Capitalism is doomed to collapse unless it learns…

In preparation for the election, the Coalition have reverted to their safe…

Australia, we need to have an urgent chat…

We live in a time where often it’s only a handful of…

Day to Day Politics: Pardon my cynicism

Friday 27 2018The Government would have us believe the economy is in such…

Day to Day Politics: Who will win the…

Thursday 26 April 2018It’s only as we come closer to a pending…

The capitalism beast beneath the bed

One of my daughter’s favourite bedtime stories is The Beast Beneath the…

Plunder Down Under: The Rot in Australia’s Financial…

It has all the elements of a crudely crafted if effective tale:…

Small government, like communism, might sound like a…

Deregulation, self-regulation, red tape, green tape, nanny state, small government, privatisation, asset…

Day to Day Politics

Wednesday 25 April 2018ANZAC REFLECTIONDeath abides Love hides Goodness vanishes Suffering manifests Truth a causality Faith is…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Education

Abbott Supporters Still Pyning Away!

Well, thank god those days of dysfunctional government are over and the adults are back in charge. No, really, they’ve told us many, many times that they’re the awesomest government and they’re really good and besides Bill smells and has no friends and nobody likes him and we’re going to call him names until he cries because that’s the way adults do things…

Anyway, I must say that the events of the past few days remind me yet again of why people are rather cynical of politicians. For those of you who haven’t followed the events surrounding Christopher “The Fixer” Pyne, it goes something like this.

  1. Pyne was speaking to a group of like-minded Liberals. An amazing thing in itself. He not only mentioned that he and George had always voted for Malcolm the Magnificent, but that changes to the marriage laws may not be all that far away.
  2. Even though this was not a public forum somebody leaked it to Andrew Bolt.
  3. Tony Abbott immediately suggested that Pyne’s “confession that he has made to his close colleagues in the Left faction” demonstrated that he’d been disloyal while a member of his leadership team because, well, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote for someone else when you’re a member of Cabinet apparently. (Let’s leave aside the rather strange idea that there is a “left faction” in the Liberals. Ok, there may be some that are less right, but it’s a bit like talking about the intelligent faction of One Nation.)
  4. There are lots of anonymous sources suggesting that Pyne must be replaced because his comments suggested that he wanted to change government policy and that he should support government policy at all times.
  5. Turnbull and Pyne both come out and say that there’ll be no change to government policy, which is nicely ambiguous because the suggestion from some was that a couple of Liberals were going to introduce a private member’s bill and attempt to get legislation through with a few committed souls crossing the floor. That, of course, wouldn’t require a change to government policy.
  6. There is still anger towards Christopher Pyne for suggesting that he supported something that isn’t government policy.
  7. Tony Abbott puts aside his anger to publicly release a manifesto of exactly what the government should do, which is somehow different from Pyne’s sin of saying it behind closed doors, because nobody has a problem with this at all, even though, at face value, suggesting that the government policy needs to change doesn’t seem to be supporting current government policy.

That about catches you up. So now we can carefully examine Tony’s manifesto without being all caught up on whether Malcolm will sack Christopher or whether a whole bunch of Liberals will join Cory Bernardi’s party and bring down the government.

I did notice that the headline on one of the articles about Tony’s plan implied that it was a plan to help the Liberals get re-elected. Now, if he simply wants to help the Liberals get re-elected, I have a very simple one for him. It’s what they told the sheep farmer: “Just shut the flock up!”

However, I’m sure that Mr Abbott would argue that his ideas are not simply about being returned at the next ballot (whether that’s the ballot for Liberal leader or the next federal one), but that they’re real solutions that will take Australia back to its glory days when men were men, the Queen was beloved by all and we all rode on the sheep’s back… in a purely economic sense, of course, because nobody – not even Cory Bernardi – would have even thought to suggest that we were on a slippery slope toward bestiality.

Mr Abbott, as he usually does, covered a range of ideas. Yep, that is a euphemism for saying that the poor man is unable to stay on any given topic for more than a couple of minutes without exhausting his knowledge. Young Tony asserted the need to cut immigration before following up with complaints about political parties surrendering to populism. Now, I guess some will think that this is a bit hypocritical, but let me remind you that it’s only when somebody else does something that a lot of people agree with that it’s populism, when one does it oneself, it’s bowing to the will of the people in line with democratic principles. Along with Mr Abbott’s misgivings about populism and the whole political spectrum moving to the left, he was also concerned about school funding and energy targets. School funding, he speculated, had moved in the wrong direction, although he wasn’t clear about what he meant by that, although he has made it clear in the past that he thinks that private schools should be getting a lot more than they are. And the Senate shouldn’t be have so much power to block the government and he proposed measures that would enable a joint sitting without the need for a double dissolution. Nobody asked him why he tried to block so much government legislation when he was in Opposition, if he felt that the Senate was an unnecessary obstacle. Similarly, nobody suggested that this might be a problem when those silly Labor people get back in. Perhaps, Tony has a plan to ensure that only conservatives can be elected in future; perhaps he’s quite happy to allow Labor to introduce all those things that the Senate has rejected in the past. Whatever, it surely couldn’t be because a man who was once our PM wouldn’t have thought his idea through.

And then, there were his ideas on energy. Listening to Finkel – whom the current government commissioned to work out the best solutions, or at least some solutions, because we’ve already rejected some even if they are the best – would be a terrible mistake. No, it’s better just to make up your own mind because that way you don’t get confused by a lot of nasty facts. No, we should freeze the renewable target at 15% and stop any new wind farms because we may have an energy shortfall and building more wind farms would help reduce this shortfall, but not by using coal and so, therefore, it doesn’t fit the criteria of good energy policy. Let’s be quite clear here, renewables are being subsidised and we don’t like that. We think that the market should decide and if the market doesn’t want to build any new coal-fired power stations then the government should go it alone and build one itself. There now, that’s perfectly consistent, isn’t it?

A spokesman for Mr Turnbull said that he had no plans to change government policy. When asked if he had any plans at all, the spokesman said that he’d check with the PM but he was almost certain that he had been talking about his intention to develop a plan at the first available opportunity.

Stranded RTO Students under Stress

Students are stranded as the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) fail rate leaves us in a stressful limbo.

Add Australian Careers Institute to the list, otherwise known as Sage Institute (of Fitness, Childcare, Massage and Aged Care, among others). I am (or is that technically “was”) a student of Sage Institute of Fitness.

As a student I am not about to enter the political blame game of which party did what, when or why. Mr Birmingham, right now the buck stops with you because you are in charge. Australia cannot leave students high and dry.

In correspondence received today, students are advised the following (emphasis added):

Students may still be liable to pay for the portion of the course that has been delivered. The Administrators will be in contact with those effected in separate correspondence.

Furthermore:

We will endeavour to provide Statements of Attainment and Certificates during the administration period so long as resources are available.

The following holds out some hope.

The Group is a member of ACPET’s Tuition Assurance scheme. This is a scheme that provides support to students of closed colleges as per government guidelines. ACPET will shortly (in the next 3 to 4 business days) be contacting all affected students to outline their options moving forward. This includes:

Placing them with another training provider of the student’s choice;

Arranging re-credits of VET FEE HELP loans; and / or

Coordinating refunds of amounts paid to the Group.

I have spoken to ACPET, as have other students equally concerned about their future. At this stage ACPET are unable to provide specific advice. I have also contacted my local MP.

Many of us are almost complete. We have finished all class contact hours and are finalising our last assignment, an assessment done as part of the required 120 hours of practical placement. From the above correspondence we really do not know what will happen to us. In my case, I only need that last assignment marked and half of another I had at home for reference when Sage went into Administration. Other students are in similar positions, while yet others have scrambled to complete over the last few weeks. Students not so far advanced in their courses may (or may not) be in better positions to transfer to other providers.

I have received no communication from Sage. The first communication to all students received from the Administrator was, in my case, addressed to “Dear Stephen”. A follow-up letter to all students was addressed to “Dear Student”. As an IT professional, I can guess the most probable cause, however it did add insult to injury.

A new career was a choice I made when I was made redundant in 2015. Rheumatoid Arthritis means sitting at a desk all day is not the best approach to pain management. Exercise is. By changing careers I could not only help others in a similar physical/health situation, but also help myself. It made sense. Also, unemployment and I do not make good bedfellows.

When we were enrolled, we were told we would be able to work after six months of the course. This was great news to many students and we took this as a major benefit of doing the course. However, when we tried to work, we found this was not true.

I wrote a letter to Sage, the opening paragraph is below.

When I enrolled in this course I was very clearly told I would be able to work after six months, providing I had passed the requisite units to that point of the course.  I now discover this is not correct. Fitness Australia will not register students part-way through this course, even if we have exceeded the requirements of Certificate IV. Unfortunately, I only discovered this after I had paid for the requisite insurance and registered a business name. There are tax implications as well, as without declarable revenue, expenses are not claimable.

Some twenty other students co-signed my letter and a meeting was held. Sadly, there was little resolution to be had. The situation was blamed on a miscommunication by the Sales Department. Poor consolation for those students who had budgeted on being able to earn money. Not foreseeing the current state of affairs, I went ahead and registered my trademark at not inconsiderable cost.

Another student is in his mid-forties and needs to work – he has two school age children. Another is turning fifty later this year and while he has other revenue streams, he also needs to work. We ALL need to work. We had university students in our class who need to work to fund their university education. We had other students who, like me, have health and/or medical reasons for doing the course. The common thread is we all are now stressed and in limbo.

We all made sacrifices to study for the year: our families made sacrifices to help us. Children missed Saturdays with their Dads, spouses missed their partners, household budgets were adjusted. It is not just the students who are affected. Some of us travelled considerable distances to attend school. At one point I was living in Craigieburn, working in Geelong and studying in the Melbourne CBD. All the travelling meant I could not realistically do practical placement hours at the same time. Another student had a senior managerial job and simply could not fit in practical placement hours and work and study – but that was OK at the time as we had twelve months after the completion of class contact hours to finish our practical placement hours. Now it appears that provision has been swept away.

