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Category Archives: AIM Extra

Marching for a better Australia

A joint statement from march organisers

Members of the March Australia movement have declared today’s March in March rallies a success, with at least 2,000 people in eight locations coming out to protest the failures and poor governance of the Turnbull government.

“We’re all delighted at today’s turnout” an organiser said. “People exercised their democratic right to unite in protest and made it crystal clear that they’re angry.

Our nation is suffering today because our government is failing us. Australians came out today to reclaim the Fair Go and demand government in the public interest.

Bewitched by its own desperation for power at any cost, this government is pursuing an agenda which divides society, erodes human rights and disenfranchises many. The people feel forgotten.”

March Australia rally organisers have each contributed to this joint statement outlining why they marched today.

The combined statements of these activists for positive change are a clear articulation of the progressive perspective shared by members of this grassroots people’s movement:

Jessie-Lee Peacock (Sydney)
“Marching matters and activism matters because change happens when people make it happen.
Marching in March gives people an opportunity to find their voice and power and realise that governments crack and systems fall because unity is powerful.
When the people of western Sydney start protesting, that’s a sure sign of a government not governing for the people.“

Susan Prince (Cairns)
“We march because one day it all just got too much.
We were shaking with anger and in despair at the unfair, hateful, lying tyrannous, treachery of OUR Government.
We had to do something; when March Australia set the date we just put our stakes in the ground and the ground swelled with constituents like us appalled at our government’s behaviour…
We will march until the tyranny treachery & appalling behaviour ends.”

Jeff Sundstrom (Gosford/Central Coast)
“With a world wide trend towards uncaring and deceitful government, we must stand up for ourselves, we must stand up for those without the capacity to do so for themselves and we must stand up for the environment.
We must march!
When the gap between the haves and have nots is widening and when the health of the less than fortunate is deteriorating because health services are being handed over to the profit-takers, we must march!
And when homelessness is on the rise, affordable housing is on the decline and land banking is considered a good and just economic strategy… We. Must. March!”

Vee Ness (Armidale)
“Armidale has participated in the National March In March events since the beginning.
While our political leaders come and go, the standard of living for most Australians has not improved.
Being an educational and agricultural district, we are a resourceful and active community.
Uniting today to find our common strength, we raised our voices in solidarity for justice, while promoting local services and grass-roots solutions.
As our representatives seem to ignore us, we will not be silenced. Generation after generation, we are the continuous current for change.
People power is the true renewable energy resource and Australians everywhere are tuning in.”

Liz Tearii (Brisbane)
“We march for many reasons… We have watched this Government attack, demonize, criminalize people on Welfare.
We have watched this Government attack and criminalize Unions and workers Rights.
We have watched this Government flaunt their travel entitlement spending while accusing people on Welfare benefits of not managing theirs.
We have watched this Government encourage and utilize the “fear” campaign to criminalize minority groups and implement more intrusive laws on citizens.
We have watched this Government change laws to suit their agendas…eg. Native Title and Adani.
We are sick of this Government, their lack of accountability to the People, their lack of humane governance, their lack of understanding and concern for the average Aussie.
There are many many reasons to march….but we march with others “United for better Government” “

Leigh Shears (Newcastle)
“The people of Newcastle strongly feel very little has changed from Abbott to Turnbull.
From stripping Medicare and the treatment of the unemployed to supporting the penalty rate cuts and the introduction of the ABCC there’s little surprise this Government offers no support to the people in our community.
The treatment of Asylum seekers, the lies about marriage equality and leaving vulnerable women, children and families out in the cold has ensured that we will do all we can to make to get this mob out of Government.”

Kathryn Wilkes (Brisbane, Stand Up Australia)
“It is important to march to stand up for our rights as equal citizens.
We must stand up against the government constantly attacking the ordinary people of Australia while lining the pockets of every multinational.
The Australia people don’t matter anymore, only the taxes raised and profits made from the poor through the job agencies, card trials and the like.”

Susan Jenvey (Nambucca Heads)
“People in Nambucca don’t want their local concerns taken for granted. They want a future based on community well being.
We don’t want privatisation.
We don’t want the destruction of regular work and the ability to bargain collectively.
We want energy-efficient towns using green technology.
We want education from preschool to uni, we want control over our services, over housing affordablity and population.
We don’t need the answer to all our problems to be a law to make racially spiteful comments about other Australians.”

Sarah Pinkie (Adelaide)
“Today Adelaide came together to demand that this Government see the 98% that are struggling.
We stand in solidarity because we have compassion, empathy and hope.
We stand with the First Nations people, the vulnerable and refugees to demand that they are recognized and treated as human beings. We stand with our workers – the back bone of this country to demand respect.
We stand with the environmental protectors who fight to keep our country beautiful.
Standing together, united, to demand better government.”

Protesters to March In March again

Media Release

Three years on from the first March in March protests in 2014, the grassroots March Australia movement will host rallies on Saturday 25 March 2017 protesting the policies and decisions of the Turnbull Coalition government.

“The 2014 rallies were a response to the regressive Abbott government”, said spokesman Loz Lawrey. “People thought the Fair Go was under attack, and over 100,000 of us took to the streets nationwide. Since then, progressive Australians have endured an ever more divisive and abusive agenda from an ultra-conservative Turnbull government more interested in its own ideology than in true public service.”

Under the banner of “The People United For Better Government”, March Australia is a network of citizens with shared progressive views. Their rallies offer advocacy groups a platform to come together and air multiple issues of concern at the one time.

“We are ordinary Australians” Mr Lawrey said. “We just want our country to be an inclusive and productive nation. We want work. We want mutual respect. We want to embrace our multicultural society and learn to reconcile our differences.”

“We want a government that respects human rights and works in the public interest. We expect accountability and transparency from the governments we elect.”

“The Coalition’s unconscionable policies around Centrelink debt, the welfare card and the incarceration of refugees have driven some individuals to suicide. The corrupt job network gives private enterprise control over the very lives of some Australians. This government stuffs up everything it touches, from the NBN to the ABC.”

“We invite all citizens and activist groups to join us on Saturday to raise your concerns”, he said. “There are so many areas in which this government is failing, such as health, education, environmental management, humane treatment of refugees. It’s a huge task to even try to list them all. The placards at the marches will tell the story.”


Loz Lawrey, Candace Wirth, email:

Leesa Little, email:


Rallies will take place in nine locations on Saturday 25 March, as listed below:

For details visit the March Australia Activist Interchange Facebook page.



11:30am – 2:00pm, Victoria Square, Adelaide

Facebook page

Contact Sarah Pinkie, email:


2:00 – 4:00pm, Central Park, Armidale

Contact Vanessa Peterson, email:


12:00 – 2:00pm, Queens Gardens, Brisbane

Facebook page

Contact Ewan Saunders, Sally Dodds or Kathryn Wilkes, email:


3:00 – 5:00pm, The Lawns, Wharf One, Cairns

Facebook page

Gosford/Central Coast

10:45am – 1:00pm, Carrawah Reserve

Facebook page

Contact Jeff Sundstrom, email:


1:00 – 4:00pm, Parliament House, Darwin

Facebook page

Nambucca Heads

11:00am, Nambucca Plaza

Facebook page


1:00 – 4:00pm, Pacific Park, Newcastle

Facebook page

Contact Leigh Shears, email:


1:00 – 4:00pm, Belmore Park, Sydney

Facebook page

Contact JessieLee Peacock, email:


Peace Be Upon All

By Khaled

This post has two objectives. It addresses two audiences:

1. Non-Muslims, and

2. Muslims

For argument’s sake, let me give you a bit of background information first, thus leading to the purpose and reason for this post.

On an international scale, we all agree that Islam is and has been the ‘flavour of the month’ or the ‘Hottest Topic’ for almost 25 years. It started with the first invasion of Iraq, which lead to all sorts of false/mass hysteria and fictitiously associating Islam with terrorism. Twenty five years down life’s pipeline and we are still dealing with the same issues but only on a larger and more exacerbated scale.

