Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good riddance to bad rubbish

He always was "holier than thou" -- a supercilious old b*stard. I regret that I once shook his hand. After his wimpish Prime Minstership, he has been loathed by many Australian conservatives for a long time

FORMER Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has quit the party, allegedly over a belief it has tilted too far to the right.

Mr Fraser resigned in December, shortly after Malcolm Turnbull was turfed as Opposition leader over his support for emissions trading, The Australian Financial Review reported.

He allegedly told friends his replacement, Tony Abbott, was "all over the place" on policy and disliked the racist overtones adopted by the party in the debate on immigration.

Mr Fraser, the prime minister from 1975 to 1983, confirmed his decision to quit yesterday, saying the party was no longer a liberal party but a conservative party.

Although he failed to elaborate, he has recently been critical of the Coalition in the media, particularly over its stance on the Israeli passports affair.


Useless emergency hotline again

Another case of an emergency call "diverted" to somewhere a long way away from the emergency -- where it gets "lost"

FEARS are held for the safety of teachers in a Cape York Indigenous community after a frightening attempted break-in yesterday.

Queensland Teachers Union north Queensland delegate Maureen Duffy said tension had been building in the town since a riot last week, with an attempted break-in yesterday heightening concerns.

The attempted break-in was particularly frightening for the two female victims, who were unable to get through to Aurukun police. Their call diverted to Cairns instead.

Ms Duffy said the two female teachers, both under the age of 26, were alerted by a security light about 3.15am yesterday, which revealed three intruders, who had duct tape with them, trying to break in. “They tried to get in the side door and then they went around and tried the front door,” Ms Duffy said. “They (the teachers) were screaming out ‘We are going to call the police!’. “They (the intruders) then scaled the fence and ran away.” A roll of duct tape was later found outside.

“I do know that they tried to ring police and it diverted to Cairns and the report I was told was that details was supposed to be given,” Ms Duffy said. She said the principal also tried to call Aurukun police about 8.30am yesterday and that phone call also diverted to Cairns.

Meanwhile a police officer from Aurukun Police Station denied there was a riot earlier in the week, and said there just fighting between families. "It was nothing out of the ordinary for here - just ongoing tension and family fights,’’ he said.

Aurukun police officer-in-charge Sen-Sgt Alan Dewis said the attempted break-in was not reported to police when the call was diverted to Cairns. "You can't complain about a service if you don't report what actually happened," he said. "If that information had been passed on it's without a doubt there would have been a quick response."

Sen-Sgt Dewis said he could not make any further comments as the investigation was ongoing.


Streamline teacher sackings, say NSW parents

PARENTS want the state government to speed up the process of sacking underperforming teachers from schools, which they say is too long and needs to be reviewed.

The call follows the release of a report yesterday which said principals were failing to do anything about poor teachers and that the system for evaluating teachers was "broken".

The president of the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, Dianne Giblin, said yesterday the procedure to remove underperforming teachers was "too long and complex". "Every parent wants a quality teacher in front of a classroom," she said. "There needs to be a review and the process of removing ineffective teachers should be quicker and more succinct.

"There is a lengthy period … where teachers are monitored and reviewed and often transferred to another school where the process starts again."

The state government has backed away from its decision in early 2008 to give principals the autonomy to hire and fire teachers, in response to pressure from the NSW Teachers Federation.

A spokesman for the Education Minister, Verity Firth, said every teacher deserved "due process". Teachers deemed to be underperforming were placed on a 10-week improvement program. If, at the end of the program, the teacher has not satisfied "specific quality benchmarks" he or she is "referred for … disciplinary or … remedial action, which could include dismissal," the spokesman said.

This year the NSW Institute of Teachers will begin evaluating teachers who apply for accreditation at the higher levels of "accomplished teaching" and "teacher leadership".

The head of the institute, Patrick Lee, said 350 experienced teachers had applied for evaluation under the new standards, with 150 more expected to apply by the end of the year.

Public school teachers who receive accreditation would not qualify for higher pay in the same way as independent school teachers, who earn an extra $6862 for achieving the new standards.

The NSW Association of Independent Schools has negotiated a scale of performance pay for teachers at 120 private schools, and the highest rate is more than $100,000. Public school classroom teachers earn a maximum of about $79,000.

The Catholic Education Office in Sydney will appoint teacher educators to 20 primary and 11 secondary schools this year. The educators will be paid about $110,000 to improve standards.

Gary Zadkovich, deputy president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said the government and Department of Education had failed to provide enough support and guidance for public school principals to implement teacher improvement programs.


Anti-American Left clutches at the usual cliches

IMAGINE surprising your audience, challenging their preconceived views, allowing people to learn something new, think afresh, rather than simply seek out reaffirmation of what they already believe. Imagine this happening when five international guests gather to talk about America for the 2010 Sydney Writers Festival. A festival that promised to bring "provocative ideas" and "feisty debate" to Sydney.

Maybe next year. The festival's big event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday evening started and finished as a caricature of all that has gone awry with the Left. Not just the refusal to try for nuance, difference or debate on a panel. Progressives seem to think gathering people of different skin colours can be used as proxies for different views.

Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody. Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama, yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration ("evil was being actively pursued every single day"), Sarah Palin and Fox News ("I blame Australia. Thanks, Rupert.") This is the same kind of blubbing uniformity you find at a Tea Party convention.

But it's the smugness of the Left that strikes you the most. Are there different views? Not among decent-minded people surely. Not among our audience anyway, who reek of sensibility with their sensible shoes, their sensibly warm cardigans and scarves.

It's true the audience seemed content, clapping, heads nodding and shaking in tune. Perhaps this is what the elderly do to relive their salad days of unruly protest marches. Past the age of youthful chanting and traipsing the streets holding up anti-American placards, the audience -- with a mean age of 60 -- seemed to be here to have their views affirmed. And so did the aging activist Anne Summers, who chaired the panel session. Alas, the taxpayer-funded Sydney Writers Festival is not meant to be a political or ideological gathering. Or a protest march for oldies.

Opening the panel, Summers mentioned an article by James Fallow in a recent edition of Atlantic Monthly. A thoughtful piece about the American cycle of crisis and renewal, Fallows has the intellectual honesty to explore what is great about America while also exploring its greatest flaws. Turns out Summers is a dreadful tease. There would be no such intellectual integrity on display in the Town Hall. No fascinating exploration of what Fallows traces as the "jeremiad" national ritual where Americans issue harsh warnings about American decline as a rallying cry to get people to address problems.

No honest appraisal of history where America is always depicted as in decline for one reason or another. Prior to World War II, America was always falling short of the expectations of God, the Founding Fathers or the past. After emerging as a global power, it was always accused of falling behind another emerging power. And no mention of the brilliant American capacity to bounce back every time.

Instead, Summers presided over and, with simplistic questions, prompted 90 minutes of bashing America in general, and conservative America in particular. She kicked it off with a quote from a book by panellist Lionel Shriver. "Americans are fat, inarticulate and ignorant. They're demanding, imperious and spoiled. They're self-righteous and superior. . ." and so on. Cue the panel. British protester Raj Patel said he recently took up American citizenship so that he "can now be arrested and not deported back to the United Kingdom".

He joined the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle and the 2000 protests against the World Bank. He would later recite a nostalgic poem, Let America Be America Again, once published in a pamphlet by a group of communists.

Shriver, now living in Britain, told the audience to forget about moving to America because "if this is as good as it gets, then it doesn't get very good". Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar, remarked on the enormous similarities between Iran and America: the sense of greatness, the role of religion in society. Americans treat their founding documents as "scripture", he said. "That's called fundamentalism." So America "feels like home," he said.

One panel member mocked the belief in small government as a "weird contradiction". Ignoring centuries of genuine liberal political philosophy, he wondered how any sensible person could believe in government only to then say they want government off your back?

An hour earlier, at an entertaining session about plain English, an intelligent chair talked to Christopher Hitchens, Annabel Crabb and former NSW premier Nathan Rees about the problems with cliches.

Clutching at cliches is not a case of bad thinking, said Hitchens. "It's not doing the thinking at all." Across town, Summers presented the 90-minute crash course: Left-Wing Anti-American Cliches 101.

There was no sign of reality. As one panel member said, "I just don't like reality." No honest scorecard of America, a big country that makes big mistakes, to be sure. But also a big country that delivered big help to Europe during World War II, to Bosnian Muslims in Serbia in 1995, to the thousands of people devastated by the Asian tsunami in 2004, to the Burmese in 2008 left to die by their military leaders, and so on. No recognition that the soft power of Europe has done precious little to rescue people in need.

Instead, there was smugness. Ironically, the very same smugness explored a few days earlier by Shriver during an intelligent discussion with broadcaster and journalist Caroline Baum. When talking about humour, Shriver said she doesn't care for the clubby nature of most political satire where it is assumed you are all on the same side. "It's what annoys me about liberals in general. Conservatives, as a type, do not assume when they meet someone that you're a conservative . . . Liberals are presumptuous and especially if you seem like a half-way decent human being. The assumption is, of course, you are wildly left-wing." Everyone is regarded as being in the same club. It's "very self-congratulatory", Shriver said.

No doubt, the authors on stage subscribe to the view of novelist Peter De Vries, mentioned in Hitchens's new book, Hitch 22. De Vries said his ambition as a writer was for his books to attract a mass audience, "one large enough for his more elite audience to look down upon".

When one panel member on Saturday evening seriously suggested that obesity in America was the fault of George W. Bush, it was time to wrap things up for anyone with a modicum of free thinking. Let's Talk About America should have been called Let's Attack America, remarked my friend as we walked out.

Memo to festival organisers: please bump up ticket prices for the 2011 festival so governments can stop subsidising you. And taxpayer money can be used somewhere useful next year.


1 comment:

Paul said...

This event, unfortunately is emblematic of what a s***hole Aurukun is, and always has been. All our best stabbings, beatings etc. come from there. I've long thought we should just leave them to it and just go up there and hose the place out every few years. It's one community that refused to accept going dry, and it shows.