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6 December 2013 4:38 PM
The Coalition government’s first months in office have been a crash course in regional politics, with somewhat more emphasis on the "crash". Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has now put in place the first of what is expected to be six steps to repair Australia's damaged relationship with Indonesia, while relations with East Timor are being battered by clumsy handling of that country's claim for arbitration over the Timor Sea.
Bishop's visit to Jakarta and her softer approach to Australia's culpability over spying on Indonesia, including its President, was exactly what was needed to keep this critically important relationship on track. Unfortunately, it was needed more than three weeks ago, when such an approach could have averted the subsequent fallout.
Had Bishop gone to Jakarta with exactly her current approach when the spying scandal first broke -- but before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was involved -- the issue would have been neutralised. Instead, Prime Minister Tony Abbott weighed in via Parliament, making a bad situation worse.
That lesson about pre-emptive diplomacy has now been learned. But Indonesia will have to take the lead and shape a re-established relationship.
With East Timor, the government -- and its predecessor -- have known for years that Australia would face a legal challenge over the forced carve-up of the Timor Sea. The East Timorese government has long signalled that its claims against Australia included allegations of Australian spying in order to gain an unfair advantage.
With the first hearing on the matter in the International Court of Arbitration known well in advance, it is deeply puzzling why Attorney-General George Brandis would wait until almost the eve of the hearing before ordering raids on the office of East Timor's lawyer, Bernard Collaery, and the home of a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer.
Brandis claims the raids were not intended to try to thwart East Timor’s case, but were rather focused on preventing the release of classified information. But given the timing, that is not how it looks.
In any case, most of the relevant material was already in The Hague and will be available to the court. The raids and cancelling of the passport of the former ASIS officer are a minor glitch for East Timor’s case, but will be counted against Australia’s argument before the court.
So, too, being counted against Australia will be former foreign minister Alexander Downer’s support for Woodside Petroleum -- the major player in proposed Timor Sea gas extraction -- and the economic benefit it stands to receive as a consequence of the Timor Sea carve-up. That Downer has since been put on Woodside’s payroll looks, at best, like a conflict of interest.
At stake in the hearing is the legality of Australia’s CMATs agreement with East Timor which, if it is found to be invalid, will also invalidate two previous treaties which are "read together" with CMATS. Up for grabs, again, will be the issue of a permanent sea border between the two countries, and control over more than $40 billion worth of gas and oil.
Should this claim be successful, not only will the sea border with East Timor be up for grabs, the previously related sea border with Indonesia will then become out of synch. One border will reflect a median point between two countries, the other the edge of a continental shelf.
Of major concern to Australia is that it could now lose territorial reach and control over a good proportion of the Timor Sea's resources. Of at least equal concern is the flow-on effect this could have for the border with Indonesia.
A dispute between Australia and tiny East Timor over their sea border is troubling. A subsequent territorial dispute with Indonesia would make the recent spying row pale into insignificance.
5 December 2013 11:40 AM
Beetroot juice is now high on the list of popular sports supplements. So why are athletes necking down this purple concoction and importantly, is it doing them any good?
With more research coming out than ever before supporting its use, there may just be some merit to moving this sports supplement out of the ‘fad’ category.
Beetroot juice contains lots of naturally occurring nitrate, which is found at different levels in many other vegetables. Nitrate is a powerful chemical in our body because it turns into nitric oxide.
4 December 2013 4:55 PM
For a country that has so much in its favour, Thailand seems to be locked in a historical cycle of elected governments and military coups. The current political turmoil wracking the country’s capital, Bangkok, looks to be bringing it back to the brink of military intervention.
The political divides in Thailand that have led to the current crisis are not as simple as corrupt elected leaders versus trusted technocrats. Thailand’s politics is multi-layered, geographically divided and reflects a series of differing agendas and ideologies.
As with Thailand’s last political crisis, this one can be broadly understood along "red shirt/yellow shirt" lines. The "red shirts" hold elected government; the "yellow shirts" want them out. But, more accurately, this current contest is now more clearly between elected government and an anti-democracy movement.