With the awakening of the Alt-Right extremists groups; actually let me rephrase that; with the ‘cleaned and polished’ facade of the old time racism, bigotry and xenophobia the attacks on Islam and Muslims has reached an unprecedented state. And if you ask me who was the subject prior to Islam, my answer would be Communism, but that is a separate topic.

For those who know me, I have been on the activist trail fighting racism, bigotry and anything that demoralises and denigrates humans and humanity for only a short 9 months. I am ashamed of myself for not starting this part of my life at a much earlier age or phase. My ‘feel good’ response to this dark spot in my mind and heart is “better late than never”. But that only lasts for a few seconds.

I have also been advocating Islam for the better part of my 43 years through different and various means. May Allah swt (Arabic words “Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala,” or “Glory to Him, the Exalted”) help me to continue on with this path until the day I lose my amanah (life).

During the last nine months I have come across thousands of people, other than Muslims, of different walks of life, different backgrounds, different cultures, different faiths, different genders, different ages and different sexual preferences. The noted variances are absolutely enormous but just as much, rather gorgeous. They all seem to share the one single commonality; and that is an acknowledgment and belonging to the human race. They see and know the differences, but through the sheer power and strength of the mentioned commonality, these differences are overshadowed thus rendering them rather insignificant. These people have an objective and that is to end Islamophobia and protect Muslims by any means necessary.

Now that I have covered my first objective, which is the non-Muslim addressee, I shall proceed onto addressing my second objective and that is the Muslim addressee.

In the last nine months I have seen far more non-Muslims working tirelessly at abolishing Islamophobia and protecting Muslims than Muslim people. The scare and fear mongering campaign of the Alt-Right extremist groups only works if we submit to it and run away in fear of retribution and retaliation. Our ill-actions or little-action, plays into their hands and makes their task much easier to implement and complete. Consequently, our lack of action makes the task of the first addressee of my post, i.e. the non-Muslims, far too difficult to achieve.

So I can’t help but ask, where is the cohesion that our Prophet Mohammad pbuh (“Peace be upon Him”), ordered us to have for each other including all of mankind? Where is the sense of solidarity and camaraderie for your brothers and sisters? Did the Prophet not order us to stand beside one another like a solid object? Out of 1.7b Muslims around the world, there are over 500,000 in Australia. Imagine if we all stood together along with our non-Muslim brothers and sisters, how quickly we could diminish Islamophobia. Imagine how easy it would be to remove that false facade off the face of racism and bigotry.

I remind myself and you of two stories from our Prophet pbuh. Two of great significance and teachings.

1. Narrated by Qais ibn Sa’d reported: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah pbuh, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew”. The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1250, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 961

2. Narrated by Anas: The prophet pbuh said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

So I make this oath and declaration before Allah swt; that I will keep fighting for humanity. And when Islam isn’t the hot topic nor the flavour of the era, I will keep on this path fighting for humanity and fighting for what is right irrespective of who is or are being oppressed. And if the oppressor are Muslims for some type of unscrupulous reason, I will stand besides my non-Muslim brothers and sisters in the face of oppression. Let’s find the bond to unify humanity and mankind. Let’s drive this fight together to end disgraceful, inhumane and immoral acts against mankind. This is our obligation. This is our duty. #changestartswithme #istandwithhumanity #FU2Racism

Peace, love and respect to All,



Brisbane school continues dominance of 4×4 STEM technology competition

By Craig Hingston

Representing Australia at World Finals for third year in a row.

Pine Rivers State High School from Brisbane has totally dominated the National Finals of the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge in Adelaide by taking out every award.

Two student teams, Fair Dinkum 4×4 and Mud Ruts, claimed all seven engineering, innovation and marketing awards after two days of intense judging. Fair Dinkum 4×4 tool out five of them and were crowned National Champions

This means for the third year in a row Pine Rivers State High School will be competing at the World Finals of this STEM competition, in Abu Dhabi.

The same school won the World Finals in 2016 and came third in 2015.

The students had to design and construct a remote controlled off road vehicle which could tow a trailer through an extreme 4×4 course in the least amount of time.

They learned about suspension, electronics, centre of mass and other engineering principles.

Teacher Corey Geiskens who has been responsible for introducing the school to national STEM programs (they were also World Champions of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge) was honoured for his work by being made a Fellow of Re Engineering Australia Foundation, the not for profit organisation which has spent 19 years encouraging students into technical career paths via its hi-tech STEM activities.


Girls and STEM go together

By Craig Hingston

Whilst the traditional education system in Australia has found it challenging to encourage female students to want to take part in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects there is a privately operated organisation which is defying the national trend.

Thirty eight per cent of high school students engaged in STEM programs established by the not for profit Re-Engineering Australia Foundation are girls. In one state, Tasmania, the female to male ratio is an amazing 67 to 33 per cent. And, more than half (58 per cent) of all girls say that as a result of REA they have changed their career direction to one which involves STEM.

REA tapped into the psyche of young students almost 20 years ago when it launched a series of hands-on applied learning STEM competitions. They were based on the premise of giving teenagers a highly technical challenge and providing them with real-world technology to solve it. It wasn’t a case of learning from a textbook. They had to be self motivated and pursue the knowledge they needed.

The most well known competition, which attracts upwards of 40,000 students each year, is the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge. Others include Subs in Schools, the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge and Jaguar Primary School Challenge.

Founder Dr Michael Myers OAM confirmed the effectiveness of his unique methodologies with an extensive national survey of thousands of students which revealed their key drivers. Interestingly, the girls gave similar answers to the boys…

“I liked learning about cars. I liked being part of a team.”

“Designing the cars and racing them with other teams.”

“Teamwork designing the car.”

“Designing the car…manufacturing…everything!”

“I enjoyed the new experience it gave me and the hands on part.”

“I now have a much clearer understanding of STEM as a career.”

“Liked the fact that they use the same technology as industry.”

“I thought the project was cool.”

Girls of all ages have found a ‘perfect fit’ in many of the team roles, predominantly those of team manager, marketing manager and graphic designer. A number of teams feature female engineers and car designers.

The trend of female participation began early. When REA sent their first team to the F1 in Schools World Finals in England it was an all-girl team (Brisk In Pink). Since then female students have managed four teams to the World Finals competition resulting in three World Championships, a second place and a world speed record. Girls led both Australian teams to the 4×4 World Finals in 2015 and ’16 and returned with a World Championship and third place.

The first National Champions of the Subs in School program were all-girls and the newly crowned National Champions of F1 in Schools (Golden Diversity) are five girls from a high school in Launceston.

The F1 in Schools National Finals in Adelaide was a good indicator of just how well girls are embracing STEM. More than half of the teams (17 out of 30) included girls. Four were girls only and one had four girls and a lone boy. Nine teams were led by female managers and four had female design engineers.

A closer look at Golden Diversity – four 15 year olds and a 14 year old – reveals that although these young female teens weren’t aspiring to become engineers or technicians they were still intrigued by science and maths.

Their name comes from the diverse family origins of each member: Iraq, India, Vietnam, Scotland and England (plus Greece and Afghanistan for two original members who have since left).

“We saw it as a opportunity to extend our learning. Our school always taught us to take every opportunity offered to us so we decided to take a chance”, said team manager Yara Alkhalili about their simple beginnings back in 2015. They had no idea that 12 months later they would be runners-up at the National Finals and a year after that named the team that will represent their nation at the 2017 F1 in Schools World Finals.

Golden Diversity believes that women and men should receive equal opportunity in the area of STEM employment.

“Coming into such a male dominated competition, as an all girls team, we felt that we were underestimated because of our gender by other teams”, added Yarra, “The attitude towards us from other girls has been extremely positive with many young women coming up to us and saying that we have inspired them to pursue STEM opportunities. One example was the first development class team from the Illawarra to make it to the National Finals. They came up us to say that they met us at the last Nationals and we inspired them to take part in the competition. And here they are.”

