Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hard multiculturalism's rise in Australia

Australia's success story of building a harmonious nation of immigrants is now threatened by the rise of 'hard' multiculturalism.

Hard multiculturalism opposes social integration by pursuing a program of cultural diversity which does not tolerate any divergent points of view.

When hard multiculturalists say we must treat controversial topics such as forced marriages and female circumcision with 'cultural sensitivity,' they begin to cast doubt on the very idea of a core national culture.

Of course, Australia is a cohesive and peaceful country. Multiculturalism is still popular here according to the 2013 Scanlon Foundation's Mapping Social Cohesion report. Our support for a tolerant, multicultural society sits at a healthy 84%.

Yet hard multiculturalists say the 'fair go' is no longer available equally to all Australians. The answer is for the state to manage cultural and ethnic diversity.

There are even demands for the Federal Parliament to pass a Multicultural Act to make sure multicultural policies are set in statute.

Hard multiculturalism is now posing questions about just how public policy promotes the peaceful coexistence of diverse people in one society.

What began as a sincere desire to eliminate racism and promote tolerance has turned into a determined drive to promote diversity as a moral and political end.

This determination has become an obsession.

Diversity is no longer something that exists naturally, as you might expect in a country that by 2010 had become the third-most culturally diverse nation in the world (after Singapore and Hong Kong).

Instead, diversity has become a moral objective promoted as an end in itself - precisely what is intended in the proposed Multicultural Act.

This obsession with diversity threatens individual liberty because it promotes the interests of particular groups over those of the individual.

The debate about hard multiculturalism is about the weight we should afford cultures other than the prevailing Australian one.

But in pursuing a vested notion of social justice, the demand for equal recognition should never trump the demand for liberty.

The fairest way to accommodate differences is by maintaining a stable framework of laws and institutions to guarantee the freedom of the individual.

It is time for the fetish of diversity to end and the advance of hard multiculturalism to be checked.

Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, and author of Multiculturalism and the Fetish of Diversity, released on 10 December 2013.multiculturalism to be checked.


A darker shade of green

Miranda Devine on the Sydney scene

THE rape of a Belgian tourist in a dark alley in Potts Point last month is a warning that environmentally sensitive street lighting will take a terrible human toll.

The 25-year-old was walking down a dimly lit Victoria Street from her serviced apartment to buy food at 8.30pm when a man forced her into the alley between two terrace houses.

It was so dark that the traumatized woman could not give police a description of her assailant, or even tell them the color of his clothes.

The alley where she was attacked is at the northern end of Victoria street in a residential enclave just a block from the bright lights and fleshpots of Darlinghurst Road.

And yet the lighting was like something out of the backblocks of St Ives: completely inadequate as a deterrent to crime.

There was a solitary lamppost near where the alley runs into the dead-end Tusculum Lane, positioned 6m south and covered by a tree canopy three storeys high. Nor is there any street light on that side of the road for 50 metres in the direction the victim was walking.
It was clearly an ideal spot for a predator.

To the council’s credit, it has installed three new lights since the assault and is planning to install extra lights at nearby Butler Stairs.

The new lights are the low energy LED (light-emitting diode) lights which the council is rolling out across Sydney to replace traditional street bulbs.

But the big worry is that LED lights will make Sydney’s dim lighting fade even more, thanks to Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s jihad against “carbon pollution”.

Sure, LED technology is terrific in an enclosed space for focused light but there are drawbacks when it comes to providing uniform illumination for pedestrians to walk safely.

LED lights are white and easier to look at ,without the halo effect of traditional street lights. They have the advantage of being more focused so that light doesn’t “spill” into houses.

But the light doesn’t spread as far, so the area of illumination is smaller. Lighting is further reduced by tree canopies, which abound in areas like Potts Point.

What’s more, LED lights don’t suddenly blow, but degrade over time which means residents may not notice as illumination fades.
And while LEDs measure up to the old lights in “lumen output”, the human eye doesn’t perceive the same broad coverage.

