“Look out comrades, it’s a Thucydides trap”

ANU’s history and classics student societies sponsor a debate tonight, “who was more influential Marx or Thucydides.”  Presumably they do David Hume and Adam Smith next week.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today, David Myton talks to UTS professor, Louise McWhinnie about the remarkable success of the university’s Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and why its trans-disciplinarity is a vital ingredient for working success.

NTEU voters elect opposing officials

Colin Long has failed in his bid for a third term as Victorian state secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union but running mate Sarah Roberts was elected as deputy secretary. Dr Long was defeated by RMIT branch president Melissa Slee. He was elected unopposed in the 2014 poll but in 2016 Dr Slee beat his candidate for assistant state secretary.

This is a big loss for the union national leadership. Dr Long ran on a ticket with new federal president Alison Barnes and national secretary Matthew McGowan, who were both elected unopposed. Dr Long was also endorsed by outgoing leader Grahame McCulloch.

However, the national leadership had a strong win with the decisive election of WA official Gabe Gooding as assistant national secretary (CMM Tuesday). Ms Gooding defeated UTS branch president Vince Caughley a critic of the national leadership’s negotiating style.

In another split result NTEU members at Monash returned branch president Tony Lad but elected as secretary Nic Kimberley, who ran on a competing ticket.

“NTEU members are tactical voters” an observer suggests, “it seems they don’t want officials to get too comfortable”.

The only place to be

Seen approvingly at the Eureka Awards last night – new science minister Karen Andrews. As if the well-credentialed science supporter was going to be anywhere else.

Case for keeping New Colombo Plan

Among all the demands for new ministers to change predecessor’s policy there is one Tony Abbott initiative people want to stay – the New Colombo Plan. This sends Australian students to Asia-Pacific countries for short-term study, reversing the original plan, which brought Indo-Pacific students to do degrees here. Nearly 12 000 Australians are expected to visit one or more 36 countries under the NCP.

Deakin historian David Lowe argues it is working well but would work better, if universities encouraged participants to extend their engagement with peoples from host countries. “One activity particularly suited to Australia is liaison/internship type activities with immigrant communities. DFAT can reward those universities that show clear evidence of such post-return engagement by NCP students.”

“Reward” is a word that works with university managements.


Macquarie U borrows to go green

Macquarie U has issued a ten-year sustainability bond, to support green buildings, alternative energy and the like. Back in 2010 the university issued 10-year notes to the value of $250m. Moody rates MU, Aa2.


Stars align for uncapped UG places

Nature abhors a vacuum so with new education minister Dan Tehan yet to say anything about universities Tanya Plibersek is filling it. The Labor shadow minister isn’t saying anything new but she is certainly getting her core message out.

“Just before Christmas the Liberal Government put an unfair, artificial cap back onto university places. That means that over the next decade more than 200,000 students that would otherwise get a university education will miss out if this unfair cap stays in place. Labor has announced that we would uncap places again so that any Australian who’s prepared to work hard, study hard and put in the time and take on the student debt will get a great education,” she said at a door-stop yesterday with Monash U VC, and Universities Australia president, Margaret Gardner.

Professor Gardner obviously thinks this is a splendid idea, introducing Ms Plibersek to students in a Monash equity programme, who are; “an important part of making sure that education is open and available to all students irrespective of background on the basis of their aspiration and talent.”

Undoubtedly Mr Tehan will soon engage with universities, if only to make a change from being ticked-off by Catholic school system officials. But short of his matching Labor’s commitment to reinstating demand driven funding, which isn’t going to happen, it looks like Labor has an election-lock on higher education.

CSIRO goes big on a blockchain

CSIRO’s Data61 with IBM and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills will build a blockchain for legal contracts. “This is huge” says RMIT economist Jason Potts, who argues for the transformative power of the blockchain in the way society is organised. “This is how you do economic productivity for Australia.”

The proposed Australian National Blockchain, will “enable organisations to digitally manage the lifecycle of a contract, not just from negotiation to signing, but also continuing over the term of the agreement, with transparency and permission-based access among parties in the network. The service will provide organisations the ability to use blockchain-based smart contracts to trigger business processes and events.”

Professor Potts, with RMIT colleagues Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg argue the blockchain can replace many functions we now need the state to provide. “The limits of a market society were always the ability of the state to provide those services of record keepingvalidation and verification of transactions in property rights. In return, the state levied taxation to fund these services. Blockchains are a new technology of fault tolerant governance that can furnish the governance to underpin a market economy and society,” they  write, (CMM October 39 2017).

2018 Eureka Awards

Winners in last night’s Eureka Awards include:

Science journalism: Adam Geiger, (Great Barrier Reef documentary)

Environmental research: ANU Re100 team, (hydro-power sites)

Interdisciplinary research: Optical Physics in Neuroscience, University of Queensland

Promoting understanding science: Alan Duffy (Swinburne U)

Data Science: CSIROData61

Innovative use of technology: Wendy Erber, Kathryn FullerHenri Hui(UWA)

Outstanding mentor: Nalini Joshi (University of Sydney)

Early career researchers: Mohsen Rahmani, (ANU)

Defence science and technology: Sapphire Clock Team: (University of Adelaide); and Cryoclock Pty Ltd

Innovation: Thomas  Maschmeyer (University of Sydney)

Emerging leader: Elizabeth New (University of Sydney)

Scientific research: Sally Dunwoodie (Victor Chang)

Innovation in medical research: Anthony Weiss (University of Sydney)

Achievements, appointments

Jazz piano great, Judy Bailey (Sydney Con of Music) wins the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award (for “an outstanding contribution to music in Australia).

ANU has a new dean of the College of Health and Medicine. Russell Gruen will join in January from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University where he is executive director of the institute for health technologies.

Julie Owens is leaving the University of Adelaide, where she is PVC research strategy and moving to Deakin U where she will be associate DVC R.