Abstracts of Current Issues Briefs published 2002-03


Current Issues Briefs Index

Resolving the North Korean Nuclear Crisis—Options and Constraints [HTML][PDF 1,358KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 33 2002–03
Jeffrey Robertson, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
23 June 2003

The path towards a resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis remains difficult given both the lack of politically tenable options and the powerful constraints on these options. This paper explores these options and constraints.

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Conflict in Aceh: A Military Solution? [HTML][PDF 275KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 32 2002–03
Dr Stephen Sherlock, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
23 June 2003

After a promising period of relative peace in the Indonesian province of Aceh, the ceasefire of December 2002 has collapsed and the military has begun a new offensive. This brief provides a background to the history of the conflict in Aceh and recent developments. It analyses the actions and motivations of the key players and considers future prospects for a resolution of the conflict and Australia's interests in stability in Indonesia.

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How Far Have We Come? Gender Disparities in the Australian Higher Education System [HTML][PDF 687KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 31 2002–03
Dr Kerry Carrington and Angela Pratt, Social Policy Group
16 June 2003

It is thought that because women now make up approximately half of Australia's university students, and more than half of all staff employed in Australian universities, that gender equity in Australian higher education is no longer an issue which requires attention. This Brief illustrates however, that despite recent gains in women's participation in universities, as both staff and students, significant gender differences remain. This brief also offers some observations about the possible impact of the forthcoming higher education reforms on the gender composition of university students in the future. (26 pages)

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Building Industry Royal Commission: Background, Findings and Recommendations [HTML][PDF 444KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 30 2002–03
Steve O'Neill, Economics, Commerce and Industrial Relations Group
26 May 2003

This paper follows the report of the Royal Commission into the Building industry. The Government has accepted the Royal Commission's arguments for the establishment of an Australian Building and Construction Commission with extensive powers. However, there is now a good deal of debate on those recommendations that address reforms in the industry as well as the specific powers of the proposed Commission. (24 Pages)

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Make or Break? A Background to the ATSIC Changes and the ATSIC Review [HTML][PDF 584KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 29 2002–03
Angela Pratt, Social Policy Group
26 May 2003

Australia's peak indigenous body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), has been the focus of a great deal of media, political and public attention in recent months largely as a result of the changes to ATSIC announced by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon. Philip Ruddock, in April, and the broader review of ATSIC which is currently taking place. This paper discusses the recently announced ATSIC changes and the ATSIC review. It also provides a brief overview of ATSIC: including discussion of ATSIC's history, its functions and roles, its structure and governance, its funding arrangements, and its record in accountability. (24 Pages)

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Trafficking and the Sex Industry: from Impunity to Protection [HTML][PDF 552KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 28 2002–03
Dr Kerry Carrington, Social Policy Group
Jane Hearn, Law and Bills Digest Group
13 May 2003

This brief provides an overview of the trafficking of women and children into the Australian sex industry in the context of the global trade in people trafficking. It examines why there have been no prosecutions of traffickers under existing Commonwealth laws. It explains how Australia's emphasis on border control is working against the prosecution of traffickers and the human rights of trafficking victims and explains how existing Australian policy and law will need to change to meet the new internationally agreed standards to punish traffickers and support victims under the UN Trafficking Protocol. (25 Pages)

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Ripples from 9/11: the US Container Security Initiative and its Implications for Australia [HTML][PDF 306KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 27 2002–03
Nigel Brew, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
13 May 2003

One of the ripples to flow out from the attacks on 11 September 2001 was the requirement for greater security at America's ports.Coming from one of Australia's largest trading partners, this US Container Security Initiative has significant implications for future policy direction, in particular given the Free Trade Agreement currently under consideration between Australia and the United States. (13 Pages)

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The High Court and Deportation Under the Australian Constitution [HTML][PDF 387KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 26 2002–03
Peter Prince, Law and Bills Digest Group
15 April 2003