But street lights are council’s biggest single contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and our Lord Mayor is an ardent greenie.

She boasts that Sydney is the first city in Australia to roll out the new lights, after a trial in Alexandria Park, Kings Cross, Martin Place and Circular Quay.  The venture will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2,185 tonnes a year.

The council claims 90 percent of residents surveyed during their trial found the new lights “appealing”.

But when towns in the US and UK have trialled LED lighting residents complained about reduced illumination.

Almost every resident in the two streets in Salford, England, where LED lights were fitted in 2011 signed a petition asking, unsuccessfully, for the old lights to be reinstated.

In Sydney, AUSGRID maintains the traditional street lamps on Victoria Street under contract for the council. A spokesman said yesterday it was in discussions about upgrading lighting there but that council decides how many street lights to install and Standards Australia “dictates how bright lights should be.”

You can expect those lights to be dimmer in future since the Australian standard AS/NZS 1158 has been under review to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More secret enviro-meddling will come from a body called the “National Strategy on Energy Efficiency” which has been working since 2011 on a plan to “significantly improve street lighting energy efficiency by 2020.”

We can assume “improve” is meant in the Orwellian sense, as cities around the world dim their lights.

Electric light has been the wellspring of human progress over the last century, protecting us from the creatures of the night. Now the luddites of the green movement want to send us back to the dark ages.


Car-makers:  The answer isn’t more subsidies but saner unions

We have paid Holden annual subsidies amounting to more than $50,000 a year per worker, but high costs still killed it - and especially the high costs imposed by unions.

Now the unions at Toyota, also subsidised, seem hell-bent on killing our last car-maker, too. Grace Collier notes:

    Now that Holden has announced its departure, we need to consider the Toyota situation, which will come to a head with a vote on its enterprise agreement tomorrow. In September 2011, thousands of Toyota workers went on a protracted strike to get a 12 per cent pay rise. The company caved in; a deal with a 13 per cent pay rise between then and March 2015 was given. Base rates for technical and trade workers are in the $65,000 to $97,000 range with generous allowances, loadings and penalties on top.

    The Toyota enterprise agreement lists its “purpose” as “to achieve TMCA’s success as a Global Company” yet no single business contract could guarantee its failure more. This document, as much as Holden’s, reflects an extraordinary level of union control over daily workplace organisation.

    When Toyota wants to hire someone, a union (employee) representative must sit in every single job interview as “an observer”.... A table in the agreement sets out exactly how many union representatives the company has to have in every section of the workplace and 10 paid union training days a year is given to union reps.

    Toyota is allowed to hire casuals only from “time to time” and not at all without union agreement, although agreement must not be “unreasonably withheld”. Casuals can perform only the “agreed specified tasks” for the “agreed specified period” mandated by the union. “The maximum period for which a Casual Employee can work continuously on a full-time basis is one month” and any casual around for six months must be made a permanent employee.

    Contract labour can be hired only after Toyota reaches “agreement with the relevant Union official and Employee (union) Representative”. Contractors around for 12 months must be made permanent employees.

    This means Toyota can never really have a hiring freeze but are continually bound to a destructive cycle of taking people on before eventually having to make them redundant....

    Over-staffing must be a big problem because the agreement mandates one team leader to look after “between 5-7 process workers”. Supervisors, whose base rates range from $75,000 to $103,000, are forbidden from helping with workloads…

    If Toyota needs to dismiss someone, an outrageous procedure of at least three years and three months continuous disciplinary action is required before dismissal can occur. This defies belief.


The Holden demise is not all bad news

We're in danger of drowning under the bad news about Holden ceasing to manufacture in Australia from 2017 as the politicians try to blame each other, but not all of it is bad.

