Sunday, July 08, 2012

Blatant Leftist bias in national curriculum could damage our democracy

The draft shape of the national curriculum's "civics and citizenship" subject was released last month. It is blatantly ideological. It displays its progressive, left-of-centre politics like a billboard.

The national curriculum was announced by Julia Gillard in 2008 and is forecast to be implemented in Victoria and NSW sometime after next year. The curriculum authority is rolling out one subject at a time.

But from the start, the curriculum's politics were obvious. In its own words, it will create "a more ecologically and socially just world". The phrase "ecological justice" is rarely seen outside environment protests. Social justice is a more mainstream concept, but it's solidly of the left - it usually refers to "fixing" inequality by redistributing wealth.

Civics is a small subject in the curriculum, but a crucial one. The national curriculum wants to sculpt future citizens out of today's students. So the emphasis civics places on certain political ideas will echo through Australian life for decades. And when a group of academics tries to summarise the essential values of our liberal democracy, we should pay attention. After all, they hope to drill them into every child.

So what are our nation's values? According to the civics draft, they are "democracy, active citizenship, the rule of law, social justice and equality, respect for diversity, difference and lawful dissent, respect for human rights, stewardship of the environment, support for the common good, and acceptance of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship".

It's quite a list. Some of the values, such as democracy and the rule of law, we all should agree on. But most are skewed sharply to the left.

Where, for instance, is individual liberty? The curriculum describes Australia as a liberal democracy but doesn't seem comfortable with what that means: a limited government protecting the freedom for individuals to pursue their own lives.

Conservatives should be troubled "tradition" is absent. Our institutions are the inheritance of centuries of experiment and conflict. To respect tradition is to value those institutions. Yet tradition only pops up when the draft talks about multiculturalism. It's part of "intercultural understanding". In other words, we are merely to tolerate the traditions of others, not value our own.

And liberals should be appalled at the emphasis on "civic duty". The curriculum could have said that individuals and families living their own lives in their own way is virtuous in itself. After all, people who do things for others in a market economy contribute to society as much as the most passionate political activist.

But instead the civics subject will pound into children that they should work for international non-profit groups to pursue "the common good".

This may be uncontroversial to the left but it is political dynamite. Liberals are sceptical of the common good because throughout history it has been used to justify nationalism, oppression, militarism, intolerance and privilege. It's one of the reasons liberals support small government. But the common good has been tossed absent-mindedly into the civics draft, alongside that other vague and loaded concept, social justice.

It gets worse. The suggestion we have a duty to be "stewards" of the environment comes straight from green political philosophy. It reduces humans to mere trustees of nature. This directly conflicts with the liberal belief that the Earth's bounty can be used for the benefit of humanity.

Politics drenches the entire curriculum. Three "cross-curriculum priorities" infuse everything from history to maths. They are: sustainability, engagement with Asia, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Perhaps on first glance the priorities don't seem too political. But the history curriculum will offer perspectives on "the overuse of natural resources" and "the global energy crisis". The English curriculum will teach students how to "advocate … actions for sustainable futures". The ideology here is so flagrant teachers might as well just tell the kids who to vote for.

And imagine the priorities were, instead, material progress, the Australia-US alliance, and British culture. Progressives would line up to condemn the curriculum's reactionary politics. Remember the outrage over conservative bias in John Howard's citizenship test? And that was just for migrants. The curriculum is for every Australian child.

The irony is that this iteration of the national curriculum wasn't Labor's idea. The Howard government set the ball rolling. The Coalition was unhappy how terribly left-wing state curriculums were.

So people who are pleased with the curriculum as it stands should think how it could be when an Abbott government takes over. We may hear again the same dark warnings about ideologues taking over the education system that we heard during the Howard years.

In theory, teaching all students the virtues of liberal democracy is a good idea. But if educationalists can't do so without imposing their own political values, we may be no better off than where we started.


High cost and nil effect: that's Australia's  carbon tax

ONE of the main reasons the Gillard government is so unsuccessful in selling its carbon tax is that its overall narrative is so utterly dishonest.

Here is the key example. The government and its countless, mostly paid, carbon tax spruikers would have you believe that the Australian carbon tax is in line with most international practice.

Here is a sharp reality check. Nowhere in the world, in any significant jurisdiction, is any carbon tax or market-based mechanism having a significant economic or environmental impact.

There is a thick cloud of fantastic obfuscation and misleading falderol all around this issue.

So I asked Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University, formerly a board member of the Reserve Bank, and the Australian economist who has done the most serious academic work on carbon markets and the like, about it.

I don't want to verbal McKibbin and attribute to him views he doesn't hold. He supports a very specific type of carbon market mechanism, completely unlike the one the government is introducing.

However, on the matter of simple fact, I asked McKibbin whether any market-based system anywhere has produced any significant greenhouse gas abatement.

His reply: "Right now, no. The only evidence is in the models."

That's a very telling statement. No market mechanism has had any success in greenhouse gas abatement. The only evidence that it might have some success is in the modelling the various schemes' designers have contrived in their heads and on their computers.

