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Tag Archives: Christopher Pyne

Turnbull’s Innovation – a rebranding of the same old pocketful of promises

By David Tyler

Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘Innovation! Package‘, turns out to be another boost to small business and nothing to do with innovation at all. It is another conjuring trick from a government pledged to avoid commitment or accountability under the guise of ‘encouraging the free flow of ideas and entrepreneurs’. It is based on a seriously defective business model, the tech start-up. As a strategy toward economic restructure, it is a poor choice; an inexcusable error of judgement.

Above all, Innovation! is an opportunity missed. Instead of investing in renewables, boosting employment and kicking its fossil fuel dependency, the Coalition has chosen the trendy but flaky tech start-up business enterprise, a choice which will distract from tackling its rising carbon emissions while further trashing Australia’s former reputation as a good global citizen.

For all Greg Hunt’s absurd claims that we lead the world in climate policy, expert report, based on a range of measures, from the UN climate talks in Paris yesterday reveal us to be third last. Although Julie Bishop may fluff around on the world stage promising to fix climate with ‘innovation’ the truth is that we are substituting urban myth for science or economics.

The start-up myth itself is enchanting and beguiling. Rich young San Francisco Bay Area, California dudes meet somewhere on the autism spectrum and hunker down to a year or two of nerdy anti-social existence. They live off their wealthy parents while they code software 24/7. Overnight they become billionaire misfits and eccentric publicity-loving celebrities proving all along to the world that smarts matter. The PM, especially, loves this tale.

The dudes attract a few other couch surfers along the way together with a rash of venture capital: rich folk who gamble by lending the dudes money in the hope of a huge return on their investment. Or not. Stop the press.

The start-up success story is an urban myth. Surely no-one in their right mind would recommend we adopt this model to fix our own tanking economy? If he is serious about the Innovation! hoo-ha, Mal’s judgement is once again is up the Silicon Valley creek.

Start-ups are expensive failures as a rule. Current UC Stanford and Berkeley research shows that over 90% of start-ups self-destruct. Typically, software dudes borrow to build a product for which there is no customer, a product for which they also have to manufacture a demand. Nothing like putting on the wings when your craft is taxiing along the runway. When the product is ready to market, the dudes have no buyers, no income and no funds to continue and they crash. The dudes fall back on couch-surfing until they inherit.

Not all give up. There are serial starters-up who make failure a lifestyle choice. Our PM warms to these. He will see to it that failure is elevated in our own society to the status it deserves by taking the sting out of bankruptcy. No stranger to failure himself, politically, he will ignore the difference between political and business failure. Taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Even the few start-ups who succeed, employ few workers and minimise their taxes. Outfits like Google or Apple or Facebook are adept in creative tax accountancy. What start-ups are good at is making profits for investors.

Making a few rich dudes richer is no way to rebuild a nation’s prosperity. Start-ups offer no key to economic revival. They do, however, offer an attractive package to business classes, a package which is trendy enough to deceive the mug punter who will pay the bill through higher taxes. And coal is spared by default.

Strip away the packaging and Innovation! looks like plain old crony capitalism; a rebranding of the same old pocketful of promises to the big end of town that is the Liberal Party’s reason for being. A bit of tinkering around the edges is added to confirm Innovation!. Some refunds are touted as reinvesting in science as if government has suddenly come to its senses after destroying the CSIRO’s morale and much else with it. Turnbull supporters seize on the refunds as proof that Mal is progressive after all. The facts attest otherwise.

Some ‘efficiency dividend’ cuts from CSIRO, made when ‘good government’ had no need of science, will be returned. But it is nowhere near enough funding to do a ‘reset’ even if CSIRO wanted to. Or it were possible. So much knowledge has already been irrevocably lost. But business and science will be able to hold hands in the cosy, innovative Turnbull era instead of being at arm’s length or independent as empirical impartiality dictates.

Academics are to be enticed out of ivory towers to team up with business types in an alarming re-run of the wishful thinking that ignores our economy’s small size. We do not have the money. Venture capital is just not available here to the degree that it is to UK or US researchers. The priceless value of pure research in non-commercial fields is also ignored, although vital to innovation and the foundation of all science.

So what are we left with? Another tax break for investors? A newer, softer neo-liberal bankruptcy-lite to allow ‘entrepreneurs’ to quit more easily; bail out of financial obligations such as wages to redundant workers more readily? An incubator for shonky con-men and dud business ideas? Strip away Innovation! Package wrapping and most of what is left amounts to a scheme in which privileged venture capitalists are subsidised by everyone else.

Attracting venture capital, we are told by our po-faced ring master Turnbull will enable the best business brains to invent new businesses which in turn will G-R-O-W the economy. We are to forget in all the hoopla and excitement that venture capital has no interest in progress or innovation as such. But it loves huge profits.

Turnbull expects us to fall in love with a scheme to encourage those whose business model includes the very best the Cayman Islands has to offer. It will not build a 21st Century economy or a nation but it will accelerate our already disturbingly rapid divergence into two distinct nations, a nation of haves and have-nots.

Yet is anyone really surprised by Turnbull and Pyne’s surprise package? Turnbull gave us our NBN, popularly known as ‘fraudband’. A political stunt, NBN is now woefully behind schedule, over-budget, slow and over-priced. It is increasingly evident to consumers that the NBN project, like Direct Action is fundamentally flawed.

Substituting copper wire for fibre allowed the LNP to undercut Labor’s real NBN, but it is a bit like carrying forward Kyoto credits instead of reducing our carbon emissions, an accountancy trick which does nothing to make it all work. A sale of Turnbull’s NBN lemon is rumoured. In softening bankruptcy rules, Monday’s message is that it’s OK to fail. You learn from it. Turnbull would know. Or is it OK to fail, provided someone else picks up the tab?

A Humpty Dumpty for our times, Turnbull can make Innovation! TM mean whatever he chooses as he peddles a scheme to boost his wealthy backers’ fortunes at the expense of all the rest of us; a type of subsidy for the investing classes. Treasurer Morrison is on standby to announce further cuts in government spending; cuts to our services and quality of life as a nation, all in the name of Innovation! Innovation! is already morphing into a new, secular religion, at least in Liberal Party circles. Or is it a tax-deductible church and charity to business? What is certain is that it will cost us all dearly.

Innovation promises, programmes are old hat in Australia. Innovation policy expert Roy Green notes that Australia has had 60 reports at Commonwealth level on innovation since 2000. $9.7billion of government funds is spent annually on ‘research and innovation’ across 13 portfolios and 150 budget line items.

Making Innovation! into a faith means that it is immune from criticism. You can’t be against the future can you? Only a heretic would be sceptical. Challenging the creed is almost un-Australian, as Malcolm Turnbull clearly implied when he chided Leigh Sales on Monday’s 7:30 Report. ‘Aunty is not interested in Innovation!?’ he gibed. Nor was she excited. ‘Exciting’ infects all government policy announcements it seems. It is becoming a test of faith. Forget reason. If you are not excited, you are beyond the pale; an unbeliever and a Luddite.

Turnbull’s ‘exciting’ announcement on his nation’s future is pure theatre. Spruiking his package around lunch time Monday, the PM is flanked by our agile new Innovation! Minister, Christopher Pyne, the consummate political organ grinder’s monkey who is reinventing – repositioning himself – ‘in this space’ – before our very eyes. Pyne is flattered, he says, to reveal that his name was called second when Turnbull announced his new cabinet, but to others the PM’s choice of Christopher Pyne for the new portfolio signals an each-way bet at least on its success.

A spectacular flop as a ‘back to the future’ Education Minister, whose advisors included back to basics gurus, Kevin Donnelly and other advocates for corporal punishment and that old nostrum ‘the Judaeo-Christian tradition’ to purge the modern filth of relevance from children’s learning, Pyne peddled his ideologically blinkered, backward vision of education as a private market-driven commodity and the rightful prerogative of the rich.

Although the odd, ambitious, Vice Chancellor could see promotion in embracing Pyne’s elitist neo-liberal plan to privatise learning, there were few other takers. It was widely believed that Pyne was forced to write a book, about himself for his children lest they read for themselves, one day, unaided the truth about their father’s failures. Yet he is a survivor. A sequel, Christopher Pyne, A Man for All Seasons, must surely follow.

Disappointingly missing from the launch of the new era of mindless optimism, Australia’s own techno-Micawberism was a song and dance routine. Surely Kylie could be persuaded to reprise Locomotion with just one or two judicious edits?

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation! … c’mon … c’mon … do the Innovation! with me’.

Another Prime Minister, another Christopher Pyne is doubtless already working on the choreography. ‘Industry, Innovation! and science’ are conjoined uneasily in a threesome of convenience in the tyro minister’s full title but we all know it’s a meaningless title for a made up job to keep a recycled Pyne, a numbers man, in Turnbull’s pocket in case another coup is brewing.

Abbott will stay in politics by popular demand, he says, between snipes at his PM and his PM”s policies. Yet Mr Popularity brushes aside his need to discipline rogues. Even with the recent eight point downturn, he’s still up in the ego polls of preferred PM, as if it matters.

Turnbull is mobbed by his own cheer squad. Kate Carnell just loves him. Andrew Carnegie has a man crush. Orchestrated squeals of approval are heard from the hordes of ‘institutes’ and other ubiquitous lobby groups for the rich which will successfully block any real progress or innovation. Indeed, Australians have stagnation rather than innovation to look forward to in the words of the clear-eyed economist Satyajit Das.

‘What I’m seeing now in Australia is the same that I see in many Western democracies. Powerful lobby groups form and then they basically push their own agendas and, because they countervail each other, the whole system basically gets completely and totally stagnant and nothing happens.’

Turnbull’s Innovation! stimulus package unleashes a Pavlovian stampede as business classes clamour and elbow each other aside to snout the public trough, breaking only to preach small government or plead with government to cut funds from the poor and disadvantaged. An intoxicating scent of vast profits to be made wafts towards the feral animal spirits of the entrepreneurial classes like catnip from Canberra. This way if you want to make money!

Anyone who has any can lend their money at favourable rates and with less risk to ‘start-ups’ or new businesses. Rich white men step up. They are not slow to catch on to Malcolm’s spiel. Business, especially ‘small business’ as the motley, multifarious mob likes to style itself, can see that Innovation! is all about encouraging ‘start-ups’ or small business ventures. About them. And that’s all it is. Innovation! is not about new or original ideas. The country can’t afford any of that expensive, non-productive nonsense.

Kill-joy Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is duty-bound to remind anyone still listening to him that, ‘Since the 2013 election, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut $3 billion from innovation, science and research initiatives.’ Let Malcolm Turnbull insist at every turn that we are an agile and clever country, the evidence is otherwise.

Australia may rank number one in the world for how many years kids typically spend at school, but it is 77th when it comes to how many graduate with science and engineering degrees. Here Australia ranks below Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Guatemala and will continue to do so provided our innovation is confined to creating business incubators for the wealthy at the expense of expanded, improved access for all to education.