Another complication that affected different students to varying degrees was Sage offered no assistance to organise the 120 hours of practical placement or the five individual people needed for the final assignment. Due to my age, specific area of interest and some physical limitations I found arranging practical placement difficult, let alone finding five athletes (the athlete requirement was later modified). When I did finally find a gym and a mentor and subjects, I was part-way through when the gym changed hands. The new operators are very kindly allowing me to continue, however now I don’t know if my work will be counted. To start again from scratch at my age would be a very difficult situation. Other mature age students face the same difficult choice.

Have we just wasted a year? Are we going to be left with an $18,500 VET-FEE debt (or payments to date lost) and no qualification? We do not know. This is extremely stressful. Of course, the number one instruction from my medical specialist is “keep stress out of your life”.

We, the students, had no part to play in reducing the TAFE system or in the growth of RTOs. Whether it was Labor, Liberal, Greens or One Nation is irrelevant to us. We, the students deserve better, more timely communication clearly addressing our concerns and offering us viable solutions. It is my understanding other students of other failed RTOs are in exactly the same situation as Sage students. The article below cites $32 million over two years for Sage alone – what is the total for all failed RTOs?

The college earned more than $32 million over two years through the now-scrapped VET FEE-HELP loan scheme, while graduating 45 per cent of students.

A hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in October heard the college had spent $6 million marketing Commando Steve’s unique “cutting edge” Diploma of Fitness Coaching Course in one year.

Source: SMH

I feel for the staff, who have been made redundant. I know what that feels like. The teachers were wonderful and are as much victims of this disaster as the students are. They have done their best to try and finalise as many of us as possible, but in some cases it just isn’t possible.

The disabled have also been impacted (emphasis added).

Up to 3000 disabled students are at risk of having funding cut to their vocational education courses after the NSW government suspended 17 providers for failing to meet minimum standards under the Smart and Skilled program.

Source: SMH

While there has been some criticism of Sage in the press in the past and I have criticised Sage in this article, it is my experience Sage were trying to do the right thing. There was investment in new equipment and additional practical class areas. Appropriate flooring was installed. When students complained about the selling technique described above, management did engage with us. The teachers they employed were caring, knowledgeable and dedicated. I had to adjust my expectations of the academic standards required: I have a university degree and the standards set for vocational training are quite different, understandably. I was, as a student, quite critical of some of the course and assessment material yet I needed to be mindful I was not at a tertiary institution.

So many RTOs “going under” all at once may not be entirely their fault. The VET-FEE scheme has been terminated. It seems as part of the change-over to a replacement scheme, RTOs were not paid.

The college, which has campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, had received no federal government money since late 2016, after the axing of the scandal-ridden VET FEE-HELP scheme caused cash to “dry up”.

Source: SMH

No business can survive if the cash-flow suddenly disappears. Rent still has to be paid, teachers still have to be paid. Would Sage (and other RTOs) have survived if the matter had been handled better by the government department responsible? It seems to me this question is not being investigated sufficiently. Personally, I would prefer to see the TAFE system adequately funded: however I don’t like to see blame apportioned where it may not belong.

What would students find an acceptable resolution? I would be happy to have my VET-FEE debt adjusted to the level for Cert IV and receive a Cert IV qualification. Other students I have spoken to agree this would be an acceptable resolution for those of us who have completed the class contact hours and passed all the assessments related thereto. I stress this may not be acceptable to all by any means, but could be an option acceptable to some. Most of us have far exceeded the practical placement hours required for a Cert IV and although the course structure was different, surely the content in its entirety is comparable? We enrolled in the twelve month diploma because of the broader coverage, however we can all undertake continued professional development. Cert IV would enable us to be registered as professionals with Fitness Australia. We could then either launch our own businesses or seek employment. For many of us, studying for another twelve months is really not an option, no matter how dedicated we may be.

On behalf of my fellow students I ask the government to not enter into a blame game but to concentrate on the welfare of the students so unfairly and unexpectedly impacted by the current situation. 

If you are an RTO student impacted by the current turn of events, please share your situation in the comments below, anonymously if you prefer. We need to remind the powers that be there are PEOPLE involved here, not just organisations who may or may not have tried to do the right thing. That is not our decision to make.

Footnote: For those who previously asked for an unemployment status update (refer article linked to above), yes, I am currently working in a role I love with great people in a great organisation. In a contract role: it will come to an end. I still need (and want) my fitness qualifications.

Open letter to Simon Birmingham

The Weasel often writes letters to elected officials… as the dictum goes: If you smell something, say something.

The most recent pronouncement by our erstwhile federal education minister that creative careers were a lifestyle choice had a particular odour. The lack of response from the reigning opposition parties also left much to be desired. So while the intended recipient for below missive was originally for Mr Birmingham; I encourage you, good reader, to freely appropriate the text and send to all those elected officials you believe would benefit from my educational inquiry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dear Minister Birmingham  [or insert name of senator or MP here]

I am writing to you regarding recent comments [by the Federal Education Minister] that described creative careers as a lifestyle choice.

I would like to enquire why the government of the day is ignoring the actions of most other technologically developed nations. In the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, creative industries are identified as key drivers in revitalising manufacturing sectors, and on-shoring production or services that in previous decades been shifted to less expensive markets.

The U.K., France, South Korea, and Germany all have policy that explicitly links creative industries to programs designed to build or enhance innovation; and gain competitive advantage in the shift to Industry 4.0. Many countries now have dedicated creative industry hubs to create and enhance networks and connectivity between creative professionals and other industries.

To state that creative careers are a lifestyle choice ignores the essential function of cultural events in our society. It ignores the economic contribution. It ignores the contribution to the expression of the Australian character by thousands of actors, painters, dramaturges, designers, editors, architects, writers. Finally, it ignores the contribution that trained creative’s deliver in innovative thinking to thousands of Australian businesses. You can read more about how vibrant and vital creative professionals are on the AusTrade website.

If the current government is truly serious about innovation, then engagement and investment in creative careers and industries is essential. Design thinking is inherent in all creative pursuits, and those are exactly the structured innovative skills Australia needs to regain economic strength.

In the new knowledge economy, superior creative thinking can conquer limitations of scale or distribution. The emerging decentralised, interconnected, and data-rich manufacturing landscape has opportunities waiting to be discovered and exploited; and it is creative professionals who are best positioned to think outside the box, make use of limited resources, and take advantage of connectivity to drive innovation.

In light of all this, I would like an answer to the following questions:

Why does the Education Minister consider creative careers non-essential to the Australian economy?

How does the government plan to succeed with an innovation agenda without using design thinking, or input from creative professionals?

I have included links to some of the sources to which I refer in this letter. I encourage you to investigate them further.
I look forward to your reply

Yours Sincerely

The Weasel

 

austrade.gov.au: Creative-Industries

thecreativeindustries.co.uk/

creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy

Deutschland creative industries

UNESCO Science report: creative industries driving innovation

https://en.unesco.org/USR-contents

forbes.com: what everyone must know about industry 4.0

Let’s Talk About Sex

Growing up, I was taught there were three things one didn’t discuss in polite company: sex, religion and politics. Religion and politics can lead to heated arguments – just look at several countries around the world at the moment with very volatile political environments. As a respite from the politics, let’s talk about sex, baby.

Edit October 24, 2016: Judging by the comments below, it seems I may did have made clear my main argument, so I’ll be blunt. I’m hypothesising lack of sexual compatibility can result in love dying in a relationship. Lack of compatibility can be the result of lack of knowledge, lack of skill, lack of similar desires/needs and the societal repression of female sexuality. I specifically avoided the use of the word “love” in order to retain focus. There is no question that love + sex can and should be, well, mind-blowing!

My focus is the social repression of female sexuality and the lack of training/skill development generally. Sometimes I read articles that make my blood boil. I read one such article yesterday. Apparently, in 2016, it is still OK to send completely different messages to our young people.

He spoke to the girls about sex — and how they shouldn’t have it — in a mandatory assembly, during the school day, attended by all 350 female students. But he spoke to the boys about “dating tips” in a voluntary, after-school assembly attended by only 25 male students.

….

In response to a question, Henning explained that guys are sexual so the species won’t die out, while girls have a low sex drive so the planet will not get overpopulated.

Let’s look at some of our society’s “standards”. Young men are encouraged to “sow their wild oats” but girls are to be virgins when they walk down the aisle. A male fellow student of mine, a father in his mid-thirties, has completely different ideas about the allowable dating lives of his sons and daughters. Years ago my son ranted and raved at me for allowing my daughter’s boyfriend to stay over. “But”, I countered, “you are sleeping with your girlfriend!” His response? “That’s different.” How? That girlfriend was someone’s daughter! How did he develop that double standard? From society. Both son and daughter were adults by this stage.

Who, exactly, are these young men supposed to sowing their wild oats with? Each other? Because us women are all so busy protecting our virginity, after all – or at least not bedding too many partners….. We have sex education in some societies and some schools, but even then it focuses on the mechanics of how the male and female bodies work. I distinctly remember my own daughter coming home from school after sex education at about age seven or eight. The conversation went like this.

M: “Mum, we had sex ed today”.

Me: ” That’s good, dear.”

M: “Yes, but I’m confused.”

Me: “Why?”

M: “Well, we learnt the sperm comes from the man and the egg from the woman and together that makes a baby, but they didn’t tell us how the sperm and the egg meet.”

On the basis if a child is old enough to ask a question, they are old enough for an answer, I proceeded to explain, in the simplest terms I could, how the sperm and the egg meet. Her reaction? “Oh, Mum, that’s disgusting, they pee with that!” As she is now 37 and very happily married, I guess she has moved past her initial horror. I did explain the function of the prostate to her at the time! (Conversation shared with permission)

About 20 years prior I had also had sex ed at school. Not much had changed, I thought.

