Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another farce about a white man claiming to be black

THE Family Court has declared a "notably fair" [skinned] man to be a "proud Aborigine" despite both his parents saying they are white.

The court was asked to consider the matter after the man, who was raised white but began identifying as an Aborigine in 1999, got an Irish backpacker pregnant. She wanted to go home to Ireland with their baby daughter, but the Family Court is required by law to give special consideration to Aboriginal children, and their need to retain links to their culture and heritage.

This would normally mean that an Aboriginal child could not be taken out of Australia to be raised by a non-Aboriginal parent.

The man, who is an academic in Newcastle and a member of various Land Councils and indigenous advisory bodies, told the court he had received a Certificate of Aboriginality in 2004, but the child's mother, known in court documents as Ms Weir, "did not accept (the father's) claim that he was Aboriginal".
Free trial

She told the court that "during their relationship he did not attend Aboriginal Land Council meetings or community events. He did not bring Aboriginal friends home, nor did he socialise with members of the Aboriginal community". "At no time prior to the breakdown of the relationship had he discussed with her the Aboriginal people from whom he was descended, their language or culture, or suggested she and the child become involved with that culture."

The mother believed the father "called upon his Aboriginal heritage opportunistically" such as when "there is a job opportunity available".

She feared he intended "to use his daughter to further his own ambitions by sending her to a 'culturally appropriate Aboriginal pre-school' . . . the point being this would look good on his CV".

In an initial hearing last December, Family Court judge Maureen Ryan agreed the question of whether the father was Aboriginal was "contentious" even in his own family. "Until the age of 19, he and his parents, their extended families and siblings were identified (and self-identified) as Anglo Australians," Justice Ryan said. "None of his relations were identified as, or claimed to be, Aboriginal."

However, when the man, known in court documents as Mr Sheldon was 19 years old, his paternal grandmother called him to her sick bed to tell him some family secrets. She said she was part-Aboriginal but had always hidden her racial identity. She said that her first-born son had been fathered not by her husband, who is white, but by a married Aboriginal man.

These revelations "resonated with (Mr Sheldon) and he began a journey of self-discovery in which (Mr Sheldon) began to identify as Aboriginal".

The court heard that "the father's decision to identify as Aboriginal is, within his family, controversial". Besides his parents, he has a sister who was quoted in court documents as saying: "I am not Aboriginal. If he (Mr Sheldon) chooses to think he is, that's his choice." One of Mr Sheldon's brothers also "does not identify as Aboriginal" and his mother "understood her family's heritage to be French".

A third sibling does identify as Aboriginal, but does not speak to Mr Sheldon. The court said "because the parties do not agree that the father is Aboriginal, the question arose, how does someone prove it"?

There appeared to be no relevant Family Law precedent, so Justice Ryan examined "how other courts dealt with the issue". In most cases, it is enough for a person to identify as Aboriginal, provided others in the Aboriginal community accept the claim.

The father was described as having "little knowledge of his ancestry" but said his understanding of Aboriginal culture "continues to grow as I travel and yarn with other mobs".

The man's Certificate of Aboriginality was granted to him after his grandmother told local elders her story. He is also known in his workplace as Aboriginal.

Given all these factors, Justice Ryan decided, on balance, that Mr Sheldon had a "not insubstantial" amount of Aboriginal heritage (at least one, and possibly two grandparents on his father's side, who were at least part Aboriginal) and he was therefore well within in his rights to identify as Aboriginal.

"While I accept that his family does not to a person embrace his Aboriginality, on balance I am satisfied that the father is a proud Aboriginal," the judge said. Therefore, "on balance, I am satisfied the child is Aboriginal. So that it is clear, I am also satisfied that the child is Irish".

The father told the court that his child, now two-years-old, would "be denied the right to enjoy her Aboriginal heritage if the mother was allowed to take her out of Australia".

Justice Ryan acknowledged this problem, but decided to let the child go, in part because the police records revealed that the father had an explosive temper, particularly when drinking.

Shortly before the first Family Court hearing, he took his little girl away from her mother for 17 days and refused to allow any contact, despite repeated emails from the mother, pleading: "I implore you to allow me to spend some time with (her) . . . please can I see her at any time today? I am available all day and will go anywhere. I need to see her and she needs contact with me. I've not seen her in so long . . . let me know when I can have access."

The court heard that when the child was eventually returned to her mother, she had "dark patches under her eyes, her hair was matted and she had very bad nappy rash, and was coughing up phlegm . . . the child, who had previously been very vocal, was expressionless and barely spoke". "Softly, she repeated, 'Mummy?' as if she were asking a question."

