d e a n   f o r b e S                                                            w a l k i n g ,  n o t  r u n n i n g . . .

Making a Difference: Australian International Education

Edited by Dorothy Davis and Bruce Mackintosh (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2011)

MEDIA commentary 2018

Planning Asian Cities: Risks and Resilience

Edited by Stephen Hamnett and Dean Forbes (Routledge, London,  2011)


eBook version

Sustainable Development in China edited by Curtis Andressen, Mubarak A.R., and Wang Xiaoyi (Routledge, London,  2013)

BLOGS 2018

Scroll down to read

  1. Bullet 10 blogging years

  2. Bullet Don’t shoot me, I’m a reader

  3. Bullet MONA on Townske

  4. Bullet Wilson Center

  5. Bullet Incorrigible optimist

  6. Bullet Shuffling into 2018


I’m in celebration mode! Friday is the 10th anniversary of the website and its blogs (it’s also M’s birthday so a celebration dinner is happening).

Some 357 blogs have been posted over the course of a decade. The site launched on the 20th of April 2008 with a posting on the national innovation strategy.

It is still largely in the format I used when it started. A page I call Artistica has been added to reflect my interest in more diverse ways of writing and story telling, and I now call the website Walking, Not Running. It resonates with my overall place in the scheme of things.

I want to thank those visitors (excluding the robots) who do drop into the page from time-to-time. Over the last year, monthly users have ranged from eight to 26, sessions from 15 to 46, page views from 15 to 106, and pages per session from 1 to 2.3. When you consider that some of the users are trolls this is anything but a significant audience. However, as a lifetime academic with a focus on Asian cities and the knowledge economy I have modest expectations. (18/4/18)



I have been reading The Weekend Australian for decades. The current edition (10-11 March) includes yet another perceptive essay by Paul Kelly on the fracturing of the conservatives and the difficulties they face with unsettled and over-ambitious backbenchers. It is refreshingly deeper and more nuanced than many shallow pieces on contemporary populism. Kelly, as I have said before, is Australia’s single most outstanding political journalist. 

In the same newspaper the Letters to the Editor section focuses on climate change. Four letters are from denialists; one very short letter suggests NASA’s website has useful information about climate change. I am underwhelmed by those who make uninformed, emotional, claims about future global climates. Why doesn’t The Weekend Australian stop providing a welcoming platform for the amateur denialists? By all means allow the voices of well-informed sceptics, but it should be serious and proportionate. At present it is neither. 

Diversity in the political inclinations of journalists is good, but it seems to be diminishing, along with the numbers of conventionally informed and paid journalists. Guardian Australia and the Fairfax papers, with the exception of the Financial Review, are insufficiently politically diverse for me. Too much lefty bias leaves me cold. There is more than enough on Twitter to provide a sense of the latest outrage against the Liberal-National government. With the Murdoch papers in the cities all following a rough and tumble conservative populist line - Sydney’s Daily Telegraph for instance - this leaves The Australian and The Weekend Australian out on their own.  (11/3/18)


It was time to return to Hobart and MONA. Our last and only previous visit to the Museum of Old and New Art was in 2012, about a year after it opened in early 2011. There has been a steady stream of emails highlighting the expansion of MONA so it was a no-brainer. Late summer was a great time to go.

MONA is still confronting and over the top, but a revealing and fun art experience. It has significantly expanded the artwork on display, much of it crammed into B#3 the basement floor that is the recommended starting point for MONA. A new wing called Pharos has been opened. In it are several new light works by James Turrell and others, and an elegant food outlet called Faro Tapas, along with a small lounge with great views over the Derwent.

My updated page on MONA is on the Townske website at http://bit.ly/2oGzO0y  (10/3/18)


Congratulations are in order. The Wilson Center in Washington DC has been ranked as the #1 regional studies think tank in the world. Overall it is the #5 ranked think tank in the USA. I’m, in general, a little cynical about rankings exercises but the Global Go To Think Tank Index that comes out of the University of Pennsylvania is one of the better ones.

I should acknowledge that I spent several months at The Wilson Center in 2013 and enjoyed it immensely. Even when the Government shutdown meant the permanent staff of the Wilson Centre were absent for a few weeks. (7/2/18)


Being opposed to the Vietnam War I joined the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam in the late 1970s. My name went into the ballot for conscription into the army with the possibility of being sent to Vietnam; fortunately my number was not called.

