Callum Morton, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Cally Mills, Nursing, Australian Catholic University
  • Cameron Coventry, History, Federation University
  • Professor Cameron Tonkinwise, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Can Yalcinkaya, Media, Macquarie University
  • Dr Candice Boyd, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Carey Curtis, Planning, Curtin University
  • Professor Carla Treloar, Social Science, University of NSW
  • Dr Carly Monks, Archaeology, University of WA
  • Carmen Jacques, Anthropology, Edith Cowan University
  • Carol Que, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Carol Warren, Anthropology, Murdoch University
  • Dr Caroline Mahoney, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Caroline Wake, Theatre, University of NSW
  • Carolyn D’Cruz, Gender Studies, La Trobe University
  • Dr Carolyn Eskdale, Art, RMIT University
  • Professor Carolyn Whitzman, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Casey Hosking, Psychology, La Trobe University
  • Cat Macleod, Architecture, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Professor Catherine Althaus, Public Administration, University of NSW
  • Professor Catherine Greenhill, Mathematics, University of NSW
  • Dr Catherine Hartung, Education, Swinburne University
  • Dr Catherine Innes Clover, Fine Art, Swinburne University
  • Professor Catherine McMahon, Health, Macquarie University
  • Dr Catherine Phillips, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Catherine Townsend, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Catherine Weiss, Philosophy, RMIT University
  • Dr Cayne Layton, Ecology, University of Tasmania
  • Associate Professor Cecily Maller, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr Chantel Carr, Geography, University of Wollongong
  • Charity Edwards, Architecture, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Charles Livingstone, Public Health, Monash University
  • Dr Charles Robb, Visual Arts, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Charles Sowerwine, History, University of Melbourne
  • Charlie Cooper, Psychology, University of Melbourne
  • Charlie Sofo, Visual Art, Monash University
  • Charlotte Day, Art, Monash University
  • Dr Chin Jou, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr Chloe Ward, European Studies, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Chris Healy, Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Chris Maylea, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Chris Pam, Anthropology, James Cook University
  • Dr Chris Peers, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Chris Urwin, Archaeology, Monash University
  • Christel Antonites, Humanities, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Christina David, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Christine Agius, Politics, Swinburne University
  • Dr Christo Bester, Neuroscience, University of Melbourne
  • Christopher Cordner, Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Christopher Hallam, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Christopher McCaw, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Christy Newman, Sociology, University of NSW
  • Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, Politics, Griffith University
  • Dr Ciemon Caballes, Ecology, James Cook University
  • Claire Akhbari, Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Claire Loughnan, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Claire Nettle, Politics, Flinders University
  • Dr Claire Spivakovsky, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Clare Cooper, Design, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Clare Corbould, History, Deakin University
  • Dr Clare Land, History, Victoria University
  • Clare Rae, Fine Art, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Clare Southerton, Sociology, University of NSW
  • Dr Clare Weeden, Medicine, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Clare Wright, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Claudia Marck, Public Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Clemence Due, Psychology, University of Adelaide
  • Connor Jolley, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr Coralie Boulet, Microbiology, La Trobe University
  • Professor Corey Bradshaw, Ecology, Flinders University
  • Dr Corrinne Sullivan, Geography, Western Sydney University
  • Dr Courtney Babb, Urban Planning, Curtin University
  • Dr Courtney Morgans, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Dr Courtney Pedersen, Visual Arts, Queensland University of Technology
  • Craig Lyons, Geography, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Cristy Clark, Law, University of Canberra
  • Dr Crystal Legacy, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Cullan Joyce, Philosophy, University of Divinity
  • Dr Cynthia Hunter, Anthropology, University of Sydney
  • Daisy Bailey, History, Monash University
  • Daisy Gibbs, Public Health, University of NSW
  • Dr Dallas Rogers, Urbanism, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Damien Cahill, Politics, University of Sydney
  • Dr Dan Golding, Media, Swinburne University
  • Dr Daniel Brennan, Philosophy, Bond University
  • Dr Daniel Lopez, Philosophy, La Trobe University
  • Dr Daniel Ohlsen, Botany, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Daniel Palmer, Art, RMIT University
  • Daniel Reeders, Regulation and Governance, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Daniel von Sturmer, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Daniella Forster, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Professor Danielle Celermajer, Sociology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Dara Conduit, Politics, Deakin University
  • Professor Darryl Jones, Environmental Science, Griffith University
  • Dr Dave McDonald, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr David Brophy, History, University of Sydney
  • Professor David Carlin, Writing, RMIT University
  • Dr David Coombs, Public Policy, University of NSW
  • Dr David Hurwood, Ecology, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr David Kelly, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr David Pollock, Politics, RMIT University
  • Dr David Ripley, Philosophy, Monash University
  • Dr David Rousell, Education, RMIT University
  • Emeritus Professor David Rowe, Sociology, Western Sydney University
  • Dr David Singh, Sociology, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor David Slucki, Sociology, Monash University
  • Dr David Smith, Politics, University of Sydney
  • Dr David Spencer, Communication, University of Canberra
  • Associate Professor Dawn Darlaston-Jones, Behavioural Science, University of Notre Dame
  • Dr Deb Batterham, Social Science, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Dr Debbi Long, Anthropology, RMIT University
  • Dr Deborah Apthorp, Psychology, University of New England
  • Dr Deborah Cleland, Governance, Australian National University
  • Deborah Lee-Talbot, History, Deakin University
  • Dr Deborah Moore, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Debra McDougall, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Declan Martin, Urban Planning, Monash University
  • Professor Deirdre Coleman, English, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Deirdre Hayes, Australian Studies, University of SA
  • Professor Devleena Ghosh, Social Science, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Diana Johns, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Diana Shahinyan, English, Sydney University
  • Dimity Hawkins, History, Swinburne University
  • Dion Tuckwell, Design, Monash University
  • Dr Dolly Kikon, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Dominic De Nardo, Medicine, Monash University
  • Dr Dominique Moritz, Law, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Dominique Potvin, Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Associate Professor Donna Houston, Geography, Macquarie University
  • Dr Duc Dau, Humanities, University of WA
  • Dr Eden Smith, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Eduardo Jordan, Journalism, Griffith University
  • Dr Effie Karageorgos, History, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Elena Benthaus, Humanities, Deakin University
  • Dr Elena Prieto, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Elena Tjandra, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Elese Dowden, Philosophy, University of Queensland
  • Dr Elise Klein, Public Policy, Australian National University
  • Dr Elizabeth Branigan, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Elizabeth Culhane, Philosophy, University of Queensland
  • Elizabeth Duncan, Geography, Sydney University
  • Elizabeth King, English, Macquarie University
  • Dr Elizabeth Orr, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Elizabeth Povinelli, Anthropology, Charles Darwin University
  • Dr Elke Emerald, Education, Griffith University
  • Ellen Corrick, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Elliot Gould, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Ellyse Fenton, Politics, University of Queensland
  • Dr Emily Brayshaw, History, University of Technology Sydney
  • Emily Corbett, Gender Studies, La Trobe University
  • Dr Emily Gray, Education, RMIT University
  • Emily McColl-Gausden, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Emily Miller, Justice Studies, University of SA
  • Emily Miller, Archaeology, Griffith University
  • Dr Emily O’Gorman, Geography, Macquarie University
  • Associate Professor Emily Potter, Literature, Deakin University
  • Dr Emily Rugel, Epidemiology, University of Sydney
  • Emily Toome, Social Sciences, RMIT University
  • Dr Emily van der Nagel, Communication, Monash University
  • Emma Barnes, Social Science, University of NSW
  • Dr Emma Colvin, Criminology, Charles Sturt University
  • Emma George, Occupational Therapy, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Emma Kowal, Anthropology, Deakin University
  • Dr Emma Rehn, Environmental Science, James Cook University
  • Dr Emma Robertson, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Emma Russell, Legal Studies, La Trobe University
  • Dr Emma Whatman, Gender Studies, Deakin University
  • Emmalee Ford, Biochemistry, University of Newcastle
  • Emmeline Kildea, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Emmett Stinson, Literature, Deakin University
  • Epperly Zhang, Translation and Interpreting, RMIT University
  • Dr Erica Millar, Legal Studies, La Trobe University
  • Professor Erik Eklund, History, Federation University
  • Dr Erin Fitz-Henry, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Erin O’Donnell, Law, University of Melbourne
  • Erina McCann, Conservation, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Euan Ritchie, Ecology, Deakin University
  • Associate Professor Eva Alisic, Social Science, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Eve Mayes, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Eve Vincent, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Ewan McDonald, Nursing, La Trobe University
  • Dr Fabian Kong, Epidemiology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Faith Valencia-Forrester, Education, Griffith University
  • Felicia Jaremus, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Felicity Gray, Governance, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Felicity Meakins, Linguistics, University of Queensland
  • Fernanda Quilici Mola, Fashion, RMIT University
  • Fernanda Soares, International Relations, RMIT University
  • Dr Fincina Hopgood, Screen Studies, University of New England
  • Dr Fiona Cameron, Heritage studies, Western Sydney University
  • Professor Fiona Haines, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Fiona Lee, English, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Fiona Miller, Geography, Macquarie University
  • Professor Fiona Paisley, History, Griffith University
  • Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, Humanities, University of Wollongong
  • Fran van Riemsdyk, Fine Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Francesca Dominello, Law, Macquarie University
  • Dr Francis Markham, Geography, Australian National University
  • Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Tourism, University of SA
  • Freya McLachlan, Justice, Queensland University of Technology
  • Freya Scott, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Gabriel Caluzzi, Public Health, La Trobe University
  • Dr Gabriel da Silva, Engineering, University of Melbourne
  • Gabriela Franich, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Garrity Hill, Sociology, Swinburne University
  • Dr Gemma Hamilton, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Geoff Browne, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Geoffrey Brown, Humanities, La Trobe University
  • Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Samuel, Anthropology, University of Sydney
  • George Burdon, Geography, University of NSW
  • Dr George Dertadian, Criminology, University of NSW
  • George Hatvani, Social Sciences, Swinburne University
  • Associate Professor George Newhouse, Law, Macquarie University
  • Georgia Carr, Linguistics, University of Sydney
  • Dr Georgia Garrard, Conservation, RMIT University
  • Dr Gerald Roche, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Gerard Ryan, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Gerlinde Koeglreiter, Information Systems, Australian National University
  • Gerry McLoughlin, eUrbanism, Swinburne University
  • Professor Ghassan Hage, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Gilad Bino, Science, University of NSW
  • Dr Giles Fielke, Art History, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Gillian Kidman, Education, Monash University
  • Professor Gillian Wigglesworth, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Giselle Newton, Sociology, University of NSW
  • Gisselle Vila Benites, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Giulia Torello-Hill, Languages, University of New England
  • Dr Glenda Mejia, Global Studies, RMIT University
  • Glenn Abblitt, Education, RMIT University
  • Dr Glenn Althor, Environmental Science, Australian National University
  • Dr Graham Fulton, Biology, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor Grant Hamilton, Ecology, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Greg Giannis, Education, La Trobe University
  • Professor Greg Hainge, Languages, University of Queensland
  • Professor Greg Restall, Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Guy Webster, Literature, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Hanna Torsh, Linguistics, Macquarie University
  • Dr Hannah McCann, Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Hannah Reardon-Smith, Music, Griffith University
  • Dr Hannah Robert, Law, La Trobe University
  • Hannah Weeramanthri, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Hanne Worsoe, Anthropology, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor Hans Baer, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Haripriya Rangan, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Harriette Richards, Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Harrison Spratling, Education, Deakin University
  • Adjunct Professor Hartmut Fünfgeld, Geography, RMIT University
  • Hayden Moon, Theatre, Sydney University
  • Dr Hayley Henderson, Urban Planning, Australian National University
  • Dr Heather Francis, Neuropsychology, Macquarie University
  • Heather Jarvis, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Helen Corney, Urban Studies, RMIT University
  • Professor Helen Dickinson, Public Administration, University of NSW
  • Dr Helen Grimmett, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Helen Johnson, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Helen Keane, Sociology, Australian National University
  • Dr Helen Mayfield, Conservation, University of Queensland
  • Dr Helen Ngo, Philosophy, Deakin University
  • Dr Helen Pringle, Politics, University of NSW
  • Helen Rowe, Urban Policy, RMIT University
  • Helen South, Education, Charles Sturt University
  • Helen Taylor, Management, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Henk Huijser, Education, Queensland University of Technology
  • Hiranya Anderson, Health, Macquarie University
  • Dr Hoda Afshar, Humanities, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Holly Doel-Mckaway, Law, Macquarie Law School
  • Associate Professor Holly High, Anthropology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Holly Sitters, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Holly Smith, Palaeontology, Griffith University
  • Dr Honni van Rijswijk, Law, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Hugh Davies, Ecology, Charles Darwin University
  • Professor Hugh Possingham, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Dr Ibolya Losoncz, Governance, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Ilana Mushin, Linguistics, University of Queensland
  • Dr Imogen Bell, Mental health, University of Melbourne
  • Imogen Carr, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Imogen Richards, Criminology, Deakin University
  • Dr Indigo Willing, Sociology, Griffith University
  • Associate Professor Iris Duhn, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Iris Levin, Urban Planning, Swinburne University
  • Isabel Mudford, Sociology, Australian National University
  • Dr Isabel O’Keeffe, Linguistics, University of Sydney
  • Isabella Capezio, Photography, RMIT University
  • Isabella Saunders, Social science, University of NSW
  • Ishita Chatterjee, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Ivy Scurr, Anthropology, University of Newcastle
  • Associate Professor Jaap Timmer, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Jack Noone, Psychology, University of NSW
  • Jackson Holloway, Philosophy, La Trobe University
  • Jaclyn Hopkins, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Jacqueline Bradley, Visual Arts, National Art School
  • Dr Jacqueline Gothe, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Jacqui Shelton, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Jacquie Tinkler, Education, Charles Sturt University
  • Professor Jago Dodson, Urban Policy, RMIT University
  • Dr Jamee Newland, Health, University of NSW
  • James Barker, Ecology, University of Wollongong
  • James Blackwell, Politics, University of NSW
  • Dr James Bradley, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr James Cleverley, Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr James Dunk, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr James Findlay, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr James Flexner, Archaeology, University of Sydney
  • Dr James Lesh, Heritage Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Professor James McCaw, Science, University of Melbourne
  • James Meese, Communications, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor James Oliver, Design, RMIT University
  • Dr James Radford, Ecology, La Trobe University
  • James Upjohn, Science, Monash University
  • Dr Jan-Hendrik, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jane Carey, History, University of Wollongong
  • Professor Jane Wilkinson, Education, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Janet Hunt, Development Studies, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Janet Stanley, Interdisciplinary, University of Melbourne
  • Janice Wright, Social Sciences, University of Wollongong
  • Janine Gertz, Sociology, James Cook University
  • Jannett Nieves, Social Studies, RMIT University
  • Dr Jarrod Hore, History, University of NSW
  • Jasmin McAleer, Archaeology, Australian National University
  • Dr Jasmine Westendorf, Politics, La Trobe University
  • Rev/Dr Jason Goroncy, Theology, University of Divinity
  • Javed Anwar, Education, RMIT University
  • Professor Javier Alvarez-Mon, Archaeology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Jay Daniel Thompson, Communications, RMIT University
  • Dr Jaye Early, Art, University of SA
  • Jaye Hayes, Arts Therapy, MIECAT Institute
  • Dr Jayne Rantall, History, La Trobe University
  • Professor Jayne White, Education, RMIT University
  • Dr Jayne Wilkins, Archaeology, Griffith University
  • Dr Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, Design, RMIT University
  • Professor Jeanette Kennett, Philosophy, Macquarie University
  • Jeanine Hourani, Public Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jeannette Walsh, Social work, University of Wollongong
  • Associate Professor Jeannie Rea, Planetary Health, Victoria University
  • Associate Professor Jeff Babon, Biologist, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Jen Hocking, Midwifery, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Jen Martin, Science, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jenna Mead, English, University of WA
  • Jenna Mikus, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Jennifer Audsley, Infectious Diseases, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Balint, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Biddle, Visual Anthropology, University of NSW
  • Dr Jennifer Bleazby, Education, Monash University
  • Jennifer Campbell, Engineering, Griffith University
  • Dr Jennifer Caruso, History, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Jennifer Dowling, Languages, University of Sydney
  • Professor Jennifer Firn, Ecology, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Jennifer McConachy, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Jennifer Newsome, Musicology, Australian National University
  • Dr Jennifer Seevinck, Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Jennifer Silcock, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Jennifer Witheridge, Urban Studies, Swinburne University
  • Dr Jeremiah Brown, Financial Wellbeing, University of NSW
  • Jeremy Eaton, Visual Art, University of Melbourne
  • Jeremy Gay, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Dr Jess Coyle, Indigenous Australian Studies, Charles Sturt University
  • Jess Hardley, Media, Murdoch University
  • Dr Jess Reeves, Environmental Science, Federation University
  • Dr Jessica Birnie-Smith, Linguistics, La Trobe University
  • Dr Jessica Campbell, Speech Pathology, University of Queensland
  • Dr Jessica Edwards, Health, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Jessica Gannaway, Languages, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jessica Gerrard, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Jessica Gibbs, Archaeology, University of Queensland
  • Dr Jessica Hazel Horton, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Jessica Kean, Gender Studies, University of Sydney
  • Jessica Lea Dunn, Design, University of Sydney
  • Dr Jessica Manousakis, Neuroscience, Monash University
  • Dr Jessica Megarry, Political Science, University of Melbourne
  • Jessica Priemus, Design, Curtin University
  • Dr Jessica Roberts, Ecology, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Jessica Wilkinson, Creative Writing, RMIT University
  • Dr Jessie Wells, Environmental Science, University of Queensland
  • Jidde Jacobi, Cognitive Sciences, Macquarie University
  • Dr Jill Fielding-Wells, Education, Australian Catholic University
  • Jill Pope, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jill Vaughan, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jillian Healy, Biological Science, Deakin University
  • Dr Jing Qi, Education, RMIT University
  • Jo Grant, Medical Anthropology, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Joanna Cruickshank, History, Deakin University
  • Dr Joanna Kyriakakis, Law, Monash University
  • Dr Joanne Dawson, Astronomy, Macquarie University
  • Dr Joanne Faulkner, Cultural Studies, Macquarie University
  • Dr Joanne Quick, Languages, Deakin University
  • Dr Joanne Watson, Disability and Inclusion, Deakin University
  • Jocelyn Bosse, Law, University of Queensland
  • Dr Jodi McAlister, Writing, Deakin University
  • Dr Joe Fontaine, Environmental Science, Murdoch University
  • Dr Joe Hurley, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Joe MacFarlane, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Joel Barnes, History, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr John Cox, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • John Cumming, Creative Arts, Deakin University
  • Professor John Frow, English, University of Sydney
  • Professor John Langmore, Politics, University of Melbourne
  • Professor John Sinclair, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr John Taylor, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Professor Jon Barnett, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jon Roffe, Philosophy, Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy
  • Jonas Ropponen, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Jonathan Dimond, Arts, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Dr Jonathan Symons, Politics, Macquarie University
  • Dr Joni Meenagh, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Jordan Hinton, Psychology, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Jordana Silverstein, History, La Trobe University
  • Professor Joseph Pugliese, Cultural Studies, Macquarie University
  • Dr Josephine Browne, Sociology, Griffith University
  • Joshua Badge, Philosophy, Deakin University
  • Joshua Hernandez, Philosophy, La Trobe University
  • Joshua Hodges, Ecology, Charles Sturt University
  • Dr Jovana Mastilovic, Law, Griffith University
  • Judy Annear, Art History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Judy Bush, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Judy Taylor, Health, James Cook University
  • Dr Julia Dehm, Law, La Trobe University
  • Julia Hartelius, International Studies, RMIT University
  • Julia Lane, Cultural Studies, Edith Cowan University
  • Julian Aubrey Smith, Fine Arts, RMIT University
  • Julian McKinlay King, Political Science, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Julie Dean, Health, University of Queensland
  • Professor Julie Fitness, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Julie Healer, Science, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Dr Julie Kimber, Politics, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Dr Julie Moreau, Biology, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Julie Rudner, Community Development, La Trobe University
  • Juliet Gunning, Performing Arts, Swinburne University
  • Associate Professor Juliet Rogers, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jumana Bayeh, Arts, Macquarie University
  • Dr June Rubis, Geography, University of Sydney
  • Justin McCulloch, Geography, University of SA
  • Dr Justine Shih Pearson, Literature, University of Sydney
  • Jutta Beher, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Kai Tanter, Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Kama Maclean, History, University of NSW
  • Professor Kane Race, Humanities, University of Sydney
  • Kara Sandri, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Karen Carlisle, Health, James Cook University
  • Dr Karen Cheer, Health, James Cook University
  • Dr Karen Crawley, Law, Griffith University
  • Associate Professor Karen Jones, Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Karen Marangio, Education, Monash University
  • Professor Karen Trimmer, Education, University of Southern Queensland
  • Dr Kari Lancaster, Social Science, University of NSW
  • Karly Cini, Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kassel Hingee, Statistics, Australian National University
  • Kate Barber, Art, Monash University
  • Kate Brody, Medicine, University of Melbourne
  • Kate Clark, Cultural Studies, Monash University
  • Dr Kate Davison, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Dooley, Political science, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Helmstedt, Mathematics, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Kate Howell, Food Systems, University of Melbourne
  • Kate Hume, Environmental Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Dr Kate Just, Art, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate O’Connor, Education, La Trobe University
  • Professor Kate Sweetapple, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Associate Professor Kate Thompson, Education, Queensland University of Technology
  • Kate Toone, Social work, Flinders University
  • Dr Kate Young, Public Health, Queensland University of Technology
  • Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy, Performing Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Katerina Teaiwa, Pacific Studies, Australian National University
  • Professor Kath Gelber, Political Science, University of Queensland
  • Katherine Berthon, Ecology, RMIT University
  • Dr Katherine Curchin, Public Policy, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Katherine Ellinghaus, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Katherine Giljohann, Science, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Katherine Johnson, Community Psychology, RMIT University
  • Dr Kathleen Aikens, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Kathleen Flanagan, Sociology, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Kathleen Neal, History, Monash University
  • Kathleen Pleasants, Education, La Trobe University
  • Kathleen Smithers, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Kathleen Tait, Education, Macquarie University
  • Dr Kathryn Coleman, Visual Art, University of Melbourne
  • Kathryn Knights, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kathryn Reardon-Smith, Ecology, University of Southern Queensland
  • Dr Kathryn Sellick, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Kathryn Williams, Psychology, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Kathy Bowrey, Law, University of NSW
  • Associate Professor Katie Barclay, History, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Katie Holmes, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Katie O’Bryan, Law, Monash University
  • Dr Katie Woolaston, Law, Queensland University of Technology
  • Katitza Marinkovic, Health, University of Melbourne
  • Katrin Koenning, Visual Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Katrina Raynor, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Kavita Gonsalves, Urban Studies, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Kaya Barry, Geography, Griffith University
  • Keagan Ó Guaire, Social Science, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Keely Macarow, Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Keith Armstrong, Visual Arts, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Kelly Donati, Food studies, William Angliss Institute
  • Dr Kelly Gardiner, English, La Trobe University
  • Dr Kelly Hussey-Smith, Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Kelsie Long, Palaeoenvironments, Australian National University
  • Dr Kerrie Saville, Management, Deakin University
  • Dr Kerryn Drysdale, Health, University of NSW
  • Dr Kevin Lowe, Education, University of NSW
  • Kia Zand, Art, University of Melbourne
  • Kieran Stevenson, Writing, Deakin University
  • Dr Kim Davies, Education, Deakin University
  • Kim Newman, Archaeology, Griffith University
  • Kimberley de la Motte, Science, University of Queensland
  • Dr Kirrily Jordan, Politics, Australian National University
  • Dr Kirsten Small, Health, Griffith University
  • Kirstin Kreyscher, Humanities, Deakin University
  • Kirsty Howey, Cultural Studies, University of Sydney
  • Kris Vine, Health, James Cook University
  • Dr Kristal Cain, Biology, Australian National University
  • Kristen Bell, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Kristina Tsoulis-Reay, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, Geography, University of Sydney
  • Dr Kyle Harvey, History, University of Tasmania
  • Associate Professor Kym Rae, Indigenous Health, University of Queensland
  • Kymberly Louise, Disability Studies, Flinders University
  • Dr Lana Hartwig, Geography, Griffith University
  • Lanie Stockman, Social Policy, RMIT University
  • Dr Lara Palombo, Cultural Studies, Macquarie University
  • Dr Laresa Kosloff, Art, RMIT University