Let Turnbull make his announcement with the assistance of a funky horn-rimmed Pyne now reborn as guru of the Innovation! vibe. Well may they redeem bankruptcy and failure as yet another stage in learning. Pyne is destined to fail at his latest project just as surely as he flopped as Minister for Education. Unless, of course, he incurs collateral damage as Mal Brough digs himself out of the Ashby go-fetch-Slipper’s-diary scandal.

Australians are not deceived. They know that Prime Ministers and governments do not create innovative nations or economies by decree. They know that however attractive the tax breaks, a rash of investment in companies based on the software start-up model is no more a step towards greater national prosperity than it is a way to restructure our stalled economy.

Designed to reward his small business backers, presented as something it is clearly not, infected by the mania of the Silicon Valley start-up cult and heeding none of its limitations, Turnbull’s Innovation! Package is a breach of faith with the Australian people as much as a signal failure of his government’s political imagination and will to explore real reform. Still, with Kylie behind it, The Innovation! could really catch on.

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation! … c’mon … c’mon … do the Innovation! with me’.

David Tyler blogs at http://urbanwronski.com. He is a regular writer for The Tasmanian Times and has had work published on Independent Australia.

 

Why Tony Abbott Isn’t Darth Vader … Although Christopher Pyne May Be R2-D2!

Another Star Wars movie.

Little did I know when I saw that first one way back in the seventies that I was watching something that would have such staying power.

Of course, it’s obvious in retrospect because it has all the ingredients of a modern myth. Good versus evil. The Force. The Dark Side. The young apprentice learning from the wise Yoda. (I realise that some of the younger readers won’t actually realise this but we used to have apprentices in Australia once.)

And, of course, it’s all about sex. You have that final climax where Luke and the others fly down a long tunnel and shoot their tiny little objects in the hope of hitting that small target. If that’s not a metaphor for sperm hitting the egg, I don’t know what is… I’m not going to make any comment on “Hands Solo” and his big hairy wooky. Or did I spell that wrong? Impossible, phonics means that nobody would ever be illiterate ever again.

Anyway, I was just reflecting on the Liberals and the strange disconnect between gladly welcoming refugees from a camp overseas, while demonising those who came by sea “our boundless plains to share”.

But it’s this capacity to divide things into good and evil that has me thinking. Once someone is defined as evil – in the eyes of many of the Liberal frontbencher – then all rights are forfeit. It’s not a case of I just made a simple mistake. No, you don’t deserve a trial. You deserve incarceration or deportation.

Good people, on the other hand, should always be given the benefit of the doubt. Even after there’s no doubt. That’s why Arthur Sinidinos is back in the ministry and Craig Thom(P)son was a tainted vote.

Of course, the ascension of Turnbull has left all sides of politics a little confused. Parts of the left are breathing a sigh of relief that Abbott’s gone, while pointing out that Turnbull hasn’t actually changed very much. Well… He hasn’t actually changed anything of significance, but one has to impressed with that Cheshire cat grin and the fact that he actually he actually attempts to argue some sort of case rather than working on the assumption that we can all assume that anyone who disagrees with him has already gone over to the Dark Side and can just be ignored.

The Liberals, on the other hand, fall into two camps. Those who are just pleased that Abbott’s gone and Malcolm might actually win the next election and be PM for a long, long time, and those who are pleased that Malcolm might actually win the next election and then they can put Abbott back after they’ve got control of the Senate and they can pass laws which say that any votes against the government can be ignored under the sedition laws which say that it’s a criminal offence to try and bring down the government.

Of course, that sounds far-fetched to a lot of people.

And it is …

Then again, any suggestion that Abbott would reintroduce knights and dames and, not only that, suggest that Prince Phil should go down on one knee to get a tap from Lizzie would have been dismissed as the ramblings of someone with little grip on reality just a llttle over two years ago.

And it’s always interesting what people deny. If you saw this video clip last week, you’ll notice that it was reported Greg Sheridan denied telling people that Abbott is going around saying that second Abbott government will be better that the first!

However, you’ll notice that he’s denying what he allegedly said, not the part about Abbott going around saying that!

If this was Star Wars, what would they call it?

Abbott The Second Coming. (Nah, too religious.)

Abbott Strikes Back!

Return of The Shit! 

Whoops, typo there.

Should be “Return of the Sith”.

 

My Thoughts on the Week that Was

Saturday 17 October

1 Cambodian officials say one of the refugees who arrived in Phnom Penh from Nauru in June has quit Cambodia and returned to Myanmar. The Rohingya Muslim man in his early 20s had been given refugee status on the basis of a fear of returning to Myanmar, where Rohingya say they have long been persecuted in the majority Buddhist government country.

keating2 Paul Keating has come out of the shadows to back a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, describing it as the “unfinished business of the nation” and suggesting it could precede Indigenous recognition in the constitution.

And the former prime minister also says he would back any move by Malcolm Turnbull to revive the minimalist model for an Australian republic that both men crafted in the early 1990s, conceding this might be the “last and best opportunity” to secure the model.

Bring him back, insults and all.

3 Abyan, the Somali refugee who fell pregnant after allegedly being raped on Nauru has been secretly flown back to Nauru in what looks like an extraordinary attempt to avoid Australian law. Ruthless bastards.

The Minister needs to explain why immediately.

4 This week’s Crikey BludgerTrack poll aggregate has Labor bridging the gap on the back of a weak result for the Coalition from Newspoll. 51.2-48.8.

In a redistribution Joel Fitzgibbon will lose his seat of Hunter in NSW but is guaranteed another.

5 The innovation minister, Christopher Pyne, has told crossbench senators the government will only provide extra assistance for the car industry if they back down on their opposition to cuts to family tax benefits paid to low income families. The style of government hasn’t changed.

Sunday 18 October

aust car1 Amazing to think that Australia is one of only 13 countries in the world who can build a motor vehicle from start to finish but will stop doing so within 12 months. The impact on jobs will be enormous. Have we planned for it? What is the future of jobs? I will be writing about it soon.

2 Voters across the board have high expectations of Turnbull, and crucially, they want him to act. It means he is already behind the eight ball. However Turnbull’s strategy seems to be to make no commitments and announce no policies while speaking in vague platitudes with a velvet fog voice while smiling a lot.

An observation:

“Instantaneous gratification is a byproduct of greed be it for materialisms sake or for power itself”.

3 The PM says the 23-year-old Somali woman Abyan, who was brought to Australia and moved to Sydney’s Villawood detention centre this week an abortion, was returned to the island because she decided against it. She says she wanted some counselling before committing.

Two observations:

‘Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it’.

“The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation“.

Monday 19 0ctober

1 There is a “strong moral case” to proceed with Adani’s $16 billion coal mine, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg claimed on Sunday. There is also a higher moral principle not to. If coal is good for humanity then the sun the wind and the sea are better.

gough2 The term “must read” is often used but rarely satisfying phrase. However I can recommend a “must read” you should not miss. A four part series on THE AIMN coinciding with the 40th Anniversary of the dismissal of Gough Whitlam and his government, to be published 8,9,10 and 11 November. More to come, but it’s electrifying.

3 Gerard Henderson on Insiders was of the opinion that Bill Shorten had done little wrong in his dealings with Theiss. Never thought I would find myself agreeing with him. But it’s still a bad look.

4 Where did all the voters go, and why?

Mysteriously, 3.3 million eligible voters went missing at the last election. That is a whopping 15% more than the previous one.

There is something fundamentally wrong when, despite a huge recruitment drive by the Australian Electoral Commission, 1.22 million citizens failed to enrol to vote, and 400,000, or one third of the non-registrants, were aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 760,000 House of Representatives ballots were informal – about 6 percent – up more than 0.3 percent from the 2010 election.

Who carried the loss? Our democracy did.

5 Remiss of me not to mention Albo’s put down of Chrissy Pyne during Question Time last week. The Government was suggesting he was claiming responsibility for all infrastructure for the past few years. Much laughter prevailed until Albo to a “point of order” “The only hole you’ve dug is the one for the former PM”. That shut them up.

Tuesday 20 October

1 Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity is not in the least surprising. John Howard once remarked that the Australian electorate was less inclined toward ideology than it once was. What they are saying is that they just want a decent leader. One in whom they can trust. After the revolving door leadership of the past few years that’s what they see in Turnbull.

The IPSOS Poll shows the TPP in favor of the Coalition 53/47. With the Election 12 months away it is but a reflection on the current thinking of the population. The onus is still on the PM to show he has policies that would warrant his popularity.

The Morgan Poll followed up with Coalition leading 56/44.

An analysis of the last election result suggests that fifteen of the Coalition’s new seats are held on very thin margins. Eleven seats have margins of less than 4000 voters. In essence, the election was a lot tighter than was first suggested. Theoretically, this means that it would only take about 30,000 people to change their vote to change the government.

2 Peter Dutton is a former policeman. Whilst I have great respect for the force, he is one of those you would not like to meet at the end of a dark ally. The secrecy surrounding all things to do with border protection and asylum seekers is so draconian that it is often impossible to know where the truth lay. However, in the case of the women on Nauru seeking an abortion, I don’t think it is with the Government. Whatever happened to compassion?

3 NBN Co expects the national broadband network to be rolled out to an extra 7.5 million premises in the next three years. However, chairman Ziggy Switkowski says that achieving the target of making the network accessible to more than 11 million homes by 2020 would be an “heroic outcome” given the current state of the rollout. The Australian Government is confident that the rollout will be completed by 2020. It raises the question as to why they would come out with that schedule if the chairman thought it would be heroic.

4 The following is a comment on my post for THE AIMN last week on the Future of Faith.

“Everywhere that religion is stronger you will find an accompanying increase in the amount of social problems — murder, divorce, abortion, infant mortality, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy. All these problems are more common in religious societies and less common in atheist (or less religious) ones. What is most surprising is that these are exactly the things religion claims to help.”

I can attest to the veracity of this statement based on USA research.

5 If we look around the world, wealth has become the measure of success and the rich are becoming wealthier at an alarming rate. The top one percent will soon own 99 percent.

An observation:

“In the history of Australia the rich have never been so openly brazen.”

Wednesday 21 October

1 What are we to make of people like Michael Lawler and Kathy Jackson? Only the investigation into his affairs and her trial will tell us but the stench of corruption hangs oppressively in the air. Yet another example of the need for a national ICAC.

2 It has to be said that the proposed overhaul to the financial services sector arising from the David Murray inquiry will be welcomed by the electorate. Excessive credit fees will be banned. More efficient superannuation. Safer banks. Lifting standards in financial advice. Innovative finance to be encouraged.

3 The difference in style and substance between Turnbull and Abbott is daily becoming more obvious. 4 I’m eagerly awaiting the proposed new rules to Question Time.

5 Tuesday’s Essential Poll has the Coalition on 51% and Labor on 49%. Makes the IPOS figures a touch fragile.

This is Bob Ellis’s take on the IPOS Poll:

They ring with machines those at home on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and willing to talk to a machine. Seventy thousand are not, fifteen hundred are, and the seven million without landlines or out of the house are not rung at all.