The five girls aren’t yet certain which careers they will choose but they do say that exposure to STEM has opened an unimaginable number of doors.

“Through F1 in Schools we have gained important life long and transferable skills that will aid us in any career we want to pursue. It has had a considerable influence on how we approach the areas of careers we will pursue by giving us the practical and authentic learning environment in which to advance our skills and abilities. As well as giving us more opportunities within our schooling.”

Dr Myers, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, says the holistic platform of REA Foundation’s programs  address a breadth of key learning areas as well as ‘soft skills’ to maximise students’ employability,

“We link Schools, Industry, TAFE, Universities and parents in a collaborative and experiential learning environment focused on changing the metaphor of the education process. The challenge is multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. It encourages students to collaborate with industry partners within the context of their projects to learn about engineering principles such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, leadership/teamwork, media skills and project management, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive and exciting way.”


March to show you have no confidence in the Turnbull Government

On the weekend 15th – 16th of March 2014, a group of concerned citizens called out for people to take to the streets in a show of “No Confidence” in the policies of the current government. Up to 150,000 people responded, joining 30 marches and rallies around Australia. An estimated 40,000 in Melbourne alone.

Unfortunately, the time has come to call out again. We were promised better government, and not only has this not been delivered, it appears that daily, the elected members of this government find new levels of abhorrent behaviour, and out of touch policies to inflict pain and distress on workers, families, low income earners and welfare recipients.

March Australia (formerly March in March) will be holding a weekend of peaceful assemblies, nonpartisan citizens’ marches and rallies around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.
 This signifies a people’s vote of “no confidence” in the Coalition government policies and their budget, that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness, social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage.

In Melbourne, the March will take place on Saturday 25th March, 2017 at 1.00pm., starting at the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street.

March Australia, Melbourne would like to invite your organization and its members to march alongside other concerned citizens and groups in a show of concern and “No Confidence” in the current Australian government.

We would be grateful if you would help us spread the message among your workers, friends and networks.

The Melbourne March event and page can be promoted on your social media or web page by attaching the link: RSVP to our event

A flyer has been attached (see below) for you to print out and put up in your lunch rooms, local businesses, clubs or  any other place that will help people to see that we are calling out to March in March.

More information about March Australia can be found here: or at

The Melbourne March Australia team will be happy to answer any questions you may have via

The March Australia organizers request that all participants respect the non-partisan, lawful, peaceful and family-friendly nature of the march.

Andrea Gorman
Event Coordinator, March Australia, Melbourne

Longer Life, Healthier Life?

Courtesy of

The average human being is living longer than ever before. Nearly every country on the planet has seen an increase in life expectancy since the beginning of the 21st century.

But though we are living longer, not all of us are living healthier.

Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE), or healthy life expectancy, is a metric used by the World Health Organization to measure the number of years a person can expect to live in good health, taking social and economic factors into account alongside disease and disability rates.

When we deduct healthy life expectancy from actual life expectancy, we see the average amount of years someone can expect to live in bad health – or ‘Bad Health Years‘.

This infographic takes a country-by-country look at the change in bad health years since 2000 to see where people are living a longer, healthier life.









Life Expectancy changes since 2000

Besides Bad Health Years, we also made some interesting findings regarding life expectancy.

The Price of Conflict

Only two nations did not register an improvement in life expectancy: Iraq and Syria.

Life expectancy in Iraq stagnated, while in Syria it has decreased by 3 years.


Healthier, longer lives

A number of countries have witnessed a startling increase in life expectancy since the year 2000. The top 10 can all be found in Africa.

Working for Peace

By Robert Wood

Our international response must to the most vulnerable, those people who experience scarcity and difficulty on a daily basis. We can feed the poor, dig a well, help construct roads, provide basic access to medicine, help with environmental safeguards and clean up pollution.

In short, by being an activist state we must intervene in the affairs of other nations in a way that replicates the best work we have performed in Australia. That is what diplomacy is about because it is about the people, not about canapés and cocktails in fancy houses making secret deals with offshore powerbrokers.

There are the cost-effective programs in international development that Australian agencies need to participate in and enable. The specific requirements for what is good growth need to be determined by experts in those fields as well as on the ground and by communities with ideas of self-governance. The way to improve the world then, to change it, is not necessarily through compromise but collaboration, which is to say, a new project that exists out there must be agreed upon by everyone involved.

Development needs to be co-ordinated by the government. Which is to say, governance in NGO, the state and corporation, needs to be brought together to plan and implement the best possible good for the greatest number of people. This is about caring for people, which is what Australia should aim towards, as it continues to be a valued world citizen.  This is the opposite of Manus Island and the Pacific Solution.

This means we must keep our gaze firmly on global poverty. In speaking of Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo’s book Poor Economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, Pranab Bardan argues:

The poor often lack basic information about the benefits of children’s immunization and nutrition, the dangers of over-medication, the risks of HIV infection, how much fertilizer to use, and the quality of politicians vying for election….In response, Banerjee and Duflo suggest nudging poor people in the right direction by establishing various default options: savings accounts in which money is easy to deposit but somewhat difficult to take out, simple chlorine dispensers at drinking water collection points, and easy availability of salt fortified with iron and iodine. Of the various Randomised Control Testing findings, the two most cost-effective programs seem to be de-worming children in areas where intestinal worms are rampant and providing remedial education for poor children who fall behind in class.

But these are simply examples from specific cases that we can learn lessons from as well. This means the government must engage with international actors, prime among them, the United Nations.

Before the government backbench scuppered his candidacy for Secretary General, Kevin Rudd claimed there were ten essential elements in his plan to reform the UN. They were:

1. Integrating missions and agencies.
2. Planning policy that looked to the future.
3. Creating prevention rather than being simply reactionary.
4. Creating better crisis response.
5. Prioritising field operations over head office.
6. A Team UN that is multi-disciplinary.
7. Real results not conference halls.
8. ‘We the People’ partnerships with civil society and private sector.
9. Centrality of women.
10. Operations that are efficient, effective and flexible.

Although Rudd does admit that ‘these 10 basic principles are not exactly rocket science’, he leaves aside the fact that there are similarities between his principles (1, 5 and 7; 2 and 3). What is perhaps most galling however is that there is no agenda in terms of key problem areas.

The United Nations is a complex organisation just like any government, multinational corporation or international NGO. It has its own culture, its own history, its own metier. If outsider Jim Yong Kim’s difficulty in leading the World Bank is any guide, reforming the UN takes more than bureaucratic language and willpower.

In that way, it is salutary to return to when it was created and invest in its original purpose as a body devoted to peaceful co-operation. The United Nations is essentially a pacifist organisation, hence it has peacekeepers rather than soldiers.

The biggest change that the United Nations needs to make is to reform the relationship between the permanent and non-permanent members. That the division is essentially a Cold War one (USA and UK vs China and Russia, with France mediating discussions), reflects the fact that the UN was founded in an era before decolonisation, which is to say, before the independence of many of its member states.

The representation these countries continue to have, particularly the UK and France, does not adequately reflect the geopolitical conditions, now let alone, what they are predicted to become. Brazil, India and Nigeria each have greater claim than the faded European nations, but perhaps we would do better if there was no veto power because there was no permanency.

That is to say the method by which the Security Council is elected, with each of the world’s regions having a representative, has a better chance of creating consensus, stability and democracy in today’s world. Only when there is reform at this fundamental level might we see a truly democratic process in the diplomatic world.

Australia, as an activist state, must learn to interpret what is good in our own society and adapt and apply it to people elsewhere. I am thankful for our relative material equality, our emphasis on the natural environment, our toleration of religion and diversity, our hope.

These are all qualities we cannot take for granted at home and about which we must continue to fight. But it is also something we must learn to cultivate in pockets overseas. We must make our peacekeepers and diplomats ambassadors of non-violence, people who can take our enacted and embodied definition of the good life to the four corners and seven seas.

