Tuesday, April 21, 2015
 

SRC Announces Free Emergency Aid Packs

men-waiting-outside-soup-kitchen

Annastasia Robertson

The Student Representative Council has teamed up with Arc to launch a comprehensive new welfare service to the UNSW community in the coming weeks.

SRC President Billy Bruffey is in the final stages of preparation to launch a volunteer-based program that will issue emergency aid packages for free to anyone who asks for one.

It will see any student who requires help finding food, personal items or accommodation gain it with ease and anonymity.

“We wanted to come up with a bold, frontline response to student welfare issues on campus,” Bruffey said.

“A lot of people are kicked out of home and a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet on inadequate Centrelink welfare payments.”

The initiative sprouted from the on-campus crisis accommodation secured by the previous SRC, but has been enhanced with the addition of an on-site food bank.

In liaison with the Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia, who also provide this service to their students, the SRC has created a UNSW food and goods bank which will include a variety of packs to meet a variety of student needs.

This will include a child pack for parents, a toiletry pack, a carbohydrate-based food pack, and a fruit and vegetable food pack.

“Anyone who needs help will get help and we’ll never turn away anybody. It’s on a trust basis, so if you come 10 times a semester we take it you are in need,” Bruffey said.

The most important aspect of this program, which will run out of the Arc offices, is that it is not an immediate, quick fix for someone in need. Arc’s caseworkers are on board, and anyone in need will be referred onto them.

There will also be a number of pamphlets in the packs which provide useful information about social housing, women’s shelters and outreach centres.

Mr Bruffey says the range of options will promote dignity for the people who need it, as they will not involve any accompanying force or pressure upon those who pick up the packs.

Currently, the program will only be available to students, but the SRC hopes to expand this to the wider community as awareness is built.

“What we’re trying to do is help people in need, but also address the underlying problems that put them there in the first place,” Bruffey said.

A website will be launched once the program begins. If you would like to help, or volunteer for this program or any other welfare program at UNSW, please contact the SRC Welfare Collective.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Fraser, liberalism and the Liberal party

Christopher Wong analyses Malcolm Fraser’s legacy.

Malcolm_Fraser_bust
The recent passing of Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister, brought with it an outpouring of tributes from both sides of the political spectrum. Revered and reviled for his role in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, Fraser remained a divisive political figure until the end. In particular, his criticisms of the Liberal Party in the waning years of his life, highlighted by his renouncement of party membership in 2009, back-ended the growing rift between Fraser’s liberalism and that of his contemporaries. It is an oft-repeated phrase that he did not leave the Liberal Party, but that the Liberal Party left him. Fraser always stood for no more than what have always been liberal values. Freedom and human rights, small government, fiscal prudence and government-sponsored immigration are hallmarks of liberalism and values that Fraser staunchly advocated. His exile from conservative politics raises the question of what role liberalism still plays in the modern Liberal Party.

From his unsuccessful adoption of Keynesian economics to his opposition to apartheid, Fraser’s policies represent the admixture of classical and social liberalism that pervaded post-war political thought. They stand in contrast to the conservative neo-liberalism of his successors, most distinctively seen under Howard’s leadership and continued by Abbott. Fraser rallied against what he perceived as the Liberal Party’s drift to the right, in particular taking aim at its asylum seeker policies, alignment with American foreign policy and restrictions on civil liberties. These unresolved ideological differences were the catalysts for his departure from the party. For Fraser, liberalism was characterised by a focus on egalitarianism, individual liberty and self-actualisation. He rejected Howard’s asylum seeker policies for their infringement on human rights criticised the influence of American foreign policy for its overt aggressiveness and Anglo-centrism.

In retrospect, it may be convenient to confine Fraser’s values to the left of Australian politics and thus ignore their philosophical foundations in liberalism. Whilst it may be true that the causes adopted by him in recent years have found most traction amongst progressives, they are nonetheless principles that have traditionally been advocated by those on the political right. Arguably, Fraser stands closer to the Liberal Party’s founding philosophies than does Abbott or Howard. Rather than renounce his legacy, the Liberal Party would do well to embrace Fraser’s ideological contributions to the right of Australian politics.

