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Filter by September, 2012

The South China Sea disputes: some practical thinking from Australia

    Growing hostility between China and the Philippines, the failure of ASEAN Foreign Ministers to agree on a joint statement at their July meeting in Phnom Penh, and anti-China protests on the streets of Hanoi have re-focused international attention on long-standing maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea over the last several months. While issues like North Korea’s nuclear program and the China–Taiwan dispute have tended to dominate discussions of regional security over the last decade, one prominent Australian foreign policy analyst has argued recently that ‘it is in the South China Sea that the components of Asia’s changing power dynamics are most concent... Read more...

Small business - 2011 profile

Small business accounts for the majority of businesses in Australia. In terms of economic output and employment, it also makes a significant contribution.Counts of small businessesThe latest count of businesses by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was for 30 June 2011. The statistics show:there were just over 2.1 million businesses in Australiaover 61 per cent were non-employing businesses andalmost 96 per cent were small businesses (defined as employing fewer than 20 persons, includes non-employing).Year on year the number of small businesses grew by 0.4 per cent in 2010-11. The fastest growth occurred in those businesses employing 15 to 19 persons, 0.9 per cent (See Table 1). Howev... Read more...

Justice beyond law: clemency and the Royal Prerogative of Mercy

The campaign to secure posthumous pardons for Harry Harbord Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton has been the subject of debate in the media, and also in the Australian Parliament, over recent years. In May, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, stated that the Australian Government would take no further action on the petition to pardon the three.  Their chief advocate, James Unkles, has indicated his intention to pursue the matter in the UK Courts with the assistance of Dan Mori.  However, irrespective of its outcome, the Morant matter has highlighted the enduring role of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in Australia's justice system.  The Royal Prerogative of Mercy is the anci... Read more...

2012 APEC meeting in Russia: a success for Australia

The 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit was held on 8–9 September in Vladivostok, the Russian Far East. Russia hosted 21 member countries at the summit and in various side events throughout 2012, which attracted over 10 000 visitors in total. The preparation costs for 2012 APEC were estimated to be A$21 billion. By comparison, the Australian Government spent just over $300 million hosting the 2007 APEC summit in Sydney, of which over $170 million was invested in enhanced security.APEC economies account for 44 per cent of world trade and 56 per cent of global economic output ($39 trillion in 2011), and comprise a total of 2.7 billion people. Major areas under 2012 AP... Read more...

A code of conduct for members of the House of Representatives?

The House of Representatives is currently debating a motion, moved by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, to introduce a code of conduct covering members of the House of Representatives. The motion is based on the recommendations in the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests on a draft code of conduct for members of parliament.The motion is supported by the Government but the Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne, has confirmed that the Coalition will not support the motion if the relevant Senate committee has not reported on a code for the upper house.  He said that the Coalition had adopted this approach because ‘it would be pecu... Read more...

Homelessness in Australia - official ABS estimates

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has for the first time released official estimates of the prevalence of homelessness in Australia. The estimates, which are based on the ABS’s new definition of homelessness and methodology for estimating homelessness using census data, are provided for homelessness at the time of the 2001 and 2006 censuses. Estimates from the 2011 census are to be published on 12 November 2012. The ABS found that, as at the 2006 census, 89 728 Australians were homeless. This represents 0.5 per cent of the Australian population at that time and a rate of 45 homeless people for every 10 000 persons. At the 2001 census, the ABS estimates that 95 314 people were homeles... Read more...

Commonwealth legislating to ban large trawler

The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, has moved amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) Act. This will give the Government the powers to prevent the trawler, Abel Tasman, from fishing in Australian waters for up to two years while a scientific study on its impacts is carried out. The major issues with the vessel are its large size and fishing capability, which far exceeds any other fishing vessel in Australian waters, and possible impacts on protected species.The 142m long, 9,500 tonnes (t) mid-water trawler with freezer capacity of 6,200 t, previously registered as the Margiris in Lithuania... Read more...

43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands: Australian contributions welcomed

The annual 43rd Pacific Islands Forum took place in Cook Islands from 27 to 31 August 2012, bringing together 16 Heads of Government, including Australia, and observing international institutions. This was also the first regional leaders’ meeting discussing implications for the Pacific Island states of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.Cook Islands, the host nation, declared at the opening of the forum that it intends to create the world’s largest marine protection area—a move which was welcomed by international environmental organisations. Eight new treaties were also signed by seven Forum island countries (FICs), settling several overlapping areas of national ... Read more...

Unhealthy habits on the rise

Some of the key risk factors for a number of life threatening diseases have increased in prevalence in Australia over the last decade according to a recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The report, Risk factor trends: age patterns in key health risk factors over time, found that over the period, the proportion of people diagnosed with life threatening conditions including diabetes and chronic kidney disease had increased.Modifiable risk factors directly associated with these life threatening conditions, including being overweight or obese, physically inactive, and having a poor diet, had increased across all age groups, while excessive alcohol consumption had in... Read more...

PISA – more than just league tables?

In announcing the Government’s response to the Gonski Review, Prime Minister Gillard statedthat the aim of the new National Plan for School Improvement ‘is to ensure that by 2025 Australia is ranked as a top 5 country in the world for the performance of our students in Reading, Science, Mathematics’.Much of the discussion about the Australian school system has focussed on the relative (and absolute) decline of Australia in the results from the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) over the period 2000 to 2009 despite an increase in real expenditure on school education of 44 per cent over the period. In considering how the school system can be improved, commentators ... Read more...

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