At no point in time do we instruct our young people how to have a good sexual relationship, how to make love well, how to enjoy sex. No, we are still too busy encouraging young men to sow their wild oats and women to refrain from being sluts. Not as blatantly as in the 1950s perhaps, but generally that undercurrent is still there, loud and clear. It is OK for males to enjoy sex, but not women. Yet we have no hesitation in draping scantily clad women over anything and everything to sell “stuff” – more mixed messages. An amusing look at that cultural proclivity can be found at The Huffington Post, “If Men Posed Like Motorcycle Babes“.

Many readers will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

maslow

We teach our children how to cook, we toilet train them, we teach them to get enough sleep and drink enough water. Breathing and homeostasis really take care of themselves. But sex, the other basic physiological need? No, we ignore that. Heaven forbid we should actually provide any guidance to our young people on one of the most important aspects of their adult life.

Not only that, but society is effectively still repressing female sexuality. We still have double standards, we still have a culture that will blame rape victims for the way they dressed or because they were drunk which effectively is nothing more than excusing the rapist and buying into the very rubbish the lecturer cited above spouted: women have a low sex drive and men have a high sex drive. How about society considers some people have a low sex drive and some people have a high sex drive irrespective of gender. I can think of examples of all four situations I have known during my life.

I applaud the efforts to eradicate the rape culture we still seem to be saddled with and the efforts to hold rapists accountable for their actions irrespective of a woman’s dress. What I don’t see is society teaching young people how to be good lovers. Many young men get much of their “guidance” from porn movies, much more readily available today than pre-internet. Maybe they’d be better having a decent conversation with their father. Some do, but many don’t.

”In my private practice I had a 16-year-old girl who came in and said her 18-year-old boyfriend told her her vagina didn’t look like the images he saw on the internet.

Source: The Age

That’s a great start to a sexual relationship, don’t you think? That is an interesting article worth reading in full, even though a few years old now.

Teenagers are always usually highly embarrassed if their parents try to talk about sex, but isn’t that society’s fault? If we treated sex no differently to teaching young people how to cook or eat a balanced diet or get enough sleep, perhaps our young people would be better equipped to enter the adult world and find sexually compatible partners.

It has long been cited that when relationships start to breakdown, the sex stops. While I am not a psychologist, I’ve often wondered what comes first here, the chicken or the egg? Is it always the case other relationship dynamics fail first, or is it that the sexual compatibility isn’t there and that triggers other issues in the relationship? Could sex be the glue that may keep a relationship together? Remember, we are talking about a basic physiological need, according to Maslow. He didn’t publish gender specific hierarchies, however the following observation is noted:

Although Maslow (1970) did study self-actualized females, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mother Teresa, they comprised a small proportion of his sample. This makes it difficult to generalize his theory to females and individuals from lower social classes or different ethnicity. Thus questioning the population validity of Maslow’s findings.

Source: Simply Psychology

There are other aspects of Maslow’s theory open to question, outlined in the above article.

I am not the only one who has wondered.

Can sex kill a marriage? Absolutely. Problems in the bedroom can lead to deep dissatisfaction. A marital sex problem is like a canary in a coal mine — a warning alarm that danger lies ahead.

Source: The Huffington Post

One reason the author of the above article didn’t cite was simply lack of skill or sexual incompatibility (although Reason 6. comes close to the latter). Incompatibility can (not always) result from lack of skill, I suggest.

Think back to the very first time you had sex – did you really have any idea what you were doing, apart from the mechanics of the act? Feel free to share in the comments! We learnt as we went along. I may not recall the stats correctly but I have a recollection of reading, in my dim, dark, youthful past, that some 60% of women (at the time, it has improved) did not achieve orgasm. While it may be that some women are physiologically unable to reach orgasm, maybe with a little, oh, EDUCATION it might be possible for many more. Recently our modern imaging technologies have provided a much better understanding of the female clitoris. Bit bigger than many people think, huh?

clitoris

Image source: Company handout.

The Guardian has a good article covering the details, “This is a 3D model of a clitoris – and the start of a sexual revolution“. The French will use this 3D model in sex education. Good. That’s a start.

There is a wealth of material out there to assist people, yet even so, many people don’t seek any guidance until after they’ve experienced a failed relationship or they blame other aspects for the relationship breakdown. Young people are unlikely to read a sex text book before they embark on a sexual relationship because we have created a society that finds such things embarrassing.

Individuals in a relationship can certainly learn from each other, but what if neither knows?

Incompatibility is a completely different issue. We are all different. Like different things, high, low, medium sex drive, morning versus night people, missionary versus the Kamasutra. Although certainly compromise is possible as in any aspect of life, if compromise has to be such that one person is no longer being fulfilled or enjoying the sex, this is likely to lead to relationship problems. If we didn’t send our young people out into the world with the belief that “it will be alright on the night” and everything will naturally fall into place, perhaps they could make more informed choices.

Sex requires energy. If the female in the relationship is working full-time, picking kids up from childcare, preparing dinner, doing the dishes, helping with homework and folding washing while the male catches up with the latest sport and news on TV, guess what? Said female is not going to have the energy for sex, irrespective of how much she may want it or need it or desire it. Suddenly it will become yet another task for the day and most likely just one task too many. None of us, male or female, have inexhaustible energy stores. It isn’t just the sexual skills we need in relationships, it is the knowledge around sex: ensuring the timing and environment is conducive is just one important aspect.

Imagine if we stopped treating sex as some great secret. Imagine if we actually treated sex as the normal part of life that it actually is, if we stopped preaching that females are somehow less sexual that males. Perhaps we could reduce the divorce rate. Perhaps we would eradicate or minimise the rape culture. Perhaps we would stop the victim blaming. Perhaps everyone could have a better sex life! The transition may take a generation or two, but surely it is time.

We won’t know unless we try.

Interestingly, some time after I published this article, I came across an article in The Guardian which discusses this very topic with an historical perspective. I found it very interesting: so might you! The Story of Sex: from Apes to Robots is a book written by a French academic.

 

 

Learning for the Knowledge Economy

Welcome to Innovation Nation where we’re going to get agile and disrupt some paradigms!  The knowledge economy is the next big thing, and we’ve got some transitioning to do.

There is almost universal agreement that education is a key factor in building the ‘new’ Australian economy.  Where the major parties differ is just a continuation of the same old education policy debate in Australia, which remains fixed around funding and curriculum content.  A closer examination of the rhetoric and policy reveals how the economic theories to which politicians and policy makers subscribe defines the treatment of education policy.

One of the dominant voices in the dialogue surrounding education, and the economy in general, is that of Human Capital Theory.  This economic approach amalgamates information, learning, innovation, and research under the banner of Knowledge; which in the Knowledge Economy is now cast as an important asset or form of capital. The result is a higher level of interest in how these knowledge assets are acquired.  Or in non-economist speak, government interest in the daily operations of schools; including not only what is taught but how.

If Australia is to avoid drifting down to second-world status, enhancing the capabilities of the population is essential.  We cannot rely on minerals or agriculture alone for the prosperity of the nation; but is a human capital approach to our education policy the right road into the future?

The Knowledge Economy

According to the OECD in 1996, knowledge-based economies are “directly based on production, distribution and use of knowledge and information”.  Over the past three decades, advanced industries in Western economies have become more knowledge intensive, and now rely heavily on innovation for economic performance.

The service economy is no longer where it’s at folks.  We now find ourselves 20-30 years behind other OECD nations; and to avoid Keating’s infamous banana Republic, Australia needs to shift from the current heavy reliance on raw resources, education as export, and tourism. Value-adding in the form of knowledge-based enterprises that can actually make products and services are what is required to carve out a niche for Australia in the world economy.  This is why we are now hearing so much about innovation from our political class, as the nation tries to play catch-up.

Humans as Capital

At the core of Human Capital Theory is the desire to break down fuzzy socially-related aspects of society, like education, and place on them a unit of value.  These ideas connect strongly with broader political-economic views of neo-liberalism, and the market-driven society that its proponents champion. This way of seeing the world deeply colours the way people are viewed; for example, according to economist Ben-Porath

“The objective of the individual at any time is to maximize the present value of his disposable earnings”

While there is considerable literature criticising these ideas, Michael Apple provides eloquent polemic on the matter, it is important to recognise what makes the Human Capital Theory attractive.  The approach reduces human complexity to a quantifiable set of statistical data, that can be used to measure inputs and outputs.  Schooling becomes a process of adding capability or knowledge modules, which can all be abstracted and converted into formulas to calculate the costs, both direct and through loss of productivity, and the potential return on investment.  Allowing an optimal schooling decision to be expressed thus:

equation

Human choice and learning reduced to an equation. No mess, no fuss, because you can’t argue with figures. The inherent utility of this approach, of being able to produce statistics with strong correlations to economic data, underpins the success and popularity of Human Capital Theory in business and government alike.

However, formulas do not work without actual numbers. To produce their percentages economists and policy wonks need numbers from the real world.  This requires measurement.  In Australia, this measurement comes in the form of NAPLAN, aka: Standardised Testing; and here we see the expression of economic theory in education policy.

Much has been written on NAPLAN and standardised testing in general.  Apart from the impact on classrooms and time spent studying for tests; there are also the concerns on how the narrative of “choice” transforms schools, from places of learning into competitive businesses.  Schools and teachers then have to market themselves as the best investment for the child’s education to ‘maximise value’.   Kevin Rudd as Prime Minster stated that the MySchool website, and the NAPLAN scores listed there, were specifically designed to allow parents greater choice and enable them to “walk with their feet”.  The resulting importance for schools and teachers to score well leads to many hours teaching to the test, rather than for comprehension.

This preoccupation with testing, and of the utility-view of education reaches its peak in PISA testing, coordinated by the OECD. Like NAPLAN, PISA is focussed on measuring if students have “acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies”.  According to PISA these are: maths, reading, and science.  To claim these three metrics can generate an accurate leaderboard of the value and efficacy of a nation’s education system is testament to the reductive power of the human capital approach.