  • Larissa Fogden, Social Work, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Larissa Sandy, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Laura Alfrey, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Laura Henderson, Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lauren Gawne, Linguistics, La Trobe University
  • Lauren Gower, Fine Art, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lauren Istvandity, Cultural Studies, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Lauren Pikó, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Leah Barclay, Design, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Leah Lui-Chivizhe, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr Leah Williams Veazey, Sociology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Leanne Morrison, Accounting, RMIT University
  • Lee Valentine, Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lenise Prater, Literary Studies, Monash University
  • Lenka Thompson, Social Science, University of Technology Sydney
  • Leonetta Leopardi, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Leonie Brialey, Creative Writing, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Lesley Head, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Lesley Hughes, Ecology, Macquarie University
  • Professor Lesley Stirling, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Leslie Eastman, Fine Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Leslie Roberson, Conservation, University of Queensland
  • Letitia Robertson, Finance, University of Southern Queensland
  • Dr Lew Zipin, Education, Victoria University
  • Dr Liam Ward, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Libby Kruse, Medical Biology, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Libby Porter, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Dr Ligia Lopez Lopez, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lila Moosad, Public Health, University of Melbourne
  • Lina Koleilat, Ethnography, Australian National University
  • Lindall Kidd, Ecology, RMIT University
  • Dr Lindy Orthia, Science Communication, Australian National University
  • Dr Lisa Carson, Politics, University of NSW
  • Lisa de Kleyn, Social Science, RMIT University
  • Dr Lisa Hunter, Education, Monash University
  • Lisa Siegel, Education, Southern Cross University
  • Lisa Theiler, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Dr Lisa Vallely, Public Health, University of NSW
  • Associate Professor Lisa Wynn, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Liz Barber, Public Health, University of SA
  • Dr Liz Brogden, Architecture, Queensland University of Technology
  • Associate Professor Liz Conor, History, La Trobe University
  • Liz Dearn, Mental Health, RMIT University
  • Liz McGrath, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Lizzil Gay, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Llewellyn Wishart, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Lloyd White, Anatomy, La Trobe University
  • Dr Lobna Yassine, Social Work, Australian Catholic University
  • Professor Lorana Bartels, Criminology, Australian National University
  • Loretta Bellato, Social Sciences, Swinburne University
  • Dr Lorna Peters, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Louisa Willoughby, Linguistics, Monash University
  • Professor Louise D’Arcens, English, Macquarie University
  • Dr Louise Dorignon, Geography, RMIT University
  • Louise Weaver, Fine Art, RMIT University
  • Lu Lin, Cultural Studies, RMIT University
  • Luara Karlson, English, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Luci Pangrazio, Education, Deakin University
  • Lucinda Strahan, Writing, RMIT University
  • Dr Lucy Buzacott, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Lucy Gunn, Urban Studies, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Lucy Nicholas, Sociology, Western Sydney University
  • Dr Lucy Van, Literature, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Luigi Gussago, Languages, La Trobe University
  • Professor Luke McNamara, Law, University of NSW
  • Luke Stafford, Biology, La Trobe University
  • Lydia Pearson, Fashion, Queensland University of Technology
  • Lyndall Murray, Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
  • Professor Lyndsey Nickels, Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
  • Dr Lyrian Daniel, Architecture, University of Adelaide
  • Madeline Dans, Biomedics, Burnet Institute
  • Dr Madeline Mitchell, Plant Sciences, RMIT University
  • Madeline Taylor, Design, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Maia Gunn Watkinson, Cultural Studies, University of NSW
  • Dr Maia Raymundo, Ecology, James Cook University
  • Dr Mandy Truong, Public Health, Monash University
  • Dr Marc Mierowsky, English, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Marc Pruyn, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Marcelo Svirsky, Politics, University of Wollongong
  • Marco Gutierrez, Environmental Policy, RMIT University
  • Dr Marcus Banks, Economics, RMIT University
  • Professor Marcus Foth, Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Maree Pardy, International Studies, Deakin University
  • Margareta Windisch, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Margot Ford, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Maria Giannacopoulos, Law, Flinders University
  • Dr Maria Karidakis, Linguistics, The University Of Melbourne
  • Maria Korochkina, Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
  • Dr Mariana Dias Baptista, Forest Science, RMIT University
  • Professor Marie Brennan, Education, University of SA
  • Dr Mariko Smith, Museum Studies, University of Sydney
  • Marita McGuirk, Ecologist, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Mark Bahnisch, Sociology, International College of Management
  • Associate Professor Mark Kelly, Philosophy, Western Sydney University
  • Mark Parfitt, Humanities, Curtin University
  • Dr Mark Shorter, Fine Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Markela Panegyres, Visual Arts, University of Sydney
  • Dr Marnee Watkins, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Marnie Badham, Creative Arts, RMIT University
  • Dr Martin Breed, Ecology, Flinders University
  • Associate Professor Martin Porr, Archaeology, University of WA
  • Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen, Sociology, Australian National University
  • Dr Mary Tomsic, History, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Mathew Abbott, Philosophy, Federation University
  • Matt Novacevski, Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Matthew Champion, History, Australian Catholic University
  • Professor Matthew Fitzpatrick, History, Flinders University
  • Dr Matthew Harrison, Education, Melbourne Graduate School of Education
  • Matthew Mitchell, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Matthew Selinske, Conservation, RMIT University
  • Dr Max Kaiser, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Meagan Dewar, Biology, Federation University
  • Dr Meagan Tyler, Industrial Relations, RMIT University
  • Professor Meaghan Morris, Cultural Studies, University of Sydney
  • Dr Meera Varadharajan, Education, University of NSW
  • Dr Meg Foster, History, University of NSW
  • Dr Megan Evans, Environmental Policy, University of NSW
  • Dr Megan Good, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Megan McPherson, Creative Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Megan Tighe, Politics, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Megan Weier, Social Policy, University of NSW
  • Mel Campbell, Media, University of Melbourne
  • Melanie Ashe, Media, Monash University
  • Dr Melanie Baak, Education, University of SA
  • Dr Melanie Davern, Public Health, RMIT University
  • Dr Melinda Mann, Education, Central Queensland University
  • Dr Melissa Hardie, English, University of Sydney
  • Professor Melissa Haswell, Health, University of Sydney
  • Melissa Laing, Social work, RMIT University
  • Dr Melissa Lovell, Political Science, Australian National University
  • Dr Melissa Neave, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Melissa Norberg, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Melissa Wolfe, Education, Monash University
  • Mercedes Zanker, Philosophy, La Trobe University
  • Dr Meredith Turnbull, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Mia Martin Hobbs, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Micaela Pattison, History, University of Sydney
  • Dr Micaela Sahhar, Palestine Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Michael Bojkowski, Communications, RMIT University
  • Dr Michael Callaghan, Ethics, Deakin University
  • Professor Michael Gard, Human Movement, University of Queensland
  • Dr Michael Griffiths, English, University of Wollongong
  • Michael Julian, Indigenous Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Michael McCarthy, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Michael McNally, Education, University of Queensland
  • Michael Pearson, History, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Michael Richardson, Cultural Studies, University of NSW
  • Dr Michael Savic, Sociology, Monash University
  • Professor Michael Stumpf, Biology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Michal Glikson, Visual Arts, Charles Darwin University
  • Michel Gerencir, Visual Language, Griffith Film School
  • Professor Michele Acuto, Politics, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Michele Ruyters, Legal Studies, RMIT University
  • Professor Michelle Arrow, History, Macquarie University
  • Dr Michelle Carmody, Latin American Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Michelle Langley, Archaeology, Griffith University
  • Dr Michelle Ludecke, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, Public Health, James Cook University
  • Michelle Toy, Law, University of Technology Sydney
  • Professor Miguel Vatter, Politics, Flinders University
  • Dr Mike Jones, History, Australian National University
  • Dr Millicent Churcher, Philosophy, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Miranda Forsyth, Law, Australian National University
  • Dr Miranda Smith, Infectious Diseases, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Miri Forbes, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Mittul Vahanvati, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Dr Moira Williams, Biology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Monica Barratt, Social Sciences, RMIT University
  • Dr Monica Behrend, Research Education, University of SA
  • Dr Monica Campo, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Monica Sestito, Italian Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Monika Barthwal-Datta, International Relations, University of NSW
  • Monique Moffa, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Morgan Harrington, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Dr Morgan Tear, Psychology, Monash University
  • Morganna Magee, Design, Swinburne University
  • Muhammad Ali, Education, University of Queensland
  • Dr Nadia Rhook, Indigenous Studies, University of WA
  • Nahum McLean, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Naimah Talib, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Nan Seuffert, Law, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Naomi Indigp, Science, University of Queensland
  • Dr Naomi Parry, History, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Natalie Hendry, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Natalie Osborne, Geography, Griffith University
  • Dr Natalya Turkina, Business, RMIT University
  • Natasha Cadenhead, Conservation, University of Melbourne
  • Natasha Heenan, Politics, University of Sydney
  • Dr Natasha Pauli, Geography, University of WA
  • Natasha Ufer, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Dr Nathalie Butt, Ecology, University of Queensland
  • Nathan Pittman, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Neil Maclean, Anthropology, University of Sydney
  • Nicholas Carson, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Dr Nicholas Hill, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Dr Nicholas Mangan, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Nicholas Ross, Politics, Australian National University
  • Dr Nicholas Tochka, Music, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Nick Brancazio, Philosophy, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Nick Kelly, Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Nick Schultz, Ecology, Federation University
  • Associate Professor Nick Thieberger, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Nicky Dulfer, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Nicola Carr, Education, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Nicola Henry, Social Sciences, RMIT University
  • Nicola Laurent, Archives, University of Melbourne
  • Nicole Davis, History, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Nicole Gurran, Urban Planning, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Nicole Rogers, Law, Southern Cross University
  • Dr Nikita Vanderbyl, Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, Media, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Nikos Thomacos, Psychology, Monash University
  • Dr Nilmini Fernando, Sociology, Griffith University
  • Dr Nina Williams, Geography, University of NSW
  • Dr Niro Kandasamy, History, University of Melbourne
  • Olivia Price, Public Health, University of NSW
  • Dr Olwyn Stewart, Philosophy, University of Auckland
  • Dr Orana Sandri, Environmental Studies, RMIT University
  • Padraic Gibson, History, University of Technology Sydney
  • Pamela Buena, Education, University of NSW
  • Paris Hadfield, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Pashew Nuri, Education, Monash University
  • Emeritus Professor Patricia Grimshaw, History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Patrick Kelly, Media, RMIT University
  • Dr Paul Munro, Geography, University of NSW
  • Professor Paul Patton, Philosophy, Flinders University
  • Professor Paul Tacon, Archaeology, Griffith University
  • Dr Paula Satizabal, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Payal Bal, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Peta Malins, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Peta Phelan, Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Peta White, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Peter Balint, Politics, University of NSW
  • Dr Peter Chambers, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Peter Christoff, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Peter Ellis, Fine Art, RMIT University
  • Peter Hogg, Architecture, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Professor Peter Marius Veth, Archaeology, University of WA
  • Professor Peter Otto, Literary Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Philippa Chandler, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Phillipa Bellemore, Sociology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Phoebe Everingham, Geography, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Phoebe Smithies, Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne
  • Pia Treichel, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Pip Henderson, Public Health, Flinders University
  • Dr Piper Rodd, History, Deakin University
  • Polly Bennett, Sociology, Deakin University
  • Dr Poppy de Souza, Media, University of NSW
  • Dr Prashanti Mayfield, Geography, RMIT University
  • Priya Kunjan, Politics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Quah Ee Ling Sharon, Sociology, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Rachael Burgin, Criminology, Swinburne University
  • Dr Rachael Dwyer, Education, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Rachael Fernald, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Rachel Buchanan, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Rachel Burke, Linguistics, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Rachel Busbridge, Sociology, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Rachel Chapman, Education, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Dr Rachel Deacon, Health, University of Sydney
  • Rachel England, Environmental Studies, Australian National University
  • Dr Rachel Forgasz, Education, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Rachel Heath, Psychology, University of Newcastle
  • Rachel Iampolski, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr Rachel Joy, Criminology, Australian College of Applied Psychology
  • Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, Criminology, University of Wollongong
  • Professor Rachel Nordlinger, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rachel Thompson, Public Health, University of Sydney
  • Dr Rachel Toovey, Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne
  • Rachele Gore, Microbiology, RMIT University
  • Dr Radha O’Meara, Creative Writing, University of Melbourne
  • Radha Pathy, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno, Psychology, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah, Sociology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Rea Saunders, Indigenous Studies, University of Queensland
  • Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, Law, University of Queensland
  • Rebecca Clements, Urban Planning, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rebecca Colvin, Social Science, Australian National University
  • Dr Rebecca Defina, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Rebecca Hiscock, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Rebecca Olive, Cultural Studies, University of Queensland
  • Dr Rebecca Runting, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rebecca Wheatley, Ecology, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Renae Fomiatti, Sociology, La Trobe University
  • Renee Cosgrave, Fine Art, Monash University
  • Dr Rhian Morgan, Anthropology, James Cook University
  • Dr Riccarda Peters, Neuroscience, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Richard McDermid, Science, Macquarie University
  • Rifaie Tammas, Politics, University of Sydney
  • Dr Rimi Khan, Cultural Studies, RMIT University
  • Ritika Skand Vohra, Fashion, RMIT University
  • Professor Rob Moodie, Public Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Robert Boncardo, European Studies, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Robert Parkes, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Robert Polglase, Urban Studies, RMIT University
  • Dr Robin Bellingham, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Robin Torrence, Archaeology, Australian Museum
  • Dr Robyn Babaeff, Education, Monash University
  • Robyn Boldy, Environmental Science, University of Queensland
  • Dr Robyn Schofield, Environmental Science, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Robyn Williams, Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University
  • Dr Roger Alsop, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Romana Begicevic, Health, Curtin University
  • Dr Ronnie Scott, Writing, RMIT University
  • Rosalie Willacy, Conservation, University of Queensland
  • Rose Macaulay, Psychology, University of Melbourne
  • Rosemary Gilby, Education, Monash University
  • Dr Rosey Billington, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Roshan Sharma, Conservation, RMIT University
  • Rosie Joy Barron, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rosie Welch, Education, Monash University
  • Professor Rosita Henry, Anthropology, James Cook University
  • Rowena Booth, Education, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Rowena Maguire, Environmental Law, Queensland University of Technology
  • Emeritus Professor Russell Meares, Psychiatry, University of Sydney
  • Dr Russell Richards, Systems Modelling, University of Queensland
  • Dr Ruth De Souza, Nursing, RMIT University
  • Dr Ruth Ford, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Ruth Gamble, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Ruth Morgan, History, Australian National University
  • Dr Ruth Richards, Feminist Theory, RMIT University
  • Dr Ryan Al-Natour, Teacher Education, Charles Sturt University
  • Dr Ryan Frazer, Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University
  • Dr Ryan Gustafsson, Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Sab D’Souza, Visual Arts, University of Technology Sydney
  • Sabrina Nemorin, Health, RMIT University
  • Dr Sadhbh Byrne, Psychology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sahar Ghumkhor, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sal Clark, International Relations, Swinburne University
  • Dr Sally Baker, Education, University of NSW
  • Sally Olds, Creative Writing, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Sally Treloyn, Ethnomusicology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sam Schulzq, Education, Federation University
  • Associate Professor Samantha Ashby, Occupational Therapy, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Samantha Balaton-Chrimes, Politics, Deakin University
  • Samantha Bennett, Education, RMIT University
  • Samantha Colledge, Public Health, University of NSW
  • Samantha Mannix, Public Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Samantha McMahon, Education, University of Sydney
  • Sancintya Simpson, Fine Art, Griffith University
  • Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Geography, Macquarie University
  • Dr Sandra D’Urso, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Sandra Penman, Forest Science, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Sango Mahanty, Geography, Australian National University
  • Sara Fuller, Geography, Macquarie University
  • Associate Professor Sara Motta, Politics, University of Newcastle
  • Professor Sarah Bekessy, Ecology, RMIT University
  • Sarah Callahan, Gender Studies, Swinburne University
  • Dr Sarah Casey, Communication, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Sarah Gurr, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Sarah Holcombe, Anthropology, University of Queensland
  • Sarah Jane Jones, Communications, University of Technology Sydney
  • Professor Sarah Larkins, Health, James Cook University
  • Dr Sarah MacLean, Sociology, La Trobe University
  • Professor Sarah Maddison, Politics, University of Melbourne
  • Sarah McColl-Gausden, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Sarah McCook, Gender Studies, RMIT University
  • Dr Sarah Milne, Human Geography, Australian National University
  • Dr Sarah Pinto, History, Deakin University
  • Sarah Robertson, Geography, RMIT University
  • Dr Sarah Young, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sascha Fuller, Anthropology, University of Newcastle
  • Scheherazade Bloul, Politics, Deakin University
  • Scott Lyon, Communications, Swinburne University
  • Dr Scott Webster, Cultural Studies, Sydney University
  • Dr Seán Kerins, Politics, Australian National University
  • Dr Sean Lowry, Art, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sebastian Cordoba, Social Work, RMIT University
  • Dr Serene Ho, Land Administration, RMIT University
  • Sertan Saral, Gender Studies, University of Sydney
  • Shaez Mortimer, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Shakira Hussein, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Shannon Woodcock, Indigenous Education, RMIT University
  • Dr Sharon Andrews, Public Policy, RMIT University
  • Dr Sharon Cooper, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Sharon Reid, Environmental Science, Federation University
  • Sharon Simon, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Shaunagh O’Sullivan, Mental Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Shayne beaver, Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Associate Professor Shelley Marshall, Law, RMIT University
  • Shelly McGrath, Indigenous Studies, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Sherridan Emery, Education, University of Tasmania
  • Shirley Clifton, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Sianan Healy, History, La Trobe University
  • Associate Professor Sigi Jottkandt, English, University of NSW
  • Professor Simon Batterbury, Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Simon Christie, Linguistics, University of Melbourne
  • Simona Castricum, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Simone Louwhoff, Conservation, Federation University
  • Dr Simone Schmidt, Mental Health, University of Melbourne
  • Simone Sherriff, Public Health, University of Sydney
  • Siobhán Costigan, Communications, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Siobhan Irving, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Dr Siobhan McDonnell, Law, Australian National University
  • Siri Hayes, Fine Art, Monash university
  • Dr Sky Croeser, Internet Studies, Curtin University
  • Somaieh Ebrahimi, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Sonia Hines, Public Health, Flinders University
  • Sonia Qadir, Law, University of NSW
  • Soon-Tzu Speechley, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sophia Imran, Professional Studies, University of Southern Queensland
  • Sophie Hindes, Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sophie Hollitt, Physics, University of Adelaide
  • Sophie Langley, Creative Arts, RMIT University
  • Sophie Pezzutto, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Dr Sophie Rudolph, Education, University of Melbourne
  • Sophie Russell, Law, University of Technology Sydney
  • Sophie Smit, Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
  • Sophie-May Kerr, Geography, University of Wollongong
  • Soraya Zwahlen, Biology, Australian National University
  • Dr Stefan Lie, Design, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Stefanie Plage, Sociology, University of Queensland
  • Stella Marr, Archivist, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Stephanie Lavau, Sociology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Stephanie Lusby, Anthropology, La Trobe University
  • Dr Stephen Atkinson, Art, University of SA
  • Dr Stephen Bell, Social Sciences, University of NSW
  • Dr Stephen Dann, Marketing, Australian National University
  • Professor Stephen Muecke, Cultural Studies, Flinders University
  • Dr Steven Geroe, Law, La Trobe University
  • Steven Kickbusch, Education, Queensland University of Technology
  • Stevie Howson, Law, University of Wollongong
  • Stuart Geddes, Communications, RMIT University
  • Professor Stuart Parsons, Biologist, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Stuart Phinn, Geography, University of Queensland
  • Sudha Soma, Business, University of Southern Queensland
  • Professor Sue Jackson, Geography, Griffith University
  • Dr Sue Meares, Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Professor Sue O’Connor, Archaeology, Australian National University
  • Professor Sujatha Fernandes, Sociology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Susan Clarke, Health, University of Sydney
  • Dr Susan Olney, Public Policy, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Susan Potter, Film Studies, University of Sydney
  • Dr Susanne Gannon, Education, Western Sydney University
  • Associate Professor Susie Moloney, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Suzannah Henty, Art History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Suzanne Macqueen, Education, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Suzy Killmister, Philosophy, Monash university
  • Taiba Khelwaty, Education, Flinders University
  • Dr Tal Fitzpatrick, Visual Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Talei Mangioni, Pacific Studies, Australian National University
  • Tallace Bissett, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Dr Tamara Borovica, Social Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Tania Canas, Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Tanja Dreher, Media, University of NSW
  • Tanya Eccleston, Fine Art, RMIT University
  • Dr Tanya King, Anthropology, Deakin University
  • Tasnim Sammak, Education, Monash University
  • Tayhla Ryder, Anthropology, Macquarie University
  • Taylah Gray, Law, University of Newcastle
  • Taylor Hardwick, Media, Swinburne University
  • Professor Ted Goranson, Information Science, Griffith University
  • Teresa Capetola, Health Promotion, Deakin university
  • Terri Ann Quan Sing, Literary Studies, La Trobe University
  • Dr Terry Leahy, Sociology, University of Newcastle
  • Tessa Toumbourou, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Thalia Anthony, Law, University of Technology Sydney
  • Thao Nguyen, Art History, RMIT University
  • Dr Thao Phan, Media Studies, Deakin University
  • Associate Professor Theresa Petray, Sociology, James Cook University
  • Dr Thomas Baudinette, International Studies, Macquarie University
  • Thomas Moore, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Dr Thomas Mullaney, Ecology, University of NSW
  • Dr Thomas Naderer, Biochemistry, Monash University
  • Thomas Norman, Public Health, La Trobe University
  • Professor Thomas Reuter, Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Tianna Killoran, History, James Cook University
  • Tierney Marey, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, University of NSW
  • Tim Calabria, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Tim Curran, Ecology, Lincoln University
  • Dr Tim Doherty, Ecology, University of Sydney
  • Dr Tim Werner, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Timo Rissanen, Fashion, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Timothy Jones, History, La Trobe University
  • Tina Grandinetti, Urban Studies, RMIT University
  • Tinonee Pym, Communications, Swinburne University
  • Dr Toby Fitch, Creative Writing, University of Sydney
  • Dr Toby Freeman, Public Health, Flinders University
  • Dr Toby Reed, Architecture, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Tom Heenan, Australian Studies, Monash University
  • Dr Tom Roberts, Geography, UNSW Canberra
  • Professor Tony Bennett, Cultural Studies, Western Sydney University
  • Emeritus Professor Tony Dalton, Urban Policy, RMIT University
  • Tony Williams, History, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Tooran Alizadeh, Urbanism, University of Sydney
  • Dr Trent Brown, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Tresa LeClerc, Communications, RMIT University
  • Professor Trevor Lithgow, Microbiology, Monash University
  • Dr Trevor Mccandless, Education, Deakin University
  • Dr Tristan Duncan, Public Health, La Trobe University
  • Tristan Ryan, Heritage, University of Sydney
  • Tyler King, Environmental Science, Deakin University
  • Tyler Riordan, Tourism, University of Queensland
  • Dr Tyne Daile Sumner, Literature, University of Melbourne
  • Una Stone, Criminology, RMIT University
  • Professor Valerie Harwood, Education, University of Sydney
  • Professor Vanessa Lemm, Philosophy, Flinders University
  • Vicki Holliday, Health, University of Newcastle
  • Associate Professor Vicki McKenzie, Educational Psychology, University of Melbourne
  • Vickie Zhang, Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Victoria Mason, Political Science, Murdoch University
  • Dr Victoria Stead, Anthropology, Deakin University
  • Dr Victoria Tedeschi, Literary Studies, Deakin University
  • Dr Vince Polito, Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
  • Professor Wanning Sun, Media, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Wendy Bunston, Social Work, La Trobe University
  • Associate Professor Wendy Steele, Urban Planning, RMIT University
  • Associate Professor Wendy Wright, Conservation, Federation University
  • Yasaman Samie, Fashion, RMIT University
  • Dr Yasmine Musharbash, Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Adjunct Professor Yoland Wadsworth, Sociology, RMIT University
  • Dr Yung En Chee, Ecology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Yuri Cath, Philosophy, La Trobe University
  • Professor Yves De Deene, Biomedical Engineering, Macquarie University
  • Dr Yves Rees, History, La Trobe University
  • Dr Zoe Dzunko, Writing, RMIT University
  • Professor Zoë Laidlaw, History, University of Melbourne
  • Zoe Teh, Mental Health, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Zoe Thomas, English, La Trobe University
  • Dr Zora Simic, History, University of NSW
  • Dr Zukeyka Zevallos, Sociology, Swinburne University

