People and issues outside our big cities are diverse, but these priorities stand out


Stewart Lockie, James Cook University

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.


Rural and regional Australia is a big place – too big to be contained in one rural policy or represented by a single political party.

Several features of contemporary rural and regional Australia stand out, though, as deserving of serious policy attention.




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The Indigenous estate

Indigenous peoples are among rural and regional Australia’s largest landholders. Native title rights are recognised on more than 37% of the Australian landmass. Exclusive possession native title applies to around 13%. Both these numbers will grow.

The cultural and social significance of the Indigenous estate is immense. So too is its economic significance. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprises are active in agriculture, mining, infrastructure development, land and water management, and protected area management.

Governments have taken some positive steps to assist Indigenous enterprise. Changing procurement policy to encourage local suppliers is an excellent example. This must be seen in the context, however, of the missteps of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and failure to engage with the Uluru Statement from the Heart.




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Respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations for sovereignty and “closing the gap” on health, safety, education and employment are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, finance, insurance and business models that are relevant to the collective and enduring nature of native title rights will go a long way towards realising the economic potential of the Indigenous estate.

Native Title determinations as at December 31 2018. Native Title exists in green areas (darker green denotes exclusive title) and does not exist in brown areas (lighter brown denotes title extinguished).
National Native Title Tribunal, CC BY



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The Indigenous community deserves a voice in the constitution. Will the nation finally listen?


New labour markets

Agriculture, mining and other resources industries contribute mightily to Australia’s GDP. Yet their contribution to employment is comparatively small.

In 2016, agriculture, forestry and fishing accounted for 215,601 jobs in regional Australia. Mining provided 102,639 jobs. By contrast, health care and social assistance provided 445,087 jobs, retail 341,190, construction 292,279, education and training 291,902 and accommodation and food services 253,501.

Health care and social assistance and education and training contributed more new regional jobs over the last decade than any other industry.

This is not about commodity price cycles and their short-term impact on labour demand. It is about the relentless substitution of labour with technology as business owners strive to lift productivity and lower costs. Advances in automation and telecommunications will accelerate this trend.

The policy imperative is not to ignore resource industries or the workers who depend on them, but to face up to structural change in the labour market.

It is not unreasonable for regions hit by job losses following mine or plant closures to look for new projects to fill the void. But it is important to recognise that fewer jobs will be on offer in the resources industries. And these jobs will require higher levels of skills and training.

Maintaining high employment across non-metropolitan regions will depend, ultimately, on continued growth in other industries.




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Climate action

In the land of drought and flooding rain, climate variability is a given.

Managing for that variability is something we need to do better, even before taking climate change into account. The South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission into water use shows that political commitment to cross-border cooperation and the maintenance of environmental flows is fragile.

What evidence we do have on rural and regional Australians’ beliefs about climate change suggests uncertainty and lack of trust in government are more prevalent than outright denial. A precautionary approach to climate is favoured over business as usual.

Why a precautionary approach? Because failure to act on climate presents a number of risks. These include:

  • reduced market access for regions and industry sectors not seen to be reducing emissions
  • failure to develop cost-effective and industry-specific technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • lost opportunities to develop markets in carbon sequestration
  • escalating economic and social impacts on rural and regional communities as climate variability increases.

Importantly, only the last of these risks is actually contingent on climate change.

Transition planning

The sustainability challenges facing rural and regional Australia are not solely environmental.

In the 21st century, industries require stable, high-speed telecommunications infrastructure. That’s no less true of agriculture and mining than it is of tech start-ups and e-retailers. Unfortunately, the digital divide between urban and rural Australia is a significant constraint on innovation.




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Will Australia’s digital divide – fast for the city, slow in the country – ever be bridged?


The industries of the 21st century also require stable and responsive institutional and governance infrastructure.

The rural politics we see reported in the media looks every bit as polarised and resistant to change as anywhere. Yet Australia’s best rural policies have always been the result of collaborative approaches to planning and innovation.

Landcare and regional natural resource management programs stand out for the positive relationships they have built across the agriculture, conservation, industry and Indigenous sectors.

