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Business As Usual From The Team That Brought You Team Australia!

“American conservatism used to have room for fairly sophisticated views about the role of government. Its economic patron saint used to be Milton Friedman, who advocated aggressive money-printing, if necessary, to avoid depressions. It used to include environmentalists who took pollution seriously but advocated market-based solutions like cap-and-trade or emissions taxes rather than rigid rules.

“But today’s conservative leaders were raised on Ayn Rand’s novels and Ronald Reagan’s speeches (as opposed to his actual governance, which was a lot more flexible than the legend). They insist that the rights of private property are absolute, and that government is always the problem, never the solution.”

Paul Krugman, “High Plains Moocher” article NY Times

There are three areas where a lack of qualifications or expertise seems to have no effect people’s capacity to comment: Education, Climate Change and Economics.

Now I’ve spent many years as a teacher. I know what’s involved and I’ve seen what’s happening on the ground. Teachers don’t always get it right. There are many practices which will, with the passing of time, be looked at in the same way we look at banning people from writing with their left hand, sacrificing animals to appease the gods or electing Christopher Pyne to Parliament. The most effective way to organise schools to maximise student learning is something that people have spent many millions of hours researching and thinking about, and it’s a process of continuous improvement. Of course, not all theories will stand the test of time and some of it will be trial and error, which is why schools are fairly slow to change, and, in spite of popular perception, many things haven’t changed in decades.

However, this doesn’t stop someone from expressing their views on education to me with all the confidence of the average football fan when talking about the moves the coach should have made.

“You know what’s wrong with education,” they’ll begin.

“I can probably name you four or five things without thinking,” I say, but they have no interest in what I think.

“Kids can’t read or write because they get away with far too much, when I was at school, if any kid had spoken back to a teacher, they’d have been taken behind the shed and beaten to a pulp.”

“Yes, but I don’t think…”

“And then everyone could read and write and add up without a calculator and there was none of this foundation maths, but these days none of these kids can write an essay. That’s because you don’t make ’em write essays any more!”

“Actually, most of my classes write at least one essay every…”

“But the trouble is that you can’t get teachers to listen. If we only taught kids to sound out words, we’d be a lot better off.”

“Phonics isn’t spelt with an ‘F’, you know.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Most spelling mistakes I come across is because kids are spelling things phonetically. And I’m still yet to find a primary teacher who says that it isn’t necessary to teach phonics as one of the strategies…”

“I saw this thing on ‘A Current Affair’ where they…”

“Excuse me, I just have to take this call. My phone is vibrating even though you can’t hear it…”

So when I talk about economics, I’m always concerned that I’ll say something that someone with greater expertise in the area will know to be a monumental blunder. But I can rest easy knowing it won’t be anybody in the current Federal Government, nor any of their supporters. Now, I have studied enough Economics to know that there are things I don’t know, so I’m not a victim of the Dunning Kruger effect, unlike many of the people who feel compelled to tell us that Australia has “no money” because Rudd and Gillard spent it all, and that if I quote anybody who explains why this is simplistic, it’s because the person I’m quoting is “bloody idiot lefty”, even if I’m quoting Milton Friedman.

But that’s also part of the real trouble about discussing economics. The people we read in the media, are just a small subset of economists and it often appears that there’s a general consensus about things that are in dispute, and that there’s a difference of opinion about things where there’s widespread agreement.

Generally, it’s agreed that while there’s a structural problem with the Budget, this needs to be fixed over the longer term, because severe austerity measures at the moment could risk plunging Australia into recession, which would, of course, lead to a reduction in revenue because of less company and personal income tax being paid, exascerbating the government’s problem of too little revenue.

So how do the Liberals propose to “fix” the Budget. Well, if you listen to their rhetoric, it’s really quite simple. At first, we were asked to believe that once they returned to government it would be “business as usual”. The Labor Government was an aberration, as was the GFC, and with the return of the adults, all would be well. Then, well, we needed to give them a few months to “fix Labor’s mess”. Well, not a few months, a couple of years. Oh, let’s say ten years, that’s a nice round number. That’s all they need to get things back to “normal”.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out as simply as printing a “Real Solutions” pamphlet, where all you need do is say “We have a plan” or “We believe in Australia and we believe ‘there is no limit to what Australia can achieve’#” Unfortunately, for our “no surprises, no excuses” Liberals, Iron ore prices have dropped to levels not seen since well, 2010, but hey, Labor was in charge then and surely that had something to do with such “low” prices. After all, the Liberals didn’t ask much, they just factored in the iron ore price to continuing to rise, when it was already at historic highs. And while Whitney Houston may have thought that “children are our future”, the PM sees coal as more important, so we can rest easy knowing that this buried treasure will provide Australia’s needs for the twenty first century.

But now Hockey’s mantra seems to be that when things get “back to normal”, we’ll have full employment, growth will be strong again, interest rates will rise, but that’s a good thing because we’re not under a Labor government, and the Budget will be back in the black. And how is this going to happen? Well, by making the economy strong! And what’s the plan for doing that? Returning the Budget to surplus! And how’s that going to happen? By making the economy strong

I can see we may be here for a long time. So instead I’ll finish with a joke.

