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Dr Pradeep Taneja says that while communism in China is dead 'practically', the 60th anniversary of the creation of the People's Republic of China is particularly significant.  "It comes about a year after China hosted the Beijing Olympics, so there's an added significance that China has demonstrated to the rest of the world that China is an important country and one that has achieved remarkable success in its economic development and modernisation."

A lecturer in Asian Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, Dr Taneja says that while there have been many changes over the past sixty years leading to increased personal freedom for the population, there are still many internal problems.  "These are problems not just of the Xinjiang province or Tibet, but for example employment in urban areas.  Literally millions of people have lost jobs due to China's market orientated economic reform policies."

"And in the rural areas too there is disquiet - the rural population in China feels they have not benefited as much from the economic reforms of the past thirty years as the people in the cities."

"Externally however, China's standing in the international system has grown tremendously.  China today clearly is important, there's no solution to any of our global problems without China's involvement.  That is why foreign powers - such as the EU, US and Australia - feel they have very little influence on China."

The following is the full text from the 2009 Law Week Oration by Professor the Hon Gareth Evans QC AO, held at the Melbourne Law School on 22 September 2009, in conjunction with the Victoria Law Foundation.  Video of the lecture can be accessed at http://live.unimelb.edu.au/episode/law-week-oration-2009.

Women wanting to birth their children at home and midwives in private practice have gained some breathing space from Health Minister Nicola Roxon, but the issue of control over birth will still be there in two years time, says gender studies researcher at the University of Melbourne, Dr Meredith Nash.

A natural birth experience, control of the environment and management of birth, and avoidance of medical technologies have been persistent themes in current research of women's views of home birth. Whatever women’s reasons for wanting to birth at home, the right to give birth in the place of one’s choice is fundamentally a feminist issue for Australian women.

Former Australian Foreign Minister and President and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, Gareth Evans has joined the University of Melbourne as an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences in the Faculty of Arts.

Former PM John Howard to give Melbourne media lecture Former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard will give a public lecture at the University of Melbourne on the topic ‘Politics and the Media: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ next Tuesday 4 August at 6pm.   In a rare public appearance since leaving office, Mr Howard will examine the relationship between politics and the media in a lecture hosted by the University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism.

Former Prime Minister Mr John Howard recently delivered a public lecture at the University of Melbourne on the role of the media in covering politics. The lecture was hosted by the University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism.

Professor Tim Lindsey says the re-election of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has, somewhat surprisingly, barely rated a mention in one of it's biggest trading and diplomatic partners: Australia. 

"Perhaps this was because it was expected, but I suspect it's more likely that Australian's have barely noticed Indonesia's extremely successful transition to democracy.  Of all the countries that have gone through the economic crisis, Indonesia is one of the few in which democracy has taken hold and increased."

"Attitudes in Australia are still fixed by the old experiences of an authoritarian, military backed dictatorship under Suharto.  Despite the fact that somewhere around a fifth of Australian's have gone to Bali, no one seems to have registered the massive transition to an open, democratic and vibrant democracy."


If women are allowed to wear minimal clothing, they should be allowed to completely cover their body and wear a burqa, says Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne Professor Abdullah Saeed

Professor Saeed says French President Nicholas Sarkosy’s call to ban the burqa was interpreted by many Muslims as an attack on their faith. Yet he says Sarkosy’s address was motivated by a concern for women’s rights.

“From Sarkosy’s point of view women don’t have a lot of choice, and in his regard women are forced to wear the burqa. However, when we look at Muslims in France and the issue of veiling, roughly 50 per cent support the ban and roughly 50 per cent don’t support it,” he says.

“There are some Muslims who argue that veiling is not Islamic, for them there is no requirement in Islam in the Koran to suggest that veiling is a requirement. For them this is not Islamic and prevents women from particular aspects of modern life. But there are also some Muslims who argue that it is Islamic and argue that the wearing of burqas is supported in the Koran and should be part of Muslims life in the modern period.”

“The practice is a matter of choice and if women is allowed to wear minimum clothes, why shouldn’t they be allowed to completely cover her body,” he says.

Iranians go to the polls tomorrow in a much anticipated presidential election, with the very real prospect of a victory for the reformists and a positive change for the nation, according to Melbourne middle east expert, Associate Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh.

Although positive about the prospect of change Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says it will be a close election, with the reformist camp divided between two candidates, risking a split in the reformist vote.

"The reformers have been mobilizing quite significantly, and they’ve been tapping into the energy of this younger generation of voters," he says.  "The fact that reformist candidate Mousavi has gained the endorsement of former President Khatami is encouraging.

"The population is ready for a change, and the changing international environment allows for that degree of optimism.  In the past Iran had always managed to point to American foreign policy, point to the US and its relations with Israel as a problem in the region.

"The Iranian Government has accused the US of being a bully in international affairs, and policies pursued by President George W Bush in a way justified that accusation.  With the change in Washington, with Obama in power, there has been a change of attitude, a change of mood, which does facilitate a change in Iran.  The hardliners can no longer point to the US as a bully, and try to ‘circle the wagons’."

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says while the hardliners have been in power (about four years), Iran has effectively become a pariah state in the region, with President Ahmadinejad having mismanaged the economy and adopting a very confrontational posture toward the west, or the international community.

He says President Obama’s appeal to the people of Iran at Nowruz (Iranian new year) - in which he talked about their great civilization and his respect for their culture and contribution to peace in the region - were important and unprecedented gestures that effectively disarmed the hardliners.

"I think the people of Iran are responding to President Obama’s charm offensive, and appreciate there has been a genuine change in US policy," he says.

"President Obama is obviously concerned about Iranian nuclear ambitions, but by the same token he is putting that problem within the broader context of the middle east, he places that problem as one among many in the region, which I think is the right approach to regional politics."