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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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A snapshot of Southeast Asia in 2013

This year promises to be another big year in Southeast Asia, that part of Australia’s region where our economic and security interests are most actively engaged.Both Malaysia and Cambodia will conduct national elections in 2013. In the case of Malaysia, where the election must be called by April, the upcoming poll has been characterised as the most competitive in the country’s history. This is despite ongoing concerns on the part of opposition parties and democracy activists about possible vote-rigging by the country’s governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional. Cambodia’s elections, scheduled for July, take place against the backdrop of rapid economic development, continued pursuit of closer... Read more...

Economic growth and change in post GFC world: What’s hot and what’s cold in the Australian economy

Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, the Australian economy has experienced a period of slower, more uncertain growth than it did in the years leading up to the crisis. During the four years leading up to the GFC, Australia’s economy grew between three and four per cent a year, in inflation adjusted terms, with an annual average growth rate of 3.4 per cent. Since then, growth has been as low as 1.6 per cent in 2007—08, and only topped three per cent in 2011—12. The annual average growth rate for this later period was 2.4 per cent; a full percentage point lower than the earlier period. However, not all parts of the economy have performed equally over the las... Read more...

Mongolia at a crossroads: opportunities for enhanced engagement?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mongolia. On 13 November 2012, the Australian National University hosted (in collaboration with partner institutions) the inaugural Mongolia Update conference. It followed the official visit to Australia by Lieutenant General Tserendejidiin Byambajav, Chief of the General Staff of Mongolian Armed Forces on 8–10 November 2012 as part of the 15th Annual Chiefs of Defence Conference in Sydney.Background Mongolia is currently at a crossroads in its economic development. Australia’s relationship with Mongolia, a resource-rich transition economy that has experienced a mining boom in recent years, is expanding. World... Read more...

Australia in the Asian Century: regional security and foreign policy dimensions

On 28 October, the Prime Minister released the Government’s ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ White Paper.  The Parliamentary Library has released several publications examining different aspects of the White Paper and the reactions to it:  Australia in the Asian Century: aiming for the ‘top ten’Australia in the Asian Century: improving university rankingsAustralia in the Asian Century: Asian studies in schools This piece discusses the regional security and foreign policy dimensions of the White Paper (chapters eight and nine).  Regional security Whilst acknowledging serious challenges, the White Paper adopts a largely optimistic view of the region’s geo-political future.  It is a future in ... Read more...

Myanmar update

 Events in Myanmar continue to move fast. This brief update highlights some of the key developments over the last few months. It follows the recent visit to Australia by the Speaker of Myanmar’s lower house and the historic visits to the United States by President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.Political developmentsthe prospect of a ‘second wave’ of reforms was bolstered by the 27 August re-shuffle of Myanmar’s Cabinet, which included the promotion of several reform-minded Ministers and the departure or demotion of well-known conservatives, including the resignation of Vice-President U Tin Aung Oo.meanwhile, the ongoing debate over constitutional reform was highlighted by the 6 Septemb... Read more...

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...

Indigenous Expenditure Report 2012

The just released 2012 Indigenous Expenditure Report estimates expenditure by all levels of Government on services to Indigenous Australians. It is the second in a series (the first being released in 2010) which examines inputs into Indigenous service delivery and which is intended to complement the longer running Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage reports which examine outcomes in this same area. Both reports are currently produced by the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision.Released at the same time as the full expenditure report has been a series of all-state and state-by-state factsheets, a series of web expenditure tables and the 2012 Indigenous Expenditur... Read more...

Melbourne by-election results for the Greens

A by-election was conducted for the Victorian state electorate of Melbourne on Saturday 21 July 2012. Vote-counting and rechecking has now been completed, with the ALP emerging as the winning party with 51.51 per cent of votes after distribution of preferences.  The Melbourne District takes in the CBD, Docklands, East Melbourne, Carlton, North Melbourne, Flemington, Kensington and parts of Ascot Vale. According to the 2011 Census data, the population of the Melbourne electorate is generally younger, better educated and more affluent than other Victorian electorates, with a significant proportion of workers employed in the knowledge and communications industries. The Victorian Electoral Commi... Read more...

SBY’s visit – the bigger picture

At the second Indonesia-Australia Leaders’ Meeting in Darwin on 3 July, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono re-affirmed the two countries’ ‘comprehensive strategic partnership, based on a mutual commitment to each other’s progress, prosperity and security’. The Joint Statement agreed by the two leaders highlights cooperation across a range of issues, including regional institutional architecture, trade, defence and maritime cooperation, policing, development assistance, and people-to-people links.Despite the language of ‘partnership’, much of the public commentary in Australia concerning Indonesia remains focused on specific irritants (people smuggling, live c... Read more...

Hearing impairment—the silent barrier to Closing the Gap

On May 15 students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia commenced the annual tests for the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing. No doubt when the 2012 results are released they will continue to show a substantial gap between the achievement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. For example, the 2011 Year 3 reading results report that 21.3 per cent of Indigenous children were below the national minimum standard compared to just 3.3 per cent of non-Indigenous children. A significant, but often overlooked, factor inhibiting the school achievement of Indigenous children is the high rate of middle ear disease. Evidence presented to the Senate Community Aff... Read more...

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