And a lot of octogenarians are.

This accounts for the figures, 30 percent for Labor, 45 for the Coalition, which Fairfax published today. The idea that 800,000 voters went from Shorten to Turnbull after Shorten attacked his opponent’s tax-dodging wealth is unlikely, since few swinging voters like tax-dodgers any more than they like queue-jumpers.

So the probable figure for Labor is 51.5 or 52; but the publication of Ipsos, which has never got anything right (its method predicted Rudd, Swan, Clare, Burke, Bowen and Dreyfus would lose their seats) puts wind in the sails of the early-election desperates who do not want Turnbull’s despoliation of the Solomons and rorting, in tens of millions, of the tax laws better known.

The caveats in this Ipsos report are significant. The margin of error in NSW, we are told, is 4.6 percent; in Queensland 6 percent; in South Australia 8.9 percent; in WA 8 percent; in Victoria 4.6 percent; but, overall, in all the nation, only 2.6 percent.

How can this be? How can the overall be lower than the lowest, less than two thirds of the lowest of the states? Is fraud involved here? Perish the thought. And the 5 percent who are ‘uncommitted’ (that is, uncommitted about Turnbull) were redistributed 3 to 2 in his favour.

One must be suspicious of the other figures, therefore, that are to do with strength, openness to ideas, trustworthiness and so on.

And — oh yes — the margin of error among 18-24 year olds is 7.9 percent (!); among 25-39 year olds 5:5 percent; among 40-54 year olds 4:9 percent; and among the over-55s 4:2 percent. If only half of these error-margins leaned Labor’s way — that is, 3.9 percent, 2.25 percent, 2.45 percent, 2.45 percent and 2:1 percent — its vote would be not 47 percent but 49.3 percent. If it went two thirds Labor’s way it would be 50.2.

Is it right therefore that Fairfax print the headlines it has? Don’t think so.

Looks pretty dodgy to me.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Thursday 22 October

1 The Essential survey on “Institutional Trust” showed the following:

State Police 68% AFP 67% ABC 55% Reserve Bank 51% Charities 49% Environmental Groups 42% Local Councils 40% Public Service 38% State Parliament 32% Federal Parliament 32% Religious Organisations 30% Business Groups 30% Trade Unions 27% Political Parties 19%.

Tony Abbott certainly didn’t enhance the bottom line. And to think that the church was once so well respected.

2 The revisions to Question Time are hardly newsworthy. There is still no compunction on anyone to tell the truth. Let alone answer the question. It is devoid of wit, humor, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

justin3 Canada has rid itself of its own Abbott. His replacement Justin Trudeau is sure to turn his countries Environmental policies upside down further illustrating just how backward we are. We still have a PM who knows what he should do but is being told what to do by the extreme right of his party. Come November we might well be the laughing stock of the world.

4 A former Australian prime minister is on a list of “alleged pedophiles” that Liberal senator Bill Heffernan claims forms part of a police document.

This from a notorious nutter who once accused a well-respected former high court judge of picking up boys for sex and then had to apologise.

5 The Jackson Lawler saga reads like a work of criminal fiction except that it’s all true.

6 According to the Climate Council solar panels with home battery storage could be the cheapest way to get electricity within three years. The advance in battery technology has been nothing short of remarkable. Turnbull shouts innovation and technology at every opportunity so long as it’s not associated with renewable energy. Coal is still God’s gift to humanity.

An observation.

“We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence”.

7 Now Joe Hockey says he wanted to tax the rich all along. It wasn’t what he told us when he was the treasurer. “The last thing you would want to do to people relying on investment income is to hit them with a new tax” he said.

8 The Government has finally backed down on its unfair Family tax benefits proposals. Whether the new proposals are any fairer is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain they will have some harsh consequences for families – including for single parents and grandparent carers. If they cannot get Labor on board the Senate may again reject them.

An observation.

“The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can”.

9 Lastly the Labor Party gained concessions on the Free Trade agreements. Many words spoken about an inevitable outcome.

Friday 23 October

1 Train wreck interview. When asked on Sky News about the proposed changes to Family Tax benefit B, the new Social Services Minister Christian Porter got in a muddle.

Speers: Labor asked today will grandparents raising a 15 year old child will… be $2,500 a year worse off, will they?

Porter answered: Errr, well, that depends on their capacity to access childcare and re-enter the workforce.

Mr Porter, 15 year-old children aren’t going to childcare.

Is Mr Porter seriously suggesting a 70 year old grandparent carer go back to work to make up for the Government’s cuts to his family payments?

2 Liberal National MP Warren Entsch has presented Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a proposition for a fresh parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage.

Under the new plan, Mr Entsch wants politicians to vote on amending the Marriage Act before the next election, but only ratify the outcome if it is supported by a “Yes” vote in a plebiscite that followed. It seems to me to be a complicated way of achieving an outcome that has been consistently endorsed in poll after poll, year after year. And spending around 150 million to confirm it is just a tad expensive. How about we choose 150 hospitals most in need and give them a million each.

Turnbull’s problem is that he has been compelled to embrace a formula to deal with the issue that he did not support while Tony Abbott was in charge. A problem wholly owned by the extreme right of his party.

Quote Senator Fierravanti-Wells

“I reject the assertion that those who argue for the retention of the definition of marriage are somehow homophobic, bigoted or are opposing equal rights. It is about maintaining a tradition—a tradition that has been the bedrock of our communities, our society and the world as we know it.’’

From an article in THE AIMN in which Kaye Lee addresses her assertions.

3 Australia has fallen outside the top 10 clean countries in an annual global corruption index, prompting calls for a federal body with a broader reach than the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption. There can, in reality, be only one reason why politicians refuse to submit themselves to scrutiny.

4 The Labor Party needs to rid itself of an outdated socialist objective and invest in a social philosophical common good instead. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.

Midday thoughts.

1 As bad as it was, Senator Eric Abetz’s offensive ‘Negro’ jibe to describe the conservative African-American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during a radio interview on Thursday wasn’t offensive enough to win my new weekly ‘Bad Mouth’ award. It must surely go to Benjamin Netanyahu who distorted history with his claim that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler’s mind.

Week That Was_68

And this is the week that was.

Leave you with this thought:

Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth enables human progress’.

 

Money Is No Object!

Paul Sheahan wrote something rather interesting today…

Well, that’s incorrect. He wrote something that caught my eye. And I’m trying to work out whether the man suffers from memory problems or is simply lying. He wrote:

“In politics, the Rudd Labor government went berserk on deficit spending to remain popular.”

Now, I’m happy for someone to debate whether the Rudd government’s policies were effective, or whether they just postponed the inevitable recession. I’m happy for someone to debate whether the money could have been better spent. I’m even happy for them to debate whether or not the pink batts problems were caused by socialism or unchecked capitalism.

But to suggest that the deficit spending was all about “being popular” just strikes me as a total rewriting of history. Even at the time, much of the spending wasn’t popular. The Liberals were telling us that Labor had gone too hard, too early and there’d be no money left when we were actually in recession – which they assured us was unavoidable.. Many asserted that the $900 would be wasted on alcohol and pokies.

(On a side note, isn’t it interesting that when Labor tried to introduce a voluntary pre-commitment amount for pokies, the Liberals teamed up the Clubs and screamed “nanny state”, but the Ceduna trial of a welfare card which can’t be spent on alcohol or gambling is just fine and dandy.)

Anyway, Paul Sheahan thinks that all the Rudd government’s spending was only to make his government “popular”. And I’d like to point out that he does specifically say the “Rudd Labor government”, so he is talking about the spending that was done at the height of the GFC. This not about things like the NBN or the National Disability Scheme.

Sheahan is one of people who like to remind us of that factoid that there’s a limited amount of money. (Note the use of the word “factoid” which, as I pointed out when Christopher Pyne used the word in parliament, means something that’s repeated often enough for people to take it as fact.)

The problem when we discuss “money” is that many people take it as synonymous with “cash” of which there is a limited amount at any given moment. “Money”, on the other hand, is a measure rather than being a thing in itself. Money tells you how much of the limited resources of the world you can access should you convert your money into something else. Of course, should everyone decide to convert their money into things at the same time, then we’d have inflation. And if they all decided to convert their money into the same thing – such as tulips – we’d have a bubble. (See Dutch Tulip Bubble.) We have people telling us that bubbles are inevitable and just part of the capitalist system.

As banks and governments can create money with the stroke of a computer key. money is infinite. Of course, if they do create an excessive amount of extra money, then the existing values of the “money” will diminish. There are a limited amount of tulips and if there’s suddenly an extra trillion dollars in the tulip market that million dollars for a bulb is going to look like a bargain.

Perhaps a good way to look at it is to use a sporting analogy. Money is the score and while sometimes scoring is hard, that’s only because there’s a team that keeps taking the ball of us and trying to score themselves. In the unusual event that we all decide that we’d rather see a good fast, high-scoring game and we start kicking for the same end, scoring becomes a lot easier. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen very often, and many people who are scoring like it’s a basketball game, wonder why the soccer players are finding it so hard to score and conclude that it’s because they’re lazy.

So when people start talking about there being a limited amount of money, what they actually mean is that there are a limited amount of resources. However, if governments can use money to reorganise the economy so that more “resources” are being created then it can actually add to the wealth of the country. If a person is working instead of being unemployed or underemployed, then that adds to the overall pool of “resources”.

The question is not whether such things can be done. Of course they can. The question is what is the most effective and worthwhile way to do it. Will reducing unemployment by two percent create  a wages breakout? And a tulip bubble which leads to problems down the track? Will increasing unemployment by one percent mean that we have a tulip glut on our hands? Or is it better to have a regulated tulip market and stop all this speculation.

Creating more money was more or less what the Rudd Labor government did in the early days of the GFC. It was about economic management. Given that we were in danger of recession, there was little prospect of inflation.

So the idea that it was about popularity is another one of those little factoids that certain columnists are so fond of helping to create.

 

The high achievers of the Abbott Government who should keep their Ministries!

Below is a short list of Ministers – the high achievers – who should keep their positions after the reshuffle.

Minister for Women. OK, let’s start with Mr Abbott himself. As Minister for Women he’s responsible for a number of achievements:

  • His signature paid parental leave scheme which was so good that we couldn’t afford it.
  • As he reminded us, removing the carbon tax enabled the women of Australia to use electricity for their ironing instead of warming it on the stove.
  • Stopping the boats which was good for everyone, even women.
  • Commenting on the popularity of women when they were working surrounded by men.
  • Encouraging them to take scholarships in fashion courses.

Minister for Education: Christopher Pyne has also been a high achiever. Recently he announced changes to the Australian Curriculum which promise a greater emphasis on phonics, as well as a greater emphasis on the benefits of Western civilization and Anzac Day. I’m shore u’ll awl agree that fonnix helps stewdents to spel evareethink crektly. Wuns thay spell werds as they sownd, then nowun will complain about bad spelling eny moor. But Pyne has been an achiever from the moment he took over the portfolio proudly boasting that he hadn’t read the Gonski report, giving confidence to all those students who attempt essays without reading their English texts.

