Violence is not the answer

Posted by matthew on Oct 24, 2011 in politics

The Fitzroy Legal Service attended the Occupy Melbourne protests referred to in my last post. It questions the role of a local council in silencing free speech, as well as the use of heavy-handed tactics when people were clearly undertaking a peaceful demonstration.

Meghan Fitzgerald, Lawyer at the Fitzroy Legal Service says:

The use of horses to ride directly into the crowd was appalling, and a measure that ordinary people would consider appropriate only in cases of dire emergency and public risk. When you decide to do that serious injuries are almost inevitable, and really call into question the role of the police in serving and protecting the community. I personally observed a significant number of injuries amongst those arrested, including children.

The central issue is that political demonstration is a democratic right, and should be given significant protection by the State. Justifying this kind of aggressive use of force because of inconvenience or embarrassment is really a sign that we need to have a good look at human rights protection in this State.

I couldn’t agree more.


The suppression of peaceful protests

Posted by matthew on Oct 21, 2011 in politics

Dear Lord Mayor,

Your actions today in calling in riot police to remove peaceful protesters from our City Square have embarrassed and appalled democratic, fair-minded people in our city. People like me, who are dedicated to the principles of peacefully sharing ideas under the protection of a strong democracy.

That you do not or are not able to share the views of those who protest is not an excuse for such a heavy-handed and needless display of aggravation. I do not accept the arguments you have made on the radio around whatever minor damage there may or may not have been to the square, nor to a few small businesses nearby. Those are comparatively minor wrongs that can be undone. If you really are unable to balance these minor property costs against the rights of people to engage in democratic free speech, I believe you are unworthy of your office.

The pictures taken today of protesters being carried away by police are now being beamed around the world. Meanwhile in New York, Sydney and hundreds of other cities around the world the Occupy protesters have been allowed to continue their protest without harassment. What do you believe this will say about the strength of our democracy — about our willingness to tolerate a range of views? I believe it will reflect very poorly on us.

This is not about a particular position on the issues the protesters are bringing up. It is about decent conduct in public office, and a respect for the democratic rights of your fellow citizens. I call upon you to apologise to the people of Melbourne for making such a poor judgement call today, and I believe the morally responsible thing for you to do following this is to resign.

I would like to add that I am not a member of a political party or protest group. I am a Melbourne academic who is ashamed of his Lord Mayor.

Your sincerely,

Matthew Riddle


Letter to the Prime Minister

Posted by matthew on Feb 4, 2011 in education, politics

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to urge the government to reconsider its decision to axe the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). While I am a strong supporter of appropriate funding for the reconstruction work in Queensland, Victoria and beyond following the recent natural disasters, I do not believe this decision has been made in the best interests of the nation.

I believe events such as the Victorian bush fires, the Queensland floods, and Cyclone Yasi prove that the Australian government needs to fundamentally alter its thinking on disasters. The government should recognise that we cannot sustain a situation where we must find several billions of taxpayer dollars on an ad hoc basis every time one of these disasters comes along. Of course I will gladly pay the one off levy for the Queensland floods, but I would be even more supportive an ongoing approach that would to pay for a disaster contingency fund for all Australians. With a mining boom, our continued economic growth and projected budget surpluses, this country should be able to compare itself to the Norways instead of the Naurus.

The ALTC is a success story in Australian higher education, and this industry is one of Australia’s largest exports. I have worked in higher education for my entire career since 1990. During this time, I have seen student learning suffer from being vastly undervalued in comparison to research, yet I have seen a great deal of evidence that both are of equal importance. Without excellence in teaching, the top researchers of tomorrow will not be supported to continue in universities. The ALTC was an important way that this imbalance was being addressed in recent years, by rewarding and recognising excellent teachers, and by supporting applied research projects into teaching and learning. Its demise is a giant step backwards for all Australian universities.

I have been lucky enough to be involved in an ALTC funded project on learning spaces. As an early career academic, this is a significant boost to my professional development, but far more importantly it is now having a significant impact on the outcomes for students in my university and beyond, through the establishment of a range of exciting new study environments, including several new collaborative teaching spaces, and the setting up of Faculty learning commons at La Trobe. Our work is being disseminated nationally, and in the coming months my team will publish an edited book internationally. Each of these outcomes — academic development, evidence-based capital investment, student support, and publishing of research — have been made possible only because of the support of the ALTC. This is the sort of thing that will be crushed by the removal of a relatively small amount of government funding necessary to keep the ALTC going.

