Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More on Big Mal

Malcolm Fraser was in his younger days known as very Right-wing and as a fan of Ayn Rand but in office he did very little to introduce market-oriented reforms. These days he is best remembered for losing his trousers on a hot night in Memphis, Tennessee! Courtesy of Michael Darby, I once met Big Mal for a brief chat and it was a great struggle to keep the word "trousers" out of the conversation, I can tell you!

I agree that the Fraser years (1975-1983) were "lost years" as far as most market reforms were concerned but Fraser does have some reasonably good conservative credentials nonetheless. It is often forgotten that he was ahead of Margaret Thatcher in rolling back socialism -- in that he started de-nationalizing Australian health-care in 1976 (though the present dual system was not fully in place until 1981). Margaret Thatcher, of course, first came to office in 1979. And Fraser was a strong supporter of the United States and its policies -- and he also cut back government spending, which is more than G.W. Bush can claim.

And doing nothing whilst in office is not an entirely inappropriate thing for a conservative Prime Minister to do anyway. It beats constant government meddling and multiplication of laws! Australia's most revered conservative Prime Minister -- Sir Robert Menzies -- is also remembered for the paucity of his "initiatives" and the stability of Australian life during his long term in office.

On anything to do with race and ethnicity, however, Big Mal rivals the Left for "correctness" -- and he bears some responsibility for the installation of the ghastly Robert Mugabe as ruler of the unfortunate people of Zimbabwe. The reason behind that, however, seems never to be mentioned.

Fraser is technically Jewish. Although his own religion is nominal Protestant, his mother was Jewish -- which makes Fraser Jewish under Jewish law. And Jews are of course understandably hypersensitive about matters to do with race. It is however remarkable testimony to the very low level of antisemitism in Australia that a man can become Prime Minister of Australia without his Jewishness ever even being mentioned.

I think it also shows how "racist" Australian conservatives are that they chose Fraser to lead them -- rather like those "racist" British conservatives who chose Benjamin Disraeli to lead them in the 19th century and Michael Howard to lead them (unsuccessfully) in the 21st. -- JR

An ABC cleansing of conservatives

By Andrew Bolt

Jon Faine has done a little of that “cleansing” of conservatives he once urged on the Herald Sun:

Between 2007 and 2009 Andrew McIntyre occupied the right wing chair in the 774 ABC Melbourne studio for Friday’s Weekly Wrap segment on Jon Faine’s morning radio show. Liberty Sanger, Labor lawyer and wife of ALP Senator David Feeney, represented the Left…

However, last December you could almost hear the pencils snap at the ABC when he strongly criticised Clive Hamilton during a segment on the Higgins byelection.

McIntyre’s Hamilton critique might have been the final straw. The ABC withdrew the welcome mat for 2010 and replaced McIntyre with the decidedly milder Nick Maher of Gavin Anderson.

Before his gig on the Weekly Wrap, McIntyre was a regular co-host on Faine’s Conversation Hour; and in that role also he was never backward in debunking leftist dogma. He returned to co-host one Conversation Hour this year, but hasn’t been heard on the station since.


When vanity hits political reality

By Janet Albrechtsen

THE resource super-profits tax is yet another chapter in a short history of the Rudd government crying out to be written: When Vanity Collides with Reality.

Kevin Rudd's mining tax is a poor policy concocted by those with pasty hands and clean fingernails, oblivious to the workings of the mining business. Only a dirty dose of reality will make the policy workable. Add it to the growing list of policies dreamed up in sterile Canberra offices by Rudd ministers completely disconnected from the real world.

How remarkable and disheartening that the Prime Minister appears to learn so little from his government's previous blunders. Again and again, dangerous policy overreactions have been driven by overblown rhetoric and then deflated by the forces of reality. This amateurish way of conducting government reeks of hubris or insecurity. Either way, Rudd's ledger of political and policy misjudgments will not make for a pretty read.

Early chapters were written long ago. When the Rudd government announced its botched tax changes to employee share schemes last year, you didn't need to be a market whiz to predict the consequences. Share schemes were immediately shut down. And the changes threatened to kill off schemes completely. More hubris - or insecurity - will be recorded when Rudd overreacted to the global financial crisis with inflated rhetoric and funding the $16.2 billion schools building program. A basic understanding of supply and demand was all you needed to foresee the outcome: taxpayers footing the bill for a sorry story of cost blow-outs, pumped-up prices, unwanted buildings and lack of consultation with schools.