The High Court is divided about the status of many thousands of British nationals living in Australia who have not formally become citizens of this country.
At stake is the right of such people to freely remain in Australia. The Federal Government is currently attempting to deport a British migrant who has lived here since 1977. The issue is whether settlers from the United Kingdom (and perhaps other Commonwealth countries) who arrived in Australia by the 1970s or 1980s have constitutional protection against deportation, or whether like other foreign residents they are 'aliens' in a constitutional sense and can be expelled if, for example, convicted of serious crimes. (21 Pages)

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Strangers! Non-members in the Parliamentary Chamber [HTML][PDF 370KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 25 2002–03
Ian Holland, Politics and Public Administration Group
15 April 2003

The rules governing 'strangers' (non-members within the parliament) have distant origins, and have changed considerably over the last two centuries. Parliaments around Australia and overseas generally have standing orders which control access of non-members to areas of the parliament reserved for members when parliament is sitting. The question raised by the incident involving Kirsty Marshall is whether those rules are keeping pace with the changing nature of work in the parliamentary environment. (19 Pages)

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War in Iraq: Preliminary Defence and Reconstruction Costs [HTML][PDF 545KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 24 2002–03
Alex Tewes, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
11 April 2003

As the major combat operations of the war in Iraq appear to be drawing to a close, it is important to put in context the financial costs of Australia's military contribution. This CIB gives some preliminary estimates of military costs up to now, and puts these in the context of past wars. (9 Pages)

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National Interests, Global Concerns: the 2003 Foreign Affairs and Trade White Paper [HTML][PDF 402KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 23 2002–03
Dr Frank Frost, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
24 March 2003

On 12 February, the Government released a White Paper on Foreign Affairs and Trade: Advancing the National Interest. This Brief provides a concise overview of the Paper and discusses some key issues arising from it. (23 Pages)

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Crime and Candidacy [HTML][PDF 446KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 22 2002–03
Ian Holland, Politics and Public Administration Group
24 March 2003

Should someone with a criminal record be able to stand for political office? What about someone actually in jail? Should it depend on their crime? This Current Issues Brief outlines the issues, and reviews some of the many examples of political figures, who have had both crime and candidacy in their careers. (21 pages)

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Media Under Fire: Reporting Conflict in Iraq [HTML][PDF 466KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 21 2002–03
Sarah Miskin, Politics and Public Administration Group
Maria Lalic, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
Laura Rayner, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
24 March 2003

The war in Iraq raises again the issue of media coverage of conflict and the public's right to know. News that the United States military has 'embedded' 500 journalists in its fighting units suggests that the public will receive a more complete picture than it has in some recent conflicts. However, the coverage may be more limited than is perceived. (27 pages)

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Economics of War with Iraq [HTML][PDF 323KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 20 2002–03
David Richardson, Economics, Commerce and Industrial Relations Group
24 March 2003

This brief examines the likely macroeconomic effects of war with Iraq, implications for oil prices as well as business and consumer confidence and the effect on Australia's level of activity, trade flows, employment and inflation. (13 pages)

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Iraq: Issues on the Eve of War [HTML][PDF 765KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 19 2002–03
Michael Ong, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
18 March 2003

This paper examines the objectives and plan of the US in post-Saddam Iraq and the Middle East. These include the humanitarian and security problems and the regional and wider impact of a war on Iraq. (21 pages)

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North Korea Nuclear Crisis-Issues and Implications [HTML][PDF 1154KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 18 2002–03
Jeffrey Robertson, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
18 March 2003

The decision of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to withdraw from the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and to restart its nuclear program frozen under the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States has sparked international concerns of nuclear arms proliferation and regional concerns of an imminent crisis. This paper outlines the key issues of the current crisis, factors affecting its resolution, policy options and implications for Australia. (26 pages)

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East Timorese Asylum Seekers: Legal Issues and Policy Implications Ten Years On [HTML][PDF 581KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 17 2002–03
Dr Kerry Carrington, Social Policy Group
Dr Stephen Sherlock, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
Nathan Hancock, Law and Bills Digest Group
18 March 2003

This brief provides an overview of the current predicament in which approximately 1650 East Timorese who sought protection from Australia in early 1990s now find themselves. The paper examines the reasons for the lengthy delay in processing their claims for asylum, overviews the pertinent legal history, the current political and popular responses to the issue, and canvasses a number of policy options open to the Government that would allow it to resolve the status of these East Timorese without repatriation to East Timor. (20 pages)

