Sunday, May 23, 2010

DON'T expect students to learn about Gallipoli in the new national history course

This is ridiculous. It proves that the curriculum has fallen into the hands of far-Left academics who hate all that Australia stands for. The Gallipoli landings are the foundation of Australia's most solemn day of remembrance: ANZAC day.

And in typical Leftist fashion, there is no consecutive history taught: Just disconnected episodes that Marxists like. They dread that students might get some idea of the broad sweep of Australia's history with its long record of positive achievement. We can't have kids being proud of their country, can we?

HISTORIANS say the new national modern history curriculum for schools reads like a Marxist manifesto that ignores popular aspects of our past and neglects Australia's role in world politics and war.

The course, designed for years 11 and 12, is heavily focused on revolutionary struggles, colonial oppression and women's struggle for equality.

It neglects Australia's British roots and institutions and its military history, with no mention of Gallipoli, Tobruk or Kokoda, the experts say.

The draft lists World War I as a potential case study in "investigating modern history". It lists "controversies surrounding ... memorial sites and commemorative events" as an area of study but does not mention Gallipoli or the battle of Fromelle.

In a topic headed "Australia 1880-1945", the draft lists "the formation of organised labour", "White Australia" and "wartime government controls, including conscription, control of the labour force, rationing, censorship and propaganda".

But it does not mention the settlement of Australia or the deeds of the first AIF in World War I.

The draft history course was released this week for public discussion, divided into five units: The nation state and national identity; Recognition and equality; International tensions and conflicts; Revolutions; and, Australia and Asia.

Historian Andrew Garvie said the course agenda should be altered to give a more balanced view of history. "This appears to be a very trendy, right-on curriculum. It looks heavily influenced by a Marxist view of history - there's lots about about revolution and struggles against oppression," Mr Garvie said. "But it lacks an appreciation of Australia's place in the world.

"There seems to be very little about our military history or our links with Britain. Gallipoli and Kokoda appear to be just footnotes to the whole thing."

He said the course also seemed to be organised as a "slice of life" approach to history. "It seems to me students will be given bits of history to study. They may not gain an appreciation of the whole of an era or century," Mr Garvie said.

Education consultant Russell Boyle said the history curriculum was too selective.

"The ancient history curriculum spans the period from pre-history to 500BC, while the period of investigation in the draft modern history curriculum is from the late 18th century through to the end of the 20th century," Mr Boyle said.

"There is much in the period in between that would deepen students' understanding of the events and issues that have shaped humanity and our contemporary world."


Another complete cockup from defence acquisitions

European torpedoes supposedly bought "off-the-shelf" 12 years ago but still not operational

AFTER 12 years of delays and mismanagement and a $400 million outlay for new lightweight torpedoes, Defence has nothing to show for the money.

In the latest damning report into Defence projects released yesterday, government auditors have revealed that the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) in 1998 signed up to spend $665 million of taxpayer funds on the European-made MU90 lightweight torpedo without conducting even basic checks.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said that both organisations thought the torpedo was a straightforward "off-the-shelf" buy and that it was in service with other navies. "This was not the case," the report says.

The auditors said the original capability will not be delivered, schedules will not be met and the project was only within budget because the airborne version was dumped in mid-2009.

In March 1998 an order was placed under project JP 2070 for the weapon to be fitted to two classes of warships and three aircraft, the RAAF P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and the navy's Seahawk and Seasprite helicopters. The MU90 is 3m long, weighs 300kg and has a range of up to 10km.

The auditors found that as of February this year $397.51 million had been spent on the project by the DMO. "Some 12 years after JP 2070 commenced, and nine years after Government approved Phase 2, which was to buy an initial batch of torpedoes and integrate the torpedo into five ADF platforms, the project is yet to deliver an operational capability," the report says.

The auditors found several major shortcomings with the project including:

A LACK of scrutiny on costings.

INADEQUATE planning and management.

LITTLE support for new alliance contracting.

INSUFFICIENT understanding of the weapon.

POOR risk mitigation.


Defence Minister John Faulkner said the project was still in trouble. "The management of this project . . . has simply not been good enough," Senator Faulkner said. He said the Government had told Defence chiefs to report every two months on progress.

The torpedo program is a partnership between Defence, Thales Australia, French defence manufacturer DCNS and Italian torpedo-maker Whitehead Alenia.