ref. An open letter from 1,200 Australian academics on the Djab Wurrung trees – https://theconversation.com/an-open-letter-from-1-200-australian-academics-on-the-djab-wurrung-trees-149147

Australia may miss out on several COVID vaccines if it can’t make mRNA ones locally

Australia may miss out on several COVID vaccines if it cant make mRNA ones locally

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Archa Fox, Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow, University of Western Australia

The Australian government is in talks with pharmaceutical company Pfizer about potentially supplying its COVID-19 vaccine. The company has also secured preliminary clearance to apply for a type of fast-tracked regulatory approval for this vaccine.

But even if clinical trials showed this vaccine was safe and effective, Australia couldn’t make enough doses. We just don’t have the manufacturing capacity or technology in place.

So, has Australia missed a trick in not tooling up for these mRNA vaccines?

What are mRNA vaccines?

mRNA vaccines are coated molecules of mRNA, similar to DNA, that carry the instructions for making a viral protein.

After injection into muscle, the mRNA is taken up by cells. Ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, read the mRNA instructions and make the viral protein. These new proteins are exported from cells and the rest of the immunisation process is identical to other vaccines: our immune system mounts a response by recognising the proteins as foreign and developing antibodies against them.

Infographic showing how mRNA vaccines work
mRNA vaccines work by delivering instructions to cells to make viral proteins. The body then makes these proteins, and the immune system recognises them and mounts an immune response. Created with BioRender.com, Author provided

mRNA vaccines have several advantages. Their production process is almost identical for any possible mRNA. This means mRNA vaccines can be rapidly designed for new viruses or strains. This speed of design is why the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are current frontrunners, and will probably be the first to get approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

mRNA vaccines can be potentially quicker and cleaner to make than other vaccines. Unlike other types of vaccines made in living cells such as chicken eggs or genetically modified cell cultures, mRNA molecules can be made in an apparatus called a bioreactor. Some mRNA vaccines, such as Imperial College London’s vaccine now undergoing testing, are even self-replicating. This means the mRNA can copy itself inside our cells, so protein production lasts longer and, potentially, fewer doses are needed.

However, mRNA vaccines also have some disadvantages. As a new technology, no mRNA vaccine has ever been approved for clinical use. Unlike other vaccines, we do not have years of data on the safety of this type of vaccine to reassure the public.

They also need to be stored at very low temperatures. For example, Moderna’s needs to be kept at -20℃ and Pfizer’s at -70℃. At normal refrigerator temperatures of 2-8℃, they tend to last just a day or two. This means distribution may be difficult, especially in the developing world.

And crucially, most countries — including Australia — don’t have the mRNA manufacturing capability needed to make these vaccines at the required scale. So while the production of mRNA is cleaner, it may also be slowed by supply chain issues.

Which mRNA vaccines are the frontrunners?

There are six mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials:

  • mRNA-1273 (Moderna, US) and BNT162 (Pfizer/BioNTech, Germany), both in phase 3 trials

  • CvnCoV (CureVac, Germany), phase 2

  • LUNAR-COV19 (Arcturus/Duke-NUS, Singapore), phase 1-2

  • COVAC1 (Imperial College, UK) and Covidvax (People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences/Walvax Biotech, China), both in phase 1.

The Moderna and CureVac candidates are both part of the COVAX initiative, a World Health Organisation-sponsored drive to boost vaccine research and give member countries a wider range of potential candidates.


Read more: Australia’s just signed up for a shot at 9 COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s what to expect


As a COVAX member, Australia will have access to buy and distribute either of these vaccines if successful in clinical trials, and could also license the technology to make the vaccines domestically.

But Australia does not currently have the capacity to manufacture clinical-grade mRNA vaccines. Melbourne-headquartered global biotech firm CSL can make protein-based vaccines, and has expanded its capacity to include DNA/viral vaccines, but not mRNA.

CSIRO has facilities for making clinical-grade proteins for phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, but not vaccine-grade mRNA, and not at the scale needed for clinical trials, let alone for immunising the entire population.

Concerns raised

Australian scientists recently raised concerns about the lack of capacity for mRNA vaccine production.

In August, federal science and technology minister Karen Andrews, called on Australian businesses to come forward if they can help with vaccine production and distribution.

It is not publicly known whether any company responded indicating it could make mRNA vaccines.

With the federal government prepared to invest A$330 million in research for COVID vaccines and treatment, and mRNA vaccines clearly leading the global race, it’s possible some Australian biotech firms could pivot to mRNA production.

The CSL global product pipeline includes an mRNA vaccine against the flu in pre-clinical development. But CSL has issued no public statement about its capacity for Australian production of clinical-grade mRNA vaccines if this, or one of the COVID-19 mRNA candidate vaccines, requires a local supply. CSL has not declared any desire to establish mRNA manufacturing in Australia at this time.

So what should Australia do?

Australia’s first option will be to buy doses from overseas. But despite the COVAX deal it may still be at the end of a long queue, given the hundreds of millions of doses of Pfizer mRNA vaccine already pre-purchased by the United States, Japan and the European Union, and similar deals for these and other countries in negotiation with Moderna.

Compare this with Germany, where a planned rollout of the Pfizer vaccine to the elderly will start 24 hours after emergency approval, potentially as early as this month.

With the dose costing US$20-40 per person, even if we can secure doses, it could cost up to A$1 billion to immunise the Australian population if we buy the vaccine.

The second option is to to set up production of mRNA vaccines here, potentially led by a biotech firm with approval to make clinical-grade therapeutics. As a rough estimate, we calculate it could cost as little as A$100 million to make sufficient vaccine domestically. But it will mean a significant lag time, perhaps 12 months, to set up the infrastructure and train staff.

The lack of capacity to make mRNA is both a threat and an opportunity for the Australian biotechnology sector. Given the speed at which this technology has been applied to COVID-19, it would be useful to have this production capacity in Australia, so we can quickly respond to future pandemics.

Beyond vaccines, mRNA could be used for other promising therapies for cancer and other genetic diseases.

There is also the opportunity for creative innovation in this area. Tesla used its robotics capacity to create an mRNA synthesis platform for German biotech firm CureVac.

With investment by the federal government and willingness from the private sector, Australia could be part of this innovation wave. This technology would be useful for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, future pandemics, and future medicines more broadly.


The author thanks the following researchers for contributions that helped inform this article: Damian Purcell, Peter Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne; Colin Pouton, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Thomas Preiss, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU; Pall Thordarson, UNSW; and Nigel McMillan, Griffith University.

ref. Australia may miss out on several COVID vaccines if it can’t make mRNA ones locally – https://theconversation.com/australia-may-miss-out-on-several-covid-vaccines-if-it-cant-make-mrna-ones-locally-148996

Good news from the River Murray: these 2 fish species have bounced back from the Millennium Drought in record numbers

Good news from the River Murray: these 2 fish species have bounced back from the Millennium Drought in record numbers

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Brenton Zampatti, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO

This year marks a decade since the end of the Millennium Drought, when flood waters reached the mouth of the River Murray in 2010. For 1,200 days prior, Australia’s most iconic river had ceased flowing to the sea, causing populations of fish and other aquatic animals to plummet.

In particular, native migratory fish, including congolli (Pseudaphritis urvilli) and pouched lamprey (Geotria australis), were severely impacted by barriers to migration — such as barrages and weirs — and a lack of river flow.

However, our research has shown some clever engineering and increasing volumes of water for the environment are helping congolli and pouched lamprey to bounce back in record numbers.

With native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin just a fraction of what they were before European colonisation, rebuilding populations will be a long process. But learning from successes like this along the way will aid in the journey toward a healthier river.

An adult female congolli
An adult female congolli. These fish will spend 3-4 years in the River Murray before returning to the ocean to spawn. Brenton Zampatti, Author provided

What happened to fish in the Millennium Drought?

From 2001 to 2009, south-eastern Australia experienced the most severe drought in recorded history.

Unprecedented low rainfall and water extraction for irrigation and human consumption reduced water flows in the lower Murray by around 70%. Water levels in the Lower Lakes at the terminus of the river system fell to more than one metre below sea level.

To prevent saltwater from the ocean mixing with critical storages of freshwater, tidal barrages (dam-like structures) were closed, and the River Murray was disconnected from the sea.


Read more: What California can learn from Australia’s 15-year millennium drought


This was a big problem for a number of migratory species, including pouched lamprey and congolli, which need to migrate between freshwater and saltwater to complete their lifecycles.

During the Millennium Drought, no lamprey were seen in the Lower Lakes and Coorong, while numbers of juvenile congolli declined. After more than three years of barrage closure, local populations were threatened with extinction.

But in late 2010, both species were saved by major flooding, when the Murray once again flowed to the sea, and abundances have continued to steadily improve over the past decade.

Several management initiatives were also critical in supporting recovery, even through the most recent drought. Notably, the installation of fish ladders and better water management. Fish ladders are water-filled channels with a series of steps that enable fish to swim around or over dams and weirs.

A fish ladder on the Murray Barrages. Fish swim through this structure to move from the estuary. into the freshwater lakes and River Murray. Without fish ladders, fish are seldom able to move past the barrages. Brenton Zampatti, Author provided

Supporting fish migrations

Native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin are estimated to be approximately 10% of those pre-European settlement. Barriers to fish movement and altered river flows are two principal causes of decline.

The Murray Barrages were constructed in the 1930s, without consideration of fish passage, and it was 70 years before the first fish ladder was constructed in 2003.


Read more: A good plan to help Darling River fish recover exists, so let’s get on with it


In 2020, there are now 11 fish ladders spread across the Murray Barrages, and our research has shown they effectively support vital migrations.

More fish ladders have been built on upstream weirs, together opening more than 2,000 kilometres of the River Murray to fish migration.

However, water must be available to operate the fish ladders, and this is where environmental water plays a role.

In 2009-10, approximately 120 gigalitres of environmental water were delivered across the Basin. By 2017-18, this volume was greater than 1,200 gigalitres and included substantial volumes across the Murray Barrages.


Read more: The Darling River is simply not supposed to dry out, even in drought


This increase has enabled the River Murray to continuously flow to the sea, restoring its natural characteristics, albeit at a significantly reduced volume.

What’s more, water for the environment has supported constant operation of the barrage fish ladders since 2010 — a huge win for lamprey and congolli.

The bounce back

From the lows of the Millennium Drought we have so far this year caught a record 101 individual pouched lamprey moving through the barrage fish ladders and proceeding upstream. This is up from last year’s catch of 61 fish.

Pouched lamprey
Pouched lamprey has been found in record numbers. Brenton Zampatti, Author provided

Congolli populuations are also booming. From 2007 to 2010, we sampled a combined total of just over 1,000 congolli. Compare this to the summer of 2014-15, when we sampled more than 200,000 passing through the fishways.

Congolli is now one of the most abundant fish in the Coorong and upstream of the barrages in the Lower Lakes.

What the rest of the basin can learn from this

Fish ladders and environmental water have been successful in supporting fish migration at the Murray Barrages, yet across the Murray-Darling Basin, thousands of barriers remain and more are being considered, particularly in the northern Basin.

These barriers can impede the movements of fish that migrate wholly within freshwater, such as golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) and the threatened silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus). This includes the spawning migrations of adults and downstream dispersal of juveniles.

Across the Murray-Darling Basin, fish populations are just 10% of what they were before colonisation. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Mitigating the impacts of existing and new structures on the movement of fish is crucial to restoring native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin.

To help restore migratory fish throughout the basin, there must be greater understanding of the movement requirements of all fish life stages, the construction of effective fish ladders, and river flows must be sufficient to facilitate downstream movement, including of eggs and larval fish. The removal of barriers may also be a feasible option.

In any case, after 15 years of experience in the lower River Murray we’ve learnt protecting migratory fish is best achieved when researchers, the community, water managers and river operators collaborate closely. Such partnerships are the bedrock to establishing a healthier river.


Read more: Last summer’s fish carnage sparked public outrage. Here’s what has happened since


ref. Good news from the River Murray: these 2 fish species have bounced back from the Millennium Drought in record numbers – https://theconversation.com/good-news-from-the-river-murray-these-2-fish-species-have-bounced-back-from-the-millennium-drought-in-record-numbers-148433

Swings, signs and surprises: what to watch for as the US presidential election unfolds

Swings, signs and surprises: what to watch for as the US presidential election unfolds

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Peter S. Field, Head of Humanities and Creative Arts and Associate Professor of American History, University of Canterbury

Just about every pollster and pundit in the United States predicts Joe Biden will prevail in the popular vote on November 3. Current polling puts the Democrat candidate somewhere between seven and eight points ahead.

For context, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2% in 2016. If the polls are accurate, there is next to no chance that Donald Trump can win in 2020. He would need to close the gap to within 5%, likely under 4%.

The role of the Electoral College is crucial, however. George W. Bush’s victory in 2000 and Trump’s in 2016 demonstrated a central fact of American presidential elections: they are indirect. The popular vote does not determine the outcome.

Al Gore and Hillary Clinton know this stark political truth all too well. Despite outpolling their opponents, neither won the presidency. To become president, a candidate must garner a majority of electoral college votes, the total of which is equal to the full membership of the House and Senate. In 2020 the magic number is 270.

So, could there be a second upset? What might we watch to get an early clue of the outcome?

It’s Biden’s to lose

Firstly, the Republicans would have to close strongly. Trump has narrowed the gap in the most recent polling cycles. And he has barnstormed the battleground states until the last moment.

But in the COVID age, voting by mail may have changed the dynamic significantly. A record number of Americans have already voted, and nothing anyone can do will alter those votes cast.

Postal worker with election ballots

Early voting: a US postal worker sorts ballots ahead of the election day deadline. GettyImages

The Trump-Pence ticket claims to have made inroads into Black and Hispanic voting blocs. The Republicans could score significant gains with males, too. Ironically, they could close the popular vote gap by polling better in California, New Jersey and New York but still accrue no advantage. Gaining minority support in blue states offers no improvement to the Republican electoral map.

By contrast, pollsters predict Biden winning the Electoral College vote along with a decisive majority of the popular vote.

Presumably he will win the states Clinton won in 2016. Beyond that he only has to flip (or hold, with 2016 being the outlier) the “blue wall” of Midwestern states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Biden is from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Unlike Clinton, he has campaigned heavily in these states.

Joe Biden at a rally
Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden at a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh near the end of the campaign. AAP

The states to watch

For all of us watching halfway across the world, look out for these early indicators of an upset — if one is in the offing.

Florida: Trump must win here, Texas and the rest of the South. Florida will be an early indicator. If early returns show Trump well ahead, if he’s polling well with Latinos and African Americans, if returns in Miami-Dade County are below predictions — then the Republicans prevail in the Sunshine State. A Trump re-election becomes possible, if still unlikely.

North Carolina (and Georgia): Trump must win the South. If early returns have Trump clearly ahead in Florida, then it’s very likely that he carries North Carolina and holds the South. Bonus: the senate race between the popular Democrat Cal Cunningham and incumbent Thom Tillis might be suggestive. If Tillis is winning handily, it’s likely Trump is stronger than pollsters had predicted. A Democratic Senate becomes less likely.

Pennsylvania: Biden is from Pennsylvania and the Democrats have hugely outspent Trump in the Keystone State (85% of more than US$700 million spent on TV ads has gone to Pennsylvania broadcasters and to those in the other big five swing states).

The Democrats will lose many of the rural counties, so they must poll well in Philadelphia, its suburbs and in Pittsburgh. Early returns from Philadelphia must be overwhelmingly Democratic. If the Democratic majority is less than expected or fewer turn up to vote, then Pennsylvania is very much in play.

Biden may have upset some voters for his comments in the final presidential debate about opposing fracking or drilling for oil on federal land. The oil industry remains a key economic factor in Pennsylvania politics.

Michigan and Minnesota: Here the down-ticket Michigan race might trump the presidential returns. A key early indicator would be the battle for the senate between Gary Peters and the Republican John James. The latter is popular but Peters has consistently polled at least five points ahead of his opponent.

If that race is tight, if James is close, then Michigan would be in play for Trump. Popular sentiment against COVID lockdowns and protests over the police killing of George Floyd might be greater than people were willing to confess to pollsters, with far-reaching implications for the returns on the night. A similar dynamic could be seen in Minnesota.

Donald Trump in front of crowd
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in the swing state of Michigan in the final days of campaigning. AAP

A November surprise?

It is entirely possible that Biden prevails easily, and the Republicans lose North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona and Pennsylvania. Trump goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It is also possible the election proves far tighter than the pundits would have it. All eyes would likely be on Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes. If that’s the case, then looking for early indicators was a fool’s errand. It will be at least four days until we have an idea of the final tally in Pennsylvania, with its disputed postal ballot deadline.

Hang on to your seats. If Trump pulls off another astonishing, deeply implausible upset it might be time to recall the battle of Yorktown and a tale as old as the American republic.

On October 19 1781, Lord Charles Cornwallis, Knight Companion of The Most Noble Order of the Garter, surrendered to George Washington and the American Continental Army. Defeated yet defiant, Cornwallis ordered the Redcoat band to accompany proceedings with the tune “The World Turned Upside Down”. If Trump wins Florida, you’ll know to cue up the old jig.

ref. Swings, signs and surprises: what to watch for as the US presidential election unfolds – https://theconversation.com/swings-signs-and-surprises-what-to-watch-for-as-the-us-presidential-election-unfolds-149272

Election day is finally here in the US. Here’s what to expect

Election day is finally here in the US. Heres what to expect

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By John Hart, Member of the Emeritus Faculty, Australian National University

With an election taking place in the midst of a pandemic and an incumbent president committed to undermining the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral process, voting day in the US is likely to be very different this year.

The most obvious difference is many Americans won’t actually be going to the polls because more than half of all voters have already cast their ballots, either by early in-person voting or mail-in voting.

How many people voted by mail?

According to the US Elections Project, some 93 million Americans have already voted this year, more than 67% of the total votes cast in 2016.

And, notwithstanding President Donald Trump’s continual attempts to denigrate voting by mail, 63.5% of those early votes have been mail-in ballots.

Over 91 million mail-in votes have been requested in total this year and, as of the end of last weekend, almost 32 million were still yet to be returned

This will undoubtedly delay the vote count in many states immediately after the election — meaning we may not have a clear winner today.

Joe Biden speaks at an event.
If Biden ends up winning by a large margin on election night, the uncertainty will abate. AP/Andrew Harnik

Arrangements for processing and counting mail-in votes differ from state to state, as does the length of time after November 3 that mail-in votes can be received. The US Supreme Court has complicated matters by supporting a post-election day extension in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, despite Republican attempts to block this. However, the court has denied any extra time for Wisconsin voters.

There are also massive problems with the capacity of the US Postal Service to deliver mail-in votes on time, due in no small part to Trump’s refusal to provide it with a bailout earlier this year. In August, he even claimed he was opposed to USPS funding increases because he didn’t want states to make it easier for Americans to vote by mail.

Because of the contentiousness of mail-in voting, which Trump claims without evidence will lead to widespread voter fraud, it will not be surprising if there are more lawsuits after the election over late vote counting. That, too, could delay the results even further.


Read more: US election: six swing states likely to decide who is the next president


When would the Supreme Court get involved?

The Supreme Court has already been involved in this year’s election over deadlines for receipt of mail-in votes.

It is difficult to anticipate what other issues might reach the court by election day, but the Center for Public Integrity has identified hundreds of court cases across the US related to voter identification laws, signatures on mail-in ballots, felony disenfranchisement and a host of other issues designed to restrict and suppress voting.

Trump’s most recent Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, reinforces its conservative majority. There has been much debate over whether she should recuse herself from any case that involves Trump’s re-election, but, so far, she has refused to answer that question.

There could be legal challenges to any recounts, particularly in close battleground states, but it is unlikely there will be a repeat of anything like the court’s intervention in the 2000 presidential contest. Democrats now know what they need to do to sustain a constitutionally acceptable recount of votes.

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone.
Trump has made an appeal for 50,000 volunteers to be present at polling locations to ‘monitor’ the vote. Morry Gash/AP

Why do exit polls matter?

The other thing to watch on election day are the exit polls. With fewer people voting in person, the exit polls could be less reliable than in normal years.

Why does this matter? Exit polls are a vital ingredient in the mix of data that television networks use to project the winner in each state and, ultimately, the winner of the election.

Edison Research, which conducts exit polling for the major television networks, has already adapted its polling techniques] to accommodate the record numbers of early voters.

But with fewer voters exiting the polls, the networks will still need to be more cautious than usual when projecting the winner — especially if the contest is close and turns on the outcome in a handful of states.

Could there be violence?

Perhaps the most worrisome prospect is the spectre of violence on election day.

Trump has made an appeal for 50,000 volunteers to be present at polling locations to “monitor” the vote, an unsavoury practice that has long been associated with voter intimidation and suppression in the US.

For various complex reasons, a US District Court judge ruled in 2018 that a previous agreement between the two major parties not to intimidate or suppress minority voters could expire, which means the gloves are off this year.

According to a report in The Washington Post, Trump’s call for volunteers has prompted an enthusiastic response from neo-Nazis and right-wing activists, leading many state election and law enforcement officials to prepare for voter intimidation, arrests and even violence on election day.

When will we know who won?

The unique characteristics of this year’s presidential election mean the outcome may still be uncertain on the evening of November 3 (early afternoon on November 4 in Australia). It is also possible it could take two or three days before the result is known in the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump won the presidency in 2016 by less than 80,000 votes in those three states.

It is also possible it could take two or three days before the result is known in the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. TRACIE VAN AUKEN.EPA

Democratic challenger Joe Biden is ahead in the polls in each of these states and, if he wins them, it is highly unlikely Trump will reach the 270 electoral votes needed to secure re-election.

If Biden ends up winning by a large margin on election night, the uncertainty will abate, as will the likelihood of any further legal challenges by Trump. But the prospect of this being apparent on election night is highly doubtful and the suspense of the 2020 presidential election may well continue for a few days more.


Read more: Who exactly is Trump’s ‘base’? Why white, working-class voters could be key to the US election


ref. Election day is finally here in the US. Here’s what to expect – https://theconversation.com/election-day-is-finally-here-in-the-us-heres-what-to-expect-148998

5 ways the Reserve bank is going to bat for Australia like never before

5 ways the Reserve bank is going to bat for Australia like never before

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The most important of the five measures the Reserve Bank announced on Tuesday is the one that won’t whirr into place for a very long time.

Others start immediately. On Thursday the bank will wade into the market and start buying up bonds issued by Australian governments.

It’ll buy Commonwealth government bonds with five to seven years left to run on Mondays, Commonwealth bonds with seven to ten years left to run on Thursdays, and bonds issued by state governments on Wednesdays.

It’ll spend about A$5 billion a week, every week for six months until it has unloaded $100 billion.

1. $5 billion per week, week in, week out

As before, when it did this on a more limited scale, it won’t be buying the bonds from the governments that issued them, but from third parties such as super funds and investment managers.

What’s (very) different is that it will be forcing a particular sum of money into their hands.

Its earlier bond buying program (which will continue) spent only as much as was needed to achieve an interest rate target.

The new program will spend a particular sum of created money (the Reserve Bank creates it out of nothing) every week for six months, whatever happens to rates.


Read more: The government has just sold $15 billion of 31-year bonds. But what actually is a bond?