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'Disarming' Iraq under International Law—February 2003 Update [HTML][PDF 412KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 16 2002–03
Angus Martyn, Law and Bills Digest Group
3 March 2003

This updated paper (previous issue December 2002) examines whether, in the absence of any explicit authorisation from the UNSC, international law allows a State to use military force to compel Iraq into meeting its obligations. In particular it looks at the position taken by the United States on unilateral enforcement of UNSC resolutions and so-called 'pre-emptive' self-defence. (20 pages)

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House of Representatives By-elections 1901–2002 [HTML][PDF 2,588KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 15 2002–03
Scott Bennett, Politics and Public Administration Group
and Gerard Newman, Statistics Group
3 March 2003

By-elections are held to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives resulting from the death, resignation, absence without leave, expulsion, disqualification or ineligibility of a Member. This paper provides details of the 140 by-elections from the first held on 14 September 1901 for Darling Downs, to the most recent held on 19 October 2002 for Cunningham. (55 pages)

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Commonwealth City Commuting: the Federal Role in Urban Transport Planning [HTML][PDF 358KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 14 2002–03
Matthew James, Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group
10 February 2003

Growing urban traffic congestion and public transport concerns have become major issues to city constituents and affect national efficiency. This Current Issues Brief examines these issues and looks at local and international calls for greater Federal Government involvement in urban transport issues. (18 pages)

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Victorian Election 2002 [HTML][PDF 9,224KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 13 2002–03
Scott Bennett, Politics and Public Administration Group
Gerard Newman, Statistics Group
10 February 2003

o The ALP gained its largest-ever Legislative Assembly majority
o The Liberal Party suffered its most severe defeat in fifty years
o The National Party almost lost its parliamentary party status
o The Greens performed well enough to suggest that they may be able to win a Senate seat at the next Commonwealth election, and
o The Bracks Government gained control of the Legislative Council, the first time a Labor Government has gained long-term control of the upper house. (65 pages)

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Fuel Ethanol—Background and Policy Issues [HTML][PDF 425KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 12 2002–03
Mike Roarty, Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group
Richard Webb, Economics, Commerce and Industrial Relations Group
10 February 2003

The use of fuel ethanol-ethanol blended with petrol-has received considerable negative publicity. This paper examines the background to the controversy and the arguments for and against its use, including as a means of assisting the sugar industry, the environmental benefits and costs, the effects on car engines, and the consequences of mandating blending ethanol and petrol. (27 pages)

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'Operation Bastille': Forces and Likely Tasks for Australia's Contribution to the War in Iraq [HTML][PDF 760KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 11 2002–03
Alex Tewes, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
4 February 2003

The commitment of significant numbers of Australian forces to Operation Bastille for a potential war in Iraq marks a significant departure from recent practice. This could be the first time since World War II that Australian forces move to participate in a military conflict without either UN Security Council backing, or the invitation of a properly established government (as was the case in Malaya, the Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam and East Timor). (12 pages)

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Defining Aboriginality in Australia [HTML][PDF 462KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 10 2002–03
Dr John Gardiner-Garden, Social Policy Group
3 February 2003

The definition of Aboriginality has a long and contentious history in Australia.
Part 1 of this paper overviews the history of defining Aboriginality in Australia. Part 2 discusses recent issues pertaining to the definition of Aboriginality. Part 3 looks at definitions used by comparable countries overseas and Part 4 considers possible ways forward, including the option of having no official definition of Aboriginality. (33 pages)

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'Disarming' Iraq under International Law [HTML][PDF 334KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 9 2002–03
Angus Martyn, Law and Bills Digest Group
13 December 2002

As a consequence of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions passed after the 199–91 Gulf war, Iraq is required by international law to renounce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and submit to verification inspections by United Nations (UN) agencies. At least in terms of the inspections, Iraq has not fulfilled its obligations. It is yet to be determined whether Iraq still retains WMD, although many western governments maintain that it does.