The Attorney General:  George Brandis, the quiet underachiever. George may have ignored tradition in this portfolio by failing to defend the court system when those “vigilantes” held up a coal mine by resorting to the unfair tactic of using the existing law, but that’s not the only thing he hasn’t done. The list is quite long and, honestly, you’d have more hope of getting through the books in his library, which is another reason to keep him  in his current position. Moving his bookshelves again could jeopardise the Budget which is on a path to sustainable surplus sometime after the return of Halley’s comet.

Minister For Employment: He’s hardly been a quiet achiever, not only has he been busy with his portfolio, but he’s had an opinion on same sex marriage and the links between breast cancer and abortions. Of course, you all know that I’m talking about the erudite Eric Abetz. OK, he may be a bit left wing for his uncle Otto and Andrew Bolt but, in case you’ve forgotten, among his achievements are this change to “red tape”:

After streamlining, employers will no longer have to report on:

  • CEO remuneration

  • remuneration of casual managers

  • components of total remuneration

  • numbers of job applications and interviews, and

  •  requests and approvals for extended parental leave.

And, of course, last but not leased … and certainly not for sale, the man who professed his loyalty to Abbott right to the very end, we have

Treasurer: Joe Hockey has put us on a path to sustainable surplus. Or so the Liberals keep telling us. Considering we were a basket case just two years ago, Joe’s measures have put us back on track in extraordinarily quick time. Particularly when those nasty senators wouldn’t even allow a number of his vital Budget measures. How can a miracle worker like that be dumped?

Apart from that, I suggest that Mr Turnbull should spill all other positions and draw names out of a hat for ministry positions.

Let’s face it, he couldn’t do much worse than Abbott’s attempts at choosing a ministry.

 

Haven’t they sacked Pyne yet?

Just to reinforce that we have not had any change of thinking with a new leader, Christopher Pyne rolled out his “new curriculum”, endorsed by state education ministers yesterday.

There is to be a greater focus on Western civilisation and our Christian heritage.

Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

It’s worth noting that, on the IPA’s 75 point wish list, number 73 is “Defund Harmony Day”.

Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of “individuals and groups” to Australian society will no longer include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia’s connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the changes would resolve “overcrowding’’ in the primary school curriculum, boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia’s history.

The states and territories did not agree to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school, partly because they do not have the teachers to do it.

They also decided, on advice from The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), that from next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

Wouldn’t it be better to do that sort of testing before they start their degree rather than when they have finished it? They are also going to make the students pay for the test themselves, and whilst imposing higher standards on trainee teachers, I have heard no mention of higher pay.

AITSL chairman John Hattie — who took part in the ministerial meeting — said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine.

“We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you’re dumb you can’t be a teacher,’’ he told The Weekend Australian. “We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them.’’

To all you ‘dumb’ people who were aspiring to be teachers, might I suggest a career in politics instead – no such restrictions apply.

 

Christopher Pyne’s Greatest Hits of 2015: Winner of the People’s Choice Snoutie

It’s official. The people have spoken. Christopher Pyne has won the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie.

Voting for the People’s Choice Snoutie Award kicked off last weekend, and closed yesterday. For a while Senate Leader Eric Abetz was a serious contender for the title – but Pyne, like the poodle with a bone that he is, took the lead fairly early on and eventually streaked ahead to claim victory by a significant margin.

The Inaugural ‘On the Snout’ Awards

OnTheSnoutDefinitionIn case you didn’t catch last week’s ‘unbiasedly’ prestigious and soon-to-be coveted ‘On the Snout’ awards – here’s a quick run-down on what you missed.

The On the Snout awards – or ‘Snouties’ – are named after recently retired U.S. political satirist Jon Stewart, who in his last show exhorted his viewers to be vigilant in watching out for bullshit, saying “if you smell something, say something”.

There was plenty to smell in Canberra in the last parliamentary sitting fortnight – and so the ‘On the Snout’ awards were created. The inaugural awards went to four worthy winners:

  • The David Copperfield Magic with Numbers Award – went to Joe ‘Eleventy’ Hockey
  • The George Orwell 1984 Award – went to Peter ‘PDuddy’ Dutton
  • The Dragon Slayer Award – went to Chief of Lawfare, George Brandis
  • The Golden Snoutie Award – the most coveted award of all – went to Snout in Chief, Tony Abbott

(Read more about how each of the above award winners won their awards here.)

The People’s Choice Snoutie

While the winners of these four key awards were announced last week, there was still one award for the last parliamentary sitting fortnight left to be decided – the People’s Choice Snoutie.

PeoplesChoiceSnoutieTranswithSAs its name suggests, the winner of this award is chosen by the people of Australia who were asked to vote for “the member of the LNP cabinet (other than Tony Abbott) who has been the most ‘on the snout’ over the last fortnight“.

And like the well-informed electors that we are, the people of Australia voted. With well over a thousand votes cast, we can be fairly certain that the people have picked the LNP cabinet member most worthy of this award.

And the winner is . . . (drum roll please) . . .

Christopher Pyne [Sound of applause]

Christopher Pyne’s win is particularly impressive since he was not actually present in the second week of the last parliamentary sitting. And in week one, other than some press around his expense claims – particularly around spending $5,000 to fly three members of his family to Sydney for New Year’s Eve in 2010 – he was on the periphery of key events rather than being at the centre of them.

So how did Christopher Pyne win the much coveted People’s Snoutie award?

The answer is fairly simple – Pyne started the fortnight with such a high level of snoutiness, that even a fairly low profile over that two week period was unable to dull exactly how ‘on the snout’ he is. This is perhaps best expressed by an insightful quote from The Shovel a few months back:

Being massively annoying and effectively wearing people down until they agree with him is Christopher’s strong suit.

In Christopher Pyne’s own words:

You couldn’t kill me with an axe. I’m going to keep coming back.

It’s this level of commitment to snoutiness that was a key part of why Christopher Pyne won the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie this week.

So let’s revisit some of Christopher Pyne’s greatest hits this year, which led to him winning this award.

Christopher Pyne’s Greatest Hits for 2015 (the story so far . . . )

Education reform – it’s all about the money

Pyne’s so-called ‘Education Reform’ legislation is undoubtedly his number one hit for the year – and a continuing chart-topper from 2014. Its title suggests that he is doing something to improve the way we educate. But not so much. In fact the only thing the Bill is seeking to reform is the way that higher education and research are funded – he’s effectively doing Joe Hockey’s work for him. But reform is a much nicer word than ‘taxation’ – making it easier to package up this pile of snoutiness for an attempted sale.

But unfortunately for Pyne and his LNP colleagues – nobody is buying it. The draft Bill has been knocked back by the Senate twice already. Further, both Australia’s top universities and one of the experts who provided input to the design of the original Education Reform Bill say the proposed Bill is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist while leaving the real issues unresolved – suggesting even more that the Bill is primarily a revenue-raising exercise by the government rather than actual reform – and definitely on the snout.

The Black Knight of Snoutiness

It was Nick Xenophon who first pointed out our People’s Choice Snoutie winner’s similarities to the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail:

Just like the Black Knight, Pyne keeps on keeping on with his much-on-the-snout Bill, despite the disdain almost everyone else has for it. Which brings us to . . .

Taking Research Scientist Jobs Hostage

No-one could forget Pyne’s attempt at a ScoMo tactic back in March this year, when he took 1700 Research Scientists’ jobs hostage. His initial ransom demand was that the Senate must pass his Education ‘Reform’ Bill.

In doing this, he was following Scott ‘ScoMo’ Morrison’s tactic from the end of the previous year, when he managed to get changes to the Migration Act passed by the Senate. ScoMo did this by telling the crossbenchers in the Senate that if they didn’t pass the changes, 150 children would not be released from detention before Christmas. As you may recall, apparently ScoMo even had some of the actual children – who could have been released at any point without the Bill being passed – call Ricky Muir, pleading to get him to pass the bill.

It’s difficult to get snoutier than that.

But Christopher Pyne is always up for a challenge it seems. And so, our first People’s Choice Snoutie winner decided to emulate ScoMo – this time holding Scientists’ jobs hostage, saying:

There are consequences for not voting for this reform and that’s very important for the crossbenchers to understand. The consequences are that potentially 1700 researchers will lose their jobs.

Luckily, after significant outrage from pretty much everyone, Pyne magically found the money needed to fund these jobs, and he released his hostages without harm, declaring himself to be ‘the fixer’.

Taking from the Poor to give to the Rich (the Anti-Robin-Hood)

In 2014, Pyne has cut funding to certain state schools and increased funding to a significant number of private schools. Apparently he feels a “‘particular responsibility for non-government schooling’ that [he] doesn’t feel for government schools“.

Magically finding funding for one of Abbott’s Pet Projects

Despite the emergency in university funding, it turns out that there is still money available for one of Abbott’s favourite climate-contrarians – Bjorn Lomborg.

As you may recall, four million dollars was offered to any university who would allow Lomborg to establish a ‘consensus centre’ on climate change – of which up to 70% was to have been spent on promotion, marketing and events. The University of Western Australia was originally going to give Lomborg a home, but withdrew due to strong opposition to the centre. Apparently Flinders University is currently considering whether they will take him and his four million dollars worth of funding on.


Any single one of these entries would have been enough to win Pyne a Snoutie award in the normal run of events. Combined, they paint a picture of a worthy winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie award.

Take a bow Christopher Pyne – you are most definitely on the snout.

Thanks to all for voting. If you’ve got further examples of Pyne’s Greatest Hits this year that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear your comments below.

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation

 

The Pynes have never seen the fireworks . . . Right this wrong!

In defending a $5000 cost for Christopher Pyne and three of his family members to fly to Sydney from Adelaide over the Christmas/New Year period, a spokesperson explained that Pyne did engage in work activities and he and his family had never seen the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Either this spokesperson has a burning ambition to dump Pyne and the rest of the Coalition government even further in it, or he or she is so steeped in the tradition of political entitlement and privilege that they can see no downside to revealing that we, the hapless taxpayers, many of whom never have and never will see the fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve except on the telly, paid for the Pyne family to enjoy this cultural privilege.

I have never subscribed to the belief that any one human being is of greater significance than any other so naturally, I don’t see why my tax dollars should fund the Pyne kids’ excursion to the fireworks just because they have Christopher for their father. Oh, but wait. They have Christopher for their father. I may need to rethink my position on their disadvantage.

It may be a glitch in my constitution, but I have never found reason to respect any individual simply because she or he holds a particular office. There are actually very few people I do respect, and none of them are politicians or public figures. If I was going to shout anyone a trip to the fireworks, it would be one of them. There is much codswallop bandied about with regard to respecting “the office,” but one cautious glimpse at the increasingly unhinged Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, ought to disabuse anyone of the notion of respecting an office, given the type of lunatic who can apparently hold it. An office, like an institution, is only as good as the human beings inhabiting it, and that can be very very bad indeed.