That is not about inventing a new plasma screen tv, but about sharing our Indigenous football codes, our paintings, our stories, our culture, as services that can build community no matter where we find people. That means treading new paths and re-invigorating old ones, it means changing with the times as well as being mindful of what has worked well in the past.

The key to good relationships is not the same type of knowledge, but it takes practice to learn how to get on with people. When we search for familiarity we will find it, and familiarity, as that starting point for connecting, is part and parcel of feeling good, and as Australians, we could feel better about our role and place in the world if only we saw through to our very best nature.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Advancing Australian Tourism


By Denis Bright

Denis Bright invites discussion on the social market foundations of Australia’s successful tourist sector. Do the policy structures which keep this sector going so well have implications for ailing sections of the wider economy in the post-resources boom period?

The current wayward trends in opinion polling in both Queensland and WA show that the community wants more in the way of smooth delivery from all tiers of government. Without this smooth delivery, there are new social tensions and profound alienation from mainstream political processes.

With few exceptions, members of the federal parliamentary LNP are locked into old style solutions based on a profound reverence for The Miracle of the Market as embraced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in bygone times. Even President Trump has regressed back to America First as his current signature tune which is an even less sustainable option.

When GST entitlements to the states and territories are excluded in a growing national economy, other payments to the states and territories are in sharp decline:






Australian Budget 2016-17 Budget Paper No.3

The highly successful Australia tourist sector shows how alternatives to market capitalism are operating to break through this apparent impasse, through a high level of productive government involvement. This is a model which could be applied in other important sectors such as housing, environmental management and infrastructure delivery under more progressive national, state and local governments.

As self-proclaimed lovers of Australian traditions, federal LNP leaders should be the first to revisit the social market model which was the foundation of prosperity during the federation era before 1914.

The progressive social market structures of the Australian settlement drew bipartisanship from a commitment to full employment within fair industrial awards and a proactive role for government in early phases of national pension schemes.

A century later bipartisanship continues over some commitments to trade and investment liberalization but the federal LNP is still not ready to accept an Indo-Pacific alternative to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The federal LNP fosters fears of refugees and asylum seekers as a substitute for a more inclusive and socially just society which was the hallmark of the Australian settlement.

Instead the electorate is assured that wealth will trickle down from the tables of financial and social elites to homeless people who choose park benches in prestigious inner city postcodes.

In a globalized era, mechanized rural, mining and manufacturing sectors are struggling to maintain the living standards of more than 75 per cent of the workforce in one of the service sectors of the economy.

The tourism sector is one of the most vibrant components of the service sector. Its successes might have some lessons for the wider economy in demonstrating the value of progressive government involvement on behalf of the majority of Australians who are working in the service sector.


1 Highlighting Tourism in the National Economy

Since the publication of last year’s Info graphics, the Australian tourist industry has continued to develop and diversify.  Australia welcomed 8.26 million international visitors in 2016, after posting an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year, to achieve another record year for tourism.

“The record results confirm the strength of Australia’s tourism industry and desirability of our tourism offering internationally,” Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said.

All this has been steered with a minimum amount of federal government funding for Tourism Australia, Tourism Research Australia and the Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Programme (TDDI) within Austrade.

Tourism Australia was projected to receive $156.8 million in 2016-17, including $$2.5 million for the working holiday maker campaign and $14 million for the Asian Marketing Fund.

Remarkably, Tourism Australia generated an additional $70 million from its own initiated partnership revenue. This includes strategic partnerships with airlines to facilitate access to regional centres and support for the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE).

With the current federal budget deficit still in the $35-40 billion range, it could be a bipartisan commitment to allow federal, state, regional and local tourist networks to generate more of such income for co-ordinating promotional agencies.

Social market strategies have been built into existing tourist promotion and event strategies at state, territory, regional and local levels. Examples are provided of the possibilities for Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ).

2 Expanding Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ)

TEQ is a statutory body of the Queensland Government to steer tourism and major events for both local and overseas visitors. This is a major niche in the Queensland economy with a big focus on all regional districts where some parliamentary representatives are seeking a greater share of the state budget to cover unemployment and environmental problems generated by coal seam gas projects and questionable developments near waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

TEQ parallels Tourism Australia’s commitment to industry partnerships to assist with funding. The positive impact of tourism is a cornerstone of regional employment as shown by the projections in the TEQ’s Strategic Plan for 2020.

Projected turnover generated from tourism is expected to exceed $1 billion in nine Queensland regions if the estimates from the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg are combined because of their proximity.

In a tight 2016-17 state budget, Queensland made a commitment to $400 million in funding over four years for TEQ to overcome cut-backs under the previous LNP government.

As with the Tourism Australia, TEQ would benefit from additional involvement in public sector business investment funds to support government projects and public-private partnerships to advance tourism in Queensland.

TEQ could operate an innovative booking service for road rail bus connections for long distance travel, travel insurance, major musical or cultural events, accommodation bookings and tours. Consultancy services could be operated to support sustainable tourist ventures.

Commercialising TEQ could replace the need for some government spending by new commercial endeavours from commissions collected from online booking and ticketing as shown by the booking system used by the Spanish railways.

This overseas funding arrangement is dwarfed by the Queensland Government’s commitment to the Queen’s Wharf Project in Inner Brisbane:

On Monday 16 November 2015 the Queensland Government reached contractual close on the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane Integrated Resort Development. Contractual close represents a key aspect of the final stage of the procurement process, which was successfully delivered by the Department of State Development.

The Destination Brisbane Consortium—The Star Entertainment Group (formerly Echo Entertainment Group), Far East Consortium (Australia) and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises—is now the contractor responsible for delivering the world-class tourism, leisure and entertainment precinct in the heart of the Brisbane CBD.

The Queensland Government in partnership with the Destination Brisbane Consortium will deliver economic growth for Queensland with the creation of more than 2000 jobs during peak construction and 8000 jobs when the Integrated Resort Development is operational in around 2022.

The revitalised precinct will provide improved facilities for everyday use and public events, showcasing Brisbane to locals, interstate and international visitors.

The electorate is clearly looking for such new social market solutions to a perceived failure of governments to deliver services because of inadequate funding from the current federal LNP.

New taxes and charges are definitely unpopular but social market solutions should be well received as the outcomes are highly transparent and accountable.

The social market concept is a return to some aspects of pragmatic democratic socialism that can be funded by commercial investment in business investment funds within the public sector at all levels of government in a globalized era.

If this sounds like a way of recreating viable enterprises like the Commonwealth Bank in the tradition of the people’s bank or Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), let’s consider it more carefully as an option for the future in the proposed banking royal commission. How many federal LNP members will break ranks to make this possible?

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.














The Australia-US Alliance in the Trump Era

By Denis Bright

The arrival of President Trump must surely justify a complete reappraisal of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. While acknowledging the vital importance of both China and the US in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region until 2035, the White Paper comes down with the following dogmatic conclusion:

A strong and deep alliance is at the core of Australia’s security and defence planning. The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power and will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner. Through this Defence White Paper, Australia will seek to broaden and deepen our alliance with the United States, including by supporting its critical role in underpinning security in our region through the continued rebalance of United States military forces.

The stability of the rules-based global order is essential for Australia’s security and prosperity. A rules-based global order means a shared commitment by all countries to conduct their activities in accordance with agreed rules which evolve over time, such as international law and regional security arrangements. This shared commitment has become even more important with growing interconnectivity, which means that events across the world have the potential to affect Australia’s security and prosperity. The Government is committed to making practical and effective military contributions to global security operations to maintain the rules-based order and address shared security challenges where it is in our interest to do so.

Department of Defence Online 2016:15

The architects of the ANZUS Treaty (1951) had no inkling of the possibility that a US presidential demagogue with a majority in both houses of congress might return to the America First Strategies of bygone eras when the US was involved in its own territorial consolidation and industrialization.

After the New Deal Era and the successful conclusion of the Second World War, America First Strategies were no longer needed. The US had become the undisputed global superpower. Softer international diplomacy could prevail at least before the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

In 1951, the UN Charter was still a binding commitment for like minded representative democracies in negotiations about future military commitments. Democratic consultation was still the buzz word.