The marriage of human capital and free-market thinking in education policy changes the very purpose of learning. Education is no longer a public good that improves society, promoting opportunity and better living standards. Instead, education is a process of adding knowledge and capability modules to future workers.  Education becomes a commodity in a marketplace of sellers and buyers.  With predictable results, as seen most recently with the corruption and fraud that has completely undermined vocational education in Australia.

What could education in Australia look like if the nation continues down this road?

Directions, choices, and consequence

South Korea gives us a glimpse into a possible future.  South Korea is an industrialised nation with democratic values and regularly ranks highly in PISA scores. Many have identified the economic and social importance of achieving high academic marks as a key driver in the performance of South Korean students in PISA testing.

To gain high marks at school and the eight-hour long university entrance exam, the suneung; families invest heavily in South Korea’s large private education market.  Sending their children to Hagwons, or cram schools, after regular school hours.  These are similar to the ‘coaching colleges’ that have proliferated recently in Australia.  The result in South Korea is that many students average 13 hours a day undertaking direct instruction. Many who support a return to ‘back to basics’ teaching commend the approach as a main contributor to the success of South Korean students.  The time-on-task and work-study ethic of the ‘Asian Model’ touted as a panacea for the apparently ailing educational institutions of the West.

However, South Korea fails to perform on broader social and economic measures.  Even by the human capital measurements published by the World Economic Forum, between 2013 and 2015 South Korea fell from 17th to 30th ranking.  When we look beyond the metrics, the real cost of the human capital / high-stakes testing approach become apparent. Korea, Japan, and China all suffer from high levels of youth unhappiness and suicide, as well as extensive bribery and corruption. The education markets spawned by this high-stakes testing approach are fiercely competitive, and bring high personal, social and financial costs for students and families.  Perhaps disturbingly we are already seeing parallels in Australia, with the increased social and economic importance of having attended a private school on one’s future opportunities.

Sadly, after all the cost, stress and testing, many graduates find it difficult to engage in creative problem solving. The result of PISA and standardised testing is a student who is very good at providing answers to well-defined problems in an acceptable format; and poorly prepared for innovative or creative thinking, key skills for success in a knowledge-based economy.  A problem underlined by evidence that links a decline in entrepreneurship and creativity to curriculum changes designed to boost test scores.  It is ironic then that Australia and other nations wish to emulate the system that many Asian countries are trying to leave behind. After topping PISA tests in 2009, China is now shifting to a more comprehensive model of assessment, with the stated goal to reduce the importance of testing in the curriculum.

Innovation Nation

At this point it is perhaps instructive to look again at the ideas associated with the knowledge economy in more detail.  Innovation is tricky, as new ideas may come from anywhere:  A scientist in a well funded lab may deliver an innovation in metal-alloy generation; however a worker in an industrial setting may also deliver the same innovation.  Though setting, resources and education (read human-capital investment) may be vastly different, they both apply what they know to generate new knowledge.  The process is not linear or incremental, but rather fluid and unpredictable.

This level of complexity and non-linearity, that there is no ‘correct’ way, understandably makes economists and policy-makers uncomfortable.  There is also the problem that despite piles of reports and articles on the subject, there continues to be a great degree of fuzziness about what the Knowledge Economy actually is. Sifting through the literature does reveal the character of the knowledge economy and indicators for success:

  • The speed of adaptation and innovation is crucial for future competitiveness.
  • Investment in education and research has a direct influence on learning and innovation outcomes.
  • Higher participation in creative problem solving and learning in the workplace leads to higher levels of innovation and knowledge production.
  • Low social distance between managers and workers builds trust and high diffusion of new ideas.
  • Knowledge must be read from different points of view, mutli- and interdisciplinary and requires engagement with and by government, industry and knowledge centres (such as universities).
  • Actors must have an awareness and understanding of the social, economic, and political facets of knowledge.

The two ideas most often listed are that broader creative thinking is needed; and that state intervention of a nature akin to the Welfare State model is beneficial, and may actually be essential. Concepts that are in direct contradiction to the neo-liberal human capital approach, which prefers limited subject proficiency and privatisation. Where then can we look to find an alternative approach to inform potential practice?

Go East

Brazil is a large nation with a population concentrated in urban areas, and a smaller portion of population spread across rural and remote areas.  Like Australia, It is also currently seeking to transition from an economy based on resources and traditional manufacturing to one where they can leverage innovation to compete in the global marketplace.

1985 marked the end of twenty one years of military rule for Brazil, as well as the end of strong alignment with neo-liberal governments in the USA and the West in general.  What followed has been a tumultuous period of reform characterised by education of empowerment; and decentralised authority, with states and municipalities having high levels of control over local school priorities.

Attempts by central authority to control curriculum by setting of competence standards or imposing centralised testing to national and international standards have been heavily criticised. How the differing view of education, as a social good instead of economic commodity is well illustrated by the local Catholic schools compared to the curriculum mandated by the World Bank.  The Catholic system teaches literacy in a social and political context; students learn the importance of nuance and how context can change meaning.  The human capital model eschews anything to with politics and concentrates instead on phonics-based instruction; thus keeping literacy linked purely with economic development.  With even a passing familiarity with our recent education ministers, one can see how the latter approach has gained much currency in Australia.

In Brazil the goal appears to be to ‘extend politics’ by educating citizens instead of workers. The national government does publish loose guidelines on curriculum.  These have familiar human capital emphasis on development of skills and competencies and building citizens’ capability in science, math, and literacy (with notable difference that bi- and even tri-lingual literacy is the norm).  However, the purpose of national testing is to create improvement programs for each school subjective to their individual circumstances; rather than to meet an arbitrary national standard.  This shows how a different economic view, in this case in opposition to the neo-liberalist market line, changes the way that policy is developed.

Many educators and policy makers in Brazil refer to Conscientização, or critical consciousness, and the importance of moving beyond mere observation and description to a level where the social, political and economic meanings can be recognised and subject to scrutiny.  Here is a conception of knowledge not simply as a unit of additional value, but that knowledge is emancipatory; enabling not mere social movement, but also greater access to freedoms and involvement in the future of the nation.

Multi- and interdisciplinary thinking, social equity, and the importance placed on having a broader understanding of economic and social contexts build capacity for students to think for themselves; and ‘outside the box’.  The national government is also building links between industry and universities through a quasi-Welfare State approach to subsidies; giving students future pathways for study and work, as well as giving practitioners access to research bodies to test ideas.

Based on observations on the characteristics for success in building a knowledge economy, Brazil appears to be on a firmer path toward leveraging of technological advancement and innovation; and the realization of a knowledge economy with a strong resource and manufacturing base.

The way forward

Human Capital Theory is a tool used to simplify how individuals and groups function to fit them into an economic equation.  However, it is a flawed tool.  It does not address the democratic and social aspects of the citizen-person, and is largely incapable of describing the complexities of learning or knowledge in the economy. This begs the question; if human capital is about enhancing the means of production, then what is it that our curriculum is preparing us to produce? What do we hope to achieve by teaching our citizens to ‘maximize the present value of [their] disposable earnings’?  The truth is, despite the rhetoric, the political and economic focus on The Market as arbiter of all good shows us that government and business are less interested in creative thinkers, and more interested in consumers. Or as Michael Apple puts it, people are

…either stomachs or furnaces. We use and use up, We do not create.
Someone else does that.

The implications for a knowledge-based economy, where value-add comes from the act of creation, are stark.

Despite ample evidence that test-focussed regimes do not deliver citizens ready to engage in a knowledge-economy; current policy directives in Australia still appear to champion the human capital conception of learning and the neo-liberal privatisation goal of education-as-commodity.  An approach highly divergent from what economists, educators and innovators are advocating as effective approaches to building a successful knowledge-based learning economy.  This dilemma dramatically underlines the need to divest from economic and political beliefs and look at the evidence with clear eyes and open minds.

We ignore the lessons from Brazil, China, South Korea, and Scandinavia at our peril. Preaching education as the answer to a future is not enough.  Promoting STEM education will not deliver results without complimentary application of resources into research bodies and policy work to change prevailing attitudes in labour-force relations.  Australia must overcome recent neo-liberal tradition and look to the Nordic and South American economies, where government involvement and Welfare State approaches are actually more effective in building and nurturing innovation and knowledge production.

Australia needs to move beyond the primitive human capital education-as-training model to a new formula of education-as-learning.  Ultimately we need to begin to view education not as a project that sets out to universalize knowledge, and forge students of today into the consumer-workers of the future.  Rather that school and curriculum is the space-time of cultural boundary where we dispute the significance of ideas and the world and negotiate knowledge and meaning.  Where learning links academic school-based learning with vocational learning in the workplace; extending knowledge acquisition with an understanding of social and economic contexts, with a focus on how to engage in hybrid thought and interdisciplinary collaboration.

In an increasingly globalised economy it is imperative that nations do not encumber themselves with one-size-fits-all theories whether they be liberal, Marxist or progressive.  Australia cannot afford to continue reducing citizens and their education into formulas.  Instead, we must look to our unique strengths and situation and build pragmatic policy that can engage Australians as active and innovative citizens in the future commonwealth.

 

leftBehind

*Edit: as pointed out by a commenter, the education equation included had been cut off at edges.  This has been corrected.  Hopefully it now makes sense mathematically, at least.

Day to Day Politics. It’s not funny if it has no Insightful Truth. ‘Free Speech I Mean’.

Saturday January 16 2016

Author’s Note

Yesterday my ‘Day to Day’ post mainly focused on suggestions for a new way of doing politics and how I thought Bill Shorten should approach this election year.

By day’s end I was convinced that some, repeat some people don’t even read the content before commenting. One reason I write daily is to create discussion. In fact this blog welcomes it. However, some were so bewildering that I became concerned for my ability to articulate what it was I was trying to covey. So today I am taking time to digest people’s remarks and instead of my usual format I’m reposting an article I wrote last year.

Sunday I will be analysing Labor’s chances at the next election.

I am reposting this piece because the conservative right wing of the Coalition have an ambush waiting for the PM on Thursday. It looks like he will face pressure to reinstate the Coalition’s policy to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he previously backed a compromise bill up for debate in the Senate this week.