It’ll be true “quantitative easing”, in that it’s the quantity of money that will matter, not the price.

Once in the hands of investors who would really rather own bonds, they’ll have to do something with it, such as investing in a business that employs people. That’s the theory.

As well, with bonds harder to find in Australia, fewer foreigners will move money here to buy them propping up the Australian dollar. That should allow the Australian dollar to fall, making local businesses more competitive against those from overseas. That’s the other part of the theory.

Governor Lowe addresses the media
On Tuesday, RBA Governor Philip Lowe ditched the fuzziness. LOUIE DOUVIS/AAP

2. Cash rate near zero

And that’s just one of five measures Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe announced this afternoon.

The once-watched cash rate which is the interest rate on unsecured overnight loans between banks, was cut to 0.25% in March amid hope that 0.25% was so low it wouldn’t need to be cut further.

Within days the actual cash rate at which banks transact business had fallen a good deal lower because, at 0.25%, many more of them wanted to lend than borrow. When it settled at about 0.14% the Reserve Bank didn’t bother to intervene to push it back up.


Read more: More than a rate cut: behind the Reserve Bank’s three point plan


The new target of 0.10% will give banks almost no return for lending to each other and make borrowing from each other almost costless.

The separate rate for cash on deposit with the Reserve Bank will fall from 0.10% to as good as zero, 0.01%

If the cuts were passed on in full to bank customers they would cut the standard variable mortgage rate from around 3.2% to 3%. The rate on new mortgages would slide from 2.7% to 2.5%.

The rates on customer’s deposits, already near zero, would fall further.

3. Bond rate to 0.10%

The Reserve Bank had been targeting a three-year bond rate of 0.25%, buying as many bonds as were needed to keep it there. It’ll cut that target to 0.10% in line with its cut in the cash rate, buying as many bonds as are needed to get and keep the rate at 0.10%.

Three-year bonds are used to fund fixed three-year mortgages and personal and business loans. All will become even cheaper.

This bond-buying program, which will target the rate, is completely separate from, and additional to, the $5 billion per week the bank will spend buying longer-term bonds week in, week out.

4. Near-free loans to banks

Since March the government has been advancing money to private banks for three years for just 0.25%.

The more they expand their lending to business (and especially to small and medium sized business) the more it will it will advance them in accordance with a formula.

The formula won’t change but the rate will. From Thursday new loans under the program will be offered to banks for just 0.10%.

5. A commitment with teeth

Until now, the bank has been fuzzy about the circumstances in which it will eventually change course and start pushing rates back up.

Its commitment was weaker than it sounded

the board will not increase the cash rate target until progress is being made towards full employment and it is confident that inflation will be sustainably within the 2–3 per cent target band

Whether or not “progress is being made” is subjective.

The commitment allowed the bank to assert that progress was being made and reverse course at its convenience.

Whether or not the bank was “confident” that inflation would be sustainably within its target band was even more subjective.

One word, big change

On Tuesday, Governor Philip Lowe ditched the fuzziness and replaced it with something measurable

The board will not increase the cash rate until “actual inflation” is sustainably within the 2% to 3% target range.

“For this to occur, wages growth will have to be materially higher than it is currently. This will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market.”

So prepared is the bank to bat for Australia that it won’t stop until there’s a “tight labour market”. And it has used the word “actual”.

No longer will the bank need to merely see “progress towards” an inflation rate of 2% to 3%. It will have to be faced with an “actual” inflation rate of 2% to 3%.

Low rates for a long, long time

Australia’s inflation rate hasn’t been sustainably between 2% and 3% for more than half a decade, and it is likely to be at least that long again until it gets back there, if ever.

Governor Lowe said the bank’s forecasts, to be published this Friday, will put the inflation rate at 1%. It’ll put wage growth at the lowest on record, less than 2%.

By tying the future of the cash rate to an actual inflation rate rather than a feeling about the inflation rate, Governor Lowe is tying the bank to a cash rate of close to zero for as far anyone can see.

It means that not only will it be as cheap as it has ever been to borrow (for a mortgage, a business, for anything) it means there’s no risk of that suddenly changing because the bank gets rush of blood to the head.

It’s about the future, but it matters now.

ref. 5 ways the Reserve bank is going to bat for Australia like never before – https://theconversation.com/5-ways-the-reserve-bank-is-going-to-bat-for-australia-like-never-before-149311

As US E-day nears, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will

As US E-day nears, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will

ANALYSIS: By Jennifer S. Hunt, Australian National University

It has been billed as the most significant US election in generations, and with nearly 100 million votes already cast, it is well underway.

An estimated 50 million more votes are expected on the last day of in-person voting on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time), with mail-in ballots still making their way through the postal service, including from overseas and military voters.

It is not only the White House up for grabs, but all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100-seat Senate.

In addition, 11 gubernatorial (state governor) races, various state legislatures, and a plethora of local judges, sheriffs, school boards and supervisory roles are also on the ballot. A quick glance at a US ballot illustrates how America has more democratically elected positions per capita than any other country in the world.

A turbulent four years of Trump
This election will be one for the history books. The White House incumbent, impeached on abuse of power charges and litigating against Congressional oversight of potential financial conflicts of interest, has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

In the year following more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors confirming President Donald Trump would be indicted if not for the current immunity the Oval Office provides him, Trump has stepped up rhetoric that any election that he does not win is “rigged”.

Then came the “October surprise” from The New York Times that the president has at least US$400 million in personally guaranteed loans due over the next possible term and previously undisclosed Chinese bank accounts. This has brought the president’s priorities under intense scrutiny alongside a flailing economy and federal mismanagement of the covid pandemic response.

Citing these concerns, formal endorsements of Trump’s political opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, have come from unlikely places. Republican national security veterans, GOP governors and nonpartisan communities of scientists and physicians have endorsed Biden, some for the first time in the history of their organisations.

A group of 73 high-level former GOP US National security officials from administrations spanning Reagan to Bush Jr wrote in an open letter that Trump is “dangerously unfit to serve another term”, citing his undermining of the rule of law, failure to lead Americans through the pandemic, and damage to the US’s global reputation.

More than 780 prominent Republicans and Democrats, including former defence secretaries, ambassadors, and retired military brass, also decried Trump, writing that:

[…] thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us and our enemies no longer fear us.

A chorus of Trump’s own former administration officials have joined The Lincoln Project, Republican Voters against Trump, 43 for Biden (featuring members of the George W. Bush administration) and former staffers of late senator John McCain, to mount powerful testimonials targeting Trump’s base, independents and new voters.

The Biden camp has stressed a return to decency and cooperation, a United States of America. A popular ad encapsulates the message,

There is only one America. No Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains. Just this great land and all that’s possible on it with a fresh start. There is so much we can do if we choose to take on problems and not each other and choose a president who brings out our best.

Other “anyone but Trump” ads target voters who may have supported him in 2016 as a fiesty outsider, but have tired of the noise.

Ads, endorsements and of course polls are potentially useful indicators during the final week of voting. But what are some other trends that will likely impact electoral turnout and the results? Here are a few to look out for.

Millennial voter generation
Against the tight margins of the 2016 election in a handful of decisive states, a new generation of voters has emerged who may tip the balance of power. They drove a higher turnout in the 2018 midterm election and are not only voting but running and winning office. Enter the millennials.

The US is on the cusp of a generational shift. This is the first US presidential election in which the millennial generation is now the largest voting-age cohort, displacing the baby boomers who have held the title since the 1970s.

Younger millennials, who may have spent the previous presidential election in a high school walk out, or participated in the March for Our Lives for gun safety, are now eligible to vote.

Older millennials, who are approaching 40, grew up with high school shootings and are now watching their own young children do lockdown drills, rewarded with a candy if they remain quietly hidden in the toilet with their feet up to avoid detection.


Heartstopping PSA on school shootings released by Sandy Hook Promise.

Amid concern about growing economic inequality, the millennials will likely be the first generation to be less financially secure than their parents, and the most likely to compare themselves with international OECD peers who enjoy universal healthcare, gun control and better financial support during the pandemic.

None of these issues is well represented by the current administration, and so Trump’s approval rating hovers around 28 percent among that age group.

Trump has called climate change a Chinese conspiracy to undermine American manufacturing, pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, and is suing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

On these crucial issues, different informational diets between generations, political parties, and even families could drive very different voting patterns.

But the millennial vote could be decisive.

Yoong people's say
Young people will have a big say in the outcome of the 2020 election. Image: Josh Edelson/AAP/EPA

Disinformation – word of the year?
If “post-truth” was the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016, “disinformation” is in the running for 2020.

Disinformation – the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information in order to deceive – is a growing problem in democratic elections. It was a key theme in the Republican-chaired Senate Intelligence Committee report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

These reports documented key disinformation techniques, narratives and purpose. Akin to Russian “active measures”, disinformation is used to undermine authoritative sources of information by blurring the line between fact and faction.

The most popular narrative, according to this report, was the myth of “voter fraud”.

While the 2016 disinformation campaign centred on voter fraud, the 2020 version targets mail-in voting. These ballots, cast in the middle of covid-19, are at the heart of competing narratives about the pandemic itself.

In this election, there has been a catalogue of disinformation about covid-19. While scientists, physicians and public health authorities have repeatedly warned the public and officials to take action to protect public health, the Trump administration has generally downplayed its severity.

Calling it “just the flu”, Trump said the problem impacts “virtually nobody”, even after nearly a quarter of a million Americans died. Recent research has shown Trump himself is one of the largest superspreaders of


‘If I Can Get Better Anyone Can Get Better’: Trump On covid-19 Recovery. Video: NBC News

Some of that disinformation will affect how people cast their ballot. While 19 states have expanded mail-in ballot options as a result of the pandemic, others have made voting harder by closing voting places while not expanding alternate options.

Texas, for instance, refused to recognise covid-19 concerns as a valid reason for those under 65 to request a mail-in ballot, with South Carolina only recently reversing a similar restriction.

Disinformation about mail-in ballots is likely to feature in court challenges. Trump has insisted the results be known on election day, which would necessarily exclude mail-in ballots postmarked in time but not yet received through the mail, including those cast by overseas military voters.

He has repeatedly signalled that his appointees in the judicial system (which number in the hundreds) will help secure his win.

While it is unprecedented for a president to attack electoral integrity, state level actions are also important to consider.

Elections run at state, county level
Voting in the US is not easy to summarise. Devoid of democracy sausages and a non-partisan federal elections commission, elections are run at the state and county level, from voter rolls to polling locations and everything in between.

Each state is in charge of its own election, and there are nearly as many systems as there are states.

Five states, including Oregon, vote entirely by mail. Five other states vote entirely on machine, including Georgia, with no traditional paper audit trail.

Other state variations include the option of early in-person voting, whether voting places are open on a Sunday, how far in advance you must register to vote, and requirements for voter ID.

US state voting
Each US state has its own voting requirements, arrangements and ballots. Image: Juston Lane/AA/EPA

Each state’s ballots look different, with users selecting their choices via handmarked bubble sheets, hole punches or hanging chads, the latter made famous in the 2000 recount in Florida that delivered George W. Bush his first term.

One of the quirks of the US voting system is the electoral college. The college is essentially a distribution of electoral votes among the states according to population size, updated after every 10-year census.

In 2020, several large states are in the spotlight as toss-ups, including Texas, which carries a prize of 38 electoral votes in the race to 270. It will be one to watch on election day, with early voter turnout already surpassing its 2016 total.

Texas is also the site of one of the most blatant attempts at disenfranchisement, with the GOP failing in its attempt to stop more than 120,000 ballots already cast in one of its largest counties.

Until recently, states were not allowed to make changes to voting procedures without judicial oversight. Plans to close significant numbers of polling places in certain districts, for instance, had to go through pre-clearance processes.

However, these protections were dismantled by a US Supreme Court ruling in 2013. This year’s presidential election will be only the second without those protections, and voter disenfranchisement could result.

One key method of disenfranchisement could be mail-in ballots. In an interview in August, Trump said he planned to block funding for the US postal service to prevent increased voting by mail.

A Trump appointee to the head of the postal service in July recently oversaw the destruction and dismantling of 700 mail processing machines, leading to more delays.

Simple polls of voting intention do not capture voter disenfranchisement and intimidation.

Intimidation tactics have been increasing across several key states. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, official Republican party mailers warned voters their voting history is a matter of public record.

In New Mexico, the GOP sent mailers that read:

When the Democrats win the White House and you didn’t do your part to stop it, your neighbours will know. Voting is a matter of public record.

Experts warn of potential violence and rioting after the result. Growing polarisation, extremist groups such as QAnon threatening the use of force, and the availability of tactical weapons are all warning signs.

This year has seen more than 8 million more gun purchases than 2019, and scholars warn of increasing militia activity. Trump has publicly praised supporters who commit violence, including the Kenosha shooter.

International allies are also concerned. After Trump used armed guards to teargas peaceful protesters in Washington DC (which Australia watched live as its reporters were bashed on air), the Scottish Parliament voted to suspend exports of riot shields, tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States.

Australia recently updated its “do not travel” advisory to the US, citing civil unrest around the election.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, some of the trends may continue beyond Inauguration Day on January 21, 2021, affecting not just the US but its relationships with allies and adversaries alike.

Australia would do well to watch carefully and wait for the final results.

The Conversation
Dr Jennifer S. Hunt is a lecturer at the National Security College, Australian National University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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Defunding Regional Arts NSW won’t ‘make funding stretch further’ – it will only hurt artists and communities

Defunding Regional Arts NSW wont make funding stretch further – it will only hurt artists and communities

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Esther Anatolitis, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Art, RMIT University

In August, NSW government arts agency Create NSW held a consultation into regional arts funding. Their discussion paper noted the recent drought, bushfire, flood and COVID-19 crises would require “innovative thinking about how to make existing support go further”.

Last night, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed this “innovative thinking” will mean defunding Regional Arts NSW.

Their current A$455,000 annual grant will be redistributed among the organisations they exist to serve.

Findings of the consultation have yet to be released.

Funding off a low base

The unexpected announcement — made just days before Artstate, Regional Arts NSW’s annual state-wide conference — is the latest in a series of concerning developments in NSW arts funding.

This has included directing regional arts funding to favoured electorates, redirecting already-assessed funds to a preferred organisation, and allocating emergency COVID funding without transparency.

Arts funding has also been implicated in allegations of grant rorting. A NSW parliamentary inquiry questioned if Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a conflict of interest in regards to the $30 million infrastructure grant to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga.

The grant — valued at more than all grants to the state’s 18 other conservatories combined — was awarded after Berejiklian was lobbied by local representative Daryl Maguire, currently under an ICAC investigation.


Read more: Grattan on Friday: Gladys Berejiklian has governed well but failed an ethical test


NSW arts investment is among the lowest per capita in Australia: excluding large organisations, in 2017 NSW spent $18 per person on arts and culture, while Victoria spent $31 per person.

NSW was one of the slowest and lowest investors in COVID-19 response.

Only around $10 million of the state’s $59 million Arts & Cultural Funding Program in 2019-20 was directed to regional artists and organisations.

Decking around a gallery. A mountain rises in the background.
Regional arts organisations — like the Tweed River Art Gallery — receive only a fraction of the state’s cultural budget. AAP Image/James Shrimpton

The redistribution of Regional Arts NSW’s funding, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, is to “make declining levels of arts funding stretch further”.

At the expense of their capacity to work together on shared priorities, the 14 partner organisations will receive a boost of $28,000 per year.

Artists in regional NSW have recently spoken out about what’s at stake for their practice and their livelihoods.

Wiradjuri artist Michael Lyons of Sandhills Artefacts in Narrander told The Guardian more regional support is needed, “because I’m not selling to shops, I’m not selling to tourists”.

Regional artists just need some centre point where they can go and say, ‘Can you help me with this? What’s going on here?’

Dedicated support for these artists is needed now more than ever.

Supporting tourism by supporting the arts

With international borders closed and local economies struggling, creative communities will be key to regional economic recovery.

The recent Australia Council report into domestic arts tourism found those travelling for arts events are “more likely to stay longer and spend more”.

Regional NSW festivals include Cementa, in the small town of Kandos.

Speaking to The Australian, CEO of the Tourism Transport Forum Margy Osmond highlighted the potential impact of the arts on a post-pandemic revival.

[The arts] are probably the top-of-the-list reason why you get return visitors […] People often don’t clock the impact that the arts has on regional tourism and regional development

This defunding of Regional Arts NSW undermines the state’s capacity to strengthen regional creative communities and enterprise exactly when that’s needed most.

The shrinking role of service organisations

This decision sets a disturbing precedent for the state’s industry bodies.

Service organisations like Regional Arts NSW strengthen the capacity of artists and organisations.

Service organisations focus on statewide thinking to identify common needs, support common purposes and represent key issues to government and to the public. NSW was once nation-leading in recognising the importance of these organisations.

But as of 2020, Create NSW no longer has a specific funding program for sector service organisations.


Read more: State arts service organisations: effective, engaged but endangered


Writing NSW may not survive after losing their funding, and devolved funding programs — like the NSW Artists Grants, formerly administered by NAVA — have been taken in-house.

Devolving funding through service organisations provided artists support through the application process by expert arts staff. This support is especially crucial for regional artists.

In regional areas, an understanding of specific needs is vital to nurturing great work. Great work then supports regional community development and creative industry growth.

An audience cheers.
The National Young Writers Festival, as part of Newcastle’s This Is Not Art festival, brings together artists from around the country. NYWF

This decision also calls into question the NSW delivery of the Regional Arts Fund.

This fund is administered by Regional Arts Australia on behalf of the Australian government, and delivered by state-based regional arts peak bodies.

Without Regional Arts NSW to deliver the fund, there is no dedicated regional organisation with a statewide focus to carry out this important work.

Where to from here?

Devaluing regional industry service and sector development is a backwards step for NSW at a time of instability and uncertainty.

A great many questions will be asked this week and beyond, aiming to restore confidence in the NSW government’s understanding of regional culture and commitment to public integrity.

With the state’s regional arts community gathering in Wagga Wagga for Artstate, the minister will have the opportunity to respond to these questions in person.

ref. Defunding Regional Arts NSW won’t ‘make funding stretch further’ – it will only hurt artists and communities – https://theconversation.com/defunding-regional-arts-nsw-wont-make-funding-stretch-further-it-will-only-hurt-artists-and-communities-149354

Talk of scrapping NZ’s Human Rights Commission is a danger to democracy

Talk of scrapping NZs Human Rights Commission is a danger to democracy

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Claire Breen, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

A call to abolish New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission and dismiss it as a “hard left” body forgets the role both sides of politics played in establishing the organisation. And the call comes at a time when, overseas, democracy and the right to speak out on issues are under threat.

ACT leader David Seymour also accused the commission of being “irrelevant” and “dangerous” in his call for the government organisation to be scrapped.

His attack came after the Human Rights Commission called for the newly-elected Labour government to honour human rights and it set out 39 issues it wants politicians to adopt.

These include a right to a decent and affordable home, a living wage and an end to pay discrimination, more employment opportunities for disabled people and a national action plan against racism.

Politicians are asked to take account of the human rights promises made by successive governments. The commission also wants the growing partnership between the Crown and hapū and iwi to be advanced.

Democracy under threat

Overseas, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a worsening of democracy and human rights in 80 countries, according to research from the US-based Freedom House, an organisation devoted to the support and defence of democracy around the world.

The researchers say:

Governments have responded by engaging in abuses of power, silencing their critics, and weakening or shuttering important institutions, often undermining the very systems of accountability needed to protect public health.

The recent rapid decline is an acceleration of a longer trend of declining democracy and the freedoms that it protects. Sri Lanka and Cambodia have been identified as states where democracy was already struggling and where there were weak safeguards against abuses of power.

The governments of Egypt, Guatemala and Zimbabwe, among others, were reported as using the pandemic to engage in further abuses of power, to silence critics and to weaken or shut down institutions.

On a positive note, Aotearoa New Zealand featured favourably in the Freedom House report, saying the government had announced a range of measures to make sure the election could go ahead during the pandemic.


Read more: Can New Zealand’s most diverse ever cabinet improve representation of women and minorities in general?


But Aotearoa New Zealand is not immune from efforts to undermine human rights and democracy. David Seymour has made calls before to abolish the Human Rights Commission.

Following Seymour’s latest call, National’s Simon Bridges said the commission needed reform. He described some of the issues it raised, such as “fair pay and raising benefits and all of these other things”, as legitimate — but they “ain’t human rights”.

This type of thinking is reflected in the fact such rights are not protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The failure to include these rights makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for the commission (and the courts) to defend such rights.

But the right to adequate housing was enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. So too has the right to remuneration that ensures an existence worthy of human dignity, as has the right to social security.

The inclusion of such rights is largely due to the work of the first Labour government (1935–49), particularly then Prime Minister Peter Fraser. Aotearoa New Zealand accepted the UN declaration in December 1948.

A human rights framework

The origins of Aotearoa New Zealand’s own human rights framework begins in 1963 when the second National government (1960–72) tried, unsuccessfully, to pass a Bill of Rights Act. But it did pass the Race Relations Act in 1971.

This act prohibited racial discrimination and established the office of Race Relations Conciliator. It was the first time New Zealand legislation made reference to the specific mandate of human rights protection.

The third National government (1975–84) established the Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission Act 1977 prohibited a wide range of discrimination and the Human Rights Commission was tasked with investigating breaches of the Act.

The same government also accepted the rights to adequate housing, work that ensured a decent living and social security as legally binding obligations in 1978.

The prohibition on discrimination was widened in 1993 under the fourth National government (1990–99).

In 2001, the fifth Labour government (1999–2008) extended the powers of the Human Rights Commission. The commission’s focus changed from anti-discrimination to broader human rights issues.

Employment rights for people with disabilities were also part of a suite of disability rights accepted by that government in 2008.

As for the call to advance the growing partnership between the Crown and hapū and iwi, the third Labour government (1972–75) oversaw the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975, and the National Party did not object.

The fifth National government (2008–2017) achieved the highest number of Treaty of Waitangi settlements of any administration to date.

Cross party support

Clearly then, New Zealand’s commitment to human rights, and providing redress for breaches of Te Tiriti for that matter, is not – and has never been – grounded in a “left wing manifesto”, as David Seymour claims.

The strength of our democracy and commitment to human rights, including the right to free speech, means New Zealanders are free to agree or disagree with the Human Rights Commission’s call to action. We may also differ on what we understand actual human rights to be.


Read more: Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen


It’s one thing to engage in the merits of the debate about whether decent and affordable housing, a living wage, fair pay and adequate benefits should be regarded as human rights.

But it’s another thing to call for the abolition of an institution set up to promote respect for human rights and to ensure those rights are observed, as well as to make public statements on any human rights matter.

New Zealanders should be wary of any calls to abolish the Human Rights Commission. To do so, would be one step to towards diminished accountability on the part of our leaders and the silencing of government critics. As Freedom House reports, these are some of the tactics favoured by repressive regimes seeking to undermine democracy and human rights.

ref. Talk of scrapping NZ’s Human Rights Commission is a danger to democracy – https://theconversation.com/talk-of-scrapping-nzs-human-rights-commission-is-a-danger-to-democracy-149160

3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily. Can you sort real from fake?

3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily. Can you sort real from fake?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By T.J. Thomson, Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication & Media, Queensland University of Technology

Twitter over the weekend “tagged” as manipulated a video showing US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supposedly forgetting which state he’s in, while addressing a crowd. Biden’s “hello Minnesota” greeting contrasts with prominent signage reading “Tampa, Florida” and “Text FL to 30330”.

The Associated Press’s fact check confirmed the signs were added digitally and the original footage was indeed from a Minnesota rally. But by the time the misleading video was removed it had more than one million views, The Guardian reports.

If you use social media, the chances are you see (and forward) some of the more than 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video shared daily. When faced with such a glut of content, how can we know what’s real and what’s not?

While one part of the solution is an increased use of content verification tools, it’s equally important we all boost our digital media literacy. Ultimately, one of the best lines of defence — and the only one you can control — is you.

Seeing shouldn’t always be believing

Misinformation (when you accidentally share false content) and disinformation (when you intentionally share it) in any medium can erode trust in civil institutions such as news organisations, coalitions and social movements. However, fake photos and videos are often the most potent.