We do not have “politicians” anymore, in the sense of a class of people willing to give a period of their lives to the service and well-being of the citizenry and the country. We have instead ideologues, intent on pursuing their self-interested goals and taking every possible advantage of us while they do it. It matters little on which side of the House they plonk their narcissistic arses, as is evidenced in the uncharacteristic rush to defend one another’s expenses claims. Of course extravagance is in the rules: politicians wrote the rules and they may not know much about running a country, but they do know how to look after themselves.

Pyne says he will not be repaying the airfares we coughed up  for his family to see the fireworks. Why am I not surprised. Call me cynical, but if anything comes from Abbott’s apparent determination to address the “entitlement” rules I suspect it will be an amendment to permit taxpayer-funded travel to party fundraisers. The man who wrings his hands over the denial of coal supplies to poverty-stricken millions on the sub continent who will, he claims, suffer and possibly die because of the Federal Court decision on the Adani Carmichael coal mine, gives not a fig for the Australian taxpayer who, while increasingly unable to make ends meet, has to watch his or her tax dollars pay for the children of comfortable and privileged politicians to fly business class and see the spectacles.

Time to get out the metaphorical tumbrils.

This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Alchemy, phonics and the future of our children

As alchemist Abbott tries to turn coal into gold and professor Pyne pushes phonics, our children’s future is being placed in jeopardy.

A recent report from chief scientist Ian Chubb stated that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations required science, technology, engineering or mathematics skills and knowledge yet there has been a continuing decline in the percentage of year 12 science and maths students over the past two decades.

In 2012 there were 30,800 more students in year 12 than in 1992 but 8000 fewer physics students, 4000 fewer chemistry students and 12,000 fewer biology students than two decades previously. The percentage of students studying advanced and intermediate maths also declined over a similar period.

There is also a significant gender imbalance with boys far more likely to choose maths and science subjects than girls. (Male over-representation in Physics: 28%, Advanced maths: 16%, Intermediate maths: 7.3%, Chemistry: 3.8%)

This has very worrying implications for society.

“People who have a background in science beyond year 10 are more likely to persist in trying to understand issues like climate change, GM crops and coal seam gas than someone who thinks, ‘It’s all too hard, I’m just going to go with what someone else says’,” Dr Lyons, an associate professor of science education at Queensland University of Technology, said.

While Christopher Pyne focuses on phonics and rewriting history, more enlightened minds, those with actual expertise in the area of education, are calling for science and maths specialists in primary schools and better teacher training, support and resources.

John Kennedy, the head of science at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, said engaging teachers helped spark a child’s interest in science at a young age and helped retain older students in their final school years.

“It’s not that [students] find the sciences or the maths hard,” said Mr Kennedy.

“If the teacher is engaging, wanting to work with the [student], then the [student] wanted to study it the next year,” he said.

Research has found engaging children in science before the age of 11 to 14 was critical to their long-term interest in the subject.

Since 2004, the Australian Academy of Science has run Primary Connections, a primary school science and literacy program that has helped improve teacher quality and been used in 73 per cent of Australian schools.

Primary Connections is based on an inquiry-orientated teaching and learning model. Students use their prior knowledge and literacies to develop explanations for their hands-on experiences of scientific phenomena. Students have opportunities to represent and re-represent their developing understanding. They are engaged actively in the learning process. Students develop investigations skills and an understanding of the nature of science.

Teaching and learning progresses through five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.

Engage

Each unit begins with a lesson that mentally engages students with an activity or question. It captures their interest, provides an opportunity for them to express what they know about the concept or skill being developed, and helps them to make connections between what they know and the new ideas.

Explore

Students carry out hands-on activities in which they can explore the concept or skill. They grapple with the problem or phenomenon and describe it in their own words. This phase allows students to acquire a common set of experiences that they can use to help each other make sense of the new concept or skill.

Explain

Only after students have explored the concept or skill does the teacher provide the concepts and terms used by the students to develop explanations for the phenomenon they have experienced. The significant aspect of this phase is that explanation follows experience.

Elaborate

This phase provides opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to new situations and so develop a deeper understanding of the concept or greater use of the skill. It is important for students to discuss and compare their ideas with each other during this phase.

Evaluate

The final phase provides an opportunity for students to review and reflect on their own learning and new understanding and skills. It is also when students provide evidence for changes to their understanding, beliefs and skills.

Unfortunately, our Education Minister prefers the Direct Instruction approach.

  • DI focuses on teacher control of lesson pacing and content and does not encourage the engagement with student cultural resources, background knowledge and community context.
  • It deskills teachers by routinizing their work and downplaying their professional capacity to vary instructional pace and curriculum content depending on the student cohort and context.
  • It works through strict tracking of student progress and ability grouping, which research shows can severely disadvantage some students.
  • Finally, it places the teacher and child in a rigid relationship where the teacher is always the one with the power and knowledge with limited allowance or recognition of individual and cultural difference. This relationship is not conducive to local adaptation of lessons or content to accommodate community, cultural or individual differences, creativity and innovation in teaching and learning.

Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has been given tens of millions in government funding to implement Direct Instruction in Cape York communities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has not been successful despite all the funding, with only 25 per cent of the Aurukun youth of high school age attending school. Many are sent off to boarding school but leave at the first opportunity.

“The communities of Aurukun and Hope Vale report a significant number of disengaged youth of high school age who have returned to community but have not engaged in an education option. These youth participate in dysfunctional behaviour and feel disengaged from mainstream society and also from their own communities.”

When we combine this didactic approach with the demise of the Gonski reforms, the attack on TAFEs, huge cuts in funding for research and scientific bodies, and the proposed deregulation of university fees, Abbott’s mantra of “Jobs and Growth” is hard to take seriously.

And what sort of an example are they setting when this government ignores all science, all fact-based evidence, to remove a carbon price, put a ban on wind turbines, and advocate more coal-burning.

Instead of anticipating the skills needed for the future, Abbott would rather issue 457 visas than train Australians. Instead of investing in research by the CSIRO and universities, he would rather give money to big pharma. Instead of needs-based funding for education, he would rather fund elite private schools. Instead of funding TAFEs he would rather give accreditation to dubious private colleges.

With a Prime Minister who is a puppet for his donors, an environment minister who measures his success by how many coal mines he can fast track, and an education minister who prefers ‘chalk and talk’, the fate of our children is in the hands of Luddites.

I have a bad feeling . . .

Whilst we have all been distracted by Choppergate and passionately discussing Adam Goodes and marriage equality, I have a sinking feeling we have been sold out and not just by the TPP. The tea leaves are telling me that the crossbenchers may have sold out on higher education reform.

Today I saw David Leyonjhelm interviewed and he was purring about his success in destroying the wind industry. He said seven of the eight crossbench Senators had combined to achieve this and that they are realising the power they have when they agree.

When asked if there had been any progress on the budget measures that were still blocked in the Senate he immediately said yes, there had been some successful negotiation.

Apparently Greg Hunt was not happy about the wind farm embargo but Tony Abbott weighed in with his support because “he very much wanted their support” on another matter.

The alarm bells started ringing when I read in the Guardian:

“The Abbott government is spending $150,000 outsourcing its negotiations with crossbench senators and the university sector about the higher education package that has been blocked twice by the upper house.

The talks are being led by Robert Griew, a consultant who was until recently an associate secretary in the federal Department of Education and Training with responsibility for higher education policy.

Griew is now a principal of the Nous Group, a firm that has won a federal government contract to assess “stakeholder views” on higher education, including the Coalition’s push to deregulate university fees.

The department’s contract with Nous Group was worth $150,000 and would run from 13 July to 5 August, according to the AusTender website, which cited the “need for independent research or assessment”.

Griew has sought meetings with crossbench senators, telling them the education minister, Christopher Pyne, wanted to bring the legislation back to the parliament during the spring sittings.”

For starters, what the hell are we paying Christopher Pyne for? Is he so objectionable that he can’t be the person to do the negotiation? Is there no-one in his Department that is able to brief the Senators and negotiate with the university sector?

But even more disturbing was Leyonjhelm’s smile. Have they sold out our kids to pander to the woman who doesn’t want a wind farm next door? Surely not?

I have a bad feeling . . .

 

NAPLAN, Domestic Violence, Corruption And Good Old Uncle Otto!

Ideas are a bit like being caught it in a river; it’s easy to be swept along without stopping to actually think about whether or not you should swim to the side and have a think about where you’re being taken.

So yesterday, I found the commentary on NAPLAN rather strange, and I was concerned about where the current seemed to be heading.

To summarise, we’ve had NAPLAN for seven years now and (amazingly!) we haven’t seen significant improvement in the test scores.

There was also a story on the radio about a place where they’d trialled putting domestic violence offenders in remand when they breached an intervention order. This was showing some signs of being effective the spokesman said.

In other words, when you actually do something, it sometimes works.

Which sort of made me think of NAPLAN.

The whole idea that simply testing students every two years would have led to any improvement is as ridiculous as expecting that getting people ignoring intervention orders to do surveys would have led to a reduction in the number of breaches.

If NAPLAN had been combined with some teaching initiative, or at the end of the Gonski reforms then there might be something to question, if scores “hadn’t significantly improved”.

Of course, for some people, the expectation was that NAPLAN would mean that teachers tried harder. It’ll be interesting to see if this data is interpreted by politicians to mean that maybe teachers are trying as hard as they can, or whether we’ll have someone like Christopher Pyne* telling us that this simply means that there’s no need for extra funding because we now spend more on education than we did when Australia was first colonised and that literacy levels were better back then and that the only answer is to privatise it because the private sector does everything better.

Like corruption.

Well, I should be careful what I say here because there’s been allegations of a criminal nature about Australia Post sub-contractors and everyone should have the presumption of innocence. However, it’s more the light it’s shining on the wonderful shifting of much of the TAFE sector into private hands that interests me.

Apparently, unlike the public sector, the private sector exists to make a profit, and, as a result, some people put making money before giving students a quality education. Or, in some cases, any education.

Who’da thunk that, eh?

Certainly not the Liberals who seem to think that their mates in the private sector can run anything more efficiently than they can. So let’s sell off everything and then we’ll let people self-regulate, because – as Bronwyn Bishop shows – self-regulation takes away a lot of that needless red-tape that just adds to the cost. In the case, of the TAFE sector, the lack of efficient regulation means that private prividers can eliminate costly things like teachers and course delivery, making them infinitely more efficient than the those old, innefficient monolithic government organisations who were slowed done by the requirements that they actually try to teach people some skills.

And speaking of more efficient, I notice that WA politician, Peter Abetz (Eric’s brother) was quoted as saying that Great Uncle Otto, the Nazi, wasn’t all bad. Given the views of the Nazis on homosexuality and Eric’s recent pronouncements on same sex marriage, I was a little concerned as to what he considered were some of Otto’s accomplishments. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that all Peter mentioned was how his relative had ignored Hitler’s orders about razing Paris as the Germans were retreating and prefering to negotiate with the incoming Allied Forces for a civilised withdrawl. (Shame that doesn’t run in the family!)

