Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What world does this guy live in?

The Australian writer of Greek origin below argues that multiculturaliam has been "suffocated" though some vaguely defined lack of support. Since any criticism of multiculturalism was long branded as "racist", it seems to me that the exact opposite actually took place: Multicultuaralism received an oppressively large (and hence probably counterproductive) amount of support.

As with so many of these discussions, however, he appears blinded by the conventional Leftist assumption that all men are equal and that all groups are therefore equal too. The fact is that both people and groups are different, not equal (except perhaps in some religious sense). So it is not multiculturalism in general that is the problem but rather certain cultures -- crime prone Africans and Lebanese Muslims in particular. Nobody has any problem with such manifestations of multiculturalism as Lithuanian folk dancers

His whole logical problem is overgeneralization. Because Greeks and Italians have fitted in well, he assumes that (say) Africans will too -- a totally evidence-free assumption. Has he heard of the rates of crime, welfare dependency, educational failure and mental illness among blacks in Britain, for instance?

Sitting in the Norrkoping campus of the Linkoping University, Sweden, southwest of Stockholm, I am overwhelmed with a sense of wonder that the sun has begun setting at 1 pm. It will be dark by 3.30.

Though a clear, sunny day, snow is forecast for this evening and there is a type of cold that would make most Australians shiver.

In the corridors here, one of the central topics of conversation amongst staff and students is the rise of the far right, anti-immigration party – the Sweden Democrats – that received 5.7 percent of the votes and gained 20 seats in Parliament. Their motto, “responsible immigration policies” for Sweden is, according to one of my colleagues here, a euphemism for limiting Muslim migrants.

Many Swedes are in disbelief that such a party would take hold and it is a conversation that I join in carefully. In these discussions they proudly talk of the liberal attitudes reflected across the country: yes, there are problems, they say, but we all know what happens when you start signalling one minority group.

This rise of the Swedish right reflects a trend that is occurring across Europe riding on the back of anti-immigration rhetoric: Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary and Germany. Reading the tealeaves of her own demise, German Chancellor, Angela Merkal, to announce that ‘multiculturalism has utterly failed’. This echoes former Prime Minister, John Howard’s declaration that ‘multiculturalism has gone too far’ and that the Anglo-sphere needs to be proud of it achievements.

So, is multiculturalism dead and must it be killed off before we can be proud of ‘our’ achievements?

The answer is no on both fronts, In fact, multiculturalism could be more vibrant and alive than ever, it is just that it is slowly being suffocated through neglect and, to put it bluntly, outright lies.

To understand my position, let’s begin by with what multiculturalism actually is: it simply refers to the concept that several different cultures (rather than only one) can coexist peacefully and equitably. [Many can but will they all?]

Migration studies show us that when people arrive in a country, they tend to be attracted to where other recognisable migrants are. As such, Italians coming to Sydney in the 1950s where attracted to Leichhardt and Greeks (in the 1960s) to Marrickville. As time passes, the children of migrants tend to blend into the various other cultures, including the dominant one, and move on.

This is what we have seen happen and will continue to happen. In fact, the children of most migrants want nothing more than to be part of the broader culture – something their parents support because this is exactly why they come to the new country.

Yes, there will always those who resist this, but does this mean that we throw out a policy that has served us well? That would be ridiculous. Think of it this way, there are those who refuse to accept that passive smoking creates health problems – do we abandoned our anti-smoking laws?

Multiculturalism has served us well. Australia has developed into a complex and vibrant society and we have all benefited from it: from the everyday cultural enjoyment of food, music, theatre and dance, to the economic connections that have been built, and the way we are better equipped with dealing with challenges.

So if things are so great, why am I arguing that multiculturalism is being suffocated?

Multiculturalism succeeds for various reasons including an egalitarian approach (that is, giving migrants equal rights), support from major parties and adequate funding of services for migrants. So, for multiculturalism to work, we need to invest into the people arriving as well as in those who are already here. We need to make sure that there is sufficient infrastructure, housing, education and politicians willing to stand up to misinformation.

Anti-immigration parties have emerged because many of these aspects of our society have been neglected. If we combine this with a specific globalisation agenda that focuses on competition rather than cooperation, the world appears unstable and many of us feel neglected. It is easy for this sense of instability to be blamed towards outsiders arriving.

In addition, entire industries have been left to die – such as manufacturing. This is not the fault of migration – but follows the abandoning of any real industrial policies.

Thirdly, we have major political parties that seem to be courting the anti-immigrant sentiment rather than confronting them. Recently, Tony Abbott has been using both the population debate and the refugee boats as a way to deliver an anti-immigration method – hardly surprising given most of his policies where developed under John Howard.

Julia Gillard and the ALP have failed to respond in any meaningful way: seeming to be satisfied in letting Abbott set the agenda.

Declaring multiculturalism dead will not solve any of our problems – it will simply create new ones.

In 1996, Pauline Hanson declared that ‘Asians’ would swamp us? It has not happened.

Forty years before that we were worried about communists would swamp us. Now, when someone declares their support for communist ideals they are considered ‘cute’.