For those with a vested political interest, creating, sharing and/or editing false images can distract, confuse and manipulate viewers to sow discord and uncertainty (especially in already polarised environments). Posters and platforms can also make money from the sharing of fake, sensationalist content.

Only 11-25% of journalists globally use social media content verification tools, according to the International Centre for Journalists.


Read more: Facebook is tilting the political playing field more than ever, and it’s no accident


Could you spot a doctored image?

Consider this photo of Martin Luther King Jr.

This altered image clones part of the background over King Jr’s finger so it looks like he’s flipping off the camera. It has been shared as genuine on Twitter, Reddit and white supremacist websites.

In the original 1964 photo, King flashed the “V for victory” sign after learning the US Senate had passed the civil rights bill.

Beyond adding or removing elements, there’s a category of photo manipulation in which images are fused together.

Earlier this year, a photo of an armed man was photoshopped by Fox News, which overlaid the man onto other scenes without disclosing the edits, the Seattle Times reported.

Similarly, the image below was shared thousands of times on social media in January, during Australia’s Black Summer bushfires. The AFP’s fact check confirmed it’s not authentic and is actually a combination of several separate photos.

Fully and partially synthetic content

Online you’ll also find sophisticated “deepfake” videos showing (usually famous) people saying or doing things they never did. Less advanced versions can be created using apps such as Zao and Reface.

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created this fake video showing US President Richard Nixon reading lines from a speech crafted in case the 1969 moon landing failed. (Youtube)

Or, if you don’t want to use your photo for a profile picture, you can default to one of several websites offering hundreds of thousands of AI-generated, photorealistic images of people.

AI-generated faces.
These people don’t exist, they’re just images generated by artificial intelligence. Generated Photos, CC BY

Editing pixel values and the (not so) simple crop

Cropping can greatly alter the context of a photo, too.

We saw this in 2017, when a US government employee edited official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger, according to The Guardian. The staffer cropped out the empty space “where the crowd ended” for a set of pictures for Trump.

Views of the crowds at the inaugurations of former US President Barack Obama in 2009 (left) and President Donald Trump in 2017 (right). AP

What about edits that only alter pixel values such as colour, saturation or contrast?

One historical example illustrates the consequences of this. Time magazine’s 1994 cover of OJ Simpson considerably “darkened” Simpson in his police mugshot. This added fuel to a case already plagued by racial tension, to which the magazine responded:

No racial implication was intended, by Time or by the artist.

Tools for debunking digital fakery

For those of us who don’t want to be duped by visual mis/disinformation, there are tools available — although each comes with its own limitations (something we discussed in our recent paper).

Invisible digital watermarking has been proposed as a solution. However, it isn’t widespread and requires buy-in from both content publishers and distributors.

Reverse image search (such as Google’s) is often free and can be helpful for identifying earlier, potentially more authentic copies of images online. That said, it’s not foolproof because it:

  • relies on unedited copies of the media already being online
  • doesn’t search the entire web
  • doesn’t always allow filtering by publication time. Some reverse image search services such as TinEye support this function, but Google’s doesn’t.
  • returns only exact matches or near-matches, so it’s not thorough. For instance, editing an image and then flipping its orientation can fool Google into thinking it’s an entirely different one.

Read more: Instead of showing leadership, Twitter pays lip service to the dangers of deep fakes


Most reliable tools are sophisticated

Meanwhile, manual forensic detection methods for visual mis/disinformation focus mostly on edits visible to the naked eye, or rely on examining features that aren’t included in every image (such as shadows). They’re also time-consuming, expensive and need specialised expertise.

Still, you can access work in this field by visiting sites such as Snopes.com, which has a growing repository of “fauxtography”.

Computer vision and machine learning also offer relatively advanced detection capabilities for images and videos. But they too require technical expertise to operate and understand.

Moreover, improving them involves using large volumes of “training data”, but the image repositories used for this usually don’t contain the real-world images seen in the news.

If you use an image verification tool such as the REVEAL project’s image verification assistant, you might need an expert to help interpret the results.

The good news, however, is that before turning to any of the above tools, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to potentially figure out whether a photo or video on social media is fake. Think:

  • was it originally made for social media?
  • how widely and for how long was it circulated?
  • what responses did it receive?
  • who were the intended audiences?

Quite often, the logical conclusions drawn from the answers will be enough to weed out inauthentic visuals. Access the full list of questions, put together by Manchester Metropolitan University experts, here.

ref. 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily. Can you sort real from fake? – https://theconversation.com/3-2-billion-images-and-720-000-hours-of-video-are-shared-online-daily-can-you-sort-real-from-fake-148630

Medicinal cannabis users in Victoria could soon be allowed to drive with THC in their system. Is it safe?

Medicinal cannabis users in Victoria could soon be allowed to drive with THC in their system. Is it safe?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Amie Hayley, NHMRC Peter Doherty Biomedical Early Career Research Fellow and Senior Research Fellow, Swinburne University of Technology

Around 25,000 Australians currently use medicinal cannabis products. They may be prescribed to relieve symptoms and pain associated with certain chronic medical conditions, for chemotherapy-induced nausea, or during palliative care.

In Australia, it’s an offence for someone to drive if they’re using medicinal cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis). If they injure another person in a traffic accident, they may face criminal charges of driving while impaired.

If they’re picked up at a roadside test, they’ll be penalised in the same way as someone who tests positive to illegal drugs.

But in Victoria, this could soon change. A parliamentary bill proposing to treat medicinal cannabis users like people who use other prescription drugs, rather than illegal drug users, is gaining support.

Generally, being on medication doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to drive. It seems fair that medicinal cannabis users should be treated in the same way as people who use legal drugs.

But we also need to weigh up any potential risks. Driving a car is a complex task that requires a driver to be attentive, competent and capable.

The relationship between cannabis and driving impairment is complex

The degree to which cannabis might impair a person’s ability to drive safely often depends on how much is consumed, how long people wait to drive after using it, the strength of the psychoactive components, and the driver’s age and/or experience.

Compared with drug-free drivers, drivers with high levels of THC have modestly increased odds of being responsible for a traffic accident resulting in injury or death.

High-THC cannabis also reduces a driver’s ability to control the car or respond to unexpected situations.

It also affects a driver’s attention, and the higher the THC concentration in their system, the greater the impairment.

Conversely, some research has suggested THC has minimal or no effect on the likelihood of being involved in a crash.


Read more: Why is it still so hard for patients in need to get medicinal cannabis?


Medicinal cannabis is different to the illegal stuff

Medicinal cannabis typically contains much less of the intoxicating component (THC), and more of the components that don’t produce a “high” (cannabidiol, or CBD). Compared with THC, CBD has much less effect on mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Most often, Australian medical cannabis products are CBD-only.

It’s not clear how CBD-only treatments might affect driving, although many studies are ongoing. As it stands, patients taking CBD-only medicines can lawfully drive, as long as they are not impaired.

A cannabis plant.
Australian medicinal cannabis products are generally CBD-only. Shutterstock

Sometimes, medicinal cannabis products are CBD/THC-balanced or THC-dominant. How medicinal cannabis might impair a person’s ability to drive safely seems to depend how much THC is in it. CBD does not offset this intoxicating effect.

Roadside testing

In Australia, THC is a controlled Schedule 8 drug under the Poisons Standard. Victoria has a zero-tolerance drug-driving policy for controlled drugs. This currently includes medicinal cannabis products that contain THC.

Under this system, drivers are screened at the roadside for cannabis (THC), (meth)amphetamine or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) using a saliva test. Drivers who return a positive result will undergo verification (additional testing of a sample sent to a laboratory) to confirm how much of a drug is present.

The minimum penalty for testing positive to THC is a six-month loss of licence and a fine. Drivers must also complete an education program.

The process is similar in other states.


Read more: Even if cannabis is legal, please don’t toke and drive


Roadside tests can’t differentiate between illegal recreational and medicinal cannabis products, or determine the THC concentration.

So patients legally prescribed medications that contain THC can be prosecuted in the same way as a driver who has consumed a higher level of THC for a non-medical reason.

Two cars are damaged after an accident.
High-THC cannabis reduces a driver’s ability to control the car or respond to unexpected situations. Shutterstock

Internationally, there’s been a move away from zero-tolerance approaches to systems that use thresholds to determine whether a person driving under the influence of THC is likely to be impaired.

Canada, and now many US states, have introduced limits of between 1, but no more than 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. This roughly equates to a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.

Penalties for having higher levels of THC are based on a graded system that factors in the level of drugs in the driver’s system, and whether the incident is a first or repeated offence. These laws apply to all drivers, including those with a medical authorisation to use cannabis.

The road ahead

As many as one in three Australian patients who use medicinal cannabis drive within three hours of taking their treatment. Some medications containing THC can be detected by roadside drug tests more than four hours after use, so patients who drive within this window may well be charged.

Determining whether patients who use medicinal cannabis products pose a risk to themselves or other road users is important for deciding what (if any) legislative changes would be appropriate. We need more research before we can move to a system like Canada or the US.

Introducing a conditional licence, subject to periodic review, may be one way of supporting people who use medicinal cannabis to drive lawfully and safely. A central registry could help law enforcement and health-care providers quickly reference what medication a driver is taking, at what dose, and for how long they’ve been using it.

As with other potentially impairing (but legal) medications, using mandatory driving hazard warning labels might be an easy way to help patients make better decisions about whether they are feeling well enough to drive when using these medications.


Read more: 1 in 10 women with endometriosis report using cannabis to ease their pain


With greater access to a wider range of medicinal cannabis products, it’s important we support the rights of patients who use these medications and continue to drive, as well as ensuring the safety of all road users.

Future decisions must include equal input from patient advocates, research groups, road safety groups and law enforcement.

ref. Medicinal cannabis users in Victoria could soon be allowed to drive with THC in their system. Is it safe? – https://theconversation.com/medicinal-cannabis-users-in-victoria-could-soon-be-allowed-to-drive-with-thc-in-their-system-is-it-safe-148345

Hashtags may not be words, grammatically speaking, but they help spread a message

Hashtags may not be words, grammatically speaking, but they help spread a message

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Andreea S. Calude, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Waikato

Hashtags are a pervasive feature of social media posts and used widely in search engines.

Anything with the intent of attracting a wide audience usually comes with a memorable hashtag — #MeToo, #FreeHongKong, #LoveWins, #BlackLivesMatter, #COVID19 and #SupremeCourt are just some examples.

First conceived in 2007 by blogger and open source advocate Chris Messina on Twitter, hashtags are now also escaping from social media contexts and appearing regularly in advertising and protest signs, and even in spoken language.

But are hashtags words?

If there is one thing linguists ought to know, it’s words. But when it comes to hashtags, the definition is not straightforward.

In our research, based on a collection of millions of New Zealand English tweets, we argue hashtags are, at best, artificial words.


Read more: Friday essay: Twitter and the way of the hashtag


Problems with words

Let’s first look at how we usually recognise words. The simplest way is by following a native speaker’s intuition.

If you had to identify the words in the previous sentence, you might begin by iterating everything separated by spaces: the, simplest, way and so on. But what would you do with “speaker’s”. Is that one word or two?

Laypeople will likely think of it as one word. Grammarians may argue it’s two, or even worse, 1.5 words: you have the speaker part and the possessive case marker (‘s), which is technically not a word, but not a non-word either (it is a clitic).


Read more: Political hashtags like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter make people less likely to believe the news


But using spaces as clues for word boundaries is a luxury available only to written languages. What about languages that only have a spoken form, such as Tinrin of New Caledonia?

Phonological cues — acoustic “spaces” or short pauses between words — are no more reliable. Many grammar words, such as articles (the, a) and prepositions (to, of, at) are used frequently but typically unstressed and uttered quickly, receiving virtually no “airtime” in the rush of content words like nouns, verbs and adjectives that carry the most important part of a message.

Just about every criterion proposed for words has its own problems, as described by linguists Laurie Bauer and Martin Haspelmath. Despite their seemingly straightforward nature, words are tricky for linguists.

A hashtag for Fridays for Future climate marches.
A hashtag for Fridays for Future climate marches. Frank Molter/picture alliance via Getty Images

#HashtagsNotWords

There are two main theories regarding the linguistic status of hashtags. The first claims hashtags are like compound words. This is essentially a way of making new words by gluing two (or more) existing words together. In English, compounds can be spelled as one word (blackboard, greenhouse), or two words separated by spaces (bus stop, apple pie) or as hyphenated words (forget-me-not).

The second idea is that hashtags are words that arise from a completely different process, unlike anything we have seen before. This hashtagging is a much looser word-formation process, with fewer restrictions. As long as a hashtag symbol is used and no spaces appear between the parts, anything goes — #lovehashtagging, #lazysundayafternoon, #MāoriLanguageWeek.

Man wearing face masks with a hashtag for Black Lives Matter.
Hashtags act like keywords in a library catalogue or search engine. Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Our research argues against both these proposals by rejecting the notion hashtags should be treated as words. We suggest hashtags are written to look orthographically like words, but their function is much broader and similar to keywords in a library catalogue or search engine.

But just because hashtags aren’t words per se, that doesn’t mean they are not linguistically interesting. On the contrary, we found hashtags allow tweeters to express themselves in many creative ways, and they are used for various functions, including humour and language play.

For example, some tweets start with the hashtag #youknowyoure(a)kiwiwhen or contain #growingupkiwi to reference, in a self-deprecating way, stereotypical Kiwi lifestyle qualities or childhood nostalgia.

In a more serious and controversial vein, in a bid to poke fun at the All Blacks’ performance of the haka before rubgy matches, the hashtag #hakarena references the Māori tribal dance haka and links it to the Latin American song macarena in what some consider a derogatory way.


Read more: The story of #DanLiedPeopleDied: how a hashtag reveals Australia’s ‘information disorder’ problem


The hashtags we analysed also showed new ways in which tweeters harness lexical resources from different languages. Hybrid hashtags, as we term them, are hashtags comprising one or more words from two distinct languages — in our case, English and Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand. Examples include #kiaora4that and #letssharegoodtereostories.

Far from being a source of linguistic demise, social media language continues to help us understand a bit more of the puzzle of human communication.

ref. Hashtags may not be words, grammatically speaking, but they help spread a message – https://theconversation.com/hashtags-may-not-be-words-grammatically-speaking-but-they-help-spread-a-message-133045

Can New Zealand’s most diverse ever cabinet improve representation of women and minorities in general?

Can New Zealands most diverse ever cabinet improve representation of women and minorities in general?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Jennifer Curtin, Professor of Politics and Policy, University of Auckland

Two weeks after Labour’s landslide election win, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ministry that is more diverse than any seen before in New Zealand.

Of those inside cabinet, 40% are women, 25% are Māori (two in five of those are women), 15% are Pasifika (two in three are women), and 15% are LGBTQI — one of whom is Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

Beyond the 20 cabinet ministers, there are four ministers outside cabinet and two undersecretaries. Of these six, three are women, two are Māori, one is Pasifika and one is Indian. Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw are also associate ministers outside cabinet. The diversity of Ardern’s new government runs deep.

There remain important voices missing from cabinet, however. As Jonny Wilkinson of disability support network Tiaho Trust noted, disabled people are the largest minority group in New Zealand but they lack representation in parliament and cabinet.

Race and gender diverse: new foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, flanked by other senior Māori ministers.

Greater diversity over time

In 2017 Ardern set herself a target of a gender balanced cabinet. She missed achieving this in 2020 despite demands for, and achievement of, increased gender parity in government executive branches globally in recent years.

As the proportion of women in parliament increases, it is argued, so too does the pool of eligible candidates from which the prime minister can select women ministers.

Some leaders have ignored this, including former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who claimed there were insufficient women parliamentarians with the experience needed for cabinet. That position has become increasingly untenable over time.


Read more: Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen


While large scale comparative studies suggest women leaders are no more likely than their male counterparts to select women ministers, in New Zealand we know that it was Labour’s Helen Clark who substantially increased the proportion of women promoted to cabinet (from 11% in 1996 to 35% in 1999).

National Party Prime Minister John Key followed her example, ensuring his cabinets comprised at least 30% women. Ardern has moved the bar higher by selecting 40% women.

Kiri Allan speaking at lecturn
New to cabinet: Kiri Allan will be minister of conservation, minister of emergency management, associate minister for arts, culture and heritage, and associate minister for the environment. GettyImages

The gender quota debate

That we have yet to reach gender parity may raise questions in New Zealand and elsewhere. However, our major parties have long resisted implementing strict gender quotas, meaning incremental progress is the norm. That said, our global gender ranking has gone from 50th equal to 26th equal.

This contrasts with Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who in 2015 made history when he selected his first gender parity cabinet. There had been criticism of the policy by pundits who argued diversity and merit could not co-exist, but Trudeau’s response was pithy: “Because it’s 2015.”


Read more: New MP Ibrahim Omer’s election highlights the challenges refugees from Africa face in New Zealand


Five years on, Ardern may have anticipated similar resistance. Asked about the basis of her cabinet selection, she said it was based on “merit, talent and diversity”. Gender balance was the byproduct, in other words.

We also know that not all ministries are created equal. Globally it is finance, foreign affairs, defence and other highly resourced portfolios that are most prized. These usually make up the leader’s inner circle (remember former Labour Prime Minister David Lange’s all male “fish and chip brigade”).

However, the Interparliamentary Union’s annual maps of women in world politics reveal these ministries continue to be allocated more often to men than women.

Women inside the inner circle

This is not the case in Labour’s new cabinet. Ardern’s inner circle (or top five if the photos are anything to go by) includes two women. The top ten positions in cabinet are shared equally between the sexes, with the portfolios alternating between women and men in order of seniority.

New Zealand’s first female foreign affairs minister is Nanaia Mahuta, former associate minister of trade and a senior member of Labour’s Māori caucus. Fourth ranked Megan Woods, who holds a number of big-budget portfolios, has been made associate minister of finance.


Read more: Why equal health access and outcomes should be a priority for Ardern’s new government


There are four new women ministers (one of whom has come straight into cabinet from outside parliament), who have portfolios of their own but who are also associate ministers working with other senior ministers. This is an important strategy — if those senior ministers take their roles seriously, it will ensure these more junior women are likelier to succeed.

Five MPs in parliament building
The new Labour health team: from left, Andrew Little, Aupito William Sio, Chris Hipkins, Ayesha Verrall and Peeni Henare. GettyImages

The challenge of wider diversity

One question that remains for women’s organisations, however, is whether this new-look ministry will enhance the substantive representation of women and other minorities.

Women workers (as well as the young, Māori and Pasifika) have borne the brunt of job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning we need gender and diversity analyses applied to all future economic recovery commitments.

Similarly, our family and sexual violence rates remain high, although the cross-portfolio policy responses continue to be led by talented ministers from both Labour and the Greens.

Whether this will be a feminist-focused cabinet remains to be seen. But the diversity of expertise, perspectives and lived experiences among the women around the cabinet table offers an opportunity to bring more diversity into policy deliberations and decisions. As it should — after all, it’s 2020.

ref. Can New Zealand’s most diverse ever cabinet improve representation of women and minorities in general? – https://theconversation.com/can-new-zealands-most-diverse-ever-cabinet-improve-representation-of-women-and-minorities-in-general-149273

Put the baking soda back in the bottle: banned sodium bicarbonate ‘milkshakes’ don’t make racehorses faster

Put the baking soda back in the bottle: banned sodium bicarbonate milkshakes dont make racehorses faster

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Joshua Denham, Lecturer in Exercise Science, RMIT University

The controversial and banned practice of giving horses baking soda “milkshakes” before a race doesn’t work, according to our analysis of the available research.

Racing folklore says sodium bicarbonate milkshakes can boost racehorses’ endurance because the alkalinity of the baking soda helps counter the buildup of lactic acid in the blood when running.

But our systematic research review, recently published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science reveals milkshakes don’t boost horses’ athletic performance.

This means any trainer still tempted to flout the ban on this tactic would be endangering their horses’ welfare and risking heavy sanctions over a practice that is basically snake oil.

Despite the fun-sounding name, milkshakes are anything but. The process involves inserting a tube up the horse’s nose, down its throat and into the stomach, and then pumping in a concentrated solution of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in water.

This can be stressful to the horse, and potential side-effects include lacerations to the nasal cavity, throat and oesophagus, gastrointestinal upset, and diarrhoea. It can even be fatal if the tube is mistakenly inserted into the trachea and the solution is pumped into the lungs.

It’s little wonder Racing Australia has banned the use of “alkalising agents” such as milkshakes on race day, with potentially career-ending ramifications for trainers caught doing it.

No boost after all

The effect of baking soda on athletic performance has been studied in human athletes for decades with inconclusive results, but has only been analysed in horses since the late 1980s.

Our analysis included data from eight experimental trials featuring 74 horses. Overall, sodium bicarbonate administration in the hours before treadmill tests or simulated race trials did not improve horses’ running performance in either type of test.

In fact, in treadmill exercise tests in which horses were not ridden by jockeys, sodium bicarbonate actually had a very small negative effect on running performance, albeit not a statistically significant one.

Whereas human athletes might gain a placebo effect from sodium bicarbonate, this is unlikely to apply to horses who don’t understand the intended point of the milkshake. And while some racehorse trainers may be educated in exercise physiology and the importance of blood pH, others may believe they work simply because received wisdom and racing folklore say so.


Read more: Research shows whipping horses doesn’t make them run faster, straighter or safer — let’s cut it out


Racing aficionados steeped in tradition might respond with scepticism, or argue that research can’t replicate the unique conditions of race day. But given that our comprehensive analysis of a range of research trials shows no evidence that milkshakes work, we argue any recalcitrant trainers have a moral responsibility to listen to the science.

Milkshakes are already banned. But our research shows they deliver no benefit anyway. Trainers who are happy to continue this illicit practice and run the gauntlet of potential sanctions should consider whether it is worth it at all, and whether instead they should reconsider on moral, medical and scientific grounds.

ref. Put the baking soda back in the bottle: banned sodium bicarbonate ‘milkshakes’ don’t make racehorses faster – https://theconversation.com/put-the-baking-soda-back-in-the-bottle-banned-sodium-bicarbonate-milkshakes-dont-make-racehorses-faster-148907

As US election day nears, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will

As US election day nears, the outcome wont be simply a matter of political will

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Jennifer S. Hunt, Lecturer, National Security College, Australian National University

It has been billed as the most significant US election in generations, and with nearly 100 million votes already cast, it is well underway. An estimated 50 million more votes are expected on the last day of in-person voting on Tuesday (Wednesday Australian time), with mail-in ballots still making their way through the postal service, including from overseas and military voters.

It is not only the White House up for grabs, but all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100-seat Senate. In addition, 11 gubernatorial (state governor) races, various state legislatures, and a plethora of local judges, sheriffs, school boards and supervisory roles are also on the ballot. A quick glance at a US ballot illustrates how America has more democratically elected positions per capita than any other country in the world.

A turbulent four years of Trump

This election will be one for the history books. The White House incumbent, impeached on abuse of power charges and litigating against Congressional oversight of potential financial conflicts of interest, has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

In the year following more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors confirming President Donald Trump would be indicted if not for the current immunity the Oval Office provides him, Trump has stepped up rhetoric that any election that he does not win is “rigged”.

Then came the “October surprise” from the New York Times that the president has at least US$400 million in personally guaranteed loans due over the next possible term and previously undisclosed Chinese bank accounts. This has brought the president’s priorities under intense scrutiny alongside a flailing economy and federal mismanagement of the COVID pandemic response.


Read more: Trump has changed America by making everything about politics, and politics all about himself


Citing these concerns, formal endorsements of Trump’s political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, have come from unlikely places. Republican national security veterans, GOP governors and nonpartisan communities of scientists and physicians have endorsed Biden, some for the first time in the history of their organisations.

A group of 73 high-level former GOP US National security officials from administrations spanning Reagan to Bush Jr wrote in an open letter that Trump is “dangerously unfit to serve another term”, citing his undermining of the rule of law, failure to lead Americans through the pandemic, and damage to the US’s global reputation.

More than 780 prominent Republicans and Democrats, including former defence secretaries, ambassadors, and retired military brass, also decried Trump, writing that:

[…] thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us and our enemies no longer fear us.