What a man! Ignoring orders from your superiors as it becomes clear that they’re losing the war. Sort of reminds me of the Liberal backbench standing up to Tony over Bronwyn Bishop. That sort of thing shows great courage.

Medals all round, I say.

Nah, make it knighthoods. Not for Otto though. “I must not give foreigners knighthoods” was one of the conditions of him staying on as leader after his near death experience earlier this year.

* For those of you who watched “Mad Men”, does anyone else find that Peter Campbell reminds them of Christopher Pyne, or is it just me?

pyne campbell p

 

My Thoughts on the Week That Was

Saturday June 27

1 Do you ever wonder what happened to the debt crisis? That time when Abbott and Hockey used every negative description they could to describe Australia’s budgetary position as a disaster. Well in less than two years in office, the Abbott government has added almost $100bn to the level of Commonwealth government debt. This is a 35% increase from the $273bn level of gross government debt at the time of the September 2013 election. This increase flies in the face of the Coalition’s pledge prior to the election – and occasionally since – of reducing debt and at some stage, paying it off.

By the time the next election is held, most likely in the latter part of 2016, the Budget papers indicate the Abbott government will have increased government debt by around $150bn in its three years in power and three years of implementing its economic policy objectives.

2 Now I ask you, if the ABC is as biased as Abbott and his acolytes reckon why would they produce a series as damaging as The Killing Season?

3 President Obama had two significant victories in the Supreme Court this week. Firstly they overwhelmingly endorsed Obamacare as legal. The Republicans had tried to bring it down 50 times in the Congress. This will cement him as a great President. Secondly the Court gave its blessing to equality in marriage in all States further enhancing the President’s progressive political views.

It is now difficult to imagine how our Prime Minister could possibly prevent gay marriage becoming a reality here. He has been on the wrong side of history on so many things. Climate change is but another.

Sunday 28 June

A Sunday reflection:

The Australian flag, for me at least, has little relevance. It is simply another nation’s flag with a few stars surrounding it. It speaks of our past and not our future. But of late, I must confess to being pissed off to see it, or more precisely, many of them being used as background for a Prime Minister to spew unwarranted divisive inflammatory language about national security.

The security of a nation’s people is of course a government’s first priority. There can be no doubt about it. How you go about it is another thing. John Howard was accused, when using the term, “Be alert but not alarmed” of being just that, a alarmist. Tony Abbott on the other hand with his inflammatory language “DAESH IS COMING, IF IT CAN FOR EVERY PERSON AND FOR EVERY GOVERNMENT WITH A SIMPLE MESSAGE. SUBMIT OR DIE” makes no secret of the fact that for nothing more than political reasons he is about not only scaring you, but making you petrified. His aim is to have the entire population in a high state of anxiety.

Why? Well history shows that people are inclined to support an incumbent government in times of crisis. So everyday Tony Abbott creates crisis with National Security. He places it front and center. He makes it his top priority to imply that at any time something catastrophic is about to happen. Making people feel insecure is of the utmost importance to him. Everyday there is a reason for new laws to be passed, more money to be spent on security with explanations scant or nonexistent.

If it were all true a leader with character, judgement and discernment would, without conflicting National Security, take the people and their well-being seriously by creating a comprehensive calming statement of fact and intent that the people could digest with trust. This of course is beyond a leader like Abbott who thrives on gutter negativity.

An observation: “If the Coalition has, as it’s fond of telling us, natural economic qualities superior to anyone else in its DNA, why is it hiding behind the cloak of national security?”

What then are the facts?

When using the language of terrorism, in my mind is a 9/11 or a suicide bomber – a car bomb. Not a couple of confused kids with a sword and a knife.

So without playing down the importance of vigilance I am trying to bring some perspective to the government’s alarmist language when talking terrorism.

ABS stats on deaths by terrorist activity for the period 1978-2014 show that 113 Australians lost their lives. Yes, that’s right. In 36 years 113 people have died from terrorism.

By comparison this year around 730 will die from Domestic Violence and around 2500 will take their own lives.

You be the judge.

For me I just wish we had a leader whose voice was as loud for the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and suicide as it is for terrorism.

An observation:

“You cannot possibly believe in democracy if at the same time you think you’re party is the only one that should ever win”.

In view of the rise of far right Neo conservatism I am currently reviewing my position.

Monday 29 June

1 The LNP should rename themselves the Lost Negative Party.

2 A decent, reasoned leader governing in the public interest would concede that despite his own views the momentum for equal marriage requires immediate action. My fear is that even with a free vote there are enough LNP MPs so influenced by religion that they will ignore the public’s overwhelming desire for change.

3 Malcolm Turnbull said on Insiders yesterday that under its charter the ABC has a higher duty of objectivity than any other media outlet. He is right of course and this is evidenced by the Q&A furor. It’s just a pity that commercial outlets are not subjected to the same rules of objectivity. But that of course would be infringing on their right to free speech.

For a belly laugh read this.

Tuesday 30 June

1 The Morgan Poll shows that Federal LNP support is up 1% to 46.5% down 1% to ALP 53.5%. No doubt Labor had a bad week last week but Abbott is still on the nose. 62% of Labor support comes from the 18-24 group. LNP is favored by 57% aged over 65.

Labor also improved its position in the Essential Poll and now leads 53/47.

You work it out.

The National Security scare campaign hasn’t worked.

isis

2 Sad to see long-term head of the left-leaning think tank, the Australia Institute, Richard Dennis stepping down. Hope he continues to write.

3 Isn’t it ironic that while the LNP is facing a bitter internal dispute within its ranks about the science of climate change a new group has been formed to put pressure on them to come up with a reasonable emissions reduction target from 2020 onwards, warning against “piecemeal” policies and arguing that avoiding dangerous warming and reconfiguring the economy requires tougher and more urgent action from the Government?

Members of the group include the Australian Aluminium Council; Australian Industry Group; The Climate Institute; Australian Conservation Foundation; Business Council of Australia; WWF Australia; Australian Council of Social Service; Energy Supply Association of Australia; Australian Council of Trade Unions; and Investor Group on Climate Change.

When diverse groups such as these come together for a common cause it simply demonstrates just how far Tony Abbott is out of touch on, not only this, but many other issues.

An observation:

‘Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability’.

4 “This is not a question of a boycott” Malcolm Turnbull said referring to the fact that no one from the LNP is allowed to appear on Q&A. What is it then one might ask? An attack on free speech?

5 The children of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf are victims of the sins of the father and it amounts to child abuse. As such they should be afforded the same considerations available to other victims.

6 The proposed changes to the current successful management of Super Funds amounts to nothing more than Union bashing. Conservatives certainly know how to hate.

Another thought:

‘We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and self-interest groups’.

Wednesday July 1

1 Despite Bill Shorten’s horrendous week last week Tuesday’s Newspoll shows Labor is ahead of the Coalition 53% to 47%, nearly a direct reversal of the 46.5% to 53.5% result at the September 2013 federal election.

2 On Q&A the champion of free speech, Tim Wilson, the individual who goes to great lengths to protect the right of people like Jones, Bolt and other right media extremists to spread their hatred, denied it to someone he disagrees with. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has a very warped sense of what free speech is. As does Turnbull when it comes to the word independent.

3 Labor has left the door open for the caucus to reverse Kevin Rudd’s rule that makes it nearly impossible for the party’s elected leader to be toppled in a midnight coup. Its draft national constitution, published on its website, includes changes made to the way the leader is elected by an equally weighted ballot of caucus and party members. That’s more like it.

4 The Four Corner’s revelation that key Liberal fundraising body took Mafia money for access is of major concern. Shorten offers a bi-partisan approach to political donations but as yet Abbott hasn’t taken it up. Is it any wonder that politicians are so un-trusted?

5 Joe Hockey received $200,000 in a defamation case but the real problem is in the reason for the case in the first place. That is that for a fee of $22,000 you could be guaranteed attendance at lunches and other events with the treasurer. Reeks of . . .

6 Now out of the blue the PM has taken his unusual manner of talking into another zone.

“May God bless you, may God bless your work, may God bless the country you are helping to protect and prosper.”

Read about it here.

Thursday 2 July

1 I seems that documents obtained under FOI by The Australian Financial Review reveal that the Coalition Cabinet considered similar taxation on superannuation to that proposed by Labor but dropped it when Labor announced its policy.

So they dropped what they inevitably will have to do simply to avoid being embarrassed.

2 A question about National Security. Would you say our Prime Minister is seeking to calm our overblown fears or is playing them for all he’s worth?

3 The former well thought of Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson who was sacked by Abbott because he believed in the science of climate change,  has heavily criticised the Abbott government’s renewable energy target and Direct Action policies, saying they will be a far costlier way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than an emissions trading scheme. When the truth comes back to bite you. And the truth is that we are being governed by untruthful fools.

An observation:

“Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise”.

“Seriously, if our Conservative politicians go any further to the right they will be in danger of falling off”.

4 Has Labor Party morality sunk so low that it would support legislation that would see someone jailed for up to two years for reporting the abuse of asylum seekers? Have we really reached the point under Abbott that for revealing the truth, that someone is being ill-treated, even raped, you can be jailed? Shame shame. Without transparency democracy cannot exist let alone flourish.

Friday 3 July

1 The response to a Private Members Bill on equal marriage from the conservative side of politics is both predictable and illuminating. Reading between the lines of the Prime Minister’s statements it seems he is prepared to delay it for as long as he can.

And this from government whip Andrew Nikolic who heads the committee that decides on what legislation comes before the Parliament. MPs who expect a vote on same-sex marriage any time soon must have “rocks in their head”.

2 When the Abbott government’s Energy White Paper was released it made headlines for its curious reluctance to mention climate change – but the looming Defence White Paper may prove to be a different story.

A report on community consultations associated with the Defence White Paper flags the consequences of climate change, extreme weather events and environmental pressures as a significant security risk for Australia – second only to the risks posed by terrorism.

It’s all catching up with you Tony.

3 In case you didn’t know, the Attorney General and Arts Minister, George Brandis, will have the final say on all grants allocated through the newly established National Program for Excellence in the Arts, draft guidelines published on Wednesday suggest.

Doctors

4 Are Australians aware that yesterday was the start of the GP Tax by stealth? Yes that’s right yesterday saw a four year freeze on the Medicare rebate, meaning that doctors over time will be $8.43 worse off each visit so its expected they will pass it onto the patients.

Gay marriage 2

And this is the week that was.

Anthony Albanese summed it up rather nicely when talking about Tea Party conservatives and Eric Abetz’s piece on gay marriage in the SMH:

“They are stuck in the past and they want everyone to go back there and keep them company”.

One last thing:

The fragility of life and relationship is once again demonstrated with the murder of Adelaide football coach Phil Walsh. I hope the greatest game on earth stands tall in the circumstances.

