Did the Bernie Bros cost Clinton the election?

After Clinton clinched the Democrat nomination, there was considerable concern that many of Sanders’ supporters would stay at home or even vote for Trump rather than cast a vote for Clinton.  Indeed, one of the main narratives of the election results is that Clinton paid the price for being an ‘establishment’ candidate at a time when the electorate was demanding radical change. Post-election, Bernie Bros have popped up explaining why they stayed home. But what do the data say? Continue reading

The impact agenda and academic publishing in Australia

The Australian government is currently considering scrapping entirely the use of academic research outputs as a determinant of university block grant funding in favour of a measure based on non-academic ‘impact’ with industry collaborators. In general, I am a big fan of the ‘impact agenda’ – the idea that publicly funded universities should explicitly and accountably articulate their research towards non-academic benefits, whether economic, social, or cultural.  The Australian interpretation of this seems to be veering towards a very narrow definition of impact in primarily economic terms and oriented primarily towards the private sector.  My concern in this piece, however, is the effect that radically devaluing academic publications would have on Australia’s higher education sector.  Put simply, I think there is a very clear case to be made that this would have a significant deleterious effect on Australian universities’ international standing, with consequent knock-on effects on the country’s ability to recruit high quality academics and international students alike. Continue reading

People power challenges Malaysia’s PM, but change from within most likely

Street protests in Kuala Lumpur have increased the pressure on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. The scandal centres on debt-laden national investment vehicle 1MDB on the one hand and a mysterious transfer of RM2.6 billion (US$700 million) into one of Najib’s personal bank accounts on the other.

The protests were organised under the banner of the Bersih (Clean) organisation. Bersih has long campaigned for electoral reform, including a previous round of street protests in 2012.

The demonstrations are a potent manifestation of the scale of disillusionment with the government. The protesters scored a publicity coup when nonagenarian former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad briefly joined them. Najib and his political party, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), however, retain significant support among some sectors of society, principally rural ethnic Malays. Continue reading

What can Australia learn from indigenous recognition in other countries?

The recent bipartisan push to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’s Constitution is in line with recent international practice. However, the Australian proposals will likely be much less substantive than those of many other countries.

Most specific proposals, such as those of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, avoid any language of indigenous “rights”. But it is almost inevitable that symbolic recognition will have political and economic consequences. Continue reading

The false dichotomy of population and consumerism in Laudato Si’

The lauding of Laudato Si’ in the development community reflects the sympathy that many beyond the Catholic fold feel for Pope Francis and his clear concern for social justice, poverty, and equitable development. It is also being lauded as evidence that science and religion can work together, and when they do, they agree on the importance of tackling climate change.

Much of Laudato Si’ sends a good message, but there is a gaping hole in it: the issue of population, and population growth. The silence on this is damaging and dangerous, and reflective of a broader failure of Catholic social teaching to tackle seriously issues that impinge on its historic doctrine. Continue reading