Importantly, Malcolm Fraser showed that compassion is a universal principle not confined to a single party or political persuasion. He showed that individualism and liberty were not incompatible with small government. He showed that safety and protection did not have to come at the expense of civil liberties. His estrangement from the party he led for eight years was symbolic of its abandonment of its liberal heritage and its subsequent endorsement of conservatism. For a party that has always prided itself as a ‘broad church’, after Fraser the Liberal Party became increasingly hostile to its liberal base. It then proceeded to lost this base to the Australian Democrats in the 80’s, and then to Labor in the 90’s.

That is not to say that the Liberal Party can never reclaim its liberal roots. The enduring popularity of Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues on the centre-right shows that liberal values still have a place on Australia’s right. These values do not stand in opposition to the Liberal charter; they are its foundation. Malcolm Fraser was vilified, rejected and criticised because he served as a reminder of the liberal past that the Liberals desperately wanted to forget. Malcolm Fraser never left the liberal party. The same cannot be said for the Liberal Party.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

The Employment Terminator

robot

Are robots coming for your job? Maybe, writes Brendan Byron.

I bet I’d surprise no one if I told you that jobs are harder to find these days. Every “entry level” position wants 3-5 years of industry experience, and even a postgraduate degree is no guarantee of stable employment.

What might surprise you, though, is this: there’s good reason to believe this lack of jobs is about to get much, much worse over the next twenty years. And I’m not blaming immigrants or austerity or recessions, either.

By far the biggest challenge to your employment prospects is the rise of the robots.

It sounds bizarre, but if you think about it, this really shouldn’t come as a shock – tellers in banks were replaced by ATMs a decade ago. In the last five years, supermarket checkouts that used to involve a dozen workers in a dozen aisles have been rapidly replaced by one worker supervising a dozen checkout machines. In the last six months, ticket windows at train stations have all but closed, with thousands of workers laid off.

Which, don’t get me wrong here, is great news. It’s creative destruction – technological innovation kills old jobs like abacus makers and all the people who would have made abacuses turn to improving computers instead. All the taxi drivers and truckies put out of work by driverless Google cars will find new jobs in the next great endeavours – jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

Or will they?

Last week I sat down with UNSW Senior Economics Lecturer Stanley Cho. He’s an expert in ‘capital-skill complementarity’ – the tendency of skilled individuals to earn more and be in more demand as capital, or machines, become more widely-used. And while he stuck to the standard script most of the time – that new jobs will always be invented – he did say there was evidence to the contrary.

I asked him: if Google’s driverless cars put a million people out of work (a not-unreasonable assumption), will a million jobs be created in turn? He said “Maybe not.” Dr Cho referenced America during the Global Financial Crisis: the economy grew for years before the job market began to recover as well. Dr Cho theorised that to cut costs, companies replaced people with cheaper capital.

“All of these unskilled workers were replaced with cheap machines, secured with low interest rates and cheap loans,” he said.

You might think you’re safe with your readily applicable, highly prized Comm/Law degree. You aren’t. Going into finance? Computers trading stocks with computers already comprise over 99% of financial transactions – sometimes with devastating consequences.

On May 6, 2010, at 2:42pm, the Dow Jones plummeted out of the blue. Trading algorithms got caught in a loop, buying and selling the same stocks over and over. Within ten minutes of the malfunction, a trillion dollars disappeared from the global economy – 9% of the Dow Jones index’s total value. Twenty minutes later, at 3:07, the marketbots had self-corrected. Not only are humans being outmatched by machines, when it comes to things like high-frequency trading, we’re not even playing the same game anymore.

