Government and International Relations Colloquium Series

The Department of Government and International Relations Colloquium Series aims to showcase recent research by members of the Department, visiting scholars and international and interstate guests in an informal setting, conducive to lively debate. It is an open event and everyone is welcome to attend. If you would like to be informed of future events then please contact who will add your name to our email list. The Series is coordinated by .

Semester 2, 2015

Thursday 6 August 2015, 12-2pm
Speaker: Professor Helen Sullivan
University of Melbourne
Topic: Thinking again about Collaboration – Underexplored concepts and neglected elements

Collaboration is now ‘the new normal’ in public policy and practice. In this seminar I will consider the implications for researchers and practitioners of understanding collaboration in this way, including the need to think more expansively about the places, spaces and scales of collaboration to build new knowledge. This approach draws attention to a number of underexplored concepts and neglected elements of collaboration, further research into which promises to enhance our understanding of collaboration in and as practice.

About the speaker: Prof Charles SipanProfessor Helen Sullivan is the Foundation Director of the Melbourne School of Government (MSoG) and a policy studies researcher and teacher. Since 2012 Helen has led the development of MSoG, an interdisciplinary and applied graduate school dealing with contemporary questions of governance and public policy in international relations, development studies and public policy and administration. Helen’s research and teaching explores the changing nature of state-society relationships and includes the theory and practice of changing modes of governance and collaboration, new forms of democratic participation, and the practice of public policy and service reform.
Venue: Darlington Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 24 September 2015, 12-2pm
Speaker: Dr Llewelyn Hughes
Australian National University
Topic: Couldn’t Stand the Weather: The Effect of Extreme Weather Events on Climate Change Concern

This paper examines whether peoples experience with extreme weather events increases their level of concern about climate change. Previous research considers whether people’s concerns about climate change are related to local temperature patterns. We extend this work by focusing on the question of whether exposure to storm events such as excessive heat, flooding, and droughts results in higher levels of concern about climate change. Detailed data on weather event type enables us to examine whether particular types of weather events are associated with changes in public opinion towards the seriousness of climate change. Conventional wisdom holds that exposure to such extreme weather events will raise peoples concern about climate change, and increasingly advocates point to extreme weather (e.g., hurricanes, droughts) as evidence that immediate action is needed to address the problem. Our analysis brings together detailed historical data on extreme weather events compiled by NOAA and cross-sectional and panel survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to explore the degree to which this conventional wisdom is empirically supported. Addressing this question has implications for climate communication strategies, and contributes to the general public opinion literature on the importance of local conditions on attitude formation.

About the speaker: Prof Charles SipanDr Llewelyn Hughes is an academic at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (ANU), as well as Research Director for GR-Japan, a government affairs and public policy consultancy focused on the Japanese market.
Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Thursday 8 October 2015, 12-1:30pm
Speaker: Dr Harshan Kumarasingham
University of London
Topic: Eastminsters – Decolonisation and State Building in British Asia

All of the Asian States that emerged from British control in varying degrees took key substantial elements of the British Westminster system. This system was more commonly associated with the British settler countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand where “kith and kin” links with Britain seemed to make this appropriate. However, the British and the Asian indigenous elites saw advantages in applying this very British system to the very different context of the East. These Asian nations did not have centuries to interpret and adjust in order to develop their constitution as the British had. Instead within months they needed to formulate and design a constitution and therefore invariably drew upon the system of their imperial master. The local elites with the involvement of external actors like British officials determined that Westminster could be fashioned to work in the East. Since the Westminster system is based on convention and ambiguity and not rigid evident rules the same Westminster system could be adopted and manipulated to produce diverse results and reactions that would shape these Asian countries forever. These states therefore became Eastminsters that had clear institutional and political resemblances to Britain’s system, but with cultural and constitutional divergences from Westminster and the settler cases. This talk broadly examines the concept of Eastminster in the eventful context of Asian decolonisation and need for rapid constitutional settlement. This constitution making period and the adoption of Eastminster had far reaching consequences for all of Asia.

