Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Australia backs multiculturalism despite extremist threats
The article below relies a lot on a report from the Scanlon Foundation, a do-gooder outfit, so may not be entirely trustworthy. In particular, the question asked to assess attitude to immigrants was pretty dumb: "Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger". The obvious response is "Which countries?". Syria, Iran, Iraq? I personally would agree that immigration from East Asia and the various countries of Europe has been beneficial but I can see no similar benefit of immigration from fanatically Muslim lands or from crime-riddled African lands. I very much doubt that I am alone in that. All immigrants are not the same, hard to acknowledge though that may be to the Left
I also note that the survey was done the lazy way -- over the telephone. Such surveys are widely used but can be wildly inaccurate. In my own survey research I usually trudged from door to door to ask my questions. I believe I may be the only academic who has ever done so. Academics much prefer armchairs to dusty shoes. So again, I rather doubt the results. They could well be much too high
It is however true that Australians tend to be a relaxed and easy-going people so they may well be more accepting of immigrants than some others
Australia has had three terrorist attacks over the past year and this month former prime minister Tony Abbott preached to the Muslim world that it must become “enlightened”. Yet the country sticks out from others fighting Islamist extremism as most of its population strongly support multiculturalism and legal immigration.
Neil El-Kadomi, Parramatta Mosque chairman, says the local non-Muslim community have largely remained supportive. A recent protest by far-right group Reclaim Australia outside the mosque drew just a handful of protesters. “It shows just what a small minority this is,” he says. “We have integrated well into the community.”
A recent survey by the Scanlon Foundation shows 86 per cent of people say multiculturalism has been “good for Australia”, while 67 per cent say immigration has “made the country stronger” — the highest level recorded since the survey was introduced in 2007.
[That's a barefaced lie. According to Table 9 in the Scanlon report, it was higher in 2009 and 2014. Pesky of me to look up the original figures, isn't it? I have always found that fun]
“This is the reverse of the trend you see in Europe now, where the National Front and Ukip are gaining sizeable support,” says Andrew Markus, a professor at Monash University in Victoria.
It is not hard to see why Australia is more accepting of different cultures. A quarter of the country’s 23m population were born overseas, which makes it one of the world’s most multicultural nations, with more than double the proportion of immigrants than either the UK or Germany.
“Australians accept they are a new country made up of immigrants, whereas Europe with its older cultures does not,” says Prof Markus.
He says in Europe multiculturalism has been interpreted by political leaders as immigrant groups retaining their own cultures and rejecting integration. In Australia it is now understood to mean respect for different cultures while integrating into mainstream society, says Prof Markus.
It was not always this way. Australia introduced its “White Australia” policy at the turn of the 20th century to deter an increasing flow of migrants from Asia. This policy was gradually dismantled following the second world war, and in 1975 the government under Gough Whitlam passed the race discrimination act, which outlawed racially based selection for migrants.
chart: foreign-born population
Since then there has been sporadic racial unrest such as the 2005 Cronulla riots, when clashes broke out between members of the Middle Eastern community and white Australians. More recently, the far-right group Reclaim Australia has held demonstrations to campaign against what it dubs “Islam’s radicals”. But there is little sign of any far-right political party gaining the type of electoral support that would give it real influence.
Australia’s tight control of its borders and its role as colony rather than a colonial power are two underlying reasons why support for immigration remains high, according to some experts.
Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s racial discrimination commissioner, says the country benefits from being an island continent that has a planned intake of migrants, most of whom are skilled.
“You don’t have the problem here of migrants and their descendants feeling estranged from the country,” he says.
Australia’s strong economy, which has grown for 24 consecutive years, is another positive factor. Unemployment remains low at less than 6 per cent and there are fewer of the immigrant ghettos that blight parts of France and the UK.
“We don’t have the level of structural disadvantage attached to ethnicity that you see in some other countries,” says Kevin Dunn, professor of human geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University .
But he warns this positive picture of a multicultural life in Australia cannot be taken for granted. Muslims experience discrimination at about three times the rate of other Australians, according to a recent study Prof Dunn oversaw, and people are emboldened to perform racist actions due to terrorist events and divisive media and political commentary.
“It is the political environment that determines whether racism flourishes,” says Prof Dunn. “This is the biggest risk to multiculturalism.”
Shorten in a parlous state as Turnbull turns Victoria against Labor
Bill Shorten enters an election year with Labor’s standing in his home state of Victoria at a four-year low after the biggest collapse of support in any state for the ALP since the rise of Malcolm Turnbull to the prime ministership.
Mr Turnbull has lifted the Coalition’s primary vote across all states, with his strongest gains in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland, according to an analysis of Newspoll surveys conducted exclusively for The Australian between October and this month.
Victoria had been Labor’s strongest state when Tony Abbott was in power, but since the change to Mr Turnbull in September it has become the opposition’s weakest.