And here’s where we get down to the crux of it: the reason this time’s different – and why I doubt today’s taxi drivers and financiers won’t find new, better-paying jobs when their old ones get mechanised – is because there’s something fundamentally different in how this generation of technology plays out. We’re not building machines with better strength or better speed than humans — we’re building machines with better minds than humans. And some time in the future – probably not in the next 20 years, but not “never” either – we’re quite likely to crack the code and build artificial intelligence that can think creatively better than a person can.

That’s a big deal. At that stage, you’re not just worried about the employment prospects of people when computers can do any job better. Because the next job to go might be computer programmers. Why couldn’t an AI learn to improve its own cognitive ability? If it improves its own cognitive ability, what stops it from getting even better? Where is the roof?

Elon Musk, the genius behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, goes even further. He wrote on twitter in August last year: “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable”.

These are a lot of big ideas. I don’t ask you to follow me all the way from mechanised cars to digital superintelligences – you can call me crazy at some point along the chain, and you probably should. It’s not clear that any of these potentialities might happen. What is clear, though, is that some tiny, miniscule fraction of it will.

And we better be prepared for when it does.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

O Captain My Captain

tonyabbott

Sam Moran investigates Australia’s crisis of leadership.

Walt Whitman’s poem, made famous by the unforgettable scenes of “A Dead Poet’s Society”, reverberates through our hearts and minds as Robin Williams’ students express their gratitude and support for him, his humility and his compassion, in direct contrast to the authoritative teacher demanding they “sit down”. The movie the power of an individual the importance of leadership – but more accurately, the kind of leaders we should demand to have.

There are innumerable forms of leadership, from the strong, powerful leader willing to sacrifice anything and everything to the kind, gentle and inspiring leaders who can inspire the timid, nurture the shy and truly help the potential for greatness blossom in everyone. These seem like nice principles that will remain simply theoretical goals. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps the perfect leader, teacher and mentor do not exist. Perhaps that is not what we want in a politician – we would prefer the strength, fortitude and moral certainty of the Winston Churchills of the world.

But just once in a while I have to stop and question whether that is the best thing for us. Last week our leader, Tony Abbott, stood up and told the rest of the world that our aid –  a recognition of our common humanity – was conditional on positive diplomatic outcomes for Australia. Tony Abbott stood before the world and, blusteringly, channelled the persona of the Churchills of the past. Dominant. Ruthless. Uncompromising.

I don’t have a problem with this as a position for a leader during a time of war or even for a leader to take sometimes. But this is too often the default of leadership. Recently, Greg Sheridan argued that he felt there was a cultural problem within Australia that indicated an inability to be governed. Perhaps that is an oversimplification, but it has a ring of truth to it. How often now do political leaders stand up before us and genuinely explain why a policy will be helpful. Perhaps worse, when was the last time a politician actually asked what we needed rather than presuming that they knew what was best for us?

Of course there are policy groups; government departments that exist to perform research and investigate areas in which policy can be created or improved. But not only do these groups not necessarily represent the interest of the broader community, often representing more specific (financial) interest groups, they also have been unable to produce popular public policy. The failure of Mr Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, his budget plans and even the now dropped Medicare co-payment schemes are indications of this.

The last month has been particularly symptomatic of this failed culture of leadership. The most recently despicable example of leadership by Mr Abbott, and indeed his party, has been the slanderous attacks on Professor Gillian Triggs as a result of publishing the “Forgotten Children” report on the conditions of children in detention.

In a report that outlines the horrendous treatment of children in detention, with stories circulating of numerous attempts at self-harm and suicide, to familial separation, malnutrition and many more, the government has the nerve to advocate that the author of the report should resign. Without beating around the issue: this is a despicable show of cowardice from a government terrified by the legacy of its own policy. The response given by Tony Abbott and many senior members of government was two-fold; firstly, it was Labor’s fault that so many children are in detention, second, that the author of the report was biased. Abbott’s response to the recent UN findings, that Australia is “sick of being lectured about torture”, illustrates a further failing of leadership. Indeed, one commentator accurately noted that when you get sick of being lectured about torture, you are probably torturing too much.