About the speaker: Dr Harshan KumarasinghamDr Harshan Kumarasingham is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich. Prior to this he was Smuts Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge. Harshan's latest book is A Political Legacy of the British Empire - Power and the Parliamentary System in Post Colonial India and Sri Lanka and he recently edited for Cambridge University Press Constitution Maker - Selected Writings of Sir Ivor Jennings. From October 2015 he will investigate the post-war Australian Crown as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sydney supported by an Endeavour Award from the Australian Government.
Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Thursday 22 October 2015, 12-1:30pm
Speaker: Professor Allan McConnell
University of Sydney
Topic: Hidden Agendas: The Dark Side of Public Policy

Allan McConnell (presenting) and David Marsh Democratically-elected governments come to power and claim to govern in the public interest. Yet there is little more damning than the discovery they have been deliberately misleading citizens and other stakeholders about government’s motives and goals. Hidden agendas can damage public trust in political figures/policy processes, and harness energies towards producing outcomes that covertly serve some interests and perhaps even damage others. Yet for all the concepts, theories and heuristics that exist across a vast range of political phenomena, we have not been able to find a single article which examines the concept of ‘hidden agendas’ per se. This presentation/paper provides a novel heuristic to help analysts approach this important but grossly under-researched topic. After tackling difficult methodological issues surrounding how we research the 'hidden', it addresses issues such as who hides? What do they hide? What tools/ techniques are used to hide? What are the consequences of hidden agendas that remain hidden? And what are the consequences once hidden agendas are exposed?

About the speaker: Prof Charles SipanProfessor Allan McConnell is a political scientist whose main interests lie in various aspects of public policy making. He is particularly interested in issues of success and failure. Aspects of his research deal with the policy and political dimensions of crises, disasters and policy failures. Issues include contingency planning, political leadership, accountability, inquiries and learning.
Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Thursday 29 October 2015, 12-1:30pm
Speaker: Associate Professor Lily Zubaidah Rahim
University of Sydney
Topic: The Deepening Slide Towards Islamic Fundamentalism and Sectarian Governance in Malaysia

After more than 50 years of political independence in Malaysia, nation-building based on equal citizenship rights remains illusive. Sectarian politics and state-led Islamisation initiatives have intensified following the 2013 ‘breakthrough’ general elections - where the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost the popular vote to the opposition Pakatan Raykat (People’s Alliance) coalition but won the election. Many of Pakatan’s leaders and supporters have since been charged with the Sedition Act and their de facto head, Anwar Ibrahim, controversially sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Federal Court in 2015. To what extent are Pakatan’s electoral gains reflective of the political shifts and divisions which threaten to disrupt the BN’s paradigm of sectarian governance - increasingly reliant on the sectarian ketuanan Melayu (Malay/Islamic dominance) discourse?

The paper examines the underlying tensions which plague the opposition Pakatan coalition and hinder their electoral push for regime change. To what extent is the Islamist party's (PAS) conservative clerical leadership committed to transforming Malaysia into an Islamic state governed principally by sharia laws? Is PAS’s conservative leadership on a collision course with the more pluralist elements within the party? To what extent are intra-party tensions within the dominant BN party (UMNO), the BN coalition and broader bureaucratic elite fuelled by UMNO’s Islamisation policies which have extended the jurisdiction of sharia law and eroded the country’s secular constitutional foundations. Also considered is the role of an increasingly assertive civil society in restoring Malaysia’s secular constitutional foundations and averting the country’s slide towards Islamic fundamentalism and national disintegration.    

About the speaker: Prof Charles SipanAssociate Professor Lily Zubaidah Rahim lectures on Southeast Asian Politics and Political Islam. Her multidisciplinary research interests have been published in numerous international journals and book chapters. They include an eclectic range spanning from governance in authoritarian states, democratisation, development, ethnicity, regionalism and political Islam.
Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Past seminar series

Wednesday 18 March 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Charles Shipan
University of Michigan
Topic: Top-Down Federalism: State Policy Responses to National Government Discussions

