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There was a time when Australia enjoyed a good reputation

There was a time when Australia enjoyed a good reputation.

When called upon to defend freedom, we were there. But that seems to have morphed into demanding regime change in foreign nations, too often to those who are more sympathetic to US trade aspirations.

In the past, we opened our arms to refugees from war and persecution. Now we lock them up indefinitely.

We were one of the first to introduce a price on carbon. Now we have the ignominious distinction of being the only country to abolish it.

Our treatment of Indigenous Australians has always been shameful but things like the 1967 referendum, the Apology to the Stolen Generation, the Reconciliation marches, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, whilst largely symbolic, gave us some hope that we were moving forward.

Now we have spiralling incarceration rates with documented abuse of youth detainees, large numbers of children in state care and a worsening substance abuse problem, the infantilising Cashless Welfare Card, the rejection of a Voice to parliament, and the apparent shelving of constitutional recognition for our First People as too hard.

We used to have a free press expressing a variety of views. We have now slipped to #21 in the World Press Freedom Index, and that was before the raids, with rising concerns about increasing media ownership concentration, draconian legislation targeting journalists and whistleblowers, excessive defamation laws, and laws on terrorism and national security making covering these issues almost impossible.

The ABC, in an impossible never-ending attempt to deflect accusations of bias, has become a regurgitator of press releases and a purveyor of populist puff.

As a wealthy nation, blessed with resources, a favourable climate, lots of space and no shared borders to squabble over, we used to feel an obligation to help poorer nations. Now, foreign aid funding has been cut in the last six budgets to a record low and any help we do offer is likely to be military.

Australia has strong anti-discrimination laws. Now they are being criticised as an inhibition to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Or an attack on men’s rights.

We used to trust the experience and expertise of educators to manage a continually evolving curriculum to best prepare students with the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in the society and job market of the future.

Now we have bureaucrats demanding we focus on phonics, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and more standardised testing. We have parents demanding the removal of resources designed to promote respectful relationships. We have demands for higher standards for teacher trainees with no offer of better pay or conditions or greater support. And resources poured into religious and wealthy independent schools at record rates.

There was a time when Australians understood and valued the work of unions in giving workers a collective voice to protect their safety and gain entitlements like holiday pay, sick leave, parental leave, overtime rates, compulsory superannuation, equal pay, meal breaks, skills training, job security, and a myriad of other things that workers don’t appreciate until they are under threat.

Now unions are collectively labelled as thugs, bullies and thieves.

There was a time when Australians accepted a genuine contest with the best team on the day winning. Now we have football teams placed on experimental performance enhancing drug regimes and cricketers using sandpaper to tamper with the ball. And politicians willing to say all manner of hyperbolic lies to get elected.

Australians used to hate bullshit.

Boy, has that changed.


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  1. Baby Jewels

    Spot on, Kaye. I feel nothing but grief for the path Australia has taken. God only knows what horrors await us over the next three years. It would be easy to give up on Western Civilisation after hearing Boris and Donald praising our sadistic, irresponsible leaflet drop in Afghanistan, which pretty much says, refugees will have the door slammed in their faces, when Australia has contributed to the creation of refugees but refuses to take responsibility for those who arrive in fear of their lives, instead incarcerating them, treating them with cruelty and vilifying them. I feel sick for our world where world leaders find this admirable.

  2. Baby Jewels

    “Now unions are collectively labelled as thugs, bullies and thieves.” Yet it is our politicians who are the thugs, bullies and thieves.

  3. Wat Tyler

    In a post to The Guardian, I suggested that the AFP raid on a Newscorp journalist was a mistake that backfired, Pezzuolo’s boys shooting the LNP in the foot. One poster responded by positing that the raid on a Newscorp journalist was a quite deliberate smokescreen for the real target, the ABC. On reflection I am drawn to that conclusion myself, that it was a mere pretence, appearing to be impartial in their defence of the nation.
    I believe Morrison to be a naive, blustering, mendacious simpleton with a giant ego. He has already shown himself to be afraid of Dutton, and he -and we – have great cause to be. Dutton is a malignant tumour in the body politic of this nation, and he has surrounded himself with public servants who ‘…are just doing our jobs…’ Like firing squads.

  4. Vikingduk

    Yes, once upon a time, just a fairy story now, as we willingly, at least some, de evolve into a fascist, hate and greed ruled society. Ashamed to be Australian, ashamed to be classed as human. Fck me, how did we get here. If it wasn’t for independent media I’d think I was losing my ability to tell shit from custard.

    My hope is that the liar from the shire, that jerk with a smirk, will implode. That his arrogance, his toxic blend of Christianity will lead to his downfall. Though, for the braindead fans of this pack of mongrels, is there any hope?