Clearly the Labor party did contribute to the problem given that close to 2000 children lived in detention under their tenure. Irrespective of Labor’s guilt, I have a particular problem with the simplistic claims by the current government that it was someone else’s problem, exacerbated by a biased reporter and that they are currently doing everything there is to do.

No, Mr Abbott, you aren’t. We do not have children in adult prisons for a reason. Every day that they remain there you become increasingly culpable and the heart of the matter is that Greg Sheridan’s crisis of leadership becomes more apparent every day.

There needs to be a change. A change of leadership and the culture of governance associated.

As Robin Williams says self-reflectively in Dead Poet’s Society, “just when you think you know something you must look at it in another way…”

We must demand that our leaders challenge our perspective of the world, but similarly we must also ensure that our leaders are not allowed to hide behind rhetoric or to obfuscate political issues and redirect our moral outrage. When a politician makes a mistake they should be held to account. This is the backbone of our democratic society and the responsibility of every citizen within it.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Agony Ibis #2

ibis

Dear Agony Ibis,

What are your thoughts on the current Ukraine-Russia conflict?

Thanks, Politically Aware.

 

 

To Politically Aware:

Oh, dear reader, let me take you back to a different time. A freer, hazier day when this old, grey Ibis was but a milky white chick.

It was April, 1992 in Crimea and I wandered through the city in a cloud of love. David Lee Roth and I were summering in the small coastal town of Schatsvernikarboniczka, were we had joined the local pottery club, befriended a couple other human-ibis couples, and spent our spare time either baking or on heroin.

After a long night of love making, I had been sent out to scrounge some milk from the local deli. I should have known that trouble was on its way; the sky was darkened by thick, billowing clouds. I noticed as I passed David’s Chrysler that his concubine, Svetlana, had frozen to death where she was chained the previous night. I continued on my way, however, tugging my Dominique Aurientis mohair-blend coat tighter around my shoulders.

Finland in summer is beautiful, dear reader. The town was picturesque, surrounded by icy, crystalline fjords and some rather charming marshes. The odd feeling of trepidation remained, however, tugging at my stomach. When I reached the deli and found out that there was no milk to be had (as the guinea pigs had mutinied) I assumed that was all I had been worried about. Peace of mind returned.

I should have known better.

I returned back to the Høtël Mønsk much earlier than had been anticipated, just in time to see a fully-fledged orgy of hotel staff and other avian socialites, David- my sweet love, David Lee Roth, in the middle.

I stumbled out of the hotel, barely registering his yelled apologies or the quiet murmurs of apology from the hotel concierge. It wasn’t until I was back out on the street, chain smoking to dull the pain, that the real questions hit me. Where would I go, I, a bird, in Finland? Who was I, without my 80’s frontman love? Would I ever be able to look at back combed hair without incurring once again the soul-deep pangs of sadness that were flooding me right now? Had I read enough Proust to have ennui?

Four months later, I received a package in the mail. Fourteen krona, a lock of hair, and a picture of him in Ibiza, laughing with a toucan. A fucking toucan.

So, dear reader, if you will allow me to answer your question with another question.

How many black turtlenecks can one bird reasonably own?

Until next time,

Agony Ibis

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Attachment to Abusive Parents

Why do children not sever relationships with absuive parents? Srestha Mazumder investigates.

When children are abused, it seems only logical to us that they would become detached from their abuser. In most cases, the abuser is a parent. However, in this article we will be focusing specifically on the mother and the infant. Abuse can refer to physical, emotional or mental torture inflicted upon the infant. Any abuse, whether physical or psychological has detrimental effects on a child and their life as they grow older. Physical abuse is easily to identity. Bruises, cuts and black eyes scream to us that this child is victim to violent episodes at home. But psychological effects are impossible to be visually detected. They are so delicately imprinted into brains of infants that a skilled therapist is required to undress this abuse with the use of specific diagnostic tools and skills.