The so-called Day amendment would make it no longer an offence to offend or insult a person on the basis of their race. It would remain unlawful to humiliate or intimidate a person or group of people based on their race or ethnicity.

The bill defies Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment to adopting more inclusive government rhetoric. He can’t have it both ways.

The difference between insult, offend, humiliate and intimidate is a mystery to me.

Free Speech and an Enlightened Society.

I have written about free speech, hate, racial discrimination and the state of our democracy on many occasions and this question will not leave me.

Why is it, in ‘the name of free speech’ that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law?

You would think that an enlightened progressive free thinking society would want to eliminate it not legislate it.

It is not a question that requires great philosophical, ideological or even theological debate. It is a black and white question.

Supposedly we live in an age of enlightenment, a period where the world has made enormous technological advances, but at the same time our intellects have not advanced the capacity to understand simple tolerance.

Indeed, if we were truly enlightened we would treat our fellow human beings, with respect love and faithfulness. We would do unto them as we would expect them to do unto us and we would strive to do no harm. We would love life and live it with a sense of joy and wonderment.

We would form our own independent opinions on the basis of our own reason and experience; and not allow ourselves to be led blindly by others. And we would Test all things; always checking our ideas against our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not conform to them. We would readily admit it when we are wrong in the knowledge that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement and that it is truth that enables human progress.

And of course we would enjoy our own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.

We would uphold the principle that no one individual or group has an ownership of righteousness. We would seek not to judge but to understand. We would seek dialogue ahead of confrontation.

We would place internationalism before nationalism acknowledging that the planet earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and attention if we are to survive on it. In doing so we would value the future on a timescale longer than our own. We would recognise that the individual has rights but no man is an island and can only exist, and have his rights fulfilled, only by the determination of a collective.

We would insist on equality of opportunity in education acknowledging that it is knowledge that gives understanding. We would seek not to indoctrinate our children in any way but instead teach them how to think for themselves, evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. We would, in our schools open their minds to an understanding of ethics instead of proselytizing religion.

We would never seek to cut ourselves off from dissent, and always respect the right of others to disagree with us.

Importantly we not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

Lastly we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a replacement for fact.

If these things truly are the embodiment of enlightenment. How do we stack up? It is fair to say that some societies and individuals could lay claim to attaining a measure of it. For example in some countries gender equality is more readily accepted and there has been advances in education. Overall though I think the reader would conclude that in most instances our enlightenment has not progressed much.

This is no more empathised than in our understanding of what free speech is. Are we honestly enlightened if we think we need to enshrine in legislation an emotion people already have and use, to express hatred? There is something fundamentally and humanely wrong with the proposition. There is an intolerable indecency that suggests that we have made no advancement in our discernment of free speech. If free speeches only purpose is to denigrate, insult and humiliate then we need to reappraise its purpose. There are those who say it identifies those perpetrating wrong doing but if it creates more evil than good it’s a strange freedom for a so called enlightened society to bequeath its citizens.

To quote Jonathan Holmes

Let’s be clear: Charlie Hebdo set out, every week, with the greatest deliberation, to offend and insult all kinds of people, and especially in recent years the followers of Islam, whether fundamentalist or not. 

Look at some of the magazine’s recent covers: An Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood protester in a hail of gunfire crying “The Koran is shit – it doesn’t stop bullets”; a full-on homosexual kiss between a Charlie cartoonist and a Muslim sheik with the ironic headline “Love is stronger than hate”; a naked woman with a niqab thrust up her backside.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre as vile and as unjust as it was gave no excuse for repressive world leaders to lecture anyone on freedom of expression. The sheer hypocrisy of it was breathtaking. Some of the world leaders locked arm in arm in the Paris March were from countries with the world’s worst suppression of press freedom. To see the Foreign Minister of Egypt marching arm in arm with world leaders was two faced-ness in the extreme given that Peter Creste has now been in jail for more than a year.

It’s all in the name of satirical free speech but it’s not funny if has no insightful truth.

Is this really what an enlightened society means by free speech? Does it demonstrate our cognitive advancement? Is this what well educated men and women want as free speech or should  we see free speech as being nothing more or nothing less than the right to tell the truth in whatever medium we so choose.

One has to wonder why the so called defenders of free speech feel they are inhibited by what they have now. I don’t. I have never felt constrained in my thoughts or my ability to express them. I’m doing it now. But then I don’t feel a need to go beyond my own moral values of what is decent to illuminate my thoughts.

Why is it then that the likes of Abbott, Bolt, Jones, Brandis, Bernardi and others need to go beyond common decency, and defend others who cannot express themselves without degenerating into hate speech? The answer has nothing to do with an honourably noble sort of democratic free speech.

Why does this demand for open slather free speech always come from the right of politics and society? They seem to have an insensitivity to common decency that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

They simply want the right to inflict hate, defame with impunity, insult, and promote bigotry if it suits their purpose. And behind that purpose can be found two words. Power and control.

The way we presently view free speech simply perpetuates the right to express all those things that make us lessor than what we should be. Debate, in whatever form, should not include the right to vilify. It is not of necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. It is about an exchange of facts ideas and principles. Or in its purest form it is simply about the art of persuasion. The argument that bigots are entitled to be bigots or that unencumbered free speech exposes people for what they are, doesn’t wear with me. It simply says that society has not advanced. That our cultural ethical intellect has not progressed at the same rate as our technological understanding.

The fact that so many people agree with the free speech argument highlights the tolerance we have for the unacceptable right to hate each other, which to me is the sauce of everything that is wrong with human behaviour.

And we want to make it acceptable by legislating to condone it.

Are we really saying that in a supposed enlightened society that should value, love, decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the others point of view that we need to enshrine in law a person’s right to be the opposite of all these things.

If that is the case then we are not educating. We are not creating a better social order and we are not enlightened at all.

The fact is that free speech in any democratic system should be so valued, so profoundly salient, that any decent enlightened government should legislate to see that it is not abused. That it carries with it sacrosanct principles of decency that are beyond law and ingrained in the conscience of a collective common good.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of speech to vilify another.

My thought for the day.

‘An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren’.

 

Education, Re-education And Tony Who?

A few days ago I read that the education system was failing because one in four students don’t complete Year 12.

That interests me because back in the old days, when I was getting a secondary education, it was the kids who failed when they didn’t complete Year 12. Of course, it was a different system them and a certain percentage was mandated to fail.

When one looks at the data a bit more closely, one finds that a lot of the reasons for this are the reasons we already know. High dropout rates in remote indigenous communities, poverty, mental illness and all the other factors that  encourage governments to commission reports which recommend that something needs to be done. After receiving the report, the government either buries it or announces with much fanfare that it’s a great report and they’ll be studying it carefully and when they’ve had time to read it more fully, in the fullness of time, something will indeed be done. Why, we may even restore some of the funding that we took away in last year’s Budget.

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t vast improvements that could be made to the education system. I’m not saying that teachers are perfect. I’m just making the point that every time something goes wrong, we blame the education system and then turn around and offer some half-baked explanation of what’s wrong with it.

And speaking of half-baked solutions, did you read Kevin Donelly’s article today which suggested: “Singing the national anthem at school should be compulsory”?

Kevin, you may remember, was responsible for a review into the Australian Curriculum to see how it was working. Which, of course, it wasn’t. After all, it hadn’t been introduced yet, so it’s really hard to argue that it was working. But Kevin and his mate were appointed to review it because they thought that it was far too left wing and didn’t have enough about our Judeo-Christian heritage or Anzac Day.

Surprisingly, they found that it didn’t have enough about our Judeo-Christian heritage or Anzac Day, as well as having far too much about Asia.

You remember, Anzac Day where the diggers went and fought for our right to make things compulsory.

Young Kevin begins his piece with the rather interesting rhetorical questions:

“How far should we go in accepting diversity and difference, the new code for multiculturalism, and allow immigrants to pursue their own values and customs? And to what extent should all those who live here be integrated into Australian society and accept the nation’s way of life?”

New “code” for multiculturalism? Mm, and here I was thinking difference and diversity meant something else entirely.

Anyway Mr Donnelly’s problem is that the principal of a primary school exempted a number of Shite students from assembly where the national anthem was to be sung, because they were observing Muharram, during which time they don’t participate in joyful events such as singing or listening to music.

Ok, I’ve never exactly thought of “Advance Australia Fair” as particularly joyful. I mean I can’t ever remember dancing to it, so if it’s a time of mourning I can’t see that loudly proclaiming our girtness would cheer one up all that much. And you can make your own mind up about the principal’s decision, but I like Kevin’s neat sashay round the wider question to go straight to the heart of the matter.

“All those who live in Australia, especially immigrants, should accept that Australian society is unique and that the types of freedoms and basic rights we often take for granted must be celebrated and upheld.”

So let’s see if I’ve got his position. All those who come here should be forced to accept that Australia is unique – unlike all those other countries which are all the same and just full of foreigners – and that children should be forced to sing the national anthem so that they understand exactly how freedom and basic rights must be celebrated.

Of course, he doesn’t talk about what should be done if I a person decides that their religous practices are more important and simply doesn’t sing. Should they be packed of to some re-education camp where we explain how great our country is until they understand that “multiculturalism doesn’t work”?

Yep, Mr Donnelly was probably chosen for the review of the Australian Curriculum because, like Mr Abbott, he seems more at home in that era when we were concerned that those “new Australians” were bringing in things and strange customs like spaghetti and smashing plates, and we were proud because Holden was Australia’s own and there were so many pink bits on the map which indicated countries belonging to the Commonwealth. And people who weren’t British were “the other”.

And “the other” was wrong. Our way of life wasn’t just better, it was the only way that one could live. That was the thing about the Aborigines. They couldn’t assimilate, and that was a pity. That’s why they’d died off in such numbers. As for the ones that were left, well, what can you do? They don’t fit into Australia, but if they can learn to behave like white people then they’re welcome to stay.