Today we seem to be focussed on the entire Muslim population as potential terrorists who are not ‘fitting in’ and will soon, you guessed it, ‘swamp us’.

It has nothing to do with multiculturalism failing – and much to do with politicians taking advantage of dissatisfaction of their own policy weaknesses to focus attention elsewhere.


The bungling bullies of Qld. Health once again

This whole affair is basically incomprehensible from a rational perspective. Why have they not simply gone back to their old payroll system when the new one has failed so ignominiously? Maybe the old one was not perfect but it was miles better than the present unending debacle. Only bureaucratic stubbornness can explain the present situation.

And stubborn and arrogant bureaucrats they certainly are at Qld. Health. I hear lots about the Qld. Health bureaucracy that's not in the papers -- and it is all appalling tales of waste, stupidity and arrogance. It wouldn't last 5 minutes as a business.

A hospital system that cannot even pay its staff correctly would be the stuff of comedy if it were not so serious. But that's what you get when you have a bureaucracy that has been metastasizing since 1944 -- when Ned Hanlon introduced "free" hospitals to Qld.

A PROMINENT Brisbane doctor is under investigation for fraud after accepting a hardship payment during the Queensland Health payroll disaster. The investigation into the highly respected doctor has angered the medical fraternity, which says he was denied natural justice after QH referred him to police before discussing the allegations with him first.

The department has since given the doctor a "qualified apology" for the distress caused but last night confirmed the investigation was ongoing.

The allegations risk further inflaming a debacle which worsened yesterday when the Bligh Government confirmed that it would spend $209 million to fix the botched system. Spending cuts or borrowings will be needed to raise the funds, which are more than three times the cost of the initial system. The Government yesterday admitted the problems, which it initially advised would take weeks to fix, would not be rectified before the next state election.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said $107 million would go towards extra payroll staff and the rest on paying for software, contractors, advisers and information technology experts.

He said the money would not come out of Queensland Health's operational budget but refused to say whether it would come from cuts or borrowings. But a confidential draft memo leaked to the Opposition details cuts already being considered by one health district.

QH metro south district chief David Theile outlined 14 areas where services could be cut, including closing palliative care beds, reducing overtime, delaying hospital repairs and leaving positions vacant. "Payroll impacts are continuing to distract our expenditure and these effects are not factored into our starting deficit," he said. "In this environment the services we currently perform need to be capped."

Mr Lucas insisted Dr Theile was referring to payroll in only an "oblique" fashion and the system's costs would be absorbed by the corporate, rather than the operational, section of the health budget.

Queensland Health last night confirmed a Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital doctor was being investigated despite the department's Director-General Mick Reid last week giving him a "qualified apology for any unnecessary distress" the police probe had caused. The first the doctor was aware of the fraud allegations was when he was contacted by Fortitude Valley police.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said Queensland Health had failed to give the senior doctor natural justice by referring him to police for investigation without discussing the issue with him first. "If this well trusted doctor was afforded an opportunity to talk about the issue and to explain it, then it would never have got this far," Dr Pecoraro said.

The AMA and the doctor had the impression the matter had been resolved after a conversation with Mr Reid last week. "This is just another example of how the communication process between Queensland Health and doctors has failed," Dr Pecoraro said.

But QH deputy director-general Michael Walsh said the department had a legal obligation to investigate suspected official misconduct. "The matter has not been finalised and is still under investigation," Mr Walsh said.

RBWH medical staff association chairwoman Dana Wainwright would not comment on details of the case yesterday but said it had caused "significant grief". "It's an appalling thing for an employer to do," she said. Dr Wainwright said doctors were still having trouble understanding their payslips, eight months after the introduction of the payroll system.

Thousands of doctors, nurses and other health workers have been left with incorrect pays since the new system was brought on-line in March.


Australia's arrogant medical regulators take another big tumble

The arrogant bitches (e.g. Rita Maclachlan and Fiona Cumming) at the TGA thought they knew it all -- and to hell with evidence and to hell with people's jobs. No word so far about any of them being penalized for their grossly improper behaviour -- even though one of them even shredded notes in an attempt to hide their deliberations. The taxpayer is just left with a $100m bill for their high-handed actions -- $50m in 2008 and another $50m now

A SETTLEMENT, believed to be more than $50 million, has been reached in the Pan Pharmaceuticals class action against the federal government. The settlement, announced yesterday, brings to a close a string of legal suits since 2003, and is belated vindication for the company's founder, Jim Selim, who died earlier this year after a stroke and battle with leukaemia.

Mr Selim had been giving evidence in the Federal Court in the months before his death. Terms of settlement are confidential.

In 2003, Pan boasted "the largest product offering of its kind in the world", with 4500 formulations of tablets, gels, liquids, creams and powders on offer, when it became the subject of a huge product recall.

In April that year the Therapeutic Goods Administration suspended Pan's manufacturing licence and recalled everything it had manufactured in the past year. Its investigation into Pan was sparked by reports the company's Travacalm product was causing hallucinations in some people. The company collapsed within months.

In 2008 Mr Selim received a $50 million settlement from the federal government.