The Strange Situation Test is one of the many methods that can be used to seek out any definite signs of abuse. This test aims to uncover any signs of “disorganised attachment”. Disorganised attachment is when a child shows the need for a caregiver whilst simultaneously expressing signs of fear.

But what is it exactly that causes this attachment? After all, it’s an instinct to avoid any form of aversive stimuli. So why is it that we get attached rather than detached from abusive parents when logically, we should be doing the exact opposite.

The bond between a child and a caregiver is vital for survival. This significant biological imperative is so strong that once formed it is tough to break, even with an abusive caregiver.

Animals, including us, are hardwired to form attachments with our mothers. Although the attachment process begins before the child is born, the intensity of the attachment quickly accelerates after birth. Infants are programmed to have a preference of high frequency sounds of the human voice. The baby then familiarises itself with their mother’s voice and odours and hence constructs a concrete psychological bond. The concept of a child having a persistent bond with an abusive caregiver is mind boggling in itself. However, finding the explanation for such ‘absurd’ behaviour requires us to look into human behaviour/psychology.

The behaviourist model suggests that an animal will continue to carry out behaviours that provide them with a reward. Naturally, therefore, animals will tend to avoid behaviours that result then in receiving a punishment. Thus, logically one would think that a baby would avoid an abusive caregiver.

Experiments conducted on newborn rats have shown that they show a preference for odors that are an accessory to negative stimuli such as shocks or tail pinches.  Although they don’t like the negative stimuli, they like the odor and hence they form a good memory of a bad experience.

This provides us with an insight into why infants are attached to an abusive caregiver. Once the infant learns a preference, it remains a preference, no matter how bad it may be. Children are only able to form this link at an infant age and therefore when they are abused they learn an attachment between the stimulus and the bad events. Rather than learning an aversion a preference is learned.

One might question how such a disastrous preference is acquired. Some theories suggest that young animals are predisposed to learn maternal attachment, regardless of positive or negative experiences. This is because as children we are prepared to associate all situations and learnt associations as positive, with the mother. Inherently, we are predisposed to learn positive associations between stimuli and outcome.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Appropriate Behaviour

appropriate behaviour

By Carla Zuniga

This year’s Mardi Gras may not have been plagued by the rain, but it did face criticism for underrepresentation of certain facets of the LGBTIQA community – particularly transgender, non-binary genders and bisexuals – a clear indicator that all aspects of society face issues with identity. So, let’s talk about it.

To say that writer/director Desiree Akhavan “gets me” would be to put it extremely mildly. I’m not in the habit of making wild clichéd statements about films or how they revolutionize how we think or feel about a particular group of people, but I do believe that films can impact how you feel about yourself.  Appropriate Behavior is that kind of film.

Moving beyond the fact that this film is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious, let’s get to the real reason why it’s worth spending an hour and a half of your life viewing it, which all has to do with how we think about identity, and how we represent our own identities.

This is the kind of film that is not interested with making you feel comfortable. It is not here to guide you through societies often stereotyped and simplistic ideas about sexuality, identity and womanhood.  This film is not presenting any excuses for its characters and their behaviour, and like its protagonist, it is simply trying to express itself in a genuine and true way, not in an appropriate or digestible cliché.

Shirin (Akhavan, who also stars) is just trying to find a niche in the world that remains true to the multiple identities she inhabits: as a woman of colour and as a bisexual woman within her own ideals of herself as lover, daughter and friend. This is what makes it not only a good film, but also an impactive one. Shirin is trapped in the same cliché that many of us seem to helplessly fall into – fulfilling a role that has been created for us, simply because it’s much simpler than accepting that we are complex and often flawed individuals, and that we sometimes act in less than acceptable ways.