The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific (Article III Australian Treaty Series 1951-52).

However, since the Vietnam War Era, the federal LNP conveniently generated the belief in the value of ongoing strategic loyalty to the prevailing US administration. The old caveat of consultation was replaced by the brash All the Way with the USA misinterpretation of the Australia-US Alliance.  

These reservations about consultation have largely been forgotten by most national opinion leaders on both sides of politics.

1 The Value of Transparent Consultative Mechanisms

In 1984, Prime Minister Bob Hawke responded to concerns from within the Labor Caucus on the lack of transparent consultation within the ANZUS Treaty.

Former Prime Minister Fraser had made a commitment to President Reagan about the need for involvement by the RAAF to test the accuracy of test firings of Trans Pacific MX Missiles to impact on targets in the Tasman Sea. Did such missile tests foreshadow the recent North Korean efforts at national aggrandisement?

A consultative body known as the Australia United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) first met in Canberra in 1985 to overcome the lack of any transparency in this strategic relationship.

New Zealand had already left the formal ANZUS Alliance over its opposition to visits by nuclear armed ships to its ports.

Former Defence Minister Kim Beazley who attended the first meeting of AUSMIN in 1985 still seeks to continue the old strategic certainties from the 1980s.

The challenge now is how we use that connection to influence American policy in our region where all our friends and allies are deeply disturbed by what they heard from the GOP nominee. Trump’s campaign positions translated into administration policy would result in the suspension of America’s leadership of the post-World War II liberal international project. Originally, the project focused on global free trade, a rules-based system for the global commons, and a comprehensive Western alliance under a system of American extended deterrence. More recently, those priorities have been joined by an effort on nuclear disarmament and a coordinated response to climate change (Kim Beazley in The Strategist Online 18 November 2016).

The Trump style in international relations with its Shakespearean overtones of divine right principles really has no place in the ANZUS Treaty. It has become a political appendage over almost seventy years of mutual commitment.

As the Cold War intensified, Prime Minster Menzies assured Australians that the dangers of a resurgent Japan had now been replaced by the threat of communism at home and in countries like Japan and the Philippines where US troops were stationed (Adelaide Advertiser 3 September 1951 on Trove Online).

2 When Presidential Tweets Replace AUSMIN Communiqués

President Trump’s style of diplomacy overturns the conclusions from the last joint AUSMIN Communiqué.

Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.

The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region (AUSMIN Online from Boston 13 October 2016)

Australia’s commitment to China’s alternative Indo-Pacific Free Trade Zone simply offers a better and fairer commitment to the AUSMIN Communiqué.

Financial relationships between China and Taiwan are good and there is no reason to prevent Taiwan from becoming a participant.

The architects of ANZUS in 1951 had no inkling that the US would become a threat to Australia’s economic development and financial security.

3 Imposing Presidential Arbitrary Barriers to Australian Trade

In contrast to our commercial relationships with the US, trade with the current ASEAN-10 Bloc generates a hefty surplus on both commodity trade and exchange of services.

The benefits of Asian trade also extend to profitable relationships with China and Hong Kong. These benefits are summarised by Dr James Laurenceson for the SMH Online:

In fact, trade with China generates our largest trade surplus, worth $21.8 billion.

And there’s more, because our third largest surplus is with Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, which is worth another $7.2 billion (SMH Online 30 November 2016).

Dr James Laurenceson adds that the combined trade surpluses with China and Hong Kong for 2015-16 compensate for our trading deficit of $25.4 billion with the US.

Threats of hurting China by new US tariff barriers and the remilitarization of Taiwan are only going to upset the current stability of Australia’s excellent trading performance for December 2016:

Record surplus: Australia posted a record trade surplus of $3,511 million in December, up from the $2,040 million surplus in November.

China trade: Australia’s annual exports to China lifted from $76.2 billion to US$80.2 billion in the year to December- 23-month high and up 6.6 per cent on a year ago.

Economic growth: Commonwealth Bank group economists expect net exports (exports less imports) to contribute 0.8 percentage points to overall economic growth in the December quarter (The Bull.Com.Au 2 February 2016).

The losses from US imposed mercantilism are compounded by President Trump’s threats of a return to militarism in Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific Region.

It is unlikely that President Trump himself is even aware that ANZUS was negotiated as an extension of the UN Charter with a commitment to peace in the broader Pacific Region rather than an America First Strategic Exercise.

4 The Costs of the New Militarization to Australia


Long before the election of President Trump most major US Allies in the Indo-Pacific Region were potentially breaching the ideals of ANZUS by ignoring the consequences of increased military spending.

Saudi Arabia’s use of newly imported military technology to take sides in the civil war in Yemen is hardly an extension of the UN Charter.

Australia had become the world’s equal fourth arms importer according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Yet this financial burden of defence spending is enthusiastically endorsed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) with the support of its corporate donors, some with the credentials of membership of the global military industrial complexes.

Journalist Paul Dibb endorses this commitment from the ASPI:

The Turnbull government’s defence white paper is more financially robust than any of its predecessors.

For the first time, we have a 10-year financial commitment of almost $450 billion that, if it is followed through, will deliver an Australian Defence Force that’s potent for its size.

(Paul Dibb in The Australian 11 March 2016)

Labor veteran Kim Beazley now favours appeasement with the new US Administration. This is a recipe for more costly commitments to global military industrial complexes which could precipitate a new century of international tensions across the Indo-Pacific Region.

There are more sustainable alternatives which are embedded in commitment to the UN Charter First and military action as a very last resort.

Do North Korea’s recent missile tests invite a military response and commitment to regime change?

5 The Challenges Posed by North Korea’s Missile Tests

Previous underground nuclear tests and a recent missile launches in North Korea pose a real challenge to the countries of the Indo-Pacific Region along with the nuclear threats to peace from India, Pakistan and Israel.

The new US Administration has already responded with urgent consultations with North Korea through the Security Council to prepare for more sanctions with the support of Russia and China.

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula are not just from North Korea.

According to NTI, South Korea tested a longer-range ballistic missile in mid-2015 which can hit all parts of North Korea.

South Korea has made progress towards the development of its own weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea first became interested in nuclear technology in the 1950s, but did not begin construction of its first power reactor until 1970. South Korea currently has 24 civilian nuclear power reactors in use and four under construction. Changes in the international security environment influenced South Korea’s decision to begin a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. Under significant pressure from the United States, however, Seoul abandoned this program and signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April 1975 before it had produced any fissile material. Seoul is a state party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee (Nuclear Threat Initiative [NTI] Online 2017).

Diplomatic progress has been made in the past to bring the Korean Peninsula back from the brink of continuing conflict:

In November 1991, President Roh Tae-woo declared that South Korea would not “manufacture, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.” Two months later, North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In this agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed not “to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons,” and not to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” However, both sides failed to implement the agreement’s provisions relating to a bilateral inspection regime.

Although North Korea has clearly violated the Joint Declaration, particularly in light of its three nuclear weapons tests (in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2016), South Korea never officially renounced its obligations under the declaration, and has called on the North to abide by the agreement. Seoul has been a participant in the Six-Party Talks since their inception in 2003, which are aimed at ending the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula (NTI Online 2017).

In the short-term, the US is proceeding with the installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems in South Korea which would be operated by US forces to complement shorter range Patriot missiles.

Australia supports both Security Council and US strategic responses to the North Korean provocations. The Russian foreign ministry described the launch as a “another defiant disregard” for UN security council resolutions, and a cause for “regret and concern” (The Guardian Online 13 February 2017).

These strategic responses still falls short of measures to seek a more permanent and peaceful resolution of the political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

China is particularly willing to become part of the solution.

Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: “All sides should exercise restraint and jointly maintain regional peace and security.” He told reporters in Beijing that China would take part in UN security talks expected later on Monday with a “responsible and constructive attitude”.

