Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gillard's shallow boasting irritates Europe

Can she get ANYTHING right?

FRANCE and Germany have joined a chorus of European leaders calling for other countries to stop lecturing them on how to fix their economic crisis.

The split between the Eurozone and the US and Australia deepened this morning at the G20 in Mexico with French President Francois Hollande saying it didn't need advice from others.

He was joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  "We can have differing points of view ... but Mrs Merkel and I know that Europe must have its own response," he said as the final day of the summit began.  "It must not be given to us from the outside."

But a bullish letter from Ms Gillard in the lead up to the summit appeared to lecture Europe on what to do by saying it could learn lessons from Australia.

Yesterday European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that he hadn't come to the G20, being held in the luxury seaside region. Of Los Cabos to be given "lessons" from anyone.

Ms Gillard's controversial foray into the G20 has set.tone for the final day of the meeting with Europe pushing back against political pressure from other countries to fix its problems.

During a meeting earlier between US Preaident Barak Obama, Ms Merkel appeared to soften to calls for greater integration of banks across Europe to help ease the debt crisis and re assure markets.

Ms Gillard has publicly pushed this line in a speech to a business leaders meeting of the G20 in which she repeated her claims that Europe could learn from Australia.

Ms Gillard will jet out of the resort region of Los Cabos this afternoon to Rio for a world meeting on sustainable development and climate change.

The PM has denied she was the intended subject of a retaliatory spray from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso after a speech urging world leaders to follow the "Australian way" in managing their struggling economics put her at the centre of a global diplomatic spat at the G20 summit in Mexico yesterday.

Emerging from the first official meeting with leaders gathered at the luxury resort region of Los Cabos last night, Ms Gillard defended remarks in which she claimed Europe could learn "lessons" from Australia on how to manage an economy through a crisis.

In a day of backtracking and diplomatic shuffling, Ms Gillard toned down her language and said she had praised Europe for making progress.

The Opposition sided with the Europeans and labelled Ms Gillard an "embarrassment".

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Labor lacked the credentials to be giving advice after delivering four budget deficits.


Citizenship lure to aid Defence recruits

I'm being optimistic here.  The Brits are laying off a lot of very experienced troops.  Let's hope it is mainly them that we are getting.  They generally fit in seamlessly with our forces  -- similar language, culture, organization, doctrine etc.

THE Australian Defence Force will beef up the number of foreign recruits after parliament passed a law to allow family members to become citizens in just 90 days.
In the past the spouse and children of a foreign soldier, sailor or flyer joining the Australian military had to be permanent residents for four years before they could qualify for citizenship.

The government bill, introduced to parliament several days after a similar opposition bill was tabled, also allows dependent children with a disability who don't attend school and a dependent parent to be fast-tracked.

Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said the new law was the result of months of work.

In recent years the ADF has sent out tentacles to numerous countries to fill skilled technical jobs such as pilots, submariners, warfare officers and military police. Even a foreign padre has been recruited.

During the past three years it has hired 573 foreign troops who were accompanied by 603 family members.


A shot across the bows for loan sharks?

Court cuts 96% interest rate to 7%

EASTERN Suburbs cash lender Adam Tilley is suing a Sydney artist for her Paddington home after she defaulted on a 96-per-cent-a-year loan -- 12 times higher than bank rates.

Tilley's company Big Kahuna Holdings took Joanna Kitas to the NSW Supreme Court after she defaulted on a $160,000 loan she took out for her brother - a bankrupt who owed $77 million, court documents said.

Socrates Kitas, also known as Scott Kitas, pressured his sister to take the loan and lodge her million-dollar property as security, the court was told.

He needed the money to put a deposit on a Vaucluse mansion selling for $2.8 million, court documents said. But he told his sister he needed a business loan, otherwise he would be "ruined" and he had "kids to think about", the court heard.

The loan was granted in February 2007 through Big Kahuna Holdings, the company run by Tilley and his wife Sally-Anne, the court heard.

Ms Kitas signed the documents "without reading them" or "obtaining independent legal advice", the court heard.

But when Ms Kitas, whose income is mostly from selling art, defaulted the rate blew out from 48 per cent to 96 per cent per year, the court heard.

When she did not pay that amount, Tilley launched legal action demanding her house, the $160,000 lent and unpaid interest. By the time the matter reached the court, Ms Kitas had fallen out with her brother.