The plunge suggests Labor-held marginal seats of McEwen and Bendigo, as well as Chisholm and Bruce where long-time MPs are retiring, are at risk.
The analysis, based on Newspoll surveys of 8013 people across the nation, also reveals Mr Shorten’s satisfaction rating in his home state has crashed 14 points since this time last year to 25 per cent, the lowest for any federal opposition leader in Victoria in 12 years. In South Australia, Mr Shorten’s satisfaction has slumped to a record low of 24 per cent.
Mr Turnbull, who ousted Mr Abbott in a partyroom challenge just over 100 days ago, has in some cases doubled the voter satisfaction levels for his predecessor and reversed the government’s fortunes to give it a two-party-preferred lead in every state, except South Australia. The change has been most dramatic in Victoria, where Labor’s primary vote has dived eight points to a four-year low of 33 per cent. It is the second worst result for the ALP in Victoria since the Newspoll time series began in 1996.
Labor’s primary vote has fallen below 40 per cent in every state.
In Queensland it fell five points to 35 per cent, in WA it dropped four points to 35 per cent, in SA it eased three points to 36 per cent and in NSW it lost two points to 34 per cent.
In contrast, the Coalition’s core support surged nine points to 48 per cent in WA, its strongest state. It jumped eight points to 44 per cent in Victoria, gained six points to 45 per cent in Queensland, lifted four points to 46 per cent in NSW and rose two points to 38 per cent in SA, the only state where it was not above 40 per cent.
In capital cities, the Coalition’s vote has jumped seven points to reach 45 per cent for the first time since before the last election while its primary vote in rural and regional areas was up four points to also be at 45 per cent.
The Greens’ strongest state is leader Richard Di Natale’s home of Victoria, where it has 15 per cent of the vote, but there was a surprise four-point tumble to 9 per cent in WA where the Greens had been polling well in previous quarters.
Based on preference flows from the 2013 election, the 57 per cent-43 per cent two-party-preferred lead enjoyed by Labor in Victoria in the September quarter has vanished in a 16-point turnaround, and the Coalition is now ahead by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, the first time it has been in front in Victoria since September 2011.
Western Australia is once again the Coalition’s strongest state, recovering from 14-year lows in the March quarter, with a 16-point turnaround in the December quarter to lead Labor by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
In NSW, which has the most seats and had been the Coalition’s strongest state under Mr Abbott, the switch delivered an eight-point change to give the government a 53 per cent-47 per cent lead. A 10-point turnaround in Queensland sees the Coalition in front by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
In SA, the turnaround was four points but Labor still holds a 52 per cent to 48 per cent lead, based on weak support for the Coalition and more than one-quarter of primary votes going to the Greens or others, which reflects high support for independent senator Nick Xenophon.
In all states, Mr Turnbull is ranked as the preferred prime minister by a margin of at least 43 points, and in Queensland he is 47 points in front of Mr Shorten.
Again, the most dramatic change occurred in Victoria. Mr Shorten had been ahead of Mr Abbott by nine points in the September quarter, but Mr Turnbull now leads him by 43 points — a 52-point turnaround.
Mr Turnbull was ranked voters’ preferred prime minister by at least 60 per cent of voters in every state, with Queensland the highest at 63 per cent.
Mr Shorten, who fell to a national low of 14 per cent in the final Newspoll early this month, averaged 16 per cent or 17 per cent in every state over the December quarter, including a drop from 43 per cent to 17 per cent in his home state.
It is the worst rating in the 20-year Newspoll history for a Labor leader on the preferred prime minister measure in Victoria, lower than the 18 per cent for Simon Crean in 2003, but it is still higher than Liberal opposition leaders Brendan Nelson, who fell to 9 per cent in Victoria in March 2008, and Mr Turnbull, who hit a low of 15 per cent in Victoria in November 2009 in the month he was replaced as opposition leader.
Despite being from NSW and not seen as popular in Victoria, which became his worst state, Mr Abbott’s lowest rating as preferred prime minister in Victoria was 26 per cent as opposition leader and it never fell below 30 per cent when he was prime minister.
The December quarter Newspoll figures show satisfaction with Mr Turnbull’s performance in his first 100 days as Prime Minister was above 50 per cent in every state and hit 60 per cent in WA.
Dissatisfaction ranged between 21 per cent in WA and 26 per cent in NSW. His net satisfaction rating — the difference between those who are satisfied and those who are dissatisfied — ranged from 28 points in NSW to 39 per cent in WA.
Mr Shorten’s net satisfaction rating was almost the reverse, ranging from minus 26 points in WA and minus 35 points in Queensland. The Opposition Leader’s satisfaction rating was below 30 per cent in every state.
ALP’s 11th-hour union bid over royal commission report
Bill Shorten has tried to pre-empt the findings of a damning report into trade union corruption by appealing directly to Malcolm Turnbull to accept a series of Labor measures, including an overhaul of political donations rules.