But the Chinese Communist party newspaper said US demands for Beijing to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes were pointless, unless Washington examined its own role in fomenting current tensions.

The Global Times said North Korea had been angered by the “very real” military threat from the US and its allies, and the imposition of tough UN sanctions. The editorial, published on Monday, said by insisting that China take action, the US and other countries were ignoring the “root cause” of Pyongyang’s provocative behaviour (The Guardian Online 14 February 2017).

Signs of instability in President Trump’s accountability were being played out when Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau visited the White House. President Trump’s national security Michael Flynn just tendered his resignation (ABC News Online 14 February 2016).

Details of the resignation of Michael Flynn were apparently deferred so that favourable media coverage of Canadian leader’s visit to Washington would not be interrupted. Emphasis in some media coverage focused on speculation about the significance of the differing handshaking styles rather than matters of real substance (CNBC 14 February 2017).

In the real world of geopolitics, both Australia and Canada have the capacity to assist in generating some real solutions to seventy years of strategic road blocks on the Korean Peninsula.

Inviting Russia and China as key trading and strategic partners with North Korea should be a crucial alternative to any return to Cold War Diplomacy in this sensitive region. Michael Flynn had breached diplomatic protocols by being too enthusiastic about phone calls to the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak during the period prior to inauguration day (Sputnik Online 14 February 2017).

Threats to global peace by selective remilitarization of both Japan and South Korea should also be a stackable offence irrespective of whether it is before or after 20 January 2017.

This is letting down the spirit of the ANZUS Treaty which attracted bipartisan support from Dr Evatt as Opposition Leader in 1951.


Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.

We Talk About 21st Century Learning While Looking In The Rearview Mirror!

Schools have always been under-rated! Politicians and some media outlets like to concentrate on the problems while ignoring the fact that they’ve educated vast numbers of people. Yes, there is room for improvement, and no, the occasional spelling mistake does not make that person (and an entire generation) “functionally illiterate” !

So, in a profession where one is constantly given harsh feedback – forget the media, think Year 8s on a Friday afternoon – it’s only natural that when teachers are presented with the “new, improved” model of education called 21st Century learning that there’s a certain amount of cynicism. Of course, some teachers will point to the distractions of technology and suggest that it’s just being pushed by people who love their toys and gadgets, while others will complain that they don’t have the capacity to embrace it due to poor resourcing and Internet access. When concepts such as “20% time”* are suggested, some educators often react as though “100% time” has been suggested for student projects.

While much of what people call “21st Century learning” is just what good teachers have always done in one form or another, but repackaged and rebranded, the phrase itself suggests massive change and disruption. And while most people find too much change stressful and threatening, we now live in the twenty-first century and the world around schools will change no matter how much individuals want to cling to the “way we do it here”.

Some of you will have heard the term “disruptive innovation”, which describes how many companies continue with their old business model and ignore the threat of new ideas or inventions because it doesn’t seem a threat to them. By the time they understand, it’s too late! Think old large computing firms ignoring the PC; think Kodak ignoring digital cameras. For schools, the innovations in the world around them can either by “disruptive” or made “sustaining” by adopting and adapting them to suit the needs of education. At first, some maths teachers wanted to ban the calculator, but it’s become a compulsory item. Similarly, many teachers have embraced word processing in order to allow students to draft and improve their work. These innovations have sustained and supported what teachers do.

However, the main problem with the way schools are looking at learning in the current century is that they’re looking at what WAS, rather than what IS, and very few educators see at as their role to help shape what WILL BE. Schools often merely take textbooks and put them online, rather than embracing the potential of the technology.

For example, just forget education for a moment. Let’s look at life in the twenty-first century: many people have a fitbit or smart phone which tracks all sorts of things from the steps you take to sleeping patterns. Google and Facebook are constantly recording the sites you go to, your preferences, your habits. We live in a world where all sorts of things are tracked. Yet, apart from a few standardised tests, most teachers would find it hard to access information about what Johnny did last week, let alone last year.

Historically, being able to access what a student has done in the past would have had two concerns: Privacy, and workload for teachers recording the data. But while protocols and safeguards around privacy would need to be addressed, how much information could we be collecting now about where students are having difficulty and falling through the cracks by simply using existing technologies in an education setting? And when the technology that allows us to see when a person looking at a screen is losing focus or concentration, should schools embrace it or not?

Oh wait, technology like that is already here. Just not widely available.

Yes, as William Gibson said, “The future is here, just not evenly distributed”!

Whatever your views on software that can track kids progress, whether you think that Big Brother is coming or whether you think it really is a brave, new world, these are the sorts of conversations we need to have now.

What is the potential of the technologies that will be here before we know it and, just as importantly, what are the ethics of the coming technologies?

*In simple terms, giving students free rein to work on any project of their choice. Based on Google’s one day a week to work on projects.

First Published Victorian Professional Development

The Need for Diversity in Higher Education

By Robert Wood

There is space for diversity in the university context in Australia. I do not say this in the way Christopher Pyne has, or even of people all the way back to John Dawkins. When I say diversity I do not mean it as a sneak attack argument for de-regulation. We need far greater public investment in higher education even as we need to sharpen the differences between specific institutions.

This is so they do not congregate around some mediocre average of teaching and research. The vast majority of universities in Australia have student populations between 25,000 and 50,000 students. Charles Darwin University is the smallest with 11,000 and Monash tops the scale with 64,000. Although this is simply one measure, it means that we do not have an adequately diverse landscape at a very basic level. The social conditions in which people can produce research and most importantly teach students, means that there is a tendency to homogeneity.

The Australian National University has similar student numbers to Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge and there was a self-conscious attempt to make this Australia’s finest university when it was first established. But in precious contrast to the elite universities overseas, it has little land and a very small endowment. This is where Australian higher education simply cannot compete as it presently stands, which is why we continue to languish in ranking systems worldwide. One might want to interrogate those systems in the first place, but one might also want to ask: what is the language of our shared inheritance that means we can offer the best education in this place?

In answering that question, we might not need to create new things, but we might need to retrofit that which already exists. This might mean the conscious recalibration of student populations so to create universities that offer different experiences, precisely because young people desire that. Using the United States as an example, Williams College has 2000 students as does Amherst and Swarthmore. Wesleyan has a mere 600. Each of these places offer some of the best undergraduate educations in the liberal arts anywhere in the world. Students in Australia want those experiences on native soil. And the government needs to lead the way to make that happen. We need then a handful of elite liberal arts and sciences colleges that have a small selective enrolment and focus on Australian subjects.

This is only one possibility of diversification in the higher education sector. As the ALP suggested in the previous election, there is the possibility of higher education institutes. University of Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker suggests, these would ‘bridge vocational education and training (VET) and higher education. These bodies would provide highly practical, industry-connected courses taught by staff whose focus does not include research per se.’

Undoubtedly the appeal of these institutes is because of the monotonous uniformity of university education coupled with the appeal of reaching out to students who do not want to engage with the academic rigors of a bachelor degree. It is more difficult to ascertain what the practical realities of this are and what demographic they would serve. Perhaps a more likely outcome, and a simple one at that, is to retrofit and contain the existing institutions, allowing them to service a greater population through diversification. This would be a genuine attempt at making TAFE and university have a wider appeal precisely because they can individually become far more specialized.

What that might engender is a distinct national culture, where one may indeed think little of traveling to the University of Sydney for history rather than assuming that the homogenous uniformity of any Group of Eight university could stand in for any other, which means very few students leave their capital cities. In other words, Australian higher education conceives of itself as being a states’ based market rather than a national one precisely because of the lack of student movement and the geographic distribution of excellence.

What that means is the sector is smaller than we think and the dream that Australia has a truly elite university, when measured against ‘world’ expectations, will inevitably fall short. Learning to evaluate our own institutions, and from the evaluation learning to respond to our local circumstances including the problems that are already here, is part of being a republic in a full and meaningful way.