A chorus of Trump’s own former administration officials have joined The Lincoln Project, Republican Voters against Trump, 43 for Biden (featuring members of the George W. Bush administration) and former staffers of late senator John McCain, to mount powerful testimonials targeting Trump’s base, independents and new voters.

The Biden camp has stressed a return to decency and cooperation, a United States of America. A popular ad encapsulates the message,

There is only one America. No Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains. Just this great land and all that’s possible on it with a fresh start. There is so much we can do if we choose to take on problems and not each other and choose a president who brings out our best.

Other “anyone but Trump” ads target voters who may have supported him in 2016 as a fiesty outsider, but have tired of the noise.

Ads, endorsements and of course polls are potentially useful indicators during the final week of voting. But what are some other trends that will likely impact electoral turnout and the results? Here are a few to look out for.


Read more: Biden remains strong favourite for US election; Queensland Labor set for increased majority


Millennials

Against the tight margins of the 2016 election in a handful of decisive states, a new generation of voters has emerged who may tip the balance of power. They drove higher turnout in the 2018 midterm election and are not only voting but running and winning office. Enter the millennials.

The US is on the cusp of a generational shift. This is the first US presidential election in which the millennial generation is now the largest voting-age cohort, displacing the baby boomers who have held the title since the 1970s.

Younger millennials, who may have spent the previous presidential election in a high school walk out, or participated in the March for Our Lives for gun safety, are now eligible to vote. Older millennials, who are approaching 40, grew up with high school shootings and are now watching their own young children do lockdown drills, rewarded with a candy if they remain quietly hidden in the toilet with their feet up to avoid detection.

Amid concern about growing economic inequality, the millennials will likely be the first generation to be less financially secure than their parents, and the most likely to compare themselves with international OECD peers who enjoy universal healthcare, gun control and better financial support during the pandemic.

None of these issues is well represented by the current administration, and so Trump’s approval rating hovers around 28% among that age group.

Trump has called climate change a Chinese conspiracy to undermine American manufacturing, pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, and is suing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

On these crucial issues, different informational diets between generations, political parties, and even families could drive very different voting patterns.

But the millennial vote could be decisive.

Young people will have a big say in the outcome of the 2020 election. AAP/EPA/Josh Edelson

Disinformation

If “post-truth” was the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016, “disinformation” is in the running for 2020.

Disinformation – the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information in order to deceive – is a growing problem in democratic elections. It was a key theme in the Republican-chaired Senate Intelligence Committee report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

These reports documented key disinformation techniques, narratives and purpose. Akin to Russian “active measures”, disinformation is used to undermine authoritative sources of information by blurring the line between fact and faction.

The most popular narrative, according to this report, was the myth of “voter fraud”.

While the 2016 disinformation campaign centred on voter fraud, the 2020 version targets mail-in voting. These ballots, cast in the middle of COVID-19, are at the heart of competing narratives about the pandemic itself.

In this election, we’ve seen a catalogue of disinformation about COVID-19. While scientists, physicians and public health authorities have repeatedly warned the public and officials to take action to protect public health, the Trump administration has generally downplayed its severity.

Calling it “just the flu”, Trump said the problem impacts “virtually nobody”, even after nearly a quarter of a million Americans died. Recent research has shown Trump himself is one of the largest superspreaders of disinformation about COVID-19.

Some of that disinformation will affect how people cast their ballot. While 19 states have expanded mail-in ballot options as a result of the pandemic, others have made voting harder by closing voting places while not expanding alternate options. Texas, for instance, refused to recognise COVID-19 concerns as a valid reason for those under 65 to request a mail-in ballot, with South Carolina only recently reversing a similar restriction.

Disinformation about mail-in ballots is likely to feature in court challenges. Trump has insisted the results be known on election day, which would necessarily exclude mail-in ballots postmarked in time but not yet received through the mail, including those cast by overseas military voters. He has repeatedly signalled that his appointees in the judicial system (which number in the hundreds) will help secure his win.

While it is unprecedented for a president to attack electoral integrity, state level actions are also important to consider.

Disenfranchisement

Voting in the US is not easy to summarise. Devoid of democracy sausages and a non-partisan federal elections commission, elections are run at the state and county level, from voter rolls to polling locations and everything in between.

Each state is in charge of its own election, and there are nearly as many systems as there are states. Five states, including Oregon, vote entirely by mail. Five other states vote entirely on machine, including Georgia, with no traditional paper audit trail. Other state variations include the option of early in-person voting, whether voting places are open on a Sunday, how far in advance you must register to vote, and requirements for voter ID.

Each US state has its own voting requirements, arrangements and ballots. AAP/EPA/Justin Lane

Each state’s ballots look different, with users selecting their choices via handmarked bubble sheets, hole punches or hanging chads, the latter made famous in the 2000 recount in Florida that delivered George W. Bush his first term.

One of the quirks of the US voting system is the electoral college. The college is essentially a distribution of electoral votes among the states according to population size, updated after every 10-year census.

In 2020, several large states are in the spotlight as toss-ups, including Texas, which carries a prize of 38 electoral votes in the race to 270. It will be one to watch on election day, with early voter turnout already surpassing its 2016 total. It is also the site of one of the most blatant attempts at disenfranchisement, with the GOP failing in its attempt to stop more than 120,000 ballots already cast in one of its largest counties.

Until recently, states were not allowed to make changes to voting procedures without judicial oversight. Plans to close significant numbers of polling places in certain districts, for instance, had to go through pre-clearance processes. However, these protections were dismantled by a US Supreme Court ruling in 2013. This year’s presidential election will be only the second without those protections, and voter disenfranchisement could result.

One key method of disenfranchisement could be mail-in ballots. In an interview in August, Trump said he planned to block funding for the US postal service to prevent increased voting by mail. A Trump appointee to the head of the postal service in July recently oversaw the destruction and dismantling of 700 mail processing machines, leading to more delays.


Read more: Explainer: what is the controversy around the US postal service and how might it affect the election?


Simple polls of voting intention do not capture voter disenfranchisement and intimidation.

Intimidation tactics have been increasing across several key states. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, official Republican party mailers warned voters their voting history is a matter of public record.

In New Mexico, the GOP sent mailers that read

When the Democrats win the White House and you didn’t do your part to stop it, your neighbors will know. Voting is a matter of public record.

Experts warn of potential violence and rioting after the result. Growing polarisation, extremist groups such as QAnon threatening the use of force, and the availability of tactical weapons are all warning signs.

This year has seen more than 8 million more gun purchases than 2019, and scholars warn of increasing militia activity. Trump has publicly praised supporters who commit violence, including the Kenosha shooter.

International allies are also concerned. After Trump used armed guards to teargas peaceful protestors in Washington DC (which Australia watched live as its reporters were bashed on air), the Scottish Parliament voted to suspend exports of riot shields, tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States.

Australia recently updated its “do not travel” advisory to the US, citing civil unrest around the election.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, some of the trends may continue beyond Inauguration Day on January 21, 2021, affecting not just the US but its relationships with allies and adversaries alike.

Australia would do well to watch carefully and wait for the final results.


Read more: What would a Biden presidency mean for Australia?


ref. As US election day nears, the outcome won’t be simply a matter of political will – https://theconversation.com/as-us-election-day-nears-the-outcome-wont-be-simply-a-matter-of-political-will-148441

315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific

315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Tilman Ruff, Associate Professor, Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this article contains the name of a deceased person.


The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons received its 50th ratification on October 24, and will therefore come into force in January 2021. A historic development, this new international law will ban the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately the nuclear powers — the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — haven’t signed on to the treaty. As such, they are not immediately obliged to help victims and remediate contaminated environments, but others party to the treaty do have these obligations. The shifting norms around this will hopefully put ongoing pressure on nuclear testing countries to open records and to cooperate with accountability measures.

For the people of the Pacific region, particularly those who bore the brunt of nuclear weapons testing during the 20th century, it will bring a new opportunity for their voices to be heard on the long-term costs of nuclear violence. The treaty is the first to enshrine enduring commitments to addressing their needs.

From 1946, around 315 nuclear tests were carried out in the Pacific by the US, Britain and France. These nations’ largest ever nuclear tests took place on colonised lands and oceans, from Australia to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati to French Polynesia.

The impacts of these tests are still being felt today.

All nuclear tests cause harm

Studies of nuclear test workers and exposed nearby communities around the world consistently show adverse health effects, especially increased risks of cancer.

The total number of global cancer deaths as a result of atmospheric nuclear test explosions has been estimated at between 2 million and 2.4 million, even though these studies used radiation risk estimates that are now dated and likely underestimated the risk.

The number of additional non-fatal cancer cases caused by test explosions is similar. As confirmed in a large recent study of nuclear industry workers in France, the UK and US, the numbers of radiation-related deaths due to other diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, is also likely to be similar.

A radioactive warning sign Maralinga village in South Australia in 1952.
The British conducted seven nuclear test explosions in Maralinga, South Australia. But there they also did over 600 ‘minor’ trials for bomb development, responsible for most of the ongoing contamination. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA/AAP

‘We all got crook’

Britain conducted 12 nuclear test explosions in Australia between 1952 and 1957, and hundreds of minor trials of radioactive and toxic materials for bomb development up to 1963. These caused untold health problems for local Aboriginal people who were at the highest risk of radiation. Many of them were not properly evacuated, and some were not informed at all.

We may never know the full impact of these explosions because in many cases, as the Royal Commission report on British Nuclear Tests in Australia found in 1985: “the resources allocated for Aboriginal welfare and safety were ludicrous, amounting to nothing more than a token gesture”. But we can listen to the survivors.


Read more: Sixty years on, the Maralinga bomb tests remind us not to put security over safety


The late Yami Lester directly experienced the impacts of nuclear weapons. A Yankunytjatjara elder from South Australia, Yami was a child when the British tested at Emu Field in October 1953. He recalled the “Black Mist” after the bomb blast:

It wasn’t long after that a black smoke came through. A strange black smoke, it was shiny and oily. A few hours later we all got crook, every one of us. We were all vomiting; we had diarrhoea, skin rashes and sore eyes. I had really sore eyes. They were so sore I couldn’t open them for two or three weeks. Some of the older people, they died. They were too weak to survive all the sickness. The closest clinic was 400 miles away.

His daughter, Karina Lester, is an ambassador for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Australia, and continues to be driven by her family’s experience. She writes:

For decades now my family have campaigned and spoken up against the harms of nuclear weapons because of their firsthand experience of the British nuclear tests […] Many Aboriginal people suffered from the British nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s and 1960s and many are still suffering from the impacts today.

More than 16,000 Australian workers were also exposed. A key government-funded study belatedly followed these veterans over an 18-year period from 1982. Despite the difficulties of conducting a study decades later with incomplete data, it found they had 23% higher rates of cancer and 18% more deaths from cancers than the general population.

An additional health impact in Pacific island countries is the toxic disease “ciguatera”, caused by certain microscopic plankton at the base of the marine food chain, which thrive on damaged coral. Their toxins concentrate up the food chain, especially in fish, and cause illness and occasional deaths in people who eat them. In the Marshall Islands, Kiritimati and French Polynesia, outbreaks of the disease among locals have been associated with coral damage caused by nuclear test explosions and the extensive military and shipping infrastructure supporting them.

Pacific survivors of nuclear testing haven’t been focused solely on addressing their own considerable needs for justice and care; they’ve been powerful advocates that no one should suffer as they have ever again, and have worked tirelessly for the eradication of nuclear weapons. It’s no surprise independent Pacific island nations are strong supporters of the new treaty, accounting for ten of the first 50 ratifications.

Pacific students marching in support of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons
Pacific island nations make up 10 of the first 50 countries to ratify the treaty. Laisa Nainoka/Youngsolwara, Author provided (No reuse)

Negligence and little accountability

Some nations that have undertaken nuclear tests have provided some care and compensation for their nuclear test workers; only the US has made some provisions for people exposed, though only for mainland US residents downwind of the Nevada Test Site. No testing nation has extended any such arrangement beyond its own shores to the colonised and minority peoples it put in harm’s way. Nor has any testing nation made fully publicly available its records of the history, conduct and effects of its nuclear tests on exposed populations and the environment.

These nations have also been negligent by quickly abandoning former test sites. There has been inadequate clean-up and little or none of the long-term environmental monitoring needed to detect radioactive leakage from underground test sites into groundwater, soil and air. One example among many is the Runit concrete dome in the Marshall Islands, which holds nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. It’s increasingly inundated by rising sea levels, and is leaking radioactive material.

A large concrete dome in the Marshall Islands, which houses nuclear waste
Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is leaking nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. US Defense Special Weapons Agency/Wikimedia Commons

The treaty provides a light in a dark time. It contains the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons.

It’s our fervent hope the treaty will mark the increasingly urgent beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. It is our determined expectation that our country will step up. Australia has not yet ratified the treaty, but the bitter legacy of nuclear testing across our country and region should spur us to join this new global effort.

ref. 315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific – https://theconversation.com/315-nuclear-bombs-and-ongoing-suffering-the-shameful-history-of-nuclear-testing-in-australia-and-the-pacific-148909

Australia, the climate can’t wait for the next federal election. It’s time to take control

Australia, the climate cant wait for the next federal election. Its time to take control

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Tim Flannery, Professorial fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

It is difficult to know what to do when governments fail us. But there’s no need to wait until the next election to deal with the climate crisis, we can act now.

An overwhelming majority of Australians want action on climate change. And the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows governments can act decisively and effectively on imminent threats. But on climate action, there is a lack of political will.

So in the absence of federal leadership, what should be done? And who must do what?

Those questions are already being answered by state governments, councils, researchers, entrepreneurs and financiers who understand the climate problem. Their actions are slowing our slide to disaster – but they need others to step up.

Scott Morrison holds a lump of coal in QuestionTime
There is an absence of will in federal parliament to deal with climate change. Mick Tsikas/AAP

States are filling the gap

Among the most important entities in climate action in Australia are the state and territory governments. The ACT was the first to eliminate fossil fuels for electricity generation. Tasmania is on track to be there by 2022, and has now set a 200% renewable energy target by 2040, with the additional clean energy to be used to produce hydrogen.

South Australia is also set to be powered solely by renewables by the 2030s. These jurisdictions show what can be done in Australia if there’s a political will, and successive governments stick with a plan.

Some larger states are catching up fast. New South Wales has recently gone from being one of the worst performers to among the best. The Berejiklian government has a ten-year plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and the first stage prioritises the uptake of electric vehicles. It will change building codes to make it cheaper and easier to install electric charging points, encourage the uptake of electric vehicles by fleets, and change licensing and parking regulations to encourage their uptake.

If the states worked together to pursue the most ambitious targets and programs, Australia could do its bit to solve the climate problem.

Wind farm near the ACT
The ACT now runs on 100% renewable energy. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Going local

Australia’s local councils have become powerhouses of innovative climate solutions. In June 2017 I attended the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership at Parliament House in Canberra. Some 34 mayors and councillors attended, and I listened with interest as one after another described the projects they were working on.

The breadth was astonishing, from promoting bulk buys of solar panels for disadvantaged residents to making low-carbon road surfaces at local plants. Many councils were planting trees, assisting with energy efficiency measures or converting waste to energy. Since that first meeting the Cities Power Partnership has grown hugely. It now includes more than 120 local governments, representing half of all Australians.


Read more: People power: everyday Australians are building their own renewables projects, and you can too


It is not just Australia’s local councils forging ahead with climate action. Individual households lead the world in producing clean energy. More than two million households — 21% of the nation’s total — have now installed solar panels. This, of course, was supported by the federal government’s renewable energy target. But it wouldn’t have happened without Australians paying good money for their rooftop solar panels.

Movements aimed at building momentum will doubtless continue. In September 2019, hundreds of thousands marched during the school climate strikes. The movement grew from a one-person protest by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, which took place just a year earlier. In Australia the crowds were unprecedented, as was their passion.

The demonstrations have had limited impact on the federal government, but people are also organising in different ways. Extinction Rebellion, an group just two years old, is one of the potentially more potent. Its members are committed to breaking the law peacefully. Part of their power lies in the fact that they keep reminding the police, courts and politicians that their actions aim to save everybody’s children, not just their own.

An Extinction Rebellion video calling on leaders to save the future of today’s children.

But what of national politics?

Action by state governments, councils, individuals and groups will be critical to tackling climate change. But that still leaves the problem of federal parliament.

More pro-climate independents in federal parliament would shift our politics in the right direction. At the last election, voters in the northern Sydney seat of Warringah dispensed with incumbent Tony Abbott, in favour of independent candidate Zali Steggall (who won an astonishing 58% of the two-party preferred vote). It shows what’s possible when traditionally conservative voters get sick of being held to ransom by climate deniers in parliament.

But other deniers in the parliamentary party remain influential. Their modus operandi, as former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, is that of terrorists threatening to blow the place up if they don’t get their way.


Read more: New polling shows 79% of Aussies care about climate change. So why doesn’t the government listen?


Getting more independents into parliament will not be easy. The major political parties, which have many millions of dollars to spend at elections, will fiercely oppose any challengers.

But imagine if the Liberal-Nationals were forced to rid themselves of denialists to head off challenges by independents. What if they could once more implement rational, enduring energy and climate policies? Well, we are at a moment in time where this might be possible.

Membership of both the Labor and Liberal parties has dwindled in recent decades. That means a tiny, self-selected portion of Australia’s population chooses the candidates we vote for.

This has exposed the Liberals, in particular, to hijack by climate deniers – given the small membership numbers, it’s not hard for denialist candidates to win preselection. But if party members let these wreckers run the show, Australia will continue on the path to catastrophe.

Protest signs outside Parliament House in Canberra
More pro-climate independents are needed to help shape national policy. Lukas Coch/AAP

Time to step up

Australians have become used to living with governments that don’t serve our interests. Many people are rightly cynical and disengaged from politics. And that’s exactly where the climate deniers would like us to be.

But to effect real change, we must shake free of apathy. New people will have to step up and join those who have been persevering in pushing for climate action for years.

With enough momentum, we can embark on the cure for this most wicked of problems.

This is an edited extract from The Climate Cure: Solving the Climate Emergency in the Era of COVID-19 by Tim Flannery (Text Publishing).


Read more: Distress, depression and drug use: young people fear for their future after the bushfires


ref. Australia, the climate can’t wait for the next federal election. It’s time to take control – https://theconversation.com/australia-the-climate-cant-wait-for-the-next-federal-election-its-time-to-take-control-148252

A rushed move to virtual AGMs would disempower shareholders

A rushed move to virtual AGMs would disempower shareholders

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Ian Ramsay, Professor, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appears to have backed down.

An extraordinarily rushed timetable that would have allowed investors and others just 12 days to comment on draft legislation permitting companies to hold virtual rather than face-to-face annual general meetings has been extended by seven days, to the end of this week.

And Frydenberg has suggested he no longer supports it. He now says “reforms to the regulation of AGMs should enhance the ability of shareholders to interact with the board, not diminish it”.

The idea took hold when it became apparent COVID-19 would stop companies being able to hold physical meetings of shareholders.

In May the federal government announced a six-month temporary relaxation of the Corporations Act rules to allow companies to hold online shareholder meetings.

The six months was later extended until March 22, 2021.

In 2020 Westpac’s AGM will be virtual

Temporary relief was to become permanent

Then, in a surprising development two weeks ago (on October 19), the federal government published draft legislation to permanently allow companies to hold virtual-only shareholder meetings, including annual general meetings.

The reaction was caustic.

There are two main criticisms. One is focused on the process adopted by the government. The other is focused on the proposal itself.

The process was undoubtedly flawed. Twelve days — in the midst of the AGM season — is an exceptionally short amount of time to consider such important reform.

The more fundamental criticisms relate to what’s proposed.

We believe it will undermine the role of shareholder meetings in making company directors answer to shareholders.

Shorter questions, fewer questions

There is evidence this has already been happening.

At some AGMs, shareholders’ questions have been ignored.

Others meetings have been much shorter.

The Australian Shareholders’ Association says a good AGM is an opportunity for healthy discussion and exchange of information and views. In contrast, a virtual meeting “is a sterile format where companies are able to ignore questions, and gloss over details”.


Read more: Australia is ripe for shareholder activism


In the US, the Council of Institutional Investors (representing institutional investors with more than US$45 trillion under management) has complained to the US Securities and Exchange Commission about the virtual meetings held because of COVID-19 — calling them a “poor substitute for in-person shareholder meetings” that placed obstacles in the path of shareholders wanting to participate in a meaningful way.

Hard evidence is emerging

A study published in August about virtual shareholder meetings during COVID-19 supports these concerns.

Research by Miriam Schwartz-Ziv examined the transcripts and audio recordings for 94 US corporations that held an in-person or predominately in-person meeting last year and a virtual meeting this year.


Read more: What limits shareholder activism as a force for good: the free-rider problem


The move to virtual meetings shortened the average meeting by 18%, decreased the time dedicated to providing a business update by 40%, and decreased the average time spent on answering questions by 14%.

Schwartz-Ziv says these findings:

may suggest that not having visibly present shareholders, and perhaps not observing shareholders’ responses throughout the meeting, ultimately leads to less information communicated by the company to the shareholders

Among the tactics used were company officials incorrectly stating there were no more questions and limiting questions to resolutions being voted on.

Shareholders are increasingly active

Right now shareholders are more active than ever, using AGMs to put matters such as climate change on the agenda.

This year’s Woodside Petroleum AGM made history when, for the first time in a major Australian listed company, a shareholder resolution requesting the company take action on climate change received more than 50% support from shareholders, even though the resolution was opposed by the company’s directors.

This type of activism, which is occurring in more companies, can indeed present challenges for directors who oppose the wishes of shareholders. Some of them might welcome an opportunity to limit questions.

There’s no rush

But that’s no reason for the government to facilitate it. The government’s proposal was rushed and poorly justified.

It would be better to debate the merits of permanently allowing what are called “hybrid” AGMs. This would involve a physical meeting along with online facilities for those who can’t be physically present.


Read more: How Westpac is alleged to have broken anti-money laundering laws 23 million times


This year’s AGM season will give us enough experience with virtual shareholder meetings to allow a more informed decision on their merits during 2021.

There’s plenty of time.

ref. A rushed move to virtual AGMs would disempower shareholders – https://theconversation.com/a-rushed-move-to-virtual-agms-would-disempower-shareholders-149101

My best worst film: Across the Universe is a Beatles jukebox musical masterpiece

My best worst film: Across the Universe is a Beatles jukebox musical masterpiece

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Phoebe Macrossan, Associate Lecturer/Sessional Academic, Queensland University of Technology

In a new series, our writers explore their best worst film. They’ll tell you what the critics got wrong – and why it’s time to give these movies another chance.

In 2007, Columbia Pictures released the psychedelic Across the Universe, using 33 songs by The Beatles to form a story of young bohemians living in New York during the Vietnam War era.

Liverpool dockworker Jude (Jim Sturgess) heads to the US in search of his American father, where he becomes friends with Princeton dropout Max (Joe Anderson) and Max’s sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood).

Max and Jude move to New York, sharing a flat with Prudence (T.V. Carpio), a lesbian runaway from Ohio; Sadie (Dana Fuchs), a Janis Joplin-like soul singer; and the Jimi Hendrix-like Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy), who is fleeing the race riots in Detroit. When Lucy’s boyfriend is killed in Vietnam, she also moves to New York, where she and Jude fall in love.

The film is in a near-constant state of song — there are only 30 minutes of spoken dialogue – ending with the cast uniting in a rooftop performance of “All You Need is Love”. This mirrors The Beatles’ own final performance on the rooftop of the Apple Corps building in London in 1969.

The movie was blasted for its saccharine, hippy-dippy, sanitised depictions of the 60s. Critics called it commercialised fodder for bourgeois audiences who lacked any real engagement with the politics of the period – but I think the film actually asks something more complex of its audience.

A star director, a critical flop

Director Julie Taymor is most well known for her stage musical The Lion King (1997), for which she became the first woman to win the Tony Award for best direction of a musical. While she has mostly worked in theatre and opera, her films before Across the Universe included Titus (1999) and Frida (2002).

In the early 2000s, musicals based on popular songbooks experienced renewed popularity on stage and screen, and shows like American Idol (2002–), where contestants regularly sing 60s and 70s songs, became major hits.