What makes this film important is not that it presents a new voice for queer people, for female identifying people or for people of colour. What is important about this film is that it successfully presents that there can be more than the one voice or one perspective which has been presented to use by the society in which we live. That we are all nuanced individuals who inhabit multiple spaces and identities, and all of these are not only equally valid but equally require representation within the society in which we live, and within the communities we form.

A film cannot change the way in which queer people are viewed within our society, just as much as no matter how important it is that Mardi Gras exists, it cannot change the issues that the LGBTIQA community continue to face and just as much as this article is a quick thought on a difficult topic – but an 86 minute film which makes you feel something more about sexuality and identity than just what is presented to you, is one which deserves our attention.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Never Stand Still (Unless You’re Profiting From Global Warming)

Rutenberg_Power_Station_from_Ashkelon_Beach

 

By Danny Yap

When your university publicly acknowledges the climate crisis but continues to throw money at fossil fuel companies, whose greenhouse gas emissions are most responsible for the problem, you call bullshit. Over 500 people packed the Science Theatre last week for the ‘Risky Business’ Q&A at which the new UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs appeared alongside the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, businesswoman Sam Mostyn, and distinguished geophysicist Herbert Huppert. Together, they talked about risk in life, business and politics.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the environmental and social impacts of global warming: more extreme weather disasters, rising sea levels, increased spread of infectious diseases, greater food and water scarcity. These issues are firmly in the here and now, and are impacting lives and livelihoods, both here and abroad. As the world moves away from fossil fuels toward clean energy, the economic costs and financial risks of investing in fossil fuels are becoming apparent. With warnings of an emerging ‘carbon bubble’ (a successor to the housing bubble of the GFC) from authorities like the World Bank, HSBC, Mercer and KPMG, we know that fossil fuel companies face large devaluations as the majority of their coal, oil and gas reserves are deemed unburnable and become ‘stranded assets’. Many individuals are shifting their superannuation funds out of these bad investments. Many universities have likewise committed to divestment, including Stanford, ANU and the University of Sydney, along with many religious institutions and philanthropic foundations. So what’s UNSW doing?

Seven weeks into Jacobs’ term as Vice-Chancellor, it’s already clear he’s following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Fred Hilmer, who decided with the university’s Council last year not to change its investment portfolio. Despite a 78% majority of students surveyed saying yes to divestment and 150 academics signing a petition to divest, Jacobs has said that he “respects and supports” that previous decision. Asked at last week’s Q&A if UNSW would be divesting, Jacobs stuck to his position, replying that UNSW contributes to solving climate change through its research in renewable energy. The university, he said, is not in a position to be political through actions like divestment. Really?

Let’s unpack this. The dichotomy between the university as academic institution and political actor is a false one. The two categories are not mutually exclusive. As educational and social institutions, universities serve as the ‘thought leaders’ necessary for a well-functioning society. If universities won’t step up to the plate on matters of social betterment and change, then who will? Moreover, to suggest that UNSW’s current position of investing heavily in fossil fuels is entirely objective and free of politics is a fallacy. The Vice-Chancellor’s notion of the university as an apolitical institution is logically untenable.

Ultimately though, the recourse to politics is a distraction. This isn’t about politics. There are politicians on both sides of the partisan divide who support sustainable energy to mitigate climate change. The Renewable Energy Target, a government policy that supports clean energy, was introduced under John Howard’s prime ministership. The former Liberal leader John Hewson, now a spokesman of sorts on divestment, recently named and shamed AGL, Origin and Energy Australia for attacking that policy and blocking Australia’s renewable energy future. It is these powerful entities in the fossil fuel industry that politicise climate science in order to protect their own vested interests. Debating climate change as a political issue is to stoop to their terms and to fall for their ploy. As others have said before me, climate change is not a political issue – it’s a moral issue.