 

My thoughts on the Week that Was

Saturday June 13

1 I am an artist with a Dip of Fine Arts. How anyone could say that Wind Farms are a blot on the landscape is beyond me. Thank God our PM didn’t pursue a career in industrial design.

The Prime Minister’s scathing comments on wind-farms and renewable energy put him out of step with the way the world is moving.

2 It would be remarkable, if true, that a Government so intent on destroying people smugglers, actually paid them to turn boats around so as to protect its own reputation of “stopping the boats”. Absolutely incredible but I suspect most Australians won’t give it much thought. Such is their apathy.

Sunday June 14

1 Hockey’s advice to first home buyers looking to get into the housing market may have been self-evidently correct but on top of his other gaffes and those of the Prime Minister’s one wonders how around 48% of the population would willingly still vote for them.

2 The polls next week will be revealing.

3 “Given her own story and connection, I had hoped to see a more courageous and compassionate response.”

These are the words of the brother of Nats Senator Bridget McKenzie, Alastair who is gay. It seems the Senator is committed to traditional marriage but not the conservative rights of individuals and the voice of equality.

4 Bill Shorten has agreed to appear at the Royal Commission into Unions. John Howard felt that Royal Commission witch hunts were a bad idea and usually came back to haunt you.

Given no evidence has come forward, at this time, of any wrong doing on his part I shall not comment further other than to say I hope the companies involved had a very good reason for not reporting to the police, any alleged bribe.

An observation: Saturday night 10 News leads with Shorten dragged into appearance before Union Royal Commission. At the end of the news service there is a short prom for the Bolt Report asking the question “Did Shorten break the law?” Talk about media manipulation. Conversely 7 opens with a story on Abbott’s refusal to come clean on payments to people smugglers.

5 From the “US Catholics” blog:

As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing. We see firsthand in our communities and in our parishes, the pain and suffering caused by homelessness and the lack of affordable housing”.

And we have a Catholic Prime Minister who supposedly follows his faith.

Pope

Monday 15 June

1 To think that an “Australian Government” who has so demonised both asylum seekers and the people who smuggle them, now openly pays them to turn boats around, is insulting the very people who elected them. This act of consorting with criminals to achieve a political purpose is reprehensible. If the Australian people condones its government doing deals with known criminals then they are as stupid as the government they elected. And flippantly avoiding the people’s right to know further insults every citizen’s intelligence.

2 Happened to catch the Bolt Report on Ten Sunday afternoon.

Bolt climate

Peter Costello is a panelist and I cannot help but make a comparison with the ABC’s Insider program on which the panelists were measured and factual. His program simple caters for conservative rednecks and displays no objectivity. In fact the panel seemed to approve the alleged payments to people smugglers.

Piers Ackerman the discredited duplicate of Bolt in Sydney appeared giving his OK to the behavior of Joe Hockey. Every guest reinforces conservative values with vigorous, loud enthusiasm. Not one difficult question from the host.

Christopher Pyne, the mouth that roared, astonishingly admitted that he doesn’t trust his colleagues in cabinet.

Chris pyne

“No fears no favors” he signs off with. Please explain.

3 Todays IPSOS Fairfax poll has Labor 53 with the LNP on 47. Bill Shorten has regained his lead as preferred PM.

Tuesday 16 June

1 The IPSOS poll has now fallen into line with all the other published polls to indicate the government has not achieved a budget bounce. (It must be said that governments only gets budget bounces on very rare occasions. However, this one was deliberately framed to do so. It confirms my previously stated view that the budget did nothing for the Government. Following them Morgan Poll has Labor at 54.5 and LNP 45.5

2 Last week both the Foreign Minister and the Immigration Minister said in public interviews that the Government didn’t pay criminals to turn boats around. In parliament they couldn’t answer the same question because of security reasons.

And the PM’s failure to answer the question for the same reason leaves the Australian public with no other option than to conclude that it is yet another lie. Or a lie about a lie. But then he told us he was a liar before we elected him so we shouldn’t be at all surprised. He may think he is on safe ground because he is pumping up his security measures but breaking the law to do so is beyond the public’s acceptance.

It raises the question, have they really stopped the boats, or have they just been paying to have them turned around?

Conversation pieces:

“We asked the Minister if he agreed with himself and he wasn’t able to answer” (Tony Burke).

“1942 John Curtin stood against the might of the Japanese empire. 2015 Tony Abbott wants to terrify you about a few loopy kids from Lakemba” (Mike Carlton).

“I wonder if in Tony Abbott’s war on ice he would be willing to bribe drug dealers” (Richard Dennis).

“Who would have thought that Tony Abbott would get to a point where he can’t say NO” (Tony Burke).

“Bit messy in Parliament House, and it’s not just because the cleaners are on strike” (Tony Burke).

8 “Paying off people smugglers would save money” (Philip Ruddock).

Tuesday 17 June

1 Is it really possible, as some commentators are suggesting, that the PM is deliberately using the boat bribery accusation as a diversion? If the results of the Lowy Institute poll are correct the public are shit scared of terrorism and why are the media not reporting on government negotiations with Senate independents regarding important budget legislation?

This PM, If he hasn’t already, is dragging this country’s international reputation through the mud.

Who is drawing attention to the ABC’s Four Corners program on coal or the Pope’s speaking out on the dangers of Climate Change? Both an embarrassment to the LNP.

2 When I finished writing this I watched an interview with Abbott in which he said for the millionth time “we have stopped the boats” and we have done so within the law. Now I ask myself: “It’s illegal to bribe people and given he has said they have acted within the law hasn’t he answered the question with a NO”. I believe he has implied that.

Maybe it is just a diversion but gee, can our politics get any lower?

3 Bronwyn Bishops performance on Q&A did nothing to enhance the dignity of the office of the Speaker. I think the audience said more than I can say in words

4 The final result for Newspoll-as-we-know-it is much better for the Coalition than IPSOS or Morgan, 51/49 to Labor. It’s the last Newspoll before it switches to Galaxy.

Wednesday 17 June

1 The shenanigans of the last couple of days is but an illustration of the depths our political system has slipped. Labor might be able to claim the slightly higher ground in that they may not have paid to have boats turned around whereas the Liberals very well may have.

The biggest loser, however, is the state of our democracy. Politics must be the only institution that never seeks to improve itself.

Democracy

Here is just one example: Bronwyn Bishop appears on Q&A and totality trashes the traditions of the position of Speaker by making political comments about issues that could appear before the Parliament. Speakers simply don’t go into the media to talk about the current political debate.

The state of our democracy is badly in need of repair.

2 This week’s Essential Poll comes in with Labor leading 52/48. The more interesting part of it was the status of institutions. On the question of who do you trust political parties came last at 12%.

Thursday 18 June

1 An observation:

“Why is it politicians are given the title ‘the honourable'”?

2 Addressing pension sustainability without addressing superannuation tax concessions is futile and will achieve very little. That is why Labor was saying “no”. They were trying to force Abbott into addressing the problem. The Greens have made a naive decision.

3 I have written much on the subject of the state of our democracy and I don’t think I have ever been in such despair about it. Whilst I am tempted to repost my previous post I will leave it to those wishing to read it to do so. Does Aussie Democracy Exist Anymore?

4 George Brandis is in a bit of trouble with all eight crossbenchers voting with Labor and the Greens to establish two Senate inquiries. Both will scrutinise the actions of the Attorney-General.

The legal and constitutional affairs references committee will now review the handling of the letter sent by Martin Place siege gunman Man Haron Monis to the Attorney-General and, separately, Senator Brandis’ decision to divert $105 million from the Australia Council to a new program that has been branded by Labor as his own “arts slush fund”, the National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

abbott liar

5 At the risk of repeating myself, when the PM says he has stopped the boats and has done so legally he is in effect saying that they have not paid people smugglers. How about a question beginning with “given that you have said you don’t pay people smugglers … ” Abbott interrupts “but but but”. Journalist: well you said you did everything legally.

6 LNP branches using the ABC’s The Killing Fields for fund-raisers is yet another example of the decline in respect and civility between political parties.

Friday 19 June

1 Tony Abbott has accused the ALP of “rolling out the red carpet” for terrorists to come back to Australia because it is questioning whether a decision to strip citizenship from foreign fighters should be made by a Minister without the involvement of the courts.

terror law trap

That of course is another lie. For a PM seeking bipartisanship on these matters to say such things is reprehensible. It’s just that they are opposed to legislation that was not informed by any documentation, cabinet submission or legal advice. Legislation that would enable an incapable Minister like Dutton to decide on the citizenship of anyone. In other words they want us to respect the law of the land.

They want to keep the Australian people safe, they say. I hope that includes victims of child abuse, domestic violence, those contemplating suicide etc etc. and I hope they put in equal resources.

2 Australian politics has degenerated into a daily dose of conservative negativity. Every day we are subjected to the drug of Tony Abbott’s morose personality of shock and awe politics. Thrust upon us is a constant stream of we “know what’s best for everyone” that disregards the common good with a determination to govern for those who have and ignore those who have not.

3 By the way. The Killing Fields rated abysmally.

4 Bill Shorten is again accused of another dodgy union deal but former chairman of toll road operator ConnectEast Tony Shepherd, who recently led the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit, at the time congratulated Thiess John Holland, the AWU and construction union on the industrial agreements reached.

“It’s a unique outcome for a massive and unique project and it will provide the contractor with the flexibility required to achieve completion on time and on budget” , Mr Shepherd said.

It’s important to point out that this is exactly what the Prime Minister wanted when he announced the Trade Union Royal Commission. While there may (may) be other, worthwhile things that spring from the Commission, I doubt anyone really doubts that Tony Abbott’s aim all along was to drag Labor figures onto the stand, and thus through the inevitable media storm that accompanies such events.

Midday thoughts:

1 Can we please also have a Coal Commissioner? I for one have many complaints to register. A wind farm commissioner represents a new low in Abbott’s relentless anti-renewables campaign”. Anyone who thinks he is remotely interested in Climate Change has rocks in their head.

2 The Pope has said nothing factually on the state of our planet that is not already known. The force of his argument however is in the moral position he puts to his millions of followers. But of course the moral argument is always confronted by the evils of capitalism, greed, power and privilege.

3 In yet another example of the PM telling blatant lies: Former national security law watchdog Bret Walker, SC, has launched a blistering attack on the government’s “absurd” handling of the citizenship debate’’ and demanded Prime Minister Tony Abbott apologise.

4 Bill Shorten today gets another drubbing from the MSM. This time about campaign funds. Of course they don’t mention Hockey’s dubious funding or Reinhart funding Joyce. Have any laws been broken? I’m waiting for some facts.

Having said that, wouldn’t it be nice to have some squeaky clean leaders?

Finally:

There have been four polls released this week. The IPSOS and Morgan polls both showed a substantial increase in the Labor vote share, but Newspoll and Essential have not supported this trend to Labor. Here is this week’s poll table. Note that Morgan leans to Labor by about one point, while IPSOS leans to the Coalition by a similar margin. The last Ipsos was the 50-50 tie following the budget, while the other polls are weekly or fortnightly.