The Opposition Leader has used a letter, sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, to try to ensure Labor is not trapped in a crucial election year by the findings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which will hand the government more ammunition to push for union reform after a series of scandals.
The royal commission is due to hand its final report to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove today and the government is expected to release the document as early as tomorrow, with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash canvassing toughening-up the Coalition’s proposed union governance laws as a potential response.
Senator Cash also identified the militant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union as one of the targets of any government response. “I believe that all Australians would want to see in place laws that ensure greater transparency and accountability for registered organisations — whether they be employer or employee representative bodies,” the minister told The Australian.
“The construction industry has been repeatedly identified as one with endemic problems of lawlessness.
“When repeat offending by the construction division of the CFMEU gets so bad that the Federal Court has to ask whether there has ‘ever been a worse recidivist in the history of the common law’, there is clearly a problem in the industry and this division of the CFMEU.”
The royal commission’s findings were to be a central plank in the re-election strategy of Tony Abbott and his successor, Mr Turnbull, is standing by royal commissioner Dyson Heydon amid an attack on Mr Heydon’s integrity led by Labor and the union movement.
Mr Shorten’s letter urges Mr Turnbull to consider a series of Labor measures to improve union governance, as well as linking the issue to a reduction in the political donation disclosure threshold from $13,000 to $1000 for individuals, companies and unions.
The opposition has attacked the government’s legislation to clean up the union movement as too onerous, saying it was unfair to bring penalties for union volunteers into line with those applying to highly paid company directors.
Mr Shorten has urged Mr Turnbull to engage with Labor on the issue in an attempt to negotiate a breakthrough to the political impasse, saying the “flagrant misuse of union members’ money by a small number of union officials” was unacceptable.
“Unlike the government’s Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill, Labor’s new proposals do not place more onerous obligations on volunteers involved in unions and employer organisations,” he said.
After taking over the top job in September, Mr Turnbull engineered a breakthrough to the political impasse over the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement in response to Labor calls for more serious engagement with its concerns.
Correspondence with the Shorten letter also shows opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor opening the door to talks with Senator Cash about a possible way forward before the resumption of parliament next year.
“Labor’s proposal strips the politics from the problem, and is a genuine attempt to strengthen unions through better union governance,” Mr O’Connor said.
However, the appeal was quickly dismissed by Senator Cash as an “11th-hour attempt to try and hoodwink the Australian public”, after Labor voted three times against legislation to improve union transparency. “Mr Shorten has been the ALP leader for two years and during that time, despite overwhelming evidence of systemic corruption in certain unions, he has pretended there was not a problem,” Senator Cash said.
“The ALP under his leadership has voted against the Government’s Registered Organisations Bill to clean up union governance on three separate occasions.”
UK schools snapping up NSW teaching graduates
Few Brits want to teach in British "Comprehensives" because they know how bad they are. Student indiscipline and lots of red tape are not attractive to anybody who actually wants to teach
Shahrzad Amjadi only had to wait a matter of days between finishing her final teaching placement and being offered a full-time job in a school.
But her success is virtually unheard of and the University of Notre Dame teaching graduate has had to move 17,000 kilometres for the position or face competing with 44,000 others who are waiting for a permanent teaching position with the NSW Department of Education.
The newly trained primary school teacher will start next month at Heathrow Primary School, a government school west of London.
Unlike Australia, which has a worsening oversupply of teachers, Britain is struggling to meet demand and figures suggest that a fall in the birth rate in the late 1990s will mean a "steady decline" in the population of 21-year-olds until 2022.
This means the overall pool of graduates is likely to fall and result in fewer trainee teachers, according to the UK's Association of School and College Leaders. Schools have also been forced to spend £1.3b on temporary staff as a result of the chronic shortage of teachers.
But in NSW, the education department's latest figures reveal that only 1.6 per cent of all teachers are aged 20-25 and it warns that by 2021 there will be a "more than adequate supply of primary teachers in all geographical locations" and an "adequate supply of secondary teachers".
Ms Amjadi, 23, who has been working in early childhood and nannying while completing her degree, said she was attracted to working overseas because it would provide her invaluable experience when she returned to Australia.
"I might have been able to get some casual work in Sydney, but I would have had to put in 110 per cent just maybe to get a couple of days," she said.
"I am really excited because I love the sound of the school [in the UK] and I got along really well with the principal in the interview and he really seemed to have a vision for the school so I think it is going to be a great experience for me."
An international education recruitment consultant, Mitch Jones, said young teachers had been travelling to Britain on working holiday visas for many years but the demand for Australians was now much higher as Britain battles with its shortage of teachers.
"In the UK, there are not the same amount of people going into teacher training and that means we can't keep up with demand for Aussie teachers over there," Mr Jones, from Protocol Education Australia, said.
"There is also the professional development side of things because if you are applying for a job, 250 CVs can look quite homogenous but if you have something different, like experience overseas, that can really help in a teacher-saturated market."