The combination of a Beatles soundtrack and a star director should therefore have been a formula for a hit. But even with its popular soundtrack and Taymor’s credentials, Across The Universe did not replicate the success of other jukebox movie musicals of the decade like Moulin Rouge! (2001) or Mamma Mia! (2008).

The film was a total flop at the box office, making just US$29.6 million (A$41.8 million) against a production budget of US$70.8 million (A$99.9 million). It was slammed by critics.

Time Out described Across the Universe as “often so embarrassing to watch that you’ll be checking over your shoulder to check that no one’s looking.”

Stephen Holden from the New York Times called it “unadulterated white, middle-class baby boomer nostalgia”.

But these sentiments miss the beauty and the artistry of Taymor’s reinvention of the music and the period.

Our personal connection to pop music

Particularly interesting about Across the Universe is the way it activates a nostalgic longing for the counterculture of the 1960s through an absence of The Beatles – it is not a biopic about them, nor do they appear in the film.

Taymor uses The Beatles as a recognisable language. The characters take ownership of the songs’ sentiments, using popular music in the way ordinary people do all the time.

While Mamma Mia! completely decoupled ABBA’s songs from their origin, Across The Universe involves the audience in remembering The Beatles’ music, deploying these memories to make sense of the film and its reworking of the 1960s.

Jude and Max bond over their shared rejection of society and become involved in a free-wheeling group of artists; Jo-Jo, dejected after his brother is killed by the National Guard, joins Sadie in creating experimental music; Prudence runs away from home as she struggles with her sexuality.

All along, the Beatles’ songs allow the audience insight into young characters who struggle with identity, expression and emotional development. With glorious artistic direction and enthusiastic choreography, Taymor reworks the famous lyrics for new characters and a new narrative.

In I Want You (She’s So Heavy), the originally erotic song lyrics are sung by a frightening Uncle Sam during Max’s drafting appointment. Uncle Sam reaches out from his poster and drags Max into an aggressive medical examination that becomes a dance sequence with an army sergeant.

The song ends with Max and the fresh recruits carrying a giant Statue of Liberty through the Vietnamese jungle as they sing “she’s so heavy”.

This number resembles a trippy music video, relying on Taymor’s distinctive mix of theatrics, animation and puppetry. An originally sexy song becomes a frightening commentary on the senseless war in Vietnam.

When Max returns, he sings Happiness is a Warm Gun in a hospital ward with other injured soldiers. He hallucinates a vision of a beautiful nurse (Salma Hayek) who multiplies, administering morphine to the patients. The melancholy and nonsensical nature of the first verse is presented as Max’s incoherent ramblings to Lucy.

Across the Universe understands the ways a reworked cover version can be used as personal expression. I Want to Hold Your Hand is sung by the closeted Prudence as she pines after a fellow cheerleader.

A once cheerful upbeat pop song about a cutesy love interest turns into a slow lament of lost love.

Taymor says she set out to reimagine the film musical by harnessing the power of music videos as an alternative to traditional production numbers. The film successfully combined the film musical and the music video years before Glee (2009-15) used the same format when gay cheerleaders sang to each other.

Across the Universe was dismissed for its cliched pastiche of the 1960s. But if you consider the way the film re-purposed the music for a new 60s without the Beatles, Taymor reinvigorated both the film genre and the music we thought we knew.

ref. My best worst film: Across the Universe is a Beatles jukebox musical masterpiece – https://theconversation.com/my-best-worst-film-across-the-universe-is-a-beatles-jukebox-musical-masterpiece-147175

The judgment of Tahiti’s Oscar Temaru – a neocolonial sense of déjà-vu

The judgment of Tahiti’s Oscar Temaru – a neocolonial sense of déjà-vu

ANALYSIS: By Ena Manuireva

The unfolding in French Polynesia of the latest judiciary entanglements of pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru versus the French administration is being closely followed by members of the Tahitian community in Tahiti and in Aotearoa New Zealand.

There are undeniable similarities between Temaru’s upcoming trial on November 4 in Nouméa after many deferrals, and the expedient trial of Te metuaPouvana’a a O’opa, the leading figure of the Ma’ohi people, 60 years ago.

Pouvana’a was accused of plotting to burn down Tahiti’s capital Pape’ete, but trumped up charges were made against him because of his fight for an independent Ma’ohi nation.

Pouvana’a a O’opa
Te metua – Pouvana’a a O’opa … Exiled for 23 years to France on trumped up charges. Image: 1ere TV

Exiled for 23 years to France after a mockery of a judgment, he was allowed back in Tahiti in 1968 after being pardoned.

Temaru’s judgment has all the makings of a déjà-vu. History is kind enough to remind us about the many disagreements and annoyances caused by Temaru to the French administration spanning more than 50 years:

  • Temaru was arrested and jailed for protesting against the nuclear tests in Moruroa
  • France’s military intervention in the French Polynesia presidential elections won by Temaru in 2004 for fear of social unrest
  • Temaru put French Polynesia back on the UN decolonisation list in 2013, denouncing France’s non-commitment to decolonisation – the politics of the “empty chair” (1)

A string of anti-French actions that have displeased the Paris establishment and, to some extent, the local autonomist government.

So, what has been the straw that broke the camel’s back and why is this new trial so different that the French judicial machine felt justified in seizing money from Temaru’s personal bank account?

Background to the Radio Tefana affair
In June 2020, French prosecutor Herve Leroy seized NZ$145,000 from Temaru’s personal bank account after the former territorial president and current mayor of Faa’a was convicted of exercising undue influence because the court ruled that community Radio Tefana benefited his own pro-independence political party.

According to many lawyers in Tahiti and in France (the CNB – National Council of the Bar), this action suggested that Temaru had already already been pre-judged of having “committed a crime” and the presumption of innocence was simply discarded by prosecutor Leroy.

The Radio Tefana affair
The Radio Tefana affair … the pro-independence community radio remains the last media platform calling for accountability from both the local Tahitian and French governments. Image: Ena Manuireva

This trial can only be understood as a retaliation against Temaru’s decision in 2018 to take France’s living presidents to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity over the nuclear weapons tests between 1966 and 1996. This was clearly the last straw for the French political establishment.

Questions related to why the French judiciary could not perform its duty on Tahitian soil but prioritised first the High Council for the Judiciary in France before deciding to send the case to Kanaky New Caledonia remains enigmatic to say the least.

There is overwhelming support for Temaru from the local Tahitian population – from the religious, the social, the political even judicial corners.

As mayor of the most populated district in French Polynesia, he refuses to be intimidated and from our personal communication, he has vowed to take the fight to the highest authority nationally or internationally.

In Nouméa, “our brothers and sisters Kanak”, as he calls them, are ready to welcome us and they will be a tremendous support during the trial – both indigenous people are fighting for their independence from France.

According to a close family member, Temaru is holding on for a trial expected to last 3 days (November 4-7) and has carried out a hunger strike and fasting since his six month suspended sentence and a fine of NZ$66,000 for this affair in 2019 (2) – despite his age at 76.

His fast was also to teach the population a new way of fighting obesity and all the various diseases that it causes. He is not advocating violence and unrest, but he is fighting legally through the courts.

Radio Tefana logo
Pro-independence community station Radio Tefana … subject of an “exerting undue influence” court case last year. Image: Radio Tefana/RNZ

Temaru’s hopes about this trial
At a time when the media is being muzzled and reporters are being silenced worldwide, the voice of the pro-independence community Radio Tefana remains the only and last media platform calling for accountability from both the local Tahitian and French governments.

The hope for Temaru is for a not guilty verdict and for the court to allow the radio to perform its duty of providing public information, especially during this period of covid-19 that has heavily hit his airport town of Faa’a and the capital Pape’ete.

The Oscar Temaru letter to New Zealand … an appeal to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over decolonisation. Image: Ena Manuireva

But Temaru questions French justice and will not back down even if it means requesting a meeting with New Zealand’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Jacinda Arden to assist a decolonisation programme that France has so far failed to discuss.

It is also at the back of Temaru’s mind that the decision to move the trial outside of Tahiti was designed and planned by the French judicial authorities to put yet another spanner in the works.

Financially, Temaru will need to meet the cost of an attorney to represent him; Temaru will not be physically able to be present at his own trial as New Caledonia is covid-19 free and has suspended all commercial flights until March 2021.

Popular sympathy might be less in New Caledonia with a bigger French proportion of the population (27 percent) than in French Polynesia (10 percent).

According to Temaru, France has not ceased “to put him on trial” and whatever the outcome this time, France will stick to the same agenda – and so will Temaru.

His fight for independence for the nuna’a Ma’ohi (Ma’ohi people) is a lifelong battle as he celebrates his birthday in Tahiti.

The last fighter of an era
The Tahitian pro-independence leader might be one of the last iconic figures of his generation who sits beside other political leaders, friends and sympathisers alive – or not – of the same era such as Jean-Marie Tjibaou (Kanaky New Caledonia), Walter Lini (Vanuatu), Henry Puna (Cook Islands).

Regardless of the verdict after the judgment, Temaru will be remembered as the force who will still stand up strong like Pouvana’a a O’opa against French neo-colonialism six decades ago.

Ena Manuireva is an Auckland University of Technology academic and PhD candidate who is from Mangareva, one of the French Polynesian islands most affected by the French nuclear tests for three decades until they ended in 1996. He wrote this article especially for the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

Notes:
1. France is never at its UN seat when the question of decolonising French Polynesia is on the agenda.
2. In 2019, the current territorial President Édouard Fritch was convicted and condemned for the same amount for arranging for the town administration of Pirae, where he was mayor, to pay for the water supply to the upmarket Erima neighbourhood, where longtime President Gaston Flosse lived.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Explainer: what is the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission and how would it work?

Explainer: what is the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission and how would it work?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By A J Brown, Professor of Public Policy & Law, Centre for Governance & Public Policy, Griffith University

Australia has come a significant step closer to forming a federal anti-corruption agency, when federal Attorney-General Christian Porter released draft legislation designed to set up a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC).

It is promising, but has big problems. Fortunately, the attorney-general has signalled key elements of the proposal are still up for negotiation in parliament. A consultation period will run from November 2020 to March 2021 to allow time for feedback on the draft legislation.

The bill puts detail on an anti-corruption model for which the federal government has already been heavily criticised since it was first released in December 2018.

But with the political consensus behind a federal agency now spread across all parties, and into a government bill, it’s a historic step towards a genuine strengthening of Australia’s integrity system in 2021 — if or when the Morrison government amends its bill to overcome the problems.

Three issues — resources, scope and powers — will determine if the new Commonwealth Integrity Commission can help restore flagging trust in Australia’s ability to deal with corruption.


Read more: As the government drags its heels, a better model for a federal integrity commission has emerged


Resources: where the CIC proposal is on its strongest ground

In the 15 years since Transparency International Australia first recommended a national anti-corruption agency, funding has been central to the discussion. A poorly-resourced Commonwealth Integrity Commission cannot be effective.

This is where the proposal is on its strongest ground. Porter’s announcement confirmed A$106.7 million in new funding over four years. That’s on top of the $40.7 million already spent on the ACLEI (Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity), to be absorbed by the CIC.

This means an agency with an annual budget of $42 million when fully operational.

That’s not enough to fix all the gaps in our creaking accountability framework, as shown in my research team’s soon-to-be-finalised national integrity system assessment of Australia. But it’s over double what the Australian Labor Party originally estimated.

It finally moves ACLEI well beyond the minuscule budget and narrow remit it had when it was founded in 2006, after the Howard government first promised to create what many hoped would be an independent national anti-corruption body.

With corruption risks rising in the post-COVID world, we are at least slowly going in the right direction — and that’s important.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings for inquiry into allegations surrounding former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently gave evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings for inquiry into allegations surrounding former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire. Many have long called for a federal version of ICAC. AAP/ICAC

Scope: the first big shortcoming

As it is proposed, the CIC’s full Royal Commission powers would only extend to about 20% of the federal public sector.

More agencies will be covered by ACLEI’s powers from January 1 2021, as its jurisdiction expands to cover four new law enforcement and regulatory bodies, including ASIC and the ATO. But for 80% of the federal government, including politicians, the CIC’s strong powers can only be exercised in private, and only where there is a reasonable suspicion of a criminal offence.

So the powers may be strong — including compelling people to give sworn evidence at private hearings, search and seizure of property (under warrant), and tapping phones. But there will be little or no jurisdiction to get to the bottom of “grey area” corruption like undisclosed conflicts of interest, unless a criminal offence like fraud, theft or bribery is already obvious.

A sign from the aged care Royal Commission.
The CIC’s powers would exceed those of a Royal Commission. AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

The scope is also narrow because, while federal agency heads must report suspected corruption offences, this is only if they meet the same threshold.

If a public service whistleblower approaches the new commission directly, with reasonable suspicions of corruption breaches but no actual evidence of an offence, they would have to be turned away.

Indeed, under clause 70 of the bill, they could risk prosecution for making an unwarranted allegation. This is a draconian idea that defies the purpose of federal whistleblowing legislation.

Public hearing powers: a worry

The inability of the CIC to use public hearings for 80% of the federal government is the feature that would likely make many Australians most worried.

How this problem is fixed in the final bill will be the key to securing a strong agency with a wider, pro-integrity remit.

It’s a worry for the government because in Australia, and overseas, the problem of strong anti-corruption powers being used as a weapon against political opponents is real. There is little value in integrity bodies that become costly political weapons, damaging more than restoring public trust.

Coalition MPs are especially fearful of the way the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has used public hearings in the past – such as its ambush of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell in 2015, prompting his resignation despite the commission’s conclusion he had “no intention […] to mislead”.

The next steps will need to include other solutions to this problem, ensuring public hearing powers can be used when needed, and not when it’s unnecessary.

If this can be achieved, along with other improvements based on public feedback, there is a real chance of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission standing the test of time.

And that would mean, after 15 long years, an enduring, independent agency supported by all sides of politics – not one undermined by partisan criticism or allegations of ineffectiveness.


Read more: From Richard Boyle and Witness K to media raids: it’s time whistleblowers had better protection


ref. Explainer: what is the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission and how would it work? – https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-the-proposed-commonwealth-integrity-commission-and-how-would-it-work-140734

Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate quits in Cartier watches affair

Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate quits in Cartier watches affair

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Chief of Australia Post Christine Holgate has fallen on her sword, admitting the “optics” of her gift of Cartier watches to four high-performing employees did not pass the “pub test” for many people.

Holgate’s Monday resignation follows Scott Morrison’s ferocious parliamentary attack on her last month, when he said “the chief executive … has been instructed to stand aside, if she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.”

Earlier that day, Holgate had revealed, under Labor questioning in Senate estimates, that she had given the watches as rewards.

The Prime Minister was particularly infuriated by Holgate’s claim they were not paid for by the taxpayer because Australia Post – which is government owned – was a commercial enterprise.

Morrison immediately set up an inquiry into the watches, which totalled nearly $20,000 in value, and other Australia Post expenses.

In a statement on Monday, Holgate said that with “great sadness” she had offered her resignation to the Post chair and board, with immediate effect. “I am not seeking any financial compensation,” she said.

She said she would make herself available to participate in the inquiry.

Holgate has been the object of a sustained leaking campaign to undermine her, perhaps involving disgruntled employees, former and/or current.

Morrison’s attack on her has been criticised by some high profile business figures, who think he went beyond what was justified in response to her misjudgement.

Holgate said as Christmas approached, with its significant challenges, it was critically important Australia Post was absolutely focused on its customers and communities.

“I firmly believe the ‘ship’ needs a strong captain at the helm to help navigate through this time,” she said.

“The current issue I am managing is a significant distraction and I do not believe it is good for either Australia Post or my own personal wellbeing.

“Consequently, I have made the difficult decision to resign, hoping it will allow the organisation to fully focus on serving our customers.”

While conceding the watches had been bad optics, Holgate defended rewarding the employees who had forged a deal for banking services to be available through Post Offices.

“I have always sought to recognise and thank the efforts of our 80,000 strong extended team, as together they are the real heroes behind our results. Philosophically, I believe if you want to drive positive change, you need to thank and reward positive behaviours.

“However, I deeply regret that a decision made two years ago, which was supported by the Chair, to recognise the outstanding work of four employees has caused so much debate and distraction and I appreciate the optics of the gifts involved do not pass the ‘pub test’ for many.

“I still believe firmly that the people who achieved the Bank@Post outcome for Australia Post deserved recognition, their work secured a $220m investment over the following years, which dramatically improved the financial performance of the company, protected a critical community service which more than 50% of the communities in Australia depend on and made our Community Post Offices sustainable for the long term.”

She said she had “no animosity towards the Government and have enjoyed working with the Prime Minister, the Shareholder Ministers and many other political leaders during my tenure”.

“I am deeply appreciative of the significant support I have received from our people, our customers, our partners – especially our Community Licensed Post Offices and individuals across the country. I have made this difficult decision to leave to enable Australia Post to be able to fully focus on delivering for our customers.

“My sincere apologies if my words or actions have offended others as this would never have been my intention because I have always held Australia Post in the greatest regard.”

The union covering postal workers said Holgate’s resignation would not solve the “rot” at Australia Post.

It said the workforce “had been dismayed at recent management strategies including intentional underemployment, the move away from daily deliveries and a parcel back log that continues to grow out of control in many areas”.

CEPU Communications Union National Secretary Greg Rayner said “There’s something seriously wrong when management thinks nothing of splashing out on Cartier luxury watches but delivers only cut backs and service cuts for the rest of us”.

He said the “rest of the so-called leadership team must be held accountable for this mess”.

ref. Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate quits in Cartier watches affair – https://theconversation.com/australia-post-ceo-christine-holgate-quits-in-cartier-watches-affair-149275

Why Dawson’s Creek, in all its cringey glory, is the TV show 90s kids need right now

Why Dawsons Creek, in all its cringey glory, is the TV show 90s kids need right now

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Laura Glitsos, Lecturer in Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University

In times of flux and crisis, nostalgia works like a social ointment, mixed and mashed together through imperfect memory.

Netflix’s re-release of Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003) is an ointment tailor-made for adults who were once 90s kids. In the 90s we were on the verge of adulthood, all the complexity of the teenage drama playing out on Dawson’s Creek titillating our adolescence. And now we’ve arrived, we want desperately to go back to our teenage years.

Dawson’s Creek was time of simpler politics, the beauty of youth and the innocence of virginity.

In the idyllic town of Capeside, Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) is a typical 90s all-American teen with a passion for film and popular culture. The series traces the complexity of Dawson’s close adolescent friendship groups, romantic relationships and the angsty problems plaguing teen life.

As for sexual tension, Dawson’s Creek flirted with it all – from the virginal girl-next-door Joey (Katie Holmes) to the sexually-mature out-of-towner Jen (Michelle Williams). And let’s not forget Dawson’s best friend, Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), whose tryst with a 36-year-old English teacher seems even creepier in hindsight.

Still, like all things nostalgic, our memories of Dawson’s Creek have to do with a longing for a golden age that never truly existed. COVID has enhanced these feelings of longing for a romanticised past: whether a golden age of bread-baking or through wearing “Mom jeans”.

Comfort food

We often return to familiar stories after a crisis. After the 9/11 attacks, American television and film emphasised strong role models of masculinity and the “cowboy” mythology. Americans were looking for a sense of security – a steely-eyed hero to swoop in and make everything OK again.

Dawson’s Creek brings us back to innocence and simplicity. Even if it was always just a fantasy.

Jack McPhee and girlfriend Joey
We can’t return to our teenage lives – and perhaps that is the comfort. AP Photo/WB, Tim Rook

In the summery Cape Cod town of Dawson’s Creek, teens are free to touch, embrace, love, and roam freely. And they certainly do all those things in spades.


Read more: In my end is my beginning: why TV streaming services love exploiting your nostalgia


A central tension of the series is the love triangle between Dawson, Pacey and Joey. While it brings all manner of tears and diatribes, Dawson’s Creek offers a micro-drama we know will eventually resolve. The only thing better than no problem is a problem we know can be fixed.

Returning to the creek

When the series streamed on the weekend, I jumped in and found Capeside exactly where I had left it: in unbearably pristine condition. But with fresh eyes, the cringe-factor was astronomical.

One of the great elements of the show, differing from others of its nature and era was the cadence of the dialogue. The writers clearly had no regard for how teenagers spoke.

In the first episode, Joey foreshadows the coming season’s narrative, telling Dawson “[…] our emerging hormones are destined to alter our relationship and I’m trying to limit the fallout”.

Re-watching as an adult, it feels exactly how a teenager wants to sound, but usually falls endearingly short.

I can’t recall making any quippy statements that perfectly articulated a meta-analysis of my own chaotic adolescent experience.

Then there’s the scene where the new English teacher, Tamara (Leann Hunley), meets Pacey for the first time at the video store and asks for a copy of The Graduate (1967). Clearly, the writers were not going for subtlety.

Reliving teenage life

Dawson’s Creek brings with it a carnival of long-lost 90s moments: the posters on Dawson’s wall referencing Spielberg films; his job at the local video store; the cassettes and VHS tapes strewn around teenage bedrooms; the grunge-lite clothing.

Though our teen years comprise a small fraction of our lives, they often hold far more emotional weight. Psychologists theorise this is because of the impact of the often painful negotiation between holding onto the safety of childhood, and the dreams of emerging adulthood.

This negotiation marks these years with such force they stay imprinted in ways other decades do not.

During this time, there is also a critical relationship between the importance of popular culture and moments of identity formation. The art we grow up with imprints upon our psyche for life.

So perhaps I am not so much cringing at the show, but cringing at myself. Dawson’s Creek gives me a safe space to revisit my teenage years. Through remembering what I watched, I can remember who I was.

Known knowns

It is strange to watch the show now we know how it turned out – both on screen and off. We leave the crew as they leave the creek, trying to find their own feet in the world in their own burgeoning adulthoods.

Van Der Beek has had some minor success: he was impressive in The Rules of Attraction (2002) and pulled off some great self-referential television, playing himself in Don’t Trust the B Apartment 23 (2012–13).

Holmes had some great parts but never seemed to thrive in her acting career, while Jackson has shone in subsequent television roles. But it was Williams who became the breakout star. The youngest major cast member, she has been nominated for four Academy Awards.


Read more: Exploring the data on Hollywood’s gender pay gap


Back in the day Dawson’s Creek offered us an escape – even if momentarily. And now, perhaps it has a similar function. In the turmoil of 2020, it is comforting to return to the fantasy of Capeside’s pristine community, where the biggest problem is who will Joey choose?

ref. Why Dawson’s Creek, in all its cringey glory, is the TV show 90s kids need right now – https://theconversation.com/why-dawsons-creek-in-all-its-cringey-glory-is-the-tv-show-90s-kids-need-right-now-148539

Keith Rankin – Cromwell and all that

Cromwell and Lake Dunstan from the lookout. Camera at -45.051005°, 169.214617° Image, Wikipedia.org.

Article by Keith Rankin.

New Zealand’s most egregious placename

Keith Rankin.

Over an extended Labour Weekend, I undertook a four-day road trip from Auckland to Cromwell. It was great to reconnect on the way with places like Taihape, Blenheim, Kaikoura, Ashburton, and Fairlie; and to appreciate that this was possible in an environment where almost nobody felt sufficiently unsafe to wear facemasks, where other people were just good Kiwis (ie not a potential health threat to me), and where I was not seen as a threat (despite coming from Auckland).

Cromwell is a beautiful town that’s the economic hub of a very special region of New Zealand, Central Otago. And it has a museum that I enjoyed visiting, and learning much about its history. But why-o-why that name? Nothing in the museum explained the name, though I was soon able to work it out.

I went to Cromwell to make a delivery to an address in Donegal Street, which is near the historical precinct. On the way there, streets I encountered were Antrim, Monaghan, Sligo, Coleraine, Leitrim, Down; and there’s a Boyne Place. The old store in the historic precinct is the Belfast Store. And Melmore Street – the main street of Old Cromwell, was named after a village – now a caravan park – in the far north of Ireland.

