DFAT — make it bigger? What a surprise! A research organisation where people make a living by writing about Australian foreign policy undertakes a review of Australia’s diplomatic efforts and concludes that we should be spending far more by establishing 20 new diplomatic missions over the next 10 years. While we really should take no notice of people pushing their own barrow, I fear that the Lowy Institute for International Policy’s report, Australia’s Diplomatic Deficit, will fit in with the expansionist ideals of a Prime Minister who clearly delights in playing on the world stage.

Girls without boys. Single s-x schools are out of fashion in the government school system these days, but perhaps this is an issue that should be looked at again. The Guardian reports this morning on a study conducted on behalf of the Good Schools Guide that found girls are far more likely to thrive, get good exam results and stay in education if they go to a single-s-x school. Pupils who are struggling academically when they start secondary school reap the biggest rewards of girls-only schooling. The analysis of the GCSE scores of more than 700,000 girls taught in the state sector concludes that those at girls’ schools consistently made more progress than those in co-ed secondaries.

The Costello baby boom. I know I have promised not to mention his name in connection with any leadership matter, but I thought it only fair to draw attention to the man’s good work as a promoter of s-xual activity. The value of the baby bonus Peter Costello introduced when Treasurer is clearly evident in this morning’s Australian Bureau of Statistics population figures. Just look at the way that births have soared:

At my age, I’m less interested in this aspect of the country’s population increase than the also released figures showing the cause of death. While the top three leading causes of death have remained unchanged for the last 10 years — heart disease (1), stroke (2) and lung cancer (3), in this same period, deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer’s have gone from the seventh leading cause of death to the fourth.

One down, 17 to go. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad has been taken off the Australian list of terrorist organisations that it is an offence “to associate with, train with, provide training for, receive funds from, make funds available to, direct or recruit for”. Attorney General Robert McClelland announced his decision after advice from security services that the Egyptian Islamic political movement responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 has now been constrained by Egyptian authorities. When the Attorney General’s Department gets around to updating its list of terrorist organisations under the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act of 2002, there will now be only 17 on the list. Five of them were found by the Attorney General’s biennial review announced this week to warrant being kept on the list:

  1. Ansar al Islam (formerly Ansar al-Sunna). Initially formed as Ansar al-Islam, a merger of several smaller Kurdish-based Sunni extremist groups within the Kurdish Autonomous Zone (KAZ) of northern Iraq in late 2001. Ansar al-Sunna supports the global militant Sunni jihadist ideology that is espoused by al-Qa’ida, including the re-establishment of the historical Islamic caliphate. Ansar al-Sunna’s objectives within Iraq are to overthrow the Iraqi Government, expel Coalition forces from the country and establish a Sunni Islamic state administered under Sharia law.
  2. Asbat al Ansar. AAA is a Sunni Muslim extremist group, largely based in the Ayn al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon in southern Lebanon. The group has a smaller presence in the Nahr al-Bared camp outside Tripoli in northern Lebanon, and is also active in Sidon, Beirut and the Dinniyeh plateau in northern Lebanon. Objectives are to establish a Sunni Islamic state in Lebanon by overthrowing the Lebanese government, eliminating Israel and thwarting anti-Islamic and pro-Western influences in Lebanon.
  3. Islamic Army of Aden. The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) is a Sunni Islamic extremist group and was formed in 1996 as a splinter group of the Yemeni Islamic Jihad. The IAA first came to public prominence in 1998 when it issued statements detailing its intention to overthrow the Yemeni government and implement Sharia law; and called for operations against US and other Western interests in Yemen. The IAA aims to overthrow the current Yemeni government and establish an Islamic state. More broadly, the IAA is committed to supporting Al-Qa’ida’s global jihad.
  4. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The IMU formed in the late 1990s and is composed of Islamic extremists from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states. It opposes the current Uzbek regime. The IMU’s area of operation includes Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran. In 2001, the group announced that it had changed its name to the Islamic Party of Turkestan. The IMU’s initial objective was to overthrow the Uzbek regime and replace it with an Islamic state. However, the IMU’s goals have broadened to include the establishment of a radical Islamic caliphate in Turkestan, an area stretching from the Caspian region to Xinjiang in western China.
  5. Jaish e Mohammed (JeM). JeM is a Sunni Islamic extremist organisation based in Pakistan that operates primarily in Indian Administered Kashmir. Established in 2000, JeM was founded by the radical Islamic scholar and jihadist leader, Maulana Masood Azhar. JeM is a group that uses violence in pursuit of its stated objective of uniting Indian Administered Kashmir with Pakistan under a radical interpretation of Islamic law, as well as the ‘destruction’ of America and India.
  6. Lashkar-e Jhangvi. A Sunni Islamic terrorist group based in Pakistan. The group was formed in 1996 as a more militant splinter group of the radical sectarian organisation, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and follows the Deobandi tradition of Sunni Islam. Under the leadership of Riaz Basra, the LeJ quickly distinguished itself as the most violent and radical sectarian force in Pakistan. The LeJ’s ultimate objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan based on a radical interpretation of Sharia law, through the use of violence. Part of a broader Sunni extremist movement, LeJ’s membership harbour an intense hatred of all foreign, or non-Islamic influences. The group is also fervently anti-Shia and aim to have them declared a non-Muslim minority.