There's every chance the end of the Aussie-made Commodore doesn't also signal the end of the world. In no particular order, here's an attempt to put a little perspective into whirlwind:

 *   General Motors seems to be following the Ford model, so to speak. Manufacturing ceases but Australia retains "a global design studio". The Commodore platform developed here also is the basis for the Chevy Camaro. GM's new CEO (as of next month) is Mary Barra, currently global head of product development. Hopefully she has an appreciation of what we're capable of at the smart end of the industry.

*    While Ford is losing 1200 jobs when it stops screwing nuts on bolts, it has said it will keep 1500. That puts the direct manufacturing task in some perspective. The greater value-add in manufacturing is just about everything except the actual manufacturing.

 *   Local parts makers dependent on local production have had plenty of warning to diversify and the smarter ones have been doing just that. Of course losing a key customer hurts, but there's a lesson here that there is only one market and it's global. No business can afford to be dependent on a single customer. Again, it's the "thinking" bit of manufacturing that's where the money is – the bits can be churned out wherever the quality/costs equation best works.

 *   The opportunity cost of spending government money to support an industry tends to be overlooked – but it's now up to the government to prove it can effectively invest the car industry assistance money better somewhere else.

 *   These have been very expensive individual jobs to subsidise. The industry likes to paint the subsidy as not-much-per-head of the Australian population – it looks much better than a-lot-per-Holden-employee.

 *   While many GMH employees on relatively high wages for manufacturing roles will find it hard to retrain and land jobs nearly as good, the unspoken reality is that many others at Holden (and Ford) will effectively be winning the lottery. The TV news stories always concentrate on the hard luck stories, not on the workers who were close to retirement or trying something else anyway and will now cop a rich and concessionally-taxed redundancy payment, some of them a hefty six figures. The usual line, "I've given the company 30 years and now they kick me out", is simply wrong. You've been paid well by the company for 30 years and now you're being paid especially well to leave.

 *   Pascoe's Law of Disaster applies: "If your house burns down, you're much better off if all the houses in your street burn with it." Because this is a headline-making closure with many people involved, there will be extra assistance given for retraining and local communities. Governments tend to get involved. Lose your job at the corner store and it's just tough luck.

*    Remember the Newcastle experience: losing a major employer doesn't have to be a regional disaster. BHP closing its Newcastle steel works was billed as a catastrophe – now Newcastle wouldn't want a steel works if you gave it to them. (Clive Palmer tried to once in a typical bit of funny business with other people's money, but that's another story.)

 *   There's been a tendency to assume Toyota will surely go if Holden goes – it well might, but it's by no means certain if something near the current level of subsidies remain. Toyota tends to have a longer and more strategic view of its global business and production. The Australian dollar might be prohibitively high today, but it might not be in a few years. Don't count your closures until they're latched.

*    We constantly underrate our ability to reinvent ourselves. Every Doomsday forecast ever made discounts mankind's ability to avoid or mitigate whatever the disaster might be. Most of the time, that's what we do.

 *   The way manufacturing is going, there will be fewer and fewer jobs in putting together cars anyway. Successful manufacturing of anything now is very highly automated.

 *   The touted number of jobs at risk sounds large, but is actually a small percentage of the 11.6 million Australians currently employed.

 *   Australia in 2017 won't be like Australia in 2013. Whether it will be better or worse, we're yet to find out, but we remain a rich, relatively well-educated nation with plenty of upside for doing whatever we do better than we do it now.There's not much point bemoaning the inevitable. Manufacturing cars in Australia simply does not add up – a small, extremely competitive local market with high costs and a stubbornly strong currency. For General Motors, Australian manufacture barely rates as a problem, it's just a distraction.

 *   Contrary to the knee-jerk reaction of politicians, no town or region is owed a living – industries and regions are forever in the process of rising and falling. Sometimes the freed-up human capital of one failing venture becomes an opportunity for another to start. Sometimes people just have to face the lack of opportunity in one place and move to where there is more. Spare me any attempt to manufacture nostalgia about South Australia's Elizabeth.


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