Saturday, July 07, 2012

Saturday Morning Musings - things European via Higgs Boson, Indonesia & other matters

Today's Saturday Morning Musings starts with The Conversation. For the benefit of international readers, The Conversation is, in its own words, an independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the Australian university and research sector viewed by 350,000 readers each month.

In The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion, Mark Moran suggests that there is a thirty year pendulum in public policy towards Australia's indigenous peoples. He summarises it in this way:   

First is the reformist government that brings in the change (Whitlam and Howard). Then there is the consolidating government which tinkers but keeps the main policy thrust (Fraser and Rudd/Gillard). This is followed by the return of the implementing government which deepens and then is perceived to overreach to the next tipping point (Hawke/Keating and perhaps Abbott?). And around the 30 year anniversary, there is a shift in public opinion which heralds in a new policy era.


My point is that Indigenous affairs policy reform is strongly influenced by a pendulum of public opinion, on an approximate 30-year metronome. A potent policy driver to disadvantage in remote Aboriginal communities is what other Australians think of that disadvantage. The residents of these communities are not sufficient in number or political alignment to constitute a significant political force at the ballot box.

Similar in a way to asylum seekers, their plight captures the attention of the public, which politicians are beholden to. The clients of Indigenous affairs policy include other Australians, and 30 years is about the limit of their memory.

Just at present, we are at the midpoint in the age of mainstreaming, what Patrick Sullivan suggested should be called "normalisation,"in which previous Aboriginal specific policies and service delivery are absorbed into broader institutions.

Reading the short piece, I realised that it has been quite some time since I wrote something on policy towards Australia's Aboriginal people. I both agree and disagree with Mark. My feeling is that we are at a time of fundamental change, a tipping point.

Staying with The Conversation, Martin White's CERN discovers a Higgs-like particle: let the party (and head-scratching) begin covers the apparent discovery of the Higgs boson. It's an easy read, and has links to other material. As a sometimes science fiction addict, I really liked an earlier piece by Dean Rickles, Is the Large Hadron Collider a time machine?.

The graphic comes from Fake Science.

The visit to Darwin by Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for bilateral discussions was well covered in the Australian media.

Greg Sheridan's piece in The Australian, Indonesia relations in a mess, provides a remarkably acerbic view of the visit in terms of the performance of the Gillard Government. There is no doubt that the live cattle export affair was a mess in which Australian domestic political considerations created longer term economic and political damage. But I would have thought that Mr Abbott was, putting Mr Sheridan's puffery aside, equally prone to that habit. Refugee policy is an example.

Because of other preoccupations, I didn't have time at the time to check the Indonesian press reaction as I would normally try to do. However, if this story in the Jakarta Post is in any guide, In Darwin, SBY offers olive branch, Indonesian reporting of the whole thing was positive.   

The slow changes in Indonesian-Australian relations that have been working their way through have been just that, slow. The integration between the Australian and Indonesian economies was low simply because the economies were so different. It takes a long time to build links, but the process can then compound quite quickly.

If you look at the statistics on short term visitor arrivals, a proxy for the degree of connection, you will see that over the first months of 1991 arrivals from Indonesia were a miniscule 2,900 per month. Today they are averaging around 11,000 to 12,000 per month. Indonesia still doesn't rank in the top visitor source group, but that's only a matter of time.

Australians, by contrast, have clearly discovered Indonesia. In May, Indonesia was the second most popular destination for short term resident departures ranking just behind the US, with just over 73,000 Australians leaving for Indonesia. These are actual, not trend or seasonally adjusted numbers. In both trend and seasonally adjusted terms, Indonesia ranked second behind New Zealand.

I was looking around for something pleasant to finish this post, so turned to Sophie Masson's A la mode frangourou. There I learned in Introducing a great new French-Australian magazine that Australia did indeed have a new French-Australian magazine for the Francophiles among us.

I have written before on the current Australian love affair with things European. It's quite remarkable and strongly aided by the strength of the Australian dollar. At work, half a dozen people have been to Europe in the last six months. One is about to leave on her second trip!

I don't write as much as I should on life style issues, at least those that appeal to me. Sophie's Hearty winter delights 2: monastery fish reminded me of that. Why shouldn't I cook it?

While I loved the earlier episodes of Masterchef, the program lost me in the end because it was food without context. To my mind, food and for that matter wine is best savoured where other things add. Australia is a remarkably lucky country in its varied people and experiences. food for thought, so to say!  


Regular commenter kvd really acts as my research assistant. He drew my attention to this story on links between the Indonesian and Australian military at the people level. Do have a look at the video. It's rather fun.     


Anonymous said...

On Indonesia - Australia, I was greatly encouraged by reading this piece today - something which on the surface seems quite trivial, but in fact is at the coalface of alleviating potential misunderstandings between our people, and our neighbours in times of 'stress':

Most people would read that, I think, and say something like "silly old fart", but in fact there really is an international brotherhood in military circles, percolating just below the sometimes quite unreal performances of our politicians.

Anything which assists in mutual understanding at that operational level has got to be very good news, I think.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, kvd. I will bring this up on the main post.

Anonymous said...

I have to tell you Jim that I didn't (and won't bother to) watch the video. I was more referring to the idea that our military heads deem it useful to develop closer personal ties with our near neighbours via their opposite numbers.

But if it's cute, I guess that's a bonus.


Winton Bates said...

This might seem odd, Jim, but I can't think of a better way to ask kvd what he thinks of monitory democracy than to raise the question here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Winton - I would have to think long and hard about that.

I'm presently quite depressed by what I see being reported as to the crumbling of what I've always regarded as the bedrock of democracy: integrity, prudential management, a fine civil service, and an honourable judicial, press and banking system.

Now I see parliament foregoing its legislative responsibility, a press (the traditional press) being dishonoured by its current practitioners, our High Court decisions analysed as to personalities rather than judicial reasoning, etc. etc.

Possibly it was always a mixture of the good and not so good, but now our view is informed constantly by many new sources and opinion makers - some of them too loud, too partisan. The mechanics are more transparent but with that has gone a measure of our respect for the institutions and placeholders.

I think open monitoring and questioning is ok - except it can lead to always performing, never planning - but I dread the thought of our current democracy going down the path towards participatory democracy, for instance such as Getup! claims to be. Sometimes you need a government prepared to make and hold to tough decisions, and I don't think the constant daily questioning and second-guessing assists in that.

Jim's probably thought far more about this than I have, but I thank you for asking my opinion. I shall be interested to see what your own thoughts are, although I suspect you might be somewhat more of a fan than I presently am of the concept being extended to anything more than citizen-monitoring/review.


Winton Bates said...

Thanks kvd. My views are much the same.

I see it creating pressures for governments to take on more responsibilities while having uncertain effects on the effectiveness of government.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, both. Winton, I will do a short companion post to your own blog musings. It actually bears upon some of the things that I have campaigned against.