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Two cheers for democracy in Southeast Asia?: recent elections in Malaysia, the Philippines and Cambodia

As Australia approaches its own poll, 2013 has seen three national elections across Southeast Asia. This Flagpost outlines the results and the controversies, and possible implications for Australia’s regional engagement.MalaysiaMalaysia’s 5 May poll saw the return of the ruling National Front (Barisan Nasional—BN) coalition which won a plurality of seats (133 out of 222) over the opposition People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat—PR), despite recording the lowest-ever share of the popular vote (46.5%). Criticism of Malaysia’s electoral system and allegations of fraud involving foreign voters featured heavily in the campaign with PR’s leader, Anwar Ibrahim, leading a series of rallies protesting... Read more...

The National Food Plan: food policy or something else?

The Australian Government released the National Food Plan White Paper (the Paper) on 25 May 2013. At the time the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said ‘For the first time, Australia’s food businesses and consumers have a road map for the future…’ The Paper, however, is not about food for Australians; it has minimal focus on what Australians eat, or food processing in Australia. It is more an export plan, particularly for Australian producers.What’s in the National Food Plan White Paper?In 2010 the Government said the National Food Plan would better integrate food policy by looking at the food supply chain from paddock to plate.The Paper makes 16 recommendations for food... Read more...

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...

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...

Australia in the Asian Century: Asian studies in schools

The White Paper, Australia in the Asian Century, commits all governments to improving access to Asian studies in schools through the Australian Government’s National Plan for School Improvement. The Prime Minister has announced that Asian studies will be embedded across the Australian Curriculum, students will have access to at least one priority language (Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese), and all schools will ‘engage with’ at least one school in Asia to support teaching of a priority Asian language. History of Australian Government support for Asian studies in schoolsThe White Paper’s proposals for Asian studies in schools are not entirely new. The history of Australian Governme... Read more...

Australia in the Asian Century: Improving university rankings

The Asian Century White Paper sees higher education as a key sector in developing capabilities for economic success in what it calls ‘the Asian century’ and sets a national objective that ‘by 2025 10 of Australia’s universities will be in the world’s top 100’.A number of questions arise from this objective, including the appropriateness of world rankings in setting and measuring goals; the degree of investment required to improve rankings and a decision on which ranking system to use.World rankings have largely arisen in the last decade and there are now five major world university ranking systems. They have variations in methodologies but all stress research investment and performance over ... Read more...

Australia in the Asian Century: Aiming for the 'Top Ten'

In the Australia in the Asian Century white paper the Government has set the goal of Australia becoming one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita by 2025. This post briefly considers how achievable the government’s objective is and how useful a focus on GDP per capita is.The IMF World Economic Outlook database shows that in terms of GDP per capita (measured in purchasing power parity dollars) Australia ranked 13th in 2011 and is forecast to move to the 12th spot in 2012. However, there is little separating the countries around Australia in the rankings. In 2011 Australia ranked 13th with GDP per capita of $40,847.13 while Canada with GDP per capita of $40,519.11 wa... Read more...

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