    That monster elephant in the room, the absolute trashing of the environment, will not discern, it will solve us and all our petty bullshit.

    Off topic totally, our local paper had a little story about Australia’s largest bee, the great carpenter bee. A solitary critter, the females drill nest holes in dead branches. These bees use the technique of buzz pollination where they vibrate their wings and body at a very specific frequency to make the flower release as much pollen as possible. Some flowers will only release their pollen at this frequency.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Them controllers, coercers, domineering dicks and deviates have cornered more than ever recently and truth is a victim of this overbearing, a collective nazism over society utilising electronic surveillance through superficially benign media and huge online corporations. we have to live in our current world as best and balanced a way as we can, but I will not willingly use facebook, amazon, and most others, though google has us all by the bulging, hairy googles. “They” know all about us, so governments, agencies, corporations and crooks know all about us. We need a new 1789, guillotines, mass awareness and revolt, to hope to correct even some of this socially adverse shit, but, in Australia, a foreign frog fraud can run media, lie and distort, brainwash and bullshit, so as to produce compliant and favourable situations for profit, exploitation, personal aggrandisement. A conservative, Murdoch faced nation, going backwards in ignorance, vandalism, bad behaviour, wilful selfishness and lack of vision, a permanent pox or pestilence. UGGHH

  6. Andrew Smith

    I’d suggest Australia, like the UK, has been drawn and coaxed into a closer orbit with the USA or ‘Anglosphere’ as their respective electorates age (with significant qualitative differences between upper and lower median age voters especially diversity in latter baby boomers and oldies in former).

    Reflected in economics of neo-liberalism, dysfunctional politics and social narratives focusing upon nostalgia, WASP ‘values’, Christianity or ‘western civilisation’, white nationalism, border control and fear of the ‘other’ (well manipulated by media, think tanks and related enablers to make ageing voters more malleable).

    Regarding reputation, Australia’s post white Oz policy image had improved through social reforms of the ’80s moving through the ’90s and helped along by cultural exports, to be seen as ‘cool’.

    That same reputation had been since damaged by Tampa, and a return to old perceptions of being conservative, shallow and racist, thanks to Howard et al. developing a gerontocracy (like elsewhere with ageing, especially regional, electorates) resisting change or development for future generations.

  7. Egalitarian

    Dear Wat That was my view from the start. Re The Smokescreen. That is the go to guide for how the LNP operate these days. And the right wing media are becoming more and more militant and cocky. Just watch Sky News or read the Murdoch press. Their voices are getting louder and they are infiltrating the ABC, RN etc Amanda Vanstone or Tom Switzer who represent think tanks with Orwellian names like The Centre for Independent Studies. Our country has become a very strange place to live these days. And they now see a Trump style government as something that they admire.

  8. Grumpy Geezer

    “When called upon to defend freedom, we were there.”.

    Dude – it’s all in that one sentence.

    In my entirely unbiased mind our spiralling downwards started with the Lying Rodent.

  9. Aortic

    Wonderfully said Kaye. As a wee laddie who came here in 1963 from Scotland there have been notable changed to our wonderful land over these many years. Amongst my remaining friends I still sense that good old Aussie sense of humour and ability to indulge in good old fashioned bullshit along the way. What has changed particularly, I think, is the zeitgeist surrounding the politics of the place. I have seen them all since Menzies and used to enjoy the badinage between the likes of Fred Daly et al and some of their Liberal counterparts. Sure their beliefs were sincerely held and espoused but generally there seemed to be an appreciation that one side did not hold all the answers and there was even a sense of bonhomie displayed which was uplifting. Nowadays there appears to be a vitriol existing between the opposing parties that I think has no benefit for the common weal, which after all is the reason supposedly why they stand for and gain a seat in the Parliament. As the world changes I guess in a sense we have to change too but whether it is for the betterment of mankind is a question the answer to which is beyond my ken. Having said that we have all been hit with the lucky stick and living in this great land is a privilege which I and my family are thankful for every single day.

  10. Stephengb

    Andrew Smith,
    I am not entirely sure (because I found your comment almost incomprehensible) but are you actuall blaming the aging population, for Australia’s current situation?

  11. Stephengb


    Once again, spot on the money

    As I read each paragraph it occurred to me that perhaps we should have a Facebook group which yourself and some other AIMN contributors could post paragraph (perhaps expanded slightly) as a separate public talking point.

    There are many groups on Facebook, some are little more than echo chamber’s, but most do not have your clarity. I would love to see some of these Facebook keyboard barriers, getting tied in knots by some like yourself with your knowledge and writing skills.

