Sunday, October 28, 2012

Asia to be core part of school education

Given Australia's geographical location and trade patterns this is reasonable enough -- as long as our own history and and culture plus the history and culture of our major country of origin -- Britain -- is also covered.  I don't see Muslims (for instance) disrespecting their own history and culture so why should we?  And the Chinese and Japanese would laugh at any idea of prioritizing the cultures of other countries over their own

ASIAN studies will become a core part of Australia's school curriculum under the federal government's ambitious plan to capitalise on the region's growing wealth and influence.

The government on Sunday released its long-awaited Asian Century white paper, a policy blueprint that sets out how Australia can increase integration with Asia over the coming decade and beyond.

The document reveals a number of targets for the nation over the 13 years to 2025, aimed at ensuring Australia fulfils its ambitions and competes effectively within Asia.

By 2025 Australia's gross domestic product (GDP) per person will be in the world's top 10, up from 13th last year. That would lift Australia's average real national income to about $73,000 per person in 2025, compared with about $62,000 now.

The school system will be in the top five in the world, and 10 of its universities in the world's top 100.

The paper places a heavy emphasis on education, saying Asian studies will become a core part of the Australian school curriculum.  All students will be able to study an Asian language and the priorities will be Chinese Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.

Australia's leaders will also be more Asia literate, with one-third of board members of the top 200 publicly listed companies and commonwealth bodies to have "deep experience" in and knowledge of Asia.

The Australian economy will be more deeply integrated with Asia, with Asian trade links to be at least one third of GDP, up from one quarter today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the document lays out an ambitious plan to make sure Australia grows stronger by capitalising on the opportunities offered by the Asian Century.

"The scale and pace of Asia's rise is staggering, and there are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians," she said in a statement on Sunday.

"It is not enough to rely on luck.  "Our future will be determined by the choices we make and how we engage with the region we live in. We must build on our strengths and take active steps to shape our future."

Australia should be in the top five countries for ease of doing business by 2025, the white paper says.

Its diplomatic network should have a larger footprint across the region.

While the white paper sets out what actions governments can take, it also calls on businesses and communities to play their part.

New work and holiday agreements between Australia and its Asian neighbours will mean more opportunities for work and study in the region and to take up professional opportunities.

Financial markets will be better integrated, allowing capital to flow more easily across borders.

The government will enter into a National Productivity Compact with the states and territories, focused on regulatory and competition reform.  "We want to ensure that Australia is as competitive as it can be," Finance Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

The compact is expected to be agreed at the next meeting of the Business Advisory Forum between business leaders, prime minister and senior ministers.

The white paper also reinforces the need to attract skilled migrants and students from Asia.

The government is expanding its network to support online visa lodgment, multiple entry visas and longer visa validity periods and is streaming the student visa process.

Seven of the top 10 source countries in Australia's migration program are in the Asian region, including India, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam.

Students from Asia already account for about 77 per cent of the more than 550,000 international enrolments each year.

In agriculture, the government says Australia's primary producers can benefit from rising demand by Asia's middle classes for high quality food and farm product.


Royal Australian Air Force warns military personnel not to send gift-wrapped presents to Afghanistan

THE Air Force has warned staff against wrapping gifts for military personnel serving overseas in Christmas paper due to "cultural sensitivity".

A Flight Lieutenant based at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth sent an email to staff and cadets encouraging them to send Christmas care packages to Australians deployed in the Middle East Area of Operations this festive season.

After the usual warnings about not sending alcohol or pornography and some helpful gift ideas the officer offered the following packaging advice.

"Contents should be securely wrapped in stiff brown paper (no Christmas wrapping due to cultural sensitivities, please) and clearly addressed to: Australian Defence Force Member AFPO 60 Australian Defence Force NSW 2890."

Presumably he was concerned that bright paper featuring Santa Claus, a reindeer or baby Jesus might offend some Muslims.

Defence said it did not even have a policy on Christmas wrapping paper, but was aware of the "cultural sensitivity" issue.  "We are aware of advice posted on a Defence web site and are taking steps to correct the information in the public domain," it said.