If it’s wrong to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong to profit from doing so. Wishing to be seen as a socially responsible investor, UNSW has an ethical investment policy stating that “the University will not knowingly and directly invest in an organisation that operates at the expense of the environment, human rights… [or] public safety…”. The divergence from reality is breathtaking. The science of climate change is now well established, and the adverse impacts of fossil fuels on the environment, health and safety are abundantly clear. UNSW cannot claim to be serious about climate change, or even ethics, if it knowingly goes against its own investment policy in financing the companies most responsible for global warming. Currently, UNSW invests $50 million in fossil fuels worldwide, $44 million of which is in Australian equities. These include companies like AGL, Origin, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum – all of which were identified by the ACF recently as among the country’s worst greenhouse gas polluters.

To make matters worse for our Vice-Chancellor, the other panellists at the Q&A effectively, perhaps unwittingly, left him to defend his investment-as-usual case on his own. Turnbull conceded to the audience outright that divestment may represent “an important gesture or statement”, but added that UNSW wouldn’t make a dent on the earnings of fossil fuel companies by divesting. Well, Turnbull is right. Divestment is an important gesture, one that stigmatises the fossil fuel industry the more individuals and institutions do it, removing the social licence to keep mining for dirty fuels when cleaner energy sources are available. While the actions of UNSW alone may not amount to much in immediate financial terms, the power of the movement lies in larger flow-on effects as more organisations join in. Divestment is a powerful first step in our transition from fossil fuels, and Turnbull, in spite of his wit, sadly missed the point there.

Mostyn said that while the divestment movement is growing worldwide, business boardrooms are moving faster in realising the financial risks of climate change, and are already reassessing their portfolios. Which only begs the question, why isn’t UNSW? Huppert added, perhaps as an example of this, that BHP Billiton really, really wants to do something about climate change. This is the BHP Billiton that, as recently as October last year, opened the $3.9 billion Caval Ridge coal mega-mine with Prime Minister Tony Abbott – an event in which Abbott famously declared “coal is good for humanity”. This is the BHP Billiton in which UNSW invests $21 million, the bulk of the university’s investment in Australian fossil fuel equities.

The Vice-Chancellor, perhaps a little rattled – especially after a passionate student took the final question to bravely criticise his position – hurriedly concluded the Q&A by saying, “Isn’t it great that we had that really lively, robust discussion? UNSW is absolutely committed to that sort of discussion… We should continue that.” No, Professor Jacobs. The time for talking has come and gone. UNSW should now heed one of its key mottos – “never stand still” – and put its money where its mouth is. The process of stigmatisation, triggered by the fastest-growing divestment movement in history, no longer just applies to fossil fuel companies – it extends to all institutions that continue to invest unethically in these companies. And the longer UNSW throws money at fossil fuels, the more damage it will do to its own image and reputation as a leader in climate science and clean energy. Until something changes, the Vice-Chancellor can expect more brave students, more passionate criticism, and more negative publicity. So let the stigmatisation begin.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Risky Business

rb

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Annastasia Robertson

The Science Theatre was buzzing on Thursday evening when some of the country’s most prominent names sat down in front of an audience to discuss risk management in life, politics, business, climate change and medicine.

It was also buzzing with police and security because, risk management.

The question and answer seminar was a panel of five including, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, new UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs, President of the Australian Council for International Development Ms Sam Mostyn, Professor Herbert Huppert of Geophysics at UNSW and Cambridge, and science journalist and ABC radio presenter Robyn Williams who acted as more of a mediator.

The first half of the session was an opportunity for each panellist to outline their ideas in relation to risk, mostly in their own areas of expertise.

Robyn Williams opened the discussion, saying that risk is a human reaction and choice and that “what you do affects others”. Professor Huppert, however, focused more on the probability of risk in relation to small risks versus large risks, quantitative evaluations and relativity.

Sam Mostyn, after acknowledging the Indigenous owners of the land, raised the idea of resilience in risk, and that “we live in a community where fear drives our risk”.

The evening’s discussion covered topics from risk in mathematics, medicine, investments, technology, terrorism and politics. However, the topic that caused the most spice was climate change.