McKibbin continues: "There is no evidence of substantial reductions in emissions through a market-based mechanism, nor any other mechanism really, except building nuclear power stations."

I put the same question to Nicholas Linacre, who now runs a consultancy in Washington. He was director of carbon markets in the Climate Change Department in Canberra until Kevin Rudd abandoned the proposed emissions trading scheme. He left the public service and went to Washington where last year he wrote the World Bank's official State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2011 report.

He told me he agrees with McKibbin's assessment: no existing market mechanism is having much effect anywhere.

But what about the European carbon market that the government makes so much of?

Says McKibbin: "The recession in Europe has brought down emissions much more than any carbon price the Europeans have implemented."

The US has no national carbon price, but what about the couple of US state-based schemes?

McKibbin again: "The recession in the US has brought down emissions much more than the state-based systems. People I speak to in the US are very pessimistic about their current schemes ever having an effect."

There are two main US state-based schemes. The western scheme is based on California but it doesn't start until next year and is very unlikely to have any substantial effect. The other, in the northeast, has such a high cap and such a low price that it has negligible economic, or greenhouse gas, consequence.

Yet the government talks of these schemes as though they have been up and running for years, turning whole economies away from carbon. That's a giant, giant con. It just ain't remotely so.

The truth is, as the Productivity Commission concluded, no economy anywhere in the world is doing anything like the Australian carbon tax with a price of $23 a tonne.

Says Linacre: "No one's doing anything comparable (to the Australian tax). Australia is setting the highest price.

"Carbon prices across the globe are relatively low, so many Australian companies are keen to buy (carbon) credits internationally because in theory they'll get a lower price. This is why (Climate Change Minister Greg) Combet is trying to renegotiate the floor price with the Greens."

The Gillard government's carbon tax is designed not to lower Australia's greenhouse gas emissions but to make them increase more slowly, and we are to buy our carbon reductions on the international market.

This is the Green Development mechanism. However, Linacre does not believe such an international trading scheme will ever really work.

He says: "This mechanism of carbon credits may not survive because Europe is turning away from it. Most low-cost carbon credits are coming out of China, and Europe won't accept those any more. So will we be buying the credits Europe won't buy?"

I did not get to explore this issue with Linacre but Europe won't accept China's credits because everyone knows they are mostly shonky. There has been a certain amount of actual fraud. There has been a lot of spurious activity undertaken and then forgone wholly for the purpose of creating carbon credits. The whole thing is absolutely ropey. No intelligent person would waste two bob on it if politics didn't require it.

The Gillard government and its acolytes talk incessantly about the fact that a couple of Chinese provinces have talked about the possibility of trialling a market mechanism.

They treat this airy policy speculation as though China already had a carbon price and carbon market and was utterly committed to this.

Says McKibbin: "The Chinese prices they are talking about are tiny. What we have hit the economy with is a very high price."

Says Linacre: "In the case of China I find myself very sceptical. They say they are going to do something one day but they are arguing so strongly against the European aviation carbon trading scheme. They won't provide the information the Europeans need for their calculations. I don't believe the Chinese are going to do anything myself."

The New Zealanders have watered down their low-price scheme. The Canadians say they will never have one. The Japanese lost interest in a carbon market after Fukushima; and while the South Koreans have made a notional pledge to start a scheme in 2015, it is yet to be designed and is likely to be infinitely less consequential than ours.

In other words, we are imposing a cost on our economy unlike that imposed by any other government. You can probably find the occasional carbon price notionally greater than Australia's, but it is inevitably levied on such as small a segment of the economy, and paid by so few that its impact is not comparable.

No one in the developing world is going anywhere near this line of policy. Indonesia, a country I love, sometimes talks a good game on carbon. Many countries do this for political reasons. But only actions count. Indonesia continues to give huge fuel subsidies to its people. This is the opposite of a carbon tax. It is a carbon subsidy.

The Australian carbon tax is a species orphan, the Collins-class submarine of global environmental policy. It is environmentally inconsequential, economically costly, administratively nightmarish and unlike anything else in the world. Policy folly that it is, the Gillard government would still have a better chance of selling it if it occasionally told the truth about it.


Prayer rooms for Muslims are indicative of the coming changes to the Australian way of life

Stories in past months about the plans to place prayer rooms for Muslims inside Australia’s football venues provide yet another sign of the changes that are happening in our country. It has been reported that prayer rooms are to be compulsory at all AFL grounds.

These prayer rooms are being touted as “non-denominational”, but considering that it has been Muslims campaigning for them, to facilitate the Islamic practice of praying five times a day whilst facing in the direction of Mecca, there is little doubt that their primary purpose is for the use of Muslims.

Various changes are happening in our society. Change, in general, is inevitable, but that does not mean that all change is good. The rise of communism and fascism were changes, but they were not changes for good. Likewise, demographic genocide via massive Third World immigration, intrinsically linked to political multiculturalism and creeping Islamification, is not good either.