Prof Charles SipanThe national government can influence state-level policymaking by adopting laws that specifically direct the states to take certain actions or by providing financial incentives. But can national institutions also influence state-level policy change by drawing attention to an issue and by providing information about it, even when these activities do not produce new national laws? In other words, do policy ideas diffuse from the national government to the states? In this paper we examine whether hearings and the introduction of bills in Congress about antismoking restrictions influence state-level adoptions between 1975 and 2000. Our findings reveal that national policy activities do stimulate state policy adoptions, but only for states with professional legislatures and strong policy advocates.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Wednesday 1 April 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Dr Jennifer Hunt
Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney
Topic: Energy security and the Gulf - new theoretical frameworks and developments

Energy security has traditionally been constructed as the national security imperative to secure access to reliable, affordable energy supplies, particularly hydrocarbons. Recently, the conceptual boundaries have been expanded beyond the consumer-state paradigm to encompass supplier countries, whose security is vulnerable to changing demand, market prices and resource exhaustion. To the extent that energy insecurity threatens the structural integrity and prosperity-generating capabilities of the state itself, it is inexorably linked to economic security, particularly in the rentier states of the Gulf.

This presentation explores two emerging trends in this nexus with regards to current events in the US and Saudi Arabia: first, the re-emergence of the US as an oil export producer, and second, the politico-economic implications of the Arab Spring. It concludes by examining the potential flow-on effects of these trends for the strategic alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia in other areas of mutual cooperation such as terrorism.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Wednesday 29 April 2015 * - 4.30 - 6.30pm
Speaker: Professor Jason Ralph
University of Leeds
Topic: Applying a constructivist informed ethic to assess the liberal state’s response to the Syrian crisis: A preliminary step

Prof Jason RalphThe purpose of this paper is to build on the recent work of those constructivists who responded to Richard Price’s call for a more normatively driven research agenda. More specifically, the aim is to develop an ethical framework that can be used to make a normative assessment of the liberal state’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It argues that constructivism can inform a ‘pragmatic’ cosmopolitan ethic of human protection. This is necessarily embedded in complex communities that are historically and socially contingent. Because a constructivist cosmopolitan position is only ‘anchored’ in these ‘weak’ foundations it encourages a degree of ‘fallibalism’, an appreciation of the moral claims of other communities (national and international), and a recognition of the moral value contained in honest attempts to reconcile normative dilemmas, as well as attempts to reduce the necessity of tragic choice. It is not unrealistic to expect the liberal state to act in this way because the responsibility that emerges at the point where moral communities intersect mirrors the state’s ontological imperative to sustain its Self (in the Wendtian sense) by reconciling multiple social identities. This is done through discursive practices that facilitate the production of coherent ethical narratives. Constructivists can make a normative assessment of the liberal state by examining these narratives, the deliberative processes used to write them and how open they are to the moral complexity of the situation.

Click here to download the flyer

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Wednesday 6 May 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Stephan Haggard
University of California San Diego
Topic: Engaging North Korea

Prof Stephan HaggardA central debate about appropriate policy toward North Korea - and other adversaries - centers on the efficacy of inducements vs. constraints, including the role of sanctions. In this seminar, I report on the results of a book-length study (with Marcus Noland) of the political economy of North Korea since the onset of the second nuclear crisis in 2002-3 into the Kim Jong Un era. We consider how North Korea's external economic relations have evolved, including with China and Russia, and the implications of these changes for both economic reform and security issues on the peninsula.

Click here to download the flyer

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]

Wednesday 20 May 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Peter Rutland
Wesleyan University
Topic: Contestation, Identity and the Failure of Democracy in Russia

Prof Peter RutlandThe failure of democracy in Russia is a complicated question, but Western political scientists usually explain it in terms of institutional failures (not enough fair elections or property rights) rather than cultural norms. But at no point in Russian history, including the years since 1991, have Russian political actors, both in government and in opposition, ever really accepted the legitimacy of the rival politicians. It is always argued that the person on the other side of the debate is corrupt, a traitor, etc. This phenomenon of intolerance seems to have deep roots in Russian society and in the Orthodox religion. It is also connected to the deep ambiguities in the definition of who belongs to the Russian nation, the collective subject of democratic deliberation and decision making.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]