Monday, June 27, 2016

21st Century Maritime Military Cooperation by Australia, USA and Japan

Greetings from the 21st Century Trilateral Maritime Cooperation Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra, where scholars and military personnel from Japan, the USA and Australia are speaking on issues of mutual interest, including "disputes over obscure maritime features" (as one speaker described territorial issues in the East and South China Seas). The conference is sponsored by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, USA, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College. Interestingly, this is an open conference which the general public was invited to attend, no cost. Interestingly one speaker raised the issue of cyber-warfare. A few months ago I was teaching ANU students about Cyberwar Over the South China Sea.

Speakers include: 

ADM ret. (RAN) Chris Barrie, Adjunct Professor SDSC; ADM ret. (USN) Dennis Blair, Chairman and CEO Sasakawa Foundation; VADM (MSDF) Umio Otsuka, President JMSDF Command and Staff College; Dr. Jeffrey Hornung, Fellow Security and Foreign Affairs Program Sasakawa USA; Mr. Stanley Roth, Former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Dr. Stephan Fruehling, Associate Professor SDSC; AMB Shingo Yamagami, Acting Director JIIA; VADM ret. (USN) Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., CEO GeoOptics Inc.; Dr. Anthony Bergin, Deputy Director Australian Strategic Policy Institute; Dr. Toshio Yamagata, Director Application Laboratory of Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology; Mr. Yoshikiyo Ono, Secretary General Japanese Shipowners’ Association; Dr. Carol Anne Clayson, Director Ocean and Climate Change Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute; Mr. Peter Jennings, Executive Director Australian Strategic Policy Institute; CAPT (MSDF) Katsuya Yamamoto, JMSDF Command and Staff College; RADM ret. (RAN) James Goldrick AO, CSC, Adjunct Professor SDSC; Dr. Isami Takeda, Professor of International Relations Dokkyo University; VADM ret. (USN) Robert Parker; Dr. Euan Graham, Director International Security Program at the Lowy Institute; ADM ret. (USN) Walter Doran, President Pacific Vision LLC; Dr. Brendan Taylor, Head of SDSC.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is ASEAN about to break up?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Kishore Mahbubani, from the National University of Singapore, is speaking on "Is ASEAN about to break up?". Professor Mahbubani attributed the recent peace in South-east Asia to the influence of  the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He suggested that such forums allow nations to communicate in a face-saving way. Also he suggested that Australia greatly benefited by not having to deal with refugees who would have been displaced by conflict. However, judging from other presentations at ANU, this period of peace may be coming to an end, with an arms race now taking place in the region and the potential for armed conflict in the South China Sea.

Professor Mahbubani predicted Australia will have a less comfortable time being a western country, with the rise of China, but will be better off due to ASEAN. He also suggested there would be rising geopolitical competition between the USA and China. He commented "This has surfaced first over the South China Sea" (perhaps this was a pun, as China built artificial islands, literally "surfacing").

Professor Mahbubani described last week's ASEAN-China meeting as "disastrous". Also he described a recent incident between Indonesian forces and Chinese fishing boats as "puzzling". However, I suggest that these are simply manifestations of an international dispute. The nations involved will test each other's resolve, both diplomatically and

Professor Mahbubani suggested that many regional leaders are domestically focused. As a result they are neglecting international matters. Clearly this does not apply to all, particularly Singapore, which is regionally focused (and also upgrading its armed forces).

Professor Mahbubani said there was no surprise in Cambodia moving closer to China, while Vietnam moves closer to the USA, but ASEAN could survive this.

ps: I have suggested Australia could engage with the region throughon-line courses, in an "On-line Colombo Plan".

Monday, June 20, 2016

ACS 2016 Federal Election Manifesto

The Australian Computer Society (which I am a member of) has published a 17 page "ACS 2016 Federal Election Manifesto", covering five key areas: 1. Digital skills and digital literacy, 2. Diversity, 3. Cyber security, 4. NBN and 5. Policy framework. Some Comments on the proposals:
  1. Digital skills and digital literacy: The ACS proposes training teachers and educational techniques to support new skills for students. This is something I have spent the last four years doing, leaning how to teach about IT, using IT. This might involve some politically unpalatable changes to education, such as increasing class sizes and involving parents more in the eduction of their children.
  2. Diversity: Increasing diversity in the workforce, I suggest starts with providing education opportunity. In particular, providing more support for schooling, vocational and university education on-line will allow those who would otherwise be excluded to take part.
  3. Cyber security: The ACS is making bold claim that cyber security is the "... biggest single threat to Australia fully capturing the opportunities of the information age ...". I suggest that while cyber security is important, education is a bigger issue.
  4. NBN: The ACS argues for high-quality and pervasive broadband, which I agree with. However, I think it is time to retire the term "NBN".
  5. Policy framework: ACS suggests a collaborative, open approach to national policy development. Unfortunately I can't see party politics ending any time soon. As a result I suggest it is up to bodies such as ACS to provide the open collaborative forums for policy development.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Brisbane Jazz Club

Had a delightful night 28 May at the Brisbane Jazz Club with Steph Taylor and Jazz Australis. The highlight was the duet with Tamara O' Callaghan. The venue is on the banks of the Brisbane river with a panoramic view of the city skyline behind the performers. Book a table at the front, where you can (almost) reach out and touch the performers. The Brisbane Jazz Club is not for profit, inexpensive and a good night out.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Digital Government: Transforming Public Services, Regulation, and Citizenship

Last month I attended a talk by Mr Angus Taylor MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation on digital transformation at Australian Parliament House, Canberra. Mr Taylor mentioned his monograph "The Promise of Digital Government: Transforming Public Services, Regulation, and Citizenship" (Menzies Research Centre, 1 April 2016). This is modest in size, at 78 pages, but ambitious in aim: to transform not only the way services are delivered, but also how we think about Government. This is from the point of view of a conservative politician, emphasizing contest-ability for the delivery of government services, with maximum private sector involvement. However, while Mr Taylor's political opponents might use different rhetoric to describe their aims, I suspect they would agree with many of the aims and methods.
The difficulty with digital government comes at the level of implementation: are governments, whichever their political views, willing to invest in personnel with the skills needed to implement digital government? Are they willing to accept the political cost of implementation, such as where the use of on-line service delivery results in the closure of shop-front services in marginal electorates?
To give one example, schools currently run on a pre-digital model. Recent initiatives, such as a reduction in class size, have increased the cost of education, without any discernible improvement in outcomes (and may have actually reduced the quality of education) An alternative would be to "flip" the education system, particularly at the upper end. Students would be provided with on-line resources and highly qualified on-line teachers, to supplement their face-to-face education. Also the student's parents would be provided with information on the children's learning. However, one implication of this would be more students per teacher (as each teacher would cost much more due to their higher qualifications). There would also be a requirement for parents to take an active part in their children's education (with parents being given tasks to compete and tracked as to performance). The political reality that parents just want school as a form of government funded child minding might then become apparent.