With changes coming through the Bradley Review and the establishment of TEQSA, as well as important challenges in attracting international students to Australia, it is clearly vital that the government gets the balance right in supporting universities right now. The government will fail in its goal of improving the quality as well as access to higher education in this country if its approach does not include supporting educators through programs such as ALTC. These goals are in tension, and cannot be achieved through regulation alone. Please stand up for the quality of higher education by immediately reviewing the hasty decision to discontinue the good work of the ALTC.

Kind regards,
Matthew Riddle
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Matthew Riddle
Senior Lecturer (Academic Development)
Faculty of Law and Management | La Trobe University | Bundoora, Vic 3086


What every news anchor should do

Posted by matthew on Jun 27, 2007 in funny, politics, tv

The cringeworthy coverage of Paris Hilton’s every silly move has got to stop somewhere, but news services complain that they’re just giving the public what they want. Of course everyone knows these same services are the ones that set the agenda, carefully cultivating our tastes and then cashing in on them later. Which is why I loved this video segment so much. Yesterday MSNBC’s Morning Joe news anchor Mika Brzezinski decided she was not going to lead the news with Paris flouncing out of prison, and ends up tearing the story up on camera. Someone give that woman a medal. Watch here: MSNBC anchor tears up Paris script


UCPD Police Assault Student in University Library

Posted by matthew on Nov 16, 2006 in politics

If anyone needed any more evidence that the U.S. has become an out of control police state in the last few years, just watch the horrifying video that is doing the rounds today. The student was not able to produce ID on request. Despite the fact that he is quite clearly attempting to comply with the police, he was brutally attacked by several officers with a taser, a technology which is not used in many countries because of the potentially lethal effects. For more about the incident, see Student shot with Taser by UCPD officers and Community responds to Taser use in Powell in Daily Bruin, UCLA. Warning: the video below is distressing.


Does Bush Threaten World Peace?

Posted by matthew on Nov 15, 2006 in politics

Following up on my last post, it appears that a lot of people both in the U.S. and abroad agree. The Democrats now have control of both Houses, which no doubt has a lot to do with how out of touch the administration had become with public views on the War on Terror. I also noticed today that the Herald Tribune recently published an article entitled International poll ranks Bush a threat to world peace which states: “A majority of people in three countries with close ties to the U.S. — Britain, Canada and Mexico — consider President George W. Bush a threat to world peace, ranking the U.S. president right up there with the leaders of two countries he has labeled part of the “axis of evil” — North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… Majorities in Britain, Canada and Mexico — 69 percent, 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively — said U.S. foreign policy has made the world more dangerous since 2001, according to the poll.” So what do you think? Does Bush threaten World Peace?


The US Government is Unhinged

Posted by matthew on Nov 3, 2006 in politics

Recently I’ve been following the case of Indiana graduate student Chris Soghoian, who got himself into trouble with the FBI after putting up a website that creates fake boarding passes, just to show how stupid airport security can be. You can argue that Chris made a mistake by creating a script to automatically generate a fake boarding pass, but he did it to prove a point. He probably should have stopped at describing how someone could do it rather than actually creating the script. But the FBI beating down his door to confiscate all of his computer equipment after the site had been taken down? That is not a response that’s in proportion with the crime.

Today’s Wired story on the incident has a good summary of what happened. Chris has been heartened by a back-down from one of the politicians who was rather hasty in calling for his apprehension, but the fact remains that undue force was used. The story reads more like something you would expect in China or a few years ago in the USSR, not “the home of the free”. The speed of descent of United States into a police state is truly astounding, and the sad truth is that it is probably only because Chris is young, articulate, English speaking and computer literate that we’re hearing his story at all. I happened to be watching CNN the other night when they were discussing the state of delusion that the US government appears to be in. I couldn’t agree more with Andrew Sullivan in that interview. If you happen to be a US citizen, you should do something about it. Write to a politician and tell them you don’t think it’s right. Link to Chris’ blog. And whatever you do, don’t vote for the GOP.


Secret to Bush’s success

Posted by matthew on Aug 12, 2005 in funny, politics

I’ve finally found out what Bush’s secret is. “When people hear the President speak, frankly they think he’s really stupid. But what people don’t realize is that there is a genius behind the stupidity”. See for yourself.