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In the wake of 9/11, the world was waiting for someone powerful to say that ‘our enemy is not Islam’ according to Professor Abdullah Saeed. He says this moment finally arrived when President Barack Obama made a landmark speech to the Muslim world.

“All of the issues Obama talked about in his address were closely connected to the interests of both America and the Muslim World. Obama presented the view that there is no clash of civilisations, that there is no clash between Islam and the West,” he says.

Professor Saeed says that what Obama presented to the world in his address is a view that we need to walk away from a view that Islam equals extremism.

“There are Muslims who do awful things in the word in the name of Islam, but that should not be the total story. Just as America can’t be reduced to a few voices, neither can the Muslim world,” he says.

Professor Saeed says Obama’s speech was a message of hope and optimism that should aid in creating a new partnership between America and the Muslim world.

“Of course a speech has its limitations, but this is a speech by the most powerful person in the world, and by addressing the Muslim world he is making a significant, timely and relevant step.”

“A lot will be happening in the next few months to make this work. It will require a lot of effort on part of the Muslim world and the Americans to take this gesture of good will to the next level - it will take time.”

North Korea’s underground nuclear tests have been condemned by world leaders, yet Associate Professor Tilman Ruff says the global community should not simply react by reprimanding the regime but ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

“There are around 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world and if less than half of one per cent of the world’s nuclear arsenal was targeted on cities it could result in a global climatic catastrophe that would imperil human civilisation,” he says.

“Every day we live with this terrible risk that the world could end.”

Professor Ruff says North Korea’s underground nuclear testing and violation of Resolution 1718 brings into force the need for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. He says nations who claim nuclear weapons are essential to their own security are often the same ones who are claiming these weapons are a threat when possessed by anyone else.

“This kind of nuclear apartheid is unsustainable and the only approach that really has legs is one that has a consistent standard - zero nuclear weapons for all countries,” he says.

Professor Ruff says the sooner we see serious progress toward the goal of zero nuclear weapons the better and says this goal is a lot more achievable since the Obama administration got into power.

“We have agreed on global treaties to abolish cluster munitions, land mines, chemical and biological weapons in the past, so there is plenty of precedent for abolishing whole classes of weapons by a comprehensive treaty. Many would argue that the same approach should be applied to nuclear weapons.”

VIDEO ALERT: Death of Tamil Tigers’ leader not a guarantee for peace, says Dr Pradeep Taneja.

The armed struggle of Tamil Tigers for an ethnic homeland in Sri Lanka is reported to have ended after 26 years, yet Dr Pradeep Taneja from the University of Melbourne’s School of Social and Political Sciences said peace will be short-lived if the Sri Lankan Government does not “reach out to the Tamil people and appeal to their grievances”.

Professor Taneja said the death this week of Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran will also affect relations between the Tamil people and the Indian government.

“In July 1987 the Congress Party in India signed an accord with the Sri Lankan Government which led to Indian peace-keeping forces going into Sri Lanka, but attempts at peace ended following the assassination of India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a Tamil Tiger.  Since then this relationship has not been good,” he said.

“Before the assassination of the Prime Minister there was a great deal of sympathy for the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka, but a lot of that evaporated after the assassination in 1991, so now we will have to see what happens because this week both the Congress party were re-elected and in Sri Lanka the Tamil separatist war has come to an end.”

“From the Indian Government’s point of view, they now have to put more pressure on the Sri Lankan government to deal with the grievances of the Tamil people because this is a cause that goes back to the 1950s, and the death of the Tamil Tigers’ leader doesn’t mean there will automatically be peace in Sri Lanka.”

Professor Joshua Gans says delays on the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme shouldn’t effect consumer decisions on ‘buying green’.

With the Federal Government's hotly debated emissions trading scheme set to be introduced into the lower house today, Professor Gans says that the proposed one year delay in its official introduction should not be considered as "reneging on a previous timetable."

"When it comes down to it all, of the targets are to be achieved by 2020 or 2050”.

“Its going to matter to consumers to get energy efficient appliances, even if they know emissions trading is another 12 months away,” he said.

“The idea of emissions trading is to set a carbon price, and influence the investment decisions of businesses, households and government; unless those investments involve appliances that will only last two years, another delay won’t change things.”

Professor Gans said the real delay is in not passing the legislation, and the Government has already changed its policy and compromised its plan enough to accommodate various groups.

 “One of the problems we face in wanting to do more (such as the greens are asking) and having lower emission than the government is targeting, is that if the international community don’t come along for the ride, Australia’s impact on the actual problem - in the absence of an international agreement - is that we will be economising on carbon and suffering economic harm for no reason,” he said.