Have you heard the one about the government who pride themselves on strong borders who have taken the “skilled” out of the skilled migrant visa?

Well, I’ll let the Sydney Morning Herald tell you that one. Why should Joe Hockey have all the laughs?

#Anyone know why “there is no limit to what Australia can achieve” is in quotation marks on the Liberals’ Real Solutions document? No, I don’t either, I was hoping someone could enlighten me.

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17 comments

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  1. Margaret McMillan

    Could we be forgiven for thinking that this government actually wants to trash our economy and our lives? Do they have some way of benefitting from an Australia in recession that I can’t see? Because it seems an exercise in insanity to keep going the way they are going.

    Not selling their budget reforms well enough? That is way off the mark. We can see where those reforms are going and we understand all too well.

  2. rossleighbrisbane

    Perhaps this quote from Abbot’s “Battlelines” is instructive:

    “The real question is how much damage will be done in the process of trying to avoid the recession that is almost inevitable. My instinct is that Australians who were dismayed by the seeming harshness of the original Work Choices legislation could be much less sentimental about ‘hard-won conditions’ when businesses are struggling to survive and jobs are disappearing”

  3. Sir ScotchMistery

    Just noting one point about this “all-knowing” government and the 3 in 1 before it, plus the one before that, that is the iron ore price.

    As you wrote Rossleigh, the price sky-rocketed under Howard, considered the most profligate government in our history, but since then has declined. http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=iron-ore&months=300

    Rinehart, recent admission to the “MSM”, may have been advised to employ at least one economist with a bit of skill in the area of metals and minerals pricing, who then may have been able to suggest saving a bit, so she would not find herself in the current position of needing to get onto the board of Fairfax, to ensure we hear her “valuable” prognostications on the future of an Australia without her in it.

    Her decision to employ heavy hitting lawyers against her children, enabling her to increase her personal wealth at their expense, merely inflates the widely held view of her greed, when it’s reasonably clear with a fortune of around $17.5Bn, that there was no need for her to raid the piggy bank set up for her kids, after their grandfather, Lang, had seen how she worked, and in an effort to save them, set up a separate fund for them.

    A fall from 36 to 46 on the Forbes list http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/gina-rinehart-worth-more-but-falls-down-on-forbes-rich-list/story-e6frg9df-1226844984175 has obviously gotten up her prodigious nose, forcing her to raid the trust fund to the tune of $4Bn AUD. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-02/rinehart-feud/4994280

    Unfortunately, this has resulted in her being held up, quite rightly IMHO, by the Australian public, except for Liberals of course, as a greedy bitch.

    Not all economists think the same way of course, but it appears the ones who take this position get no assistance from the MSM in getting their views out there, thus leaving most Australians, without the purview of economists, simply left out of the discussion.

  4. stephentardrew

    Just finished kicking some chairs; banging my head against the wall; throwing shit out the window; tearing at my hair; moaning and groaning; rolling on the floor in paroxysms of frustration and despair.

    And guess what?

    It didn’t do one iota of good.

    Given up on voodoo dolls; block my ears when the toadies come on TV; turn the radio to another station when I hear them; don’t read their rotten rags; hide under the bed but they are like a goddamn virus eating at the heart of decency.

    There must be some type of repellent on the market how else do you get rid of them?

    Vote for the other mob?

    Damn the cycle just started all over again.

  5. lawrencewinder

    Hmmmm…..”…when businesses are struggling to survive and jobs are disappearing”.. sending car manufacturing and ship-building out the door is a perfectly reasonable way to stimulate the economy.
    Does any anyone really know who these economic jihadists are really governing for?

  6. stephentardrew

    Lawrwncwinder:

    Oh hell you just set me off again.

  7. Graham Houghton

    From Sir Pository, The Musical (language warning)

    Hockey’s Lament – To the tune of ‘There’s a Hole in my Bucket’

    The Armenian: There’s a hole in my budget, dear Tony, dear Tony,
    There’s a hole in my budget, dear leader.
    A hole.

    The Lizard Pom: Get your sheila to darn it, you doormat, Joe Hockey,
    Get Melissa to fix it, you moron,
    Fix it.

    The Armenian: That’s budget, not budgies, you throwback, you sleazeball.
    So how do I fix it,
    You big pile of shit?

    The Lizard Pom: I don’t have a clue, you smug git, you fat git.
    I don’t have a clue, you halfwit.
    Clueless.

    The Armenian: So how would you do it,
    Friend Brownshirted Morriscum?
    O tell me your answer
    My good Christian friend.

    Morriscum: With the poor and the homeless
    You deranged lump of excrement;
    The disabled and elderley.
    Now Hockey, f*ck off.

    The Armenian: Then how would you fix it,
    Herr Brandis, Herr Brandis?
    Und Concentrate, mein freund
    Fur arbeit macht frei.

    The Bald One: With hatred and bigotry, du arschloch, du schwachkopf,
    With ignorance and prejudice,
    Dear Hockey, just lie.