This paper examines whether, in the absence of any explicit authorisation from the UNSC, international law allows a State to use military force to compel Iraq into meeting its obligations. In particular it looks at the position taken by the United States (US) on unilateral enforcement of UNSC resolutions and so-called 'pre-emptive' self-defence. (20 pages)

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Bushfires: Is Fuel Reduction Burning the Answer? [HTML][PDF 588KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 8 2002–03
Bill McCormick, Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group
10 December 2002

Increasing fuel reduction burning in national parks has been suggested as a means to substantially reduce the bush fire risk. This paper briefly examines the development and implementation of fuel reduction burning in southern Australia. It looks at the effectiveness and environmental impacts of such burning regimes and the extent to which fuel reduction burning can reduce the risks of bushfire to life and property. (20 pages)

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Afghanistan: a Year After [HTML][PDF 530KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 7 2002–03
Dr Ravi Tomar, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
10 December 2002

The brief provides an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan a year after the fall of the Taliban regime. It discusses the problems facing the country and concludes that there are grounds for cautious optimism if the international community stays involved in rebuilding efforts. (17 pages)

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An Introduction to Stem Cell Research (DRAFT)
Senators, Members and Parliamentary Staff only:
[PDF 467KB]

Current Issues Brief No. 6 2002–03
Dr Rod Panter, Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group
12 November 2002

This paper describes some recent research on embryonic and adult stem cells. Emphasis is placed on the stem cells' ability to differentiate to a range of specific tissues, in relation to the possibility of using stem cells as a treatment for various disease states. A version of this paper has previously been issued on a demand basis.

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Key Ethical Issues in Embryonic Stem Cell Research [HTML][PDF 288KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 5 2002–03
Dr Maurice Rickard, Social Policy Group
12 November 2002

This paper provides a brief overview of some of the core ethical issues arising from the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002. The focus is on (i) considerations that may be relevant to developing a sound and accurate picture of what the real value is of the benefits of embryonic research; and (ii) extant arguments about what the value of the embryo might consist in, and what, if anything, may be wrong with destroying them. (14 pages)

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The Bali Bombing: What it Means for Indonesia [HTML][PDF 58KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 4 2002–03
Dr Stephen Sherlock, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
22 October 2002

The Bali bombings have had a major impact on Indonesian politics and economy. The Megawati Government has been forced to harden its stance against Islamic extremism, but has major problems in making its new policy efffective. The bombings have strengthened the Government's domestic position, but may also have the effect of increasing the influence of the military. (8 pages)

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The Decline in Bulk Billing: Explanations and Implicationss [HTML] [PDF 84KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 3 2002–03
Amanda Elliot, Social Policy Group
24 September 2002

Declining rates of bulk billing amongst General Practitioners have provoked discussion about the future of Medicare. Explanations of this decline and the policy response to it have been the source of some contention between the Federal Government and the AMA. This paper provides details of the current status of bulk billing, explores the disagreement over explanations for the decline and considers some of the implications. (15 pages)

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Interpreting Election Results in Western Democracies [HTML] [PDF 410KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 2 2002–03
Dr Ian Holland, and Sarah Miskin, Politics and Public Administration Group
27 August 2002

A pattern is emerging in Western liberal democracies, in which centre-left and social democratic governments are losing power to centre-right governments. This paper outlines the extent of this pattern, and discusses factors that may be contributing to the process, such as a pendulum swing effect and the centre-right's greater success in capitalising on 'value politics'. The paper also briefly discusses other trends including the successes of the far right. Complete election results for 20 countries from 1993 to 2002 are included.(45 pages)

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Free Votes in Australian and some Overseas Parliaments [HTML] [PDF 144KB]
Current Issues Brief No. 1 2002–03
Guy Woods, Statistics Group
27 August 2002

The decision of the major parties to allow members a free vote on the Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Cloning Bill 2002 has raised again the issue of free votes in the Commonwealth Parliament.

This paper surveys past and present practice in Australian political parties in allowing free votes in the Commonwealth Parliament, the practice in some overseas parliaments, and the conditions under which free votes are allowed. The paper also lists issues on which free votes have been allowed in Australian
state and territory parliaments and some overseas parliaments.(23 pages)

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