About 165 of Pan's customers, creditors and sponsors joined a class action, led by PharmaCare, seeking their own payments from the government and the TGA, saying they were left $120 million out of pocket by the action taken by authorities. Three other companies ran their own cases alongside it.

The litigation funder, IMF, said if the settlement was approved by the court they would receive $24 million which would generate a profit after overheads but before tax of $17 million.

Litigation funders generally receive about one-third of proceeds of settlement, making the settlement in favour of the class action more than $50 million. "Any settlement is a compromise from all parties concerned," said the executive director of IMF, John Walker. "[In] this particular dispute, I think everybody involved ought to be happy with the outcome."

Pan's associates had accused the authorities of negligence and misfeasance of public office and some are claiming for a loss of share value, which lawyers for the TGA said there was no legal authority for.

Mr Walker hoped an application for approval would be before the court before year's end.


Average Australians well aware of economic case against more immigration

By Ross Gittins, a generally Left-leaning economist

The Big Australia issue has gone quiet since the election but it hasn't gone away. It can't go away because it's too central to our future and, despite Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott's rare agreement to eschew rapid population growth, the issue remains unresolved.

This year Rebecca Huntley of Ipsos, a global market research firm, and Bernard Salt of KPMG, a financial services firm, conducted interviews with business people and discussions with 13 groups of consumers, showing them two markedly different scenarios of what Australia could look like in 2020.

In the "measured Australia" scenario, governments limited population growth, focused on making our activities more environmentally sustainable and limited our economic links with the rest of the world.

In the "global Australia" scenario, governments set aside concerns about the environment, promoted rapid economic and population growth, and made Australia ever more a part of Asia.

Not surprisingly, the business people hated measured Australia and loved global Australia. But even though global Australia was described in glowing terms - ignoring the environment apparently had no adverse effects - ordinary people rejected it. And although measured Australia was painted in negative terms - all downside and no upside - there were aspects of it people quite liked.

The message I draw is that if governments keep pursuing rapid growth to please business they'll encounter increasing resentment and resistance from voters.

Considering the human animal's deep-seated fear of foreigners, it's not surprising resentment has focused on immigration. It's clear from the way in the election campaign both sides purported to have set their face against high migration that they're starting to get the message.

But at the moment they're promising to restrict immigration with one hand while encouraging a decade-long, labour-consuming boom in the construction of mines and gas facilities with the other. And this will be happening at a time when the economy is already close to full employment and baby boomers retire as the population ages.

Their two approaches don't fit together. And unless our leaders find a way to resolve the contradiction there's trouble ahead.

Business people support rapid population growth, which really means high immigration; there's little governments can do to influence the birth rate, because they know a bigger population means a bigger economy. And in a bigger economy they can increase their sales and profits.

That's fine for them, but it doesn't necessarily follow that a bigger economy is better for you and me. Only if the extra people add more to national income than their own share of that income will the average incomes of the rest of us be increased. And that's not to say any gain in material standard of living isn't offset by a decline in our quality of life, which goes unmeasured by gross domestic product.

The most recent study by the Productivity Commission, in 2006, found that even extra skilled migration did little or nothing to raise the average incomes of the existing population, with the migrants themselves the only beneficiaries.

This may explain why, this time, economists are approaching the question from the other end: we're getting the future economic growth from the desire of the world's mining companies to greatly expand Australia's capacity to export coal, iron ore and natural gas, but we don't have sufficient skilled labour to meet that need and unless we bring in a lot more labour this episode will end in soaring wages and inflation.

Peter McDonald, a leading demographer at the Australian National University, argues that governments don't determine the level of net migration, the economy does. When our economy's in recession, few immigrants come and more Aussies leave; when the economy's booming, more immigrants come and fewer Aussies leave. Governments could try to resist this increase, but so far they've opted to get out of the way.

To most business people, economists and demographers, the answer to our present problem is obvious: since economic growth must go ahead, the two sides of politics should stop their populist pandering to the punters' resentment of foreigners.

But it seems clear from the Ipsos discussion groups that people's resistance to high immigration focuses on their concerns about the present inadequacy of public infrastructure: roads, transport, water and energy. We're not coping now, what would it be like with more people?

And the punters have a point. In their instinctive reaction to the idea of more foreigners they've put their finger on the great weakness in the economic case for immigration.

As economists know - but don't like to talk or even think about - the reason immigration adds little or nothing to the material living standards of the existing population is that each extra person coming to Australia - the workers and their families - has to be provided with extra capital equipment: a home to live in, machines to use at work and a host of public infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, libraries, police stations and much else.

The cost of that extra capital has to be set against the benefit from the extra labour. If the extra capital isn't forthcoming, living standards - and, no doubt, quality of life - decline.

If we don't build the extra homes - as we haven't been doing for some years - rents and house prices keep rising, making home ownership less affordable. To build the extra public facilities, governments have to raise taxes and borrow money. But they hate raising taxes and both sides of federal politics have sworn to eliminate government debt.

The interviews and discussion groups revealed both business people and consumers to be highly doubtful about the ability of governments - particularly state governments - to provide the infrastructure we need. As well they might be.


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