Policy Snapshots


This week's picks:

North Korea: what next?

The Nautilus Institute's Policy Forum features several pieces that consider how to respond to a nuclear North Korea.


Peter Hayes and Tim Savage argue that any plan to bring Pyongyang to its knees raises the terrifying prospect of ‘loose nukes … in the hands of power-mad generals in the midst or a war in Korea, or spirited out of the country into the hands of terrorists'. They urge the US to avoid any action that would enable Kim Jong-il to justify building up arms in defence, arguing that the US' focus should be on preventing its allies Japan and South Korea from building their own nuclear arsenal.

Alexandre Y. Mansourov's more detailed explanations of US neo-con strategies to accelerate the process of North Korean regime change shows up Hayes and Savage's hopes as, well, perhaps a little pie in the sky. Mansourov's assessment is cooler: ‘The world indeed has become somewhat different: North Korea has arrived as the eighth official nuclear weapon state. But, it also remains somewhat the same. The US-DPRK tensions will continue to escalate. The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang will race on with little bilateral communication. The regional nuclear arms race will possibly intensify. The day after the nuclear test, we are all … closer to the second Korean War.' But Mansourov sees another possibility too: ‘This notwithstanding, the international community can attempt to turn this crisis into a unique opportunity to resolve the Korean question once and for all through a multinational peace-making effort.'



What kind of work do Australians want?

Barbara Pocock gave this address to the National Civil Society Dialogue in Canberra on October 9. Speakers addressed the question: What kind of Australia do we want? Pocock sees that Australians are increasingly defined as people by work, and that the 21st Century might well be characterised as the century of labouring men and women. Pocock draws together extensive research about the feminisation of the labour market; increasing rates of working ‘unsocial' hours; and the transfer of risks to employees and away from employers. All of this has resulted in the devaluing of unpaid care work. Pocock urges that ‘Australians need a system of work regulation which … provides the possibility of decent work for all, over the life cycle. This possibility must create the capacity to both work and care over the average life cycle. Pocock's address was based on her book, The Labour Market Ate My Babies: Work, children and a sustainable future. We'll bring you more speeches from the Civil Society Dialogue as they become available.

Water policy initiatives

With Howard announcing the creation of a new Office of Water Resources headed by Malcolm Turnbull, water policy debates are sure to intensify — witness Bill Heffernan's creative contribution. New research findings published on South Australian Policy Online show that — ‘don't let Toowoomba become Poowoomba' sentiments notwithstanding — Australians are becoming more receptive to the idea of using recycled water. Flinders University researchers have found a high level of acceptance towards the use of treated wastewater in not-for-drinking applications, with very high approval of its use for toilet flushing, and watering public parks and domestic gardens. The Senate Inquiry into Water Policy Initiatives continues; we'll bring you snapshots of submissions in the coming weeks.






Climate change in our region

In Australia the weather breaks news while the drought refuses to break. This report ‘Australia responds: Helping our neighbours fight climate change' from the Climate Change and Development Roundtable group reminds us that Australia's Asia Pacific neighbours are even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to a CSIRO report, available at the same site, more than 150 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be displaced by rising sea levels by 2050.The Roundtable's report recommends that Australian aid be targeted to assist countries in the region to help ‘build resilience within communities to better withstand climate change impacts' and to ‘assist with, and prepare for … disaster management'. The impacts of climate change on Pacific countries, and on the health of Australian Indigenous communities, were themes of the Climate Action Network Australia's recent conference. Presenters stressed that Indigenous communities are likely to be among the most affected by rising temperatures, and the least equipped to respond.



Is Australia fair?

ACOSS has released a short report based on its survey of 1,600 Australians, conducted between June-September 2006 at community events and via its website. Survey respondents nominated the ten essentials that would make Australia fair: education, health, welfare, environment, work, community, reconciliation, housing, services, rights and responsibilities.


Entitled to an education

In late September, the Cornerstones conference on public education was held in Sydney. A few conference papers are now available online: Tony Vinson considers the challenges adolescents face as they transition from primary school to high school; and in his paper on funding, the Centre for Policy Development author Lindsay Connor argues that public education is based on a set of entitlements, warning against governments' current proclivities for the outsourcing of the eduction of their future citizens. We'll bring you more papers as they become available. The conference resulted in this communiqué.



Don't mention sedition

We note that last month the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) completed its review of the federal sedition laws. Its recommendations aimed at ensuring there is a ‘bright line' between ‘freedom of expression … and the reach of criminal law'. To this end, the ALRC recommended that the Federal Government strike the term ‘sedition' from its sedition regime, as it is too closely associated in the public mind with the suppression of political dissent. The ALRC also recommended amendments to ensure that ‘rhetorical statements, parody, artistic expression, reportage and other communications' are not an offence unless they intentionally urge the use of force or violence.

The Attorney General rejected the recommendations.



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