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Rhonda Evans Case, Director HRC 3.362, Mailcode F1900, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-9607
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NEWSLETTER NO. 20         FALL 1999
THE EDWARD A. CLARK CENTER FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDIES
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

 

Clark Center Co-Sponsors Deliberative Poll on the Republic Issue
Collaborating with Issues Australia, the Clark Center helped state a major event before Australia's Nove,ber Sixth Republic Referendum. Issues Australia is a project of Dr. Pam Ryan, Clark Center Research Associate.  Also particpating were Australia National University's Research School of Social Sciences and UT-Austin's Center for Deliberative Polling, headed by Professors James Fiskin and Bob Luskin.

The four orgnaizations brought a random sample of 347 Australian voters from all parts of the country to Old Parliament House in Canberra on 22-24 October for intensive deliberations about the referendum.  The event was televised live by ABC-TV and was a featured segments on Channel 9's "Sixy Minutes" program on the Sunday evening before the referendum.  Another segment was broadcast to 160 countries by BBC-World three days before referendum day.  The event and its results, which were released at a Parliament House press conference on 25 October, received banner headlines and extensive coverage in all Australian newspapers and on television and radio news programs.

Deliberative polling is a technique developed by Professor Fishkin at UT-Austin.  It rests on the well-documented premise that the average voter is "rationally ignorant" about most policy and other public issues becasue he or she rationally sees little point in investing time and effort to learn about such issues, given that the individual's vote is only one in millions.  But what would the opinions of such voters be if they had a strong incentive and a clear opportunity to learn about issues such as those posed by the republic referendum?

Representative Australians engaged in small group discussions with each other and in televised sessions

To find out, the sponsorting organizations persuaded The Australian and Newspoll to survey 1,220 randomly selected voters about their opinions on the republic question in early September.  At the end of these telephone interviews, each voter was invited to come to Canberra six weeks later, all expenses paid, to participate in a series of small-group discussions and televised plenary sessions that would be held in and around the House of Representatives chamber where the constitutional convention took place in February 1998.

After a gread deal of logistical work by Dr. Ryan's organization and by the Research School of Social Sciences and ANU, a 347-strong microcosm of the September national sample arrived in Canberra on 22 October, some of them having taken the first airplane flight in their lives.  For the next 36 hours, these "representative Australians" engaged in small-group discussions with each other and in televies sessions with prominent YES and NO spokespersons who answered their questions.

At noon on Aunday, 24 October, immediately after the last televised session, the smae questions that the delegates answered by telephone in early September were put to them again.  Their responses showed dramatic changes in their opinions.  Whereas in September only 20 per cent approved of the repulic referendum proposal, some 61 per cent approved of it after the weedend's discussion, an amazing change of 41 per cent.

Equally dramatic, support for a directly-elected president, an option not on the referendum ballot paper but a key issue in the whole debate about a republic, fell from 50 per cent to 19 per cent once voters deliberated about what, exactly, directly elected a president would entail.

These and other similarly large opinion changes attracted much pulic comment in the days that followed the weekend meeting, with leaders of the YES side saying that the results confirmed their view that most voters had too little information to cast an informed vote, and with NO advocates claiming that the weekend poll was tilted toward producing a YES vote, a charge that the organizers vehemently denied.

The Australian and UT-Austin scholars who collaborated to stage this unique event are now undertaking a detailed analysis of the data steming from it, which they expect to publish in a book next year.


Australia Courses on Literature and Politics Set for Spring 2000
Two upper division undergraduate courses on Australian topics will be taught at UT-Austin in the coming spring semester.

One course will be a further edition of Dr. Don Graham's English Department course, "Australian Literature and Film."  Responding to student demand, this will be the sixth consecutive semester in which Dr. Graham has offered this course.  With Center support, he made a further trip to Sydney this past July to present a paper at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature and to collect further materials for his course on lieterature and film.

Dr. Ross Terrill will return as a visiting professor in UT-Austin's Government Department this spring to teach a course on "Australian Socieity and Politics," as well as a graduate seminar, cross-listed with Asian Studies, on "Contemporary Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations."  Dr. Terrill is currently completing a new edition of his 1988 book, The Australians for publication by Random House prior to the Sydney Olympics next summer.  As well, a thoroughly rewritten edition of his authoritative study of Mao Zedong will be published soon by Stanford University Press.



Director's Report
I am writing this report on the morning after Australia's republic referendum was decisively defeated: 55 per cent No, 45 per cent Yes.  The evidence of widespread voter ignorance about the complex referendum issues, which emerged from the deliberative poll co-sponsored by the Clark Center two weekends ago in Canberra (see the preceeding article), make this an unsurprising, indeed predictable, outcome.