Ah, the good old days.

The switch to Turnbull isn’t just a change of leaders. It’s a whole change of era. During Abbott’s time (and to a lesser extent, during Howard’s), the other side was just wrong. You didn’t need to argue or explain. You just needed to say how wrong things were. You had Tony arguing against an emission trading scheme and telling us that it would be simpler to just put a tax on carbon at one point, then arguing that a tax on carbon was the wrong thing when Gillard did it. If Labor did it, it was wrong. If they’d found a cure for cancer, Abbott would have criticised them for any recently purchased chemotherapy equipment.

So we move to Turnbull and suddenly some of the things he’s saying make sense. There’s a suggestion that he might actually have opinions on some topics that are reasonable. On others, he’s clearly locked in to some policies that are hard to justify, but we seem to have an entered a world where things are being debated on their merits, rather than simply telling us that Labor was hopeless in government and therefore not entitled to comment on any of the current policies. It’s been a few weeks but I don’t remember Turnbull uttering the phrase, “the mess we inherited”… Although that could be because people would presume he was talking about the one left by Tony and Joe.

Yeah, you’re right. He hasn’t changed many of the policies, and on climate change, refugees (an example of the freedom-loving, human rights-supporting Australia that Donnelly loves so much), unions and the rest we’ve still to see any shift. But he did remove Newman as advisor and he did use the words “innovation” and “science” without suggesting that they be the work of the devil. It’s as though we’re actually looking to the future and trying to make a decent plan instead of simply harping about what Labor did, or how great it was when Liberals were last in charge.

And there’s a change in tone. He speaks as though when you disagree with him you’re simply misinformed, not evil. It’s like the difference between swearing at someone who offends you, compared to beating him over the head with a club. While, both may be unpleasant, the former is the beginining of civilzation.

As someone said, “It may be a new toilet, but it’s still the same shit.” While that may be true, I think the current appeal of Turnbull is that he looks modern enough that it’s possible that he can be flushed from time to time.

 

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.

 

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 . . .

 

How do you starve a region of jobs? Just vote LNP!

Most Australians want a good quality of life and a good standard of living.  To achieve this, the availability of jobs in any region is essential. The Liberal National Coalition Government always, always claim to be the Party to look up to when it comes to jobs and business.

We see the main stream media support this claim with positive spin after positive spin in favour of the LNP or derogatory headlines and stories about Labor.  I often wonder if there is a statue of Tony Abbott in the foyer of The Australian or a statue of Campbell Newman and Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the foyer of The Courier Mail; where journalists begin their day by bowing to these statues and vowing to serve them through the course of their duties. Then there are those in the voting public who believe what the Liberal National Coalition say about how they understand business and are great for jobs and repeat it without question.

If you are creating a wealth of jobs, jobseekers must be just lazy…right?

When the LNP believe that they indeed are the best party for jobs and business, it then leads to a false dichotomy that those on unemployment must simply be lazy and that they simply don’t try enough.  Obviously the LNP are in charge, so of course there are plenty of jobs to apply for!

Based on this false dichotomy, the LNP’s approach to assisting the unemployed jobs is to starve community programs of funding and punish the hell out of jobseekers by implementing the worst jobseeker support program in Australia’s history “Job Active.”  Commentary on social media welfare sites from program participants, suggests that Job Active agencies are more focused on who they can get to pull out weeds for free under Abbott’s work for the dole program, than any real constructive assistance.

Commentary and anecdotes on social media also point to a system where there is no money to assist jobseekers find real work and assistance for study is not supported (unless it is pointless in-house training).  With the Newman Government’s changes to vocational education over the last three years coupled with the Abbott Government’s punitive Job Active program, Jobseekers living well below the poverty line must pay out of their own pocket up front costs or pay the course off, as there is no HECS or HELP deferral scheme for many vocational education courses. Those on welfare need to weigh up their options between being able to afford food and housing or an education.  As an Australian, I find this absolutely abhorrent and 100% unacceptable and this destroys this our way of life.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government has just delivered their first budget by Treasurer Curtis Pitt and have invested 34 Million to begin the repair of our vocational sector and TAFE, to provide real training options for jobseekers.  I hope that this will be extended to ensure affordable access for everyone who has the right to an education, including those on welfare payments.

Sadly, also on social media you read the stories of many jobseekers who are anxious, depressed, frustrated, upset and at times indirectly or directly discussing suicide or ‘not living anymore’ as an option.   This is how they are feeling as jobseekers under the Job Active program.  Some of the comments I have read and the stories collected by the Australian Unemployment Union are absolutely heartbreaking.

Nothing like a bit of stigma to get those jobseekers moving…

To degrade the unemployed even further, in some towns like mine you are given a Basic’s card.  Welfare recipients are given a cashless card and a small amount of cash.  This leaves the jobseeker with very little real money to make purchasing decisions with.  The Basics Card also seeks to stigmatise the jobseeker by giving them their own identifier which allows every shop assistant and member of the public at the checkout know that they are on welfare.

Couple this with the rhetoric that comes from the agenda of stigmatisation from the Liberal Government such as backbencher Ewen Jones who said: “look there’s your dole, go home, eat Cheezels, get on the Xbox, kiss you goodbye and we will never see you again’?” Add the sensationalisation of welfare recipients on television and so called ‘current affairs shows’; welfare recipients using a basic card, will be seen automatically by some as no good, lazy, bludging welfare thieves. Terminology used by many avid Liberal supporters which places those on welfare in a criminal category. Welfare recipients are not often seen as human beings who desperately want and actively seek work.

There is absolutely no option for those on welfare to blend in or not stand out as a recipient of welfare. This completely undermines the right to dignity and respect without judgement for so many Australians.  Under the LNP their reasoning is to shame you into finding a job every time you stand at the checkout. The other misunderstanding about the Basic’s card, is that it is available everywhere.   There are only a small number of shops and services which allow purchase with a basics card.  This often forces the jobseeker, living below the poverty line, to spend money at more expensive stores.  In some towns, they have no options at all. This places pressure on their already meagre budget.

So lets see….who should really be punished.  Is it the jobseeker or the Government?  I have completed an analysis of job vacancies in my local area of Central Queensland to find out.

Where have all the jobs gone…Long time passing

The availability of jobs is essential to a productive economy and enables the unemployed to actively apply for employment. Plentiful job vacancies also enable career development for the employed looking for jobs to advance their career.  This opens up lower level jobs for others to apply for. In many cases, highly skilled workers are stuck at the lower end of their professions and not moving on as there are no jobs available to apply for. This puts a constraint on jobseekers seeking entry level jobs. It also puts a constraint on highly skilled jobseekers who also find themselves in the employment queue and now find themselves pulling weeds under work for the dole.

The graph below is job vacancy data for Central Queensland from March, 2012 to January 2015 of the Newman LNP Government and the new Labor Government from Feb 2015 to May 2015. This is where the data availability ceases. There is no data available after May, 2015, but I will be providing follow ups as it comes to hand. (you can click the photo to enlarge). I have completed an analysis on Central Queensland for two reasons.  One is, it is the area I live in and I am very passionate about Central Queensland and the second is to bring some truth to light about how the Newman Govt affected regional areas.  Many believe that due to the Public Service cuts and media around protests, it was mainly Brisbane which had felt the impact. This is not so.

job vacancy growth decline blog

Some Interesting Facts that may get the way of a good LNP Yarn.

Interesting Fact Number 1.

An analysis of job vacancy data for the period of the LNP Newman Government shows a dramatic decline of job vacancies for Central Queensland.  Data available up until May, 2015 shows that in the first four months of the LNP Newman Government, Central Queensland Job vacancies declined by 378 vacancies.  After one year of the Newman Government, there were 1781.7 less job vacancies for Central Queenslanders to apply for. By the end of the Newman Government, there were 2198 less job vacancies advertised in CQ than when the LNP took office.

By comparison, in the first five months of the Palaszczuk Labor Government, Job Vacancies have turned around and job vacancies have increased by 218 jobs for the CQ region in this short time.

Interesting Fact Number 2.

The sharpest decline in job vacancies for any month-to-month period was the period of November to December 2012, which saw a 16% decline in one month for Job Vacancies for CQ jobseekers, under the LNP.

In comparison, the Palaszczuk Labor Government has achieved the highest increase of job vacancies for any month-to-month period for the CQ Region, over the last three years.  For the period from February to March 2015, Job Vacancies in Central Queensland saw a sharp increase of 16%.  This is the highest job vacancy increase for any month-to-month period, since March 2012.  In a few short months, the Labor Government has achieved what the Newman Government could not achieve in their entire period in office. That is, “to understand business and create jobs”  This is an absolute positive and speaks volumes of the quality of MPs within the Palaszczuk Government.  The graph below shows only job classifications with an increase of 20 job vacancies or more. This is not an exhaustive list.

increase Labor feb march

Interesting Fact Number 3

During the period of the LNP Campbell Newman Government, job vacancies in Central Queensland declined by 56%. To put this in real terms, that is 2198 job vacancies not open for Central Queenslanders to apply for under the LNP.  The graph below demonstrates the top 15 job classifications which experienced a decline in job vacancies over the period of the Newman LNP Government.  The only job classification which experienced an increase in job vacancies under the Newman Government were: Farmers and Farm manager (0.9 increase); Carers and Aides (9.2) Education Professionals (12.2 increase) and Medical Practitioners and Nurses (12.8 increase)  These figures are raw numbers, not percentages.  If we look at the success of the Newman Government for Central Queensland, their achievement is basically an increase of 35 job vacancies across four job classifications, and a decline in all other job vacancies for their entire period in Government.

job vacancy decline newman

Interesting Fact Number 4

In the first four months of the Newman Govt, job vacancies in Central Queensland fell by 10%.  In the first four months of the Palaszczuk Govt Jobs vacancies in central QLD increased by 13%

Are Jobseekers as Lazy as the LNP Claim them to be and should they be punished?