Newspoll 51/49 for ALP, Essential 52/48 for ALP, Morgan 54.5/45.5 for ALP, IPSOS 53/47 for ALP.

And this is the week that was.

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

When Tony Abbott chose his Ministers one can only wonder at his motivation.

The Minister for Immigration morphed into Border Security, tasked with stopping those who would seek safe haven in our country.

The Minister for Communications was appointed to destroy the NBN.

The Minister for Health, an ex-policeman, after no consultation with the health industry or treasury, set about dismantling universal health care.  He also ripped up the National Hospitals Agreement with no consultation with the States.

The Minister for Social Services rescinded gambling reform laws and labelled anyone who used the services of his department as bludgers and leaners.

The Minister for the Environment went on a rampage getting rid of carbon pricing, winding back safeguards and rights of appeal, delisting and endangering world heritage sites, while approving mining, development, and deforestation at an obscene rate.

The Minister for Industry put the final nail in the coffin for car manufacturing and has overseen the death of the renewable energy industry.

The Minister for Trade and Investment signed FTAs which have cost the budget billions in tariff revenue, allowed foreign companies to bring in their own workers, and put our sovereignty over health and environmental laws at risk.

The Treasurer and Finance Minister have destroyed business and consumer confidence by their constant refrain of a “debt and deficit disaster” which they have greatly added to by producing a budget that was so blatantly unfair and poorly researched and targeted that it had no chance of being passed.

But perhaps the cruellest appointment of all was putting Christopher Pyne in charge of education.

On pages 40 and 41 of the Real Solutions pamphlet the Coalition made the following promises:

  • We will continue current levels of funding for schools, indexed to deal with real increases in costs and we will ensure that money is targeted based on the social and economic status of the community.

That unity ticket only lasted as long as it took to finalise the election results after which we were subjected to the greatest load of doublespeak resulting in the Coalition cutting funding for years 5 and 6 of the Gonski reforms, reneging on the signed deals with the states, and abandoning their co-funding and accountability obligations.

  • We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.

Obviously this was a non-core promise.

  • We will review and restructure government research funding to make sure each dollar is spent as effectively as possible.

Apparently, the most effective way research dollars can be spent is in stopping spending them so Hockey’s bottom line looks healthier.

As reported in the Canberra Times,

“Universities are pleading with the Abbott government to abandon its threat to axe funding for major programs supporting 30,000 researchers if the Senate refuses to support the deregulation of university fees.

Peak body Universities Australia warns in its budget submission that researchers on the verge of major breakthroughs in health, climate science and manufacturing will move overseas if funding for the Future Fellowships scheme and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) expires.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeatedly said that continued funding for both programs – which have been described as the “backbone of research in Australia” – is contingent on the government’s higher education reforms passing the Senate.

“If Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers block the reform package in the Senate, there will be no source of ongoing funding for these two vital research investments, meaning job losses and irreparable damage to our high-quality research capacity.”

What sort of a myopic dilettante is this man?  In an arrogant display of petulance he threatens that if he doesn’t get his way he will refuse to use our money to invest in the innovation and research that will contribute to our future.

“NCRIS has led to major breakthroughs on vaccinations, 3D imaging, drugs to treat heart failure and the production of a new type of steel that produces 70 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than regular steel.

The facilities it supports include the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), based at the University of Tasmania, which conducts long-term ocean monitoring, including of temperature rises linked to climate change.

The Future Fellowships scheme supports 150 leading mid-career researchers, allowing them to continue their work in Australia.

“Without further investment by government in this scheme, many researchers, often midway through their projects and on the cusp of important breakthroughs, will move overseas where other governments are seeking to attract the world’s best,” Universities Australia says in its submission.

Universities are lobbying for $200 million a year in funding.  Let’s put that in perspective.

How can we find $244 million for religious school chaplains but we can’t afford university funding?

Exploration by coal and energy companies is subsidised by Australian taxpayers by as much as $4 billion every year in the form of direct spending and tax breaks – 20 times what the universities are asking for.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Defence Budget Brief 2014-15, the cost of defence is over $80 million per day.  Three days defence spending would fund university research for over a year.

The amount being spent on submarines and fighter jets represents about 200 years’ worth of research funding and is going to foreign economies.  The two jets we have already paid for and not received would more than cover one year’s research at a cost of just under $US130 million each.  We have 70 more on order and have been warned the costs will rise.

Which do you think will bring the greatest return on money invested, or the greatest productivity gains, or the greatest protection against disease and the ravages of climate change, or the greatest advancement for humanity?

While cutting the contribution to universities, the government’s intention to extend financial assistance to people studying diplomas or undertaking degrees at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends will cost $820 million.

According to a report by the Productivity Commission early last year, the government spends $3.8 million per private school on average – $8,546 per private school student.

Government schools teach the great majority of poor, disabled (76.6%) and Indigenous (84.7%) students, as well as those who do not speak English as a first language. However, in spite of the additional costs and burdens associated with teaching disadvantaged students, government spending per public school student increased by about 2.4 per cent a year between 2007/08 and 2011/12.  In the same five-year period, government spending per private school student increased by about 3.4 per cent a year.

Interestingly, a University of Queensland study of NAPLAN results recently debunked conventional wisdom that having a child in a private school leads to better academic results. Furthermore, there is a disadvantage in sending a child to a private school if they go on to university, as more drop out in their first year.

Tutoring towards exam results does not serve a student well if they have not been encouraged to love learning and given the skills and resources to research.  Creativity and innovation should be nurtured rather than stifled by directed learning.

The government are continually asking, with a sneer, well tell us what you would do.

Why don’t we give that $820 million offered to private colleges to the universities instead.

Why don’t we stop funding private schools and introduce a Private School Rebate similar to the Private Health Insurance Rebate.  Allow people to claim up to a maximum of, say, $7000 per child at a private school as a tax deduction (adjust that depending what year they are in).

Fee statements would have to be produced and the size of the deduction would be on a means tested sliding scale which cuts out when combined income exceeds $180,000.

Considering our government champions personal choice and responsibility, price signals and market forces, lower taxes and user pays, this should appeal to them.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Good Government Starts Today … Or Tomorrow, But We’re Definitely Committed To It!

imageThere’s an old cartoon where the couple in a car are speeding down the highway while there’s hundreds of cars stuck in traffic in a lane beside it. The wife says, “Look at the sign – we’re going the wrong way!” To which the husband replies, “Who cares, we’re making great time.”

Every few days someone in the current Abbott Government makes me remember that cartoon.

Of course, unlike the man in the cartoon, most members of the goverment seem completely unable to acknowledge that they are going the wrong way, even though that’s what the sign clear says.

“We’ve made great progress on the Budget!”

But the deficit is growing and it’s not predicted to get back to surplus any faster than Labor planned.

“But you’d be a fool to trust what Labor said. They promised to get it back to surplus a couple of years ago and they still haven’t done it!”

But you’re the government now; you’re the ones promising to have it back in surplus, then changing the date. 

“Yes, but I’m not a quitter. I’m determined to see this through, as is the PM. He’s a nice bloke, you know. A terrific guy. Family man. Athlete. He pedals really fast. Firefighter. And he’s a fighter. He’ll get back up. Really, I can’t think of someone with more attractive daughters. No, he’s certainly the best person to lead the country. ”

 

Of course, Hockey did acknowledge that having the highest unemployment since John Howard was PM wasn’t great, but attempted to argue that it could be worse. Basically, his point was that if there hadn’t been so many jobs created last year then unemployment would have been over seven per cent, so we were really, really lucky that we’d rid ourselves of that Labor Government who wouldn’t have grown the economy.

He went on to argue that the best possible way to improve the  unemployment figures was to get the economy growing faster. Which, to me, is a bit like a mechanic saying that the best possilbe thing for your car is to get it moving again, because once it’s moving then you won’t have this problem with it stalling. And if it keeps stalling, well, that’s because it’s not moving. At this point, don’t be tempted to ask the mechanic how you’re supposed to get it moving again, because he’ll just tap his nose and tell you that he has a plan, and, though it may not be popular, the best thing you could do is to pay his bill.

In fact, that’s more or less what Hockey said:

“I’m trying to get it to shift and things that have been unpopular but necessary have helped.”

 

I’m still trying to work out how sacking large numbers of public servants is meant to stimulate the economy and lead to an increase in employment numbers in the short term, even if one accepts the rather dubious argument that it’ll help get the Budget back in surplus and once the Budget is back in surplus, all will be well. (And once the car starts moving, it’ll no longer be stalled. $739, please, for parts and labour!!)

But, of course, the week truly belongs to Tony Abbott. Now I’m not going to mention the war – in particular, I’ll say nothing about the holocaust; neither will I make cheap shots about him not being able to stop Japanese subs from coming to Australia. (Actually they’ve announced that it’s no longer the case that Adelaide can’t build them, and that the they’ll be allowed to put in a thing that nobody seems to know what to call, before the contract is given to the Japanese under the free trade deal that’ll lead to jobs, jobs, jobs in whatever part of the world we’re trading with, and now that we have a free trade deal, well, what benefits them, benefits us, because we’re all just one happy free trading partnership where we’ve managed to break down the borders. Actually, change that to barriers. We want STRONGER borders, but no barriers to the movement of money, trade and anything else you care to name, if your donation is big enough.)

So after we’ve had the barnacle clearing, the learning, back to work Tuesday, more learning, and good government starts today day, we were treated to the government’s attempt to bury a report by waiting six months then releasing it late in the day, only to have Tony attack the Human Rights Commission for all he’s worth (no, actually, probably a bit more than that!) A report that was apparently partisan against his government, yet  Mr Abbott suggested only minutes later that he was doing the Labor Party a favour by not following its recommendations, because if he implemented a Royal Commission “… it would condemn them (the former Labor government).” Strange that a report that was so ‘blatantly partisan’ report should also condemn the Labor Government, but, never mind, Abbott’s attack on Gillian Trigg’s managed to create enough attention that the report didn’t go the way of so many reports: We’ve got it, thanks, we’ll read it and get back to you, unless it’s the Gonski Report which Christopher Pyne refused to read because there were no pictures.

But just to cap off the week, we had the sacking of Phil “Smiley” Ruddock. Undertaker Ruddock, the Father of the House (do we know who the mother is?), the third longest serving member ever, Uncle Phil, the Liberal Party Whip was sacked. Make no mistake, Abbott wasn’t going to give him the dignity of resigning to promote generational change, or because he wanted to spend more time nursing a family member’s ingrown toenail, the PM made it clear that the decision was his. (I don’t think that he added and his alone, because that may have necessitated another announcement about how he intended to be more consultative in future, and people tend to grow a little cynical when you announce the same intention to change on a weekly basis, instead of the monthly basis that we’ve grown used to.)

Yep, I’ve heard people argue that the term, “forward progress” is a tautology, because you can’t have “backward progress”. That, of course, was before the Abbott Government.

Cheers,

Rossleigh

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