A chapter will be devoted to the home insulation debacle, of course. It will trace how the government, using the modish lingo of green politics to pump a few more billion dollars into the economy, refused to accept reality even when it was laid out on a platter in the form of advice from state governments, law firms and other highly paid advisers.

House fires and deaths will be recorded as the high cost of the Rudd government's vanity that it knew better.

Another chapter will document the government's politically motivated dumping of what it claimed as "the great moral issue of our time". While Rudd ministers point the finger of blame at the opposition and the Greens for opposing the emissions trading system, the Prime Minister could take the same policy to the coming election for voter approval. He won't. Rudd's rhetoric, this time about climate change, has been defeated by more reality. This year, fewer and fewer Australians - especially the working families that Rudd won over in 2007 - believe his hype.

And May will provide yet another chapter. Let's call it: Reality bites. Again. More puffed-up language about "fair share" with winks to a class war to slug big mining companies, especially foreign companies, with a new tax. It's another policy hatched in the nation's capital that bears no relationship to reality beyond its grassy knoll. This time Rudd's moral vanity collided with multiple realities: moral hazard, human nature, sovereign risk and so on.

"Miners are gamblers: it is the nature of the beast." How different things might have been if the Rudd government and the bookishly clever Canberra bureaucrats, had read just the opening line of The Big Fella: The Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton. This year's winner of the Blake Dawson prize for business literature begins with a fascinating account of the spirit of adventure and risk-taking that started on a "baking hot day in 1883 when Charles Rasp pegged his claim on the broken-backed hill near the NSW-South Australian border".

The Rudd government's 40 per cent mining tax - devised with a government promise to pick up 40 per cent of "reasonable costs" - is the trade-off no one in the mining industry seems to want. Not big mining companies. Or even small ones. Why? Because miners are still gamblers, driven by optimism, exciting finds, big returns. They don't expect government safety nets if they fail. New Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis described it best. Small miners want to "hit a home run", he said last week. They don't want mop-up costs for failure. It's called human nature in the mining industry, he said.

Instead of applauding the mining spirit that has fuelled Australian prosperity, filling government coffers to finance government programs since the 1880s, Rudd knew better.

But when you start promising to subsidise costs in an industry, you can expect to see more shonky operators taking even greater risks. It's called moral hazard. Ever heard of the home insulation scheme, Prime Minister?

And do Australian taxpayers want to mop up the costs? Remember it's all sunshine and roses from the super-profits tax when the economy is booming. But when the economy slides and the government has to start paying up, imagine the uproar when mining companies put their hands out for billions, and we are talking billions of taxpayer dollars to reimburse shareholder losses. You can see why mining companies - and the banks - are dubious about the government keeping its side of the bargain against a voter backlash.

That's called sovereign risk. While Trade Minister Simon Crean is out there selling the Australian Unlimited brand in a competitive global world, the Prime Minister is destroying it.

In fact, Rudd's moral vanity over mining delivered him a double whammy: poor policy and political miscalculation. He rejected important details laid out, even by his trusted Treasury boss Ken Henry: a 25 per cent company tax rate that would coincide with the new mining tax.

And he refused the suggested lengthy consultation period for a big new tax. Again, Rudd knew better. When voters proved to be smarter than Rudd, baulking at the economic costs of the mining tax, Rudd started his $38 million advertising campaign, breaking another promise made in 2007 that he would never, ever allow the cancer of government advertising to continue.

Capriciousness will feature large in any Rudd government history. There is no political conviction that cannot be turned on its head; no policy that cannot be dumped when reality strikes. Inevitably, when Rudd is long gone and his history is being written, Rudd ministers - and the media - will lay the blame at Rudd's feet. But let the record also show there were plenty of others within Rudd's kitchen cabinet - Education Minister Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner - who share the blame. So rework this for the first page: someone close to me liked to say the difference between monkeys and men is men learn from their mistakes. The Rudd government was led by a barrel of interlinking monkeys.