I retained an interest in Vietnam’s gradual recovery from the trauma. A deeper concern about Vietnam and particularly its cities developed in my time at the ANU in the early 1980s. In September 1990 with three colleagues we decided to host a conference on Vietnam. It was modelled on the long running Indonesian Update, and proved very successful. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Gareth Evans, delivered the opening address. It was a substantial piece, well written and argued, and helped set the tone for the 160 people who attended. 

Evan’s father was a tram driver and he attended public schools, albeit one a special high school. His talent was recognised at an early age. He became a prolific writer and headed several Ministries in the Hawke-Keating governments, but the Foreign Ministry was his favourite. As a committed and knowledgeable Foreign Minister his new book, Incorrigible Optimist. A Political Memoir, is an essential read. 

I found the first 40 or so pages hard work. There was the go-go-go, and the ever-present ego, but I couldn’t get a grip on the inner Gareth. He describes himself as having ‘an urge to get things done’ (p x) and as a consequence the book radiates a relentless ‘my views and my place in history’ vibe. This is the bloke who knows everyone and everything. And a touch of humour is part of the mix. He can’t resist bagging Bronwyn Bishop for her negativity in the Senate, and quietly mentions her maiden name was B Setright (p 47). In general, though, he exposes little of significance about his private life and the darker aspects of his career.

I started warming up when I reached the chapter on diplomacy. It was ‘the most exciting and productive period of my professional life’ (p 100) he says of his years as Foreign Minister, from 1988-1996. Not surprisingly, Evans believes Australia is a ’middle power’ and its foreign policy needs ‘more self-reliance… more Asia… less United States’ (p 117). He has no confidence in Donald Trump. 

Evans reminds us that the Hawke and Keating government’s main focus was on business and the growth of the economy, combining ‘very dry economic policies with very warm and moist policies’ (p 88). Their strategies overlapped with British PM Tony Blair’s Third Way democratic socialism.

Evans barely mentions his longest-serving successor, Alexander Downer, and, not surprisingly, was largely unimpressed by the performance of John Howard’s government. Nor does he mention Ross Garnaut, Hawke’s advisor on economic matters including the Asian economies.

Advice flows. Evan’s offers his thoughts on how to balance relationships with the USA and China (pp 172-176), why golf enables the building of relationships (p 166) and the reasons for Australia to be wary of significant defence links with Japan (p 171). He admits to being unable to achieve much in the Indian Ocean region (pp 177-179) and says loudly that the UK ‘has brought nothing of significance to the region’s defence since the fall of Singapore’ (p 132).

A lengthy chapter on education expands on Evan’s activist undergraduate years at Melbourne University, and his fellow students who went on to high profile elite roles. A stint at Oxford followed enabling him to continue to travel to different parts of the world and to build more international links. The core of the chapter is about his time as Chancellor at The Australian National University. Typically, Evan’s turns it into a lesson for the reader on the role of Councils and Chancellors and why the Australian practice of Chancellors’ chairing Council is superior to the UK where, he says, Vice-Chancellors chair Council.

He brings to the book experiences over a series of major jobs, a finely tuned intellect, a serious interest in detail and a ribald sense of humour. When the term memoir is used I am programmed to expect more subtlety, more reflection, more introspection. If only he chilled… but, of course, he wouldn’t. Does he have an inner life? If he does there’s not a lot of it in the book. Now Evans calls himself a CLOOF Clapped Out Old Fart (p 266). It’s a joke, of course. He is anything but a CLOOF. I wonder what book he is writing now?


Gareth Evans 2017 Incorrigible Optimist. A Political Memoir, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne


The New Year thickness in my head is very slowly starting to dissipate. The New Year fireworks in Sydney were spectacular, I’m reliably told; I took on the child-sitting duties and managed to see the 9.00pm display.

It is time to transfer commitments across to my 2018 Moleskine.

The new addition is to update a chapter in Understanding Contemporary Asia Pacific, which was edited by Katherine Palmer Kaup from Furman University in South Carolina. The book was published by Lynne Rienner (Boulder and London) and released in 2007. My chapter on ‘Population and Urbanization’ will need quite a lot of work. Cities have grown rapidly in size and number over the last decade - think of China and its ghost cities.

I am hoping the book edited by Rita Padawangi and titled Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia will be published later this year. My chapter is titled ‘Knowledge, Creativity and the City’. (5/1/18)

BLOG 2018                                                       scroll down to see more 2018 blogs