Being an activist state means we must intervene, particularly in the educational opportunities that are offered to the disadvantaged.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Castles in Spain and Beyond: Summer Days in Europe 2017

By Denis Bright

With the good currency conversions to the Euro and the British pound, some Australians will be looking forward to extended travel in Europe this year. Despite the inroads made into industrial awards, Australian wage-earners in permanent employment can still enjoy long service leave and retirement benefits to the fullest.

Fully escorted land and sea cruises are readily available in Europe. Use of such soft options is far beyond the limits of many budgets as shown by the sample of APT Tours for 2017 (refer main photo).

So much money can be saved with independent travel using affordable public transport by plane and train.

Others would detest these options and seek the use of hire cars and rental vans. There are uncertainties with overseas travel. The smarter move might even be to enjoy the travel in Australia and its immediate environs during our winter months.

Qualifications aside, let me pass on some options for economical travel to Europe.

Getting There

The long flight to Europe can be made a little softer with an overnight stopover en route. Extra airport taxes must be expected with every stopover. These costs are offset by a reduction in the jet lag from long flights.

With Emirates Airline, the stopover in Dubai on the outward journey from Australia is quite close to all the European destinations. There are reservation facilities for overnight stays in Dubai at the International Airport. First visitors to Dubai may prefer hotels in the town centre but more modest accommodation places near the Airport are quite comfortable and affordable.

Colombo in Sri Lanka can be a half-way stop on the return flight to Australia. Other stops in South East Asia are certainly closer to home. The cost of the return ticket will become really expensive if multiple stops are required. Some airlines regard tickets with multiple stops as a series of single journeys.

Emirates and Etihad have opened up varied European arrival points. Getting to arrival points like Lisbon, Nice or Athens once required time consuming transfers from major European air hubs.

Here are some samples of the thousands of options available to independent travellers.

First Night in Majorca

After arriving without jet-lag in Madrid from Dubai on an economy ticket from Australia, a pre-booked online ticket can take you onto the Balearic Island of Majorca for a cost of less than $A150 with Iberian Airlines or another local carrier. Some seasonal fares can be much lower in price.

Spanish Attractions Online 2017

Majorca is large enough to combine the usual tourist escapism with walks through historic precincts as well as visits to farming villages, the mountainous interior and rugged coastlines.

Palma de Mallorca is the hub of two lines of light rail services which both extend for almost 30 kilometres.

Palma’s Cathedral rises magnificently above an older residential district and has largely been rebuilt after an earthquake in 1851.

The Cathedral towers above a historic residential district. A free escorted walking tour for small groups is available from the tourist office near the Cathedral.

Local knowledge will fill you in on the best locations outside Palma de Mallorca on a large island which extends for up to 100 kilometres from west to east.

Ferry services are available to the Spanish mainland at Valencia. From here, the whole of Spain and Portugal beckon.

The Spanish railway system (RENFE) offers an innovative web site that supports this quest for adventure.

Spain and Portugal online

Spanish Railcards can be purchased online in Australia using forms in English from the RENFE site. The timetables and costs of RENFE tickets are easily checked out. A sample tariff from Valencia to Zaragoza is provided.

The cost of this journey from Valencia to Zaragoza is reduced from $A50 to $30 in Turista Class for holders of a senior’s card known as a Tarjeta Dorada in Spain. On a Youth Card (RENFE Joven), the cost is $36.50. The RENFE Joven is available to visitors between 14 and 26 years of age.

These concessional cards can be purchased at a nominal cost in Spain or by prior registration from Australia. The concessions are also extended to travelling companions from a different age category (example 1, example 2).

Fronting up to a RENFE station with your Australian passport seems to be the easiest option if concessional fares are being requested. Even with prior arrangements from Australia, tickets will need to be issued locally. Major stations in Portugal also offer concessional fares on presentation of Australian passports for overseas seniors.

There are some pleasant diversions even on this 355 kilometre journey from Valencia to Zaragoza.

Halfway between Valencia and Zaragoza, an overnight stop can be made at the hillside city of Teruel with its impressive towers and cathedral.

Local buses will take visitors from Teruel to nearby hillside towns.

Located by the Ebro River, Zaragoza is another architectural gem in a surprisingly large city of about one million inhabitants.

Consult the free online guide to the city which can be downloaded from Zaragoza Turismo.

Panorama of Zaragoza

Travel options do not end at Zaragoza.

The opening of the Trans Pyrenean Railway in 1928 brought Zaragoza onto a new main trunk railway route from Paris to Madrid through the Samport Tunnel at Canfranc. Canfranc Station became a major international rail terminal at the break of gauge between the French and Spanish rail systems.

Following a fatality-free rail freight accident in 1970, a major bridge installation on the French-side of Canfranc was damaged beyond repair. The famed Trans Pyrenean route ceased to exist. The remnants are now used for local passenger traffic with the exception of a missing link of 33 kilometres between Bedous and Canfranc.

Canfranc International Station

Regular international buses now follow the international road route from Canfranc to Bedous for visitors who want to make a nostalgic Trans-Pyrenean Journey.

From the recently reopened line to Bedous, it is just 64 kilometres to Pau on the main trunk line across Southern France.

Detailed timetable connections across Europe can be checked on the Deutsche Bahn (DB) online timetable as well as the local national online rail site. DB is more geared up to cross-Europe travel destinations.

French Rail Cards are also available at a cost of $70-105. A discount is offered on all tickets purchased. The fee for the purchase of the card varies for the different age categories. Even with the high purchasing costs, the French Rail Cards are more economical and more convenient than one country Eurail Passes.

Long Plane Hauls to Greece

High reservation fees on some long distance rail services, justify the use of air travel particularly on long hauls to Greece. Holiday time is limited and it is sometimes better to compress a week’s travel time into a few hours.

There are some great deals on travel within Europe especially with the safe but more economical airlines like Olympic, Aegean, Meridiana, Air Malta and Iberia. Olympic and Aegean are particularly good airlines because of the range of connections in Southern Europe. Numerous budget airlines like EasyJet ply these tourist routes and may offer lower fares.

Waterfont at Naxos

Travel around Greece can be completed on local ferries from the island hubs to avoid costly overnight sea crossings from Piraeus.

Emirate’s connections back to Dubai and Australia are available from both Athens and Larnaca in Greek Cyprus. Larnaca is served by some domestic Greek air services. Travel in Greek Cyprus is made easier by the excellent motorways which use left-hand drive because of the long history of British settlement.

A range of online guides are available for travel in Greece and coverage of the options is hardly necessary when specialist advice is so readily available.

So make the most of this coming summer in Europe if it is your time to travel. There is no pressure to go. Winter holiday destinations abound in Australia and its environs are equally appealing. The choice is yours.

About the author: Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with the more qualified commitments to contemporary globalization by President Trump.



The making of Australia: a foreign piece of work

A letter sent to The AIM Network 28 January, 2017 for the attention of Michael Taylor

Dear Michael,

I have listened to, and now read – although only in part, as printed – Prime Minister Turnbull’s address on the occasion of ‘Australia Day’ 2017.

I found in it the usual salutations to those around the barbecue, playing cricket or observing the tennis games.

In the printed version a tribute to “the first Australians … for more than 40,000 years” and their “continuous human culture” was followed by a mention of “the cultures of all our migrants. … Each new Australian adds another thread to our national tapestry, magnificent in its diversity and the most successful multicultural society in the world.”

Rhetorical flair and historical references – to Mr Turnbull ‘s own family, to start – did not go amiss. An immodest display of erudition is always present in Mr Turnbull’s utterances. The Prime Minister concluded with a sense of satisfaction: “Together we have built a remarkable nation.”

There was the customary complacence in “our democracy, the rule of law, those values which we uphold as thoroughly Australian values here and in the great land we call home.”

The words such as “land we call home” attracted my attention and stimulated my memory.

I shall now come to the purpose of this letter, and I trust that what I am about to write will inspire your readers to thoughts, reflection and – I hope – reaction.