While federal and state infrastructure funding is critical for the regions, so too is support for integrated and collaborative planning. Place-based approaches are not a panacea but it is always in specific places, and specific communities, that business, services, natural resource management, energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, and so on, come together.

Electoral diversity

Social conservatism, support for traditional rural industries and scepticism about climate change are all highly visible in rural politics today.

I have outlined some of the risks arising from climate scepticism, but contemporary social conservatism carries political risks too.

Most obvious is the alienation of voters who do not share these views. They include:

  • farmers who want meaningful action on climate
  • lifestyle migrants with no historical loyalty to the National Party
  • young people with more socially progressive attitudes.



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It is worth remembering that in the plebiscite on marriage equality most rural and regional electorates took the progressive option and voted yes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters warrant extra attention. Indigenous voters have swung elections in the Northern Territory with their preference for candidates who respect local leadership and priorities over traditional party allegiances and ideologies. Candidates for any seat with a large Indigenous population ignore these voters at their peril. As the Australia Electoral Commission works to lift the Indigenous vote, this influence will grow.

In sum, the issues that matter to rural and regional Australians are far more diverse than those discussed here. Many will disagree with how I have represented one or other issue. That, really, is the point.The Conversation

Stewart Lockie, Director, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Human rights in 2018 – ten issues that made headlines



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Rohingya women and children being moved on a truck south of Yangon, Myanmar.
AAP/EPA/Lynn Bo Bo

Louise Chappell, UNSW and Elaine Pearson, UNSW

On December 10, the world marks 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Regrettably, instead of the anniversary signalling the enduring impact of human rights, some are fearing the “end of human rights”. Here we highlight some of the rights challenges that captured the world’s attention this year, illustrating the struggle to secure human rights is far from over.

1. Australia’s first year on the UN Human Rights Council

Australia took its place on the UN Human Rights Council this year for a three-year term. Australia delivered a strong statement about Myanmar’s atrocities against ethnic Rohingya Muslims, but was criticised for holding refugees and asylum seekers offshore. While Australia supported important country resolutions, it failed to take a leadership role on any key issues.

2. United States’ retreat from Human Rights Council

The US faced international condemnation when it quit the Human Rights Council, calling it a “protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias”. The US has long complained of the council’s perceived bias against Israel. But, by withdrawing, the US decreased its options for confronting and addressing human rights violators. This increases the responsibility of governments like Australia’s to ensure the council addresses the world’s most serious human rights violations.

3. Violence against women

In Australia, while the #MeToo movement has spurred women to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, a number of high-profile cases of alleged sexual harassment by actors and politicians highlighted ongoing barriers to justice for victims. At the same time, the #countingdeadwomen femicide index reports that one woman in Australia is killed every week by an intimate partner.

4. Facebook’s reckoning

Free speech, privacy and electoral integrity came under the microscope in March, when a former employee of Cambridge Analytica blew the whistle on its practice of harvesting data from millions of US Facebook users in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential elections.

Cambridge Analytica was also investigated in the UK for a possible role in the Brexit referendum.

There is also growing criticism of Facebook for not doing enough to stop its use to spread hate speech. For example, in Myanmar it has been used as a tool to incite violence against Rohingya.

5. Rohingya crisis

In August, a UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, which included Australian human rights expert Chris Sidoti, delivered a scathing report detailing crimes against humanity, war crimes, sexual violence and possible genocide by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya.




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The UN Human Rights Council, in response, created a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence to aid future prosecutions for atrocity crimes in Myanmar. Australia joined other Western nations in imposing targeted sanctions on military officers named in the UN report. While the Australian government maintains an arms embargo on Myanmar, our defence forces continue to provide training to the Myanmar military.

6. Crackdown against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang

Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have long faced repression. In 2018, Human Rights Watch and others reported an escalation in this repression with the government detaining 1 million people in political re-education camps, with evidence of their torture and mistreatment. Muslims not detained still face pervasive controls on freedom of movement and religion. The Foreign Affairs Department revealed under parliamentary questioning that three Australians were detained in the camps.

7. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia made international headlines when a prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The case prompted a closer examination of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The country’s repression, imprisonment and ill-treatment of activists includes the alleged torture of leading women’s rights defenders.

In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition has committed many violations of international humanitarian law, including apparent war crimes, killing thousands of civilians. Millions of Yemenis are confronting a famine, in part because of restrictions on aid delivery. Yet the USA, UK, France and Australia sell the Saudi government weapons and military equipment that may well contribute to its Yemen campaign.

Millions of Yemenis are facing a famine.
Yarya Arhab/AAP/EPA

8. Children off Nauru

Australia’s government appeared to respond to the “Kids Off Nauru” campaign launched by civil society groups, medical professionals and lawyers. December figures show ten refugee children remain on the island, down from 119 children in August.




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Mounting political pressure forced the government to remove children who had been transferred there in 2013 and 2014, though many were removed from Nauru only after legal proceedings were started. But the departure of families makes the situation even more desperate for the adults left behind. And those transferred to Australia are told they will not remain permanently, keeping them in limbo.

9. One year since the Uluru statement

Indigenous communities have fought hard throughout 2018 to have the federal government focus on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, after the Turnbull government dismissed it out of hand in 2017.

The statement calls for a constitutionally enshrined “First Nations Voice” in parliament and the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making between governments and First Nations, and facilitate truth-telling of First Nations’ histories. These steps were seen as laying the foundation for a treaty with Australia’s First Nations peoples. A 2018 parliamentary committee endorsed the need for a voice in parliament and has called for a process of co-design between Indigenous people and government appointees.

10. LGBTI discrimination

One year on from the breakthrough on marriage equality, the parliamentary year ended with Australia’s politicians unable to find a way to remove legislative exemptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI pupils and teachers.




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Political impasse stops protection for LGBT students passing this year


Advocates and the Labor opposition rejected government amendments that sought to stop schools being able to exclude students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics, but would also allow them to enforce rules in line with their religious teachings.The Conversation

Louise Chappell, Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute; Professor of Law, UNSW and Elaine Pearson, Adjunct Lecturer in Law, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Queensland result, while decided on state issues, adds to Turnbull’s burdens



File 20171126 21798 1dbqne.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Queensland state election result makes the byelection in Bennelong on December 16 even more important.
AAP/Danny Casey

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Queensland election was decided overwhelmingly on state factors, as Malcolm Turnbull was quick to say on Sunday, but inevitably it has fallout for the prime minister.

Four implications are obvious in the result, which ABC election analyst Antony Green predicts will be a majority Labor government, while Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch suggests is more likely to be an ALP minority one.

First, it elevates even higher the importance of the December 16 byelection in Bennelong.

Second, it will further unsettle an already depressed and jittery federal backbench.

Third, the federal Queensland Coalition MPs will want greater attention from the government.

Finally, the Nationals – in particular the Queensland Nationals – will accelerate a trend that’s been obvious recently, which is to differentiate their brand.

Bennelong was always destined to be significant, from the moment Liberal MP John Alexander resigned (some government sources think prematurely) in the citizenship crisis. But now that things have gone badly for the Liberal National Party in a state that looms so large for the federal Coalition, the stakes rise.

Turnbull was campaigning in Bennelong on Sunday, falling back on the tried and trusted ground of border protection, claiming that “right now the people smugglers are using Kristina Keneally’s articles, her statements on this, as a marketing tool” (an assertion surely worthy of a factcheck).

He has to get deeply involved in this seat, which is on a 9.7% margin, but the flip side is that the more effort Turnbull puts in, the more he’d be personally identified with a big swing, let alone a loss. On the other hand, if the swing were contained, that would help him.

Psychologically, the Queensland result will send the Coalition’s federal members deeper into the funk caused by the unending run of bad polls and multiple problems engulfing the government. This will accentuate instability and ill discipline, although there is no tangible challenge to Turnbull’s leadership at this point.

The Queensland vote reinforces the now familiar message that people are turned off the major parties. The mid-30s primary votes for Labor (around 36%) and LNP (about 34%) scream disillusionment.

One Nation polled solidly in minor party terms (around 14%) and very strongly in its heartlands, but it couldn’t turn that into the swag of seats it had boasted about. Pauline Hanson’s party fell victim to the inflated expectations it had raised, while the LNP vote fell victim to One Nation.

The result shows the One Nation phenomenon, in terms of its ability to erode the conservative vote, remains a worry, but it does not look like a party on the move.

The Queensland result particularly resonates in Canberra because of how vital that state will be to the Coalition come the election. Federal government members from Queensland will be defensively assertive.

Even before the election, internal chatter had it that senior Queensland Liberal George Brandis would not move out of parliament in the coming reshuffle, as earlier predicted. Revamping cabinet without Brandis while preserving strong Queensland representation would be challenging – and Turnbull could not afford to have Queensland seen to be downgraded.

The federal Queensland Nationals are determined to strengthen their efforts to distinguish themselves from the Liberals and Turnbull.

Nationals cabinet minister Matt Canavan said on Sunday the state result was a “confirmation of how important it is to have a strong National Party at a federal level”.

Nationals MP George Christensen went so far as to issue an apology to One Nation voters. It won’t endear him to Turnbull, but he won’t care. One Nation is on track to win Mirani – from Labor – a seat that adjoins Christensen’s electorate with a small overlap.

He tweeted:

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Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan believes the result shows One Nation is not a threat in terms of House of Representatives seats, but highlights the need for the Coalition to fill the vacuum that party has occupied.

“Malcolm can’t do it himself,” O’Sullivan says. Rather, he says, Turnbull has to allow the Nationals to do this.

O’Sullivan is not one who advocates the de-amalgamation of the LNP in Queensland – as some are doing – but a “divisionalisation”, reinforcing the message of the separate Liberal and Nationals strands within the one party.

This is already underway, with O’Sullivan’s bill for a broad-ranging commission of inquiry into banking and other financial institutions, on which he will have final consultations with sympathisers within the Coalition and other parties on Monday.

He then intends to move a motion in the Senate to have it dealt with immediately after the marriage bill is finished there, and debated until it is resolved. Christensen is ready to back it in the lower house.

Treasurer Scott Morrison is still trying to land initiatives to show the government is acting on the banks, short of a royal commission.

The ConversationOne wonders what Peter Dutton, Liberal holder of a marginal Brisbane seat, who last week was open to the government softening its opposition to a royal commission, is thinking right now.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mark Driscoll Resetting Life


The link below is to an article that reports on the latest news concerning Mark Driscoll and various issues concerning his ministry at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

For more visit:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/march/mark-driscoll-retracts-bestseller-status-resets-life.html

Australian Politics: 29 September 2013 – The Slow Death of the Greens?


The federal election is over and the Coalition is now in government. Already there is a growing dissatisfaction with the new Abbott-led government over a wide-ranging series of issues including nepotism, asylum seeker policy, the environment, a lack of governance, etc. There is also continuing debate within the various opposition parties concerning their future direction, policies, etc. Yet for the Greens, the future is questionable, with some believing the party to be in serious decline – even among those within the party.

The link below is to an article reporting on the turmoil within the Greens party.

For more visit:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/milnes-greens-marching-to-slow-death-20130928-2ulgp.html



Cricket: Ashes Report – 22 July 2013


The link below is to an article that reports on issues facing Australian cricket and why it is heading in the same direction that the West Indies did after they ruled the world for a period.

For more visit:
http://www.espncricinfo.com/the-ashes-2013/content/story/653981.html







Australia: More on the Asylum Seeker Debate


The link below is to an article that looks at Australia’s asylum seeker issues.

For more visit:
http://www.theglobalmail.org/blog/people-smuggling-faster-cheaper-and-safer-than-the-queue/645/

Australia: Defence – The F-35


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is central to Australia’s air defence plans for the years ahead, however, the continuing delays are causing major issues for Australia’s current defence needs. The link below is to an article that examines the F-35 development program in some detail.

For more visit:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0612-fighter-jet-testing-20130612-dto,0,4701367.htmlstory

Guns in Church: Gun Situation in USA is Getting More Than Ridiculous


The link below is to an article concerning a pastor in Georgia, USA, who sought the right to bear arms in church. Not sure what he was hoping to achieve my taking guns to church other than it being just a stunt. He claims it would be for protection – must be very vigorous debates over membership issues there. Crazy!

For more visit:
http://global.christianpost.com/news/ga-pastor-loses-fight-to-carry-guns-at-church-78845/