The poll indicated that if voters had an opportunity to discuss and examine the issues like those voters we assembled in Canberra had done, the referendum would almost certainly have passed.  But such are the workings of "referendum democracy," as political scientists sometimes term it.

Lest Yacker readers get the idea that the Clark Center and the other orgnaizations that collaborated to mount the poll were trying to sway the referendum outcome in a Yes direction, let me emphasize that this was in no sense our purpose.  In planning and staging the event, all of us went to great lengths to ensure that it was an entirely neutral, academically disinterested exercise.

In the course of four trips to Australia during the past twelve months, my colleagues and I, and especially Pam Ryan, who bore the lion's share of the enormous work involved, consulted exhaustively with all the main groups engaged in the republic debates.  We revised the neutral 15-page briefing document that we wrote for participants some twenty times in order to meet the groups' objections, and we took all the pains we could to ensure a dispassionate and non-partisan discussions in Canberra.

The poll was, I think, a resounding success.  Among many positive outcomes, staging it greatly increased knowledge about Australian affairs among UT-Austin faculty.  Professors Jim Fishkin and Bob Luskin, from UT's Cneter for Deliberative Polling, became immersed in the nitty-gritty of Australian politics and institutions, each of them spending more than a month in Australia during the past year.  Two of our Ph.D. students who are writing dissertations on Australian politics -- Rhonda Evans Case and Jason Pierce (Jason is currently a Fulbright Fellow at ANU) -- participated in the poll as moderators of two of the 24 face-to-face discussion groups into which the 347 participants were randomly distributed.  Other UT faculty, students, and staff members followed the developments closely as our efforts took shape.

Those deserving thanks for invaluable help are too numerous to list here; it was a large collective effort in the best sense.  Two people cannot go unmentioned, however.  One is former prime minister Bob Hawke, who took time to meet with us on every occasion when we asked for his help and who encouraged us to persist in our effort without ever trying to influence its direction.  The other is Pam Ryan.  At incredible personal cost, Pam moved the idea of mounting a poll about the republic issue from a casual conversation she and I had in Austin eighteen months ago to a nationally applauded reality two weeks ago.  She did this to serve the country she loves and we at the Clark Center and UT-Austin love her for all she did.

--John Higley                                  

 




 

Conferences on Australian topics abound all year long

 

. . . ASANA Issues Call for Papers
The Annual Conference of the Australian Studies Association of North America (ASANA) will take place in Ottawa, Canada, 24-26 February 2000.  The organizers invite proposals for papers on any aspect of Australian studies, or comparative studies involving Australia.  Proposals -- DEADLINE: 5 January 2000 -- should be sent by mail, fax, or e-mail to:  Professor Kim Nossal, Department of Political Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4; Fax: 905/527-3071; email: nossalk@mcmaster.ca

The conference will be headquartered in the Lord Elgin Hotel, located at 100 Elgin Boulevard in downtown Ottawa.  For reservations at the conference rate of CAD99 per night, call 1-800-267-4298 and mention ASANA.

AAALS Schedules Australian Sessions at MLA Convention
The American Association of Australian Literary Studies (AAALS) will sponsor two sessions at the Modern Language Association Convention, 27-30 December, in Chicago.  "Australia as a Nation in the 1790s, 1890s and 1990s" will serve as the theme for the first session on 27 December, which will include papers by Robert Zeller, Richard S. Carr, and Leslie Delmenico.  In the second session, scheduled for 28 December, Sydney University Professsor Brian Kieman will speak on "Australia's Postcoloniality."

AAALS Plans Fifteenth Annual Conference in New York
The Fifteenth Annual AAALS Conference is scheduled for 27-30 April 2000, New York City, at the New School for Social Research and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Nicholas Birns, Conference Chair, has announced the theme, "Australian Literature:  The Global and the Local" and invites proposals for papers.  Deadline for proposals (200 words) is 1 March 2000.  Address:  Nicholas Birns, 205 East Tenth Street, New York, New York 10003.  E-mail nicbirns@interport.net

Information regarding the conference is also on the AAALS website: www.australianliterature.org.

Varied Conferences Planned for 2000
In San Diego . . .

The Australian Studies Section of the Western Social Sience Association will meet in San Diego, California, 26-29 April 2000.

In Queensland . . .