  12. Andrew Smith

    Stephengb, what don’t you understand, do you have a question? Ageing has become a fact of life in Oz with the over 65s being the fastest growing cohort of our population, while the electorate of eligible voters (ex. temp residents and PRs) would be ageing faster.

    My comments on reputation reflect more perceptions from outside of Australia and also common issues, tactics etc. affecting many western nations nowadays.

    Regarding age, while, the median voting age has steadily increased the recent elections showed how majority of oldies and baby boomers tend to vote conservative (obviously not from here on AIM)

    Meanwhile, from Europe:

    ‘Is Pensioner Populism Here to Stay? It is often assumed that the rise of populism in Western democracies is primarily a response to economic insecurity and anger toward privileged elites. But the fact is that neither of those sentiments can be understood without also accounting for the political consequences of population aging.’

  13. New England Cocky

    “We have demands for higher standards for teacher trainees with no offer of better pay or conditions or greater support.”

    Since 1988 teachers have been paid a pittance because school teaching hs become “a female profession” where “the little woman was only earning pin money”. Bull manure!!! Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

    “And resources poured into religious and wealthy independent schools at record rates.”

    So, for all the additional funding to make up for alleged deficiencies in private schools, the NSW state schools outperform private schools very year at the HSC. Guess paying a private school principal in excess of $600,000 per year can be justified if there are not any other parts of the school or burgeoning school sports facilities that can be augmented. State school principals get better academic results for about one quarter of the private school principal pay rate.

  14. Phil

    Grumpy Geezer
    June 29, 2019 at 10:31 am

    ‘In my entirely unbiased mind our spiralling downwards started with the Lying Rodent. ‘

    Indeed. Howard played a blinder. He convinced a whole generation of factory workers and other assorted aspirational’s that with an ABN, a ute and a hired cement mixer and you too could be the next Richard Branson. It didn’t stop there, he also convinced Australians that were suffering terminal crutch rot, a bad case of hemorrhoids and the odd infection of the clap, that the best health provider was the one you paid for yourself.’ Medicare was so working class and the little ‘Green Card ‘ was a registration with the United Nations. The deep state WTF ! He made the dumb shmucks living in the western suburbs actually believe that they were just like him, a working class boy who made good.

    The best was the ‘Refugee Scam ‘ I stopped the boats and the children overboard lies . Telling the Australian families that it was our military along side the coalition of the deluded bombing the shit out of them 24/7 that was causing the problem was a bridge to0 far a little ambitious to tell the Australian people the truth.

    Yes I’m with you grumpy it started with Howard. After a return later to some sanity with Rudd we had another monumental F.U. it was called Gillard. Of course Gillard made all the feminists go all moist, she was, so her followers thought, the reincarnation of Emmeline Pankhurst. She was going to take the Australian women to the promised land. Yea right. She did nothing of the sought, except upset a load of people that were already doing it tough. Now my party is more or less ruined, she is treated like some latter day ‘ Joan of Arc. I despair.

  15. Patricia

    Wat Tyler June 29, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Don’t underestimate Scooter, Wat, while everyone is pillorying Dutton (for very good reason) they take their eyes of the person who has the final say in everything that happens to this country and its people for the next three years.

    While he is playing the daggy dad to the idiot voters who think that because he eats a pie and scoffs a beer that he is one of them he continues to take us down the evangelical fundamentalist path that the US is being taken down.

    There is nothing naive about him, he is an extremely dangerous person to have as Prime Minister, he has managed to get to the top of the tree through very devious methods and without very much mud sticking to him.

    Even now he is not being blamed for rolling Turnbull, when there is no doubt in my mind that he orchestrated the whole thing.

    He is one of those people on whom you would not turn your back or stand in his way if there was something that he wanted.

    Scared of Dutton, I doubt it. He has the whole country focussed on Dutton while he talks war with Trump.

  16. Aortic

    Religious freedom means everyone has the right to be wrong.

  17. Matters Not


    NSW state schools outperform private schools very year at the HSC.

    Really? Or is it the case that students (on average) in particular (public) selective schools achieve better than other students (on average) in other (private) selective schools? Or is that possibly too complex for public consumption?

    If so, then where should we go from here – in terms of public policy? More dollars for private schools so that they can be even more selective? And then equal … Or ensure Asian students are more equitably distributed … Or maybe stop comparing schools (which only have marginal impact on students’ academic achievements when compared to parents’ SES locations … ) Or, or ..