The term LNP has been used interchangeably throughout this post, meaning the Liberal National Coalition State and Federal. The LNP use a synthesis of blame and stigma to take the focus off their failings.  The LNP repeat the misguided rhetoric that they are ‘good for jobs’ without question and place blame on everyone else, including the unemployed.  As the data analysis of Job Vacancies for one area in Queensland show, the Abbott Government’s punitive approach is completely uncalled for.  The harsh welfare measures implemented do nothing but feed into the Abbott Government’s agenda of Stigmatisation of those on welfare.  Why? Because there are no better votes for the LNP those those created out of hate, disgust and fear.

My Conclusion?  If you want to starve a region of jobs.  Want to punish the unemployed unnecessarily – Just vote for a Liberal National Government!

Stay tuned for more analysis drilled down on specific classifications and other nerd-filled data excitement!

Originally posted on Polyfeministix

A Month in Politics: January 2015

It is said a week is a long time in politics. A month may be an eternity and with twenty-four seven politics we are apt to forget what happened even the day before.

On Facebook I daily post a Thought for the Day” and follow it up with one (sometimes more) of a political nature. I am hoping that by posting a monthly political list it might refresh the reader’s memory. Or even amuse you.

MY FIRST THOUGHT FOR 2015

Jan 1: “Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it. Thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact”.

MY BEST POLITICAL THOUGHTS FOR 2015

Jan 2: Has Australia ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment and science. So oblivious of the needs of women and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society.

Jan 3: THE THOUGHTLESS THOUGHT OF 2014:

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards” (Tony Abbott).

Former PM John Howard today criticised President Obama for entering our domestic politics with his Climate Change announcement at the G20.

This is the same PM who said this when Obama entered the Presidential race:

“If I was running AL-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats” (he told the Nine Network’s Sunday program).

Jan 4: There is a lengthy article in today’s Australian that extensively explores the problems facing the Liberal Party. It ignores the main problem. Its name is Abbott.

Jan 5: Which pre-eminent Australians do you think our staunchly monarchist PM will select to become knights and dames this year. With the Queen’s approval of course.

Jan 6: The decision by the PM not to allow a “pool” of journalists to accompany him to Iraq smells of a “no more bad publicity” complex.

Jan 7: Received a letter from True Energy in Oct re new pricing arrangements following the repeal of the carbon tax. Rang call center and asked for confirmation of $550 discount as per statement by PM. Call Center person could not quantify so I asked for his supervisor.

“I shouldn’t say this but that was a load of crap” he said. Familiar word, I thought.

After perusing my account he indicated that my usage had gone up for both gas and electricity and I should be paying more anyway. I negotiated an extra discount which meant I wouldn’t pay any more than my current rate.

So much for the PM’s honesty, I thought. Last week I received another letter saying that both my energy bills would be going up because the company had incurred additional costs.

If I hear the so and so say that every family got $550 . . . lying bastard.

* The Queensland Government has given first time voters just four days to enroll. Conservative governments both state and federal do this because they know the young are not likely to vote for them.

A THOUGHT ON PERSPECTIVE

Jan 8: G W Bush made a unilateral decision to invade Iraq based on a lie and with the motive of revenge for 9/11. He is a “born Again Christian” and on the record as saying that God told him to do so. As a result it is estimated that approximately 250,000 innocent people lost their lives.

Jan 9: So our PM is against capital punishment for the Bali 9 but at the same time will do nothing to jeopardise our relationship with Indonesia. Yet he didn’t hesitate entering their territorial waters to turn boats around. It didn’t matter then.

Jan 10: The GST, as a revenue raiser to bolster their unfair budget, continues to raise its head. There are other ways to raise revenue but conservatives refuse to countenance the rich and privileged paying their share.

“The GST burdens the poor and those with the least capacity to pay. It discriminates against the poor and the pensioners who are living a hand-to-mouth existence and spending the bulk of their income on the necessities of life—food, clothing, rent, heating, power etc” (John Lord).

Jan 11: Why is it that indecent men like Murdoch think their opinions on morality should be taken seriously?

Jan 12: Warren Truss took over as acting prime minister on Sunday, as Tony Abbott goes on a week-long break. If they win the next election it will be Barnaby Joyce. God help us.

Jan 13: Now that the Pentagon has officially admitted that Hicks was innocent it is incumbent on Howard, Ruddick and Brandis to apologise, ADMIT THEIR COMPLICITY and for the current government to pay compensation. He was only ever guilty of stupidity.

* Interesting to note that some of the world leaders locked arm in arm in the Paris March were from countries with the world’s worst suppression of press freedom.

* It says something about the moral sickness in our society when the right to abuse each other, in the name of free speech, needs to be enshrined in law. You would think enlightened societies would be, by means of education, be trying to eliminate it.

* A US study has delivered an unwelcome finding about Australian internet speeds, finding that they are well behind the international pack.

One engineering expert said the nation would continue to tumble-down in world rankings if the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) continues in its current form.
Jan 14. Visited my GP for a script repeat yesterday. Should have taken 4 mins. After he unleashed his vitriol toward PM it took 10. There will be 1000s of lengthy consults.

* The government has a fairness problem with its budget. Consider this:

  • The tax breaks on super are costing the government in foregone revenue about $45 billion a year and this is roughly the same amount that is spent each year on the age pension.
  • The dollar value of the tax breaks is growing faster than expenditure on the aged pension, making concessions on super contributions a much bigger threat to balancing government finances in the near-term.

The super tax concessions are skewed to high-income earners: the top 10 per cent of income earners reap more than 36 per cent of the tax concession dollars, while the bottom 10 per cent are actually penalised for making super contributions.

* 11 European countries have agreed to impose a so-called “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions. Even a very small tax would go a long way to reducing poverty and inequality.

* When our voices are silent against unfair, deceitful and dishonest government we get what we deserve.

Jan 15: Prior to Christmas although unapologetic for his disastrous 2014 the PM did indicate that he would take a fairer and fresh approach to policy in 15. The message seemed to have gotten lost over a few drinks and Christmas dinner.

Having failed to win support in the Senate for his unfair GP Tax, Tony Abbott is now seeking to destroy Medicare via the back door. He has introduced regulation that will mean the end of bulk billing.

And of course the polls reflect the unhappiness of the electorate Essential 54/46 to Labor and Morgan 44.5/54.5 to Labor.

Jan 16: The government has capitulated and scrapped its plans to next week cut the Medicare rebate by $20. Me thinks there will be a lot of backing away from poor policy this year.

Jan 17: If you have reached the conclusion that the government has started the year in the same chaotic manner it finished the old one with many barnacles still attached then you are 100% correct. The ship probably needs a new captain.

Jan 18: The year has just started. The Medicare Rebate has gone. The co-payment looks like it will also go. University fees have met the same fate. The proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act had to be abandoned. A proposed ban on the Burqa had to go and a back down on Paid parental leave reached its inevitable conclusion. What’s next you might ask?

Jan 19: We are being governed by a party who spent four years in opposition being so negative that they forgot that governance requires thought out policy not ideological implementation.

American scientists say 2014 was hottest year on record. Why is it people confuse weather with climate?

Jan 20: In terms of political strategy I think for any opposition leader to draw attention to himself (other than making rudimentary comments) while his opponent is in self-destruct mode would be political folly. The same goes for the release of policy. Patience is required. The only exception would be commentary on the reform of his party.

Jan 21: The Prime Minister continues to struggle. On his first day back from holidays he refuses to talk to the press. Not the Treasurer though. On talk-back radio he tells us that because people might live to 150 in the future justifies increasing the cost of health now. Sarah Palin eat your heart out. Government foot in mouth disease continues.

Jan 22: 1. The PM denies reports that he insisted on the $20 doctor’s fee. The problem is that his record of lying makes him unbelievable.

2. Per chance he is telling the truth it means the three of them were complicit in a stupid political decision.

3. What sort of society is it that jails people for not committing a crime?

Jan 23: President Obama’s best ever put down:

I have no more campaigns to run.

Applause from his opponents.

I know because I won both of them.

An afternoon thought:

When the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing on University funding reform.

Treasurer Joe Hockey was reported on Tuesday as ruling out further compromises to achieve passage through the Senate, before Education Minister Christopher Pyne confirmed on Wednesday that the package was up for negotiation.

Jan 24: 1 Leadership is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life and grow over time. They govern moral choices and demonstrate empathy toward others. Does Abbott qualify?

In my experience once started leadership speculation never goes away and has its own inevitable conclusion.

2. Mr Abbott has to again explain if work choices is dead, buried and cremated. Or at least be transparent about his intentions.

Jan 25: 1. Bullshitting is bad enough but when someone believes their own, that is intellectual dishonesty. An illustration is the PMs Insistence that he has governed solidly and just needed to skite about it more.

2. Any objective look at polling on a national level in Australia will tell you that 47% of voters would vote for a PM and his party despite the fact that it is being led and governing badly. Life is about perception. Not what is but what you perceive it to be.

Jan 26: On this day that has symbolic importance for many (not for others) and for many and differing reasons,

“Have you ever thought about what it is you should be most grateful for?”

Happy Australia Day.

May this day reward you with what you make of it.

I think I will just pretend I never heard it. Prince Philip an Australian knight. The captain of team Australia continues to bat for the other side. Nobody wants to play on his.

The PM with spellbinding cringe worthy ignorance calls social media “graffiti on a wall” while his government spends 4.3 mil on finding out the extent of its influence. Luddite.

Jan 27: Perhaps the PM is just guilty of being himself. You have to be very talented to transform our national day into a joke.

The PM has had a right royal weekend.

ALP support rose to 56.5% (up 2%) on Australia Day weekend, well ahead of the L-NP 43.5% (down 2%) on a two-party preferred basis. If a Federal Election were held now the ALP would win easily according to this week’s Morgan Poll on voting intention conducted with an Australia-wide cross-section of 2,057 Australian electors aged 18+.

Jan 28: Apple paid $80 million tax in Australia last year on a turnover of a revenue of $60 billion. Does the Government have any lifters it can spare or will it continue to hit the poor.