Judge Lucy McCallum told the court the interest was "truly extortionate" and ordered it to be cut to 7 per cent.

A decision will be made in relation to the Paddington property when the matter returns to court on a later date.

Ms Kitas is well known in eastern suburbs art circles. In 2009 she entered a portrait of cricketer David Warner for the Archibald Prize.


Some conservative  Concerns about the Limited Understanding Conveyed by Australia's Proposed National History Curriculum

Information without understanding?

One of my concerns is that culture is treated as a consequence, rather than a cause, of history. For example, the proposed Year 1 Content Item H1KU4 refers to considering: 'How the roles of individuals and groups have evolved over time to meet changing human needs".

The problem is that the curriculum does not seem at any stage to require considering how "roles of individuals and groups" (ie how people behave individually or corporately, as a consequence of their cultural assumptions) can affect history. For example, the ability of societies to change (socially, politically and economically) is a function of the "roles of individuals and groups" within the society, and an ability to change is in turn a major determinant a society's success or failure in terms of technological / economic advancement and influence relative to other societies (eg see Competing Civilizations). And the weak "role of individuals and groups" in dealing with change has apparently created major challenges that still need to be faced by Australians with indigenous ancestry (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement).

A closely related concern is that the curriculum would not provide any depth of understanding of the way in which ideas have influenced history. The curriculum would certainly introduce various historical ideas - specifically those of: (a) Egypt or Greece or Rome (H7KU16); (b) China or India or Australasia (H7KU22); (c) Medieval Europe (H8KU13); (d) the Renaissance (H8KU19); and (e) radicals (H10KU4). However this would not lead to a coherent understanding of:

*    the particular ideas that have been the foundation of Australia's culture, institutions, society and economy. For example, a growing scientific understanding of the natural world could emerge in Europe at the time of the Renaissance and subsequently accelerate economic advancement, only because of Christendom's expectation that the natural world would be lawful. Many of the ideas that are needed to understand Australia's heritage seem unfortunately to be either absent from, or optional components in, the proposed curriculum;

*   the way in which different ideas (or the absence interest in abstract ideas) have led to different outcomes. For example, constraining the ideas that may be considered to those consistent with the world-view that Islamic scholars have elaborated around the Qu'ran arguably has significant (adverse) implications for Muslim dominated societies (see About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science). And the absence of Western societies' commitment to abstract ideas and universal values in some Asian societies (because they lack a classical Greek heritage) can lead to ways of doing things that are quite different ways to those Australians have any basis for understanding (eg see East Asia in Competing Civilizations).

Professor Stuart Macintyre, who spoke about the history component of the proposed curriculum in ACARA's Video Transcript ('Development and Consultation Overview: K–10 Draft Curriculum’, March 2010) emphasised: engaging those with diverse backgrounds; increasing understanding of Australia's regional context and of others; and promoting sustainability.

However there is a sense in which the proposed curriculum's worthy goal of encouraging acceptance of others as they are, conflicts with the need to understand what works and what doesn't work, and perhaps even the distinction between good and evil.

Moreover functionally-useful understanding of Australia's place in a region in which dominant societies lack the commitment to the abstract ideas and universal values that Western societies derived from the West's classical Greek heritage requires far more than brief references to Asia's history. Without much deeper understanding, cultural differences that are 'invisible' to those with 'Western' world views could put Australia's liberal and democratic traditions at risk (eg see Babes in the Asian Woods).

 Other observers perceived defects in the 'Asian' component of the proposed national history curriculum. For example:

*        there is a need for massive further funding to equip teachers if Asian component is introduced to curriculum - as teachers are not yet able to deliver on Asia literacy (according to Kathe Kirby - Asia Education Foundation). The draft curriculum was seen as very Eurocentric [1];

*       attempt to tell Australian story in Asia context was 'lame and impotent' according to Tony Milner (ANU) - as it fails to prepare Australians for the world they are moving into. WWII needs to focus not in Europe but on Japanese conquests in Asia. The curriculum focuses on rights / liberty / progress which does not have same impact in Asian societies [1].

A reasonable case can be made that many of the dysfunctions and conflicts that plague human societies are the unintended outcome of the failure of intellectuals to critically evaluate the consequences of differences in cultural assumptions (see Competing Civilizations) . It would not be constructive at this time to reflect this weakness in Australia's national school history curriculum.


No comments: