• Politics and Policy

    Rethinking think tanks and diplomacy


    Melissa Conley Tyler |  December 17, 2018


    Policy institutes and think thanks are increasingly performing diplomatic functions which were traditionally the sole preserve of government officials around the world.


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    The SMART way to help Pacific Islands lead climate action


    Aisha Reynolds |  December 17, 2018


    The new SMART tool helps policymakers quickly identify potential co-benefits and trade-offs that need to be considered in planning to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change in the Pacific region.


  • Environment

    Queensland sharks suffer sharp decline


    Open Forum |  December 17, 2018


    While the media portrays sharks as a threat to humanity, the reality is that human action has devastated shark populations around the world, with falls of up to 90% in Queensland’s coastal sharks over the last 50 years.


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    A mandate from “the Australian people”?

    editor     |      December 5, 2007

    Philip ArgyBy Philip Argy

    Without detracting from the new Government's victory, the media really does a poor job in reporting facts.  With a 5% to 6% swing from the Coalition to Labor, it means that 94% to 95% of voters voted exactly the same as they did in 2004.  Out of about 13.5 million voters, that means around 800,000 people changed their vote.  But of those, some were in electorates where a swing of that magnitude didn't change the result becuase the incumbent had a greater margin, and in others most of the swing was 'absorbed' by the margin, so that the no. of votes that actually determined the outcome of the election were probably less than 100,000 across the country, and perhaps even as few as 20,000.  Ultimately you have to wait for the results to be formally declared and then see by how many votes the ALP candidate won in the aggregate across the seats that changed hands to change the majority in the House of Reps.

    In an average electorate of 80,000 voters a 5% swing is 4,000 votes.  Very few seats were wrested with a margin of that magnitude, so at the end of the day, what are we to make of it all?  In Bennelong, for example, it has been suggested that there is a large enough Chinese community that if they all found appealing the idea of having a Prime Minister who could speak mandarin, and they voted for Labor as a consequence, that was enough to unseat the PM.  We may never know, but language like landslide and overwhelming mandate and suggestions that the Howard government was despised don't seem apt to me given the facts.

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    The changing focus of innovation

    proberts     |      December 4, 2007

    The focus of innovation changes, but how many of our businesses have moved on?

    It comes as a surprise the first time you are driving along in a new car and the dashboard lights come on by themselves, or the windscreen wipers start up, or the car helps you turn that tricky corner. But the greater level of intelligence of our cars shown in these autonomous systems is just the outward manifestation of the latest model of innovation.

     

    When the Model T ruled, the average car was a marvel of the era of mechanical engineering. Japanese cars first got traction when they offered the goodies of the electronics era in the form of the push button radio and two speed wipers.

     

    Today we take for granted the engineering and the electronics and are deep into the era where software is the key to the customer experience and value adding.

     

    Software accounts for a greater and greater proportion of value in today’s products. In a car it works with us when we apply the brakes, helps us maintain the right line and stay level when driving through a corner, and controls myriad systems from air conditioning to valve timing.

  • Losses of personal information, trust and privacy: This is going to change your life

    Malcolm Crompton     |      December 1, 2007

    We are watching a very rapid change in community attitudes on privacy.  One of the strongest contributors is the repeated and significant loss of control of personal information by private and public sector organisations around the world.

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    Croatians get cranky with diaspora vote

    tamaraplakalo     |      November 26, 2007

    Last weekend, Australians voted in another election — the Croatian one, causing some serious electoral crankiness abroad.

     

    As Australia strode into its first post-ALP-win Sunday, my eyes and ears opened to another election day, this one some 18,000 kilometres away – in Croatia.

     

    The said election was, in fact, not as far away as it may seem, given that Saturday was the day all dual citizens of Croatia in Australia could vote to keep the incumbent conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-led government in power, or give the new mandate to its archrivals – the Social Democratic Party (SDP). For anyone who knows anything about the Croatian political environment, the previous sentence was a moment in a TV skit where audience should have been prompted to laugh.

     

    Let me explain. The eleventh electoral unit, also known as the diaspora vote, is what in Australian political terms would be described as a “safe seat”, no matter where its boundaries begin (Bosnia and Herzegovina), or where they end (New Zealand). Almost as one, they vote HDZ (the current election count has the HDZ diaspora vote at 76,53 per cent), with other conservatives and a few independents picking up the rest of the vote.

     

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    Win an annual subscription to BRW!

    olgabodrova     |      November 23, 2007

    Open Forum would like to hear your thoughts on the recently proposed National Innovation Policy (NIP), the national agenda for a more innovative Australia.

    Have your say at our Topic of the Month, take part in our Innovation Survey or set your own agenda by writing a blog on an issue of interest to you – and you could win an annual subscription to BRW, Australia’s No 1 business magazine. We look forward to growing our informed debate project with your help!

