Best and brightest research showcase at state parliament

4 May 2011

(L-R) Participating students Jane Want, Anshu De Silva Wijeyeratne , Kate Epstein, Anya Poukchanski and Brigit Verey.
(L-R) Participating students Jane Want, Anshu De Silva Wijeyeratne , Kate Epstein, Anya Poukchanski and Brigit Verey.

Fourth-year honours graduates from the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations last night stepped into the hothouse of political debate, if only for one night, when they presented their honours theses at NSW Parliament House to an audience of researchers, academics, students and members of the business community.

Supported by The Sydney Morning Herald and the external advisory committee of the Department of Government and International Relations, the event is now in its second year. It aims to demonstrate the broad range of research being undertaken in the department.

The panellists and their thesis topics were:

Kate Epstein - Risk and the Airport: A Political Geography of Sydney International Terminal

This thesis takes as its starting point the tension that exists between the different roles of the airport, especially with rising concern about terrorism.

Using the case study of Sydney International Airport it looks at the airport from the perspective of three distinct but overlapping stakeholders: the airport owner operator, the airline carriers, and the state.

Epstein commented on the increasing difficulties airlines face at Sydney airport, as they are squeezed between the needs of the owner operator and the state authority.

Brigit Verey - Battle of the Book: Public Policy and Parallel Importation in Australia

In 2008 the Australian Government reopened a divisive policy debate concerning restrictions on the importation of foreign editions of books into Australia.

Following an 18 month campaign the government decided to leave the regulatory regime unchanged. Verey's thesis explains how this decision came about, looking at the interactions between industry representatives and actors from various levels of government.

Verey told the audience that the PIR debate is likely to be restaged in the near future and that the sale of books online is one pressure that will contribute to that.

Anshu De Silva Wijeyeratne - United Nations Security Council Reform And New Istitutionalism

This thesis analyses why there has been a lack of reform to the UN Security Council's structure, despite consensus that change is urgently required. The thesis concludes that the lack of reform is due to an inability to overcome states' focus on amassing relative power.

Anshu commented that countries need to organise themselves effectively, as they did in 1963, to influence the permanent members of the UN Security Council to achieve change, especially the United Kingdom and France, which are the most open to considering reform.

Anya Poukchanski - Russia, United? The Rise and Rise of the United Russia Party

Since its foundation 10 years ago, the United Russia Party has obtained a position of unrivalled influence in the Russian political system. The thesis argues that the rise of the United Russia Party entailed a profound restructuring of Russia's political system from one of shifting and fragmented groupings to one of centralised, vertical control through the Party.

Poukchanski commented that she had expected the United Russia Party to be an example of an increasingly common mix of authoritarianism and liberalism but her research did not bear this out.

Jane Want - Risky Business: The Political Risks of Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa

Want looks at why Chinese and Australian mining companies have such different approaches to managing their operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and South Africa.

Speaking on the night Want commented on how Australian mining companies are keen to emulate the operation of Chinese companies in one respect - more Australian government support in the countries they operate in.

The five presenting graduates have all completed a fourth-year honours degree. Their thesis consists of 18,000 words based on original research and exposition.

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