It has been added to the Government's notorious "Projects of Concern" list that includes others such as Collins-class submarine maintenance, the Wedgetail early warning aircraft and Airbus KC-30 multi-role tanker planes.

The audit office made three recommendations that were all agreed by Defence and the Government has ordered a follow-up audit in 2011.


Rudd's only ever had one idea -- and it's a hugely expensive white elephant

THE recently released McKinsey/KPMG study on the National Broadband Network is 534 pages long. How many times does it say the NBN is worth doing? Not once. As postmodernists say, read the silence.

What the study shows is that the NBN will earn a rate of return that fails to cover the project's risk-adjusted cost of capital.

But risk is as real a cost as any other. And a project that doesn't cover that cost makes a loss every bit as real as one that cannot pay its employees' wages. Shifting that loss on to taxpayers in no way makes it disappear. It merely hides it, undermining both fiscal honesty and economic efficiency.

The study does not gloss over the high risks the NBN, with its estimated $43 billion outlays, involves. But the best return it can find barely equals that on a deposit account. And even to come up with that gloomy forecast the study makes some brave assumptions.

First, it assumes wireless broadband will not be an effective competitor. True, guaranteed high speeds may at some point give fixed networks a decisive advantage. However, that point seems far away. Rather, it is consumers' insatiable demand for mobility, as evidenced by the iPhone and the iPad, that now drives the development of services and applications. Difficult to believe then that wireless competition will not erode the NBN's revenues.

Second, the study assumes that even without an agreement with the government, Telstra will simply hand its customers to the NBN. As a result, the scenarios it models do not include one in which Telstra competes aggressively with the NBN. But given the study's recognition that in most countries, networks such as Telstra's compete successfully with those based on fibre, that scenario cannot be ignored.

Third, and most surprising, the study assumes that NBN Co will get away with massive price increases. Specifically, the study assumes that NBN Co will charge retailers $25 to $30 a month to use its lines for basic telephony. But providing basic telephony involves other costs as well. Given those costs, NBN Co's proposed charges mean users who only want phone service will face a price increase of some $5 to $10 a month, or 20 to 40 per cent.

The study then assumes that, as a monopoly, NBN Co will be able to increase its prices by about 1 per cent a year above inflation. As a result, charges in thirty years will be 35 per cent higher in real terms than at the start of the NBN's life.

Yet telecommunications prices in Australia declined by over 50 per cent in real terms in the past 30 years. And the trend internationally is for prices to continue falling.

Will Australia really reverse course, and become the only developed country with steadily rising telecommunications prices?

But even assuming it does (and imposes a virtual prohibition on competition to boot), the study finds the new network can only expect to earn the bond rate. This is deeply problematic.

First, the bond rate provides taxpayers with no compensation for being forced to bear the high risk the NBN involves.

Second, it contradicts claims made when the NBN was announced. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the new network would provide taxpayers with "a utility-style rate of return". However, recent regulatory decisions show Australian regulators believe even very low-risk monopolies such as electricity distribution require rates of return twice the bond rate.

Third, allowing the NBN to set prices to such low required returns would, as the study recognises, breach the government's own Competitive Neutrality Guidelines. These require government businesses to cost their capital commercially.

Fourth, it implies a misallocation of scarce savings. As a recent Productivity Commission study of public investment criteria stresses, each dollar invested in projects such as the NBN is a dollar not invested in alternatives that could earn a fully commercial return. Each tax dollar needed to fund the NBN's losses imposes further costs by distorting decisions to work, save and invest.

How big is the loss due to the shortfall between the bond rate and the project's real cost of capital? The government has not released the study's detailed modelling (but should). However, using the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's methodology, the study estimates Conroy's promised utility-style rate of return for the NBN at 8.8 to 12.4 per cent (compared with the government 10 year bond rate of 5.48 per cent).

This implies the project will lose some $12.5 billion in present value terms, even on the study's assumptions about costs, prices and take-up. Effectively, nearly half the project's capital has to be written off at the start. It follows that the project cannot meet the national accounting guidelines' criteria for it to be taken off-budget: that it will "recover a considerable proportion of its costs", "cover its capital and other costs" and not be dependent on grants or subsidies. Rather, the loss is a taxpayer-funded grant to the project that should have been disclosed in the budget.