There are now separate facilities in some educational institutions for Muslims, there are swimming pools that have closed at certain times for Muslim women, there are foods with the Muslim “Halal tax” appearing in our supermarkets, there are butchers who have been on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour because displaying pork in their store windows has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, retailers who have been attacked because selling alcohol has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, the blind who have been refused taxi service because having a guide dog in the car has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, and the list goes on. Let’s not even mention the Muslims who celebrated the terrorist attacks upon the West (oops, we just did mention it) or the Muslims who have attacked free speech by dragging pastors into court (with the government’s connivance) for “vilifying Islam”.

Sure, it’s all been a misunderstanding, or there is a certain reason for it, or because it’s a special case. Or maybe it’s only because of a certain percentage of fundamentalist Muslims that these things happen; but these fundamentalist Muslims certainly seem to get around a fair bit, don’t they?

The presence of so many fundamentalist Muslims in Australia is a concern. Not because “they are all terrorists” (how often do you hear that very phrase coming from the multiculturalists, who like to treat ordinary Australians with contempt, as if the average Australian would think all Muslims are terrorists), but because they favour a culture that is not conducive to the well-being of the Australian way of life, and because many of them want to impose their beliefs upon us; at this stage, it is just in so many little ways, bit by bit.

Many Muslims, including fundamentalist Muslims, have fled Islamic countries, in part because of potential dangers from the extremist Muslims there; but fleeing from danger does not change the beliefs of fundamentalist Muslims, it merely changes their location. Once here, free from the stonings, beheadings, and killings, many seek a fundamentalist lifestyle; a lifestyle free from the Taliban-style extremists and the deaths they cause, but a fundamentalist lifestyle nonetheless. Many of the non-extremist Muslims want some changes in their favour too, and that assists the fundamentalists in their cause.

If our society is undergoing so many changes now, with the Muslim component of the population supposed to be less than 2%, what changes will be dealt out to us if and when the Muslim population reaches 10% or higher? How many of them will be fundamentalists, demanding that we change our way of life to suit them?

The calls of caution about the coming changes are like a bell tolling in the night, ringing out a warning – a warning of changes that are coming, of changes that won’t be good for the future of our people. The deathly sound of this bell tolling can be heard right across the landscape of our entire country. Fellow Australians, do not ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for thee.


Another example of how the Left spend YOUR money

IT'S the dunny drama that could wipe away whatever is left of the former Bligh government's credibility.  The Courier-Mail can reveal the ousted administration spent more than $1000 fixing the lid of a luxury loo installed in the office of former environment minister Vicky Darling.

While toilet seats sell for as little as $6 at Bunnings, Ms Darling's department splashed out nearly 170 times that amount to mend the Cabinet member's personal water closet.

So exclusive is the lavish lavatory fitted in the minister's office that only one supplier of its hydraulic soft-close seat could be located in Queensland.

The final bill of $1017 included three hours labour to fit the hi-tech seat, as well as the purchase of a spare just in case the replacement seat failed to pass the test.

It remains a mystery how the seat in the George Street office was broken to begin with.

However, reviews on the top-priced toilet from Swiss brand Laufen describe it as "well proportioned" and "with all the features that you have come to expect with great design".

Another says it "reflects the dynamic synthesis of rational, poetic forms" while the seat can be "simply removed with a flick of a wrist".

Internal department emails show even the public servants baulked at the bill, and wanted to put the skids on spending $1000 to fix the seat.

"Has the world gone mad?" one senior public servant wrote. "Are we really paying $1017 to replace a toilet seat?  "Is there some way of checking this?"

Another responded by insisting there was no other option.

"Apparently the toilet seat that is in the minister's office is quite unique as there is only one supplier in Brisbane that can supply it," the bureaucrat wrote.

"Somehow the seat was broken and they had to contact the supplier to get another seat and found there is only the one supplier and it took some time to replace."

It is not the first time a politician's powder room has entered public debate.

The Beattie government was accused of outrageous extravagance after it was revealed it spent $93 on a toilet roll holder and $255 on a waste bin during the $600,000 upgrade of a minister's office.

A spokesman for Premier Campbell Newman said paying that amount to fix a toilet seat showed blatant disregard for taxpayers' money.

"We're not surprised to learn Labor would splash out for a minister's private toilet - another example of the former Government's ridiculous spending," Mr Newman said.


Abbott plays down crash first-aid efforts

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has played down his first-aid skills after going to the aid of a woman whose motor scooter crashed into his car in Brisbane on Friday night.

MR Abbott lent a hand after the 45-year-old woman broke her leg in the collision, which happened about 7pm at the intersection of Adelaide and Wharf Streets in the city as the opposition leader was being driven to a private function.

Mr Abbott was in the back seat of the car when the scooter hit the car's passenger door.

He said he did not see the accident coming.

"I was back seat of the car with my head buried in some briefing papers," Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

"It was the sort of thing that regrettably happens."

Mr Abbott, who is qualified in first aid through his work with surf life saving and the Rural Fire Service in NSW, said a number of people had gone to the woman's aid.

He said he had helped make sure the woman was in the right position and comfortable while waiting for an ambulance.

"It was a marvellous example of how Australians help each other when times are tough," Mr Abbott said.

"I did what anyone would do in that context; I got out of the car and did what I could to help.

"The important thing is that the young woman on the scooter is going to be alright. She's now in the best possible hands."


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