Prior to being taken by her father for those 17 days, the child weighed 13kg. Upon return, after 17 days, she weighed 11.8kg.

The father appealed the decision to let the mother take the girl back to Ireland to be raised as a Roman Catholic, telling the court that Justice Ryan had "possibly" been prejudiced against him because she said, in court, that "it is plain that he is notably fair, so presumably he has non-indigenous origins as well?"

This, he said, was evidence that Justice Ryan had "sought to establish someone's cultural identity by the colour of their skin".

The Full Court, in a decision dated November 8 and published last week, could not see the logic in that argument. Justice Ryan had, after all, agreed that both the man, and his daughter, were Aboriginal, notwithstanding the fact his parents identified as white.

The Full Court upheld Justice Ryan's decision to let the child go to Ireland. Her mother has promised to "read story books related to Aboriginal culture" and to purchase "books, toys and jigsaw puzzles" with an indigenous theme so the girl might better understand her ancestry.


Public vs. private school: Which is better?

The following rather amusing and clearly biased defence of Australian public schools relies heavily on the fact that public schools have to take ferals. She seems to think that is a point in their favour. But that is very much a major reason why 39% of Australian parents send their kids to private High Schools!

The eternal question rears its ugly head [Ugly to whom?]: Do private or public schools provide the best education?

The research published in The Australian Economic Review released last week uses NAPLAN results to report that private schools produce better results than government schools, even once differences in student background are taken into account.

This is hardly surprising news. For some years more and more parents have been flocking to private schools based on the assumption that they produce "better" academic outcomes than their public counterparts.

But the study wasn't intending to generalise about the success of private education but rather to examine student performance on the NAPLAN test when socioeconomic status is not a factor. By the researchers' own admission they didn't take into account the discrepancies in funding and the needs of the students.

Here's some more unsurprising news: private schools are able to provide their students with better resources and more access to technology because they have more money. And on the whole private schools take fewer students with special needs, fewer indigenous students and fewer students whose first language is not English.

Meanwhile, public education cater for all, including high and low-achieving students. They are required to keep students with behavioural difficulties within the system until they're 17 and students with disabilities or learning difficulties are accommodated and provided with support.

Even when taking socio-economic status out of the equation, public and private schools have widely differing student bodies. Comparing their literacy and numeracy results is like comparing apples and oranges, and expecting them to taste similar.

Public education enrols the vast majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet operates on a budget that's close to 70 per cent of independent schools.

It's actually extraordinary what they do. If the MySchool website was to report individual students' literacy and numeracy improvement from test to test it would find that government schools far outperform private schools.

And while private schools have higher rates of students finishing year 12 and send proportionally more students to university, internal [unpublished?] research from Melbourne University shows that it is students from public schools who perform better in their first year of university, as they are required to be self-motivated and apply high levels of self-discipline while at school.

But NAPLAN doesn't report on students' independent study skills or self-discipline. These are also qualities usually developed in the high school years, but the research from The Australian Economic Review reported only on year 3 NAPLAN results.

In fact, the performance of public school students at university shows that the "real world" is the great leveller. When they're not being propped up by extra resources or facilities, the performance of public school students is equal to that of a student hailing from the private sector. [More precisely, a student who has SURVIVED the public sector]

But the purpose of school is not to get every member of society a university degree, and tertiary study is certainly not for everyone. The vast majority of school-leavers take other worthy paths, which include TAFE, apprenticeships or employment, all of which are encouraged as viable options in public schools.

Academic success can be measured in different ways. The fact is that NAPLAN and its partner in crime [Measuring student knowledge is a "crime"??], the MySchool website, reports on one narrow facet of education. Yes, literacy and numeracy are very important factors in a child's education, but they represent a small piece of the puzzle.

Parents who choose to send their children to public schools needn't necessarily think that they are getting a second-rate service. Public education produces commendable results given that its purpose is to educate the whole spectrum of students, regardless of their ability, special needs or their capacity to pay fees.

Public schools do extremely well to meet the individual needs of the 71 per cent of Australian school students who attend them, particularly considering that Australia is ranked towards the bottom of the OECD in terms of spending on public education.

But as long as NAPLAN is used as the sole measure to report academic "success", the myth of a failing public education system will continue to be perpetuated.



Three current articles below

British climate retreat unnoticed by Australian journalists

In July, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wrote to his Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard, supporting Labor's legislation to introduce a carbon tax leading to an emissions trading scheme on July 1 next year.

Ostensibly, Cameron's letter was one of praise for Gillard. However, the subliminal message was one of criticism of the [Australian] Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. Needless to say, the Cameron missive was much used by Labor to discredit the Coalition. Also the Canberra press gallery, which overwhelmingly supports Gillard and opposes Abbott on the carbon tax issue, made much of the letter.