There was a theme of fear in risk as Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, communicated that to manage risk, we must embrace its volatile nature rather than be threatened by it. He also took the opportunity to announce some new decisions fresh out of Canberra that will see changes to legislation for the Employee Share Schemes. Second to this, start-up companies will have the chance to sit in parliament to pitch their innovative ideas to the government. Our Vice-Chancellor welcomed this saying that he looks forward to increased investment into research in universities.

Conversation heated up between Turnbull and Mostyn when the topic of  ‘boat people’ was raised briefly and dropped just as quickly as the two spoke over one-another.

As Williams turned the towards the question-answer portion of the evening, so began the open dialogue. Questions from the audience began and ended with talks of climate change, and UNSW’s position on fossil fuel versus renewable energy. The Vice-Chancellor welcomed open discussion on climate change, but said that it is not the place of a university to have a political position, or a campaign.

Between this, were discussions around impact investments, share values and bonds as well as the use of metadata to combat terrorism.

Undoubtedly the most exciting, outrageous and controversial part of the evening came from the final, very passionate questioner, who asked the panel to address the topic of UNSW divesting investment in fossil fuel companies, and government responses and policy on the matter.

A “lively, robust discussion” that the Vice Chancellor endorsed adding that UNSW is committed to conversations about issues surrounding climate change.

Though, what is a panellist forum without a political message, and Malcolm Turnbull delivered by bringing up this Saturday’s state election.

“If you want to minimise risk, vote for [Mike] Baird on Saturday”.

If you also attended the Q & A, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned for more articles on this topic.

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Who runs Arc? Girls.

11076205_10203999894300446_5767746462286484337_n

Sophie Johnston

Opinion

We should all know what Arc is – it’s the student-run organization at UNSW, responsible for everything in university life from parties to clubs to advocacy to Tharunka itself.

But because of the diverse things Arc does, it makes sense that Arc’s board – elected by students and from all corners of our university community – should also be as diverse as it can be.

Right now, that’s not true. Women make up half of Arc’s membership, but only a quarter of Arc’s board of directors in 2015. Before this year, that number was even lower.

There are a lot of reasons this is the case – many more men than women run for Arc Board and while three students are elected for two year terms every year, there are no guarantees that any of those who get elected will be female.

It’s time we change that, and it’s time for equality. On March 24 we get that chance.

Arc will be holding an Extraordinary General Meeting where Arc members can vote ‘Yes’ to more women on Board, along with a lot of other changes to modernize Arc’s structures and make student life even better at UNSW.

The reforms mean students get to directly elect more Board members overall – eight instead of six – and every year, two of the four directors elected must be women.

It’s important to note, though, that students aren’t just getting more representatives for free. The cost is that the Student Development Committee convenor will no longer be a director.

I believe this is a worthwhile trade-off to make, and I hope we all will on March 24. Without making this change, we can never ensure true equality – we could only apply Affirmative Action to one spot in three, rather than two in four.

But I don’t just think removing SDC Convenor is good for this specific goal– it stands on its own merits.

Clubs get plenty of representation within Arc – running clubs and getting involved is the best way to meet enough people to get elected to positions, and there are full-time officers who exist to facilitate and respond to the concerns of students.Regular club general meetings run by Arc’s full-time Student Development officers mean that clubs have plenty of opportunities to get their voices heard, and structures will still be in place for club representation.

This isn’t a fight between clubs and women – I think both deserve good representation, and I think these changes are the best way to ensure both do get heard. On March 24, I’m one of many women asking you to get on board for women on board.

Together, we can ensure our organisation speaks for all of us.

Be Sociable, Share!
 
 
About

Tharunka has been the student magazine at UNSW since 1953.

More »
Contact

Phone: 02 9385 7348
Fax: 02 9313 8626

More »
Advertise

Get your message to students at Kensington & COFA campuses easily.

More »
Contribute

Tharunka is open to submissions from UNSW students.

More »