Cromwell hasn’t always been ‘Cromwell’, even in colonial times. Its first Pākehā name was The Junction. Its ‘official’ Māori name is Tirau, and it has also been called Kawarau. However, the most assertive colonisation of the Clutha/Kawarau junction in the 1860s was by men from Ulster. And they brought their baggage with them.

Cromwell was proudly named by them after Oliver Cromwell, the effective founder of the sectarian Ulster, the Northern Ireland we recognise as the United Kingdom’s political tinderbox. From 1649 to 1650, Oliver Cromwell – autocrat of England following the execution of King Charles – initiated the most substantial act of ethnic cleansing in British recorded history. Subsequently, the north of Ireland was resettled by Scottish Presbyterian immigrants. This historical situation created the ‘Troubles’ of the late twentieth century, and remains the basis for the most difficult challenge to the practical realisation of Brexit. There is no pride any longer; the name is an unacknowledged embarrassment.

What else might Cromwell be called? Its Māori names – Tirau and Kawarau – are already names of towns in New Zealand. And ‘The Junction’ would only succour nostalgia for the days before the Clyde Dam required the drowning of much of the old town – and Cromwell’s outskirts – to create Lake Dunstan. One possibility for a new name is ‘Reko’, the name of the guide who escorted explorer Nathaniel Chalmers up the Clutha valley and on to Lake Wakatipu.

Other towns and cities

Pembroke became Wanaka – named after the lake – in 1940. Alexandra (North) became Pirongia – named after the mountain – in 1896 to avoid confusion with Alexandra. There are precedents for the restoration of Māori names.

Palmerston North should have become Papaioea, long ago. Though it is never too late. When I was on my OE (‘overseas experience’) in London in the 1970s, I always wanted to tell people I was born on Ōtaki, raised in Papaioea, and hailed from Aotearoa. It never worked though. To the English, my origins sounded interplanetary rather than interoceanic. Further, few Kiwis in London had heard of Papaioea, and for many Ōtaki was only known as the name of a song by The Fourmyula.

Dodgy names – in the Cromwellian sense – include Napier, Hastings and Clive.

Hamilton – the name of a fallen officer at Gate Pa – at least recognises the particular war that led to that city’s creation, and the battle which represented British military failure in the Waikato War. There is a problem with the Māori name – like Paraparaumu, Kirikiriroa has too many syllables – and might be shortened to something too much like ‘Kerikeri’. Hamilton could become Waikato, however, just as Whanganui is the name of both a city and a river.

Wellington and Nelson both relate to major heroic figures in British history; heroic in ways that Cromwell was not. There is an argument for keeping those names. One counterargument is that there are too many other Wellingtons and Nelsons in the world.

Palmerston North is an interesting case, named after one of the most important statesmen of the Victorian era; Lord Palmerston died in office just as Palmerston North was beginning. Palmerston was a more important person in British history even than Lord Melbourne, though maybe not as esteemed as the Duke of Wellington. Unlike the Duke, Palmerston was a significant ‘progressive’ – as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister – in the context of his time. However, Palmerston also gained a significant reputation as a sexual predator; nevertheless, tolerated by his political allies in the same sense that Donald Trump’s and Bill Clinton’s indiscretions were overlooked by their supporters. The ‘Me Too’ movement is a reason why Palmerston North – a progressive city, with arguably more PhDs per square kilometre than any other city in New Zealand – should get on with restoring its Māori name.

Then there’s Auckland; named after George Eden, Earl of Auckland, Viceroy of India. Auckland, while higher up the class ladder than Hamilton, was no hero or statesman on the scale of Nelson, Wellington or Palmerston. We could maintain a nod to him, in Eden Park. Otherwise the main reason to keep his titular name is that it is already the entrenched name for the city. Also, the Māori name – Tāmaki Makaurau – is too long. And Tāmaki is already established as the eastern portion of Auckland. I think the transliteration ‘Akarana’ could work, though, as an alternative to ‘Auckland’.

Aotearoa?

The ‘elephant in the room’ – of course – is ‘New Zealand’ itself. How many New Zealanders know how, when and why we got our European name?

I like the name New Zealand. It has been the most prominent name for our territory, and in continuous use since 1643, named for the principals of the Dutch East India Company to match the then name – New Holland – of our trans-Tasman neighbour. The principals of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were from the maritime provinces of Holland and Zeeland. The European ‘discovery’ of New Zealand was made in December 1642 by Abel Tasman, an employee of the VOC.

How many other territories have had the same name for nearly 400 years? A few in Europe, Asia, Africa, Pasifika, and Caribbean. But not many.

One problem with the name ‘Aotearoa’ is that we are not yet used to calling ourselves ‘Aoteroans’; indeed to many foreign ears ‘Aotearoan’ sounds a bit alien. On a Google search ‘Aotearoan’ only gets 38,000 hits, while Aotearoa gets 13 million. ‘Australia’ and ‘Australian’ get about the same number of hits as each other.

So, I think that Aotearoa New Zealand works in a semi-official sense, with both Aotearoa and New Zealand equally acceptable in a general sense. ‘New Zealand’ continues to work best in an international comparative sense, with NZ as an abbreviation that’s almost as well-established as UK or USA or UAE. ANZ doesn’t work as well; it’s the name of a bank.

If we ever do go as far as completely dropping the name ‘New Zealand’, I think that would also the time to replace ‘Auckland’.

Biden remains strong favourite for US election; Queensland Labor set for increased majority

Biden remains strong favourite for US election; Queensland Labor set for increased majority

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

Two days before Wednesday’s US election (AEDT), the FiveThirtyEight national aggregate gives Joe Biden an 8.6% lead over Donald Trump (52.0% to 43.4%). In the key states, Biden leads by 8.3% in Wisconsin, 8.2% in Michigan, 4.8% in Pennsylvania, 3.1% in Arizona and 2.2% in Florida.

Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania is almost four points below his national lead, and that gives Trump hope of pulling off an Electoral College/popular vote split, as occurred at the 2016 election. Pennsylvania is the most likely “tipping-point” state that could put either Trump or Biden over the magic 270 Electoral Votes.

If Biden loses Pennsylvania, but wins Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he would have 269 Electoral Votes, one short of 270. Either Maine’s or Nebraska’s second Congressional District could in that scenario give Biden the narrowest of Electoral College wins. These states award one Electoral Vote to the winner of each of their districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states are winner-takes-all.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the tipping-point state (Wisconsin) by 0.8%, while winning the popular vote by 2.1% – a difference between the tipping-point and popular vote of 2.9%.

Analyst Nate Silver says while Trump can plausibly win, he would need the polls to be wrong by far more than in 2016. At this stage in 2016, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gave Trump a 35% chance; he currently has just a 10% chance. Trump only has a 3% chance to win the popular vote.

Trump had one very good poll result from a high-quality pollster: a Selzer Iowa poll gave him a seven-point lead in that state. But most high-quality polls have been far better for Biden: Siena polls for The New York Times gave Biden six-point leads in Arizona and Pennsylvania, a three-point lead in Florida and an 11-point lead in Wisconsin.

In FiveThirtyEight aggregates, Biden leads by 2.0% in North Carolina and 1.5% in Georgia. He trails by 0.3% in Ohio, 1.2% in Texas and 1.7% in Iowa. If Biden won all these states, he would win over 400 Electoral Votes. Florida is now in this group of states when it had previously been better for Biden.

Trump’s net job approval ratings have jumped three points since last week. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his net approval with all polls is -8.5%, and -7.0% with polls of likely or registered voters. The RealClearPolitics average has Biden’s net favourability at +7, while Trump’s is -13.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on October 22 that there are two key measures where Biden is doing far better than Clinton. First, Biden is over 50% in national polls, which Clinton never achieved. Second, he has a net positive favourability rating, whereas both Clinton and Trump were very unpopular in 2016.

The US election results will come through on Wednesday from 10am AEDT. You can read my wrap for The Poll Bludger of when polls close in the key states and results are expected. A key early results state is Florida; most polls close at 11am AEDT, but the very right-wing Panhandle closes an hour later.

In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast, Democrats now have a 79% chance to win control. The most likely outcome is a 52-48 Democratic majority. The 80% confidence range is 48 to 56 Democratic seats.

Labor set for increased Queensland majority

With 68% of enrolled voters counted at Saturday’s Queensland election, the ABC is calling Labor wins in 50 of the 93 seats. The LNP has won 30 seats, all Others seven, and six seats are in doubt. Labor won 48 seats at the 2017 election, so they have already improved on that.

Current statewide primary votes are 40.2% Labor (up 4.8% since 2017), 35.8% LNP (up 2.1%), 9.0% Greens (down 1.0%), 7.0% One Nation (down 6.8%), 2.6% Katter’s Australian Party (up 0.3%) and a paltry 0.6% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

In Saturday night’s article, I wrote that the Greens could win four seats. They won Maiwar and South Brisbane, and appeared to have good chances in Cooper and McConnel. However, postal counting has pushed the Greens into third in both Cooper and McConnel, and they are now too far behind the LNP in both seats to realistically hope to overtake. Labor will win these seats on Greens preferences.

ref. Biden remains strong favourite for US election; Queensland Labor set for increased majority – https://theconversation.com/biden-remains-strong-favourite-for-us-election-queensland-labor-set-for-increased-majority-148001

Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen

Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

Jacinda Ardern’s new “COVID cabinet” is pretty much the same as — and completely unlike — every previous government under the mixed member proportional (MMP) system.

The similarity involves the political accommodation reached between Labour and the Greens. Every government formed since 1996 has rested on such arrangements. This one does too.

The difference lies in Ardern’s administration being the first single-party majority government since the electoral rules changed in the mid-1990s. Add to that the arrangement with the Greens and they have a massive 74-seat bloc in the House — 13 more than is needed to govern.

In brute political terms, Ardern is at the head of one of (and perhaps the) biggest parliamentary alliances in the nation’s history.

The Greens’ consolation prize

The deal announced over the weekend is a cooperation agreement. Think of it as the smallest of the consolation prizes, the thing you’re offered when your support is nice to have but not really necessary.

For the 15% of Green delegates who voted against it, perhaps it was just too small, and you can see their point. In the last government (when the party had eight rather than ten seats), the Greens held ten full or associate portfolios.


Read more: New Zealand’s new parliament turns red: the 2020 election results at a glance


None of their ministers sat in cabinet, true, but there were four in the executive. Now there are only two, holding four portfolios between them — and they’re still not sitting at the top table.

Look more closely at the detail, though, and things get more interesting.

Jacinda Ardern with Green Party co-leaders

Nice to have: Jacinda Ardern signs the co-operation agreement with Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw. GettyImages

A new kind of MMP

The Green ministers will participate in relevant cabinet committees and informal ministerial groups, have access to officials’ papers, and get to meet with the prime minister at least every six weeks. Labour and the Greens’ respective chiefs of staff will also meet regularly.

What’s more, the party will chair one parliamentary committee and get the deputy’s slot on another. In non-portfolio areas of mutual interest, Green spokespeople will have access to Labour ministers and departmental advice.


Read more: With a mandate to govern New Zealand alone, Labour must now decide what it really stands for


All that and they get to publicly disagree with the government on policies that fall outside Green portfolios. That is not a bad policy haul for a party Labour does not need to form a government.

And there is no way any of it would have happened under the single-party majority governments we used to see under the previous first-past-the-post system. So it may be a consolation prize, but in fact it’s not that small.

Nanaia Mahuta
New Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta becomes the first woman to hold the position. GettyImages

A more diverse government

As well as being the first single-party majority MMP government, it is also a diverse one. In her first term Ardern acknowledged the importance of having more women in cabinet. Nearly half (47%) of the new parliament — and a majority of Labour’s caucus (53%) — are women.

To some extent this is reflected in the makeup of the executive. Eight of the 20 full cabinet members are women; in total, women comprise 43% of the wider administration. There are more women in the ministry than in the National Party’s caucus.

The executive also contains a solid number of people of colour: perhaps as many as a quarter of all ministers and parliamentary under-secretaries are non-Pākehā.

On election night, Labour’s Māori caucus conveyed a direct message to the prime minister about the importance of a solid Māori presence in Cabinet. She appears to have listened.

Between them, Labour’s Māori MPs get five seats in cabinet. Add positions outside cabinet as well as the Greens’ Marama Davidson and Māori comprise 25% of all members of the executive. Perhaps most noteworthy is that Nanaia Mahuta becomes the country’s first female Minister of Foreign Affairs.


Read more: Labour’s single-party majority is not a failure of MMP, it is a sign NZ’s electoral system is working


Ardern has also looked carefully at her back bench and the clutch of incoming MPs, bringing some of them into the political executive. Jan Tinetti and Kiri Allan have been marked for higher things for some time, while the newly minted MP Dr Ayesha Verrall comes straight into cabinet as an associate health minister.

Kelvin Davis in parliament corridor
Kelvin Davis opted not to remain as deputy prime minister, but will stay on as Labour Party deputy leader. AAP

Power and control

Under certain circumstances a large parliamentary caucus can be a challenge. Thwarted egos, stifled ambitions, fits of pique — once the thrill of the election result has worn off, managing relations between those who are in government and the wider parliamentary party will be one of the chief challenges facing Labour’s whips.

The Green co-leaders aside, Ardern’s executive comprises 40% of the Labour party’s caucus. Given the conventions of collective cabinet responsibility, this means that members of the government have a near majority within caucus, so discipline shouldn’t be an issue — yet.

It is hard to overstate just how much control Ardern has over New Zealand’s 53rd parliament. Even before special votes are counted, the parliamentary arithmetic renders National, ACT and the Māori Party virtually irrelevant.

Labour dominates the executive, and between them Labour and the Greens will dominate the legislature and its committees. Voters have placed considerable power in Ardern’s hands. It’s time to see what she does with it.

ref. Her cabinet appointed, Jacinda Ardern now leads one of the most powerful governments NZ has seen – https://theconversation.com/her-cabinet-appointed-jacinda-ardern-now-leads-one-of-the-most-powerful-governments-nz-has-seen-148984

Hijacking anxiety: how Trump weaponised social alienation into ‘racialised economics’

Hijacking anxiety: how Trump weaponised social alienation into racialised economics

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Robert Breunig, Professor of Economics and Director, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Polls point to a decisive defeat for Donald Trump. But his unexpected win in 2016 still has opponents rattled, fearing the same divisive rhetoric that characterised his 2016 campaign could help him scrape home.

The US has not been so divided by politics, religion and identity in decades. Particularly troubling are the nation’s inflamed ethnic divisions.

Overall, polls show a majority of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of “race relations”.

But now, as in 2016, what matters is the view of voters in the “rust-belt” states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvannia, which all swung to Trump in 2016 on the back of strong support from white working-class voters.


Read more: Who exactly is Trump’s ‘base’? Why white, working-class voters could be key to the US election


Trump’s success depended on personal economic concerns being pipped by “racialised economics”, argue politics professors John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck in their influential 2018 book Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America:

By racialised economics they mean the important sentiment underlying Trump’s support was not “I might lose my job” but “people in my group are losing jobs to that other group”. Individualised economic anxiety was replaced by group fears and perceived grievances.

Our more recent research, using a nationally representative sample of nearly 500,000 Americans, largely supports this contention. It also suggests that behind the appeal of this ethnic identity politics hide deeper issues of social disconnectedness.

Biden and Trump supporters clash prior to the vice-presidential debate in Salt Lake City on October 7 2020.
Biden and Trump supporters clash prior to the vice-presidential debate in Salt Lake City on October 7 2020. Jeff Swinger/AP

With Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic dominating 2020, and an opponent who isn’t Hillary Clinton, the dog whistling to white voters looks unlikely to work as it did four years ago.

But the problems Trump has weaponised won’t be defused merely by his defeat.

For Biden to make good on his promise to heal the nation’s divisions, he will need to address the social disconnection providing fertile conditions for racialised economics.

The psychology driving racial animus

To analyse the significance of racialised economics in the US, we combined county-level data on economic indicators with individual-level well-being and socioeconomic data. Our primary data source was nearly 500,000 observations from the US Gallup Daily Poll (which has polled 500 American adults every day since 2008). Our data set covered the period 2014 to 2018.

The key things we wanted to analyse from this information were measures of “relatedness”, “social capital” and “worry”, cross-relating these with “racial animus” and voting preference.

Relatedness reflects personal security and fulfilment from social connection. It is measured through responses to questions such as “I cannot imagine living in a better community”, “The area where I live is perfect for me” and “my friends and family give me energy every day”.

Social capital is also about connectedness, but to do with community cohesion rather than the personal experience of relationships. It is measured through things like the extent to which people know their neighbours and participate in community activities. Such connections have declined precipitously over the past 50 years. In particular, the share of adults who say most people can be trusted has fallen from 46% in the 1970s to 31%.

Worry is measured by a simple question of whether people experienced worry yesterday.

Racial animus means racial prejudice. We measure it at a county level using Google searches involving racist key words.

Counter-demonstrators face off in the town of Stone Mountain, Georgia, on August 15 2020.
Opposing demonstrators face off in the town of Stone Mountain, Georgia, on August 15 2020. Far-right groups rallied there in ‘defence’ of the Confederate Memorial Carving, built in the 1960s to commemorate Confederate leaders, John Amis/EPA

Read more: Racism has long shaped US presidential elections. Here’s how it might play out in 2020


High anxiety, low relatedness

Just as other researchers have found, our county-level results show a correlation between racial animus and Trump’s support in both the 2016 Republican primary race and the presidential election.

More importantly, they also show Trump’s support correlated with relatively high rates of anxiety and relatively low levels of relatedness – and that higher relatedness would have been enough to negate the effect of racial animus.

This suggests people lacking a sense of relatedness in their own environment look to higher-level connections like patriotism and ethnic identity.

That conclusion is supported by social psychology experiments showing that stoking anxiety leads to exaggerated loyalty to an in-group and disdain for other groups.

As cognitive scientist Colin Holbrook and his colleages explain:

Indeed, numerous studies have found that initially conscious reminders of threats that do not subsequently arouse conscious distress engender a form of evaluation bias termed worldview defence – the polarisation of ratings for pleasant and against aversive cultural attitudes.


Read more: 5 reasons not to underestimate far-right extremists


Diversity and social capital

None of this is to suggest declining connectedness and heightened anxiety is the only reason people voted for Trump. The rural communities of “heartland America” that are traditionally majority Republican typically have high social capital (through church affiliations and the like).

But in the key swing “rust-belt” states – constituencies to whom Trump promised to bring back manufacturing and mining jobs – our research suggests worry and anxiety channelled into ethnic group identification was the decisive factor. These areas showed the lowest rates of relatedness in the US.


How anxiety and the need for relatedness lead to racial voting


As he desperately tries to repeat his 2016 success, Trump’s “greatest hits” campaign has again sought to stoke the group fears of white voters.

His campaign has made some effort to suggest he has ethnically diverse supporters, but this is largely seen as as attempt to assure white women he isn’t a racist.

Trump supporters selected to attend his campaign rally at The White House on October 10 2020.
Trump supporters selected to attend his campaign rally at the White House on October 10, 2020. Jose Luis Magana/AP

On the other hand, he has flubbed repeated opportunities to condemn white nationalism, defended Confederate statues, demonised the Black Lives Matter movement and made unsubtle statements about protecting suburbanites from “low-income housing”.

Such rhetoric, though, has been overtaken by events – namely Trump’s dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and failure to deliver a health-care plan. His other key strengths in 2106 – his appeal as an “outsider”, his promise to “drain the swamp”, his apparent unfiltered “candour”, and his assurances he would fix everything – are no longer so compelling.

But though Biden may well win the rustbelt states, these communities remain economically and cultural insecure, with thinning social capital. Their vulnerability to racial rhetoric remains.

To fulfil his promise to unite America, therefore, a Biden administration will need to address the underlying issues of low social capital and connectedness.

ref. Hijacking anxiety: how Trump weaponised social alienation into ‘racialised economics’ – https://theconversation.com/hijacking-anxiety-how-trump-weaponised-social-alienation-into-racialised-economics-147366

Do I really need this crown? Dentists admit feeling pressured to offer unnecessary treatments

Do I really need this crown? Dentists admit feeling pressured to offer unnecessary treatments

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Alexander Holden, Senior Lecturer in Dental Ethics, University of Sydney

If your dentist recommends a crown, your wisdom teeth extracted, or some other common treatment, you may wonder whether it’s really necessary.

We don’t know how common such over-servicing is. However, our research, which includes interviews with Australian dentists in private practice, published today, shows it is an issue.

Not only is this a problem for patients, some dentists say they feel pressured to recommend unnecessary treatments. And the way dentists are paid for their services actually encourages it.


Read more: How often should I get my teeth cleaned?


What is over-servicing in dentistry?

Over-servicing can occur in many types of health care, with various definitions. But in dentistry, our research defines over-servicing as when dental treatments are provided over and above what’s clinically justified, or where there is no justification for that care at all.

Over-servicing in dentistry is reported internationally and discussed online.

And we’ve known about it in Australia for some time. In 2012, a Sydney dentist went to court and was fined more than A$1.7 million for performing almost $75,000 worth of treatment on one patient, knowing it was unnecessary and would be ineffective.

In 2013, another Sydney dentist was found guilty of over-servicing elderly nursing home patients, some of whom had dementia. He filed down their teeth to fit them for crowns they did not need, without anaesthesia.

However, over-servicing can be less extreme than revealed in these landmark court cases. Dentists we interviewed said they often felt pressured to over-service as part of their day-to-day practice.


Read more: Five commonly over-diagnosed conditions and what we can do about them


What we found

We analysed interviews with, and diary entries from, 20 Australian dentists working in private practice, the first study of its kind to include their perspectives on over-servicing.

Most dentists we interviewed had felt pressure to provide unnecessary care. Pressure came from practice owners, or their own need to meet financial commitments.

They spoke about a culture in some practices of “finding treatment” to do, rather than simply treating the issues patients had:

I quit my first job because they were overly commercial and I figured that out about two weeks in because there it was very much a matter of, “how many crowns are you doing per week? We expect our clinicians to be doing at least a crown a day” and there was no real care factor towards, what does the patient actually need? It was very much a matter of, “Okay, you’re seeing a new patient, see if you can get this much revenue out of that one”.

Why does this happen?

Most private dentists in Australia earn their wage linked to how much treatment they provide. So this fee-for-service model provides an incentive for them to provide more treatment, rather than less.

However, over-servicing isn’t inevitable. Some participants said their professional identities as dentists helped them place patients before profit:

Look, I’d always put my professionalism first. There’s been a couple of times when I’ve recommended a crown and I sort of thought “OK, am I doing this because the crown is a high-end item or because I really believe it’s the best thing for the patient?”, and I always go with what I believe is the best thing for the patient.

The dentists we spoke to also said they spent a lot of time considering how they managed patient care in a system inherently skewed to promote over-servicing.

So what happens when you shift away from purely a fee-for-service model? This might include a monthly fee for having a patient registered with a practice or service, as trialled in the United Kingdom.

The amount of clinical treatment reduced, with patients noting little change in the service they received.


Read more: Two million Aussies delay or don’t go to the dentist – here’s how we can fix that


How do we tackle this?

We could address the culture of over-servicing by changing the way dentists are paid, away from a pure fee-for-service model. Payments could be linked to measurable improvements in oral health, rather than purely just how much dentists do.

However, with fee-for-service being so entrenched in Australian dentistry, we admit this would be a difficult task, despite the increased awareness of the topic that research like ours brings.


Read more: 50 shades whiter: what you should know about teeth whitening


What if I’m not sure I need a recommended treatment?

If you’re not sure why your dentist is recommending a certain treatment, ask. You can also ask about the pros and cons of other options, including doing nothing for now and keeping an eye on things.

If you’re not satisfied with the answer, you can ask for a second opinion. One thing to consider is that you’ll need to ask your dentist for a copy of your clinical records and x-rays (to avoid these needing to be taken again). And if visiting another dentist, you probably will need to pay for another consultation.

If you’re unhappy with your care, the best place to complain to first is your treating clinician; dentists really value receiving feedback and the opportunity to put things right.


Read more: Patients have rights. Here’s how to use yours


ref. Do I really need this crown? Dentists admit feeling pressured to offer unnecessary treatments – https://theconversation.com/do-i-really-need-this-crown-dentists-admit-feeling-pressured-to-offer-unnecessary-treatments-148638

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