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    Salvation through Innovation? Some thoughts on the Australian future under Rudd PM

    editor     |      November 22, 2007

    Steve Blume

    By Steve Blume 

     

     

    Throughout his leadership and in the election campaign Kevin Rudd has painted Labor as the Party of innovation and has asked that we contemplate a government that would encourage ‘fresh ideas’ under his ‘new leadership.

     

    Laudable notions these certainly are and admirable goals too, but at the overview level raised in the campaign they are motherhoods – who would ever disagree. 

     

    What sorts of actions might be taken by a Labor Government to ensure that Australia is positioned to move beyond our reliance on the current mining boom? How does a national government produce a substantive attitude change in all tiers of government to work co-operatively with the private sector and academia so that innovation is truly encouraged?

     

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    Innovation and climate change

    proberts     |      November 19, 2007

    Australia's innovative capacity can be turned to the problems of climate change.

    The really surprising thing about the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is its optimism. After years of focusing on the negatives such as the terrible drought obvious to all Australians, the focus has moved to what can be done.

    And, it turns out, a lot can be done to delay or avoid the impacts of climate change.

    Australia’s participation in new market signals to encourage the development of a less carbon intensive economy through a successor to Kyoto is vital. It is vital from the purely selfish point of view that we will be excluded from world trade if we fail to take action and to reduce the effects of change on agriculture.

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    Economics of renewable energy (not)

    StephenWilson     |      November 16, 2007

    It's not for nothing that they call economics the "dismal science".  It seems to me that the world's attention to macro economics is what stops renewable energy.  I don't know if the following analysis is really new or not, but if it's accurate, then as things stand, no renewable energy scheme stands a chance, regardless of the greenhouse effect.

    When you procure and install a renewable energy source, like a wind turbine or hot rocks plant, the financial transactions are simple, limited and rather local: 

    – build the power plant

    – operate the plant (pay a few staff, buy some occasional maintenance).

    But our globally favorite energy schemes — coal, gas, nuclear — all involve mining and massive ongoing exchanges of finance and resources, both human and physical…

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    Carbon neutrality – what a con!

    StephenWilson     |      November 16, 2007

    Households shouldn't waste energy but the carbon neutrality fad is just blame shifting.

    I should probably aver right up front that like any sensible person, I am all for energy efficiency. We shouldn't waste the stuff. But surely the fad for "carbon neutrality" in the home is a huge con. It's blame shifting.

    If we transitioned to renewable energy, then (within reason) we could all run air conditioners and clothes dryers, guilt free. The cynic in me suggests that the carbon neutrality craze is driven by complacent or weak willed governments, and the fossil fuel industry. It's almost a smokescreen. We have reality TV shows (even on the ABC for godsake!) that put the onus on humble householders to save the planet.

    Households don't emit greenhouse gasses — power stations do!

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    What to make of the stay-at-home Dad?

    alison gordon     |      November 14, 2007

    Though many of us like to consider ourselves modern individuals of the 21st century, it will always be difficult to remove the traditional idea of "family roles" from the public eye …

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    Aussie ingenuity

    proberts     |      November 6, 2007

    Australians are innovative – you hear people say that all the time. But the reality is far less palatable.

    I am often told ‘Australians are innovative’ but in reality we are not, or rather not particularly.

     

    We are innovative in the sense that people are innovative, and Australians are people. So it follows that Australians are innovative.

    But how could we be particularly innovative – we are not even that well educated. A third of Australians aged 25 to 34 are tertiary educated compared to 53 per cent of Canadians, for example.

     

    Science isn’t the problem as we perform well in academic research. The problem is turning ideas into profitable businesses. Patents are one of the most important indicators of that process and with two per cent of the global economy, we account for only 0.82 per cent of global patents.

     

    We don’t need to be particularly innovative as most of our industries are classified as ‘medium-technology’ and almost none are ‘high technology’. And the situation is not getting relatively better – our high technology exports are growing at 4.4 per cent a year compared to the OECD average of 7.2 per cent.

     

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    A standards strategy measures up to global trade challenges

    Open Forum     |      November 2, 2007

    Mark BezzinaWith the recent explosion of ground-breaking standardised ICT protocols we are witnessing the ever increasing development of wealth-producing technologies and business models.  These business models exploit easily accessible and interoperable global networks, information and knowledge.   

    Underlying most technologies and business models is the ubiquitous and somewhat ephemeral world of standards.  Standards support wealth creation by enabling the development of global production networks characterized by outsourcing, the de-verticalization of corporate structure, and new forms of “technological fusion” in which disparate technologies are brought together to achieve new products that exhibit novel performance characteristics and functionality. 

    The nature of this global techno-economic system places a premium on interoperability and creates a new level of demand for acceptable standards.  Standards have also become increasingly important for the international economy and according to the World Trade Organisation underlie 80% of world trade in the exchange of goods and services. They form a fundamental part of bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade agreements.