The Inaugural Conference of the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) is set for the Ipswich Campus of the University of Queensland, 5-7 July 2000.  For further information contact, Leigh Dale, Department of English, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4072. E-mail L.Dale@mailbox.uq.edu.au">L.Dale@mailbox.uq.edu.au

In Barcelona . . .
Changing Geographies:  Australia at the Millennium" is the topic of the First University of Barcelona - La Trobe University Conference, which is planned for 2-4 February 2000, in Barcelona.  For more information contact Susan Ballyn at e-mail: ballyn@fil.ub.es

In Tasmania . . .
ASAL 2000 (Association for the Study of Australian Literature) is scheduled for 6-9 July at the University of Tasmania in Hobart.  There is no designated conference theme.  Abstracts of approximately 200 words should be submitted by 10 December 1999 to Dr. Philip Mead, School of English, University of Tasmania, GPO Box 252-82, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 7001. Abstracts must be submitted by regular mail or by fax (+61-3-6226-7631).  E-mail p.mead@utas.edu.au


Past Conferences Examine Australian Topics
"New World Democracies: America's Role in Australian Nationhood" was the theme of a conference held at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1-4 December 1999.

A few days later on 7-9 December at the University of Ottawa another conference addressed the topic: "Shaping Nations: Federalism and Society in Australia and Canada."

In College Park, Maryland, on 9 November, A Fulbright-sponsored conference examined "America's Relations with Australia and New Zealand Beyond the Turn of the Century."

Clark Center Visitors
Molly Ingate and Bruce McKenzie, from the International Studies Office of the University of Western Australian, visited during May to arrange a UT-UWA student exchange program, which is now in place.

Dr. Allison McKinnon, Director of Research at the Hawke Institute, and Dr. Ian Davies, Pro-Vice chancellor, both at the University of South Australia, visted during November to help organize a new student exchange program between consortia of the Austin and Adelaide universities and to discuss research collaboration with the Clark Center.

Dr. James Jupp, Director of the Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies and ANU, gave a research seminar and met with UT-Austin graduate students during November to assist them in their work on Australian immigration and ethnic relations topics.

Professor Brian Kiernan, from the University of Sydney, lectured on Australian literary topics at UT-Austin during November as part of the Australian Education Office's Distinguished Australian Speakers Series.


Faculty Publications
John Higley and Michael Burton "Elites, Mass Publics, and Democratic Prospects in Postindustrial Societies." International Review of Sociology 9 (August 1999):221-37.

Robert Ross. Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction -- An Anthology. New York: Galand Publishing, 1999. 457 pp. Hardback and Paperback.  Includes 35 short stories by writers from Australia, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, India, West Indies, and Pakistan, with complete introductory material.

"Seeking and Maintaining Balance in Rohinton Mistry's Fiction." World Literature Today 73 (Spring 1999):239-44.

Biocritical articles on Peter DeVries, Shirley Hazzard, Robinson Jeffers, Sarah Kemble Knight.  In Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York:Continuum Publishing, 1999.


European Conference Attracts Clark Center
Robert Ross represented the Clark Center at the Fifth Conference of the European Association for Studies on Australia, 28 September - 3 October, in Toulouse, France.  Over one hundred scholars and writers from Europe, as well as Japan, China, the U.S., and Australia, attended this biennial, interdisciplinary meeting. Sixty papers, along with plenary lectures and readings by Australian writers--not to mention social events, filled the four days in this beautiful southern French city. Developing the conference theme of "Departures," Dr. Ross present a comparative study of two depression novels, "Departures to the Promised Land: Kylie Tennant's  The Battlers and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath."

The 2001 EASA Conference is set for Lecce, Italy.


AAALS Publications Feature Antipodes and Special Newsletter

The critical section of the December 1999 Antipodes will be devoted to Australian film.  Guest-edited by Dr. Adi Wimmer, University of Klagenfurt, Austria, the issue will feature a variety of articles by international critics that address film history, workdwide reception, and literary adaptations for the screen.  New fiction and opetry by Australian writers and Antipodes' extensive reviews section will round out the edition that closes the journal's thirteenth year of publication.

Celebrating the fifteenth year of AAALS activities, the special sixteen-page AAALS Newsletter recalls the Association's founding in 1986 and its impressive growth through the years.  The issue also provides a guide to publications by AAALS members and offers specail articles on what draws North Americans to Australian literature and on the current state of Australian literary studies around the world.

For a complimentary copy of the "15th Anniversary AAALS Newsletter," contact the editor, Mark Klemmens - P.O. Box 202600, Shaker Heights, OH 44120-2600; e-mail: balcones@mpdr0.cleveland.oh.ameritech.net


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The University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713-7219
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