Many criticisms can be made of the study. But it is a serious piece of work, and its findings deserve respect. Kevin Rudd committed the government to evidence-based policy. Well, here is the evidence.It's up to the government to show it can listen.

And it should listen in another area too: the proposed mining tax. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry said the commitment to eventually repay a share of miners' costs was "identical" to giving miners a government bond. This is incorrect. The commonwealth has never defaulted on its debt; but it has made countless changes to the tax rules, particularly when strapped for cash. Promises to repay costs through the tax system are therefore high risk. Miners can no more borrow against that promise at the bond rate than they can fly to the moon. If the rate at which they're compensated does not reflect the risks, they will take their dollars for capacity expansion elsewhere.

Not even government can wish risk away. Trying to force it on to miners, who have a choice about where they invest, is foolish. Forcing it, as in the NBN, on taxpayers merely makes the community poorer. Experiments show even monkeys understand that higher risk requires higher reward. Surely government can too.


Richo: Both NSW and Federal ALP on the nose

Richo has always had great political antennae so this verdict is likely to be spot-on

LABOR warlord Graham Richardson has conceded defeat at the upcoming state election, sledging the scandal-prone NSW Government for not doing enough for voters in the state.

The influential party powerbroker and former federal minister has also taken a swing at Kevin Rudd, saying his "gloss has gone" and voters are "battling to see who's worse" - the Prime Minister or Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Mr Richardson is the first significant Labor figure to publicly concede defeat - nine months from election day.

In a highly embarrassing but brutally honest appraisal, Mr Richardson said the NSW Government's death knell had sounded long before Transport Minister David Campbell was caught secretly visiting a gay sex club.

"People, I think, have already made up their minds that they want to get rid of Labor," Mr Richardson, a former boss of the NSW Labor Party, said in a candid interview on Nine's Today show.

"So it's just a matter of waiting till March and seeing how bad it's going to come. Labor's already polling abysmally, as distinct from badly.

"We're around 30 per cent as a primary vote. That's just appalling, and it's been stuck on that mark for six months now."

Mr Richardson, who has helped see off Labor premiers such as Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees and is regarded as a mentor for incoming ALP general secretary Sam Dastyari, said the NSW Government had signed its own death warrant by failing to build infrastructure.

"The State Government still isn't doing much - you have to be seen to be actually doing things," he said.

"Why are they getting only 30-odd per cent of the primary vote? I suspect it's because no one sees the roads being built that they think are needed, no one sees the rail being built.

"There are promises things will start in 2015, but no one believes them."Mr Richardson, no stranger to political scandals during his long career, said he felt sorry for Mr Campbell, whom he had known for 30 years. The situation the former minister had been placed was "tragic".

"There is no privacy," he said. "Politicians don't have a right to any sort of private life any more.

"And I don't think they've had that right for 20 years; it's been eroded steadily over a long period of time, but now anything goes."

Mr Richardson described Premier Kristina Keneally's handling of the affair as "spectacular".

But he handed the Prime Minister an embarrassing backhander. Mr Richardson, an architect of several election victories for federal Labor during the Hawke and Keating era, said Mr Rudd was in a race to the bottom with Mr Abbott.

"The problem for the next election is that the gloss has gone off Kevin Rudd. His massive popularity is all gone now - and they don't seem to love Tony Abbott, either. "It's going to be a case of people batting to see who's worse."


Man held over racial assault

Another charming Muslim -- a Turk in this case. What did Australia do to deserve him?

A MAN who allegedly assaulted a woman in an unprovoked racially motivated attack has been remanded in custody.

Serkan Sonmez, 29, of Guildford, appeared before magistrate John McIntosh via videolink at Parramatta Bail Court yesterday. He has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and breaching his bail.

Police allege Mr Sonmez was kicked out of the Eastern Hotel on Oxford Street at 3.45pm on Friday. As he left, Mr Sonmez allegedly uttered a racially offensive statement about Asians.

Police facts stated an Asian woman was walking towards Mr Sonmez on Oxford Street. Mr Sonmez allegedly then punched her in the stomach with significant force. An off-duty policeman saw the alleged attack and tackled Mr Sonmez to the ground.

Mr Sonmez was returned to custody after his court appearance. His lawyer requested he have a medical assessment. In court his lawyer said Mr Sonmez suffers from schizophrenia.


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