Little mention was made of the fact that the climate change policy of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government in Britain entailed a review in 2014. The message was that Britain would scale back its climate change abatement policies if it found itself to be out in front of other European Union nations. This reflected concern about the plight of Britain's chemical, steel and manufacturing industries.

The review scheduled for 2014 has been brought forward in the light of the economic situation. This was made clear in the Autumn Statement delivered in the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, last month.

Osborne expressed considerable concern about the impact of "green policies adopted not just in Britain, but also by the European Union, on some of our heavy, energy-intensive industries". In an emphatic declaration, he added: "We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers. All we will be doing is exporting valuable jobs out of Britain." He added that such a policy will not achieve environmental goals and that "businesses will fail, jobs will be lost and our country will be poorer". As the saying goes: hear, hear.

Now, it is understandable that the likes of the Prime Minister, Wayne Swan and Greg Combet do not want to draw attention to the change in direction in Britain. But journalists and commentators using the Cameron letter against Abbott have no such excuse. They are supposed to be reporting news, not barracking for causes.

The reason for Britain's change of direction on climate change is obvious. Osborne warned "much of Europe now appears to be heading into a recession caused by a chronic lack of confidence in the ability of countries to deal with their debts".

I have just returned from a series of meetings in Britain and the US. Without exaggeration, the mood about the world economy is one of deep pessimism. It is difficult to see how the economies of Europe can recover in the immediate to medium future. Moreover, the collapse of the euro remains a real possibility, since the existence of a single currency for a majority of EU nations has come into conflict with the fact that Europe is not a political entity.

A single currency works in such federations as Australia, Canada and the US. It does not - and cannot - work in such an entity as the EU.

Interviewed by Charles Moore in the London Telegraph this month, the former European Commission president Jacques Delors declared that the failure of the single currency turned on the fact that the EU had not created common economic policies "founded on the co-operation of the member states".

Delors is a retired bureaucrat. The fact is that, as Theodore Dalrymple has argued in his polemic The New Vichy Syndrome, the EU was established "against the wishes of most of the populations involved".

The economic disaster that is contemporary Europe will have knock-on effects on the global economy, including on such key players as the US and China. Another recession in Europe could imperil the re-election of the US President, Barack Obama, in November, even if the rival contender is the Republican Newt Gingrich. Advocates of action on climate change in Australia invariably point to California's embrace of an ETS. They rarely state that California is bankrupt and that the Obama administration has effectively junked its own cap-and-trade proposal.

In the US and now Britain, grim economic news has led to a reassessment of climate change policies. Not so in Australia, where, by mid-2012, there will be a carbon tax - something none of our competitors will have in the foreseeable future.

Gillard presides over the first government in Australian history which has consciously decided to disadvantage the nation with respect to its competitors - in the short term, at least. In Britain, Cameron was once committed to such an agenda. This appears to be no longer the case. Perhaps Osborne should write a letter to Gillard or Swan explaining why.


Former Australian Prime Minister supports climate skeptics

FORMER Prime Minister John Howard has launched a controversial book teaching students to be climate change sceptics.

Climate change sceptic Ian Plimer's book "How to Get Expelled from School: A Guide to Climate Change for Pupils, Parents and Punters" arms children with 101 questions to challenge their teachers.
It has been billed as an "anti-warmist manual for the younger reader".

Mr Howard attacked the one-sided teaching of climate change in schools. "People ought to be worried about what their children are being taught at school," he said. "It's a matter of real concern".

Prof Plimer said said he had a lot of parents write to him about this topic. "They were saying that their kids are being fed environmental activism at school, rather than the basics of science, which gives them the ability to analyse activist arguments," he said.

The 250-page book includes a list of questions intended to embarrass poorly prepared teachers. Questions include: "Is climate change normal?" and "In the last 100 years, has there been global warming and global cooling?".

"They're questions that kids should be asking of teachers, because if the teacher can answer it means they might know something about the subject," Prof Plimer said. "If they can't, or start to promote ideology, it shows that our schools have been captured.

"Parents are telling me that schools have been captured by a lot of activists and kids are being fed stuff that is not relevant to the real world."

But climate scientists, including the University of Adelaide's Professor Barry Brook, say Prof Plimer is perpetuating contradictions, inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the science.

University of Melbourne complex system scientist Professor Ian Enting claims there are scientific errors, flawed diagrams and missing references in Prof Plimer's book.