The governing Pheu Thai Party (PTP) is headed by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ousted prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra, who founded the PTP’s predecessor, Thai Rak Thai. Thaksin and Yingluck hail from the north of Thailand but also draw their support base from the north-east and, broadly, among working-class Thais in and around Bangkok. They have had a generally consistent numerical advantage over the opposition, the support base for which is largely urban and middle-class.
Opposing it is the Democrat Party, with demonstrations organised and led by recently resigned Democrat parliamentarian Suthep Thaugsuban. As deputy prime minister in 2010, Suthep ordered attacks against pro-democracy protesters, leaving 90 dead and 2000 injured. Suthep has announced the formation of the unelected "People's Committee for Thailand's Absolute Democracy under the Constitutional Monarchy", of which he would be secretary-general.
The military, always the key arbiter in Thai politics, is divided, but with its officer corps largely sympathetic to the opposition and/or the royalty. Thailand’s final political authority rests with the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who in the past has acted as a political circuit breaker.
However, the widely respected and much loved 86-year-old (on Thursday) king has been in physical decline in recent years and is regarded as no longer active. His successor, Prince Vajiralongkorn, is (in a country where criticising the royalty remains illegal) somewhat less popular than his father.
Thailand’s powerful business community tends to oppose the ruling PTP. But it, too, is divided. The more powerful lines of influence are not based simply on class, but divides among Thailand’s oligarchy, which shares a patronising top-down approach to all politics. This then reflects competing ethnicities (various language groups of Chinese-descendant Thais are dominant), patron-client networks and a traditional urban-rural divide that casts rural Thais in derogatory terms.
The PTP is widely seen as corrupt, buying votes and then engaging in corruption to cover costs. But the proposition that a "people’s council" of technocrats can be trusted is nonsense; apart from any other tendency they will, by definition, be unaccountable. Corruption is, thus, a given.
Where the king was happy to have a hands-off approach to Thai politics, other than in times of crisis, the prince is said to be more actively interested. One view has it that the current protests intend to restore the royalty to direct rule, with the backing of the army, or most of it.
Their agenda is to remove the PTP from power and to install, at a minimum, administrators appointed by the king. But with the king largely incapacitated, this decision would then fall to his son. The prince would thus become the less-than-benign arbiter of state affairs.
Over the past century, Thailand has experienced a military coup or an attempted coup, on average, at least once every five years. It is instructive, at this time of crisis, to note that the last military coup was seven years ago.
Sexuality Education Matters is a Deakin University series of videos showing footage of pre-service teachers and lecturers discussing their experiences and challenges, as well as some examples of teaching and learning activities in action.
The Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (CHCAP) seminar series aims to bring together academics and practitioners to discuss key issues facing cultural heritage and museums. The CHCAP is a leading research centre in the heritage and museum studies field, based in the Alfred Deakin Research Institute and the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. Established in 2001, as part of an agreement signed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Deakin University, the aims of CHCAP are: - To develop a critical knowledge base in which to understand the diverse ways in which cultural heritage (embodied in places, collections and exhibitions as well as in intangible forms of cultural production) constitutes a medium to value and understand the relationship between past, present and future as well as the need to conserve, manage and interpret cultural heritage. - To advocate for an understanding of heritage that not only influences and shapes cultural identity, but fosters cross-cultural understanding within our increasingly globalised world. - To inform the development of policy and practice in the interrelated field of heritage and museum studies by undertaking research which is both nationally and internationally relevant and addresses the most pressing issues in this field.
Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) allows you contribute in a professional capacity to the study and management of wildlife populations both in Australia and overseas. Wildlife and Conservation Biology has a strong focus on hands-on fieldwork. Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability) provides you with the skills and knowledge to manage the interaction between people and the environment, and to satisfy society's needs for clean water, fresh air and healthy soils through the sustainable use of natural resources, environments and ecosystem services.
Professor Noam Chomsky presented a lecture 'Changing Contours of Global Order', a look at our drastically changing world, and the implications for domestic and world order on 4 November 2011. This was a free public lecture and was Professor Chomsky's only public appearance in Melbourne, Australia. Professor Chomsky was an invited guest of Deakin University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Social media and mobile technologies have taken off in Australia. This collection of audio and video content looks at the various perspectives from business to sporting organisations to security and families.