On Friday 24 July 2015 Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the opening of the 47th           Australian Labor Party National Conference, called for an Australian republic within 10 years – by 2025. He said: “Let us make this the first decade where our head of state is one of us. We can be an Australian republic, with an Australian head of state.” Perplexing words at least those are, because the Governor General is often referred to as ‘the head of state’, both by confusing monarchists and loose, temporary republicans.

On the same day, the ALP Conference passed a resolution that a future Labor government appoint a minister or parliamentary secretary with responsibility for promoting a republic. (‘Bill Shorten calls for Australian republic by 2025 at Labor national conference’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2015).

More recently, 18 December 2016, Prime Minister Turnbull, speaking to the Australian Republican Movement on the occasion of its 25th anniversary dinner, extended his oratorical gifts and spoke of “the spirit that has brought us together tonight. Patriotism – pure and simple. Love of this nation above all others. A profound commitment that every office under our Constitution should be held by an Australian.”

Clichés abounded and were repeated: “our values of democracy, the rule of law, mutual respect, a fair go, mateship” – they were all there in the Prime Minister’s address. And the Constitution? That “does not belong to the Government, or the Parliament, or the Judges. It belongs to the People.” Out of hackneyed expressions, a foreign piece of work, refractory to meaningful amendments, ‘our Constitution’ more belongs to a frozen continent than to one of the warmest parts of the world. Most reading Australians would know that.

The Prime Minister went on to say that “The vast majority of Australians have known no other Head of State than the Queen.” And for good measure he added: “She is so admired and respected that few of us can say – whether monarchists or republicans – that we are not Elizabethans.”

Mr Turnbull concluded: “I do not believe Australians would welcome let alone support another republican referendum during her reign. And as you know I have held this view for some time.”

The italicised words are crucial.

The Prime Minister returned to the point further on in his speech: “As I have said before – and this is the cold, unyielding practical reality – it is hard to see how this issue will return to the forefront debate in this country during the Queen’s reign.” [my emphasis added].

So much by way of introduction of the theme: how to make Australia a republic.

Wanting to know more I went to entries such as ‘succession to the British throne’ in Wikipedia – surely a universally available source.

There I learned that succession “is determined by descent, gender (for people born before October 2011), legitimacy, and religion.”

The English Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, both of them as amended in March 2015, restrict the succession to the legitimate Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover who are “in communion with the Church of England.” Marrying to Roman Catholics no longer disqualifies, and Protestant descendants of those excluded for being Catholics are eligible to succeed.

Queen Elizabeth II’s heir apparent is her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales.

Next in line after Charles is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales’s elder son. Third in line is Prince George of Cambridge, the son of William, Duke of Cambridge, followed by his sister, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Fifth in line is Prince Harry, the younger son of the Prince of Wales. Sixth in line is Prince Andrew, Duke of York, the Queen’s second-eldest son.

The Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, restated by the Acts of Union 1800, still govern succession to the throne. They were amended in the United Kingdom by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which was passed mainly “to make succession to the Crown not depend on gender” and “to make provision about Royal Marriages”, thereby implementing the ‘Perth Agreement’ in the United Kingdom and in those realms which, by their laws, have as their monarch automatically whoever is monarch of the United Kingdom.

Upon the death of a sovereign, the United Kingdom Accession Council meets in St. James’s Palace to proclaim the new sovereign.

In the Commonwealth realms, of which the United Kingdom is one, upon the death of a sovereign, the heir apparent or heir presumptive succeeds to the throne immediately, with no need for confirmation or further ceremony. Nevertheless, the Accession Council meets and decides upon the making of the accession proclamation, which by custom has for centuries been ceremonially proclaimed in public places, in London, York, Edinburgh and other United Kingdom cities.

The other fifteen Commonwealth realms are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia,   the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. They are independent of each other, while sharing one person as monarch in a constitutionally equal fashion, and the same order of succession.

The Bill of Rights 1689 and Act of Settlement 1701 are, and the Royal Marriages Act 1772 was, ‘received’ into Australian law, and the Act of Settlement is part of the laws of the Australian states and territories, and therefore not only Australia but also its states had to change their laws.

The Perth Agreement is an agreement entered into by the prime ministers of the sixteen Commonwealth realms during the 22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 28-30 October 2011 in Perth, Western Australia, concerning amendments to the royal succession laws, namely, replacing male-preference primogeniture, under which male descendants take precedence over females in the line of succession, with absolute primogeniture; ending the disqualification of those married to Roman Catholics; and limiting the number of individuals in line to the throne requiring permission from the sovereign to marry. However, the ban on Catholics and other non-Protestants becoming sovereign and the requirement for the sovereign to be “in communion with the Church of England” remained.

By December 2012 all the realm governments had agreed to implement the proposals. New Zealand chaired a working group to determine the process for reform. It was affirmed that legislation in those realms which required it would commence when the appropriate domestic arrangements were in place in all the realms and the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced on 26 March 2015 that the amendments had come into effect ‘across’ every realm.

At a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments in mid-December 2012, the then Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, and the premiers of five states agreed each state legislature would pass a law permitting the federal parliament to alter the line of succession for the Commonwealth and all the states. Queensland raised objections which, however, were overcome by the passing of a separate, amended, bill on 2 May 2013.

The Australian Parliament passed the Succession to the Crown Act on 19 March 2015 and Royal Assent was granted on 24 March 2015. The change to the succession law in the United Kingdom and throughout the other Commonwealth realms finally came into effect on 26 March 2015.

This seems to be the legal position.

It would be helpful to learn from Messrs Shorten and Turnbull how they would proceed to make Australia a republic.

For the time being, the opinion of your readers would be quite welcome.

Thank you for your attention.

Warmest regards,



NSW State architect rolls in his grave

By June Bullivant OAM

NSW State architect rolls in his grave – 200 years later his work faces destruction.

If Francis Greenway was alive today, he would be on the streets protesting about what the modern day State Architect is proposing to do to his work that has lasted for 200 years. Peter Poulet – the current State Architect –  is not a designer of grand old buildings, instead he likes modern art, “A well travelled artist” as this story in the Daily Telegraph tells us.

The question therefore has to be asked why a fellow that has no experience in design becomes the State Architect in charge of the ‘Architects Office’. Of course, the answer is a very simple one. You have a NSW Government that does not believe in saving our heritage and wants to sell it at any price. And that the original State Officer Francis Greenway remains relegated to a $10 note.

Francis Greenway (1777-1837), architect, was born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England, son of Francis Greenway and Ann, née Webb. The Greenways had been stonemasons, builders and architects in the west country for generations. Francis was in private practice as an architect in Bristol when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging a document.

He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt, and was followed in July by his wife Mary, whom he had married about 1804, and three children in the Broxbornebury.

This is what the community is facing NSW from the State Government, no longer is heritage a precious commodity to be saved for the future use of the people, but a treasure to be sold. It is ironic then that poor old Francis is put on our currency, for that is what is happening.

Peter Poulet presides over the work of the heritage destroyers ‘Urban Growth’, which is the development arm of the State, but managed by young inexperienced people who think that a visit by the Premier or minister to announce a grand plan of destruction, is the best thing ever. Urban Growth have lodged a development application with the Baird Government appointed Administrator at Parramatta which will see the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct sliced into three to sell off to the highest bidder.

The office of the State Architect – whatcha has been a powerhouse for 200 years – has been dumbed down. It has now been reduced to an artist’s studio, not a design of grand buildings in sight, and the NSW community are fighting for their very life to stop the destruction of their heritage for the history and the future economy of NSW and Australia.

The problem with all of this is that when it is sold, when it is destroyed by high rise buildings, there will be nothing left that can bring tourist revenue to Parramatta. If the politicians – including Geoff Lee the local member – had an original thought that was sold by someone like Francis Greenway, they could see what a potential tourism site this could be: a desired destination of tourists from all over the world and it would boost the Parramatta economy for many years to come. But no, Mr Lee has been advised (wrongly) that he will get the site World Heritage Listed after the site has been destroyed.

Not so, Mr Lee, not so.