    The Armenian: So, how would you do it, Miss Spyneless, Miss Hypocrite?
    How would you scream it in your closet of lies?

    The Screamer: I’m already grooming you all for the afterlife,
    You know I’m the antiChrist, my students
    are yours.
    Go bankrupt them, Joe F*cky, Joe F*cky,
    And finish them off
    For generations to come.

    The Armenian: Oh hug me, Matthias, Matthias, Matthias,
    Oh hold me, Matthias,
    These dickheads are stuffed.

    The van Wannabe: Just toughen the f*ck up, you gurly-man, gurly-man,
    Just toughen the f*ck up,
    And suck your cigar.

    The Armenian: Please tell me, Sir Malcolm, Sir Malcolm, Sir Malcolm.
    Please tell me the answer
    to this clusterf*ck year.

    The Bluestocking: With the budget, you dullard, you bonehead, you arsehole,
    With the budget, you f*ckwit,
    And a DD right now.

    The Armenian: But there’s a hole in the budget you NBN car crash;
    There’s a hole in my budget
    As big as my arse.

  8. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    It is great to read a comment from someone who knows what they are talking about.

  9. Lee

    “There are three areas where a lack of qualifications or expertise seems to have no effect people’s capacity to comment: Education, Climate Change and Economics.”

    Four – medicine.

  10. rikda

    I have come to the conclusion that you have to be “Right” or “Left” to gain acceptance to the higher echelon of “Whose bloody fault it is” No middle of the road stuff.
    If you really want to put some decent spin on the Team Australia strategy, it would have to be, they are bloody brilliant at doing John Clark & Brian Dawe. (in small doses mind)

  11. Florence nee Fedup

    Funny, when it comes to education, all we hear is phonics and kids not reading. Yes, for a short time, back when my kids where going through the system, a move away from phonics. Did not last long. I noticed that what survived was a mixture of both ways of teaching reading.

    I have seen my kids, their kids, and now my great grand kids going through the system. Todays kids are years ahead of those who went before them. By the end of kindy, kids are reading. More than mother father baby etc. in my day.

    What has disappeared is rote learning. In its place is a system that sees to teach kids meaning of what they are about.

    What the like of Pyne and his ilk are preaching, I have not found in todays schools. All public and in many different areas by the way.

    They really need to get out among their schools. need to listen. I am of the opinion, when it comes to health and education, they have no idea of how the system works. What’s more, they are not interesting in finding out. All about small government and low taxes.

  12. Kerri

    Don’t you think, Rossleigh, that we are all experts on the economy because those who are in charge of it are so bereft of knowledge and so full of hubris?

    Regarding Education, as I too spent years as a teacher, I had taught both my daughters to sound out words and letters and both were able to read simple sentences in their last year of kinder.
    . My 2 daughters entered Primary school when the trend was to agree with whatever the kid “read”.
    Eg: picture in book depicts a dog with a ball. Words say the dog has a ball. So if the child “reads” ” The puppy loves his ball.” parents were instructed to say “yes correct” I refused to follow.
    And the meaning in this lesson?
    Kids will learn better regardless of phonics, letterland, playschool etc etc etc
    if they have the undivided attention of an adult!
    Ie: smaller class sizes.
    Which is bound to be on Chrissy’s hit list once he prevents the peasants from attending University.

  13. guest

    Education, Climate Change and Economics.

    I am reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. She discusses these matters in all kinds of ways.

    One way involves reading as part of education. She tells of reading with her child a book about moose, which he likes. It suddenly occurs to her that he might never see a real moose. Alarmism? She quotes Scientific American, May 2012, which reveals the moose population in trouble in Alberta due to Climate Change. Confirmed in The NY Times 18 months later, that one moose population of 4000 in the 1990s in Minnesota had been reduced to 100. (p. 27)

    So it is not just a matter of how to read, but what we read. Clearly the “debate” in Oz has been stymied by lack of debate, lack of open, informed discussion and too much unsubstantiated opinion. The Murdoch press, while claiming to adhere to AGW, very, very rarely publishes any supporting opinion; instead it publishes contrary opinion.

    We come to Climate Change and Economics, which is discussed on one side in terms of Science and on the other in terms of Economics.

    “Even Climate Change at home looks suspiciously like socialism [to those who speak in terms of Economics]…More fundamentally than any of this, though, is their fear that if the free market system really has set in motion physical and chemical processes that, if allowed to continue unchecked, threaten large parts of humanity at an existential level, then their entire crusade to morally redeem capitalism has been for naught…as soon as they admit that Climate Change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time – whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.” (p. 40)

    That whole business-as-usual, free trade and FTAs, bleeding the less privileged in order to support the privileged, growth at any cost, drip down economics, retreat into small government, AGW denial…is clearly apparent in the present Government.

  14. Florence nee Fedup

    Chrissy has said on more than one occasion., lowering class sizes is waste of money. No explanation why private school put so effort into smaller classes. Chrissy believes all is fault of teachers. That rote learning and phonics is the way to go.

    He also decries that background or home life of child has any bearing on their ability to learn.

    Otherwise, on size fits all. Education and ability to learn is black and white in his world.

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