Jan 29: Repeat – Who said this?

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”

Unsurprising how high Newscorp journalists jump when Murdoch commands it.

Jan 30: It is absolutely astonishing that a newspaper mogul living in another country dictates the governance of Australia with such gratuitous authority.

Jan 31: “It takes a good captain to help all the players of a team to excel,” Mr Abbott said. OMG I agree with him.

It beggars belief that a PM whose leadership has been so abysmal-so condemned in the court of public approval, can then suggest that the good performance of colleagues is as a result of his splendid captaincy. That’s arrogance of the highest order.

Yes, a lot happens in a month.

As Investment Advisers, The Liberals Make Alan Bond Look Good!

Late last year, I wrote about the Liberals’ criticism of the ANU’s decision to divest itself of shares in fossil fuel companies. As I pointed out, while this was considered “outrageous” by various senior Liberals, the shares being sold had actually been losing value, and apart from anything ethical considerations, it was possibly sound financial sense to sell.

When I’m wrong, I’m happy to admit it. Unfortunately, for those Liberals who I intend to mock mercilessly, this isn’t one of those times. Santos shares have continued to dive and I just noticed this little gem:

Santos shares “worthless” say Credit Suisse.

Now, just last October, Christopher Pyne labelled the ANU’s decision to sell “bizarre” and Jamie Briggs says that he wrote to the Vice-Chancellor  demanding an explanation. Well, I can give Mr Briggs an explanation – the shares are now almost half what they were when they were sold.

Perhaps, that should be one of the Labor Party’s questions in Parliament. Are the Government ministers still critical of the move, or do they now concede that sometimes people in universities might actually know something, even if Andrew Bolt is better placed to lecture us all on climate change. Yes, I know that Bronwyn Bishop would rule it out of order, but it’d be fun to watch.

Just like it was fun to listen to Jamie Briggs tell an ABC interviewer this morning that her question was out of line because, of course Tony Abbott was concerned about the SA bushfires, why he’d commented in response to a question just yesterday, and Mr Briggs believed that he had spoken to the Premier offering whatever help they needed. The Premier’s Office seemed unaware of any such call – perhaps Mr Abbott should have told them who he was.

Here we have the question and response:

Question: And just finally, on the SA bushfires, will there be any assistance package for the people affected?

Abbott:

The standard national disaster relief and recovery arrangements are already in place. We will shortly have a little bit more to say on the Centrelink payments which are often made in circumstances like these. I have been talking regularly to the relevant minister, Michael Keenan, to Minister Jamie Briggs who has the electorate which has been most impacted by these fires.Obviously, Australian summers are prone to fire and flood. It is tragic that we’ve seen, yet again, the ferocity of Mother Nature, but the thing about Australians is that the worst in nature tends to bring out the best in us and that’s what we always see when our emergency services rush to help people in trouble and when communities rally around those people who have lost a very great deal.

 

Mm, can’t see why people who’ve lost their homes would feel that Tony’s response lacked empathy!

P.S. Update

THE Adelaide Hills bushfire is finally under control, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledging about $4 million in assistance for fire-affected South Australians.

The number of houses destroyed of badly damaged in the fire has also been downgraded from 32 to 27.

Mr Abbott toured some of the 12,500ha fireground this morning with Premier Jay Weatherill, before making an announcement on disaster recovery payments.

The Federal Government will pay $1000 per adult and $400 per child to those affected by the fire, who will have six months to apply for the funding.

 

There you go, $4million. That’s nearly as much as he gave the Iraqis.

The forgotten poor – until we need a few bucks

imageTony Abbott has vowed to lift the poor of India and China from their poverty by selling them coal.  But what about poor people in Australia?

Various ministers tell us that education, health and welfare are no longer affordable.  Others tell us that we have been too greedy and that the “wage explosion” and “toxic taxes” are the root of our problems.  Joe Hockey assures that “a rising tide will lift all boats” while the girlinator tells us we must “live within our means” to fix “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster”.

All of this is crap of course as can easily be shown by reference to the facts.

As a percentage of GDP, Australian government spending on health is the tenth lowest of the 33 countries in the OECD database and the lowest among wealthy countries.

The 8.3% of GDP spent by the US government, for instance, is higher than the 6.4% spent by the Commonwealth and state governments in Australia.

Nor is it true that total health expenditure – government plus private spending – are unsustainable. Australia spends about 9.5% of GDP on health services; the United States spends 17.7%.

As discussed on The Conversation, the real reason for co-payments appears to be ideological – a dislike of communal sharing even when it is to alleviate the financial burden of those already disadvantaged by illness.

Australia spends 19.5% of our GDP on social welfare, whereas some European countries like France and Belgium spend upwards of 30% of their GDP on the welfare system.

Australia ranks 25th of 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with data available in terms of expenditure for unemployment.

The largest slice of our welfare payments goes towards the age pension. According to OECD Pensions at a Glance 2013, Australia’s public spending on the age pension is much lower than pension spending in Europe.

Australia spends 3.5% of GDP on the age pension, while Italy spends 15%, France spends 14% and the United Kingdom spends 6%.

A recent OECD report stated that Australia spends slightly less on education as a percentage of GDP (5.8 per cent) than the OECD average of 6.1 per cent. Although it also found that Australia’s total spend has increased relative to GDP over recent years, up from 5.2 per cent in 2000.

And as for a wage explosion, official figures show wage growth remaining at a historic low in the September quarter.  The Bureau of Statistics data shows the annual pace of wage growth remained at 2.6 per cent for the second straight quarter, as expected.

The index peaked over 4 per cent shortly before the financial crisis and has been on a downhill trajectory ever since, now running at its lowest level since the records started in 1997.

Abbott and Hockey also emphasise the need to increase productivity.  What they fail to mention is that, between 2003-04 and 2012-13, capital productivity shrank 23 per cent while labour productivity increased 14 per cent.  It would appear that the workers are doing the lifting while the owners of capital are very much leaning on them.

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Service released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line with 603,000 or 17.7% of all children living in poverty in Australia.  Over a third (36.8%) of children in sole parent families are living in poverty.

“Most of the poverty we found is concentrated among the groups of people facing the most disadvantage and barriers to fully participating in our community. Those most likely to be in poverty are people who are unemployed (61.2%) and those in a household that relies on social security as its main source of income (40.1%), particularly on the Newstart Allowance (55.1%) or Youth Allowance (50.6%).

This finding brings into focus the sheer inadequacy of these allowance payments which fall well below the poverty line. The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week yet the maximum rate of payment for a single person on Newstart – when Rent Assistance and other supplementary payments is added – is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of median income poverty line.”

Since 1996, payments for the single unemployed have fallen from 23.5% of the average wage for males to 19.5%. Furthermore, the level of Newstart for a single person has fallen from around 54% to 45% of the after-tax minimum wage. Newstart has fallen from 46% of median family income in 1996 to 36% in 2009-10 – or, from a little way below a standard relative income poverty line, to a long way below.

Before the last election, the Greens had the Parliamentary Budget Office cost an increase of $50 a week to the Newstart payment.  It would cost about $1.8 billion a year.  Not only would this help lift about 1 million people from poverty, it would provide stimulus to the economy as every cent would be recycled, spent on survival.  It would lead to better health and education outcomes and facilitate more people finding employment.  It’s much easier to look for a job if you have an address and enough to eat and a little left over to buy an outfit and get public transport there should you get an interview.

Give low income earners more money, demand increases, creating more jobs and more profit – an upward spiral instead of the depths to which Hockey would like to send us (aside from a few polaris missiles like Gina and Twiggy).

$1.8 billion is how much we gave up by repealing the changes to the FBT requiring people to justify the business usage of their cars by keeping a logbook for three months once every five years.  Abbott and Hockey would much rather protect tax avoiders than help the poor.  Instead, they want the poor to carry the burden of finding the money to pay for their war games whilst delivering a surplus.

Let’s not forget, in April Tony Abbott decided to spend $12.4 billion ordering 58 more Joint Strike Fighters in addition to the 14 already on order.  The first Joint Strike Fighters will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.

As part of the announcement, more than $1.6 billion will be spent on new facilities at air bases in Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

But a specialist in US defence strategy has questioned whether Australia’s purchase is good value for money.

If Australia wants to be able to have aircraft that can go up against what China might deploy – in way of not only its own fighters but advanced air defences in years and decades [to come] – then I think you want something… like the F-35.

[But] if you think more about your military needs being the Afghanistan-style operations, the troubled waters of the South China Sea, counter-piracy, peace operations, keeping some degree of regional calm with some turbulence in the ASEAN region but not necessarily China, then frankly it’s a debatable proposition whether the F-35 is the best bang for your buck.

“If you think that that kind of high-end threat is not realistically where you’re headed with your military requirements, then it’s more of a debatable proposition.

In August, defence minister David Johnstone announced

HUNDREDS of millions of dollars will be spent bolstering the RAAF’s fleet — and the prime minister is in line for a new long-range jet, promising uninterrupted global travel.

The government plan — scheduled to be delivered as part of next year’s Defence White Paper — includes the purchase of up to four new aircraft: an additional two Airbus tanker-transport planes and one or two Boeing C-17 heavy lift aircraft.

One of the Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transports would be converted to a VIP configuration and would service the prime minister’s international travel needs.

It would carry the PM’s entourage and the travelling media pack, who are currently forced on to commercial planes as the government’s existing Boeing 737 BBJs are too small.

Since handing down its budget in May, the Government has given national security agencies an extra $630 million over four years.

The Government has also estimated that the military deployment to the Middle East will cost about $500 million per year.

Then we have submarines and unmanned drones and patrol boats and more – a seemingly endless display of military hardware – but we ask our defence personnel to take a pay cut.

I await Joe Hockey’s MYEFO with a sense of anticipation and trepidation.  Will the poor be asked to shoulder more of the burden or will Joe admit where the big bucks are to be found and have the guts to go after them?

Scroll Up