Dumbing down English teaching

UNDER the new national schools curriculum students studying English as a Second Language will apparently study more literature than those studying Essential English.

The bulk of our students will encounter only a smattering of literature texts in something described as "functional English", while the true enjoyment of reading literature will be the preserve of just an elite few. This is hardly in line with true educational principles or Australia's egalitarian foundations.

It simply reveals how Barry McGaw, chairman of the curriculum developers, and his misguided team have botched such an important exercise. Every other civilised nation in the world ensures its future generations have the opportunity to study and appreciate the nation's key prose, poetry and drama. Literature as taught through text is the central feature of a nation's culture and enlightenment, as well as its knowledge and awareness.

Australia will now be the only developed country which places little importance on literature in the education of its young.

After an interminable waiting time, it has now become clear that these curriculum developers have been mugged as they conducted their task. They have dumbed down the English curriculum as they have been progressively captured by a number of forces.

They have fallen prey to the propaganda of the Left that literature is too hard for most students to understand, whereas the fact is that any good teacher can instill a love of all literature in all students no matter what their social background or capacity. Throughout history the study of literature has been a key element of social progression for young people who might otherwise have been trapped in the travails of their socio-economic circumstances.

The curriculum talks of analysing and dissecting authors' motives in literature, with little mention of enjoying, appreciating, and learning from literature: its vocabulary, flow, style, characterisation, and richness of language and expression. The authors have clearly fallen prey to the loony nihilistic deconstructionists.

They also make the dangerous and erroneous assertion that film, digital, and video modalities are equal to the written text, and so McGaw and his colleagues have surrendered to the current cohort of teachers and their union bosses, most of whom have never read a good novel themselves and would rather push a button or click a mouse than turn a page.

They have no appreciation of the significance and richness of literature text and the proper means of teaching it. It is not possible to curl up in bed with a good modem. Film makers are never true to the literature which they plunder, manipulate, and exploit.

How does the Rudd government square all of this with its controversial decision earlier this year to act contrary to the findings of the Productivity Commission on the importation of books? The government says it acted to protect the interests of Australian authors but what is the point if no schoolchildren will be reading them? All our Australian authors churning out all those books for a population incapable of reading and enjoying them.

There is also an extremely dangerous indication in these documents that in English, and other subjects of the proposed national curriculum, state governments will be able to determine assessment methods. Thus there will be no truly "national" curriculum and we are headed for continued lack of uniformity and consistency in school education systems across Australia. Another Rudd government promise broken.

The blame game will continue and any families moving interstate will face all the strangling complexities on their children's education which they suffer at the moment. McGaw has certainly been mugged by vested interests in state Labor governments.

As recently revealed in The Australian the nation's history scholars are already demolishing the curriculum development process for its lack of balance, despite all the promises from McGaw after his release of the earlier, biased, original discussion papers which he commissioned from so-called "experts".

The so-called national schools curriculum is shaping up as another Rudd-Gillard policy bungle and waste of public money, morphing into a broken election promise. The only solution seems to be to start again and cobble together the best of the NSW and Victorian curriculums as an interim measure, while a proper professional process is established. This issue is far more important than mining, taxation, infrastructure, emissions, or any of the matters that dominate our daily lives: the whole wellbeing of our youth is at stake; in other words the future of our nation.


1 comment:

Ruby of Toowoomba said...

I have always enjoyed the English language and literature thanks to the school education system before the leftards got hold of it.

Our generation were taught to learn by rote with nightly spelling lists and reciting our tables. There was no television to distract us and we were taught to enjoy reading.

It is up to parents more than ever to read to and to try and instil a love of English in their children as the teachers are not being allowed to do their job - those teachers that is who are not of the left persuasion.

Of course if the parents are of a generation that was not taught to read, write, and comprehend their own language that will be an impossible task.

Now of course there are the competing elements of Television, Videos, and of course, the Web.

I fear for this country now more than ever.

When you watch Parliament question time there is nothing students could learn from it but hectoring, and bullying from the Labor side.

When you have Communists in charge of the education system with no one to stop them from doctoring it, we need Labor being thrown out of office for good before they destroy Australia.