John Cook of Sceptical Science, a website designed to explain what peer-reviewed science has to say about global warming, has branded Prof Plimer "a one man contradiction". [The usual Leftist projection. It is Cook who is the one-man contradiction]


Crackdown over roof-top solar scheme blowouts

THE Gillard government will demand the states curb expensive feed-in tariffs that pay households to generate electricity from roof-top solar panels, and review other green schemes that threaten to make the carbon market less efficient.

The Australian can reveal that today's draft energy white paper will commit the government to working with the states to try to harmonise the feed-in tariffs so that they do not impose an "unjustifiable burden" on electricity consumers.

The government is concerned that the feed-in tariffs are cross-subsidised through increased energy costs for those who cannot afford to install solar PV panels and that they are putting pressure on the federal small-scale renewable energy scheme, estimated to cost consumers $4.7 billion by mid-2020.

The commonwealth will use the white paper - to be released by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson this morning - to push for a new agreement from all Australian governments for a review of more than 200 existing emissions-reductions policies that are often inconsistent and already cost more than Julia Gillard's proposed carbon tax.

On top of this, the white paper will push for an agreement that no new measures will be introduced unless they are "complementary" to the national carbon pricing scheme.

The energy white paper, the first since 2004, is expected to canvass the impact of the rise of China and Asia and the mining boom, as well as the geopolitical turmoil in global energy markets. The white paper was originally commissioned by the Rudd government in 2008, but was shelved early last year because of Kevin Rudd's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme and the federal election.

Today's release comes amid concern about cost-of-living pressures as Europe's debt woes destabilise the global economy and renewed debate over the cost to households of the Gillard government's carbon tax package after the UN climate change summit in Durban.

Mr Ferguson will vow to reinvigorate the energy market reform agenda, working through ministerial councils that report to the Council of Australian Governments. There were about 400,000 owner-occupied houses with solar PV systems installed in the middle of this year, but this is expected to grow to more than 1.5 million by 2019-20.

Mr Ferguson's plan to push for reforms to the feed-in tariffs is likely to be welcomed by energy retailers, who have warned that the state-based feed-in schemes impose administrative costs that are funded by other customers. The Energy Retailers Association of Australia, whose members include AGL Energy and Origin Energy, have argued one national tariff is better and cheaper than various state schemes.

Several states have moved to rein in their incentive schemes to boost solar, but new research released by the Australian Energy Market Commission on Friday warned that consumers faced a "substantial legacy cost" from the feed-in tariffs because they would continue to pay a premium rate for households to supply electricity to the grid for years.

On top of this, the research found that state-based tariffs were having an impact on the future costs of the federal small-scale renewable energy scheme - part of Labor's renewable energy target requiring power companies to generate 20 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 - as energy retailers were forced to buy more "small-scale technology certificates". This, too, will result in higher costs for all consumers.

Today's white paper proposes the government work with the states to "identify opportunities to harmonise micro-generation feed-in tariffs, so that they do not impose an unjustifiable burden on electricity consumers".

This is likely to prove politically fraught for the states, and could revive criticism that the government's enforceable targets for renewable energy generation are market-distorting and costly.

In NSW, Barry O'Farrell's government faced a massive backlash over proposals to retrospectively cut feed-in tariffs. Queensland has capped the size of the systems eligible for the tariff while Western Australian has cut the tariff from 40c/kWh to 20c/kWh and Victoria has closed its 60c/kWh scheme, creating instead a 25c/kWh transitional feed-in tariff to be paid until the end of 2016.

The AEMC research released on Friday recommended that state and federal energy ministers develop a common system for the feed-in tariff schemes.

The state-based schemes are wildly inconsistent. NSW and the ACT pay households for all electricity generated by the solar panels - not just the power fed back into the grid.Rates vary from 20c/kWh to 60c/kWh while the expiry of the payments to households ranges from 2016 to 2032.

The Productivity Commission has warned solar PV is a very expensive technology, which has cost up to $1043 in subsidies for every tonne of CO2 that is abated and could hold back deeper cuts to emissions. This contrasts with the $23-a-tonne starting price for Labor's carbon tax.

The commission found that the national RET overlapped completely with the state-based feed-in tariffs last year as all power subsidised through the tariffs was also eligible for federal subsidies. The federal government has cut incentives for householders who install solar roof panels in a bid to take heat out of the solar panel market.

The white paper is expected to commit the government to pushing for an agreement by all governments to review all "non-complementary" climate change mitigation measures and to not introduce new measures.

This aims to align the measures with principles agreed by COAG in November 2008 under which greenhouse abatement measures should be targeted at market failures that could not be dealt with by an emissions trading scheme.

A 2008 review of Labor's climate change policies recommended governments rely on an ETS to achieve least-cost abatement and only take extra action in a case of market failure.


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