  18. Wobbley

    Who gives a flying fluck about reputation when there are people to rule over and shit loads of cash to extort from the “DUMB, STUPID, UNINTELLIGENT and LAZY” poor and vulnerable? Everybody knows “there’s plenty of work” out there if your genuine in your attempts to find it. Might be for four bucks an hour but hey it’s work you lazy bludger. Reputation? Yeah right. Fascism is the new badge of honour for the right, if you step out of line you know the consequences.

  19. Terence Mills

    Our Attorney General Christian Porter has said he would be seriously disinclined to approve prosecutions of journalists except in the most exceptional circumstances.

    From this, I think we can take it that journalists the subject of Dutton’s raiders will not be prosecuted as the matters in question were clearly of public interest and the circumstances were not exceptional.

    In one case, the whistleblower to the ABC had already admitted that the information came from him. So, why you may ask did these raids take place at all and why did the AFP wait until after the election : surely the course of justice should not be governed by political considerations.

    This whole thing has Dutton’s boot marks all over it and the message that he seems to be conveying to public servants and other whistleblowers is that no matter how secure a journalist may assure you that your secrets will be and your identity will be safe with them, Dutton will raid journalist’s homes and offices to get your name and prosecute you.

    His message was to whistleblowers who see wrong doing in public office that there will nearly always be a digital or electronic record or footprint and he will find it : beware !

  20. Geoff Andrews

    I agree with 99.9% of everything you write and I am in awe of your research skills.
    Your apparent disdain for phonics is part of the exception. You imply that phonetics is making or has made a comeback.
    English, like most languages, is a phonetic language. It stands to reason that once the relationship between the sound and shape of each of the 26 symbols is mastered, we have literacy lift-off. Even if it does not work for a very small percentage of people, that should not reject a system that has been successful for billions of people (including, I suspect, you, me & all of the AIMN readers) over hundreds of years.
    However, I’m unfamiliar with the alternative system that you imply outperforms the old so I’ll have to keep a more open mind on the question. After all, if it ain’t broken; you can’t fix it, only improve it.
    …. and don’t get me going on rote learning.


  21. Kaye Lee

    Phonics has always been an important part of learning. Conservative commentary would have you believe it is ignored. But in the really successful programs it is just one aspect rather than some all-consuming focus. It is one skill but only one. There is no point being able to sound words out if you have no idea what they mean or how to use them.

  22. Rossleigh

    English iz not rellee a fonnetick lanwhich. Menee werds wood be increcht if we spelt them az they sownd. Wile fonnix is a usefull tool to lern wen wun ferst starts lerning to reed, expeereenced reeders dont relie on it for reeding. It iz still tort in neerly evree primaree skool and to suggest that it’s a panaseer for evereething is nither supported by reseerch or praktickal common sents.

  23. Phil

    Oar as wee sey enta Yorksheeer ‘ Wherrs therr mook therrs munney.

  24. Phil

    Or in Scotland.

    Wan in doot its en weth the heed and in weth tha boot.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Dinna fash, Phil, ma Heilin Coo is wi me, ya ken.

  26. Phil

    Michael Taylor


    “Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye.”

    My family on dads side are from ‘ Gallowgate ‘ and Peterhead Aberdeen. The earlier ancestors no doubt spoke Doric which I presume is a dialect of Gaelic. My old dad RIP worked on the tugs in the New Hebrides. Scotland had a child it was called Australia. Both if you believe in the man in the sky are ” Gods Country ‘ If you don’t live in either you are camping out.

  27. Michael Taylor

    Any friend of a Scot is a friend of mine, Phil. 👍

    PS: Did you mean the Outer Hebrides?

  28. Phil

    Any friend of a Scot is a friend of mine, Phil. 👍 Cheers.

    Did you mean the Outer Hebrides?

    I did indeed don’t know how I fcked that up. It was fifty years ago.

    I was in the UK last year only got as far as the Lakes district. Will travel to Aberdeen next year If I’m spared.

    Ah yes the Scots the funniest fckers on the planet to be sure. I try not to watch too much of this or I may have a stroke.

  29. Geoff Andrews

    “There is no point being able to sound words out if you have no idea what they mean or how to use them.”

    As one of my primary teachers used to say, “Don’t state the obvious, boy.” A five year old has a vocabulary of, what, 200 words? It doesn’t require a PhD in education to work out that the way to teach the relationship between the spoken & written word is to introduce students to the written word using the words they know already.

    You say: “But in the really successful programs it is just one aspect rather than some all-consuming focus”

    But it IS essential and probably the initial tool out of the toolbox. Even 90 years ago, in Queensland at least, we were introduced to phonics.simultaneously with the concept of “look & say” words – “the”, “rough”, etc – that were already in our vocabulary.