The Pakistani Government and global aid community can’t address the needs of these refugees; it could result in a large pool of people who could easily be recruited into the Taliban says Associate Professor Akbarzadeh.

“There is a big risk that public opinion could turn against the Pakistani Government because of its bad management of this war, these military advances have resulted into over a million refugees and the Pakistani Government and aid agencies are woefully under prepared for this,” he says.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says there is a very big chance that the offensive will also be a long one, as Pakistan troops have been trained for conventional warfare and not guerrilla style tactics as is expected from the Taliban.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says the Pakistani Government has had a difficult relationship with the Taliban ever since they began allowing them into Pakistani Territory for “their excursions into and eventual victory in Afghanistan in 1997”.

“The Pakistan Government allowed this because the Islamist have serviced a useful purpose for Pakistan foreign policy. Pakistan has wanted to expand its area of influence and the Islamists have served its purpose in this regard,” he says.

“So when the Taliban were pushed out of Afghanistan following US offensive and settled in the northern territory of Pakistan, this created a challenge to their sovereignty. For a time they were trying to appease the Taliban forces and allowed Sharia Law to be implemented as a way to appease the Taliban, but this was a major mistake.”

“In Pakistan public opinion was very uncomfortable that Islamic Law was being implemented, and there was a swell in public opinion against it as well as pressure from the US who were wary that the Taliban now had the territory to regroup, retrain and prepare for further excursions into Afghanistan.”

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says that while it was a combination of these factors which made Pakistan launch its offensive to eliminate Taliban forces, their short sighted approach could be counter-productive if the offensive drags out and refugees become disillusioned.

Ms Cooklin says the inclusion in tomorrow’s budget of an 18-week paid parental leave scheme to begin nationally from January 2011, is an “historic and important decision”.

“Australia is one of only two industrialised nations to not have a paid universal maternity leave scheme, so we are far behind comparable countries and this policy will bring us in line,” she says.

“Eighteen weeks is a good starting point for maternity leave, and above the minimum recommended by the International Labour Organisation."

“This time allows women a good four months to negotiate the early tasks and demands of motherhood, to establish breast feeding and recuperate from giving birth.”

“This scheme will also protect a mothers time at home while giving her an independent income and the security of knowing she has a job to return to in 18 weeks.”

Ms Cooklin says research shows that only one in three women currently have access to paid maternity leave in Australia; and that women who aren’t able to access such a scheme have poorer mental health.

Ms Cooklin’s own research paper Employee Entitlements during Pregnancy and Maternal Psychological Well-being, found that almost one-fifth of employed women reported that they had been discriminated against at work as a result of their pregnancy.

Ms Cooklin says she hopes the universal policy will go a long way toward alleviating this problem.

 

Professor Howard Dick argues that there is worrying neglect in important dimensions of the Australia-Indonesia relationship despite its increasing maturity.

Ned Kelly’s remains should be returned to his family and he should be given a decent burial says former Pentridge Prison chaplain, Fr Peter Norden, AO.

Fr Norden, who has been appointed a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, says that in the 12 years since the former Pentridge Prison closed and moved into the hands of private commercial developers, nothing has been done to recognise the grave sites of those buried in the prison grounds.

Ned Kelly’s remains were moved from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1929, after they were disturbed by building works for the Melbourne Working Men’s College (now RMIT University), along with more than 30 other persons executed in the city gaol. They joined the remains of the 10 executed and buried at Pentridge Prison.

“Forensic Services are now assessing the human remains buried at Pentridge Prison. These are not unknown persons, but the remains of those the Victorian Government executed,” Father Norden says.

Because of the lack of recognition of the Pentridge gravesites, Fr Norden, arranged for the exhumation of Ronald Ryan 40 years after his execution. His remains were returned to his family last year, and Fr Norden is now calling for the same treatment for Ned Kelly’s remains.

“Female descendants of Ned Kelly’s family have expressed to me an interest in providing assistance for DNA testing and I believe they should decide where Ned gets buried, certainly not back in the former Pentridge Prison site.

“Ned Kelly’s family’s descendents should have the same rights as Ronald Ryan’s,” insists Fr Norden. “It would be fitting to conduct a private memorial service for the family, as his remains should not be controlled by private commercial interests.

“Let’s give Ned Kelly a final resting place with his deceased family members and insist that the Victorian Government recognises the human remains of those who cannot be identified, by providing a memorial at the gravesites at Pentridge.”

Father Norden AO will be available for interviews at the Melbourne Law School today.

Ned Kelly’s remains should be returned to his family and he should be given a decent burial says former Pentridge Prison chaplain, Fr Peter Norden, AO.

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