It is not clear if it was aware of the comments before News Limited asked several questions about the email late last week.

Opposition defence personnel spokesman and former army officer Stuart Robert said someone had lost the plot.  "This is a case of political correctness gone mad. The Grinch this Christmas will be the government if it doesn't right this wrong," Mr Robert said.  "On the back of 'no beer for Christmas' it's now no Christmas for Christmas."

The now infamous email told RAAF staff that the most popular gifts for troops overseas were; "Lollies, beanies, gloves, hand cream, chap sticks and lip balm, crossword puzzle books, newspapers (any date), magazines, including sports, Women's Day, home and gardening, Street Machine and similar. Packets of cappuccino sachets, Tim Tam biscuits and Christmas puddings."


Criminals reoffending while doing community service

CRIMINALS sentenced to community service are committing crimes every month while they should be cleaning up Queensland.

Shock figures show 62 per cent of offenders, or 1147 of 1840, broke the law while on the orders in the past financial year. That's almost 100 a month.

Instead of working in jobs such as sorting clothes at Lifeline, and council natural revegetation and graffiti removal projects, they've been caught committing fraud, breaking into homes, stealing cars, assaulting police and using drugs.

They originally fronted courts on assault, stealing, prostitution, vandalism, graffiti, drug and traffic-related charges but were spared jail time.

Despite committing crimes and being sent back to court, many remained on the orders.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told The Sunday Mail criminals were "making a mockery of the system" and called for harsher penalties.

Since 2008-09, 77 per cent of people on community service reoffended 6018 out of 7772.

Twenty per cent of orders were terminated in 2011-12 after people failed to meet court-imposed conditions.

The overall order completion rate was 2102 of 3499 orders or 60.1 per cent.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said in a statement: "It is always concerning when offenders treat a community service order with contempt and it is something I will continue to monitor."

Queensland Corrective Services manager of operational practice Jo Dansey said the reoffending was a concern but it was a reality when there were no supervision or intensive rehabilitation programs involved.


Pork barrelling along, singing a song

In the aftermath of Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), the discussion has focused on big ticket items such as the mining tax, company tax, baby bonus, and private health insurance.

But MYEFO also provides a detailed list of government patronage to favoured organisations. The Australian Ballet received $2 million to build a new production facility in the Melbourne suburb of Altona, which also happens to be in the prime minister’s electorate of Lalor.

Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie also did well out of the MYEFO pork barrel: the Moonah Arts Centre received $4 million; the New Town Bay Centre for Rowing Education got $2.5 million; Wellesley Park got $1.2 million to upgrade its sporting facilities; and Hobart received $3.4 million towards energy-efficient street lights.

Millions are going towards restructuring businesses. Alcoa Australia is receiving $42 million to restructure its Point Henry Aluminium Smelter; Australian Paper’s mill in Maryvale, Victoria, is getting $9.5 million to establish a ‘de-inked pulp facility’; and the Boyer Mill in Tasmania is getting $28 million to help diversify its production so it can ‘produce magazine grade paper’.

The sports sector too was on the gravy train. To help the Football Federation of Australia prepare for the 2015 Asian Football Cup, which will cost taxpayers more than $55 million, the government forgave FAA’s $4 million debt to the Commonwealth. Two million dollars went towards building a multicultural centre for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, and a half million dollars went to install a synthetic hockey pitch at the Centre of Excellence for Hockey in Western Australia.

Think tanks didn’t miss out either: $4 million went to the Lowy Institute to set up a G20 Studies Centre, and $7 million for ongoing support to the United States Studies Centre and to set up an office at the University of Western Australia. The government will also spend $12.1 million over four years to establish the ‘Centre for Workplace Leadership’.

Not all announcements in the MYEFO were bad. The cuts to middle-class welfare and the Export Market Development Grant program, which subsidises the marketing of exports, are welcome. However, this MYEFO clearly shows the government gravy train is chugging along quite nicely.


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