    My initial reaction to your otherwise excellent article was disappointment at your, not for the first time, pejorative reference to phonics; lumping it with our disgusting treatment of refugees and aborigines, and cricket cheats.

    And a special thanks to Michael & Phil for the humorous confirmation that phonics still works. As for Rossleigh’s scandalous deviation from the truth in true LNP style (you’ve probably got election hangover, son), I did not say or even imply it was a panisear. In fact, I made reference to it not being successful in a small percentage of students and I am disappointed that you were not able to knuckle down to the discipline of learning your spelling. Maybe it’s just age.

    Talking about bureaucrats interfering with the syllabus: which one gave the nod to Cuisenaire rods?

    For anyone interested in education in Queensland in the 1940’s and 1950’s, google “a like an apple on a twig”. This was every five year old’s introduction to reading.

  30. Kaye Lee


    I do agree that phonics is an essential tool but comprehension skills are also crucially important. To suggest that a five year old has a vocabulary of about 200 words assumes some sort of average when, in reality, kids have vastly different vocabularies at that age, often influenced by socio-economic status and time spent by parents reading to them, so vocabulary expansion is another important aspect as is the concept of reading for pleasure.

    I am not against phonics – it must be part of the mix – just not the only ingredient.

  31. Kaye Lee

    As for phonics being the first tool to use, my personal experience is otherwise.

    My kids had many favourite books that I would read to them which they got to know off by heart. They could pretend to read them, prompted by the pictures, and I would trace my fingers over the words as they recited them, often with dramatic expression because they were thinking about the story, not the words. They came to recognise the words. We’d play I Spy in the car, using the beginning sound rather than the name of the letter. They learned the ABC song, just as a song – it meant nothing – but we would point at the alphabet chart as we sang it. They learned to write their own name. We would play games of who can find three things starting with the sound “m”. We would play rhyming games and I would write down everything they could think of in the “-at” family. All these sorts of things came together and both my kids could read really well before they went to school.

    Phonics was part of what we did but it wasn’t where we started.

  32. Andrew Smith

    Agree with Kaye fully, phonics is only part of language acquisition, learning, literacy and usage. Most students of English and European language background don’t need too much (maybe input for first two or three years of school), but e.g. young Chinese (only/mostly) speaker would need a more intensive exposure to phonics at first.

    My issue is that it seems ideological and distilled down to a ‘phonics’ versus ‘whole’ approach, which misses the grey in between and another important aspect for language learners, grammar. Many learners of English (as a second or foreign language) from late primary school through to adults need a ‘code’ to access and learn a new language quickly, this is where grammar helps open the door, but difficult if teachers are not proficient.

    An analogy could be how many suggest everyone should learn (specific type of) ‘coding’ for a digital future when in fact they should be looking at more general ‘systems analysis’ that gives an overall view or context. But then such skills may allow people to analyse and understand the world, media etc……

  33. Matters Not

    Re Geoff Andrews and:

    Talking about bureaucrats interfering with the syllabus: which one gave the nod to Cuisenaire rods which one gave the nod to Cuisenaire rods?

    There were any number but two deserve special mention re endorsement – Bill Hamilton and Phil Cullen. Cullen became Director of Primary Education after a long career teaching in various locations across Queensland. Hamilton was also a teacher of long-standing. (Amazing how respected teachers are tagged with the pejorative descriptor of ‘bureaucrats’ when they move up the promotional ladder. Good one day – bad the next. How very childish!)

    Cullen, then a ‘bureaucrat’ clashed openly with Lyn Powell the then Minister for Education re MACOS – which was a trigger that saw the Ahern Inquiry Report of the Select Committee on Education in Queensland – important because it (among others) produced a class size recommendation that had Australia wide implications for years to come.

    As for Cuisenaire rods, they played an important role in children’s conceptual development – emphasising the role of concrete objects in early mathematical understanding. The rods were introduced into the Queensland syllabus in 1966-68 and revised in 1974-76. It was a major change for teachers to adopt a new language as well as adopt teaching strategies that emphasised inquiry and discovery rather than rote recitation of facts. (Yes some teachers did have trouble putting the rods back into the box. And never got over the trauma. Lol.)

    As for ‘reading’, focussing ONLY on phonics can lead to barking at words without any real, meaningful comprehension. Same with ‘mathematics’ – supposedly learnt via the recitation of tables. (As an aside – once had a (new) Aboriginal student who could recite Pythagoras’ Theorem but couldn’t pick up six pencils on request.)

    Fact is – children are different – with a range of preferred learning styles. Good teachers know that and cater accordingly.

    Good Old-Fashioned Maths

    As for the (mis)use of the apostrophe …

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